|Progressive Calendar 02.15.10||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Mon, 15 Feb 2010 10:01:55 -0800 (PST)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 02.15.10 1. Justice/janitors 2.15 11:30am/2.16 9am 2. Welfare time limit 2.15 12:30pm 3. Broadband action 2.15 1pm 4. Peace walk 2.15 6pm RiverFalls WI 5. Climate justice 2.15 6pm 6. Afghanistan/Iran 2.16 11am 7. Peaceforce carnival 2.16 5:30pm 8. COA workshop 2.16 6:30pm 9. Frontline 2.16 9pm 10. Andrew Cockburn - The economic velociraptors 11. Randall Amster - The point of no return/ empire of the sunset 12. David M Green - Lead, follow, or get out of the way 13. ed - Pledge 2012 No vote for Obama/02.15.10 --------1 of 13-------- From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at] gmail.com> Subject: Justice/janitors 2.15 11:30am/2.16 9am Justice for Janitors March in the Skyways: Solidarity with SEIU 26 Monday, February 15 11:30am @ the Hennepin County Government Center and Solidarity with SEIU 26: Demand Justice for Janitors Tuesday, February 16 9:00 am @ the Local 26 office at 312 Central Ave, #356 in Minneapolis Join hundreds of janitors as we kick off the week of the 15th with a huge march through the skyways to send a clear message to the building owners that our fight is escalating and we ready to do whatever it takes to win a fair contract for our families! Now it's time for us to send a clear message to Minnesota's biggest corporations that they need to step up their commitment to our community and our economy! Twin Cities janitors clean buildings owned by Fortune 500 companies that continue to rake in billions in net profits during the recession - like US Bancorp, Medtronic, Target, and Wells Fargo - but struggle to make a living and support their families. Last year, US Bancorp made $1.8 Billion in net profits. Medtronic, $2.2 Billion. Target, $2.2 Billion. Wells Fargo, $8 Billion. Just one of them could pay for twin cities janitors' health care for 100 years or more! Please RSVP to me for this action by email or phone: spayne [at] seiu26.org <spayne [at] seiu26.org> or 612-331-8336 x 26! --------2 of 13-------- From: Welfare Rights Committee <welfarerightsmn [at] yahoo.com> Subject: Welfare time limit 2.15 12:30pm Join WRC and others this Monday at the Capitol: We are testifying on the welfare time limit! Please come and join us! Capitol address is 75 Rev. Martin Luther King Blvd. Committee on Health, Housing and Family Security Monday, February 15, 2010 12:30 p.m. Room 15 Capitol S.F. 2243 Berglin - Minnesota family investment program (MFIP) cash assistance time limit exemption. S.F. 2244 Berglin - Minnesota family investment program (MFIP) temporary hardship extension and qualification conditions. SF 2243 and SF2244 both suspend the five-year lifetime limit on welfare. MFIP (Minnesota's welfare program for families) is the final safety net for parents who don't have enough work quarters to qualify for unemployment - it is poor parents' "unemployment insurance." Most parents have done whatever they could to get jobs and avoid using up their 60 months, but still, many still have only a few months left. MFIP parents are generally the "last hired" at a workplace, which means they are the "first fired." This puts MFIP parents - who are often not qualified for UI - in a tough spot for getting new jobs, especially in this economy. www.mn-peoples-bailout.orgĀ Welfare Rights Committee PO Box 7266, Mpls MN 55407 pho: 612-822-8020 main email: welfarerightsmn [at] yahoo.com alt email: welfarerights [at] qwest.net --------3 of 13-------- From: "Misty Perez Truedson, FreePress.net" <info [at] freepress.net> Subject: Action for broadband 2.15 1pm SavetheInternet.com Monday, Feb. 15 is a National Day of Action in support of universal broadband and Net Neutrality, and Free Press ally the Minnesota Digital Justice Coalition is holding an event near you: "Get Up to Speed with High Speed" Monday, Feb. 15 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. CST (lunch served) Brian Coyle Center, 420 15th Ave. S, Minneapolis Contact: Steven Renderos, Main Street Project, 952-594-9263 Local host: Minnesota Digital Justice Coalition The event is a community forum on the vital role the Internet plays in the lives of people in the Twin Cities. Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie will speak about the ways the Internet has revolutionized participation in local government. Artists, activists and other community members will demonstrate the need to connect everyone to fast, open and affordable Internet. Be sure to come, and forward this e-mail to everyone you know who supports universal broadband access. Misty Perez Truedson Program Manager Free Press www.freepress.net www.savetheinternet.com --------4 of 13-------- From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at] comcast.net> Subject: Peace walk 2.15 6pm RiverFalls WI River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from "Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact: d.n.holden [at] comcast.net. Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls, Wisconsin 54022 --------5 of 13-------- From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com> From: Eleonore Wesserle <ewesserle [at] iatp.org <mailto:ewesserle [at] iatp.org>> Subject: Climate justice 2.15 6pm Communities of Color and Indigenous Peoples Climate Justice Debriefing* "What's happening internationally? How does it affect our communities?" Monday, February 15, 2010 6:00-7:30pm All Nations Indian Church on Bloomington/23rd Street 1515 E. 23rd St. Minneapolis, MN 55404 Map: http://tinyurl.com/AllNationsMap <http://tinyurl.com/AllNationsMap> Simultaneous Spanish translation will be available Drinks and cookies will be served Presenters Include: 6:00 -- LeMoine LaPointe. Welcome. 6:15 -- 6:30 -- Cecilia Martinez. Context for the Evening -- what are all these negotiations about, who is involved, what levels are they happening at, what are the timelines? 6:30 -- 6:45 -- Rose Brewer. From a Peoples' Perspective: What is the G20; What happened at the G20 in Pittsburgh as the lead up to the Copenhagen Climate Talks? 6:45 -- 7:00 -- Shalini Gupta. What happened at the Copenhagen Climate talks in December, what is expected to happen this year, leading up to Mexico, what can we do here in Minnesota as a community? 7:00 -- 7:30 -- Q&A and Discussion. Sponsored by: Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy at IATP (www.iatp.org/ceed <http://www.iatp.org/ceed>) Questions? Email Eleonore at ewesserle [at] iatp.org <mailto:ewesserle [at] iatp.org>. / --------6 of 13-------- From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org> Subject: Afghanistan/Iran 2.16 11am February 16: American Association of University Women St. Paul Branch Meeting. 10 AM: Book Discussion. 10:45 AM: Meeting. 11 AM: Historical Background: Afghanistan and Iran. 1 PM: Great Decisions. 990 Summit, St. Paul. --------7 of 13-------- From: Nonviolent Peaceforce <nonviolentpeaceforce [at] nonviolentpeaceforce.org> Subject: Peaceforce carnival 2.16 5:30pm Nonviolent Peaceforce Carnival Tuesday, February 16 5:30 To make your reservation call 612.871.0005 x20 today! The Cedars Hall St. Marons Church 602 University Ave NE Mpls, 55413 $45.00 per person 5:30 - Social Hour - Silent Auction Opens 6:30 - Dinner catered by Buca di Beppo 8:00 - Dance to the music of 'The Resistors!' 8:30 - Silent Auction Closes- Dancing Goes On www.nonviolentpeaceforce.org [http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1103032203862&s=8368&e=001v_d_ZoXrhx23L0sESopbf-cfzcqkOtwX9kb5gb5q7YQeIXZAnOjrNBqtl95rHYctN3_rRnvfxTk7Hdbp9txRGgDTnb3Lkbf8-eTrxgQa4FQ6E7mfSZTJxS8KSoTNLKKU] --------8 of 13-------- From: Leslie Reindl <alteravista [at] usfamily.net> Subject: COA workshop 2.16 6:30pm Workshop Steps Toward Community Owned Agriculture (COA) Tuesday, February 16, 6:30 - 8 pm Merriam Park Library, 1831 Marshall Ave., St. Paul This workshop continues a discussion about the COA concept and how to implement it--what it entails, timelines, needed investments, and community building; and lays out a plan for the first COA and how to participate. (Each workshop stands alone; no previous attendance needed) Presenters: Wilhelm and Leslie Reindl Sponsored by Wilderness Connections, St. Paul FFI alteravista [at] usfamily.net, 651-633-4410 Wilhelm grew up on and ran a small dairy farm in southern Germany in the 1960s; Leslie was a board member of the Minnesota Food Assocation in the 1990s and has been active in agricultural issues ever since. They live in St. Paul but also own and garden on an ex-dairy farm in Wisconsin. --------9 of 13-------- From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Frontline 2.16 9pm TUESDAY: The Warning Airs Feb. 16th, 9PM ET (check local listings) This Tuesday night, a rebroadcast of one of the most talked-about reports so far this season. In "The Warning," veteran producer Michael Kirk tells the story of a little-known lawyer named Brooksley Born who warned about dangers in the multi-trillion dollar derivatives market during the Clinton years - and overnight became the enemy of some of the most powerful people in Washington. Watching this program, you can't help but think that the extent of the 2008 financial collapse may well have been minimized - or, maybe, averted - had Brooksley Born not been shut down in her bid for more regulation, oversight, and transparency. Also this week, new reporting, and a major redesign, on our Law and Disorder site, a truly innovative online investigation into a number of questionable shootings by the New Orleans Police Department in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Examine some photos taken three days after the levees broke: Are the men on the ground in bloodied shirts dead? Why are the police standing around them? How did a burned shell of a car turn up outside a New Orleans police station with human remains inside? You can hear from one reporter who was first on the scene, and another who's been tireless in pursuit of the truth, helping unearth the evidence that has now forced a new federal probe by the Justice Department's civil rights division. Then check in to the site often, as FRONTLINE, ProPublica and The New Orleans Times-Picayune team up to try to solve these curiously unexamined cases. --------10 of 13-------- "We Don't Want a Bunch of Angry Teamsters Showing Up at Our Doors!" The Economic Velociraptors By ANDREW COCKBURN February 12-14, 2010 CounterPunch While President Obama has taken to making obsequious comments about the CEOs of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs, and how he doesn't "begrudge" them their enormous winnings, Wall Street has been hard at work doing what it does best: impoverishing people. This month has been the turn of the Greeks and other poorer Europeans. In a nutshell, governments in Athens and elsewhere are being told that they must slash social spending to the bone and shrink their economy or else they won't be allowed to borrow any more money. Dutiful press reports have dwelled on the concern of "investorsd" that the Greeks might default on their bonds, with consequent crisis for the Euro and possible disintegration of the European common currency. For "investors," read Wall Street gamblers - banks, hedge funds and other players. Scenting blood in the water, they have been busily placing enormous bets on whether the Greeks would go belly up or be helped out by the Germans. They do this through the medium of "credit default swaps", a form of insurance against default by Greek or any other bonds. Typically, this kind of so-called insurance protection will be offered by a pension fund or some similar institution looking to earn a nice income from premium payments. The buys of the protection will be hedge funds looking to make fast money if the insured bonds lose value and the seller has to pay out. Sitting between them is Goldman, JP Morgan, Bank of America or some other big bank who broker the trade between buyers and sellers. Since this market lacks any transparency - the banks have effortlessly crushed congressional initiatives for reform in this area -- these spreads and consequent profits are huge. Once everyone has made their CDS bets, the buyers will start beating down the value of the insured bonds - in this case the Greeks. The air has been thick with reports of imminent Greek default, the Greeks' financial irresponsibility, etc etc. As the value of the bonds decreased, the CDS sellers had to pay out money to the buyers, "posting margin". This is what Goldman Sachs did to AIG in 2008, thus ensuring the latter firm's ruin. With Greece "in play" the flow has ebbed back and forth. As the fate of Greece see-saws, both sellers and buys have been making money, as of course have the banks in the middle. None of this has much to do with the underlying condition of the Greek economy. There was no particular reason why Greece should have become a crisis just now, except that it was their turn. Joseph Stiglitz, one of the very few economists worth listening to, has been pointing out that the Greek economy is not in immediate crisis and that this has been a speculative attack, but most business commentators are not paid to report things that way. Instead, the Greeks have been admonished to pull their socks up, cut government spending by firing thousands of public employees (thus exacerbating the recession) and pay their debts. In the hunt for the rich pickings offered by the situation, competition among major powers, ie Wall Street institutions, has been fierce. Someone, for example, told Der Spiegel this week, that Goldman-Sachs had nefariously helped Greece cover up the true depth of its debt situation through creative use of cross currency swaps, which involved "the Greek government issuing debt in yen and U.S. dollars which were than swapped for debt in euros over a specified period of time. After a period of years the currencies will be traded back to the original currency". Though this would seem like a good deal for the Greeks in the short term, in the long term, reported Speigel it would cost them dearly. The report was clearly inimical to the interests of Goldman. Asked to check whether it was nevertheless true, a former U.S. Treasury official told me that the story, "more smoke than fire," had been leaked by a Goldman competitor, "Lazard, JP Morgan, Deutsche -- take your pick," adding that "the velociraptors are ripping chunks of flesh out of each other in a fight to the death". Such wholesome plain speaking is not of course current in the White House, where Obama prefers the term "savvy businessmen," at least when referring to JP Morgan and Goldman CEOs Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein in a recent interview with Business Week, to anything redolent of fearsome, carnivorous predators. (Blankfein, according to Andrew Ross Sorkin's book "Too Big to Fail," displays a framed Gary Larson cartoon on his office wall. It depicts a father and son looking over the garden fence at a line of wolves entering the house next door. "I know you miss the Wainwrights Bobby," the father is saying "but they were weak and stupid people, and that's why we have wolves and other large predators".) Just when other poorer members of the European family were thankfully watching the Greeks get it in the neck while they escaped, a rumor swept Wall Street that Stanley Druckenmiller, master of the mighty hedge fund Duquesne Capital, was moving on to give Portugal the same treatment. Instantly, credit default swaps, ie bets, against the hapless Portugeese shot up, giving the Greeks a breathing space, before the herd moved on again to mangle the Euro itself. But while the gamblers wreck their havoc on ancient nations, some of them of at least may be facing a comeuppance closer to home. CounterPunchers will recall that when Goldman and others on Wall Street sought to ruin the big trucking company YRCW over Christmas by sabotaging a debt reorganization while betting on the firm's default and demise - thus eliminating 30,000 jobs - the Teamsters mobilized successfully and forced the offending parties to back off. "We got out of our position in a hurry,' one hedge find trader told me later, figuratively mopping his brow, "we didn't want a bunch of angry Teamsters showing up at our door". However, while threatening to mount pickets at the premises of various institutions, Teamster President James Hoffa also contacted the attorneys general of various states, outlining the scheme then underway to bankrupt the firm. "We respectfully urge you," wrote Hoffa on December 22, "to look closely at these financial firms' questionable promotion of CDSs for YRCW bonds. CDSs, of course, are essentially insurance products that need strong oversight. However, the CDS issuers are not required to conform to the strict requirements of insurance regulations. We believe almost none of these regulations were followed here. As indicated, these financial firms' injection of CDSs into YRCW's bond exchange offer seems calculated to manipulate and collapse YRCW stock and bond prices, destroy attempts to save a large U.S. trucking company, and to otherwise defraud various stakeholders by creating an incentive for bond holders and others to promote the Company's failure". CounterPunch has now learned that at least some of the state law enforcement officials contacted by the union are moving to take action. Officials in Pennsylvania, Alabama and New Jersey have taken the matter seriously enough to institute further investigation. New Jersey has called in the SEC, Pennsylvania has put the state Securities Commission on the case, and Alabama is mulling a criminal prosecution. Should someone actually end up in the dock, they will doubtless be able to offer the defense that they were merely acting as "savvy businessmen". We are all "in play". Andrew Cockburn is the co-producer of the feature documentary on the financial catastrophe American Casino. He can be reached at amcockburn [at] gmail.com --------11 of 13-------- The Point of No Return Empire of the Sunset By RANDALL AMSTER February 12-14, 2010 CounterPunch Sometimes, I really miss America - or at least the idea of it. You know: that can-do spirit, streets paved with gold, champion of the tired and poor, purple mountains majesty, that sort of thing. Say what you will, and call it naive, but the storybook values at the heart of America's erstwhile image are inspiring. Like most who grew up here, I was steeped in the lore and legend of this place. Despite obvious flaws in the narrative (how exactly does one "discover" land upon which others are living, anyway?) there existed a strong sense that at the end of the day some part of our cherished ideals would emerge in time to set things right. Principles like due process, free speech, the work ethic, checks and balances, equal opportunity, and the pursuit of happiness held meaning if only as a reminder that our collective lives stood for something and that our destinies were in our own hands. It may well have been an illusion all along, yet even the most cynical among us likely believed in the underlying ethos at some point in time. Unfortunately, that America - even in its illusory state - has ceased to exist. We are no longer an abstract beacon of hope to the world, but rather a purveyor of concrete hellfire. We rain automated death from above and commit orchestrated theft from below. We export despair and import disdain. We've abandoned even keeping up the pretense of fair play and adherence to principle. We've become global pariahs and domestic piranhas. Awash in a sea of surfaces, distractions, and palliatives, we unsurprisingly have failed to notice that the sun has already started to set on our adolescent empire. Indeed, by most measures, the U.S. is rapidly becoming a failed state. Educationally, economically, politically, culturally - all of our national gauges are pointing in the wrong direction. We're moving down the list on health care, democratic governance, productivity, environmental protection, academic achievement, official transparency, incarceration rates, transportation, and public services. We're ruled by an increasingly emboldened elite class that rewrites the rules at will, increasingly represses dissent, and openly enriches itself at our expense. We hardly make anything on these shores, but still consume everything in sight. We have few public intellectuals of renown, yet are bombarded daily with the foibles of celebrities who are in many cases famous simply for being famous. Our food supply is tainted, our energy is unclean, and our water is drying up. And racism remains as deeply-rooted as ever. It's not a pretty picture from inside the belly of the beast these days. But never fear, for America has a secret weapon at its disposal that will keep us in the driver's seat for a while longer. Our secret weapon, actually, isn't so secret: weapons. The days of guile, comity, and negotiation are over. Empires don't dicker, they simply take what they want. They don't ask permission or forge alliances, they make demands and extort loyalties under threat of repercussions. They don't cede oversight authority to any international community, or even feel constrained by their own laws and rules, but instead act by fiat and in flagrant disregard of treaty and protocol. Empires, in short, follow the empty logic of "might makes right". The ruling elite in the U.S. have made it eminently clear that this is our prevailing strategy going forward. We will utilize brute force to retain our position as the global superpower even as we have lost our moral and cultural suasion. America's tenure as a fully imperialist power is barely over a century old, its position as a true superpower about half that, and its status as sole hegemon about half that still. In a mere few decades, we've gone from savior to enslaver, from bastion to bastards, from heroic to horrific. Whatever historical good will we may have accrued has been squandered in a frenzy of hubris and hatred. Perhaps I'm being a bit obdurate here, so let me clarify things a bit. Empires that reach this point of no return, in which power subsumes principle, are essentially on their last legs. Legitimacy can be replaced by subjugation for a time, but it is always self-defeating in the end. While history is unequivocal about this, it's also true that the recorded annals have never seen an empire quite like the one we've created. By slowly and steadily insinuating ourselves economically and militarily into the affairs of nearly every nation on the planet, we've built an ingenious system in which recalcitrance is very nearly a form of suicide. If this empire falls, it threatens to take everyone with it in the process, thus perpetuating the unspoken but widely understood mantra: "You're either with us - or else". Consider the sheer totality of the U.S. military presence around the planet. Hundreds of bases are spread across every continent - effectively functioning as sovereign satellites of American influence - with a preponderance located in vanquished nations such as Germany, Japan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. These are now our chief exports: military bases, hardware, and soldiers. We've also weaponized space and created an automated execution network that circumnavigates the globe, bringing push-button "justice" to anyone we deem a viable target (including our own citizens). Now we're developing fully-functional robot soldiers to continue the dehumanization of warfare in our stead, which will serve our purpose of fostering submission through fear equally well whether they in fact work properly or not. Domestically, the agenda has been set. The power elite have now "doubled down" on this strategy of maintaining supremacy through force. Military strategy documents point toward a future of perpetual warfare and relentless competition over dwindling resources, with the highest ideal of "national security" represented by our unmitigated capacity to impose our will on multiple fronts at once. Increasing episodes of disaster, such as in Haiti, will be used overtly as "Trojan horse" moments to expand our military footprint under the guise of humanitarianism. Our federal budgets will concretize all of this with escalating military expenditures coupled with frozen austerity in all other spheres. The military is sacrosanct and, moreover, is now the lone remaining chip to be played in the game of global conquest. It certainly seems like a grim scenario, one that stands in stark contrast to the idyllic (albeit ersatz) America of our youth. It also begs us to consider what will become of young people growing up in tomorrow's America, devoid as it likely will be of even a redeeming ideological veneer. Will the future populace here be comprised of equal parts swaggering "ugly Americans" and withdrawn, apathetic technophiles? Will we have an America in which people either embrace our military superiority and martial character as a moral virtue on the one hand, or are constrained to immerse themselves in our cultural distractions as a refuge from the emerging security panopticon on the other? In other words, will those ensuing Americans face delimited choices that come down to either institutionalized anger or repressed angst? I wonder if people living under the auspices of failing empires throughout history have felt similarly. The silver lining (there has to be one, right?) is that all previous empires have fallen and the sun still came up the next day. Indeed, as surely as anything else we can count on in this life, sunset is inevitably followed by sunrise. Whether anyone will be here to see that new day dawning is an open question, and one that we might consider as something of a cultural crucible at this point. Perhaps that apocryphal America from a bygone day can yet be resurrected, only this time for real and not merely as an ideal. In my mind's eye, I can envision a door opening up ahead even as the one behind us closes. Randall Amster, J.D., Ph.D., teaches Peace Studies at Prescott College and serves as the Executive Director of the Peace & Justice Studies Association. His most recent book is the co-edited volume Building Cultures of Peace: Transdisciplinary Voices of Hope and Action (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009). --------12 of 13-------- Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way by David Michael Green Sunday, February 14, 2010 CommmonDreams.org So now there's going to be a bipartisan health care summit, eh? Woo-hoo. Is that sorta like the jobs summit we just had, one full year into the reign of Obama, despite that all twelve of those months has been riddled with severe economic cancer? And hasn't that summit just really produced a raft of good solutions to the unemployment crisis? Is the health care summit gonna be kinda like the stimulus bill, a full third of which was a sop to Republican tax-cutting religious dogma, which effort bought all of a single GOP vote in Congress? Does it bear any resemblance to the health care negotiations which have been going on for nearly a year now, that also involved protracted efforts to accommodate Republican interests, and that succeeding in reducing the level of GOP support from the prior vote on the stimulus bill down by a full one hundred percent? Or are we talking here about any of a whole slew of "Democratic" policies, from the Middle East to Afghanistan to civil liberties to military spending, in which the Obama administration never had to negotiate at all with Republicans, because they were already running the same policies as George W. Bush? And nevertheless still got slammed for it? I really have to confess that I don't know why Barack Obama ever wanted the presidency. He had a boatload of fame and fortune in his hands already, though admittedly it's a whole other league to be in as a part of the exclusive club of US presidents. On the other hand, you run some serious risks as president that really call into question whether it's worth it, from a cost-benefit perspective. Especially since you can only spend so much money in a lifetime, and Obama had already made tens of millions from his books, and had huge potential to keep on making more from lectures, lobbying and more books, without ever sitting in the White House. Lincoln and Kennedy remind us of the most prominent of these risks. But combine the always present possibility of presidential assassination with the fact that we have the first black president of a country still loaded with angry, armed racists, and you have a serious concern there. Additionally, America is just absolutely in a bad mood these days. We're like a toddler having a temper tantrum, oscillating between wanting this or that, usually wanting both at the same time, and regularly throwing a shit-fit if we don't get just exactly what we want when we want it. If it were possible for an entire country to need its diapers changed, that's just about where we are nowadays. Put it all together and you get a recipe for disaster for a black president whose middle name is Hussein. Especially one who allows himself to be labeled a socialist. Maybe Michael Steele or Clarence Thomas could pull this off without agitating the survivalist crowd into taking a pop at him, but Obama's got a whole army of nuts out there waiting to take him out. Many of them are in these tea party fringe fanatic groups. Hell, many of them are in the GOP. Moreover, that's not the only risk he took in running for the presidency. You can also get elected and then fail miserably. Is it really worth it to enter the pantheon of American politics, but in a titular sense only? Wouldn't it be better to lay low and get rich than to be a laughingstock failure who also happened to have once had an oval-shaped office? Wouldn't most people rather be Jeb Bush than George W.? This is why I wonder why this guy ever sought the presidency. Doing so clearly came with some serious risks, and not necessarily massive benefits relative to where he was already sitting. Of course, if you were going to do something with the office, that would be something else entirely. That would be worth taking big risks for. I think most people want to be successful in life, and most people who are either self-confident (or radically insecure) enough to seek the American presidency would absolutely also like the legacy of being one of the great ones. Obama just doesn't seem to have that jones, though. He's the perfunctory president. He seems to want to have a health care bill, any health care bill, so he can say he's done that. He seems to want to have a climate agreement, however eviscerated, just so he can tick off that box. And he seems to want to be president just to be president. Of course, the Democratic Party has become nearly as captive of corporate and Wall Street interests as the Republicans have, which may be a better explanation for the inaction of Congress and the president. But the capacity to sustain that facade is now rapidly melting. Perhaps Democrats even realize this. The core (sometimes theoretical) principle at the root of representative democracy is the quid pro quo that is supposed to govern the relationship between the representative and the represented. The member of parliament gets to serve in high office, provided that MP reflects the political sentiments of his or her constituents. The problem with American politics today, of course, is that the real constituents of members of Congress are not the voters in their districts and states, but rather the special interests who fund their campaigns to fool the voters in their districts and states. You don't need to see Bulworth again to figure that one out. And the problem for Democrats is that the country is now reaching the limits of viability for that game. Voters can be fooled or lulled into political narcolepsy for a long time, provided conditions are relatively benign. One reason, frankly, that voter turnout has been so low over the last half-century is that people have been basically satisfied with conditions in their lives, notwithstanding the usual grumbling about welfare queens or foreign aid or uppity blacks. This also explains why we rarely see people marching in the streets in any serious way, and why we don't see the rise of alternative political parties of any serious scale. By and large, people have been pretty complacent about politics because their life conditions have been pretty decent, whether they know it or not. All that is changing now. Actually, it's been changing for thirty years, but now it's really crashing down hard. During the middle part of the twentieth century a literal new deal was struck in American society, in which for the first time the masses would get a moderate share of the pie and the fantastically wealthy would be reduced in economic stature to being merely hugely wealthy. But, after a while, the greediest amongst us decided they'd had enough of that tough bargain and, circa 1980 or so, the empire struck back. The American plutocracy hired Ronald Reagan and his party to undo the provisions of trade, labor, tax and welfare state laws that propped up the newly created middle class, and the ground underneath most Americans' feet has been eroding ever since. It was actually much worse than what people thought all along, because much of the pain for the middle class was eased by sending wives to work earning a second income, and stealing from their children via budget deficits. Now comes the triple whammy of the apocalypse, as the products from these policies come home to roost in a serious way. First, deregulating everything in sight so that the rapist class could have its unfettered way with all of us has produced the inevitable reckoning with reality now screening in your neighborhood as "The Great Recession". Second, the unsustainable pattern of profligate borrowing has become - go figure - unsustainable, and we are now seeing the beginning of serious movements toward reeling back spending on popular government programs, just when they are needed most. And third, the structural changes that have been promulgated over the last three decades leave most Americans poorly positioned to even hope for a path to economic recovery. Roughly speaking then, the middle class have been tossed out of the plane, their primary parachute was defectively fabricated by a deregulated corporation trying to save money on production, and their emergency chute was stolen out of the pack and sold on the black market called Wall Street. The problem for people like Obama or Pelosi or Reid or just about any Democrat in Congress today is that people increasingly know this. They are feeling it acutely. The decades of complacency have been replaced by the new era of fear and anxiety. Thus we're now seeing signs of a reanimated political sphere. Turnout is up, anti-incumbency is way up, and street rallies and alternative political movements are increasingly challenging the pathetically limited options of the status quo. We've entered an epoch of political oscillation - mood swings would perhaps be the better description - in which the two dominant political parties do fantastically well in opposition, but horribly in government. That's because, in reality, neither of them is offering any actual solutions to the problems the shrinking American middle class is grappling with every day. Republicans distract with an endless procession of bogeymen at home and abroad, and with tax cuts that only exacerbate the problem further. Democrats, on the other hand, uh... Democrats, er... Well, I don't know what Democrats actually do. They just kinda sit there taking potshots. Both parties do great in opposition because it's so easy to show how useless the government is, especially if hypocrisy is not necessarily a problem for how you practice politics (and for the GOP it is not only not a problem, it has become a high art form). But it turns out that actually governing after you win in opposition is problematic if you don't have any real solutions to offer. Republicans have been hammered twice in the last two election cycles, once to kick them out of Congress and then again to kick them out of the White House. Democrats will have precisely the same experience in 2010 and 2012, and for precisely the same reasons. And yet the public will be no more satisfied with the outcome than they are now, and likely less so. It's ludicrous to imagine that the party of Bush and Cheney - which has only gotten worse in their absence - will actually solve any national problems. Meanwhile, time is running out for Washington to actually produce solutions. Or at least to be seen as serious about producing solutions. People understand that this is not necessarily easily done. Franklin Roosevelt got elected president four times without ever genuinely slaying the Great Depression. But people believed that he was trying, and they knew that the party of Hoover would do nothing. Obama, on the other hand, has done just the opposite of FDR. He has entirely blown the good will which attended his inauguration one year ago, such that even if he were to be serious about dealing with jobs now, it's not clear that he would be trusted enough to be taken seriously, and it's not clear that he could even reap the political benefit from any success he might actually produce. This was the stupidest imaginable of strategic decisions by this White House. If they thought they could simply continue to win by being not Republicans, they were wrong even in the short term. (Very short term, as it turns out. They got clobbered right away in Virginia and New Jersey, and now also in Massachusetts.) If they thought they couldn't do anything legit to solve problems because they have to placate their real masters on Wall Street, they were wrong in the longer term. Americans are unlikely to continue to countenance such treason from their government anymore, as they lose their jobs, houses, medical care and dignity. Look, let's be honest, American government was designed by its creators to fail, if by success one means the ability to govern in any real sense and the ability to be responsive to the preferences of voters. It's a pretty ingenious system really, at least for those who have a congenital fear of government, that particularly American paranoia. The system basically requires so much consensus (which is another way of saying that so many actors can block it from moving forward), that only on occasions like the day after Pearl Harbor can it move expeditiously at articulating and legislating national policy. Otherwise, it requires a powerful figure who can light enough of a fire under the recalcitrant co-decisionmakers in the system for anything substantial to happen. And that more or less can only be the president. In the long nineteenth century of American government, that mostly just didn't happen, in large part because the prevailing view of the role of government was so limited. Today, however, it is more or less expected. It more or less defines whether a presidency is successful or not. Roosevelt and Johnson and Reagan and Wee Bush got what they wanted, and thus had largely successful presidencies, as measured by that yardstick. Of course, in some of those cases what they wanted were really disastrous things, and so those presidencies turned out to be not so successful in the larger sense, by virtue, ironically, of their successes in the narrow sense. In any case, for folks like Bill Clinton or Big Daddy Bush or Barack Obama it's all moot anyhow. They don't aspire to much of anything serious, and they therefore, of course, don't get anywhere near achieving it. This model for governmental failure created by the Founders has now become even more unruly, at least when Republicans are in the opposition. They have decided to use the filibuster and nomination holds in the Senate to block literally everything the Democrats want to do, including even staffing up the president's administration. Democrats, of course, are just the opposite. Even when they are in the minority by only the barest amount, they still allow the Republicans to do whatever they want, using whatever legislative bullying technique they choose. Essentially what we have today is a situation in which Republicans make life for the vast majority of Americans worse when they are in government, and Democrats do nothing whatsoever when they are given control. Nothing, that is, unless you count destroying the reputation of progressive politics while ironically not actually being progressive at all. America is increasingly in need of some serious Constitutional shake-ups, and a parliamentary system of responsible government to replace the existing do-nothing model is perhaps at the top of the list. That alternative surely at least has clarity going for it, hence the term 'responsible'. You know who governs at any given time, and you get to throw the bums out of office if they don't do it the way you want them to. It's a higher gamble affair, though. It essentially puts all the eggs in one basket, at least for the short term. If we had had such a system in 2005, for example, Social Security would have been effectively destroyed. On the other hand, when people saw in 2008 what Wall Street did to the Social Security accounts they had been building over a lifetime, Republicans would have banished from the halls of government for eighty years. The system is truly broken, but the truth is that all systems are broken, and all systems are also not broken. It's in the nature of people to switch systems, and to want to switch systems, as a cheap potential solution to their problems. But, in reality, institutions and constitutions don't make nearly as much difference in the quality of governance as does the character and commitments of the people at the helm, and that of those who choose them. Good people with good intentions and a good helping of guts will produce good results, even when faced with daunting obstacles built into the system of governance. Rip-off artists, on the other hand, will not be deterred by mere checks and balances. And those who seek to do nothing while the country burns will be able to under any constitutional order, at least for the short-term. Major aspects of the current crisis in American politics are deeply fundamental in nature, in the sense that a cavalier and self-interested (often at best) public has allowed the gravest crimes to be committed in its name, as long as it could still sit on the sofa unmolested, slurping beer, scarfing Tater Tots, and watching yet another episode of American Idol. We truly do have the government we deserve. And yet, to some extent, it 'twas ever thus, and still we've managed to do better at times. Moreover, it's hard not to conclude that there has been a concerted effort to dumb down the American public on matters of politics and even their own welfare these last few decades. And why not, eh? There was a helluva lot of money to be made. But while the breakdown of the country's political system has been near complete - ranging from government to opposition party to the media to the public - those who ask for our votes by promising serious change, and who invoke the rhetoric of Martin Luther King and the centuries-long tribulations of the enslaved in order to get elected, have a special responsibility to fulfill their commitment. It requires a particular and spectacular brand of treasonous contempt to piss away the beliefs of an entire nation in one's promise and one's integrity, not to mention trashing the legions of people who carried you across the finish line for exactly that reason. Even worse, to mangle the governance of a country at a time of crisis - knowing full well what sort of creatures to whom that throws open the doors of the government in the wake of your failure - is an egregious crime of historical proportions. How many Weimar Republics or Neville Chamberlains do we need before we figure that one out? Obama's weakness will make Sarah Palin president. Some folks argue that change never comes from the top and it's a fool's errand to expect Barack Obama or Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi or any other leaders of American government to ever just do the right thing for the right reasons. Maybe that's all true, and I certainly rue the fact that the only people out on the streets these days are the know-nothings of the right. There is a ton of work to be done right now building a progressive movement with the capacity to pressure the country's national leaders into doing the right thing for the country. But those leaders are part of the problem, too. And it's also the case that some of the great transformative figures of this country or others - Franklin Roosevelt, Mikhail Gorbachev, Deng Xiaoping - were so much more than history forced them to be. To me, that means both that we should continue to expect a serious contribution from those entrusted with governing the country, beyond what the street forces them to do, and that history vindicates such expectations as being legitimate. In other words, we know from the historical record that it can happen that leaders actually lead, beyond where we folks down below push them to go. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to expect that of the current crop, notwithstanding the crucial role also to be played by the public, the media, social movements, etc. Few leaders in American history have been as blessed with the ironic opportunity of crisis as has been Barack Obama. This last year could have been written into the history books with an entirely different script, and one which would have massively benefitted the country, the Democratic Party and Barack Obama. Yet, because he is so very much not a man of his time, just the opposite occurred. Clinton got away with being a nothingburger during fat times. Obama is foolishly trying it during a moment of multiple simultaneous national and international crises, and he is failing miserably. As he should be, with such a shamefully tepid agenda. Barack Obama and his congressional co-conspirators in cowardice will soon be toast, the victims - both directly through their own inadequacies and indirectly through their unwillingness to counter attacks upon them by the most destructive elements of American politics - of their own failings of character. But because of those failings, and because at the moment the bottom was falling out they would neither lead, follow nor get out of the way, they are not the only folks right now staring down the business end of the shotgun that is the future of America. We are, too. Indeed, far more than they. David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (mailto:dmg [at] regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net. --------13 of 13-------- From: David Shove <shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu> Subject: Pledge 2012 No vote for Obama/02.15.10 Pledge 2012 No vote for Obama Some of Barack Obama's bad actions: 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan record high military budget bombing by unmanned drones in Pakistan continued Iraq war rejection of landmine treaty continued torture and coverup of past torture support for Honduras coup support for Israeli occupation of Palestine suppression of Goldstone Gaza war report bank bailout no prosecution or even investigation of Bush & Co reaffirmation of Patriot Act for insurance companies & vs single payer support for expanded nuclear power For these, and many other bad actions, We the undersigned publicly pledge not to vote for Barack Obama for US president in 2012. Robert Halfhill Amber Garlan Tom Cleland David Weisberg Dave Bicking Andy Hamerlinck Doug Mann Ted Dooley Melissa Hill Dori Ullman Ryan Carey Jan McGee Bill Oldfather Carol Mellom Michelle Gross Mike Whelan Robert Palmer Tom Dooley Tim Nolan Johnny Hazard Suzanne Linton Michael Cavlan Steven Boyer John Simcox Louise Bouta Vanessa Vogl Lisa Grant M J Schoen Clinton Dietrich Lydia Howell Farheen Hakeem Jan Nye Margaret Beegle Dave Berger Brandy Baker (MD) Myles Hoenig (MD) Danene Provencher Donald L Maxwell Neil Lageson Molly Reiter Mustafa Adam Bob Schmitz Mary Metchnek Dan Dittman David Shove [room for YOUR name] ==end of pledge To sign this pledge, send to shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu an email from your standard personal email address, with your name, and the words: No Obama 2012 vote. The above will be published regularly on the Progressive Calendar, Green Party lists, etc. Continuing chances for additional people to sign. If you need to research any topic raised here, go to eg: CounterPunch http://counterpunch.org Dissident Voice http://dissidentvoice.org Common Dreams http://commondreams.org Once you're there, do a search on your topic, eg obama drones MD = Maryland --------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 Research almost any topic raised here at: CounterPunch http://counterpunch.org Dissident Voice http://dissidentvoice.org Common Dreams http://commondreams.org Once you're there, do a search on your topic, eg obama drones
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