Progressive Calendar 02.15.10
From: David Shove (
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

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From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at]>
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
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]
<spayne [at]> or 612-331-8336 x 26!

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From: Welfare Rights Committee <welfarerightsmn [at]>
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.Ā Welfare Rights Committee PO Box 7266, Mpls MN
55407 pho: 612-822-8020 main email: welfarerightsmn [at] alt email:
welfarerights [at]

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From: "Misty Perez Truedson," <info [at]>
Subject: Action for broadband 2.15 1pm
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

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From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at]>
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] Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls,
Wisconsin 54022

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From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
From: Eleonore Wesserle <ewesserle [at] <mailto:ewesserle [at]>>
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
All Nations Indian Church on Bloomington/23rd Street
1515 E. 23rd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Map: <>

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
( <>)
Questions? Email Eleonore at ewesserle [at]
 <mailto:ewesserle [at]>. /

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From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
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.

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From: Nonviolent Peaceforce <nonviolentpeaceforce [at]>
Subject: Peaceforce carnival 2.16 5:30pm

Nonviolent Peaceforce
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 

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From: Leslie Reindl <alteravista [at]>
Subject: COA workshop 2.16 6:30pm

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], 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.

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From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
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

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.

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"We Don't Want a Bunch of Angry Teamsters Showing Up at Our Doors!"
The Economic Velociraptors
February 12-14, 2010

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

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]

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The Point of No Return
Empire of the Sunset
February 12-14, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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], but regrets that time
constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be
found at his website,

--------13 of 13--------

From: David Shove <shove001 [at]>
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] 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:
  Dissident Voice
  Common Dreams
 Once you're there, do a search on your topic, eg obama drones

MD = Maryland


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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