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Noted with Interest, November 2012

Nov 08, 2012

* NEW * Obama and progressives: what will liberals do with their big election victory?
By Glenn Greenwald. Step One, according to Glenn: Gut Social Security. From The Guardian, Nov 7, 2012. Accessed Nov 8, 2012.


tags: Obama

If You Are Thinking of Voting for Obama

Oct 14, 2012
Never mind all that nonsense about “the lesser of two evils.”

What you see, and have seen for four years, is what you got—a stooge of the corporatocracy, bailing out banks for criminal activity that brought the world to its knees and using their victims’ money to do so; a militarist willing to murder hundreds of thousands of innocents, squander our wealth, and traumatize a generation of our young people in pursuit of a handful of the guilty; a prosecutor of an endless war on drugs that fills our prisons with children, supports industries that feed on death and violence, and makes failed states out of our struggling southern neighbors; a rabid pursuer of whistleblowers, like Bradley Manning, who have revealed secrets that ought never to have been secret; finally, in the words of Ralph Nader on election night 2008, an Uncle Tom.

Yes, I embraced “hope and change” in 2008 and will always regret I didn’t vote for Nader. And I do not know how anyone as intelligent as Obama could have been so ineffectual in wielding the power inherent in the most powerful position in the world. His ineffectuality was either intentional or it is yet another lesson in the limits of power, a lesson we have failed to learn again and again since WWII.

Vote for him if you like, but it makes you one of them.

In the alternative, break loose from our failed two-party system. In fact, there aren’t two parties anymore. There is a Taliban-like fundamentalist right posing as Republicans and snatching up the support of a population whose education has been so neglected for fifty years that they are a broiling mélange of anger, ill health, and ignorance. And there is a so-called Democratic party assiduously protecting the right of a few to steal the wealth of the many.

Of course, most of you won’t break loose, and we will almost certainly have another four years of Obama, a polarized Congress, and the status quo. We will enrich the rich, wage wars that profit only the warmongers, punish the weak, ravage the environment, and abuse and neglect our own.

And bin Laden wins.
tags: Obama

Noted With Interest, December 2009

Dec 02, 2009

Insurgents Hack U.S. Drones
By Siobhan Gorman, et al. Iranian-backed militants have been hacking into our deadly drones’ video feeds with a $25 piece of software for the last year. Our favorite quotation: “U.S. officials say there is no evidence that militants were able to take control of the drones or otherwise interfere with their flights.” So what’s the fuss? From The Wall Street Journal, Dec 17, 2009. Accessed Dec 17, 2009.

Our Murderers in the Sky
By Scott Ritter. “...the Afghan problem has never been a military problem....” From Truthdig.com, Dec 10, 2009. Accessed Dec 11, 2009.

Building a case for the survival of the kindest
What?! Could Ayn Rand have been wrong? Is altruism a survival mechanism after all? (We feel vindicated.) From R&D Magazine, Dec 9, 2009. Accessed Dec 10, 2009.

Liberals Are Useless
By Chris Hedges. Can you see yourself in this portrait? From Truthdig.com, Dec 7, 2009. Accessed Dec 9, 2009.

Addicted to Nonsense
By Chris Hedges. Are we all become Eloi, grist for the Morlocks? From Truthdig,com, Nov 30, 2009. Accessed Dec 5, 2009.

The Afghanistan Parenthesis
By David Bromwich. From the Huffington Post, Dec 2, 2009. Accessed Dec 2, 2009.

tags: Obama

Obama and Peace

Oct 09, 2009
Twitter is all a-twitter, with tweets running seven to three on the “embarrassing joke” side of the equation.1 Kristof called it “premature” on his blog.2 Fellow NY Times columnist Charles M. Blow’s tweet asks “[W]hat on earth has he done to deserved [sic] this?”

The progressive press is leaning the other way. After a somewhat snide opening by someone calling themself “PZS,” Truthdig just reports the facts, ma’am, and leaves for Editor Robert Scheer to figure out where he stands in an upcoming column,3 while the Huffington Post comes right out and says “Bully for him!” or words to that effect.4

Meanwhile, a relative tweets, “Am I the only one who thinks it’s great that Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize?“ Apparently not.

For myself, I was shocked, shocked, to hear the news out of Oslo this morning (shocked enough to take pen to ATN after a long hiatus). Premature? Wishful thinking on the part of the Nobel committee? Or just plain politics as usual? My concentration does tend to be on the domestic scene, where a house in terrible disorder crumbles more each day; where one of our two political parties has regressed to a second, choleric childhood; and where the politics of hope and change has morphed into an intractable status quo.

How much better is the international scene, and has a sitting commander-in-chief managing three public wars and who knows how many secret ones ever won the Nobel Peace Prize? Where is George Orwell when we need him?

Meanwhile in the two most dangerous lands on earth, a lone figure of enormous vision continues planting seeds of peace, as he has done for almost two decades; establishing scores of schools for girls and boys; raising now a second generation of informed, curious people who have been imbued with an understanding and appreciation of freedom and democracy which no gun can ever impose.

The great tragedy of Obama’s peace prize is that it did not go to Greg Mortenson.
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1 Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize: 60% of Twitter Users Don’t Get It
2 Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize
3 Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize
4 President Obama’s Noble Nobel Prize
tags: Obama

Independence Day

Jul 04, 2009
On this most important American holiday, six months into an administration which promised hope and change, with our In-box filled with requests for our signature and our dollars from MoveOn, Democracy for America, True Majority, and other such organizations which we have helped and supported over the past difficult years, we pause to consider just where we are today, and where we (and the country at large) would wish to be and how we are to get there.

For the true Progressive, those organizations noted above, all of which support, tolerate, and/or ignore the continual flipping, backsliding, and repudiations of the progressive agenda by the White House, have removed themselves from any claim to our loyalty or our funds. Progressives have an agenda which, in the last election, was most clearly articulated by Ralph Nader. We voted for Obama, however, because we wanted to win. In doing so, we got more of the same, as the worst excesses of the Bush administration, including kidnapping, torture, domestic spying, and preventive detention, continue to be supported today.

One liberal initiative after another is now being passed with much fanfare and little substance. A credit card bill fails to set a ceiling on interest rates; an energy bill is universally acknowledged, by supporters and detractors alike, to be grossly insufficient in addressing a life-and-death issue; a tobacco bill ensures the survival of a toxic industry. Other initiatives are effectively stalled (EFCA), or strangled and trampled beyond recognition (a health care bill which is gradually but inexorably abandoning a public option, let alone the single-payer plan favored by 76 percent of Americans).

The Obama administration, the Democratic party, and the grassroots organizations which have grown up on the Internet to support an agenda for change no longer represent the progressive voice in America. On this day, of all days, we should declare our independence from all three, and begin the long and difficult task of building a new political party that represents the will of a people still eager to believe in, embrace, and realize the promise of a great and noble idea.
tags: Obama

Scot Free

Mar 17, 2009
Bernard Madoff lived in his penthouse apartment for several months following his confession to masterminding what is probably the biggest single-handed swindle in history.1

Bank executives at Merrill Lynch pulled in $3.6 billion in bonuses in 2008, a year when the firm lost $27 billion and was sold at bargain basement rates soon after the checks cleared.2

And Jose Padilla, U.S. citizen, was kidnapped, incarcerated, and tortured—excuse us, interrogated harshly—for three and a half years before he was turned over to the legal system and, ultimately, sentenced to 17 years in prison.3

Now, the individuals responsible for that, from Bush on down, as well as those responsible for Abu Ghraib, extraordinary rendition, waterboarding, destruction of evidence, and domestic warrantless wiretapping are about to get the same kid glove treatment Bernie and the boys and girls at Merrill Lynch received. They are about to be whitewashed through a “Truth Commission” in the Senate, led by Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy, which will probably immunize most of the players in order to get their testimony, rendering them free of the threat of prosecution.

And prosecution is what these people deserve and must receive, if we are to look ahead to a nation once again of laws and not of men (or, rather, one man). Until they are prosecuted, we remain in Bush/Cheney territory, regardless of who is in the White House. It is clear from Leahy’s manner, halting over his lukewarm and canned announcement,4 that he is out of touch with the will of the people.

Indeed, the Obama administration has failed to take one principled stand against the enormities of the Bush administration’s destruction of the U.S. Constitution. Instead, we merely hear what we heard from Bush: “The U.S. does not torture.”

Meanwhile, Guantanamo remains open, with worse things happening there than ever;5 the administration continues to scuttle legal proceedings by invoking specious “state secret” privileges;6 international kidnappings and transport to third countries (renditions) are not off the table.7 Sadly, we could go on and on.

This is not change. This is not an administration we can believe in. And we are saddened even more to see our own senator leading a toothless panel of inquiry that may very well render many of the worst villains in American history beyond the reach of the law.
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1 Madoff’s Future: Where the Case Is Likely to Go, Steven M. Davidoff, from the New York Times, Mar 11, 2009, accessed. as were all notes in this item, Mar 11, 2009
2 Nearly 700 at Merrill in Million-Dollar Club, by Michael J. de la Merced and Louise Story, from the New York Times, Feb 11, 2009
3 Padilla Sentence to 17 Years in Prison, by Kirk Semple, from the New York Times, Jan 22, 2008
4 Lawmakers Debate Establishing “Truth Commission” on Bush Admin Torture, Rendition and Domestic Spying, from Democracy Now, March 5, 2009
5 Administration Draws Fire for Report on Guantanamo, by William Glaberson, from the New York Times, Feb 23, 2009
6 Obama Backs Off a Reversal on Secrets, by John Schwartz, from the New York Times, Feb 9, 2009
7 Obama’s Interview Aboard Air Force One, from the New York Times, Mar 7, 2009
tags: Obama

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Mar 09, 2009
During the campaign, it was 16 months and we’re outta there! Last week it was 18 months (on top of the one that has passed already, for a grand total of 19) and we’re outta there!1 The long national nightmare of a misbegotten military adventure, founded on a lie, costing 35,000+ casualties2 and three trillion dollars, mismanaged for six endless years, would finally be over.

All right, we were patient. We were coming to understand that this was a careful, deliberate, thoughtful president, unlike the loose cannon that had been caroming off the Oval Office walls for the past eight years. If he wanted to extend combat operations all the way to August 2010, what the hey, we would be patient and see how it went.

Then our brain kicked in. That additional detail in the Obama plan which would leave 35-50,000 troops in Iraq with combat capability after the end of “combat operations ” in August 2010 did not quite scan on our logic receptors. Furthermore, whoever heard of unilaterally setting a schedule for the end of a war a year and a half in advance? The fact that we can pretend to do so reveals just what a phony war this is. And what have we not accomplished in six years that we hope—or need—to accomplish in the next 18 months? No one has told us. And if we are still going to be fighting in 18 months, how can we possibly hope to put up a good front with fewer than a third of our present contingent, when that contingent has been inadequate to the task so far?

Our inevitable conclusions fill us with fear and trembling: As in their responses to the collapse of the world’s economies, so in the matter of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the present administration is floundering, directionless, and fully as oblivious to the needless suffering and the clear will of the people as the past one. Its proffered solutions so far lack both boldness and sufficient adequacy of scope.

The only thing we have to fear is the fearfulness of the administration itself, which “paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” What are they afraid of? Of failure. Of angering their corporate paymasters. Of admitting the error even of the error-ridden ways of their predecessors. And so their reactions to these crises are meek, inadequate, temporizing, and ultimately doomed to failure.

How desperately we hope we are wrong!
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1 6 Years In, Troops Glimpse Real Path Out of Iraq, by Steven Lee Myers, from the New York Times, Mar 6, 2009, accessed Mar 7, 2009.
2 Iraq Coalition War Casualties, accessed Mar 7, 2009
tags: Obama

Setting the Agenda

Mar 03, 2009
We pass on a recent email from Moveon.Org regarding Obama’s budget. The cards are on the table; the battle is about to be joined; your children’s future rests in the balance. Here is what MoveOn has to say:

Want to see what change looks like? Real change?

Well, here it is. Last week, President Obama unveiled his budget—his blueprint for America— and it’s ambitious, amazing, and unapologetically progressive. As Paul Krugman said, it will set America on a “fundamentally new course.”1

President Obama called his budget “a threat to the status quo,” and trust me, the status quo noticed. Oil companies, big banks and insurance companies are already mobilizing to stop it.2

Unfortunately, most folks don’t realize how far-reaching and progressive the plan is—that’s where we all come in.

Here are 10 really incredible things about Obama’s plan. Check them out and then send them on to your friends and family so that millions of people will have the information they need to fight to make this vision a reality.

10 things you should know about Obama’s plan, but probably don’t

The plan:
  1. Makes a $634 billion down payment on fixing health care that will go a long way toward paying for a more efficient, more affordable health care system that covers every single American.3
  2. Reduces taxes for 95% of working Americans. And if your family makes less than $250,000, your taxes won’t go up one dime.4
  3. Invests more than $100 billion in clean energy technology, creating millions of green jobs that can never be outsourced.5
  4. Brings our troops home from Iraq on a firm timetable, finally bringing the war to a close—and freeing up almost ten billion dollars a month for domestic priorities.6
  5. Reverses growing income inequality. The plan lets the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire and focuses on strengthening the middle class.7
  6. Closes multi-billion-dollar tax loopholes for big oil companies.8
  7. Increases grants to help families pay for college—the largest increase ever.9
  8. Halves the deficit by 2013. President Obama inherited a legacy of huge deficits and an economy in shambles, but his plan brings the deficit under control as soon as the economy begins to recover.10
  9. Dramatically increases funding for the SEC and the CFTC—the agencies that police Wall Street.11
  10. Tells it straight. For years, budgets have used accounting tricks to hide the real costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Bush tax cuts, and too many other programs. Obama’s budget gets rid of the smokescreens and lays out what America’s priorities are, what they cost, and how we’re going to pay for them.12
This is the change we voted for. President Obama has done his part, now we need to do ours.

Please pass this message on to your personal network.

Thanks for all you do,

—Daniel, Tanya, Peter, Justin, and the rest of the team

P.S. Turns out there are more than 10 amazing things in Obama’s budget and we couldn’t resist sharing just a few more.
  1. Stops unnecessary government subsidies to big banks, health insurance companies and big agribusinesses.13,14,15
  2. Expands access to early childhood education and expands schools by investing in programs that make sure every child has a qualified, strong teacher.16
  3. Negotiates for better prescription drug prices using Medicaid’s tremendous bargaining power.17
  4. Expands access to family planning for low-income women.18
  5. Caps the pollution that causes global warming, and makes polluters pay to support clean energy innovation.19
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1 Climate of Change, The New York Times, February 27, 2009
2 Obama Calls His Budget Sweeping, Needed Change, The New York Times, February 28, 2009
3 Obama Offers Broad Plan to Revamp Health Care, The New York Times, February 26, 2009
4 Obama Expects Fight Over $3.55 Trillion Budget Plan, Bloomberg News, February 28, 2009
5 Energy Budget Is Sunlight After Eight Years of Darkness, Center for American Progress, February 26, 2009
6 The Economic Cost of War in Iraq and Afghanistan, The New York Times, March 1, 2009
7 Tax Cuts, The New York Times, February 26, 2009
8 Energy Budget Is Sunlight After Eight Years of Darkness, Center for American Progress, February 26, 2009
9 Student Loans, The New York Times, February 26, 2009
10 Obama unveils budget blueprint, CNN, February 26, 2009
11 Obama budget would books SEC, CFTC, FBI, Reuters, February 26, 2009
12 Obama’s budget, Los Angeles Times, February 27, 2009
13 Student Loans, The New York Times, February 26, 2009
14 Health Insurance Stocks Dive on Medicare Advantage Cuts, The Wall Street Journals, February 26, 2009
15 Agriculture, The New York Times, February 26, 2009
16 Investing Wisely in Our Children, Center for American Progress, February 26, 2009
17 Obama Offers Broad Plan to Revamp Health Care, The New York Times, February 26, 2009
18 Obama Offers Broad Plan to Revamp Health Care, The New York Times, February 26, 2009
19 Setting Green Goals, The New York Times, February 26, 2009
tags: Obama

Daschle: A Post-Mortem

Feb 07, 2009
The damage was done days before Tom Daschle, waking up and smelling the bitter scent of failure as did Caroline Kennedy a few weeks before, took himself out of the running for Secretary of Health and Human Services.1 The damage was done when Obama failed to pull the plug on the first tax cheat who was finagled into his cabinet. Timothy Geithner, now the overseer of your tax returns, was slipped under the oblivious radar of the Democratic Senate in a game plan which the Obama administration was quite prepared to repeat for the even more audacious, arrogant, and duplicitous Daschle.

Geithner was intimately associated with the gang of robber barons who paved the way for the present debacle, which more and more people are calling the early days of another Great Depression. In fact, Obama welcomed the prime mover of that debacle into the very heart of his administration. Lawrence Summers, the head of the White House Economic Council, persuaded Clinton to sign legislation toward the end of his second term that let loose the dogs of Wall Street and led directly to the mess we are in today.2 What can our new president be thinking? We wish someone could tell us.

The arguments the administration put forth in support of both these men, in spite of their glaring inadequacies, was that their unique expertise was required. In Geithner’s case, it is like saying the fox’s expertise is needed for guarding the henhouse.

And Daschle? Expertise from this career parasite? Rather, let us picture someone—a woman, say, sixtyish, a member of a minority, from a broken home. In her twenties, she worked as an LPN while she studied nights for her R.N. She put in a dozen years as a triage nurse at the V.A., with a couple of tours in Vietnam serving in a field hospital, while studying nights for her M.S.N. Then, around forty, she moved into the private sector to take an offer from a hospital to be Head of Nursing, while studying nights for her M.B.A. She moved into administration in her late forties and a few years later was named Chief Administrator of a well-known teaching hospital.

This is expertise. This is a real person from the real world. And we will bet there are a dozen or more out there who are not a bad fit for the above résumé. Where are these people, where is this expertise, in an administration consisting, primarily, of people who have been sucking at the public tit their entire careers and exhibiting but a pretense of expertise. They are nowhere. Instead, the administration is chock full of tax cheats, insiders, party hacks, and Clintonesque has-beens. How could such promise have turned so sour so fast?

Premature, you say? Excessively harsh? This web site will hold Obama’s feet to the fire until the progressive agenda his campaign promised begins to unfold. To date, it is nowhere in sight. Its fancy words and its crocodile tears do nothing to cover up its actions, which proclaim, to CEO and D.C. insider alike: Fear Not, For Here It Is Business As Usual. Well, out here, the muttering and the grumbling and the anger are on the rise. For as the bard so cogently observed, “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”3
____________________
1 Daschle Ends Bid for Post; Obama Concedes Mistake, by Jeff Zeleny, from the New York Times, February 3, 2009, accessed, as were the other notes today, February 4, 2009
2 Runaway Wall Street, by Robert Scheer, from Truthdig.com, February 4, 2009
3 Sonnet 94, by William Shakespeare
tags: Obama

The Exception Disproves the Rule

Jan 31, 2009
Perhaps we should have titled this item Ten Days That Shook the World—Not! At the risk of raining on anyone’s parade, we will point out the significant disconnect between words and deeds that has surfaced already in the Obama administration. None of the following items can be considered trivial, and all of them reflect a tendency on the part of our new executive to hedge, fudge, and otherwise compromise or abandon important principles. We will add to this listing of broken promises as time goes on, or delete them on the happy occasion of their being kept.


No Torture
Except it is unclear whether the CIA will keep it up1 and Obama can reinstitute it at will in the future, arrogating to himself, like his predecessor, the option of discarding the rule of law.2
No Lobbyists in Government
Except Raytheon's William Lynn gets to be a deputy Pentagon chief3 and Tom Daschle, despite earning $300,000 in income from health-related companies, gets to be Secretary of Health and Human Services.4
Close Guantanamo
Except not for a year, and not until we figure out what to do with the prisoners who are there,2 and please don’t mention the military prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.1
Return the Rule of Law to Washington
Except if your nominees for Secretary of the Treasury and the Department of Health and Human Services are flagrant tax cheats,5,6 and your nominee for the nation’s top intelligence job has been accused by a respected, credible, and award-winning journalist of abetting genocide in violation of the expressed and unambiguous orders of his superiors.7
Transparency in Government
Except when it comes to making public the details about where the $700 billion bank bailout money went, what was done with it, and what effect it has had. It certainly has failed to ease the credit market, which is what it was intended to do.
What can one expect in the first ten days of a new administration which has spent most of that time patting itself on the back? A great deal more than this.
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1 Obama Orders Gitmo Closure, Bans Torture, from Democracy Now, Headlines, January 23, 2009 (accessed January 27, 2009)
2 Obama Issues Directive to Shut Down Guantanamo, Mark Mazzetti and William Glaberson, from the New York Times, January 21, 2009< (accessed January 27, 2009)
3 White House clears way for Pentagon deputy-senator [sic], from Forbes.com, January 23, 2009, accessed January 27, 2009
4 Daschle Knew of Tax Issues Over Car Use Last June. by Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Robert Pear, from the New York Times, January 31, 2009, accessed February 1, 2009
5 It’s Not Just Taxes, by Joe Nocera, from the New York Times, January 23, 2009, accessed January 27, 2009
6 Use of Free Car Lands Tom Daschle in Tax Trouble, by Robert Pear, from the New York Times, January 30, 2009, accessed January 31, 2009 (with a hat tip to CF for timely notice)
7 Admiral Dennis Blair Aided Perpetrators of 1999 Church Killings in East Timor, from Democracy Now, January 6, 2009 (and several subsequent programs), accessed January 27, 2009
tags: Obama

The First 100 Minutes

Jan 21, 2009
We gawked, open mouthed, at the largest gathering of Americans we had ever seen—or ever will see.

We were privileged to view The Parade of Extremely Important People, their demeanors ranging from high dudgeon to hilarity.

We gasped at Dick Cheney morphing into Dr. Strangelove.

We cooed (again) over Malia and Sasha, envying their father his cuddling rights more than his new office.

We listened to Aretha Franklin arethafranklin “My Country ’Tis of Thee.”

We doubted our own ears as we heard the Chief Justice flub the oath, not once, but twice.

And then we listened. We listened to 2,395 words from a Black man who had just assumed the mantle of executive authority over the most powerful nation in the history of the world—a nation of enormous promise which had broken that promise over and over again.

In his first sentence, he acknowledged our ancestors, which included a people who had suffered the worst excesses of cruelty that can be visited upon one group of human beings by another.

In his fifth paragraph, he echoed the Constitution and paid homage to the greatness of our nation’s founders, from whom we have strayed so far, and so vilely, over the past eight years.

In a scant 96 words (“That we are in the midst of a crisis...”), he summed up the causes and effects of the profound mess we are in, identifying the culprits as well as those who must now be the first beneficiaries of relief—the people.

He delivered the required slap to the cynical, partisan, logjammed politics of the last thirty years (“[T]he time has come to set aside childish things....”), and invited us to “choose our better history” which carries the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.

And setting aside the protection of “narrow interests” he laid out the new directions we will take—creating jobs, building infrastructure, welcoming back science, revolutionizing health care, harnessing renewable energy.

Let us just hope the “stale political arguments ... no longer apply” and let us not underestimate or again forget the enormous destructive power that stands behind those arguments.

Open government to the light of day, cease to tolerate waste, rein in the excesses of unregulated capitalism, assure equity of opportunity for all because—common sense comes back to Washington!— “it is the surest route to our common good.”

Jettisoning the notion of American hegemony, he brought us back within the community of nations and assured the world that we would no longer, “for expedience’s sake,” sacrifice our ideals, which “still light the world.”

And in just 40 words, he ended our century-old support for the world’s worst villains, “those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent.”1

Words. 2,395 words. Spoken yesterday with intelligence, calm grace, and determination. Already today, actions begin their task of speaking louder than words. If those actions, with the enthusiastic participation and support of all right-minded Americans, are pursued with similar intelligence, calm grace, and determination, then morning in American may finally have come, and we will have awakened to find our long-cherished Dream a reality.
____________________
1 Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, from the New York Times, January 20, 2009 (Accessed January 20, 2009)
tags: Obama

January 20, 2009

Jan 20, 2009
Today, we listen.
tags: Obama

Formula for Failure

Jan 10, 2009
The latest word out of the mainstream media is that Obama will go ahead with a $300 billion tax cut for middle-class workers and small businesses as part of the new administration’s economic stimulus effort.1 That figure represents about 39 percent of the $775 billion his advisers are looking to inject into the economy. He is doing it at the behest of the Republican minority, and the figure would amount to about $500 each for us middle-class workers. That is $100 less than the utterly ineffective midsummer checks from Bush 2, and far less tangible, coming, as it will, in slightly reduced withholding of federal income taxes dragged out over a long series of paychecks.

The Republicans are also encouraging Obama to loan, rather than grant, relief money to the states, a move which would almost certainly be useless in helping to bring about an economic recovery, in fact, quite the contrary. This was argued very cogently a few days ago by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), which concluded, “The proposal reflects misperceptions about why states face large deficits, how state budgets and constitutions work, how states would use fiscal relief, and what will happen if they do not receive it.”2 CBPP notes the states’ shortfalls over the next two and one-half years are projected at $350 billion, close to the amount Obama plans to waste in tiny giveaways to taxpayers who don’t need it.

These Republican positions reflect the nefarious subtext of practically every Republican “proposal” we have heard for the last 30 years: Cut taxes, cut taxes, cut taxes, and don’t give anything to anyone but the filthy rich, especially any entity, such as the states, that serves the common good.

Having given in on the tax cut issue, it will be interesting to see if Obama gives in on the state loan issue as well. And if he does so on both, we shall see how quickly, readily, and collegially the Republicans fall into his camp and enable smooth passage of his stimulus passage. Our prediction? Don’t hold your breath.

In naming Hillary to the highest post he could bring himself to award her, in naming many another leftover Clintonite as well as a couple of Republicans to high-level positions in his administration, in handing over a hefty portion of his stimulus package to Republican ideology, Obama is apparently trying to please all of the people all of the time. He will not. He cannot. He has apparently never taken note of wise advice the journalist Herbert Bayard Swope passed along a while back:

I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure, which is: try to please everybody.
Well, perhaps not everybody. Now that Obama has named the unlikely Leon Panetta (ex-Chief of Staff to Bill Clinton) to head the CIA, his major appointments are complete. And where among the voices within his hearing is one clear call for the progressive change on which we all thought he ran?

Exactly nowhere.
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1 Obama Seeks Wide Support in Congress for Stimulus, by Jeff Zeleny and David M. Herszenhorn, from the New York Times, January 6, 2009, accessed January 7, 2009
2 Converting state fiscal relief to loans would render in ineffective as stimulus, by Iris J. Lay and Nicholas Johnson, from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, January 7, 2009, accessed January 7, 2009
tags: Obama

Day One

Jan 05, 2009
We would like to hear the following from the newly sworn-in Obama during his First Inaugural Address; however, we are prepared to be patient and to wait until January 21, after the Inaugural Ball is over and he has settled into the Oval Office for Day One. Nothing in this Seven-Point Plan for the 21st Century should be objectionable to any fair-minded American:

An End to Torture
As Commander-in-Chief, Obama issues an Executive Order that all prisoners held by the U.S. will be treated strictly according to the Geneva Conventions, and any evidence of faltering from this standard will result in prosecution of the individuals involved and their superior officers.
Zero Tolerance for Dictatorships
As the shaper of foreign policy, Obama announces a new dawn of democracy in America and throughout the world with a pledge to end U.S. support for illegitimate, tyrannical, dictatorial, or otherwise oppressive regimes that have not been chosen by the people in fair and democratic elections. Furthermore, he pledges our full support to those nations which do elect their governments through a fair democratic process.
Rejoining the Family of Nations
The new President pledges that the U.S. will rejoin the family of nations, pay past dues to the United Nations, and become a full partner in a global effort to bring peace, health, and prosperity to the world.
Reaffirming the Rule of Law
As the country’s chief law enforcement officer, Obama orders his Attorney General to open wide-ranging investigations into both Wall Street financial firms and the Bush White House to establish whether U.S. laws were broken and, if so, to press for full accountability through civil actions and criminal indictments.
An End to Poverty
Declaring that poverty is unacceptable in the richest country in the world, and that its continuation is a threat to our future security, Obama pledges to end poverty for working Americans during his first term.
An Educated Public
Warning of a precipitous decline in educational standards in the U.S., Obama pledges to raise high school graduation rates above 90 percent and provide post-secondary education opportunities to anyone who wants them.
Health Care for All
Noting the impending disintegration of a top-heavy health care system that is increasingly failing the American people, Obama pledges to bring universal, single-payer, federally managed health care, cradle to grave, to the American people during his first term.
This is change we can believe in, and change the majority of American people support. Nothing less will do.
tags: Obama

Obama the Man

Dec 27, 2008
Barack Obama, we know, is a half-Negroid, half-Caucasian man. He is a married man. He is an eloquent man.

We wonder whether he is also a wise man. We wonder whether he is wise enough to understand, unlike many of his recent predecessors, that he is subject to the laws of the land, and that to place himself above those laws is to guarantee the failure of his administration (see, e.g., Nixon (Watergate); Reagan (Iran/Contra); Bush 2 (torture, domestic spying, unilateral baseless warmongering)).

We wonder also whether he is a man who is as intelligent as the press and his résumé credit him with being. We wonder whether he is smart enough to understand that our nation has been on the wrong track for thirty years and that the way back to the right track will require wrenching change that will be most disruptive to the richest and currently most powerful segment of our society. We wonder whether he is smart enough to engage, enlist, and utilize the support of the American people in this daunting task.

And we wonder whether he is a good man. In our time, Carter and Eisenhower were good men. The rest were an unhappy mix of conniving, murderous, solipsistic, serial adulterers who were in over their heads and easy pawns for the corporatocracy that has controlled our country since Vietnam. The leadership of the free world requires a man with a conscience, a man capable of empathy, a man whose heart is in the right place. Because finally a sea change in American politics and American life are going to require, above all else, a good man at the helm. Wisdom, intelligence, and eloquence may be mustered to serve ends good or evil. But only a good man can lead us from the darkness we find ourselves in today to the light of a renewed American promise.
tags: Obama

The $100 Billion Misunderstanding

Dec 20, 2008
The Pentagon Papers revealed the debacle that was the Vietnam war, and now the New York Times and the online journalism web site ProPublica have published what should be an equally incendiary document, Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience, written by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction following several years of interviews and study.

The bottom line? The reconstruction effort in Iraq has wasted over $100 billion, much of it American taxpayer money, through a combination of poor or nonexistent planning, disruptions caused by the insurgency, turf wars among uncoordinated participants, and fraud: “[A] massive waste of taxpayer dollars.”1

ProPublica provides particularly useful Excerpts from the 513-page report. They reveal that reconstruction was inadequately planned for before the invasion and ineptly pursued afterwards. In what appears to be full-fledged bureaucratic panic, agencies and offices opened and closed; administrators came and went; huge projects lay dormant halfway to completion and completed projects were not sustained; turf wars between Defense, State, USAID, the White House and others resulted in huge wastes of time and money. And through it all, an insurgency which to this day holds sway throughout Iraq played havoc with the few coordinated actions the various offices and authorities managed to mount during their short tenures.

The Inspector General concludes, “Why was so large a reconstruction program pursued in so insecure an environment? Others will have to provide that answer.”2

Obama has pledged (sort of) to disengage us from this Slough of Despond. However, he has also pledged to get us more involved in the slough to the east in Afghanistan, boosting both military and reconstruction efforts in an environment which is proving even more intractable than Iraq. If pursued, this unilateral, military response to an essentially multilateral situation calling for international policing efforts, particularly in a region which has proven time and again to be unmanageable by history’s very best managers, will be a morass into which will sink Obama and all his hope for change.

“Hard Lessons” is a road map to disaster. Nothing in the manner we have pursued our efforts in Afghanistan to date, and nothing in the announced plans of the new administration, give us reason to believe we are not still on that road.
____________________
1 Hard Lessons, pg. iii.
2 Ibid.
tags: Obama

Whither Education?

Dec 08, 2008
New York Times columnist David Brooks is consistently wrong about life in general, but he is often quite perspicacious when it comes to some of the specifics.

His December 5, 2008, column Who Will He Choose?, concerns Obama’s still-to-be-announced pick for Secretary of Education, a selection we consider more important than the ones he has made so far.

Two camps vie for Obama’s allegiance, according to Brooks. In one camp are the radical reformers, epitomized by Michelle Rhee (whom we wrote about in The War on Tenure), and in the other are those representing the establishment view with the “superficial reforms” characteristic of that camp.

Brooks’s insight comes when he notes Obama has skillfully straddled both camps, practicing what he memorably calls “dog-whistle politics” which sends out reassuring signals that only one side or the other can detect. This, of course, was characteristic of Obama’s entire campaign: He managed to make many of us who were not on the same sides of issues believe we detected signals in his language assuring us he was supporting our priorities.

Progressives have now had a cold shower of reality administered to them through Obama’s choices to date. The posts of Education and Labor are yet to come. They are, in our view, the most important, affecting as they do all Americans in areas—income and education—as much in need of radical reform as any in our system.

Brooks’s money seems to be on Arne Duncan,1 a Chicago reformer, for Education, a selection which he says “will be picking a fight with the status quo.” However, if there are any fans of the status quo still about in the land, they are staying silent in the closet. Even the Establishment knows we are in trouble, and it will take a full spectrum of reforms, as well as, perhaps, a partial systemic collapse, to pull us out of the doldrums into which our education system has been mired for the past two generations.
____________________
1 Arne Duncan, from Wikipedia, accessed December 6, 2008
tags: Obama

Fear Itself

Dec 04, 2008
They’re at it again. The headline in our local daily this morning reads, “U.S. Bio Attack in Next 5 Years Likely.”1

When outright oppression and domestic terror is off the table (although we might ask José Padilla2 to comment on that), fear is what best controls populations and renders them docile in the face of political tyranny. Cheney/Bush effectively played the fear card throughout their administration, even continuing to prevail in every area of their agenda after the Democrats assumed control of Congress in 2007.

Today the torch of fear is being passed to the next administration. The story noted above related to a report from the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism being presented today to Joe Biden, Obama's VP and First Hawk in an administration that is becoming filled with hawkish officials: Clinton, Gates, Rice.

In a pair of stories also in today’s paper,3 Obama formally introduces his choices for several high-level cabinet and White House positions. It is distressing to note that the position of Secretary of State is consistently characterized as being part of Obama’s “national security team.” National security has become a codeword for doing anything we want to anyone we like at anytime we choose, and damn the consequences. And to stamp our already hawkish-enough Secretary of State-designate with this codeword is to taint the position with unduly militaristic connotations and to downplay its true value as a great nation’s primary representative—and reassurance—to a fearful and needy world.

So it looks like it’s “Speak loudly and wield that big stick,” while scaring the pants off the populace in the home front. In other words, business as usual. And as Obama backs off his pledge to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq in 16 months (the pledge now downsized to a “desire”4), we may anticipate endless war through another administration.

This is change? This is hope?
____________________
1 You can read it here: Panel: Bio attack likely in next 5 years, from Yahoo News (Associated Press), Accessed December 2, 2008, as are other footnoted sources today.
2 José Padilla (prisoner), from Wikipedia
3 You can read it here: Obama Names Team to Face a Complex Security Picture, by Karen DeYoung and Michael D. Shear, from the Washington Post, December 2, 2008
4 Obama moves from electioneering to governance with nominees, by Peter Baker, from The International Herald Tribune, December 2, 2008
tags: Obama

Great Expectations 2: Foreign Affairs

Dec 03, 2008
First, let us stop calling these affairs foreign. Globalization and its discontents, the Internet, the climate crisis, have inextricably intertwined the affairs of nations, making us finally realize the interdependence of all peoples which has always been a fact of life, though rarely acknowledged.

And then let us get on with the business of nurturing our planet and all its people. The progressive agenda of the first Obama administration must include the following:

A National Renunciation
America must renounce its “go-it-alone” bully-boy stance. We cannot lead from a position of moral poverty. Torture, extraordinary rendition kidnappings, abuse of constitutional rights, all must be abjured for good and all, and systems put in place to assure that these offenses will not come again to haunt the world. Full disclosure to the American people, and to the world, of the enormities of the past eight years must be forthcoming, whether conducted through a Truth and Reconciliation-type commission or through criminal investigations and prosecutions.

A League of Nations
America must rejoin and reinvigorate the community of nations, and in doing so it must voluntarily renounce a portion of its sovereignty for the common good. The neocon notion of a Pax Americana has been thoroughly debunked and must be discarded. We must imbue and empower the international community, through the United Nations and other organizations, with an energy and an agenda and a sense of urgency, and we must act together to bring clean water, plentiful food, higher education, peace, and social justice to a world hungry for all of these. We must stop exploiting, and start enabling, all of humanity. Our common future depends on it.

War No More
War is obsolete. The military adventures of the executive branch which the world has suffered over the past sixty years have only bolstered this argument. The more significant ones—Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan—have all been losing propositions for the simple fact that we have not had to win them, and our adversaries have. Should a war we have to win ever be allowed to break out again, it will almost certainly destroy civilization. We must back off from our dependence on militarism by disarming, beginning with a full retreat from the threat of nuclear holocaust, and moving on from there to disallow armed conflict between and within nations. We must give peace a chance.

Ending Terrorism
Wars are fought between nations and to characterize efforts against terrorism as a “war” misuses and abuses that term. Terrorist activity warrants police action, not wars, although those actions may need to call upon military support and be international in scope. However, we also need to understand—and even empathize with—the root causes of terrorism. They have as much to do with failed states, our instinctive inclination to bolster political tyrannies, and the expropriation of natural resources as they have to do with fundamentalist religious beliefs.

An Economic Attitude Adjustment
Capitalism is the de facto winner in the modern struggle for economic supremacy. However, in winning the day, capitalism has become civilization’s master rather than its servant. This has to be reversed. Industry exists for the betterment of the individuals who buy and build its products, not the other way around. Just as we have decided, in assessing the needs of individuals, what is too little, we must decide what is too much, understanding that there is only one pie. While there will remain room for differences in wealth, those differences have reached grotesque proportions in the past thirty years, to the deprivation and horror of countless billions. We are one people on one earth, and our survival is not optimized by a system of exploitation and oppression, but by one of cooperation and mutual support.
These are the paths of the progressive agenda, toward a sustainable world where “One for all and all for one” is understood to be not simply a moral imperative, but a logical one, the one best suited to realizing a paradise on earth, and to averting the spectre of hell, to the brink of which the unbroken series of catastrophes we call human history have brought us today.
tags: Obama

Great Expectations 1: The Domestic Scene

Dec 02, 2008
Most progressive pundits we follow (among them Jeremy Scahill1, Naomi Klein, Robert Kuttner2, and Robert Scheer3) are bummed out by the selections Obama has made so far for his White House staff and cabinet. And indeed, one cannot but sigh in despair at the right-of-center Democrats (and Republicans!) paraded across Change.gov, Obama’s web site, which is looking increasingly like an ingeniously designed propagandistic puff piece. What could be worse than a George W. Bush? A George W. Bush with a brain.

Kuttner reminds us that Obama will be the president, not Larry Summers, Hillary Clinton, or Robert Gates. Cold comfort, we fear. As noted last week in Center Stage, the progressive agenda has moved to the center of American politics, or the center has moved toward progressive solutions to the serious challenges we face. With that in mind, here are five exigent items on the domestic agenda we expect the Obama administration to engage from a progressive standpoint:

Income Inequality
We expect the tax cuts for the wealthy to be repealed and a living wage assured for all full-time workers. We expect the capital gains tax to be raised to a reasonable level, and we expect Social Security to be withheld on wages higher than the current maximum, which, at $102,000, is ridiculously low. We expect any economic bailout or recovery plan to be accountable to the people and to be crafted in such a manner as to benefit the greatest number. We expect an end to poverty for all working individuals and families in America.

A Dysfunctional Education System
We call for a national commission on educational reform that will be encouraged to throw out all the “sacred cows” and conventions in PreK-16 public education developed since the 19th century. It will consist of the widest possible spectrum of educational reformers who have displayed success in the field, many of whom we have featured here on All Together Now (see, for example, The War on Tenure, The Next Step, and SEED Money). It will be empowered to put forth a comprehensive set of recommendations for reinvigorating American education from the ground up, recommendations which the Obama administration will commit to implementing expeditiously. We are bleeding oceans of human capital, and the bleeding must be stopped.

Health Care
Implement a single-payer, federally managed health care system (Medicare for all), containing the best features of the dozens of such systems which have been in operation for more than a generation in the rest of the civilized world. To do less is to thwart the people’s will and to continue a system where the many exist only to enrich the few—a bankrupt system which must end.

Voting Rights and Wrongs
Impediments to the franchise are a scandal in this country. We must pass laws that will assure the public that everything possible is being done to enable every eligible voter to exercise the franchise, easily, efficiently, and with a high degree of assurance that their vote is being properly counted.

Social Realism
Social issues such as premarital sex and the taking of illegal drugs need to be confronted in a rational manner. When they are, we will realize that education is the key to solving these issues. Teens will engage in sex and people will take mind-altering substances. They always have and they always will. We need to stop punishing ourselves for these human inclinations and rather do what is necessary to protect ourselves from their less fortunate consequences. Our current responses to these perceived social ills, including abstinence-only indoctrination and more and longer incarcerations, are positively insane.
These are the domestic issues on which we will judge the first Obama term. If they are not pursued with vigor, we will have no interest in a second.
____________________
1 Agents of Change or Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons? from Democracy Now, November 20, 2008 (Accessed November 30, 2008)
2 Naomi Klein, Robert Kuttner and Michael Hudson Dissect Obama’s New Economic Team & Stimulus Plan, from Democracy Now, November 25, 2008 (Accessed November 30, 2008)
3 Obama Chooses Wall Street Over Main Street, by Robert Scheer, from truthdig.com, November 25, 2008 (Accessed November 30, 2008)
tags: Obama

The See-Through Government

Nov 20, 2008
Is anyone paying attention? Probably not, since our government has been moving rapidly from a right-to-know to a need-to-know basis for the past eight, 30, 200 years or so. And for the past eight at least, our government has decided we need to know pretty much nothing beyond the barest and most mundane matters.

Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Secrecy is for losers.” A democracy requires an informed citizenry to function properly, yet as far back as the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention (both held outside public view), our federal government, especially the Executive branch, has preferred to act under a cloak of secrecy from the public it represents. According to Bill Moyers, “LBJ had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony” for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1966 and Gerald Ford, with the urging of a trio of characters in his administration named Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Scalia, actually vetoed FOIA amendments in 1974 (and saw his veto easily overridden by Congress).

Now, scores of organizations and individuals across the political spectrum, spearheaded by OMBWatch, have joined forces as the “21st Century Right to Know Project.” They have produced a comprehensive report detailing secrecy in government, together with 70 recommendations to the Obama administration for opening up government to public scrutiny, entitled Moving Toward a 21st Century Right-to-Know Agenda (.pdf).

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests can take decades to fulfill.1,2 And secrecy comes in many flavors, including utilizing multiple levels of classification of documents, misleading the public and Congress, punishing whistleblowers, censoring scientists, and violating the Constitution with warrantless surveillance or detentions, all of which have been defining characteristics of the Bush administration. The report reveals many other such ploys.

At Change.gov the Obama administration is already displaying a greater level of transparency than we have been used to in recent times. Let’s ramp up our attention level now, both to become better informed about those who exercise real power over our economic and social futures, and to make sure this trend toward transparency continues.
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1 40 Years of FOIA; 20 Years of Delay, from the National Security Archive, July 2, 2007 (Accessed November 16, 2008)
2 Freedom of Information Delays Take Years, by Richard Wolf, from USA Today, June 18, 2007 (Accessed November 16, 2008)
tags: Obama

What Now, Where Now, How Now?

Nov 17, 2008
Okay, our guy is busily naming his inner-circle aides (too many of whom are right of center) and floating ideas for cabinet secretaries (too many of whom are right of center). He has received thousands of job applications, met with Bush, started a commendable web site (change.gov), gone puppy shopping, and is generally getting himself ready for the big day.

What about the rest of us?

How do we continue that great leap of faith that brought us to the polls on November 4, audaciously hoping for change? Because if Obama’s past actions and present maneuverings are any indication, he is going to have to have a lot of help, with much pressure and many loud voices brought to bear, to move him toward doing the right things—and there are so many right things that need doing.

Frankly, we are not sure how best to organize the progressive voice we want speaking loudly and clearly to the White House. However, we do know the Internet is a powerful organizational tool, and we have been taking advantage of the Information Superhighway to speak truth to power for some time now, singly and in unison with many others. Here are a few ways we have found to participate and support the cause; you might look to “climb aboard” the Obama Express by joining one or more of these groups, too. We will bring others to your attention as they come to ours:

MoveOn.org
The granddaddy of online progressive membership sites. MoveOn is also first out of the gate with a planned activity. They are organizing local get-togethers this Thursday for people to celebrate Obama’s victory and to “brainstorm ways to work together locally to take advantage of this new opportunity for progressive change.” They boast 4.2 million members in their 10th year.
DemocracyForAmerica.com
Founded by Howard Dean and chaired by his brother, Jim, DFA has 725,000 members and was instrumental in identifying, targeting, and supporting many key congressional races in 2008.
TrueMajority.org
Founded by Ben Cohen of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, TrueMajority’s central objective is to “increase America’s investment in programs that benefit our children (like schools, health care, HeadStart) by cutting Cold War weapons systems and shifting our savings.”
ColorOfChange.org
Born out of the Katrina disaster, ColorOfChange.org “is comprised of Black folks from every economic class, as well as those of every color who seek to help our voices be heard.... We will do all we can to make sure all Americans are represented, served, and protected—regardless of race or class.”
ActBlue.com
ActBlue is a fundraising organization that uses the tools of the Internet to raise small amounts from many donors to advance progressive goals. Since 2004, they have sent more than $82 million dollars to 3200 candidates and committees from more than 420,000 donors. A central spot to find your candidate or cause and donate a few dollars.
Avaaz.org
Avaaz is international in scope, and has attracted 3.2 million members worldwide in just over a year. Their “simple democratic mission [is] to close the gap between the world we have, and the world most people everywhere want.”
BraveNewFilms.org
Filmmaker Robert Greenwald is the brains behind this very busy site. “Using cutting-edge new internet video campaigns, Brave New Films has created a quick-strike capability that challenges corporate media with the truth and empowers political action nationwide.”
JStreet.org
Although J Street, like most everyone else, supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict (we are among the minority that think only a one-state solution can endure), they are still worthy of our attention. “J Street represents Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own.... J Street supports diplomatic solutions over military ones....”
DemocracyInAction.org
We know this group only through one of its clients, OilChange. It is an organization that provides e-advocacy tools to progressive non-profits, essentially providing many of the sophisticated communication, fundraising, and action tools that are found in the larger sites noted above. What a great idea!
These sites all reach out to their membership via email, providing us with news and with opportunities to sign petitions, take part in local activities, and communicate targeted appeals to our congressional representatives and the executive branch. If you know of others like them, let us know. We support all the above sites with our attention, our participation, and a few of our dollars. Those few dollars from a few million people will ultimately break the back of corporate sponsors and free our representatives to represent us and not them.

So climb aboard and get involved. As Obama said, his victory only provides an opportunity for change. The progressive agenda has moved to the center in America. The majority want universal single-payer health care, an end to militarism and the corporate/military hegemony, fiscal equity for working people, world-class education for all children, and a peaceful and just world.

However, the forces of darkness are still with us, and you may assume that without you, without me, without us, none of this will happen.
tags: Obama

Our Better Selves

Nov 06, 2008
With the election of Barack Obama, we have consulted our better selves and taken a step back from the brink. It is not a giant step, and it does not include an about-face.

We are ten trillion dollars in debt; two futile and unwinnable wars continue to rage while opportunities for effective resistance to our enemies are squandered or ignored; our vicious, inhuman, and unilateral militarism, which both Washington and Eisenhower warned us against, oppresses the world; one in every six Americans is without protection against ill health and the other five are abused by a hugely expensive, inefficient, and underperforming system; rampaging, unregulated capitalism dominates our economy and our elected officials, enriching a tiny few at the expense of American business, the American worker, our world, and future generations; and fewer children are graduating high school today than did their parents a generation ago.

Obama has done little to address these issues head on and, when he has, his responses have been equivocal and his proffered solutions inadequate or wrongheaded. He is surrounded by advisers from the failed Clinton administration, starting with his new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel (whom Nader describes as a “militarist reactionary,”1) and he has alienated both the Muslim world and the American and Israeli Jewish majority yearning for peace by continuing our ham-handed defense of the increasingly isolated radical Jewish right. Through his votes he has explicitly supported domestic spying and implicitly corroborated in the war crimes and unconstitutional acts of the Bush administration.

And yet...and yet.

To be witness to the election of a smart, sane, compassionate African-American to the highest office in the land is the culmination of a dream which even Martin Luther King might not have imagined he would see had he been granted a normal lifespan. He would have been 80 years old on Inauguration Day.

With all due respect to the memory of Ronald Reagan, January 20, 2009, will bring us a true Morning in America, the first since that chilly day in March 1933.

As for what the rest of that day will bring us, that is up to us. It will bring us, as all days bring us, precisely and solely what we make of it.
____________________
1 Hold Your Heads Up High, an email communication dated and accessed November 5, 2008
tags: Obama

And the Envelope, Please...

Nov 03, 2008
Tomorrow you will vote in the most important and momentous election in your lifetime. It is no exaggeration to say the future of our world hangs in the balance.

Some of you won’t vote for fear of being arrested if you show up at the polls, or you will go to the wrong address, or you will get tired of waiting for hours in line, or your ballot will be thrown out for any of a dozen reasons, or you won’t show up until the day after tomorrow because Democrats have been scheduled to vote on Wednesday owing to the expected heavy turnout.

We will never know how many hundreds of thousands of votes will be lost through these Republican shenanigans.

Our country is in the midst of a bloodless fascist takeover. A conspiracy of far, far right ideologues have gotten all the fools on their side, and when you do that, as Frank Dane said, you can be elected to anything. Particularly if you are ready, willing, and able to resort to any unethical and criminal act necessary to assure that election.

We have been agonizing over our vote for many months. The Republicans and Democrats have put up candidates whose positions on the vital issues of the day—the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the fiscal, health care, and educational crises; the erosion of our Constitutional rights—are essentially the same. That one of the candidates is an intelligent, articulate, and charismatic black man only adds to the frustration we feel at his illiberal and short-sighted policies.

In contrast, our views—as well as the majority views of the American public—have had a voice in Ralph Nader’s independent candidacy. Nader understands, as Eisenhower did, the peril of ceding our freedoms to a corporate plutocracy that has co-opted and now controls both major parties and, as a result, the political future of our country. If this stranglehold is not broken, and soon, America will cease even paying lip service to its ideals, let alone having the capacity to continue pursuing them.

Nader will not win tomorrow, because the fearful American population does not have the courage of its convictions. Instead, McCain or Obama will win, and when we contemplate the possibility of the former’s accession to the White House, we are filled with horror. Despite the apparent similarity of their views on the defining issues of the day, there is an enormous difference between the two men. To the extent McCain is not lock-stock-and-barrel a captive of the corporate plutocracy, he is an erratic, choleric, vengeful, and ignorant old man, sick in body and mind, and seconded by a vice presidential candidate unfit for public office. Although we believe he will be victorious tomorrow (see yesterday’s Out on a Limb), if we believed we played the smallest part in that victory, we could never live with ourselves.

Regretfully, we will vote for Obama.
tags: Obama

Out on a Limb

Nov 02, 2008
Writing this eleven days, and running it two days, before election, we don’t think one needs to go very far out on a limb to predict a McCain victory.

A full-court press against America’s right to vote—for the Democratic presidential nominee at any rate—will assure a close election goes to the Republican, as it did in 2000 and 2004. How do we know this? Let us count the ways (and many more have come to light than we summarize below):

  • An email circulating in Texas and targeting supporters of Obama advises voters to do just the opposite of what they have to do in order to vote for Obama when also voting the “straight party ticket.” New voters will be especially confused by this procedure.1
  • Mailings and robocalls in swing states are branding Obama a terrorist.2
  • Early voters have reported that voting machines are switching their votes from Obama to McCain and in some cases refusing to acknowledge a vote for Obama.3
  • North Carolina also suffers from the “straight party ticket” blues of Texas. In North Carolina, however, a vote for the straight Democratic party ticket does not include a vote for Obama. North Carolina voters must vote for both, while in Texas voting for both nullifies both votes.4
  • In swing state Virginia, an online questionnaire for students to determine their place of legal residence “actually may confuse, mislead, and intimidate student voters. It asks personal and irrelevant questions that may scare off voters likely to vote for Obama.”5
  • By putting voting machine makers in charge of secret procedures to certify their own products, serious defects have gone unannounced and unrepaired. Since the federal Election Assistance Administration took over the testing in 2005, not a single voting machine has been certified. Tens of thousands of computerized voting machines whose flaws have been demonstrated over and over will be in operation on November 4.6
  • Scores of laws and new “policies” regarding registration and IDs, together with widespread lack of understanding among the nation’s election officials, promise to disenfranchise thousands of poor, minority, and new voters in 2008.7,8
  • In a cynical attempt at taking the spotlight off truly criminal voter fraud activities, the administration has ordered its federal police to go after ACORN, the nonpartisan grassroots group that has registered hundreds of thousands of new voters, most of them poor and black and likely to vote for Obama. The occasional flawed registrations handed in by ACORN employees are openly acknowledged by ACORN, as are ACORN’s rigorous efforts to detect and flag them. Remember those eight attorneys general who were fired by the still-unemployed Alberto Gonzalez? They were fired because they could not find the actionable Democratic voter fraud their masters wanted them to find and to prosecute.9
  • For a roundup of several McCain party attempts at stealing the election, read the transcript from Amy Goodman’s October 22, 2008, Democracy Now! interview with Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media culture and communication at New York University. Miller offers proof that the 2004 election was stolen in Ohio and explains in detail the nuts and bolts of how it will be again in 2008, primarily through electronic vote fixing.10
  • Finally, Obama is black, and this country cannot forgive itself for what it did to the black race, and cannot free itself from its soul-withering racism. Miller dismisses the Bradley Effect—wherein voters lie to pollsters about their intentions in order to mask their racism—as simply the “narrative” Republicans will use to explain how Obama lost the election they are already in the process of stealing. However, we would not be surprised that when it comes down to the highest office in the land, the Bradley Effect will kick in on Tuesday with a vengeance. Unlike the allegations made by Miller, however, this phenomenon will be all but impossible to prove.
Tomorrow, we will pass along our choice for our next president.
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1 Democrats cry foul over suspicious email, by Kelley Shannon, Associated Press, in the Dallas News, October 15, 2008 (This and other items accessed October 24, 2008)
2 Voters slam McCain Mailer, Robocalls Linking Obama to Terrorists, from FoxNews.com, October 17, 2008
3 N. Texas residents say machines switched Dem votes, by Libby Cluett, McClatchy-Tribune, on Chron.com (The Houston Chronicle), October 24, 2008
4 Straight-ticket omits presidential race, by James T. Hamilton, from the Charlotte Observer, October 7, 2008
5 Misleading VA Board of Elections Website Could Deter Student Voters, from Brennan Center for Justice, September 16, 2008
6 Warning on voting machines reveals oversight failures, by Greg Gordon, McClatchy Newspapers, on KansasCity.com, October 24, 2008
7 Voter ID battle shifts to proof of citizenship, Ian Urbina, from The New York Times, May 12, 2008
8 De facto disenfranchisement, by Erica Wood and Rachel Bloom, from Brennan Center for Justice, October 1, 2008
9 FBI investigating ACORN voter fraud claims, from Newsday, on the Los Angeles Times, October 17, 2008
10 Early voting sees reports of voter intimidation, machine malfunctions, from Democracy Now, October 22, 2008
tags: Obama

Appalled

Oct 08, 2008
We have a friend out on the west coast, a very funny and a very nice guy, who is appalled at our posts about Nader and our reluctance to commit ourself to voting for Obama.1 In a recent pair of emails, he reminds us that McCain is a loaded gun, with “a chip on his shoulder a mile wide” and spoiling for the sort of revenge that portends nuclear winter.

His running mate, Palin, is worse—an undereducated, religiously unbalanced redneck, with a 1 in 7 chance of finding her finger on the button in the next four years, should her ticket prevail in November. How could anyone fail to run to the nearest polling station and devote one’s franchise to defeating such a terrifying and homicidal ticket?

And we could not agree with him more.

In fact, we’ll go him one better. All Together Now is dedicated to the memory and the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.,2 whom we consider one of the great benefactors of the human race, a man of enormous courage, compassion, and vision, and a representative of a race so ill-treated by our own—to this day—that a thousand years of restitution would not entitle us to a moiety of forgiveness. That another black man—intelligent, eloquent, liberal, with a wonderful wife and two adorable children—is now heading up the ticket for the highest office in the land is the most gratifying miracle we have witnessed in our lifetime.

And yet we probably won’t vote for him. And why? Because he is wrong. He is wrong on domestic spying, he is wrong on the middle east conflict, and he is wrong on economic reform. We will not—we can not—vote for a man who condones the Bush administration’s gutting of the Constitution; who shares our nation’s tragic reliance on doomed militaristic responses to international challenges; who aligns himself with the corporations and their stranglehold on American society and all its institutions.

However, we have four weeks yet to listen between the lines to what Obama has to say. We realize his first duty is to get elected and that if he spoke with the voice that speaks in our heart—of universal brotherhood, of one world, of the need to transform our nation into a true representation of its highest ideals—he wouldn’t stand a chance. And we will try, we will try our damnedest, to vote for him.

If we have not found our way into Obama’s corner by election day, we will vote for Ralph Nader, the man who does speak with our voice. And it will be among the saddest days of our life.
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1 Click the Nader, Obama, or Politics tag in the left-hand column to view pertinent posts.
2 Announcing ATN, June 1, 2008
tags: Obama

Donkey Days

Sep 02, 2008
The Democratic convention is over: A few observations:

  • The speeches are still available at the Democratic Convention site linked below. They require the installation of a couple of browser plug-ins, but the procedure is quick and painless.

  • Two years ago, who would not have bet the farm that they wouldn’t live to see a black man or a woman of any shade accept the nomination for president from a major American political party. Beyond a doubt, we witnessed history last Thursday night, and Republicans and Democrats alike should have been thrilled.

  • We recommend the speeches of Dennis Kucinich and John Kerry, both of whom came across as sincere and impassioned, which is more than we can say for the other professional politicians we listened to. There remain huge undercurrents of racism, of Clintonian resentment, and—we hope—of corporate uneasiness surrounding Obama’s nomination. He will need to struggle as mightily to overcome these forces within his own party as he will to overcome the petty, scurrilous, and beside-the-point (but enormously successful) tactics of the Republican opposition if he is to take that final giant step to the White House.

  • Jimmy Carter’s presence at the convention was, at the last minute, reduced from a speech to a three-minute video, probably because of his stand on the Israeli-Palestine issue. The American people, and the world, are finished with one-sided, unquestioning support of Israel in their struggle to solidify and expand their presence on lands to which others have a justifiable claim. That the Obama campaign continues the tradition of thralldom to the Israeli lobby, to the extent that it can disrespect a former president from its own party, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and one of the world’s most ardent and effective supporters of peace and brotherhood, does not bode well for its chances with a significant minority of voters for whom these issues are paramount.

  • Michelle Obama, her non-professional enthusiasm and her palpable sincerity, may just become Obama’s most important secret weapon in this race.

  • Ralph Nader gave, as usual, the most pertinent speech of the week, at his rally on Wedneday evening. View the video on his home page. Though some may accuse Nader of being a “Johnny-One-Note,” the note he harps on—that an unholy alliance of neocons and multi-national corporations have hijacked the American political process and American government, and are destroying fundamental American values—is supported by the facts, which we try to bring you on All Together Now. Obama has made no statement I know of to acknowledge this fundamental challenge to our democracy. On the contrary, he has surrounded himself with advisors who have been instrumental in enabling this situation, from Jason Furman to Robert Rubin, and others. This stands beside his shameful about-face on telecomm immunity and his quite arguably misplaced reliance on military power to turn the Afghanistan debacle around, stances which must be amended in some manner before he can be assured of the votes of some of his earliest supporters.

  • Eugene V. Debs: “It is better to vote for what you want and not get it, than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.”

tags: Obama

Official Democratic Convention Site (w/Videos)

Numbers Don’t Lie

Aug 04, 2008
Sometimes, however, numbers tell a pretty surprising story.

I want Ralph Nader on the ballot, not because I want him to win, which he can’t barring a sudden return to consciousness of the stupefied electorate, but because I want his voice in the debates. As the only one among the three frontrunners who has even mentioned the international corporate hegemony which is destroying our world, the only one who supports a rational universal medical health plan, the only one who has pledged to get us out of Iraq, the only one who has promised to reduce a military budget that is almost as large as the rest of the world’s combined,1 the only one supporting impeachment, the only one in favor of a direct vote of the people on matters of critical national importance, as the only one among Obama, McCain, and himself who is advocating these positions, I want him heard on a national forum—and I want to hear what the other two have to say in opposition to these sensible and necessary positions.

So I have been working on gathering signatures to help get Nader on the ballot in Vermont, although fairly sluggishly. As I’ve opined elsewhere on All Together Now, it has been my belief that Nader has a better chance of playing spoiler for Obama’s chances this year than he had in 2000, when Gore—for all the howling recriminations voiced by my fellow progressives—clearly lost the election for himself.

But lo and behold! A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll (taken July 18-21) shows Obama ahead of McCain 47-41 in a two-way race. Obama’s 6-point lead, however, is doubled when both Ralph Nader and the Libertarian candidate, Bob Barr, are included in the race. Then it’s Obama 48 to McCain’s 35. McCain’s hold on his cool, skittish, fed-up constituency is so weak that if you throw a Nader and a libertarian into the mix, they steal votes from him.

So I’m back on the streets this weekend. Nader needs 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot in Vermont. He has signatures enough for 18 state ballots already. If you’d like some fireworks in the debates, say you’re for Nader when the pollsters call. Apparently, it can only hurt McCain.

[Update: Nader has gathered the 1000 signatures needed for Vermont.]
____________________
1Global Issues (Accessed August 4, 2008)
tags: Obama

Read the Article on MSNBC and Download the Poll

Here They Stand

Aug 03, 2008
The Brookings Institute has provided useful summaries to Obama and McCain’s positions on seven critical topics facing our next president: fiscal responsibility, children, Iraq, health care, immigration, climate change, and trade. I wish they had included positions held by, at least, Ralph Nader and the Green Party, both of which share important positions on ending an endless war and relying less on old energy technologies with proven and intractable drawbacks. Knowing Brookings, it is also understandable that they have altogether missed the most pressing issue of our day, and one which affects, and to a large degree determines, the efficacy of efforts to ameliorate the problems associated with the seven topics they do cover: international corporate hegemony.

That quibble aside, the summaries clearly show that McCain is cleaving to the positions of an administration which has threatened our nation to a far greater degree than any cave-dwelling terrorist ever could, has squandered our treasury in a failed attempt to combat international terrorism, torn up the Constitution, diminished us to Lilliputian proportions throughout the world and in our own eyes, and filled its own and its cronies’ pockets to the detriment of its citizens’ fiscal health to a degree unheard of since the worst excesses of the heyday of European aristocracy.

Obama’s single greatest challenge, should he manage to get elected, will be to confront that corporate hegemony and the devastating consequences it has wrought upon the world, and restore government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And nothing in the Brookings summaries or anywhere else I have found indicate to me that such an effort is on his agenda. It is Priority One on Nader’s, however. And until it at least appears somewhere on Obama’s to-do list, I cannot vote for him.
tags: Obama

Read the Candidate Views

Dear Barack

Aug 02, 2008
The Nation has a heartfelt “Open Letter to Barack Obama” asking him to “listen to the voices of the people who can lift you to the presidency and beyond” (I’m not sure where the “beyond” they refer to might be, but never mind). They want Obama to return to his primary campaign roots and espouse the positions and ideals he voiced so eloquently then and which he seems now to be backing away from.

Most distressing to many was his reversal on the FISA re-authorization bill that included retroactive immunity for the telecomms that may have conspired with the executive branch to spy on Americans. From a position promising to filibuster any bill that included that provision, Obama ended up voting in favor of it.

Of course, a politician’s first duty is to get elected. However, if Obama continues to abandon the people who brought him to the threshold of the Democratic candidacy, he is going to lose many of them in November—to Ralph Nader, to Cynthia McKinney, to Bob Barr, or to stay-at-home apathy. And that could cost him the race, and cost this nation a chance for a fresh start.
tags: Obama

Read the Letter; Sign the Letter

Nader v. Obama, Part 1

Jun 26, 2008

Now let me be clear. Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive and that allows them to prosper, but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state with secure, recognized, defensible borders. [Barack Obama, speaking before the American-Israel Public Affairs Committe (AIPAC), video excerpted on Democracy Now, June 18, 2008]

I think Barack Obama is in training to become panderer-in-chief. [Ralph Nader, speaking on Democracy Now, same day, in response to Obama's AIPAC speech]
We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything. [Barack Obama, video excerpt on Democracy Now, same day.]
The military-industrial complex and the politicians like Obama and McCain who support it—700 billion dollars, over half of the federal government's operating expenditure now is the military budget—are desperately looking for enemies, desperately exaggerating enemies. Iran has not invaded anybody in 250 years, yet it's obviously frightened. It's surrounded by the U.S. military, west, south, east, it's been labelled Axis of Evil by Bush who invaded Iraq after he labelled them Axis of Evil.... [Ralph Nader, ibid.]

A politician’s first duty is to get elected. And perhaps Obama believes the Palestinians’ security is as sacrosanct and non-negotiable as Israel’s, but he can’t say that before AIPAC. Perhaps Obama doesn’t believe it is within his power, absent a declaration of war by Congress, to drop a nuclear bomb, unilaterally, preemptively, and without provocation, on Iran. Despite the fact that our current president certainly believes it is within his power, and despite the fact that we have had dozens of executive branch military adventures since the last congressional declaration of war in 1941.

We will not vote for a warmonger. We will not vote for a politician who will continue the corporate hegemony that is destroying our liberty, our health, our country, and our planet. We will not vote for a candidate for whom the middle east is a black-and-white issue.

We believe Ralph Nader has a better opportunity to be responsible for putting McCain in the White House than he had for putting Bush there. And yet we cannot and will not vote for Barack Obama unless he convinces us that he will bring a paradigm shift to American politics if he is elected. Because if it is to be "business as usual" for the next eight years, it doesn't matter who is in the White House. We're finished, as a nation, as a world, and as a species.
tags: Obama

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