Obama London! Message Board › New Year's Resolution: Don't Apologize for Democrats!
New Year's Resolution: Don't Apologize for Democrats
For the new year, let's resolve: Don't defend Democrats when they don't deserve defending. And that certainly includes President Obama. Let's further resolve: Put principles above party and never lose our voice on human rights and social justice. When we mute ourselves as a Democratic president pursues corporatist or militarist policies, we only encourage such policies.
If it was wrong for Bush to bail out Wall Street with virtually no controls.... if indefinite "preventative detention" was wrong under Bush... if military occupation and deepening troop deployments were wrong under Bush, then they're wrong under Obama.
Imagine if McCain had defeated Obama in 2008 and soon tripled the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. I have little doubt that activists would have mobilized major opposition.....but as Obama goes about tripling the troops in Afghanistan, with more U.S. soldiers in war zones that Bush ever had - and proposes the biggest military budget in world history - many activists have lost their voices.
When Obama's West Point speech on Afghanistan paid lip service to benchmarks and a timeline (as even Bush learned to do on Iraq), ...the once independent MoveOn...sent out a muted petition urging - benchmarks and a timeline. The email might as well have been written by Rahm Emanuel in the West Wing......liberal groups went quiet on Wall Street bailouts and bonuses - thus helping rightwing teabaggers and corporate-fronts to pose as populist saviors of the middle class. ....most netroots groups have undermined genuine progressives in Congress - on issues from Iraq and Afghanistan to Wall Street and healthcare.
Instead of launching their healthcare reform efforts behind an easily-explained, cost-effective "Enhanced Medicare for All" bill co-sponsored by dozens of progressive Congress members, netroots leaders meekly made a "public option" their starting demand and pretended not to notice when Rahm Emanuel began signaling last spring that the White House had no intention of pushing for it.
Predictably, we've ended up with corporate-enrichment legislation that forcibly delivers tens of millions of customers to big insurers and big pharma - with almost no cost controls because of private deals cut in the White House. With the crashing of the Republican Party last elections The Democrats have failed to take the initiative in bringing an end to the war, a real heathcare for all and an end to the morgage/ jobs crisis. This is because it is not yet a party reflecting the will of its constituents.
...when Democrats [were] in majority power - controlling both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue....most Democrats in Congress went along with Vietnam escalation. And with President Clinton, some leading Congressional Democrats joined mostly Republicans in backing the anti-worker, anti-environmental NAFTA.
The good news - during the eras of Vietnam and NAFTA - is that large numbers of progressive activists stood fast to their principles and vocally opposed those wrong-headed Democratic policies. They didn't follow Democratic leaders over the cliff or pretend that Democratic presidents are automatically "on our side" or well-intentioned.
Compared to the Vietnam era, we have more info at our disposal from the likes of journalists unafraid to challenge leaders of both parties: folks like Glenn Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, Arianna Huffington, Matt Taibbi and Amy Goodman. So-called "netroots" group like MOVEON and Code Pink are just behaving as appendages of the DP.
Be it resolved: In 2010, we will not apologize for indefensible Democratic policies, and we will no longer support netroots groups that fail to resist such policies.
Jeff Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College and a former board member of Progressive Democrats of America.
Year Zero: Say Hello to Chinese Stalinism!
Prof. Krugman writes (of the first decade of the 21st century):
"So let’s bid a not at all fond farewell to the Big Zero — the decade in
which we achieved nothing and learned nothing."
The Big Zero
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: December 27, 2009
Maybe we knew, at some unconscious, instinctive level, that it would be an era best forgotten. Whatever the reason, we got through the first decade of the new millennium without ever agreeing on what to call it. The aughts? The naughties? Whatever. (Yes, I know that strictly speaking the millennium didn’t begin until 2001. Do we really care?)
But from an economic point of view, I’d suggest that we call the decade past the Big Zero. It was a decade in which nothing good happened, and none of the optimistic things we were supposed to believe turned out to be true.
It was a decade with basically zero job creation. O.K., the headline employment number for December 2009 will be slightly higher than that for December 1999, but only slightly. And private-sector employment has actually declined — the first decade on record in which that happened.
It was a decade with zero economic gains for the typical family. Actually, even at the height of the alleged “Bush boom,” in 2007, median household income adjusted for inflation was lower than it had been in 1999. And you know what happened next.
It was a decade of zero gains for homeowners, even if they bought early: right now housing prices, adjusted for inflation, are roughly back to where they were at the beginning of the decade. And for those who bought in the decade’s middle years — when all the serious people ridiculed warnings that housing prices made no sense, that we were in the middle of a gigantic bubble — well, I feel your pain. Almost a quarter of all mortgages in America, and 45 percent of mortgages in Florida, are underwater, with owners owing more than their houses are worth.
Last and least for most Americans — but a big deal for retirement accounts, not to mention the talking heads on financial TV — it was a decade of zero gains for stocks, even without taking inflation into account. Remember the excitement when the Dow first topped 10,000, and best-selling books like “Dow 36,000” predicted that the good times would just keep rolling? Well, that was back in 1999. Last week the market closed at 10,520.
So there was a whole lot of nothing going on in measures of economic progress or success. Funny how that happened.
For as the decade began, there was an overwhelming sense of economic triumphalism in America’s business and political establishments, a belief that we — more than anyone else in the world — knew what we were doing.
Let me quote from a speech that Lawrence Summers, then deputy Treasury secretary (and now the Obama administration’s top economist), gave in 1999. “If you ask why the American financial system succeeds,” he said, “at least my reading of the history would be that there is no innovation more important than that of generally accepted accounting principles: it means that every investor gets to see information presented on a comparable basis; that there is discipline on company managements in the way they report and monitor their activities.” And he went on to declare that there is “an ongoing process that really is what makes our capital market work and work as stably as it does.”
So here’s what Mr. Summers — and, to be fair, just about everyone in a policy-making position at the time — believed in 1999: America has honest corporate accounting; this lets investors make good decisions, and also forces management to behave responsibly; and the result is a stable, well-functioning financial system.
What percentage of all this turned out to be true? Zero.
What was truly impressive about the decade past, however, was our unwillingness, as a nation, to learn from our mistakes.
Even as the dot-com bubble deflated, credulous bankers and investors began inflating a new bubble in housing. Even after famous, admired companies like Enron and WorldCom were revealed to have been Potemkin corporations with facades built out of creative accounting, analysts and investors believed banks’ claims about their own financial strength and bought into the hype about investments they didn’t understand. Even after triggering a global economic collapse, and having to be rescued at taxpayers’ expense, bankers wasted no time going right back to the culture of giant bonuses and excessive leverage.
Then there are the politicians. Even now, it’s hard to get Democrats, President Obama included, to deliver a full-throated critique of the practices that got us into the mess we’re in. And as for the Republicans: now that their policies of tax cuts and deregulation have led us into an economic quagmire, their prescription for recovery is — tax cuts and deregulation.
So let’s bid a not at all fond farewell to the Big Zero — the decade in which we achieved nothing and learned nothing. Will the next decade be better? Stay tuned. Oh, and happy New Year.
The Decade With No Name
By: Hugh Thursday December 31, 2009 3:26 pm
The last decade was a lost decade, a zero decade, a decade that didn’t even rate a name. At its end, we are a weaker, poorer, less confident, more demoralized nation. Our political parties, Democratic and Republican, have shown themselves to be completely incapable of serving anything other than their own short term interests even in the face of what seems like a neverending series of emergencies. The financial, industry, judicial, governmental, media, and academic elites behind our political leaders who variously serve and command them have done no better. The American public has been reduced to not much more than a handy disposable political prop, used as needed and tossed away. We have been sidelined and marginalized, spectators more than citizens in our own country. Nor is it just us. Our Constitution has suffered a similar fate. Adherence to its principles has become for our elites a quaint phrase. Seldom invoked anymore, in practice it is ignored consistently. How to describe what has happened? Words, like corpocracy, kleptocracy, neo-feudalism, and fascism, which up until a few years ago would have violated some Godwin’s law of legitimate discourse are now accepted, and, far more disturbing, accurate.
Technically, the decade doesn’t end for another year and, technically, most people don’t care. For many of us, this decade’s hopes and possibilities have been exhausted. Still we love to make our Top Ten lists and discuss and debate what was this arbitrary period of time’s most significant event. It is a very human activity, to try to understand and conceptualize what happened and give it meaning. Here are a few candidates:
1. September 11, 2001 the attacks on the World Trade Center
2. March 20, 2003 the beginning of the Iraq war
3. August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans
4. August 9, 2007 the housing bubble definitively bursts with the freezing of the BNP Paribas funds
5. September 15, 2008 the financial meltdown is sparked by the collapse of Lehman
6. January 20, 2009 Barack Obama is inaugurated as the country’s first African American President
For me the defining event of the decade was the December 12, 2000 Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore. It both encapsulated and initiated everything that followed. Think about it. A small group of powerful and unaccountable individuals, acting on purely ideological grounds, set aside a national election, ignored the legitimate and popular choice of voters, spiked the electoral process, and stole a Presidential election. It was theft. It was a coup, against the Constitution, the rule of law, and the American people. It was carried out precisely by those elites entrusted with the safeguarding of these three foundations of our democracy.
Bush became President, and his smirk, that of a petulant 14 year old, became the symbol for the decade. We called him a chimp and derided him, but then that is what we were meant to do. He was a distraction, an empty suit. His job was to occupy our attention while our erstwhile elites set about the serious business of looting the country. The construction of the unilateral Executive, the building of a surveillance state, the imperial wars were just means to this end.
We live in an upside-down world. Most of what we consider negatives for the country have actually been positives for our elites. What stuns us is an opportunity for them. It is Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. Disaster does not bring accountability. It just makes the looting easier and expands its scope. Bush gets elected by the Supreme Court and his first significant action is not campaign and election reform to fix the mess that won him the office but a trillion dollar tax cut for the rich. 9/11 happens. The Bush Administration resists for years any serious inquiry into it, eventually accepts the 9/11 Commission that it has stacked, obstructs its investigations, and then ignores its findings. They saw it only as a license to do anything to anyone anywhere. It was never about making the nation safer. If anyone had any doubts, Katrina should have put them to rest. Make a special effort, let alone any effort at all, to save ordinary Americans in New Orleans, many of whom happened to be poor and black? The thought never even occurred to our elites. Now the clean up and aftermath was a different story. That was hog heaven for crony contractors. Our elites could understand that.
Many of us were naïve enough to hope at least for a while the Democrats would be different, but the warning signs were there from the start. The Democrats talked about putting up a fight but they never actually did, for six years. Finally they went into the majority, and at long last … they couldn’t put up a fight then either, for two more years, against a President who was only slightly more popular than cyanide. In 2008, the country wanted change, Obama ran on change, so it was only natural that we got more of the same. The financial crisis was instructive too. It spanned Republican and Democratic Administrations but the handling of it was much the same for both. The crash did not result in prosecutions and reform. Quite the reverse, both Democrats and Republicans used it as another occasion for pillage. Again no surprise. When the crisis sent us back to examine its causes, we found the roots in the Carter Administration with most of the foundations laid down in the Reagan and Clinton Administrations. Bush and Obama, or rather our elites operating behind them, brought it to fruition.
What the last decade should teach us is that our elites have not simply failed. They betrayed us. They aren’t just incompetent. They are out to get us. We are in a class war which they started and which they mean to win. To this end, they have locked us into a series of perpetual crises: the War on Terror and now permanent financial crisis. For them it means endless opportunities to loot and consolidate their power. For the rest of us, it means crash after crash, each more expensive and destructive than the last. Yeats described the situation we now are in.
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Will we, ordinary Americans, stand by while our country is looted into the ground by those who can not lead but will defend their privilege, power, and position to the end with passionate intensity?
This is the question that this vicious decade poses to us.
White House May be Dictating, But We’re Not Stenographers
By: Jane Hamsher Wednesday April 8, 2009 12:36 pm
Ben Smith has an article on Common Purpose, one of the many groups Rahm Emanuel has set up to coordinate messaging among liberal interest groups.
There are a variety of vehicles through which this is done — the 8:45 am call, Unity 09, Campaign to Rebuild and Renew America — and they’ve been extremely successful. When the banks told the White House they wouldn’t cooperate with the PPIP plan unless they got their bonuses, and the administration made the decision to "ratchet down their rhetoric," the call went out to the liberal interest groups to stay silent too…and silent they remain.
Unions are getting their contracts slashed, bank execs are pulling in billions, and how many of the usual suspects are running campaigns about the $1 billion in AIG bonuses to be paid out in June and September? Go ahead, count ‘em. I’ll be here, I can wait. . . .
Back already? Now add ‘em up. Here’s a pencil. Carry the one, add the three. . . that would be. . . zero.
As Ben writes, one of the goals of Common Purpose is to punish dissenters in front of their peers:
Part of the group’s role is to enforce a kind of message discipline, and one topic of discussion there, sources said, was a campaign launched last month by some of the more liberal members of the coalition — the Campaign for America’s Future, USAction, and liberal blogger Jane Hamsher — under the rubric "Dog the Blue Dogs."
The White House, however, was in the midst of discussions with members of the congressional Blue Dog caucus, and objected to the slogan, which was promptly changed, and the page describing the drive is gone from CAF’s website.
Robert Borosage, the president of the Institute for America’s Future, which launched the campaign, said he wasn’t present at the meeting where the campaign was discussed but that he’d been made aware of the objections.
A couple of things. One, I wasn’t actually part of the campaign — US Action decided to join a campaign they were doing against four Blue Dogs with a CAF campaign against five "Bayh" caucus Senators. I was asked by Robert Borosage to join in on a conference call and be supportive. Which I was happy to do, I like both Borosage and Roger Hickey.
Second, the original press release on Monday, March 23, did say they were targeting Blue Dogs. That was the day I got involved, and I mentioned that since the Bayh caucus weren’t really Blue Dogs it was probably better to rebrand. So they did. When the campaign launched and the press conference was held on the Tuesday the 24th, it was actually targeting "Obstructionists," not Blue Dogs. By the time the White House whacked them on Tuesday afternoon, the name had already changed. So that ain’t why it happened.
Third — and most important — I had no role in scaling the campaign back, because it wasn’t mine, and I wouldn’t have done it anyway. I wasn’t at the Common Purpose meeting because the earth would cleave open and swallow Washington DC whole before I’d be invited to get White House talking points from some lobbyist, which is as it should be. Our big strength is being an independent voice.
Despite the message that was sent at the Common Purpose meeting that afternoon to play nice with the corporatists, this is what I was doing at 10 pm:
Then the next day, there was this. (And very much to his credit, Roger Hickey did likewise.)
There’s a big problem right now with the traditional liberal interest groups sitting on the sidelines around major issues because they don’t want to buck the White House for fear of getting cut out of the dialogue, or having their funding slashed. Someone picks up a phone, calls a big donor, and the next thing you know…the money is gone. It’s already happened. Because that’s the way Rahm plays.
Just in case you were worried, that’s not a problem for us.