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Power in the USA: political string theory in US politics

How are power relations shaping the U.S. political sphere? From the primary campaign to the tea parties and the raucous healthcare forums, Americans are out in force. Regardless of their political stripe, are their actions in their own best interest or are they being played? What influences are determining how people perceive the issues, what aspects of the issues are open to debate, and what aspects are not open for consideration? Whom is mobilizing whom and for what?

Steven Lukes, in his classic “Power: A Radical View” offers a framework for analyzing the types of power relations that shape policy and society within democratically-oriented nations. The overly simplified summary that follows is intended as a tool to direct our discussion.

Power, oversimplified, is the capacity of individual or collective agents to achieve their intended outcomes by getting others to act for these outcomes, even when these outcomes are against their own best interests. In achieving these outcomes the three dimensions of power tend to function in a complimentary fashion.

The first dimension of power is the capacity to realize one’s aims in decision-making situations. This is the capacity to acquire a representative majority, whatever form that may take, be it a simple plurality or a Presidential veto. For example, the Democrats now control the House, the Senate, and the Presidency because they acquired a representative majority in all of these areas in the last election.

The second dimension of power is the capacity to determine the agenda, that is, the scope of decision-making situations. This is the capacity to contain and direct deliberation within parameters wherein first dimension power can be exercised to achieve one’s aims while concurrently foreclosing considerations that could undermine one’s first dimension power. An example of the second dimension of power at work is that President Obama and many ranking Democrats, even with their filibuster-proof majority, have effectively excluded single-payer from the healthcare reform options.

The third dimension of power is the capacity to secure prior consent to these decisions by manipulating how people perceive their parameters of choice. In harnessing their choices, one either harnesses their actions, the choices and/or actions of others they have power over, or both. In this way, according to Amartya Sen, the ‘most blatant forms of inequalities and exploitations survive in the world through making allies out of the deprived and the exploited.’

Propaganda, i.e. political spin and sloganeering, for example, exists to seep, and/or be ground into, people’s consciousness to influence their decision making, as Goebbels noted. “Government should not interfere with business“, “Socialism (or capitalism) is evil”, “Free trade brings freedom”, and “Healthcare forum disrupters are all astroturfed Republicans” are examples of such sloganeering propagandizing and Rove and Axelrod practise propaganda architectonics.

Social signs of third dimension power relations include overtly inequitable distributions of natural and cultural social goods within a community; a relative acceptance of these social relations among those disadvantaged by these relationships; and evidence of mechanisms in play that have prevented the disadvantaged from perceiving their circumstances as potentially otherwise. From the perspective of a single payer advocate, for example, I perceive the clusters of people who are making statements about keeping the government out of Medicare as being in the same boat as those who are pushing for Obama’s bait-and-switch private insurance debacle while thinking they are getting a publicly-funded cost effective model. Both groups are actively working against their own interests.

Assuming that the three dimensions of power are alive, well, and very much involved in the continuing mass transference of wealth from the middle class to the elite, what can be done to reverse this trend? As bloggers, and blog participants, what can and should we do?


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219 Responses

  1. It’s important to look at both power and authority. We see our Dems having vertically integrated all authority—Senate, House, W(hite) House. But they are finding power diffused within that structure of all authority. The power of the people also has some lines of authority with it in their right to vote and elect. Their authority is especially diffused. I think the people power has entered a new era. People gave up their hearts and minds to The One. As he has moved aggressively to exercise all his authority to act, they are seeing in stark relief how he is going to use that authority. I think Obama has lost the trust of the American people. He promised them a new politics that would be about them. They are discovering that it is always about him and it will change with the winds of power. They are feeling bamboozled, hoodwinked and okie doaked. They are pissed. They are not manipulated pawns.

  2. Well, it appears the president has moved on to immigration reform. Guess Health Care reform wasn’t that big of a deal.

    If at first you don’t succeed, change the topic

    • Wow, he didn’t get the memo, McCain isn’t going to do any heavy lifting for him. I guess he wants to keep the focus on something else, since there was a report of the US staying in Afghanistan for about ten years or so. I guess his base, needs to push him to pull out of that war, and the other one too. Oh, the promises, surprise, surprise, surprise.

      • yeah, was just reading today in the NY Times that the word around the Pentagon is we’re losing in Afghanistan.

        • Just like the Russians. 😦

        • Reaction from the Obama left:

          :: crickets ::

          • “Afganistan – where empires go to die”

          • Our military went there with the knowledge that it would take three generations to make change. Unfortunately, the general populace was not informed about the nature of the undertaking, prior to the deployment, and so we have a half in and half out scenario, which is not something that nations should do to their militaries.

          • The Afgani people have been invaded so many times from east, south, north and west that resisting invaders is part of the Afgani cultural identity.

            The Hindu Kush mountains are in Afganistan – the name means “death to Hindus”

          • myiq,



          • What will always get me is how Obama’s “I’m not against wars–I’m against dumb wars” speech managed to impress so many on the anti-war left, especially as it became clear between that speech and the election that in Obama’s eyes Iraq War I and Afghanistan were both smart wars, and on occasion, in 2004, when it was politically popular to feel somewhat positive about Iraq War 2, that war too was no longer a dumb war. Hell, even Vietnam was a dumb war only to the extent that it caused Americans to to lose faith with their foreign policy leaders, or as Obama himself put it:

            But perhaps the biggest casualty of that war was the bond of trust between the American people and their government – and between American themselves. As a consequence of a more aggressive press corps and the images of body bags flooding into the living rooms, Americans began to realize that the best and the brightest in Washington didn’t always know what they were doing — and didn’t always tell the truth. Increasingly, many on the left voiced opposition not only to the Vietnam War but also to the broader aims of American foreign policy. In their view, President Johnson, General Westmoreland, the CIA, the ‘military industrial complex,’ and international institutions like the World Bank were all manifestations of American arrogance, jingoism, racism, capitalism and imperialism. Those on the right responded in kind, laying responsibility for the loss of Vietnam but also for the decline America’s standing in the world squarely on the ‘blame America’ first crowd — the protestors, the hippies, Jane Fonda, the Ivy League intellectuals and liberal media.

            That’s why Obama would occasionally level into “baby boomers” as if he wasn’t one himself — because in his eyes, they, especially the ones on the left, truly did bear responsibility for the most tragic element of the Vietnam War–America’s fall from grace as the world’s greatest beacon of hope.

            Oh yeah, and then there was the article Obama wrote for the the July 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, in which he made it clear how eager he was to expand the Afghanistan War into Pakastan.

            And yet so many on the anti-war left bought his candidacy hook, line, and sinker. It still pains me to this day to listen to people like Amy Goodman try to hold onto their delusions about Obama’s essential pacifism and game-changing ways in the face of so much evidence to the contrary.

        • surprise, surprise NOT!

      • We could stay in Afghanistan until the next century and we still won’t win. It’s impossible. I want to find a quote I read from a commenter on TalkLeft earlier this year but this person fought in Afghanistan and she says it’s a lost cause. If I find it, I’ll post it here.

        • Here is the comment:

          Here is the real issue (5.00 / 4) (#52)
          by dissenter on Wed Feb 18, 2009 at 03:38:03 PM EST
          As someone that has spent a year and half in Afghanistan trying to “fix” the country on the reconstruction side I will tell you that if this country gets any deeper into that swamp we had better be prepared to spend in excess of $1 trillion dollars.

          I will address a couple of posts above – The military will NOT eradicate poppy. In fact, they have been fighting the state dept over that issue for a few years. They refuse to do it. Eradication leads to assaults on our soldiers and reconstruction workers and it is counter-productive. You don’t wipe out people’s only livelihood until there is a replacement.

          If we are going to try and actually “save” Afghanistan, it will require massive amounts of money and reconstruction people like myself. Having said that, we must have security to do our jobs. Right now, nobody can travel anywhere outside Kabul and even that is getting dicey.

          So, not only do you have to have billions in funds to create jobs, develop agriculture, clean up the political mess in the country, address health care, law and order, legal disputes, corruption, etc – you will need massive security to carry out the mission.

          If you can’t hold ground, you can’t reconstruct anything.

          The military can’t provide enough security. We don’t have the troops to do it and they shouldn’t be guarding reconstruction teams. They should be killing terrorists. This means there must be a huge injection of private security contractors. I know I’m not going back without better security. I’ve nearly lost my life 3 times.

          Problems Obama should be looking at first and foremost:

          1. Karzai has to go. Is the US willing to back a new horse and then hold leverage over them so the money can be accounted for? Right now almost everything we put into their coffers is stolen. Messing in their elections is problematic even when most Afghans hate Karzai.

          2. Is the US willing to spend a trillion to do this job because anyone that is looking to the UN, NATO or the EU for that funding is living in delusion land. They aren’t going to pony up. In fact, they are going to pull their troops out of there. A good chunk of the EU is broke thanks to the the financial mess across the globe. Most EU citizens want out of Afghanistan.

          3. There are too many chiefs and not enough indians over there. We either take charge and own the mess or we don’t go down that road. NATO isn’t working. ISAF is a joke and it has no credibility with the Afghans.

          4. Is it right to spend a trillion on a country that refuses to give half its citizens even the most basic human rights?

          After watching the situation go from bad to worse, I have to say that I don’t think this mess is fixable. I would leave in the special forces, drones, the CIA and a few other things and pull the plug.

          The truth is, we can’t fix Afghanistan. The Iraq solution is no solution in Afghanistan. It is a totally different country. I for one do not want one more of my tax dollars to go to any reconstruction unless we have total control over the money. That won’t happen.

          I use to be someone that wanted to do whatever necessary to help the Afghans. After watching what has gone on over there, I have decided that the only real option is to kill bad guys and let those Afghans that have helped us immigrate to the US. Right now, they are all on kill lists for helping us. We owe them.

          For those that think we can ever control the frontier land, I say go over there. You will quickly decide we can’t control anything and the best option is to get out.

          Afghanistan is truly the graveyard of empires. Nobody has ever pacified that country and we are naive if we think we are going to.

          That is just my two cents.

          • doesn’t anyone in DC remember Afghanistan brought the USSR down? They should , cause many still there helped it to do that . WTF

        • Here are two comments from “dissenter” worth reading at TalkLeft. This person spent a year and a half in Afghanistan.



        • I tried posting links to TalkLeft but it didn’t work.

  3. I just received this email from Philip Kauffman who is in charge of the group Single Payer Action on Facebook. To join, click here: http://www.facebook.com/l/;www.singlepayeraction.org#/group.php?gid=60096091751

    Subject: In Defense of Disruption

    What do:

    Rush Limbaugh

    Barack Obama

    Newt Gingrich

    Nancy Pelosi


    Families USA

    America’s Health Insurance Plans


    Harry Reid

    Mitch McConnell

    and Fox News

    have in common?

    They are all freaked out by single payer.

    They have all bought the corporate line:

    The market has a central place in health insurance.

    In contrast, the majority of doctors.

    The majority of nurses.

    And the majority of the American people are not freaked out by single payer.

    To the contrary.

    They favor single payer.

    They all agree — the market has no place in health insurance.

    Single payer would eliminate the 1,300 private payers (insurance companies).

    And replace them with one public single payer.

    As Dr. Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine puts it:

    Single payer is not only the best option.

    It’s the only option that will control costs and cover everyone.

    We’ve been making noise about single payer all year, beginning in May, when we asked Senator Max Baucus (D-Montana)
    to invite one single payer advocate to testify at three days of hearings before the Senate Finance Committee.

    Senator Baucus refused, ordered us arrested, and charged us with “disruption of Congress.”

    We’ve been disrupting ever since — on Capitol Hill.

    And at town hall meetings around the country.

    And the right wing has taken a page from our playbook.

    They too have started disrupting the Democrats.

    Not because the Democrats are in bed with the insurance and pharmaceutical corporations (which they are.)

    But because they believe that Obamacare is back door single payer (which it surely isn’t — if it were, why would the insurance industry and pharmaceutical industry be supporting it?)

    The right wing has garnered more attention because they have bigger institutional megaphones — Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and the mainstream media.

    Today, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, in an article in USA Today, called the right wing protests “un-American.”

    They are not “un-American” any more than we are “un-American.”

    The right wing is right to seek to defeat Obamacare — with non violent civil disobendience, if necessary.

    They are seeking to defeat Obamacare for their own right wing reasons (primarily because they fear creeping socialism.)

    We seek to defeat Obamacare because it’s a bailout of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.

    And it won’t deliver universal health care to the American people.

    Time to scrap Obamacare.

    And start from scratch.

    We are nearing 3,000 members on facebook. Soon we will be the largest group in support of single payer. Invite your friends and family to join us for the fight for real reform.

    Don’t forget to check out http://www.facebook.com/l/;www.singlepayeraction.org for all of our latest news and videos of disruptions and actions across the country. Contact us to get involved this August recess and ensure that our representatives vote yes for the HR 676 amendment in September.

    Also check out what is kicking off the day Congress goes back to work. A group of Oregon PNHP members are taking to the road for a trip across the country and they are MAD as HELL!

    Check it out and get involved at http://www.facebook.com/l/;www.madashelldoctors.com



  4. Right Wing’s Anti-Health Care Icon Is Uninsured, Seeking Donations To Pay For Care
    http://thinkprogress.org/2009/08/10/gladney-uninsured/ h/t Britgrils

    Kenneth Gladney is uninsured and fighting for his right to keep the current system in place?!? 😯

    • WV,

      Exactly, on KG. It boggles like a form of Stockholm Syndrome.


    • It’s irrational to you, but not to him. It may be hard for many to understand, but for some, the principle of freedom from govt interference in personal decisions (like their healthcare) is more important to them than whether or not they personally will benefit from said interference.

      You may not like it, but it is not stupid and irrational. It’s quite logical.

      • wmcb,

        I agree. His decision is rational within his value framework.

        Notwithstanding, and given the importance of freedom from interference in personal decisions, how does critique of powerful corporatist interests figure into what counts as, and becomes, considered to be personal? To what extent is his construct of his best interests, or ours, influenced against our best interests by social institutions?


        • Most conservatives I know have no love for care-denying insurance companies, and agree they are a problem. But they do not believe that govt can take over that role without being even MORE intrusive, and if it’s govt doing it, they have zero recourse. I don’t agree, but I understand where that is coming from.

          Unfortunately, by crafting this bill the way the Dems have crafted it, they did NOTHING to dispel those fears, but seemed to go out of their way prove all those fears true. Given the first opportunity, what did the Democrats do? Get all power happy and start sticking in provisions for dozens of very intrusive things that are not at all necessary to simple reform.

          • I concur. It is hard not to conclude that something bad is afoot when they proceed as they did and they create what they did.

          • Some of us suspect that failure is a feature, not a bug in this case.

          • w,

            In “Voltaire’s Bastards” Saul argued that democracy was still young and suffering the death of a thousand cuts by the actions of an elite that wanted people to abandon the project of a democratic society by getting them to think that government could only do things badly and that business always had better answers.

          • Today’s Rasmussen asked the question of who do you distrust more, the govt or the insurance companies.

            51% of Americans distrust their govt more.
            41% distrust the insurance companies more.


            Please note that this is not to say that the 51% thinks the insurance companies are hunky dory. I have talked to very very few people, even absolute wingers, who don’t have a bone to pick with big insurance. But until and unless our elected representatives do something in concrete ways to earn back the trust of the people they have ignored, abused, and lied to, for years, from BOTH sides of the aisle, then the People have a point.

            I know I have been beating this like a dead horse in threads lately, but it’s the key. It’s the key to everything, to anything we want to see done. It’s the trust, it’s the trust, it’s the trust, it’s the TRUST, people! And pointing to Norway or Sweden is not going to do Jack Shit to convince people that UHC will work, because they don’t care about Norway – they care whether or not their govt is, in their opinion, worthy of their trust in such a far-reaching and personal matter. Sure, the insurance companies suck, but will these clowns in congress do any better, or will I be trading the frying pan for the fire?? THAT is the crux of what people are asking themselves.

            And no, it is not “the elites” alone who are “convincing people” that govt does things badly. Our congress has been doing a damn fine job of that all by themselves, thank you. TARP etc, has only intensified that distrust. Want to shut up the “govt does a bad job” meme? Clean up your damn act, Washington. Oh, and stop sneering at and/or patronizing the peeps when they come out to a town hall to tell you how they feel. That surely does a WHOLE lot to increase that “trust factor”, you bloody fucking idiots.

          • w,

            Saul’s comments (1992) about the actions of the elites seem spot on to me, especially given his early take on the mission of talk radio or even more basic things, such as skewing the intent of the constitution in the courts, such as by making corporations into people.

            That their corruption is so boldly displayed is a function of the structure of donation patronage, which is intended to feed the positive feedback loop of anti-government sentiment, which is very much connected to trust, as you note.

            Unfortunately, severing the handout that enables the feedback loop is difficult because of the relationship between funding and electability, which means that it’s unlikely that legislation that severs the hands that make the corruption possible will be meaningfully enacted.


        • I get what you are saying about the anti-govt feedback loop, but therin lies the rub. By voting for more govt power without clear limits while that donation patronage exists unhindered, are we not voting for yet more serfhood? One cannot look to govt as the counter-force in that scenario of oligarchy, as the power we grant them “for our good” will likely be used for anything but our good.

          This is one of the reasons I have become so damn picky about the wording of bills, even those whose general premise I support. I don’t trust the bastards. Maybe I’m now my own “party of no”, though for very different reasons than the right wingers.

      • And BTW, the way to get people like that on board is not to poo poo and denigrate their concerns, which are rational as can be.

        The way to get them on board is acknowledge that yes, the idea of a governmental “Big Brother” deciding who does and doesn’t get care is a legitimate fear. And to offer a UHC plan that does not have murky presidential -appointed boards making decisions as to what will be covered and not. The way to do it is not to tell them they are stupid, but to craft a UHC plan that is clear, and simple.

        Assure them that we will do a UHC plan that does NOTHING other than create a govt-run not-for-profit entity that handles pooling of funds and payment, via very clear coverage guidelines and fee schedules, which CANNOT be altered or changed or revoked without going back to the People (via Congress) for permission. Medical decisions will be left in the hands of the doctors and their patients. Make that CLEAR, and you take away the fire of opposition.

        Laughing and scoffing and rolling your eyes at their “stupid fears” is going to kill UHC deader than a doornail, if we even get a shot at it in the future.

        • There’s been way too much giddiness at Gladney’s attack and misfortune. It’s damned unbecoming.

          Even more so when you find out he’s not a Republican and was not at that meeting as a protestor. Though he has conservative views now, that was his original story.

          He’s an unemployed guy trying to make an honest buck selling those Don’t Tread on Me flags to people entering the meeting. All of a sudden he’s everybody’s symbol.

          I couldn’t agree more with your last paragraph.

          • Gladney the plumber with a big ol’ civil law suit against a union

          • I’d sue the bastards to or something worse. His original story that he told the night it happened is what I’m going with. Every one else has too much of their own bullshit in the game to believe.

          • RB,

            The data is too fuzzy for me to make a judgment.


          • I don’t have any judgments to make but it seems to me that, in our contemporary media culture, the contemporaneous statements made by someone are probably closest to truth. After all, the lawyers and media whore haven’t usually gotten involved at that time.

          • You’re almost defining one of the exceptions to the hearsay rule.

          • Cool.

          • I don’t know Ralph. Although Gladney did get assaulted. I am finding it hard to believe he needed a wheel chair.
            I watched the video three times and in it he seems to be walking fine, a bit shook up, but he did not look like someone who just received an old fashioned “Union arse kicking.”

            As I said above…..I believe he was assaulted. The video proves “Something” happened but if he is calling this an old fashion can of whoop ass…..I’m not buying.

            Besides…he is allowing himself to be used by people to gin up anger at the unions.

          • I don’t disagree with any of that. I think he’s trying to get money from a lawsuit and using whoever he can as advocates. Kind of human nature if you’re unemployed today I imagine.

            If you’ll notice in the later videos, that I’ve seen anyway, he hasn’t said a word. The person talking is the lawyer 🙂

            I’ve also read that he is not actually uninsured but is covered under his wife’s insurance plan. This piece said he was getting donations to take care of high deductibles. I don’t have a clue if that’s true or not but it’s certainly possible.

    • It’s amazing how so many people screw themselves over when they start believing in the corporatist propaganda spewed by the leaders of their respective Party (people on the left and right are guilty of this). When people start believing that health care shouldn’t be a right (or as Ron Paul states, the Constitution only guarantees life, liberty and the right to keep the fruits of my labor) then folks like Gladney will work against his own interests rather than be one of those welfare queens accepting hand outs from the government. This type of misinformation and propaganda has allowed the insurance companies to remain in business with politicians in both the Dem and Repub Parties.

      • Mr. Gladney is insured under his wife’s healthcare plan. The “donations” from that crowd at the SEIU office were to help them cover the high deductibles in her plan.

        Gladney wasn’t working “against his own interests.” He wasn’t there to discuss healthcare, but to make a buck selling stuff outside.

        But I do hope he sues the shit out of SEIU.

    • That’s not as surprising as “feminists” supporting Obama over Hillary.

    • I agree with WMCB. I actually could be a fan of UHC. Heck, I’ve been known to have downright socialist thoughts from time to time. I’d love to have universal health care from cradle to grave; free education through university, massively subsidized mass transit to combat pollution and sprawl; all kinds of other restrictions to move us towards a just and equitable society.

      There is only one problem.


      I don’t trust them. And by them I don’t mean Democrats or Republicans or corporations or anyone else in particular. I just mean all of them. They aren’t evil, but they are human. and all the power needed to make these wonderful things happen inevitably breeds corruption and self dealing. Our government is made of men and women who are wonderful intelligent and thoroughly incompetent, but altogether human. They will screw it up.

      Besides, no matter how plush the surroundings, the bondage of being told what to do, how to do, and where to do it is still slavery. And I want to live in a country where some screwy religious group who believes in worshipping Thor as well as some atheists who want to have a secular Sunday school can each decide to homeschool their kids and not have the government telling them what they have to believe.

      I want a society where if I decided I want to gamble with my life by not having insurance, or I want to contract with someone to work for me without insurance because they believe the great unicorn will protect them, or because they think they’re too healthy to die, or just because they’re fantastically rich, then they can do that.

      I didn’t become a conservative because I reject the ideals that liberalism aspire to. It’s just that I love my freedom more.

      And no, I don’t believe that liberalism automatically means tyranny. But I do believe that giving too much control to other people for the sake of my security (be it social security or national “security”) is too risky.

      • Thanks, tbc. And as for this:

        And no, I don’t believe that liberalism automatically means tyranny. But I do believe that giving too much control to other people for the sake of my security (be it social security or national “security”) is too risky.

        You put that well and succinctly. And I know too many friends and family members who are thoughtful conservatives like yourself to demonize or dismiss you as stupid or duped or propagandized. You have indeed observed and examined. You are a fully self-aware, thinking human being. You believe what you believe, and for valid reasons. I respect that, regardless of the areas where we disagree.

        I’m no socialist by a long shot, but I do think that there are some things that just can’t be done very well on a for-profit basis, and health insurance is one of them, as is police protection, fire protection, etc. I think that we could get it done in a way that did NOT unduly intrude on personal freedom – but this monstrous bill of Obama’s is certainly not it.

    • I heard him in an interview on TV and he said he didn’t have an opinion on the health care issue, he was just there trying to make money from his “don’t tread on me” bumper stickers (he’s unemployed). He struck me as being honest, and he wasn’t passing out anything having to do with healthcare. I think the SEIU thugs just attacked him because it was a good guess that he was a conservative, based on the bumper stickers.

      • Oh, it was race-motivated, I think, as much as anything. According to him, they wanted to know why a black man was selling those flags, and it went downhill from there.

        Sorry, but the sad truth is that there are some Liberals who just go batshit crazy furious at the idea that a black man would dare to be conservative. And black conservatives get (verbally) attacked often, with a very special venom that will take your breath away.

    • Alleged Town Hall Beating Victim <strong.Kenneth Gladney to Sue as a Hate Crime; Wants Beer With Obama

      • Beer with Obama…

        once again

        Obama is more Bush than Bush.

        • I can’t believe this guy Kenneth Gladney, no insurance, and now he wants to press charges as a ‘hate crime’?!? He has a big imagination and is in need of basking in his 15 minutes of fame. The other guy in the video looked as though he was hurt, but he isn’t lawyered up and trying to sue.

          • The other guy in the video got knocked down because the bystanders had to pull him off Gladney.

            And yeah, if the SEIU guys walked up to him, got in his face, didn’t like his answer as to why “a black man” was selling that merchandise, then called him a n*gger, and punched him (as many bystanders say happened) that could well make the case for a racially motivated crime.

            I wouldn’t doubt it, because some of the worst hate I’ve ever seen in my life I’ve seen directed at black people who are open conservatives.

  5. J,

    Authority relates to a position within the power structure.

    People are pissed and the nature of their actions suggests that they are not simply pawns.

    Unfortunately, their correct intuitions, that they are being bamboozled, hoodwinked, and okie doked, are manifest in the tools they are using to try and understand the nature of the hoodwinking. The conceptual structure they are using to understand the problem, as a partial product of propagandizing, creates blinders that prevents them from getting at the root of the problem, which is why people are fighting against government run Medicare or think they are fighting for single payer, when they are actually working against single payer by pushing for the ObamapharmaHMOdel.


    • For centuries the upper classes have held power by convincing the middle class that they have more in common with the people above them than the people below.

      Here in the United States racism and anti-immigrant bigotry have been used to keep the lower class whites supporting the elites.

  6. This is what I so stupidly tried to say the other night. Thank you for making it readable and understandable. I know I am very emotional right now becsure of my father, but I again thank you for this, Steve Mather.

  7. oh, Steven: Is that George Soros in that picture above or the CEO of Goldman Sachs?

    • D,

      Neither and both, as well as many others. Were it not wireless, things would have balled up long ago. 😉


  8. In 1932 this nation was on the verge of revolution. The global depression that brought Hitler to power also brought FDR to the White House.

    The corporatists allowed the New Deal because they had to pacify the masses.

  9. That’s our girl:

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s temper flared on Monday when a Congolese university student asked her for her husband’s thinking on an international financial matter.

    A week after former President Bill Clinton traveled to North Korea to secure the release of two detained American journalists and stole the limelight from the start of his wife’s first trip to Africa, Clinton was clearly displeased by the question at town hall forum in Kinshasa.

    ”You want me to tell you what my husband thinks?” she replied incredulously when the male student asked her what ”Mr. Clinton” thought of World Bank concerns about a multibillion-dollar Chinese loan offer to the Congo.

    ”My husband is not secretary of state, I am,” an obviously annoyed Clinton said sharply. ”If you want my opinion, I will tell you my opinion. I am not going to be channeling my husband.”

  10. I think we are seeing that magical tipping point that seems to be the drug of choice for all politicians—that point at which they all over reach and are too full of themselves. Stop and think about the huge political puffing that Obama has done since taking office and how little any part of it has done for the lives of any ordinary American.
    1. Financial bailouts: great for the banks, Goldie Socks and Wall St. but it has not created any jobs; it has made credit for small business and individuals expensive and hard to get. It has saved ignormous bonuses for hedge fund and derivative traders.
    2. Mortgage Relief: has dragged out endlessly and the more it drags out the fewer people qualify for the relief. Even when relief happens is usually just means that your payments get spread out over 40 years so you can pay less each month and pay for the rest of your life +.
    3. Cash for Clunkers: may help immediately but once the program is over will there be any more buyers in the showrooms?
    4. Credit Card Reform: Every credit card co. on the planet has increased their credit card rates. I just got a letter from Am Ex today notifying me that the new rate on purchases will be 15% and 25% + late fees if you are late with a payment. Glad it was a card with no balance and I could call and cancel it.
    5. Lilly Ledbetter: did that get anyone any thing?
    6. Auto bailouts—the only US auto maker apparently recovering is the one that did not take bailout money.
    7. The economy: Still declining and job losses now standing at around 7 million. Consensus forecast: a jobless recovery.
    8. State budgets: mostly tanking. mostly cutting back community service workers like police, fire and whatever.
    Nice return on our 2 T+ taxpayer investment in all those who screwed us over.

    Now we are engaged in this great debate about health care reform. Do you really wonder that there is an outcry against a government run system? Paul Krugman says, hey, we did not go over the cliff and big government saved us. And he is probably right. But if we are saved and we are dangling over the side hanging on to a tree branch provided to us by brother gov.—is it a surprise that nobody is real excited about brother gov. taking on more of those tree branches on the side of the cliff and offering a hand hold to us and 47 million more of our fellow Americans??????

    • Seems to me that one of the problems this time is the “debate” over health care either hasn’t happened or has been behind closed doors. I don’t remember a time when people seemed to be so deliberately misinformed as this entire congress thus far.

  11. It’s hard to understand the power plays and influences when the main people on the stage aren’t necessarily the ones with power. They certainly have power by their position, but often they got there by the graces of other powers, who they are beholden too.

    Vote for number 6! I always liked The Prisoner episode Free for All which tried to get at the farce that is a two party “democracy”

  12. “String Theory?” Brought this to mind……..

  13. I feel like we’re all being played.

    I can’t help but wonder if certain members of the media are purposely trying to stir things up and potentially create a violent outburst. And, my comment isn’t limited to the conservative outlets, the so called “liberal” outlets seem to be throwing gas on the fire as well.

    Blogs also come into play.

    I also believe that some of the people at the town halls are protesting more than the health care proposal. It just seems as though they sense that something is wrong, that politicians aren’t listening to their constituents, that the media is corrupt, and that our country is on a very dangerous course.

    • With all the fanfare of the town hall meetings where no real discourse is taking place, it occurs to me that it is just too soon after the election to be taking on all these issues while some are still licking their wounds from the election. First, lots of people are still pissed that their candidate lost. Second, the bank bailouts, cap and trade and now, healthcare reform are issues which require time, trust, and money. Obama has very little of any of these things. His leaving the reform bill to congress was a real mistake. He looks to some of us that he has no real plan. That inspires little trust. Money went out the door for stimulus and bailouts. Where are the jobs and why are banks so quickly making so much profit. And, if you believe Denninger we are out of money. No plan, no trust,and no money.

      • c,

        He had an amazing amount of political capital, which was predicated upon making significant changes to the culture of politics in Washington.

        He had the trust, the timing, and clearly, based upon his actions, access to the funding he needed to guide the good ship USA through the storm he said he was ready to meet on Day One.

        What happened to Captain Obama?


        • What happened to Captain Obama?

          There never was a Captain Obama. There was a guy in a pretty frock coat waving a stage sword around and delighting in making all the sailors go “ARRRG!”

          That guy is still there, likely preening in front of the mirror in his cabin, admiring the handsome feather in his hat.

        • Just words. Sometimes they are just “words”.

    • I think you’re right – I think part of it is that they keep trying to rush all this stuff through, even when it isn’t going to take effect for a long time (most stim money won’t be spent until next year, the proposed health care won’t take effect until 2013). And on top of that, legislators are admitting that they don’t read the bills they vote on. It can really make a person feel that their future is being decided by some unknown persons, and there are no checks and balances – I think people are feeling scared… and angry.

      • Those responses are quite rational under these circumstances. I would be surprised if they were different the way things have been handled.

  14. Here’s one about the sides fighting each other without being aware they’re both being manipulated into it:

    • s,

      As wmcb noted, it’s hardly a formula for trust, especially given the “trust me” whoppers of W’s administration.


      • True, Stephen. I think that the Obama administration mistakenly thinks that this is all about “socialized health care”. Some of it is, I’m sure, but a lot of it is deep unease and inchoate suspicion of the general corruption and unresponsiveness of our govt. People are sick of being lied to, sick of being told to go away, we know best. And that sentiment is by no means limited to the democrats. But since they are in power, the onus is on them – that’s the way it is.

        • As far as I’m concerned, the Democratic leadership earned their reputation for thinking they know what’s best and not listening to the people. Their true colors came out during the primaries. They showed an utter contempt for Hillary’s female, older, and working class voters BECAUSE they were women, because they were older, and because they were working class. They thought they could disregard these relics of the Democratic party and take their votes for granted because they had no place else to go and because the bright new shiny coalition was the key to everything. Well, the shiny new coalition was all about Obama, they haven’t delivered passion on the issues and when it comes time to pushing through policy– instead the other side has the anger on healthcare and the left can barely manage a whimper while Obama lets the lobbyists write the whole damn legislation.

          • They really did earn every bit of anger they get back. It’s not only coming from the right.

          • I think you’re right that it’s not only coming from the right. But the left and right are both acting like it is, which I find interesting. I think the left doesn’t want to admit that a lot of dems have never been impressed by BO, and the right (as does the left) has a political interest in defining things in terms of parties.

            And it bothers me when it’s all painted as republicans protesting, because it’s implying that republicans aren’t Americans and have no right to an opinion, and it’s being used to actually shut the conversation down. (And I’m not republican)

            I think this stuff SHOULD be debated (in a productive manner), especially the complicated fine print they’re trying to throw in there. Obama says in one breath that he believes debate is healthy (I don’t believe he feels that way), and in another breath says that the opposition should shut up.

            To me, if these legislators are pushing for/objecting to and signing things they’re not reading, it’s a million times more important for the populace to be discussing the proposed legislation. I see these townhalls as more for the people, because I don’t see how congresspeople can really contribute anything when they haven’t even read the bills (can you tell I’m disgusted with all of them?!)

  15. The translator SCREWED up…

  16. http://www.breitbart.tv/obama-canadians-not-scary-despite-bogeyman-depiction-by-opponents/

    “I don’t find Canadians particularly scary.”

    I can’t stand his condescending attitude. People aren’t’ afraid of Canadians, they’re just afraid that the government is going to make our health care situation even worse (while doing a major power grab and eliminating privacy and choice).

  17. http://media.eyeblast.org/newsbusters/static/2009/08/2009-08-10MSNBCTESSchultz.wmv

    Hey, not only are those people protesting at the town halls un-American AstroTurf, they’re old and dumb too.

  18. Is the Kool-Aid finally losing it’s “Messianic Potency?”

    Frank Rich:

    The larger fear is that Obama might be just another corporatist, punking voters much as the Republicans do when they claim to be all for the common guy

    He goes on to say:

    In this maze of powerful moneyed interests, it’s not clear who any American in either party should or could root for. The bipartisan nature of the beast can be encapsulated by the remarkable progress of Billy Tauzin, the former Louisiana congressman. Tauzin was a founding member of the Blue Dog Democrats in 1994. A year later, he bolted to the Republicans. Now he is chief of PhRMA, the biggest pharmaceutical trade group. In the 2008 campaign, Obama ran a television ad pillorying Tauzin for his role in preventing Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices. Last week The Los Angeles Times reported — and The New York Times confirmed — that Tauzin, an active player in White House health care negotiations, had secured a behind-closed-doors flip-flop, enlisting the administration to push for continued protection of drug prices. Now we know why the president has ducked his campaign pledge to broadcast such negotiations on C-Span.

    The making of legislative sausage is never pretty. The White House has to give to get. But the cynicism being whipped up among voters is justified. Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose chief presidential campaign strategist unapologetically did double duty as a high-powered corporate flack, Obama promised change we could actually believe in.

    And this:

    But the Democratic members of Congress those hecklers assailed can hardly claim the moral high ground. Their ties to health care interests are merely more discreet and insidious. As Congressional Quarterly reported last week, industry groups contributed almost $1.8 million in the first six months of 2009 alone to the 18 House members of both parties supervising health care reform, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer among them.

    You can read the entire article below……


    • sorry…..I only meant to paste the link towards the end. Accidently pasted more than I intended,

    • The larger fear is that Obama might be just another corporatist, punking voters much as the Republicans do when they claim to be all for the common guy

      Well Frank Rich, you should have asked this question in August of 2008, not August of 2009.

      • I am glad some are coming around, but it still pisses me off that they act as if no one could have expected this.

        They talk about “bait and switch” but there WAS none, you morons. He showed you exactly who he is, you just decided not to see.

      • thank you

      • Blogger Falstaff mentioned Rich’s article and said he can’t wait to read Somerby’s take on this. I hope Somerby calls Rich out on this once again.

    • Unlike Hillary Clinton, whose chief presidential campaign strategist unapologetically did double duty as a high-powered corporate flack, Obama promised change we could actually believe in.

      Hasn’t Axelrod always been a corporate flack? And what about Pritzker, Rahm and all the rest of them? Didn’t they bother noticing that?

  19. “Crowley, who has just returned to Washington after traveling with Secretary Clinton during the first part of her trip to Africa, said the State Department has not yet reviewed recordings of the original question in French to learn whether the student clearly intended the question to refer to President Obama, not former President Clinton.

    “She did talk with the student afterward, and they seemed to have reached an understanding,” Crowley said.”

  20. Help! Spammy is holding my post hostage!

  21. Is youtube down for anyone else?

  22. This comment I found at Hillaryis44 is pretty accurate and sums up why there are so many on the Left and Right who oppose Obamacare:

    Hillary for Texas said
    You have the Left screaming that he’s a corporatist, and the right screaming that he’s a socialist, and everyone seems very confused. Because he can, at any given moment, support either of those arguments. And people are driving themselves nuts trying to figure out and arguing over what his ideology is.

    But it all makes sense when you step back from the usual ideology arguments, and realize that HE DOESN’T HAVE ONE. His core is utterly empty of anything other than himself. He wears any mask at all, with ease.

    • Apparently “socialist” is the new code word for the N word.

      • Well, I’m sure any day now, if the Left gets loud, “corporatist” will be re-defined as a racist slur as well.

        You heard it here first!

        • lol. i know. i’m at a loss. I wonder when the Newspeak dictionary will be released so we know which words we will be allowed to say. I will be ungood when i see how unvast it is.

      • I don’t even know who these two guys are which shows you how long ago I stopped watching MSNBC. It’s unbelievable that they can find racism in everything – even the word socialist! – and talk about the topic daily. However, no one blinks an eye when women are murdered in hate crimes or when a female politician is attacked because of her gender on shows that broadcast on their own network.

  23. Another WTF moment in the mystical conception of Obamacare:

    Durbin said he supported the public option, but he said “We’re negotiating with three Republican senators to try to get this bill through the Senate, and they do not support the public option. So we are trying to walk this tightrope to get this bill through. The House [of Representatives] is likely to include it. The Senate may not. Then we go into conference committee and President Obama has to roll up his sleeves and see if he can bring us all together. And when I’ve spoken to him about this a couple times, all he’s said is: ‘Get me to a conference committee. Let me bring these folks into a room, and let me work and get it done.’”

    Durbin’s roundtable discussion in a backroom of the Erie Cafe downtown was not publicized and did not attract the angry crowds that have besieged some health care meetings around the country in recent days.

      • omg, hilarity. love the title: ‘Obama ready to deal’. holy shit. lmao.

        How about “Obama ready to pass a republican healthcare plan and screw everyone over”. Gobama! Apparently he just really doesn’t want a second term. Fine with me! ay yi yi. And here i was thinking that Single payer would pass and ojerkface would actually be the hero he could be and have a legacy for life, but he’s playing footsy and selling out to THREE REPUBLICANS?! This guy is the lamest politician E-VER.

        • Democrats have 60 votes. They need to shit or get off the pot.

          • Perhaps the problem is that they have not encountered a double seater outhouse before and they mistook the two holes for places that they should put their feet.

            Then again, perhaps the simplest explanation is the best explanation. The reason they are doing what they are doing is because it is what they want to do, given their commitments. They are fabricating the need for bipartisanship because they have to have some excuse for not doing what their ethics say they should, which is to use their majorities to bring meaningful change to government by giving the people the tools they need to build the society into a economic and social powerhouse. Doing so betrays their financial commitments, however, so they need to finesse an acceptable excuse, which is partially being facilitated by the non-stop barrage of propaganda put forward by the corporate healthcare lobby.

          • That’s been my theory, Stephen. They don’t want this to pass, they put poison pills in there deliberately, and now are gearing up to blame it all on the evil, awful, obstructive Republicans.

          • wmcb,

            “He who cannot dissimulate, cannot rule.”

            – Louis XIV


    • LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! omg, how small are Obama’s f’g nuts?! They’re getting smaller by the second! how embarrassing!

  24. Finally a good post at OpenLeft about Medicare for All. It’s by Ian Welch so it’s expect but still…

    “The current health reform “bills” are turning into a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Scrap them, introduce Medicare for all, target Senators who won’t vote for it with bone-crushing ads which ask why they want 22,000 American to die every year who could be saved for less money than the Iraq war cost; explain with nice simple pictures how much money they receive from the insurance industry and note that they are willing to let Americans die in exchange for blood money from the medical industry. ”


  25. WOW. Ok, i have to confess, i was actually thinking maybe Zero was just pitting the 2 sides against each other and was going to bust out in a superman uniform this October and put up single payer and ram it though, so he could get the legacy. Yes, i know, it sounds crazy, but i can’t imagine he was actually going to be this lame, surely he had something sneaky up his sleeve. Only to see this on the local news:

    “Obama said the Canadian system is very good, but it will not work in the U.S. “. WOW, he didn’t just say he wasn’t thinking about doing it in the US, he actually said ‘SINGLE PAYER DOESN”T WORK’. I’m totally stunned. That’s it, i’ve seen it all. He has no business being in the oval office. I mean, i always knew that, but i thought he was more underneath, that surely there must be something somewhere.

    wow. i know you guys aren’t stunned, but i really was thinking surely this whole debate had to be a bait and switch. I really thought it would be. Wow. totally stunned and i’m not being sarcastic.

    • annie, I saw your comments about that before and I didn’t know how to let you down easy. There is no single payer unicorn in the Obama agenda.

      • If we actually had a president who wanted single payer, how do you think that would work? It would get passed, and then what happens to all the previous insurance companies? Would they have to shut down, or would they be allowed to operate (but maybe not many people would choose them and they’d maybe just peter out)?

        I bet a lot of doctors might stop taking private insurance, because single payer would be so simple to bill for, as opposed to all the paperwork for different insurers. But I think we’d maybe need to have more funding for more medical schools, because I think we’d need more doctors once everyone has insurance.

        Anyway, I was just daydreaming about what it might look like if they actually implemented single payer and was wondering what would happen to the private companies…..

        • Agree. It would be too fast and a lot of people would be out of work. That’s why i’m not for it. The health insurance industry is too big to disband to not affect the economy. A big public option with the gov’t offering their own insurance company is the way to go in my opinion.

          We’ll still need a lot more doctors very very soon. Which is great, because nursing industry is going to grow and many many people will have great careers that they may not have had. I’m very much looking foward to that.

          • You could always phase it in and they probably would. Dropping the Medicare eligibility age by a decade every couple of years would do it nicely.

          • What we are seeing is the health insurance industry dinosaur in need of a bailout and getting it . It will cease when everyone is too broke to pay for the ever increasing premiums. ..and DC stops bailing it out…Lord knows when that will be

            RalphB, on August 11th, 2009 at 12:09 am Said:
            You could always phase it in and they probably would. Dropping the Medicare eligibility age by a decade every couple of years would do it nicely.

            That would be an excellent idea if excellent ideas were wanted. They just want their 900 billion bailout, thank you. lol!

          • There you go being practical again, Ralph. You silly goose. Come back when you have something to offer, like some big donors.

          • Not only that, but insurance is a part of the financial services, providing billions of dollars of capital for investment. So a collapse of the health insurance industry would definitely have a larger impact than people think.

          • Ah, so true blackcommenter.

        • There should be a booming market for supplemental policies like those sold to current Medicare recipients. Of course, the very well off might buy full insurance but so what?

          The insurance companies would have to come up with products and work to sell them, maybe even on merit. That would probably mean the majority of those in business now would fail. Boo hoo.

      • LOL. I have this eternal hope this going on. If he hadn’t actually come out and said those words, no matter what happened i would have thought it would be an option. Now even if 200 million people stormed DC, they wouldn’t be able to do it. Those are the serious nails in the coffin. All these single payer groups can disband RIGHT NOW. Conyers must be wanting to suicide for bullying the Congressional Black Caucus members to un-endorse hillary.

        -Bad news, no real reform, not even a big fat public option.
        -Good news, no credible liberal site, blog, magazine, newspaper, columnist can ever praise this tool again without looking like a bunch a losers.
        -Good news, Obama will eternally look like the loser he is. yayyyy!!!! Will grassroots campaign for him 2011? lol. not likely.

      • Yeah, me too. The last thing he’s worried about is his legacy. He doesn’t have to do anything, he’ll go down in history regardless. Plus, historians are right in the Obot demographic and will do what they can for him. If he cared about his legacy he would have conducted his entire career a lot differently.

  26. http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0809/26000.html

    The new congressional jets may be getting scrapped.

    After an uproar over a proposed purchase of new executive jets for use by senior government officials, including members of Congress, the top Defense appropriator in the House has offered to eliminate funding for the planes – but only if the Pentagon, which operates the jets, agrees.

  27. From Jake Tapper:


    “The President thinks that if people want to come and have a spirited debate about health care, a real vigorous conversation about it, that’s a part of the American tradition and he encourages that, because people do have questions and concerns …And so if people want to come and have their concerns and their questions answered, the President thinks that’s important. Now, if you just want to come to a town hall so that you can disrupt and so that you can scream over another person, he doesn’t think that that’s productive. And as a country, we’ve been able to make progress when people actually talk out what our problems are, not try to shout each other down.”

    What was that again Candidate Obama, about arguing and getting in people’s faces on your behalf?

  28. hillary got a temperament problem? uncomfortable to watch video clip.she exposed temper problem many times before.embarassment to america.

  29. The democratic party sold out the voters of this country when they bought a phony that they thought they could control.
    Instead his handlers control them. You vote my way or no money honey. We will find someone to oppose you in the primary. Now they have to go out and insult the people of the country and pass bills without reading them. They sold themselves like half a dollar hookers and now they get treated like half a dollar hookers and there is nothing they WILL do about it. None of them have the guts to stand up for the people they are supposed to represent..
    There will be a bloodbath in 2010 and a lot of them will be unemployed and their resume is not that good.



  30. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8194485.stm

    This article does raise some questions. But the last sentence says it all



  31. http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2009/08/white-house-disputes-pelosi-contention-that-town-hall-protests-are-un-american.html

    Backtrack throws nancy under the bus. There is no room near me let her run along behind.



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