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Think before you vote next time, Dr. West

So, I found the post by Chris Hedges regarding Cornel West’s disillusionment of Barack Obama.  Hedges drives me nuts with his constant bashing of “corporatism”. Some progressives seem to be obsessively fascinated with labeling and mental shortcuts.  I hate that kind of thought processing.  Hedges seems to forget that banks, corporations and the American middle class played amicably in the sand box after the changes to the banking system and the enforcement of labor protections during the Depression.  That golden age fell apart when Reagan came along.  But you will just have to take my word for it, Chris, some industries achieve an economy of scale and efficiency in a corporate setting that can’t be achieved in a smaller company setting.  Biopharmaceuticals is one of them.  Oh, but caring about big pharma is verboten, right, Chris?  If America suffers a brain drain of experienced R&D scientists because they can’t find jobs, well, that’s ok.  We “progressives” won’t worry our pretty little heads about them, right?  {{rolling eyes}}  But I digress.

Wait.  I do want to add one thing.  I’ve been listening to In the Garden of the Beast: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Eric Larson.  The book is about William Dodd, ambassador to Germany in 1933-34.  He witnessed Germany’s sharp turn toward corporatism and Hitler’s authoritarian rule.  It doesn’t take very many pages to realize that it never would have happened if the Germans hadn’t suspended the rules of operation in order to accommodate the right wing nutcases.  Every time observers thought that Hitler and his henchmen couldn’t possibly get away with the latest outrage, they were surprised to see how pliable and accepting the German public was.  Corporations are necessary business entities but the rules of fair play are absolutely necessary to keep them from taking advantage of the rest of us.  If you don’t like the way corporations are abusing the system, change the rulemakers.  It’s the only thing short of a war that will work.  You could start by insisting on fairness to the primary voters and enforcement of the rules of voting in the Democratic Party.  Maybe even get rid of caucuses, which were incredibly undemocratic back in 2008 but seemed to fly beneath progressives’ collective ethical radar in order to accommodate Obama’s capture of the nomination.  See how it works when you desperately want a predetermined outcome?  Nothing good comes from a bad seed.

Anyway, back to Cornel West.  I have a really hard time accepting the notion that a guy as smart, sophisticated and employable at a university like Princeton could be taken in by Barack Obama.  I’m going to attribute it to the fact that West is a brother, as he so often refers to other male members of his African-American cohort.  I am not a brother, unfortunately, and this has left me open to accusations of racism.  I try to forgive, Dr. West, but if the SOB’s try that $#%@ again in 2012, we’re going to be a lot less forgiving.

It also occurs to me that if he had been reading blogs like this one back in 2008 when we said over and over again that Obama was a corporate schmoozer, backed by a small evil group to which no one we know belongs, he wouldn’t have been as taken in as he professes he was.  Cornel confesses:

“I have to take some responsibility,” he admits of his support for Obama as we sit in his book-lined office. “I could have been reading into it more than was there.” [ya’ think?]

“I was thinking maybe he has at least some progressive populist instincts that could become more manifest after the cautious policies of being a senator and working with [Sen. Joe] Lieberman as his mentor,” he says. “But it became very clear when I looked at the neoliberal economic team. The first announcement of Summers and Geithner I went ballistic. I said, ‘Oh, my God, I have really been misled at a very deep level.’  [note to Cornel: Clinton passed on this bunch.  Weren’t you paying attention?]  And the same is true for Dennis Ross and the other neo-imperial elites. I said, ‘I have been thoroughly misled, all this populist language is just a facade. I was under the impression that he might bring in the voices of brother Joseph Stiglitzand brother Paul Krugman. I figured, OK, given the structure of constraints of the capitalist democratic procedure that’s probably the best he could do. But at least he would have some voices concerned about working people, dealing with issues of jobs and downsizing and banks, some semblance of democratic accountability for Wall Street oligarchs and corporate plutocrats who are just running amuck. I was completely wrong.”

{{banging head on keyboard}}  For the record, we were wrong about Obama winning.  Who could have predicted that the bankers would pull the plug on the economy *before* the election?  I always thought they would wait until at least February 2009.

Cornel, why are you tearing your garments and gnashing your teeth now?  Didn’t you get what you wanted?  The operatives played a very clever game of identity politics.  They split the party down the middle pitting the older babyboomers still living in the 60’s, with all of the civil rights battles yet to be fought, against women, the poor and average working people who were interested in economic issues.  Guess which side lost.  Why are you so surprised that Obama hasn’t addressed the issues of the poor?

And then there’s this:

He bitterly describes Obama as “a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it.”

Whoa, Cornel!  I could never have gotten away with saying something like that.  Neither could any Clintonista in 2008.  Remember what happened to Geraldine Ferraro?  {{shivver}}.  In any case, West is wrong.  Obama wasn’t the black mascot of the corporate plutocrats.  He was the black mascot of the progressives.  Some of us, Dr. West, would have been perfectly happy to vote for Obama in 2016.  But during the primary season, we were so worried about the mess that Bush was going to leave behind that we felt that a person who was more experienced and who understood the mechanisms of government would be a better candidate.

And then there’s the gratuitous swipe at the Big Dawg:

“It became very clear to me as the announcements were being made,” he says, “that this was going to be a newcomer, in many ways like Bill Clinton, who wanted to reassure the Establishment by bringing in persons they felt comfortable with and that we were really going to get someone who was using intermittent progressive populist language in order to justify a centrist, neoliberalist policy that we see in the opportunism of Bill Clinton. It was very much going to be a kind of black face of the DLC [Democratic Leadership Council].”

Ok, here’s where I start to doubt West’s sincerity.  Bill Clinton was never in with the Washington Establishment.  That’s why they persisted in going through his underwear drawer and relentllessly pursued and distracted him throughout his eight year term.  Did he make mistakes?  He sure did.  Larry Summers and Robert Rubin were not very good advisors in retrospect.  And yet it was Bill Clinton who appointed the last liberal justices to the Supreme Court.  It was Bill Clinton who raised taxes on the wealthy and reduced unemployment.  The country had a fricking surplus and prosperity under Clinton.  Nevertheless, whacking Clinton is required of anyone who wants to stay in the club.

Still, I feel for Dr. West.  Despite the fact that he might have willfully blinded himself about Obama’s political philosophy (as if he had one), he probably hoped for the best.  And now he says he’s hooking up with Tavis Smiley to see what can be done to repair the devastation the Great Recession has left on the African American community, to which I say, “Amen!”.  It’s about time that someone paid attention to African Americans and took their concerns seriously.  In fact, I think the last politician to have done so was, wait, let me think… oh, yeah- Hillary Clinton!  If I recall correctly, during the 2008 primary, she showed up at the Black State of the Union hosted by Tavis Smiley in New Orleans.  Damn her!  She was probably just trying to get votes because that’s the kind of calculating vixen she is.  If she had been Obama, she wouldn’t have had to go to so much trouble.

And where was Obama?  Beats me.  Ask Tavis.

Smiley has been vocal about his disapproval of Obama’s decision [to forgo the invitation to attend].

“I think it’s a missed opportunity on Mr. Obama’s part,” Smiley told CNN. “Now, I am not interested in demonizing him for his choice, but I do disagree with it.” Watch a report on the controversy

But Smiley’s criticism has also prompted many people to come to Obama’s defense. The talk show host told The Washington Post he has been inundated with angry e-mails and even death threats.

“I have family in Indianapolis. They are harassing my momma, harassing my brother. It’s getting to be crazy,” Smiley told the newspaper.

It sounds a little like the people harrassing Cornel West for not defending Obama’s creds as a “progressive”, as if repetition of the phrase, “Obama is a progressive” would be enough to make it true, even if it isn’t.  And he’s not.

I think that sob stories like West’s are for the benefit of the progressives who feel ashamed that, in the end, they turned out to be no less gullible and vulnerable to psychological manipulation than their right wing counterparts who they mock for their slavish devotion to the Republican message machine.  The progressives are always flattering themselves that they are smarter, more savvy, more politically astute than those stupid bubbas who are always voting against their own interests.  And if this is West’s way of giving them cover so they can rehabilitate their image in their own eyes, to forgive themselves for being so taken in by such a charlatan, then more power to him.  It doesn’t seem to be working with the hardcore Obama supporters but you have to give West credit for trying.

But if West himself was really that confused by Obama in 2008, then I advise the brother to come talk to me before he votes again.  I live only 10 miles away and my office hours are flexible.

What tax cuts in NJ??

I followed a link from Eschaton to this Media Matters post on Governor Christie boo-hooing about how taxes in NJ aren’t covering state pension plans:

So, in the mid-1990s, Christine Whitman raided New Jersey’s pension fund to pay for tax cuts. Critics warned that doing so would cause massive problems for the state’s budget — and nailed the timing of those problems with remarkable accuracy. And now, the media is full of stories suggesting New Jersey’s pension system is the cause of the state’s budget shortfall — without mentioning Whitman’s role in causing it to happen. (The Washington Post, which reported on Whitman’s role at the time and which frequently reports on current pension/budget issues, last mentioned Whitman’s diversion of funds from the pension system on December 20, 2005.)

Take another look at that comment from Bill O’Reilly:

Many states cannot pay health and pension benefits because the tax revenue is not nearly enough to cover expenses.

You’ve probably seen dozens of statements like that lately. It should be clear by now — though it isn’t from most news reports — just how disingenuous this is, at least as far as New Jersey is concerned. Let’s review: A Republican governor of New Jersey reduced payments to the state pension system so she could cut taxes. Critics warned doing so would cause significant budget shortfalls in 2010. 2010 rolled around, and — surprise! — so did budget shortfalls. And now those shortfalls are used by New Jersey’s current Republican governor (along with many in the media) to justify cutting pensions (while again cutting taxes.)

Basically, conservatives have staged an end-run around having a public debate over cutting pensions in order to pay for tax cuts. Rather than making the argument that tax cuts are more important than pensions, they just went ahead and cut taxes, raiding the pension system in the process, then waited 15 years for predictable — and predicted — deficits, which they now point to as evidence that the pension system is unsustainably generous. And they’ve done it with the help of countless news organizations that fall for this shell game.

Wait a minute, wait a minute.  There were tax cuts in NJ??  How come I never heard about it?  Since around 2003, my property tax bill went up by about 40% and has stayed stubbornly stuck between ridiculous and outrageous.  The mortgage on this modest little townhouse would be pretty reasonable if it weren’t for the damn property tax that weighs it down.  Then there’s the association fee that is supposed to cover everything that the township doesn’t cover because my development is considered to have “private roads”.  How conveeeeenient.  So, I pay sky-high property taxes (my mother gets dizzy when I tell her how much) AND I still have to pay for snow removal and trash hauling and, and, and.

So, where has the money been going?  After all, this is the densest state in the union (in more ways than one) and there are a lot of people here paying through the nose to live with the abysmal traffic, shortage of public transportation, high ticket prices on NJTransit, long lines for everything and irritable neighbors.

Oh, yes, I forgot.  Governor Christie is going to bail out the developers of a white elephant mall in the Meadowlands called Xanadu.  Like NJ needs another mall.

Teachers or developers?  Pensions or public assistance for the rich?

We know the answer to this.

Government, What is it good for?

The Joplin tornado event is mesmerizing not for awe inspiring videos of the funnel cloud itself.  We’ve seen plenty of those over the past several years from storm chasing thrill seekers who set up their cameras way too close for comfort.

No, the videos from Joplin that I find most interesting have very little visual impact.  The one posted previously demonstrated what happens when 19 strangers are caught in an emergency situation and have no place to go but a refrigerator to ride out winds that stripped the bark from trees.

The video posted below is from the emergency services recordings starting with the updates and warnings issued by the National Weather Service and then coordinated by the police, firefighters and other emergency responders with the emergency services command center.  Amazing.

This is why we pay taxes.  Deficit hawks and union busting Republican governors should take note.