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Stuff about the inaugural speech

This will be quick since I’ve only seen snippets and read the cautiously optimistic reactions to it on various and sundry sites. I’m going to talk about the reactions to it from the left.

I’m not surprised that there are so many people in the left blogosphere who were hopeful about Obama’s turn towards liberalism.  His forays into the left side of liberalism reminds me of one of those papers that groups put out where they discuss “progress towards the synthesis of some impossibly big and chiral natural product that will save the world from toe fungus” or something like that.  I get the feeling that those authors are hoping that the project will be dropped before they have to write on it again.

Now, I realize that there are still skeptics among the hopeful but I don’t think they’re skeptical enough.  What’s a little surprising is how quickly they forget that Obama started his first term with solid majorities in both houses and a filibuster proof majority in one of them and that public sentiment at the time was running so high against the banks that he could have pushed anything he wanted with the public’s blessing.  Oh sure, the right would have called him a socialist but the right would have done that anyway, no matter what he did.  When you’re leader of the free world with so much power and public urgency to do something, there are only a couple of reasons I can think of as to why you might do relatively nothing.  The first reason is that you don’t know what the heck you’re doing and are therefore susceptible to bad advice.  The second is that you think “liberalism” is a dirty word and don’t want to hurt the people who put you in office.  The third possibility is that both are true.

But whatever you think went wrong with the first term, here is the thing: for many of us who were affected, the lack of action to serve the vast majority of Americans, the astonishing squandering of two years of Democratic majorities, is insurmountable.  It has caused irreversible damage to our personal fortunes and those of our children.  Don’t get me wrong, many of us will survive this and go on to lead productive lives again, though never again as securely and prosperously as before.  But the pain and the sacrifice that we have had to endure for absolutely no reason whatsoever, the houses that were lost, the careers that have been blighted either at the beginning or the middle, the harshness of the society that we now live in, all that has lead to an America that is vastly different now than it was four years ago.  This America has lost its shine.  It’s living with what will soon be third world infrastructure.  We have given exploitation and extraction of wealth of average Americans the official stamp of approval.  We will now be guests at major scientific projects around the world instead of leaders.  We have trashed our educational system by making it almost impossible for some of our most talented students to be able to afford it and we have jeopardized our public health system by making research a private endeavor optimized for maximum profit.

Four years ago, there was a golden opportunity to set things right and it was lost.  Obama would have to be superhuman and extraordinarily motivated to turn this around.  And even if his heart is in the right place, and I see no evidence of that, he still needs to develop the political skills to get around a gerrymandered House.

Now, this doesn’t mean that some people in this country will not succeed.  I think there are still opportunities available for success in this country.  But it’s going to be more of a Dickensian country in the future and that puts the teachable moment about race in its proper perspective for me.  Besides, any “liberal” or “progressive” who thinks that only one group of disadvantaged people can be served at one time and that symbols are more important than actually, you know, getting things done, is a fool and a mark for psychological manipulators in future election cycles.

I don’t want to depress my side of the blogosphere or tell them all is lost or that all efforts are wasted.  I’d just like for them to be realistic and evaluate the evidence and stop living in a dream world where the good guys triumph.  Obama has shown you who he is.  He was the wrong guy at the wrong time.  He doesn’t have it in him to make it better and he doesn’t have the resources to make it work anymore.  This is the guy who was elected- twice- when there were other, better choices available.  Pining for Hillary to take over in 2016 doesn’t help those of us who needed a better choice back in 2008 and by 2016, it will be too late to make a difference.

These are the parameters you are working with in the next four years.  In other words, you can’t rely on the White House.  His speech was “just words”.  Anyone can read those carefully crafted, committee synthesized words on a teleprompter.  Believing them and acting on them are quite different things and we have seen with this president that he has a habit of getting the hopes up of various Americans, making them think he’s going to take action in their favor and then delivering extremely dilute solutions of eau de tea.  He has very little integrity, he’s surrounded by advisors who calculate exactly how much or little effort to expend on your behalf and the trust is gone.

That’s what we’re working with.


And here is Frontline’s most recent episode on the fallout from the financial collapse of 2008 called The Untouchables.  Apparently, Frontline hit a nerve with the White House.

VP debate tonight and stray thought from 2008

Tonight is the Vice Presidential debate between Joe “the cop between my brain and my mouth is at the donut shop” Biden and Paul “Ayn Rand is my goddess” Ryan.  We should do another live blog but since the body language thing has become chic this year, maybe we should watch and listen this time.  OR, we could turn off the visuals and just listen.

Anyway, it just occurred to me that maybe one of the reasons Barack Obama did so poorly in his first debate appearance this year is because in 2008, he was actually running against Sarah Palin.  Oh sure he was.  That’s all the general campaign was about, how much smarter and more qualified Barack Obama was compared to Sarah Palin.  John McCain hardly entered the picture at all.  I think I noticed it back then too but it didn’t occur to me that this might be why his debate performances in 2008 were not a fiasco.  He was all confident and cocky about beating Sarah, that was the real race that his campaign had set up in everyone’s mind.

Plus, he was running a game of “whack a racist”.  ANY criticism of Obama was twisted to be a racial slur.  It was quite effective.  Combined with his race against Sarah, how was a liberal supposed to effectively evaluate Obama?  Any legitimate criticism of him was muted and he was running against a woman who the left had dehumanized and characterized as the stupidest person on the planet.

This year, it’s different.  Visually, Mitt is very presidential.  He’s a big, tall man with presidential hair and an engaging vital manner.  He’s also a Republican, which in my humble opinion, is unforgivable.  But that’s not the point.  As Obama supposedly believes, debates are sideshows.  From a policy perspective, they’re meaningless.  But I think they serve a purpose that can’t be underrated.  In the modern debate, we get as close as we can to hand to hand combat between chieftains of competing clans.  It *is* physical.  That’s why it was important that Michael Dukakis looked short, that Richard Nixon sweat and that Barack Obama looked like he didn’t want to be there.

It might have also done in Hillary because at 5’7″, she had to look feisty to compete with his taller frame and longer limbs. He took up more space and with a female opponent, he strut his macho stuff and acted dismissively when she talked. It might not have been enough that she was the smartest person in the room who had done her homework and could whip up a policy in 30 seconds flat.  To the liberals and progressives who were afraid of losing again, she had to look more like Boudicca than Hermione Granger.

Boudicca, ass-kicking queen of the Britons
(bears striking resemblance to Julia Gillard)

Nevertheless, she took him on and won her debates with him to such an extent that he refused to debate her again during the primaries after she beat him in Pennsylvania. He sought out a friendlier crowd in NC the next day to lick his wounds, flip her the bird and brush the dirt off his shoulders.  It has often been said that he doesn’t like confrontation and that NC appearance showed that he was much better at acting like the mean BMOC when he was with his adoring fans than taking her on and losing to her again.

It’s been awhile since I read MoDo but I dropped into her column yesterday and she seems to have matured ever so slightly.  She’s not so flip these days, probably because her mancrush in 2008 turned out to be far worse for women that the woman she mocked for two decades.  Maybe she’s learned her lesson.  She also seems more than a little alarmed.  Oh sure, Obama will do better next time.  Someone will have figured out how he’s supposed to debate a real general campaign opponent.  But MoDo suggests it’s more serious than that:

Just as Poppy Bush didn’t try as hard as he should have because he assumed voters would reject Slick Willie, Obama lapsed into not trying because he assumed voters would reject Cayman Mitt.

The president averted his eyes as glittering opportunities passed, even when Romney sent a lob his way with a reference to his accountant.

Obama has been coddled by Valerie Jarrett, the adviser who sat next to Michelle at the debate, instead of the more politically strategic choice of local pols and their spouses. Jarrett believes that everyone must woo the prodigy who deigns to guide us, not the other way around.

At a fund-raising concert in San Francisco Monday night, the president mocked Romney’s star turn, saying “what was being presented wasn’t leadership; that’s salesmanship.”

It is that distaste for salesmanship that caused Obama not to sell or even explain health care and economic policies; and it is that distaste that caused him not to sell himself and his policies at the debate. His latest fund-raising plea is marked “URGENT.” But in refusing to muster his will and energy, and urgently sell his vision, he underscores his own lapses in leadership and undermines arguments for four more years.

The debate was an uncomfortable window into Obama’s style in all things presidential.  What is urgent to you is not an emergency to him.  He’s smaller than we thought, less secure, confident and sure of his experience.  He doesn’t look like the alpha male commanding his clan.  He’s the guy who seeks assistance from the moderator with ingratiating comments.  That Obama doesn’t stand a chance against a real presidential candidate and not the carefully crafted illusions his campaign spun for him to do battle with four years ago.  And that is the weak prince we have had in office for four years while the barbarians knocked down the gates.

In a way, a strong showing by Joe Biden this evening might just do Obama in.

And here’s another quote from that MoDo column that I find deeply disturbing:

Once during the 2008 campaign, reading about all the cataclysms jolting the economy and the world, Obama joked to an adviser: “Maybe I should throw the game.”

Can someone confirm whether he really said that?

Monday: Not even wrong

Engine, engine number nine, going down Chicago line, if the train should jump the track...

I read Robert Cruikshank’s analysis of the problems facing the Democrats and now I finally understand why the party is f^&*ed up beyond all recognition.  Cruikshank thinks there are two factions, the neoliberals and the progressives, that are fighting each other.  If that’s what he and other party loyalists think is happening, it could be because it’s part of a “divide and conquer” strategy being played by operatives.

But it is particularly unhelpful to slap labels on Democrats and then sort every Democrat you come across as belonging to either the neoliberal or progressive camp.  If those are the only choices, if those are the only people the Democrats see, no wonder they are having problems keeping their act together.  They have completely lost it.

The rest of us are working people of all professions and education levels who don’t give a damn about these petty ideological squabbles.  No.  Our issues are economic ones.  We care about jobs, wages, health care.  We are socially liberal and technically savvy.  We like green, but we’re not going to get our knickers in a twist over nuclear power.  I guess Cruikshank would stick us with the neoliberals because we’re not afraid of business.  What he seems to have missed is that we care about rules that strengthen and protect working people.  We want to re-establish the rules that held sway after the Depression and before Reagan wrecked the place with his rugged individualism and “red sky at morning” in America.

If you remaining, die-hard Democrats, want to spend your time ripping each other to shreds because you must have hard and fast categories that do not cross over while simultaneously ignoring the concerns of the working people who once supported you, knock yourself out.  Your petty squabbles are increasingly irrelevant to us.  You messiah worshipping Obama supporters can leave on the same banker sponsored pony you rode to town on.  You purist-pacificists can go native and chew some wild hickory nuts.

We. Don’t. Care.

Until you address the ECONOMY and UNEMPLOYMENT and reinstitute NEW DEAL PROGRAMS and RULES that protect us, your message will continue to fall on deaf ears.  We’re tired of purists on either side of the Democratic party insisting on poison pills that demonstrate time and again that they are not aware of all of the ground we working people are losing.  The problem is that the two factions as they have decided to split themselves, are sitting way too high up on Maslow’s pyramid while the base is literally and psychologically sliding towards the bottom. While we are very concerned about erosion of our civil liberties, now is not the time to turn on everyone who does not, at this very minute, prevent all wars around the world, while without any sense of contradiction, insist on protecting all non-combatants in every geographical location on the planet, simultaneously preserving original, generically unmodified corn crops from autism causing vaccinations.  It’s not the time for insisting that we unemployed stop whining and learn to deal with the new normal while we become masters of our brave new 401K portfolio toting world while we never age or become sick at our jobs in some wildly fabulous creative industry at the companies we started ourselves with venture capital.  When all the men and women who have unjustly lost their jobs in the past few years have meaningful employment again and our safety net is repaired, we can turn our attention to these things. We’re tired of being used as part of some political strategy, pawns to be sacrificed or rescued to score political point.  And we’re tired of having our votes either trashed or taken for granted.  We own our votes and won’t be scared into giving them away to undeserving candidates.  Obama does not represent us nor does anyone, apparently, that the current Democratic party is shoving down our throats.

If people like Cruikshank want to win next year, they’d be better off losing the fricking labels and hire the best man or woman for the job to handle a very tough economic environment.   Cornell West academic types are abandoning the party.  Unions are abandoning the party.  Regular working and middle class people who got royally screwed by the Obama contingent in 2008 have already left.  If all that remains are two clueless contingents with tunnel vision who think they are fighting for the same territory, than the party is in worse shape than I thought.  No amount of coalition building is going to help a party that leaves most of its base, and the vast majority of voters it needs to win, out of the negotiations.

The only thing the vast majority want to hear about in the next 18 months is what are the candidates going to do about unemployment.  Anything else is a distraction.

The Party’s over.

Saturday Morning News and Views: Populist Uprising Edition

Good Morning Conflucians!!!

President Obama was in Ohio yesterday trying to impersonate a populist.

“I won’t stop fighting for you,” he thundered in a campaign-style speech in economically sagging northeastern Ohio, remarks that provided a likely preview of the themes in his first State of the Union speech next Wednesday.

Trying to shore up public support, Obama urged people to “stand by me, even during these tough times.”

Like you stood by us Mr. President? When did you fight for us anyway?

Obama acknowledged that the healthcare overhaul — suddenly in limbo on Capitol Hill — had run into a political “buzz saw.” He dismissed concerns that his lengthy focus on healthcare meant he had taken his eye off the economy, the country’s No. 1 problem.

“Let me dispel this notion that we were somehow focused on that (healthcare) and so as a consequence not focused on the economy. First of all, all I think about is how are we going to create jobs in this area,” Obama said in Elyria, Ohio.

The president’s switch to a more populist tone followed his own admission in an ABC News interview earlier this week that he had lost a direct connection with everyday Americans.

I’m not so sure he ever had a connection with “everyday Americans”–those gun-toting bitter knitters? And those uppity women who don’t know their place? No, I don’t think so.

If Mr. Obama wants to make a “direct connection” with “everyday Americans,” he is going to have to give them more than “just words.” He is going to have to pretty much do a complete about face and become as “transformational” as he pretended to be when he was campaigning. He is going to have to stop impersonating Herbert Hoover and start impersonating Franklin Roosevelt. I’m really not sure if he is capable of that, but if he manages to do it, I’ll be the first to cheer him on.

From the Toledo Blade:

A defiant President Obama assured Ohioans yesterday that he will continue to fight for health care, banking, and energy reform despite recent political setbacks that some argue have endangered his agenda.

He made the promises at Lorain County Community College even as Ohio announced its unemployment rate had hit 10.9 percent in December, up from 10.6 percent the month before. The national jobless rate is 10 percent.

“I did not run for President to turn away from these challenges,” he told a town-hall meeting of about 1,300 people.

“I didn’t run for President to kick them down the road. I ran for President to confront them once and for all. I ran for this office to rebuild our economy so it works not just for the fortunate few, but for everybody who’s willing to work hard in this country,” he said.

Uh huh. Talk is cheap, Mr. President. Now lets see some action. Continue reading

Why is single payer not being served at President Obama’s table?


Why is single payer not at the President’s table?

76% of Americans want single payer health care. President Obama, judged by his actions, is staunchly against giving this 76% what they want. He did not invite one advocate of single payer to his advisory panel. The majority of the U.S.’s elected representatives are also staunchly against representing the taxation wishes of the majority of their constituents. When elected representatives refuse to allocate tax dollars based on the wishes of the majority of their constituents, then the elected representatives are practicing a type of taxation without representation. Why are the POTUS, the Democrats, and the Republicans so strongly in favor of taxation without representation on the issue of health care? What would it take to make single payer healthcare a reality in the U.S.?

Rather than repeat or add to the mass of research that suggests U.S. citizens are systematically denied the fruits of their constitution and their nation by the corrupt relationship that exists between the Presidency, the Senate, Congress, and numerous powerful blocks of lobbyists, I will take a different tack. (This is not to say that the corruption is not a significant part of the problem or even the most significant part of the problem, however, it is merely to point towards another piece of the “why not single payer” healthcare puzzle.)

I suggest that one reason the majority of America’s elected representatives refuse to represent the wishes of their constituents on the issue of healthcare is because the U.S. does not have a left wing, it only has a right wing and a center. The Republicans are the right. The Democrats are the center. The left lacks a serious representative party.

Quibblers will rightfully point out that the left end of the center is America’s left, but that misses the point, which is to say that single payer healthcare was a policy of the European and Canadian left. It only became adopted by the center because single payer healthcare was so rational, moral, and desirable to the electorate, that going against the policy, or not going for the policy, caused the center and the right to lose electoral support to the left, and in some cases, so much that the left formed the government. The first province that got single payer healthcare in Canada did so by electing a socialist government.

President Obama did not invite one advocate of single payer healthcare to his advisory group, even though 76% of U.S. citizens want it, because neither he, nor the anti-single payer Democrats, are afraid of citizen backlash. They are not afraid of citizen backlash because, without a perceived viable party on the left, citizens do not have an effective way to punish them at the ballot box. The point to take here is that the only thing that either party respects about the citizens is the ability of the citizens to hurt them at the ballot box.

Given the history of the U.S., it’s unlikely that a viable left will materialize anytime soon, so does this mean getting single payer is dead?

Not necessarily, but it will be difficult and take hard work. Because 76% of Americans favor single payer, its wide base of support, necessarily including Republicans, makes it a potential wedge issue, which means that anti-single payer candidates can be targeted at the ballot box. This seems possible, when one considers it’s high level of support, despite the flood of anti-single payer propaganda and the willful attempts at distortion using  a “public option.” The power of single payer as a wedge issue is further enhanced by President Obama’s confidence-based betrayal of the progressive movement, which should turn them towards the Nader/Green left or independent status and make Democrats more susceptible to the wishes of their constituents.

Nothwithstanding, single payer healthcare can only become a wedge issue, if single payer supporters act as single payer advocates by letting the Republican and Democrat candidates in their area know that being anti-single payer makes them a non-starter. Many people writing two letters or making two phone calls can trump bagfulls of lobbyist donations.  Doing so is a potential good step in the direction of “A Republic, if you can keep it” and The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” After all, and as noted in “The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen“, sometimes the enemy is inside the gates.

There is no shortage of stories about politicians receiving policy revelation when their political futures are in jeopardy. Barack Obama(h/t to John at LR), for example, converted from single payer to anti-single payer when faced with losing access to the funding from the healthcare lobby. If citizens who support single payer can find a meaningful way to punish their elected representatives at the ballot box for not supporting single payer, then it might be possible to create a circumstance where President Obama will roll out the video from 2003 and read from his teleprompter, “I’ve always supported single payer healthcare.”

This is an open thread.  Have a great Friday night!

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Obama And The Bloggers: A Play in One Historic Act.

A Glimpse of the Future?

A Glimpse of the Future?

THE SCENE: It is 2108. The world is clean, lawful, peaceful, prosperous and well-informed. The struggles of the 21st Century are far behind us.

We find ourselves looking in on the Museum of United States History, in the “Hall of Presidents Past.” A group of students is being led by a tour guide, and they are stopped in front of a holographic display entitled, “The Blogosphere and The Election of President Barack Obama.” Showing on the transparent wall are three life-sized representations of bloggers. There is a man in his late 30’s, white, with dark hair, wearing a button-down shirt and khakis; the label under him reads “Male Obama Blogger.” There is a woman, in her late 30’s, dressed in black and wearing chic glasses; the label under her reads “Female Obama Blogger.” Finally, there is a woman in her 40’s, dressed in business attire; the label under her reads “PUMA Blogger.”

TOUR GUIDE: And now, here is our exhibit on our first – but not the last – African-American President, Barack Hussein Obama. He was President from 2008 – 2012.

Here at the Museum of United States History, we assume that you already know the most basic facts about every President. Our goal is to focus on little-known but important aspects of each President’s history. That is why we have chosen to represent the way so many in the so-called “progressive” blogosphere helped elect President Obama.

STUDENT #1 (raising hand): The “blogosphere”? What’s that?

STUDENT #2 (to #1): Don’t you remember? There used to be something called the Internet where people would talk about politics and other topics of interest.

STUDENT #1 (with dawning comprehension): Ohhhh! That was the baby version of the Worldwide Peoples’ Network!

TOUR GUIDE: Exactly right – the Internet became the WPN. (smiling) Now, if I may continue?

STUDENT #1 (embarrassed): Sorry, ma’am.

TOUR GUIDE: Thank you. Now, many people are not aware that President Obama’s campaign was fiercely championed by the “progressives” in the blogosphere.

STUDENT #2 (raising her hand): Uh, ma’am? Sorry, but what’s a progressive?

TOUR GUIDE: At one point, people who considered themselves on the liberal side of politics adopted the label of “progressive.” This label, for some time, hid the fact that they hated women and the Presidency of Bill Clinton, and allowed them to take over the blogosphere from people who really were liberals.

STUDENT #1: Wow! Progressives sound like complete idiots!

TOUR GUIDE (smiling): You have no idea! Where was I? Oh yes. Progressives’ advocacy for President Obama was so inflexible that many on the left broke away and formed their own blogosphere. These bloggers called themselves “PUMAs,” representing either “Party Unity My Ass” or “People United Means Action.” Later in the 21st Century, these PUMAs formed their own UnParty, with which you are all familiar by now.

(THE STUDENTS NOD AND SMILE. STUDENT #3 holds up a pawprint badge that had been magnetically stuck to his jumpsuit.)


TOUR GUIDE (holding up her own badge): PUMA POWER! (resuming the tour) Well, now we’re coming to the interactive part of the display. You’re going to love it, I promise! I need a volunteer to read a short sentence out loud.

(ALL THE STUDENTS raise their hands. The TOUR GUIDE picks STUDENT #3 out of the group.)

TOUR GUIDE: All right, John. Come to the display and read the sentence shown on the wall. Then, watch the reactions of all three bloggers to what you say.

JOHN (reading): “Today, Senator Barack Obama voted to give telecommunications companies immunity from prosecution for their illegal wiretapping activities performed at the behest of the Bush Administration.”

(ALL the holograms come to life.)

MALE OBAMA BLOGGER: Well, I know Senator Obama promised to filibuster this immunity, but that doesn’t matter. He’s just doing what he needs to do to get elected.

FEMALE OBAMA BLOGGER: Yeah! What you said!

PUMA BLOGGER: This sucks! And Obama broke his promise to vote against immunity, but Hillary didn’t. Why aren’t you supporting her instead?

(ALL holograms stop speaking.)

TOUR GUIDE: Did you see what happened there, John?

JOHN: I think so. Barack Obama broke a very important promise, and the PUMA blogger was the only one who said anything.

STUDENT #1: You mean – President Obama essentially gave the telecom companies permission to spy on Americans without repercussions?

TOUR GUIDE: Yes, Virginia. Bet you didn’t know that about him!

Continue reading