Archive for August, 2009

A Silly Question: “Is Barack Obama a Progressive?”, by Paul Street

August 29, 2009

. . . . The Obama presidency so far is a chilling object lesson in the reach, power, and bipartisan nature of that “unelected dictatorship.” Obama is following what David Rothkopf, a former Clinton official, calls “the violin model: you hold power with the left hand and you play the music with the right.” In other words, you gain and hold the presidency with populace-pleasing progressive-sounding rhetoric but you govern, you make policy, in service to existing dominant institutions. . . .

http://www.zmag.org/znet/viewArticle/22461

Alexander Cockburn

August 28, 2009

Teddy Kennedy’s disasters were vivid. His legislative triumphs, draped in this week’s obituaries with respectful homage, were far less colorful but they were actually devastating for the very constituencies – working people, organized labor – whose champion he claimed to be. . . .

http://www.counterpunch.org/

Marshall Aueerbach: We Already Have a Public Option

August 27, 2009

Senator Charles Schumer indicated earlier this week that Democrats were fleshing out plans to pass health legislation, particularly the option of a new government-run insurance program, with a simple majority, instead of the 60 votes that would ordinarily be needed to overcome a filibuster. Typically for the party that still seems to suffer from an acute case of “Stockholm Syndrome”, the Democrats continue to agonise about using their substantial majorities in Congress to fight for what they really believe in and question whether to use a budget reconciliation procedure to incorporate a public health insurance option in the legislation.

We’ve got a better idea for the Democrats, which will enable them to pass a bill without resorting to controversial Parliamentary procedures, whilst still incorporating a public health care option:

Expand the provisions of Medicare. . . .

http://www.counterpunch.com/auerbach08272009.html

Are Barack Obama’s “Compromises” Part of a Some Larger Progressive Plan?

August 27, 2009

Of course not, says Glen Ford, who has covered Obama’s career since 2003. What you see, with President Obama, is all there is, and that’s what we get: a corporate Democrat in blackface. In this Big Think interview segment, BAR executive editor Glen Ford discusses the crisis in African American and left politics engendered by the career of Barack Obama and much more. Transcript below the fold, courtesy of BigThink.com

This transcript, part of a much longer interview is from http://www.bigthink.com.

http://blackagendareport.com/?q=content/are-barack-obamas-compromises-part-some-larger-progressive-plan

there is no way obama could be doing this out of sheer stupidity; it has to be deliberate

August 24, 2009

President Obama on Tuesday will nominate Ben S. Bernanke to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve, administration officials said.
The announcement is a major victory for Mr. Bernanke, a Republican who was appointed by President George W. Bush almost four years ago and who had briefly served as chairman of Mr. Bush’s Council of Economic Advisers.
A top White House official said Mr. Obama had decided to keep Mr. Bernanke at the helm of the Fed because he had been bold and brilliant in his attempts to combat the financial crisis and the deep recession.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/25/business/25bernanke.html?hp

Obama on Drugs: 98% Cheney? by Greg Palast

August 21, 2009

I searched all over the newspapers and TV transcripts and no one asked the President what is probably the most important question of what passes for debate on the issue of health care reform: $80 billion of WHAT?
On June 22, President Obama said he’d reached agreement with big drug companies to cut the price of medicine by $80 billion. He extended his gratitude to Big Pharma for the deal that would, “reduce the punishing inflation in health care costs.”
Hey, in my neighborhood, people think $80 billion is a lot of money. But is it?
I checked out the government’s health stats (at HHS.gov), put fresh batteries in my calculator and toted up US spending on prescription drugs projected by the government for the next ten years. It added up to $3.6 trillion.
In other words, Obama’s big deal with Big Pharma saves $80 billion out of a total $3.6 trillion. That’s 2%.
Hey thanks, Barack! You really stuck it to the big boys. You saved America from these drug lords robbing us blind. Two percent. Cool!
For perspective: Imagine you are in a Wal-Mart and there’s a sign over a flat screen TV, “BIG SAVINGS!” So, you break every promise you made never to buy from that union-busting big box – and snatch up the $500 television. And when you’re caught by your spouse, you say, “But, honey, look at the deal I got! It was TWO-PERCENT OFF! I saved us $10!”
But 2% is better than nothing, I suppose. Or is it?
The Big Pharma kingpins did not actually agree to cut their prices. Their promise with Obama is something a little oilier: they apparently promised that, over ten years, they will reduce the amount at which they would otherwise raise drug prices. Got that? In other words, the Obama deal locks in a doubling of drug costs, projected to rise over the period of “savings” from a quarter trillion dollars a year to half a trillion dollars a year. Minus that 2%.
We’ll still get the shaft from Big Pharma, but Obama will have circumcised the increase.
And what did Obama give up in return for $80 billion? Chief drug lobbyist Billy Tauzin crowed that Obama agreed to dump his campaign pledge to bargain down prices for Medicare purchases. Furthermore,Obama’s promise that we could buy cheap drugs from Canada simply went pffft!
What did that cost us? The New England Journal of Medicine notes that 13 European nations successfully regulate the price of drugs, reducing the average cost of name-brand prescription medicines by 35% to 55%. Obama gave that up for his 2%.
The Veterans Administration is able to push down the price it pays for patent medicine by 40% through bargaining power. George Bush stopped Medicare from bargaining for similar discounts, an insane ban that Obama said he’d overturn. But, once within Tauzin’s hypnotic gaze, Obama agreed to lock in Bush’s crazy and costly no-bargaining ban for the next decade.
What else went down in Obama’s drug deal? To find out, I called C-SPAN to get a copy of the videotape of the meeting with the drug companies. I was surprised to find they didn’t have such a tape despite the President’s campaign promise, right there on CNN in January 2008, “These negotiations will be on C-SPAN.”
This puzzled me. When Dick Cheney was caught having secret meetings with oil companies to discuss Bush’s Energy Bill, we denounced the hugger-muggers as a case of foxes in the henhouse.
Cheney’s secret meetings with lobbyists and industry bigshots were creepy and nasty and evil.
But the Obama crew’s secret meetings with lobbyists and industry bigshots were, the President assures us, in the public interest.
We know Cheney’s secret confabs were shady and corrupt because Cheney scowled out the side of his mouth.
Obama grins in your face.
See the difference?
The difference is 2%.

http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/obama-drugs-98-cheney

EUGENIA TSAO: The Drug Barons’ Campaign to Make Us All Crazy

August 20, 2009

. . . . We are at a strange point in history. It should come as no surprise that the exhausting and alienating conditions in which we live and labor are productive of myriad forms of psychological suffering. Yet, critics of biological psychiatry are commonly subjected to the fallacious accusation that, because we reject the equation of unhappiness with sickness, we must believe that it is a weakness. This is a false dichotomy. Is it so difficult to understand the pain engendered by life under neoliberal capitalism as something worthy of dignified reflection, irreducible to either sickness or weakness? Is it so hard to grasp that to detrivialize the social conditions that give rise to despair or the ideologies that equate difference with disease is not to trivialize despair or difference?

Let’s be candid. The drug barons’ ongoing campaign to pathologize entirely natural emotional responses to hunger, humiliation, financial insecurity, racism, sexism, overwork and isolation is a mercenary tactic, designed to create markets, maximize profits and minimize dissidence. Whether intended or unintended, the consequence is that we have come to reflexively view ourselves – our bodies, brains, and genes – rather than our societal environment as pathogenic, against all evidence to the contrary. As the DSM-V looms, we have to explore the dire implications of this trend and contintue to raise the alarm.

http://www.counterpunch.com/

a dialog about peace and obama

August 17, 2009

August 16, 2009
For immediate release:
Next week, Cindy Sheehan will join other like-minded peace activists to have a presence near the expensive resort on Martha’s Vineyard where President Obama will be vacationing the week of August 23-30.
From her home in California, Ms. Sheehan released this statement:
“There are several things that we wish to accomplish with this protest on Martha’s Vineyard. First of all, no good social or economic change will come about with the continuation or escalation of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We simply can’t afford to continue this tragically expensive foreign policy.
Secondly, we as a movement need to continue calling for an immediate end to the occupations even when there is a Democrat in the Oval Office. There is still no Noble Cause no matter how we examine the policies. Thirdly, the body bags aren’t taking a vacation and as the US led violence surges in Afghanistan and Pakistan, so are the needless deaths on every side. And, finally, if the right-wing can force the government to drop any kind of public option or government supported health care, then we need to exert the same kind of pressure to force a speedy end to the occupations.”
Cindy Sheehan will arrive on the Vineyard on Tuesday, August 25th.
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As a member of the group with Cindy Sheehan, down in the ditches with the fireants, at the Crawford Ranch, I am sad to think that at this stage of the game we would still be reduced to producing demonstations which have had absolutely no effect in changing the policy of an empire’s political administration’s policy of recruiting our children, developing them into “murderers”, urging them to kill innocents, and when suffering any payback, legitimatizing them with sentimental funerals, orchestrated by deluded demonstrations of another sort.

Personally it breaks my heart to see this woman, Cindy Sheehan, keep on, keepin on, accompanied by mindless peace cliches, and tepid commitment. That perhaps a sum total of 50 participants will show for this event says it all. We are out of our minds, doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. At Crawford Cindy did have a goal – force the war criminal George Bush to appear with her publicly to discuss the lies attendant to the death of her son. We and she failed in that endeavor, but that should not have been the demise of the goal. Rather we should have perhaps renewed the endeavor to raise thousands who would have stood with her demanding the same throughout the country. Unfortunately we degenerated to demonstrations with no goals, no strategy to bring about accountability, resulting in nice, feel good psuedo-relationships, and social gathering of “love.”………a rather debatable result given the murderous organization with which we are confronted.

I feel sorry for Cindy Sheehan. I feel sorry for us all. I feel guilty that we have not come up with something beyond the tired old expressions at raising consciousness. Let’s face it, that as a minimum 50% of our population just plain does not give a s***, and the vast majority of the population now, five years later, do not even know who Cindy Sheehan is — or does not care — indicates we are not much more than a “nuisance.” Even now, peace groups have gotten behind the glorification of militarism of funerals for young men who a few years ago “did not exist” in the night of their return to the homeland. Who or what are we……really?

What will be new at Martha’s Vineyard. Is there no dedication to change in our mindless pursuit of change. That there are not 1,000’s enlisting to demonstrate on Martha’s Vineyard says it all. Best description comes to my mind is Christ on the Cross, looking down at who is present at the foot of the cross, and then looking up, observing to the Father, “This shit is just not working.”

Unless there are a hundred or more protestors, willing to abandon ship, sans clothes except for a flag wrapped upside down, accurately depicting the Obama administration drowning in rhetoric while people die for calculated lies, I must regretfully defer.

Tony Flaherty
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Such negativism gets us nowhere, plus it is absolutely false. What happened starting with Crawford changed the whole direction of the nation. The impact is still being felt, by the fact in 2007 the Democrats came into Congress because of the Peace Movement, which the Democrats betrayed. In fact we can say that Obama is in office because of the Peace Movement and that work that started in Crawford. You should be proud of yourself and get to work helping spread the word that the mission continues. Yes we go to Martha’s Vineyard, if only one of us, to challenge what is the correct course of action, morally and on the political-economic realm to which these wars are but the insane perpetual policy of the bankrupt of the Anglo-American financial oligarchy. This President, as a puppet of Wall Street, needs to know that he has a left opposition, that we intend to develop leaders who have integrety and moral courage.

Thus far through the most important phase of this Presidency we can now say that Obama is an absolute failure, having lost the historically important mandate to actually implement such changes needed for global peace and prosperity, starting with our nation which he loots for his Wall Street masters.

Thus I find Obama as a tragic figure, who is rather sad and pathetic, rather than the prophetic figure that he tries to portray, but what we have is a betrayal, a betrayal of the very good within those who voted for him, though they were not informed, but rather mislead by a campaign of hype to turn hope into bombing runs against Pakistan, as part of a war and destabilization of China, which is part of what the Ahfganistan operation is about, perpetual war, and the continued smoldering encirclement against Russia and China in what is Brzezinski’s continuation of the Great Game.

Some of us are not fooled and want to demonstrate a commitment to the truth once again. Please join in the effort, realizing that what happened in the ditch in Crawford impacted history for the better,

We are evolving in the continued improvisational unfoldment of this mission of human dignity.

Thank You,

Bruce Marshall
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Wonderful your attribution of questioning what the hell we are doing to “negativism.” Such is tantamount to the numbed and dumbed attributing the questioning of slaughter of innocents as “depressing.” Impressive rhetoric though.

As you espouse the view that “The President needs to know that he has a left opposition,” it is hard to believe he does not, particularly when it may be categorized so easily, and is, as nothing more than a “nuisance.” Like it or not, our “brave” coagulations demonstrating “truth,” are tantamount to nothing more than “tailgate” parties at Foxboro, and nothing more than a pain in the ass to target audience, albeit the possibility of affording practice for those implementing the police state.

Do think we have to find another way — probably an absurd wish, given the immediate suppression of questioning doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

Tony Flaherty.
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it’s a pity you have to put up with such nonsense as that from bruce marshall, tony.

“Such negativism gets us nowhere, plus it is absolutely false.” the truth is false? shades of george orwell.

“What happened starting with Crawford changed the whole direction of the nation.” of course, now all our troops have been withdrawn from iraq, afghanistan, and pakistan. i wonder how no one but bruce marshall has been informed of this great great change in direction.

“. . . the Democrats came into Congress. . . . ” well, actually, they have been in congress since 1792, but why bother with facts? but, or course, they have all always voted against war, it’s the republican minority who have authorized the military expenditures, and dubya who has sent the drones into pakistan.

“Obama . . . a tragic figure. . . sad and pathetic. . .a betrayal . . . of those voted for him.” i’m a bit lost here: how did a man who promised to enlarge the war in afghanistan and threatened to attack within pakistan (and has threatened war with iran) “betray” anybody by keeping his promises?

“Some of us are not fooled.” well, ‘twould seem bruce marshall was badly fooled by obama prior to his becoming the latest figurehead president, but cannot be further fooled. hmm, one must wonder. but what about those of us who weren’t fooled, who warned that obama was going to be what he indeed has shown to be, and whose grasp on reality, proved by events, is now labeled “false” by he who was fooled. too much for me to comprehend.

jack tobin

The Shadow Strikes Again

August 17, 2009

Congressman Lynch comes up a winner again with the White House announcement there will undoubtedly be no public option. If you will note his website , he had no position on the Health Care Debate, except to note in the Boston Herald when challenged by SEIU, “He wanted to know how it would be paid for.” I ask you what you would think of a “friend” sitting on the steps of “G” Street when you would need a hand pushing a car up the hill out of the way. I would wager you would not think much of the “friend” peeking out from the lace curtains sheltering his persona from observation of the poor, the lame, the halt, the blind — the “suckers” who buy the “Democratic” “Union” label once given meaning despite the lash on the back of their forefathers, but co-opted by a “wannabe” elite, secure in the “old boy” club installed in “Birmingham North” — the 9th Suffolk Congressional District.

If you look further into the site, you will find a donation on behalf of Curry College in the amount of $7,500 to his Congressional campaign – why? Are the students there immune from financial distress? Added to that you can expect a fascist President and the presence of “security” forces insuring order at Lynch’s proposed Forum from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 27. Those who were present when he held a forum on the Iraq war in 2006 can predict what a charade this will be, and bravo to those who can brave the traffic at such an hour — I doubt any family of the poor in South Boston or Brockton could even venture in what state the hallowed halls of Curry college are found.

Would appreciate feedback from anyone who can think of a single solitary position of Congressman Lynch with respect to health care, housing, immigration, utilization of the justice system to control the poor, which indicates “leadership” or a progressive disposition beyond “comfortable” rhetoric. Soon, unfortunately, there will be an election for the Senate. I would wager you would laugh at his prospects — don’t. Seriously — reflect how a “slug” thrives on the stupidity of the “electorate” in the fact of the photo-ops by “suits.” Most of us know Senator Kennedy, and know that he stood for the least of those in our society, and liked him for that. “Congressman Lynch is no Senator Kennedy,” but he does have a strength in which he finds comfort — the strength bestowed by a society that has lost it “roots” and any idea of “soul.”

If anyone attends, please “try” (you will be hooted down) to ask him how it is he is so willing to support immoral wars and the murder of innocents worldwide, to say nothing of personal aggrandizement of himself and “associates,” but so reluctant to question slavish support of America’s military industrial slaughter machine. Why is it that the association of the term “War Criminal” stops at the door of G. Bush, and D. Chaney. What about those who like Senator Prescott Bush as late as 1943 were the main support of Hitler and the war machine in Nazi Germany? The vote we give Lynch is the war criminal’s bankroll — one they can count on.

Tony Flaherty

Obama: What A Farce

August 16, 2009

Apparently ready to abandon the idea, President Barack Obama’s health secretary said Sunday a government alternative to private health insurance is ”not the essential element” of the administration’s health care overhaul.

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/08/16/us/politics/AP-US-Health-Care-Overhaul.html