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August 04
It is a common failing of human nature to be more confidant in strange and unprecedented circumstances...-Julius Caesar, "The Civil War"

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SEPTEMBER 7, 2011 7:23PM

Obama and Empire, Part 2

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In The Empire's New Clothes, Paul Street criticizes the foreign policy direction of the Obama administration, and the large degree to which it represents a continuation of the Bush years.  But Street's analysis would be sharper if he had included more material on the coincidence of Obama's foreign policy with the administration's response to the recession.  Here Obama has been depressingly predictable, and equal to his foreign policy adherence to past mistakes. 

At first it may have seemed as if Obama were charting a new course: the stimulus, clamping down on poorly regulated industries, some promises to limit direct future interventions in the markets (once the bailout was complete), and even some amelioration of uneven trade practices, specifically the provisions accompanying the stimulus which required that certain vital products used in government-funded infrastructure projects, including steel, come from America.  But the steam soon ran out of the domestic reform engine, just as it became apparent that there would be no real change in direction on the global front.  And here's where things really began to look bad for Obama-the-president versus Obama-the-candidate.

On global trade Obama had promised a fresh approach--revisiting old trade agreements that put the U.S. at a disadvantage, doing more to help real development, as opposed to "disaster capitalism" and policies organized around the formation of more exploitive "economic development zones."  It was these policies that perhaps had the greatest potential for change on a grand scale, and it was these policies that went by the wayside the moment the candidate settled into the Oval Office.  Perhaps they're being held in solitary confinement now in Guantanamo Bay along with all the broken promises on torture and the multiple wars in which we're involved.

Looking a little closer at the history of Obama-the-politician, though, we shouldn't be too surprised that this is the direction things have taken.  Tariq Ali, usually known as an analyst of imperialism, includes a striking and insightful critique of Obama's domestic policies in his book The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad.  He begins with an examination of Obama's early years in politics.  Bobby Rush, who took on Richard Daley for mayor of Chicago, and subsequently found himself payed back by having his district seat challenged by a relatively unknown Daley machine product, Barack Obama, gloats over his drubbing of the future president in the 2000 primaries:

"Barack was just no threat.  The forces that created him were the same forces that were always coming after me."

By this Rush means big money and what he terms "the liberal elite cadre or cabal" of Hyde Park.  (This is not a bad description, I think, based on my own knowledge of the area and its politics.)  But when Obama ran again, on the South Side, he adapted, and later, running for the U.S. Senate and then for the presidency, he raised huge sums from corporations to make sure he wasn't too dependent on one group of political patrons.  Ali writes:

"Obama raised more money--most of it, contrary to campaign mythology, in large corporate donations--than Hillary Clinton before and during the [2008 presidential] primaries, and much more than his Republican rival during the actual campaign."

But with his supporters all that mattered was the general tone of criticism, and not its economic or political content.  The triumph of emptiness in politics is hardly new.  Still Obama's donors included some of Wall Street's and corporate America's biggest players at a time when they were worried about a massive shift to the left in a country that had just witnessed the biggest robbery of public funds by private interests in history.  These donors included Goldman Sachs, which gave close to a million dollars, Microsoft which gave more than $800,000, UBS which gave more than half a million, Lehman Brothers (prior to their collapse and absorption) which gave more than $300,000, and JPMorgan Chase which gave close to $700,000.  Not to be left out, the telecommunications industry, always worried about their place at the table, chipped in large contributions, and three of the most powerful corporate law firms in the world threw in a total of $15.8 million.  This last group of donors is significant because it's largely law firms that do most of the heavy lobbying in Washington on behalf of their clients, a trick that gets them around much of the doubtful campaign regulatory apparatus and does the extra job of making most of these deals secret as privileged legal communication.

Once elected, Obama promptly caved to these interests on healthcare reform, financial reform, and repealing the Bush tax cuts for the rich which would have cut into investments and the bottom line of Wall Street significantly.  The move against taxing the rich--or at least not taxing them any more than they were before the Bush cuts, a paltry difference overall--effectively ended any discussion of even the most minor reforms, since the funds for new projects and increased regulatory enforcement would not be available.  Starving the government for revenue during an economic crisis in order to weaken it, and make it less likely to be used as an instrument for social change, has always been a strategy of the ruling class.  Instead the discussion turned toward debt reduction. 

On the methods of Obama for achieving these regressive ends while retaining at least some genuine voter support inside his own party, Ali has this to say (and I think it's worth quoting here at length): 

"Unable and unwilling to deliver any serious reforms, Obama has become the master of the sympathetic gesture, the understanding smile, the pained but friendly expression that always appeared to say, 'Really, I agree and I wish we could, but we can't.  We really can't and it's not my fault.'  The implication is always that the Washington system prevents any change that he could believe in.  But the ring of truth is absent.  Whether seriously considering escalating an unwinnable war, bailing out Wall Street, getting the insurance company lobbyists to write the new 'health care' bill or suggest nominations to his cabinet and the Supreme Court, the mechanism he has deployed is always the same.  A better option is put on the table for show, but not taken seriously.  A worse option is rapidly binned.  And a supposed compromise emerges.  This creates the impression among party loyalists that the prez is doing his best, that a team of serious thinkers is hard at work considering every possibility, but that the better alternative simply isn't feasible.  This is followed by the spin doctors coming down hard to defend some shoddy compromise or other." [emphasis mine]

Ali further points out that this entire "strategy" was designed from the beginning to attract a center-right to extreme right conservative audience.  Thus the FOX News appearances.  Thus the fawning all over the "tea party" in the form of critical attention at the White House and in corporate media in general.  Being a corporatist and having always been a dedicated member of that particular sect, Obama must have known what the lack of structural reform would lead to: years of brutal predatory policy aimed at reducing and denigrating labor. 

After all, a certain gross attention to Marxist insight on economy--detached from its ethical and class significance--has always been part of the neoliberal toolbox.  A politician like Obama, a careerist, astute by establishment standards, must have realized that the banking bailout would not be enough to fortify the position of the ruling investment class.  As a result, a system was concocted to allow the near unlimited shoveling of public funds into the system.  Recently there has even been open talk about a new "recapitalization" scheme for Bank of America.  Evidently some think that a sufficient amount of time has passed to bring up such an infuriating idea.  Gross theorizing dedicated to profit and gain is no substitute for real insight and courage.

The business of managing empire at home is messy and as it has become increasingly obvious to many of Obama's supporters from '08, no help is forthcoming.  The critical point hasn't been reached by all, though, and that is due by this point in time--in the face of overwhelming pain and economic ruin all around--to the success of one of the most persistent myths about Obama: his image as some kind of twenty-first century advocacy politician.  The myth begins with his self-congratulatory autobiographies, but such a claim would not stand up even to the meager scrutiny of corporate media if it threatened the interests of Obama's main corporate backers, the investment banks.  Therefore rather than portraying himself as a tireless defender of the poor, or trumpeting his many victories as a community organizer--of which there were precious few, beyond the elimination of asbestos from a single Chicago housing project--Obama prefers to cut the figure of a midwife to hope and change.  This puts him near the action, but off to one side, a "pained" observer to the pain of others, who is able to rise above the irrational emotions that the situation understandably calls up in those going through the crisis in order to mastermind an imaginary escape.  The neutral tone is important because it removes any real responsibility for the results, or the lack of them.

The situation gives the political right's loud denunciations of Obama as a "socialist" an eery ring--as if what they were really trying to do was to convince as many of their intellectually limited numbers that this is what a socialist's policies look like.  And so, the implication goes, what we need to do is to head hard to the right of the administration, that is, to head hard to the right of...the right.  But the liberal version of Obama is even more confused.  Ali:

"The portrayal of Obama as a good man in a bad world is no more convincing.  The argument that compromises are sometimes essential to achieve limited progressive aims is correct.  The problem is that Obama, while an extremely intelligent human being, is not a progressive leader by any stretch of the imagination.  Wishing that he were is fine but does not bring about the required transformation."

Obama, like all neoliberals, is fond of saying that he believes corporations have a role to play in the fight against poverty.  It's pretty obvious what that role is: control.  One could say that the "turn" here, to use the post-modernists' terminology, doesn't amount to much more than the acceptance of the status quo.






Tariq Ali, The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad. London: Verso, 2010.







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Obama's books, it seems to me, represent more of a seriws of confessions of a neoliberal now than anything else. They're filled with harrowing stories of poverty, but the responses of those directly experiencing these things always seem inadequate to the narrator. What is needed is some broader vision, we're told--and his adherence to values in place of real structural solutions is revealing, since it's a hallmark of neoliberal thought from Hayek on.
toritto - That may be the case. I do think there's a viable left in this country, it's just not very visible since a tight lid is being maintained on corporate-sponsored speech, which includes all big media. The left in this country is composed of people fighting the foreclosure mess, and opposing gentrification, and fighting for jobs and free unions and on a host of other workerist and economic issues.
Obama's autobiographies are the biggest pile of bullshit to ever grace the bestsellers list. They're a combination of self-congratulation, yes, and pure nonsense. Mostly it's dramatic fluff, over-emphasizing every little detail about his life that could portray him as anything other than a privileged nerd. And it's all to convince people that he cares about us. They pulled off a good one with this guy, but I don't think it's going to solve anything. The rundown of his methodology by Ali is helpful. Watch for more of the same with his big upcoming speech and the "jobs" bill.
there's a large strike going on in italy; the carving up of the utilities and transport system in australia has begun; the u.s. postal service looks headed for a labor confrontation with its employees; and the euro is having to be backed up with monetary infusions, striking chords of the old currency wars of the 30's, with the swiss leading the way...

pretty shitty state of the system all around, and i would say that so far obama's handling of the economic crisis, along with all the other clueless herd at the top, is dismal. he just continues his "it's-not-me" act. well, of course--since he hasn't done a damn thing! like the song says, there's a big hole a-waitin' just on down the road...yeah.
Admirably detailed and executed. It's an interesting ploy that an openly irresponsible, brutal and totally disdained administration was successfully replaced by a con artist camouflaging himself as a remedy.
skinnydave- "Dreams From My Father" is contrived to say the least. And you notice the transformation that took place between that and "Audacity of Hope." It was not in a progressive direction.

stu - I think we've already fallen in the big hole. And I'll add one item to your list--the US stock market jumped up 275 points today on news that Germany had ironed out yet another bailout scheme! What a system. We need a policy direction--and fast!--and like skinnydave suggests a fake "jobs" bill won't cut it.
Jan Sand - Nothing is planned, but almost everything is either systemic or applied through necessity, which is supposed to be some sort of objective god in the capitalist mode. Obama was the right guy for the job alright, but not from our perspective. The system always takes the view from the top into account first (and last for that matter), and that's why a clean break is needed.
stu - By the way, your point about the euro drama is well taken. It really is a crisis within a crisis. As far back as March it was evident that the contagion had spread everywhere, including the so called "solvent core" of Germany, Britain, and France. And the buttressed economies of Spain and Italy were totally underwater. As The Economist pointed out about two months ago, Italy has carried heavy debt for some time, while the mismanagement of the crisis in Spain is now legend--accepting bad fire-sale deals on busted banks in the US as part of the original bailout/damage-control package, and then wasting even more time on some half-hearted austerity measures.

Italy nearly tipped over in July when the yields on their ten-year bonds broke 6% and there was a general market run (redefined in today's terms as a "show of decreased confidence"). They were propped up, but the incident effectively exploded the myth that people like Berlusconi are better at managing this crisis than the "socialists" in Greece or Spain. They're all equally clueless because none of the real solutions appear on their radar, they're simply beyond the capitalist ideology.

The present problems stem from two things: one, Merkel has no more political room to maneuver; two, this was never about her or Sarkozy's or for that matter David Cameron's political fortunes. Their own economies are trapped between not having the money to lend, and not being able to afford not to lend to the other euro states. This was the situation to begin with, but they've managed to game that fact in the news, and the markets, at least generally, by claiming that the problems at home are purely political AS OPPOSED TO those other places, the "PIIGS," East Europe etc. Notice how the list keeps getting longer, as even economies not signed onto the euro officially are inundated with it--it's practically the only cash they have.

As for currency wars, that's a definite possibility. The tendency among the biggest market players will be to go in alternate directions, and begin draining the euro at a profit (through various means not available to most people). That may be what finally tips the whole thing over. It was always going to be the capitalists that did it--there's really nobody else managing the system.
boko - the euro "managers" are rubbernecked, there's no doubt about it. but the key seems to be smaller economies that have a chance of blowing up socially in the next few months. ireland in particular. very tense. they're even starting all the shit with the church again to look tough etc. doesn't make them anymore popular but there it is. yeah.
As realistic a theory as any
kosher - There's no theory here, only fact. And a little polemic. Although with your uncritical support of all things Obama I can see why you would want to portray it that way.
stu pot - I am not a big supporter of the multiple fronts idea. Especially when it rests on smaller economies going under which have already in effect gone under. Ireland seems lost for a while, although I might be wrong. You have the advantages of nearness and familiarity.

What makes you think it might go up like London and Athens?
"Unable and unwilling to deliver any serious reforms, Obama has become the master of the sympathetic gesture, the understanding smile, the pained but friendly expression that always appeared to say, 'Really, I agree and I wish we could, but we can't. We really can't and it's not my fault.' The implication is always that the Washington system prevents any change that he could believe in. But the ring of truth is absent.

If “the ring of truth is absent”—why in hell did Ali begin that comment with the word “Unable.”

Just “unwilling” would have been sufficient if he meant the “unable” part were just decisions Obama is making!

The “unable” was a Freudian slip of a sort…Ali acknowledging that what he is arguing against…is actually what is.
Not necessarily. If Obama is tied tightly to his financial and corporate supporters "unable" is quite acceptable.
You realize of course Boko that this essay is a treasure, best thing you ever wrote. one million from Goldman Sachs, 15 million from 3 of the biggest lobbyist in Washington, insights from old rivals, Tariq Ali, “self-congratulatory autobiographies”: a definitive critique of Obamas writing skills. The fourth to last paragraph is brilliant! This belongs in a history book. I am saving this.
Not necessarily. If Obama is tied tightly to his financial and corporate supporters "unable" is quite acceptable.

C’mon, Jan…no reason to disagree with me just for the sake of disagreeing.

The “unable” undermines everything else Ali is saying there. The bottom line is: Obama…and the Democrats in congress…ARE UNABLE to deliver. The obstructionists have valid, legal ways of thwarting every move.
Frank, I'm sorry, you're merely being silly. There are various ways of being unable. If Obama is deeply dependent upon his financial supporters (and he most certainly seems to be) then he is unable to go against their policies. Nothing mysterious about that.
Frank, I'm sorry, you're merely being silly. There are various ways of being unable. If Obama is deeply dependent upon his financial supporters (and he most certainly seems to be) then he is unable to go against their policies. Nothing mysterious about that.

Jan…I am sorry you have stooped to name calling. I thought we had gotten past that earlier…and frankly, I thought you didn’t resort to that kind of thing.

In any case, you are wrong. There is a huge difference between “unable” and “unwilling.”

I don’t care how much money he took from anyone…if he decides to do something against their wishes…he can do it. He is ABLE to defy their wishes. To suggest that he is UNABLE makes no sense. If he did their bidding despite wanting NOT TO DO SO…the appropriate description would be that he is UNWILLING to defy them…NOT THAT HE IS UNABLE to defy them.

C’mon! When Ali used the word “unable” he either was making a glaring error…or he was acknowledging that some things the president is UNABLE to do.
We all laughed at the wild-eyed Bushies with a messiah complex claiming how Bush was in office by virtue of God. Now we have the Obamawhores making the same claim that Obama is Jesus and savior in a bad, bad world and only he can save us. Pretty damn funny if it weren't so tragic.

This is what happens when you have back-to-back Presidents each believing he is the messiah.

Of his own free will Obama has inflicted and continued absolutely brutal policies on the poor and working poor. By committing all our present and future money to the bankers the working class is effectively doomed. The more time that passes the more this will unfold. Obama knows this and that's why he's so anxious to prove himself inculpable in the suffering with his rampant posturing and his hypocritical "look at what I say not what I do" stance. History will damn his complicity as much as Bush.

When it comes to economics, Obama has proven his only interest is in protecting greed. It's expedient, short-sighted and vicious in its consequences, we each pay every time we fill up at the pump or buy food at the store. But many brainwashed sheep think that's just fine so long as it's a Democrat who's doing the screwing.

There's a reason why corporations and Wall Street are sitting on record amounts of cash and profits while labor is being screwed over royally. And it's not because Obama has implemented effective policies and regulations.
Name calling? Do you mean addressing you as Frank is objectionable? Sorry. I'll wait 'til you offer another name. Calling you silly is not name calling, it is accurately describing your behavior. And it's purely a matter of understanding the meaning of "unable". Look it up. It's in every dictionary.
Unwilling or unable...pfft. Old canard. That's what Ali means, what's the difference? If you're being restrained by interests you invited in with you, then that's your fault and it's part of your unwillingness to change the game by going along with it.

"The neutral tone is important..."

It is. It's been his dodge from the beginning. The fact that so many people still can't pick up on this simple, familiar trick of the typical politician is sad. Doomed, they are, to a life of servitude.
None of these punters has any intention of letting anyone out from under the rock now. Have to flip it over yourself, one way or another, or stay down. As Stu would say: Yeah.
The press largely lets Obama get away with his crap, a lot like they left Bush alone until it was blindingly obvious he was faltering. They might get critical, if he gets down to the low 30's in the polls. Otherwise he's sailing through to a second term. He even came right out and announced he's going to raise a billion dollars! If that isn't a way of indicating to Wall Street and the richies what his intentions are, what is? He's a tool.
When Obama gives his big speech tonight, I'll be watching Entourage!
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men...
-G.K. Chesterton

Per Sam above: I will be listening to a baseball game, and napping, as usual.
I will be drinking!
I learned a helluva lot from this essay and the subsequent discussion. Being largely cynical about politics. assuming most of its practitioners are gamers and actors, I've paid little heed to theories and ideology, considering them esoteric and almost quaint in practice. I still feel this way, but this discussion, which I avoided all day and finally read because I liked Boko's Part I last week, has made me realize that just being cynical isn't enuf. If only because hope does spring eternal and without facing dirty facts now and again it is easy for the mushrooms of wistful thinking to sprout and render one vulnerable to the very skills of rhetoric and demeanor that can seduce, at least partially, someone who critical weapons have gotten rusty.

I even found interesting the snippy little exchange between Jan and Frank over semantics. Able or willing. As I see it, being unable is more alibi whereas being unwilling carries responsibility. As I recall, while Truman was groomed and launched by Tom Pendergast, Give 'em Hell Harry turned his back on the machine boss once he reached the Senate and realized the higher calling of his new position. Would that Obama felt similarly. After reading this discussion I have little hope of that ever happening.

You’d think that people who call themselves “progressives” would recognize these points.

The situation gives the political right's loud denunciations of Obama as a "socialist" an eery ring--as if what they were really trying to do was to convince as many of their intellectually limited numbers that this is what a socialist's policies look like.

The above statement is not only true, but an example of a right-wing tactic that is actually working very well for the RIGHT. I have an ongoing debate/discussion/argument/ (or perhaps more accurately, an ongoing frustration of another’s total willful blindness) with one of my extreme right-wing co-workers who simply cannot grasp the distinctions between so many different political terms that he insists on using despite not knowing what they mean. I’m reminded of a saying I’ve heard: “You don’t have to believe EVERYTHING you THINK.” I might amend that saying to this: “You don’t have to believe everything you are told to think.”

Rather than just looking at what is occurring, people blind themselves to the results to continue justifying their beliefs. And as you point out, this is just as rampant on the LEFT.

The problem is that Obama, while an extremely intelligent human being, is not a progressive leader by any stretch of the imagination. Wishing that he were is fine but does not bring about the required transformation."

The above truth is so glaringly obvious and yet so many just choose not to recognize it. I’m also in the camp that says we may have reached a point where if any meaningful change is to occur, it will require, as toritto says, that we “take it to the streets.” Playing the game by THEIR rules is always a losing proposition, and it has become crystal clear that THEIR rules are no longer OUR rules.

From The Declaration of Independence

That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
@Rick - My cynicism extends even to the American so-called Revolution, which in effect replaced one plutarchy with another. I fear it's in the nature of our species simply to let the ruling personalities have their way. The more we yield the harder it is to ensure they will give much of a damn for us.
@Sam, doc, Rutt - Let it be known that I will be on my way to do some camping with friends in Moose River Plains tonight, so I will miss the "big speech."
Vell, this evening I will be heading off for a rendezvous with my lov-er. What else would any self-respecting Frenchman be doing with hiz time, no? It iz, how you say, required?

I agree. However, I can’t fully see that what existed at the time of the Founders exactly parallels what we have now. One of the major differences would clearly be the approach to “corporations” then, as opposed to now when they are considered “people” who have all the rights of an individual but none of the responsibility. Another would be the more obvious and simple fact that they actually did secede and become independent and set up a new government that served their needs better, which is what we seem to need today.

But I confess that over the years I have become quite disillusioned with the Founders in terms of what I once thought of them, which was primarily influenced by what I was told to think about them. It’s been a long process to recognize that not everything I thought was worth believing. But I reserve far more cynicism for what is occurring today than for the Founders.
You know me, I'll be trying to do some good, as usual. I'll be trying to get some of these fatty fat-fats up off their sofas and stop watching that boob tube long enough to get the blood flowing to their extremities! OK? OK.
Cave ab homine unius libri

Boko, you have read more than one. I think the same cannot be said of many of Mr. Obama's advisor's, who seem to get most of their ideas from the same playbook, an outdated one.

And I will be at home practicing my minor Attic dipthongs this evening. There is no time in this life for bad or dishonest speeches.
Matt wrote:

I fear it's in the nature of our species simply to let the ruling personalities have their way. The more we yield the harder it is to ensure they will give much of a damn for us.

You may have hit on a very important point, Matt…one many of us do not want to acknowledge.

There are leaders and doers…and followers and slackards.

The doers often are the only reason things get done. The golf tourney at the Elks club is always set up by the same guy…the food drive always set up by the gal…the Walk for Whatever always set up by the same person.

And then there are the people who don’t want to do any work or take any responsibility who talk about why the golf tourney should have been somewhere else or at some other time; why the food drive should have included a spot near the Bodega; why the walk should have travelled past the statue in the park.

Doers do…and if that is perceived as rulers ruling…so be it. That is what it is.

Many of the people crabbing about Washington could get off their ass and do the shit work that got those people in the congress. The put up signs for council people; worked on township committees; went door to door for freeholders; handed out flyers for state legislators; ran for office; shook hands and kissed babies; got elected; supported higher ups with pull; and moved up the ladder.

They are the doers…or supporters of the doers. And they weild power because they grab it with both hands and the non-doers let them do the work.

It can be found at Admission is free, just leave your soul at the door....

Oh, that's right, you're Americans. Well, it's just free then.
NBC decided not to cover Obama's speech in certain time zones and showed a football game instead. Good choice. I caught the end of it and it was predictable; a car crash, big explosion, some corny melodrama...oh, wait, that's a rerun of Kojak. Well, whatever.
I will be plotting the overthrow of the major powers.

And baking cookies.
There was a speech...?
they covered it on the late news just then. i was picking my nose. time better spent. yeah.
"...Obama, while an extremely intelligent human being..."

George W. Bush scored in the 95th percentile on both the SAT and the Air Force IQ test, and that's twice as many test-scores as anyone ever saw for Barack Obama. But if the ability to read a speech off a teleprompter is what you mean by "intelligent," then Obama is obviously a genius, and most of the pseudonyms who post on Open Salon and Daily Kos could probably pass the same test.

But compared to Rhodes Scholars like Wesley Clark, Bill Clinton, and Robert Reich, Obama is nothing but a pitiful stooge for the bankers who own him and the ad men who write his speeches.
Things have a way of spiraling out of control of even the most ardent control freaks in political power. The perilous situation of the economy is the immediate game changer. And any actions by Washington are almost certain to be inadequate in the face of an oncoming tsunami. Real change is coming. Mark my words. The problem is, no one knows what it will eventually be because of the incipient chaos that will be produced.
Can’t pass up a chance to agree strongly with old new lefty!

Shit is coming our way in super abundance…and the reaction of the people may make sci-fi movies like Mad Max and The Book of Eli seem like fairly benign scenarios.

But, Americans are a people who absolutely will not do anything until after the shit hits the fan…and everyone is covered from head to foot.
The image at the top of the post is from the cover of Ali's book.
Rw - It's a bad stew all around. Obama not only continued Bush's policies, he helped to reinterpret our culture so that the politics of race could be used in the most regressive, violently imperialistic way in our history, excepting the murderous takeover of the continent itself of course.
This was on's homepage today:

"Fifty-three percent of Americans now blame Barack Obama a great deal or a moderate amount for the nation's economic problems, the first time a majority have said this. More Americans (69%) still blame George W. Bush, but independents blame Bush (67%) and Obama (60%) about equally."

Whether or not these people are still so fooled as to vote for Obama is another matter. Many of them probably are not.
Yup. . . they might as well be twins.

boko - what do you think of the recent european union support of a financial transactions tax (tobin tax). i know you supported the idea in the past.

doing fine?
profkeck - If they are, then Obama got all the suave.
stu - Doing great here.'s the European Commission's leaders who support it--as usual with any halfway good idea, the US and Britain are against it. They make the obvious objection that without universal action, the measure wouldn't work because investors would just move to untaxed markets.

Of course, since the ones making this point are the ones standing in the way of universal enacting of a Tobin tax, you can see what a load of shit that is. There'll be a fight over it, but at least the discussion has begun.
stu (cont'd) - There's also the possibility that the only reason the matter is being brought up is to shoot it down. There's an awful lot of cooperation at the top right now, and while I don't believe in conspiracy theories, this sort of thing is something the ruling elite are capable of orchestrating (if little else). The point might be to bring it up in a context where the only way it would be used would be to fix the financial mess of the EU, that is, provide a dedicated source of revenue for the "permanent bailout fund" (I still can't get over that phrase!). That would also reduce the probability of it being used for more progressive purposes like a redistribution of financial wealth to working people, or to paying down the cost of carbon emissions reductions, etc. This would be a form of institutional co-optation, then, like the social democrats' use of "nationalization" to prop up failing capitals only to re-privatize them when they become solvent...

On the other hand, any discussion of the Tobin tax is good since it allows activists on the left who support it to talk about a real mechanism of redistribution. For those who don't know what we're talking about, look back through the posts on this blog to the short series "How to Tax the Banks."
boko - i think they're trying to co-opt the idea . . . since they don't have any of their own, and since support for a Tobin tax just won't die on the left despite all the sniffy dismissive attempts of the oh-whoa-is-me-there's-nothing-we-can-do pseudo-left. It's getting a lot of attention again, and that's got to be horrifying to them. yeah.
stu, et al - I want to talk a little about exhaustion soon. There is the mistaken belief, I think, amongst many progressives that one can wait for some kind of rupture to occur in the distant future--over ecological crises, over the economic and social disorder mess--and that the reversal will be so complete that we'll finally have a shot at sound leftist policy. But...that assumes that the true believers, the neoliberals and their allies, won't exhaust the real material resources, and the political resources, sufficiently to make any such project unworkable. Look at Chile, for example--when the reversal finally came, the left government had nothing to work with, the people reacted, and the right was swept back in. The common wisdom on our side is to think that the government wasn't leftist enough, or wise enough, or didn't listen to the interests of the people, etc. But the situation is the same in Argentina, where noone could make similar arguments about the Kirchners. She can barely hang onto power now because she has nothing to work with. And even Chavez and Morales find themselves drawn more and more into the network of global-capitalist relations as a function of the exhaustion of their national economies under previous regimes. It's not just a matter of reversing bureaucratic centralization and so forth either--although that does play some role, and quite beyond how the localists regard it. We need to start thinking about these things. It's only the naive who would accept that big economies like those in Europe, or even in the U.S., can't be exhausted. In fact this is exactly what has been going on for the last thirty years in these places--the core productive economies have been systematically drained of the last remaining real value in the system and hollowed out by indebtedness

The neoliberals can do a lot of damage if they see a big political reversal coming, both in terms of speeding up and raising the level of predation (from the subprime mortgages scam to scamming whole states and regions using venture capital fund schemes), to co-opting and containing potential mechanisms of radical economic redistribution (see the discussion of the Tobin tax in the comments above). After all, true believers have a long history of destroying exactly what they claim to be dedicated to saving, especially once they think their control over it is threatened. And this particular group of zealots is far more likely to engage in a slash-and-burn method of exit than others, since their entire philosophy right now is based on an intensified reiteration of "disaster capitalism." Even from within their own philosophical orbit, they would be able to justify a leveling exit--and recent political examples like Chile and other truly exhausted places give them reason to do so. Of course there's no plan amongst the capitalists for what to do next there, but that's never stopped these punks from proceeding.
With all the nicey-nice bullshit flying around now due to the democrats and union bureaucracies trying to co-opt Occupy Wall Street and steal it away from the righteous anger of the people, it's good to see a real reply to all the conservative and liberal assholes who are busy defending the indefensible rich pieces of shit at the top in this fucking country these days.....and leave it to the Amazing Atheist to come out with it....thanks to stu for bringing this to my attention...
Aw bullshit. He had power over the senate for all of four months. You actually think somebody is going to be elected president without taking corporate money? The wonder is he's gotten anything past and the government hasn't been brought to a complete standstill.

Get real.

Maybe you're going to vote for Romney or Perry, but I'm not.
Or you can be one of these guys too smart to vote for anybody because the system is corrupt, and you're too good for it, and then the right will be back in totally in charge instead of only half.

Dumb, dumb, dumb ideological bullshit.
Ben Sen - What is dumb is going along with power, and begging on your knees to eat more of their shit.