Here's the site: http://www.familiesusa.org/resources...uidelines.html
Man, America is a hard fucking place. Austerity has been here for years...
Here's the site: http://www.familiesusa.org/resources...uidelines.html
Man, America is a hard fucking place. Austerity has been here for years...
Joseph Stalin: “The October Revolution inflicted on world capitalism a deadly wound from which it will never recover… This is precisely why capitalism will never regain the ‘balance’ and ‘stability’ that it had before the October Revolution.”
Pres. Obama’s Big Oil host has history of war profiteering, discrimination (Action)
By: joanneleon Wednesday February 20, 2013 4:13
Who cares about the temper tantrums being thrown by the pampered media because they didn’t get to meet Tiger Woods? The real story is that while 50,000 people were at the White House asking the president to address climate change by cracking down on the fossil fuel industry, he was spending the weekend with a guy who is the epitome of Big Oil and much much more.
No wonder he was keeping the destination secret before this trip. Intended or not, it was a big F U to the people who had planned for months to travel to Washington to protest the critical cause of climate change. Worse, there has been no response whatsoever to the tens of thousands of protesters who came to his house on Sunday, nor to the many many more who were at coordinating marches in cities across the country and untold numbers of people who were there with them in spirit.
Well maybe there was another reason why the identity of Obama’s host was kept secret in the weeks leading up to the trip. The Tiger Woods golf date captured a lot of media attention, but the real story, in my opinion, is Jim Crane, the man who owned the Floridian country club and resort, who hosted the president for the long weekend, and who has a long, sordid history.
James Robert “Jim” Crane is the owner of the Floridian Yacht and Golf Club, owner of the MLB baseball team, the Houston Astros, chairman and CEO of Crane Capital Group, director of Western Gas Holdings, former owner of Eagle USA Airfreight (air freight logistics business), Crane Worldwide Logistics, et al.
Crane took his profits from EGL and formed Crane Capital Group. He also became a director and shareholder (less than 1%) in Western Gas Holdings, LLC, the general partner in Western Gas Partners, LP, a mid-stream (mainly pipelines and natural gas gathering assets) energy company operating in the southeastern Rocky Mountain region and southern Mid-Continent area (Oklahoma and Texas) of the United States. Western Gas Holdings and Western Gas Partners are majority owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. Crane is also the majority shareholder in Crane Worldwide Logistics LLC., director of Fort Dearborn Life Insurance Company (a subsidiary of Health Care Service Corporation), and a director and executive officer in Champion Energy Holdings LLC..
A scratch golfer, Crane has been ranked as the nation’s top CEO golfer. In April 2010 he purchased The Floridian National Golf Club from H. Wayne Huizenga. The Floridian in Palm City, Florida recently completed major renovations and additions under the supervision of noted architect Tom Fazio.
Crane has a complicated web of connections with various corporations. Here is one diagram from corporationwiki that maps out some of them based on data from the Secretaries of State in Florida, California and Texas.
Oh brother, where do we start?
Oil, Gas, Pipelines
WASHINGTON — On the same weekend that 40,000 people gathered on the Mall in Washington to protest construction of the Keystone Pipeline — to its critics, a monument to carbon-based folly — President Obama was golfing in Florida with a pair of Texans who are key oil, gas and pipeline players.
The men at issue are Jim Crane and Milton Carroll though the HuffPo article mentions that other men from the oil and gas industry were in attendance. Crane and Carroll, both donors to Obama’s campaign, are directors of Western Gas Holdings, “the managing partner of Western Gas Partners, a midstream energy provider created by Anadarko Petroleum, one of the largest publicly traded oil and gas companies.”
Wikipedia describes Western Gas Partners as “(mainly pipelines and natural gas gathering assets) energy company”. You have to admit, that’s really rich — 50K people protesting a pipeline at the White House, many more doing the same in other cities, while the president is golfing with guys in the pipeline business.
Western Gas Partners’ main investment is in the booming field of natural gas exploration, transportation and manufacture in Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Wyoming.
Western Gas Holdings and Western Gas Partners are majority owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.
I recognized the name Anadarko, for a few reasons. Most recently, they were involved in the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf. They had a “25 percent working interest in the Macondo Prospect” and the U.S. sued both BP and Anadarko as owners of the well. Another reason that I remembered them was because they are an American company with strong interests in oil and gas resources in Africa, and since our military is so interested in Africa these days, I’ve been interested in companies interested in African natural resources. But I also remembered a connection between Anadarko and George Bush. This was the company that was involved with the Harken Oil scandals, Enron-type deals to hide debt and overstate earnings. Bush was a director at Harken from 1986 (Harvard began investing 30 days after Bush became director), and 1993. Bush himself made the motion to approve the Harken Anadarko partnership.
From CommonDreams in October, 2002:
Harvard Role in Harken Called Deeper
Group Says Partnership Kept Bush Firm Afloat
WASHINGTON – Harvard University’s financial relationship with President Bush’s former oil company was deeper than previously understood, with the university’s management fund creating a separate ”off the books” partnership with Harken Energy Corp. that helped keep afloat the financially troubled company, according to a report to be released today.
HarvardWatch, a student-alumni group that monitors the school’s investments, plans to issue the report and say that it has analyzed documents showing that the Harvard fund, an independent entity that manages the university’s endowment, formed a partnership in 1990 with Bush’s oil firm called the Harken Anadarko Partnership. The partnership effectively removed $20 million of debt from Harken’s books, relieving the Texas company’s short-term financial problems.
About the same time, the Harvard fund invested about $30 million in Harken, which also helped keep the firm afloat. The partnership has not been mentioned in recent accounts of Bush’s financial dealings in the oil business.
William K. Black, a former federal banking regulator, said in a telephone interview that he has examined the Harken Anadarko Partnership and concluded the arrangement was a significant expansion of the Harvard fund’s involvement in the company beyond the $30 million investment.
”Harvard had a dramatically larger financial stake and a much more interesting financial stake” than was previously understood, Black said. ”It all serves as a partnership device to move money from Harvard to Harken. This is beyond nuts from an institutional investor’s standpoint.”
Anadarko’s international “interests”:
The Company’s international oil and natural-gas production and development operations are located primarily in Algeria, Ghana, and China. The Company also has exploration acreage in Ghana, Mozambique, Brazil, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, New Zealand, Indonesia, and other countries.
Turns out that Anadarko likes fracking a lot too. What a politically tangled, oily and gassy web.
Anadarko did a press release today:
“With the outstanding momentum we established in 2012 and the opportunities our deep portfolio provides, we expect 2013 to be one of the best years in our company’s history,” Anadarko President and CEO Al Walker said. “Our 2013 capital investments will focus on projects that generate rates of return between 30 and more than 100 percent in the current commodity-price environment, while spending within cash flow. We expect to deliver sales-volumes growth of approximately five percent, with the year-over-year increase comprised almost entirely of higher-margin oil sales volumes. The projected increase in oil sales volumes will be largely driven by accelerated activity in our Wattenberg and Eagleford horizontal programs and the anticipated ramp up of oil volumes during the year at our El Merk facilities in Algeria.
“Accelerating value by advancing our high-margin deepwater and international oil and LNG (liquefied natural gas) mega projects remains a priority in 2013, and we expect to continue pursuing carry arrangements and opportunistic divestitures to further enhance the capital efficiency of our portfolio,” added Walker. “Following our highly successful 2012 exploration program where we nearly doubled our original targeted resources, we plan to be among the most active deepwater explorers in the world again in 2013. We expect to drill approximately 25 deepwater exploration and appraisal wells this year, including high-potential prospects in the Gulf of Mexico and three potentially play-opening international opportunities.”
Crane was the founder and CEO of Eagle Global Logistics (EGL) and was the CEO until 2007. The company is now known as CEVA Logistics, after a complicated set of mergers and acquisitions explained in this Material Handling Logistics publication. Crane lost a bidding war and control of EGL and formed Crane Worldwide Logistics but he did run the company when they were dinged for war profiteering during the Iraq war.
EGL settled charges with the Justice Department — war profiteering charges due to activities in earlier years. I believe the case is now sealed but much of the information is available here:
(PressZoom) – WASHINGTON – EGL, Inc., operating as Eagle Global Logistics, has paid the United States $300,000 to settle allegations that the company’s local agent in Kuwait overcharged the military for rental charges on shipping containers to Iraq for the period from January through June of 2006, the Justice Department announced today. The Houston-based company’s containers were for shipments of military cargo to Iraq under an EGL subcontract with KBR, the prime contractor for the U.S. Army’s LOGCAP III contract for logistical support of military operations overseas.
In August 2006, EGL paid the United States $4 million to settle potential civil claims under the False Claims Act based on the company’s alleged inflation of invoices for military cargo shipments to Iraq under the same subcontract with KBR.
Two employees of Crane’s company pled guilty to charges of war profiteering as part of a “global price-fixing conspiracy by freight forwarders.” One pled guilty to overcharging for military shipments to Dubai and the other, a managing director, pled guilty to “paying kickbacks to receive future business from KBR, a major contractor that was once a subsidiary of Halliburton.” Oh, Halliburton too! Well, to be fair, Hallliburton probably had their hands in everything that involved profiteering and bribery.
To facilitate the Astros purchase deal and calm tensions, Crane hired a PR man who has experience with crisis management, got a letter from a lawyer saying that he was not the target of the investigation, it was just a few bad apples, and he probably didn’t even know what was going on. EGL’s senior managment says they were fired and later pled guilty when prosecuted. EGL continued to do government work.
EGL had $82,500,000.00 in government contracts between 2001 and 2006.
Equal Opportunity Cases
As if all of that was not bad enough, here is the part that I find to be most shocking.
In 1997, complaints were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regarding Crane’s Eagle USA Airfreight and its position on hiring blacks and women of child-bearing age. The EEOC issued a scathing 104 page report (most EEOC reports are said to run 3-5 pages), found that to be true, and added that Crane’s company conducted a practice of paying “female and minority employees less than white men who do similar work; did not investigate employee complaints of sexual harassment; and destroyed evidence that the company was instructed to retain as part of the two-year EEOC investigation,” according to a Houston Chronicle article from 2000.
The Missing Houston Chronicle article
The Houston Chronicle article link is no longer operative. Actually, the link is operative, but all the content in the article is gone baby gone. Now maybe this is a technical issue, since the article is from the year 2000. But in Jim Crane’s Wikipedia bio, there is a reference to this article, and the editor notes that the article was “Retrieved 2011-10-31″. So that article was apparently available until late 2011. But now all the content in the article has been deleted.
Luckily it was based on publicly available information and it was cited and linked in many different places, like here and here. There are also numerous other articles and news reports about this history of discrimination and the EEOC and court cases. If the article was disappeared, I’m not sure why.
Crane told his subordinates not to hire blacks because “once you hire blacks, you can never fire them.” On other occasions, Crane explained the reason he wanted to keep blacks out of the company was that his top managers are bigoted and they would mistreat the minorities, “giving them no choice but to sue Eagle.”
Witnesses also said Crane did not permit the company to advertise job openings because he did not want to create a paper trail of unhired qualified minorities.
To discourage blacks and women from applying, Eagle managers refused to let female and minority applicants enter its secured facilities to fill out job applications. Eagle disagreed with that assessment.
Crane also warned managers not to hire women of child-bearing age because their productivity would be low. And top company officers told employees that women aren’t suitable for management positions because male managers won’t work with a woman.
After reading that, it would not be surprising if we learned that the Chronicle content was scrubbed, though, as I mentioned before, it has been excerpted in many other places on the internet, so scrubbing it is not all that effective. This issue is worthy of a whole article of its own. Jesus. This sure looks like racism and sexism to me. If it somehow doesn’t reach that bar, those quotes are definitely examples of blatant discrimination and bigotry.
When the company’s own General Counsel, Judith Robertson, testified in 1997 and became a whistleblower, they sued her for violating attorney-client privileges, and since the current whistleblowing laws were not in place at the time, she settled with Eagle out of court. They then used this to try to end the EEOC case. EEOC denied the claim given the fact that they had testimony from dozens of other employees.
Ultimately, however, the original case was sealed until May 2000, when it was closed and a new case was opened for civil proceedings after the EEOC joined into a discrimination case as a plaintiff. (Eagle USA Airfreight, et al v. EEOC, “Civil Docket,” Case #4:98-cv-00316, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas; Eagle USA Airfreight, et al v. EEOC, “Civil Docket,” Case #4:2000-cv-01535, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas; Dube v. EGL, “Memorandum & Order,” Case #2:2000-cv-02461, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, July 5, 2000).
Crane later sued the EEOC and disputed some of the claims, and the number of claims was reduced considerably. EEOC originally sought $20 million. They settled at $9.5 million and EEOC was later required to reduce that by $6 million because it was decided that most of the cases were not worthy of compensation.
Crane’s spokesman, Bill Miller, called the E.E.O.C. investigation “a shakedown”
But in addition to this EEOC case, there were eleven more discrimination cases filed against Eagle.
NAACP Objections to Crane’s Ownership of MLB Team
When Crane was in negotiations for the purchase of the Houston Astros, all of these facts about his history of discrimination came out in many media reports. This was, and still is a well known fact, and it has been reported over a more than ten year period in the Houston area. Since Crane took control of the Astros in late 2011, this has been in the news as recently as one year ago.
It was enough of a problem for Crane’s company to reach a $9 million settlement with the EEOC. And now it’s something other Major League team owners will have to consider when they vote to approve or block Crane’s offer for the Astros.
“You have issues at times,” said McLane. “He said that was a learning experience for him and he has certainly moved well past that and has never had another problem.”
If the deal does go through, the NAACP is asking for someone to keep watch.
“We are deeply concerned that someone, that has a broad reach throughout the community and across the country regarding employment … has such a dismal record in the area of discrimination. As such this is someone that should be monitored very closely in the area of employment discrimination as it relates to minorities and woman,” the group said in a statement.”
Crane later met with NAACP to give them assurances about fair hiring practices.
Who will Obama side with?
On Alternet, Medea Benjamin writes:
But Crane is also mucked up with the very “Big Oil” the activists were railing against. His extensive business deals include a partnership in Western Gas Holdings, a company engaged in gathering, processing, compressing and transporting natural gas and crude oil for Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, one of the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas exploration and production companies.
So while President Obama was relaxing with one of the nation’s elite who makes millions from destroying the planet, activists—most of whom voted for Obama—were circling the empty White House with their pleas to stand up to the fossil fuel industry.
There are the moments in history when leaders are remembered for the decisions they make. This is a moment of truth for both President Obama and for the future of the planet. [...] Will he side with the indigenous women, clear air, clear water, cultural heritage and ecosystems or will he side with wealthy oil men?
For all of the reasons laid out above it’s hard to imagine why Obama would publicly associate himself with this guy, and how it cannot be taken as a big F U to the environmental movement.
350.org has posted a reference to the Huffington Post article about this subject and now has an action page.
Go on over and use their action page to contact the president.
Tell Obama: Reject Keystone XL & Stop Golfing With Big Oil!
As 40,000+ people marched on the National Mall to tackle climate change and stop the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama spent the day golfing with oil executives.
The people have spoken. So has the science. It’s time for the President Obama to decide which side he’s on. He can show he’s serious about climate change by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, or keep hitting the links with oil executives.
Can you call the President and share the important article below? Here’s the Huffington Post article that broke the story: Obama Golfed With Oil Men As Climate Protesters Descended On White House
This could also be in the "Philistine" thread, as well. With Obama and Crane - well, "birds of a feather", right?Tell Obama: Reject Keystone XL & Stop Golfing With Big Oil!
And then followed by this "contact the White House" crap - ?
Are you fucking kidding me?There are the moments in history when leaders are remembered for the decisions they make. This is a moment of truth for both President Obama and for the future of the planet. [...] Will he side with the indigenous women, clear air, clear water, cultural heritage and ecosystems or will he side with wealthy oil men?
The whole first 70% of the piece is completely negated by this pathetic plea to the boss man at the end. The boss man don't give a fuck about you, me, or any of us. The sooner these "radical" liberals get this small truth the better (but they never will, they never will)...
Joseph Stalin: “The October Revolution inflicted on world capitalism a deadly wound from which it will never recover… This is precisely why capitalism will never regain the ‘balance’ and ‘stability’ that it had before the October Revolution.”
Inside the Bush Administration's Lawless Global Torture Regime (And How Obama Remains Complicit)
A new report exposes the shocking breadth of the CIA’s lawlessness in the age of the war on terror.
Herding dual eligibles into low quality plans
Obama More Flexible on Medicare Than Rhetoric Suggests
By Margot Sanger-Katz
NationalJournal, September 8, 2012
In his convention speech in Charlotte, President Obama vowed to block the Republican Medicare reform plan because “no American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies.”
But back in Washington, his Health and Human Services Department is launching a pilot program that would shift up to 2 million of the poorest and most-vulnerable seniors out of the federal Medicare program and into private health insurance plans overseen by the states.
The administration has accepted applications from 18 states to participate in the program, which would give states money to purchase managed-care plans for people who are either disabled or poor enough to qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.
Obama’s 2010 health reform law allows experimentation in delivering health care at lower cost through demonstration projects. Many states would like permission to shift their entire population of so-called dual-eligible beneficiaries into the new plans. HHS has indicated that it will enroll about 2 million beneficiaries, out of about 7 million who qualify for full benefits from both government health programs.
California is already counting on more than $500 million in budget savings from its own program this year.
Potential cost savings are a big incentive for states. Patients who qualify for both federal health programs are a costly population and include many who need nursing-home care or other expensive services. About 40 percent of Medicaid’s costs go toward patients who are also eligible for Medicare. Advocates of the pilot program also say it could lead to better coordination of care for patients who often struggle to navigate the two different programs.
To get approval, states must guarantee that both Medicare and Medicaid would save money. They must also agree to accept a fixed payment to cover all care for each patient. While rules say the private plans must cover all standard Medicare benefits, they also waive many Medicare rules and leave insurer selection to the states.
Still, there is powerful opposition to the pilots among doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, patient groups, and key lawmakers, including Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who wrote the provision in the health law that created the office in charge of the pilot program.
“I urge you to take immediate steps to halt this initiative as currently structured and to take the time necessary to develop a well-designed and thoroughly evaluated care coordination model for dual eligibles that meets the standards outlined in the law,” Rockefeller wrote in a letter to HHS.
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, a group of experts who advise Congress on Medicare policy, has also weighed in with an 11-page letter to HHS, warning that the speed and scope of the program raised questions about whether patients would receive the care they need.
The managed-care industry is gearing up for the expansion. Three large insurers have purchased companies that insure Medicaid beneficiaries. For years, states have been moving Medicaid patients into managed-care plans, with mixed results. But this pilot represents a new market: It is the first large program that would pool Medicare and Medicaid benefits in a single, state-administered plan.
“The problem with this population is that all the strategies that the health plans have been used to using historically are going to backfire,” said Chris Duff, executive director of the Disability Practice Institute, an umbrella organization for small programs that provide coordinated care to dual-eligibles. He warned that slashing provider rates, limiting visits, and using other conventional cost-control measures could lead to expensive hospitalizations for frail dual-eligible patients.
But the states are enthusiastic about the pilot programs and believe they will be able to provide better care at lower cost.
Assessing the Quality of California Dual Eligible Demonstration Health Plans
National Senior Citizens Law Center
California has proposed a three-year demonstration project to enroll individuals dually eligible for Medicare and Medi-Cal (dual eligibles) into managed care. An analysis of both Medicare and Medi-Cal quality ratings for the eight health plans selected by the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) for the first phase of the project raises cause for concern.
Approved health plans in participating counties would be responsible for providing enrolled dual eligibles with all Medicare and Medi-Cal benefits and services, including all needed medical care, long-term services and supports, and behavioral health care, beginning in January 2013.
According to a DHCS report assessing the quality of health plans in the Medi-Cal Managed Care (MCMC) Program, seven of the eight plans received a global health plan rating of 1 out of 5 stars.
Looking at Medicare evaluations, two of the plans selected have received a notice of non-compliance from the Medicare program. One of those has been marked as a low-performing plan for three consecutive years and is at risk for termination of its Medicare contract. Another plan was recently sanctioned by Medicare as a result of beneficiary access problems. Medicare continues to restrict enrollment of dual eligibles into that plan. All eight proposed demonstration plans were found to be low-performing on a least one composite Medicare quality measure.
By Don McCanne, MD
President Obama is currently campaigning against the Republican proposal to privatize Medicare through a voucher program that would move Medicare patients into private plans. Yet, based on provisions in the Affordable Care Act, the administration is moving Medicare patients whose coverage also is supplemented with Medicaid (dual eligibles) into private managed care plans.
California has been a leader in health care financing innovations. Look at the head start that they have on this program. Seven of the eight plans they have selected to initiate the program have a global health plan rating of only 1 star out of 5!
These plans greatly limit patients' choices of their providers and will undoubtedly impair access by eliminating choices of most other health care providers within the state. Having to transfer buses three times when you are very ill can make you question whether you have the access that the state has promised to you. And quality ratings? Forget it.
These low-income patients, under the law, have more coverage than do traditional Medicare patients... more, but worse. We can do far better. We can improve Medicare so that it includes the additional benefits provided by Medicaid. Then you wouldn't need a special "dual eligible" program.
If the improved Medicare program included everyone, then you wouldn't have to herd patients into inferior managed care programs just to save money (precisely what this new dual eligible program is designed to do). As a beneficent public monopsony, the improved Medicare program would save us all money while being in a position to demand quality throughout the health care delivery system. We couldn't ask for more - for all of us!
U.S. Opens Drone Base in Niger, Building Africa Presence
By ERIC SCHMITT and SCOTT SAYARE
Published: February 22, 2013
WASHINGTON — Opening a new front in the drone wars against Al Qaeda and its affiliates, President Obama announced Friday that about 100 American troops had been sent to Niger in West Africa to help set up a new base from which unarmed Predator aircraft would conduct surveillance in the region.
Obama Officials Refuse to Say if Assassination Power Extends to US Soil
The administration's extreme secrecy is beginning to lead Senators to impede John Brennan's nomination to lead the CIA
by Glenn Greenwald
The Justice Department "white paper" purporting to authorize Obama's power to extrajudicially execute US citizens was leaked three weeks ago. Since then, the administration - including the president himself and his nominee to lead the CIA, John Brennan - has been repeatedly asked whether this authority extends to US soil, i.e., whether the president has the right to execute US citizens on US soil without charges. In each instance, they have refused to answer.
Brennan has been asked the question several times as part of his confirmation process. Each time, he simply pretends that the question has not been asked, opting instead to address a completely different issue. Here's the latest example from the written exchange he had with Senators after his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee; after referencing the DOJ "white paper", the Committee raised the question with Brennan in the most straightforward way possible:
Obviously, that the US has not and does not intend to engage in such acts is entirely non-responsive to the question that was asked: whether they believe they have the authority to do so. To the extent any answer was provided, it came in Brennan's next answer. He was asked:
Could you describe the geographical limits on the Administration's conduct drone strikes?"
Brennan's answer was that, in essence, there are no geographic limits to this power: "we do not view our authority to use military force against al-Qa'ida and associated forces as being limited to 'hot' battlefields like Afghanistan." He then quoted Attorney General Eric Holder as saying: "neither Congress nor our federal courts has limited the geographic scope of our ability to use force to the current conflict in Afghanistan" (see Brennan's full answer here).
Revealingly, this same question was posed to Obama not by a journalist or a progressive but by a conservative activist, who asked if drone strikes could be used on US soil and "what will you do to create a legal framework to make American citizens within the United States believe know that drone strikes cannot be used against American citizens?" Obama replied that there "has never been a drone used on an American citizen on American soil" - which, obviously, doesn't remotely answer the question of whether he believes he has the legal power to do so. He added that "the rules outside of the United States are going to be different than the rules inside the United States", but these "rules" are simply political choices the administration has made which can be changed at any time, not legal constraints. The question - do you as president believe you have the legal authority to execute US citizens on US soil on the grounds of suspicions of Terrorism if you choose to do so? - was one that Obama, like Brennan, simply did not answer.
As always, it's really worth pausing to remind ourselves of how truly radical and just plainly unbelievable this all is. What's more extraordinary: that the US Senate is repeatedly asking the Obama White House whether the president has the power to secretly order US citizens on US soil executed without charges or due process, or whether the president and his administration refuse to answer? That this is the "controversy" surrounding the confirmation of the CIA director - and it's a very muted controversy at that - shows just how extreme the degradation of US political culture is.
As a result of all of this, GOP Senator Rand Paul on Thursday sent a letter to Brennan vowing to filibuster his confirmation unless and until the White House answers this question. Noting the numerous times this question was previously posed to Brennan and Obama without getting an answer, Paul again wrote:
Do you believe that the President has the power to authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against a US citizen on US soil, and without trial?"
After adding that "I believe the only acceptable answer to this is no", Paul wrote: "Until you directly and clearly answer, I plan to use every procedural option at my disposal to delay your confirmation and bring added scrutiny to this issue."
Yesterday, in response to my asking specifically about Paul's letter, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado said that while he is not yet ready to threaten a filibuster, he "shares those concerns". He added: "Congress needs a better understanding of how the Executive Branch interprets the limits of its authorities."
Indeed it does. In fact, it is repellent to think that any member of the Senate Intelligence Committee - which claims to conduct oversight over the intelligence community - would vote to confirm Obama's CIA director while both the president and the nominee simply ignore their most basic question about what the president believes his own powers to be when it comes to targeting US citizens for assassination on US soil.
Udall also pointed to this New York Times article from yesterday detailing the growing anger on the part of several Democratic senators, including him, over the lack of transparency regarding the multiple legal opinions that purport to authorize the president's assassination power. Not only does the Obama administration refuse to make these legal memoranda public - senators have been repeatedly demanding for more than full year to see them - but they only two weeks ago permitted members to look at two of those memos, but "were available to be viewed only for a limited time and only by senators themselves, not their lawyers and experts." Said Udall in response to my questions yesterday: "Congress needs to fulfill its oversight function. This can't happen when members only have a short time to review complicated legal documents — as I did two weeks ago — and without any expert staff assistance or access to delve more deeply into the details."
Critically, the documents that are being concealed by the Obama administration are not operational plans or sensitive secrets. They are legal documents that, like the leaked white paper, simply purport to set forth the president's legal powers of execution and assassination. As Democratic lawyers relentlessly pointed out when the Bush administration also concealed legal memos authorizing presidential powers, keeping such documents secret is literally tantamount to maintaining "secret law". These are legal principles governing what the president can and cannot do - purported law - and US citizens are being barred from knowing what those legal claims are.
There is zero excuse for concealing these documents from the public (if there is any specific operational information, it can simply be redacted), and enormous harm that comes from doing so. As Dawn Johnsen, Obama's first choice to lead the OLC, put it during the Bush years: use of "'secret law' threatens the effective functioning of American democracy" and "the withholding from Congress and the public of legal interpretations by the [OLC] upsets the system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches of government." No matter your views on drones and War on Terror assassinations, what possible justification is there for concealing the legal rationale that authorizes these policies and defines the limits on the president's powers, if any?
You know who once claimed to understand the grave dangers from maintaining secret law? Barack Obama. On 16 April 2009, it was reported that Obama would announce whether he would declassify and release the Bush-era OLC memos that authorized torture. On that date, I wrote: "today is the most significant test yet determining the sincerity of Barack Obama's commitment to restore the Constitution, transparency and the rule of law." When it was announced that Obama would release those memos over the vehement objections of the CIA, I lavished him with praise for that, writing that "the significance of Obama's decision to release those memos - and the political courage it took - shouldn't be minimized". The same lofty reasoning Obama invoked to release those Bush torture memos clearly applies to his own assassination memos, yet his vaunted belief in transparency when it comes to "secret law" obviously applies only to George Bush and not himself.
The reason this matters so much has nothing to do with whether you think Obama is preparing to start assassinating US citizens on US soil. That's completely irrelevant to the question here. The reason this matters so much is because whatever presidential powers Obama establishes for himself become a permanent part of how the US government functions, and endures not only for the rest of his presidency but for subsequent ones as well.
What is vital to realize is that the DOJ "white paper" absolutely does not answer the question of whether the assassination power it justified extends to US soil. That memo addressed the question of whether the president has the legal authority to target US citizens for assassination where "capture is infeasible" and concluded that he does, but that does not mean that it would be illegal to do so where capture is feasible. Contrary to the claims of some commentators, such as Steve Vladeck, it is impossible to argue reasonably that the memo imposed a requirement of "infeasibility of capture" on Obama's assassination power.
This could not be clearer: the DOJ memo expressly said that it was only addressing the issue of whether assassinations would be legal under the circumstances it was asked about, but that it was not opining on whether it would be legal in the absence of those circumstances. Just read its clear language in this regard: "This paper does not attempt to determine the minimum requirements necessary to render such an operation lawful." Again: the memo is not imposing "minimum requirements" on the president's assassination powers, such as the requirement that capture be infeasible. For those who did not process the first time, the memo - in its very last paragraph - emphasizes this again:
doj white paper
That's as conclusive as it gets: the DOJ white paper does not - does not - answer the question of whether the president's assassination power extends to US soil. It does not impose the requirement that capture first be infeasible before the president can target someone for execution. It expressly says it is imposing no such requirements. To the contrary, it leaves open the question of whether the president has this power where capture is feasible - including on US soil. That's precisely why these senators are demanding an answer to this question: because it's not answered in this memo. And that's precisely why the White House refuses to answer: because it does not want to foreclose powers that it believes it possesses, even if it has no current "intent" to exercise those powers.
The crux of this issue goes to the heart of almost every civil liberties assault under the War on Terror since it began. Once you accept that the US is fighting a "war" against The Terrorists, and that the "battlefield" in this "war" has no geographical limitations, then you are necessarily vesting the president with unlimited powers. You're making him the functional equivalent of a monarch. That's because it is almost impossible to impose meaningful limitations on a president's war powers on a "battlefield".
If you posit that the entire world is a "battlefield", then you're authorizing him to do anywhere in the world what he can do on a battlefield: kill, imprison, eavesdrop, detain - all without limits or oversight or accountability. That's why "the-world-is-a-battlefield" theory was so radical and alarming (not to mention controversial) when David Addington, John Yoo and friends propagated it, and it's no less menacing now that it's become Democratic Party dogma as well.
Once you accept the premises of that DOJ white paper, there is no cogent limiting legal principle that would confine Obama's assassination powers to foreign soil. If "the whole world is a battlefield", then that necessarily includes US soil. The idea that assassinations will be used only where capture is "infeasible" is a political choice, not a legal principle. If the president has the power to kill anyone he claims is an "enemy combatant" in this "war", including a US citizen, then there is no way to limit this power to situations where capture is infeasible.
This was always the question I repeatedly asked of Bush supporters who embraced this same War on Terror theory to justify all of his claimed powers: how can any cognizable limits be placed on that power, including as applied to US citizens on US soil (and indeed, the Bush administration did apply that theory to those circumstances, as when it arrested US citizen Jose Padilla in Chicago and then imprisoned him for several years in a military brig in South Carolina: all without charges). They did so on the same ground used by Obama now: the whole world is a battlefield, so the president's power to detain people as "enemy combatants" is not geographically confined nor limited to foreign nationals.
Out of the good grace of his heart, or due to political expedience, Obama may decide to exercise this power only where he claims capture is infeasible, but there is no coherent legal reason that this power would be confined that way. The "global war" paradigm that has been normalized under two successive administrations all but compels that, as a legal matter, this power extend everywhere and to everyone. The only possible limitations are international law and the "due process" clause of the Constitution - and, in my view, that clearly bars presidential executions of US citizens no matter where they are as well as foreign nationals on US soil. But otherwise, once you accept the "global-battlefield" framework, then the scope of this presidential assassination power is limitless (this is to say nothing of how vague the standards in the DOJ "white paper" are when it comes to things like "imminence" and "feasibility of capture", as the New Yorker's Amy Davidson pointed out this week when suggesting that the DOJ white paper may authorize a president to kill US journalists who are preparing to write about leaks of national security secrets).
That this is even an issue - that this question even has to be asked and the president can so easily get away with refusing to answer - is a potent indicator of how quickly and easily even the most tyrannical powers become normalized. About all of this, Esquire's Charles Pierce yesterday put it perfectly:
"This is why the argument many liberals are making - that the drone program is acceptable both morally and as a matter of practical politics because of the faith you have in the guy who happens to be presiding over it at the moment -- is criminally naive, intellectually empty, and as false as blue money to the future. The powers we have allowed to leach away from their constitutional points of origin into that office have created in the presidency a foul strain of outlawry that (worse) is now seen as the proper order of things.
"If that is the case, and I believe it is, then the very nature of the presidency of the United States at its core has become the vehicle for permanently unlawful behavior. Every four years, we elect a new criminal because that's become the precise job description."
That language may sound extreme. But it's actually mild when set next to the powers that the current president not only claims but has used. The fact that he does it all in secret - insists that even the "law" that authorizes him to do it cannot be seen by the public - is precisely why Pierce is so right when he says that "the very nature of the presidency of the United States at its core has become the vehicle for permanently unlawful behavior". To allow a political leader to claim those kinds of of powers, and to exercise them in secret, guarantee chronic criminality.
Targeting US citizens v. foreign nationals
Whenever this issue is raised, people quite reasonably ask why there should be any difference in the reaction to targeting US citizens as opposed to foreign nationals. As a moral and ethical matter, and as a matter of international law, there is no difference whatsoever. I am every bit as opposed to targeting foreign nationals for due-process-free assassinations as I am US citizens, which is why I have devoted so much time and energy to opposing that policy. I also agree entirely with what Desmond Tutu recently said in response to calls for a special secret "court" to be created to review the targeting of US citizens for assassinations:
"Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours? That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American? Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are? I cannot believe it.
"I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity."
But the explanation for why the targeting of US citizens receives distinct attention is two-fold: both political and legal. Politically, it is simply easier to induce one's fellow citizens to care about an abusive power if you can persuade them that it will affect them and not merely those Foreign Others. It shouldn't be that way, but the reality of human nature is that it is (recall how civil liberties and privacy concerns catapulted to the top of the news when US citizens generally - not just Muslims - were subjected to new invasive airport searches). So emphasizing that the assassination power extends to US citizens as well as foreign nationals can be an important instrument in battling indifference.
But there's also a legal difference. As the Supreme Court has interpreted it, the US Constitution applies, roughly speaking, to two groups: (1) US citizens no matter where they are in the world, and (2) foreign nationals on US soil or US-controlled land (that's why foreign Guantanamo detainees had to argue that the US had sovereignty over Guantanamo Bay in order to invoke the US Constitution's habeas corpus guarantee against the US government). While international law certainly constraints what the US government may do to foreign nationals outside of land over which the US exercises sovereignty, the US Constitution, at least as the Supreme Court has interpreted it, does not. Moreover - not just for the US but for every nation - there is a unique danger that comes from a government acting repressively against its own citizens: that's what shields those in power from challenge and renders the citizenry pacified and afraid.
The US policy of killing or imprisoning anyone it wants, anywhere in the world, is immoral and wrong in equal measure when applied to US citizens and foreign nationals, on US soil or in Yemen and Pakistan. But application of the power to US citizens on US soil does raise distinct constitutional problems, creates the opportunity to mobilize the citizenry against it, and poses specific political dangers. That's why it is sometimes discussed separately.
Obama's Possible Frack-Friendly Energy Plan a 'Nail in the Coffin' for Climate
Choice of MIT professor Ernest Moniz, known for championing gas fracking, as head of Department of Energy receives rebuke
- Jon Queally, staff writer
Reports that President Obama is poised to nominate MIT professor Ernest Moniz to be the next head of the Department of Energy is raising serious concerns for those worried that the administration will betray its promise to take on the threat of the climate crisis by making a major domestic push for natural gas drilling using the controversial practice known as fracking.
MIT professor Ernest Moniz The choice of Moniz, known for his adamant support for fracking—which he's called "paradigm-shifting"—seems to confirm reporting last week that a major part of Obama's plans for energy creation in his second term will be to "initiate widespread gas fracking in the US."
“Mr. Moniz is affiliated with the industry-backed MIT Energy Initiative, so we shouldn’t be surprised about his favorable position on fracking," said Mitch Jones from Food & Water Watch. "But President Obama could do a lot better."
"Appointing Mr. Moniz," Jones continued, "would be a nail in the coffin for one of his most lauded inaugural speech promises: a commitment to focus on climate solutions.”
“Moniz is a status quo pick at a time when we can’t afford the status quo."
And speaking with The Hill newspaper, Public Citizen's Ty Slocum said: “Moniz is a status quo pick at a time when we can’t afford the status quo."
Obama is expected to nominate new heads for both the Dept. of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency as early as next week. Topping the expected list as the EPA's next head is Gina McCarthy, who currently heads the agency's Office of Air and Radiation under the outgoing Lisa Jackson.
McCarthy, whose focus on air quality and pollution from traditional coal and gas-fired plants will make her a target of the fossil fuel industry and its allies in Congress, appears cautiously agreeable to environmental groups though most have to weigh in strongly for or against the longtime Massachusetts energy regulator.
But for Moniz, coupled with the growing controversy over the dangers of groundwater pollution and climate impacts of the methane released by fracking, the most serious opposition will likely come from those who challenge the idea the natural gas is a "clean energy" or that a investing in a so-called "bridge fuel" is a better alternative than the swift transition to a truly renewable energy system.
“Mr. Moniz's appointment to the DOE could set renewable energy development back years," concluded Jones. "If we pursue our fossil fuel addiction by expanding fracking, which Mr. Moniz will likely advocate, the oil and gas industry will thrive while true energy efficiency and renewable solutions languish. Our water, public health and climate would suffer."
And The Hill adds:
A major 2011 study the MIT energy program released said that environmental risks of developing gas from shale formations, which is achieved through fracking, are “challenging but manageable.”
Bill Snape, the senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity, said he’s concerned that Moniz’s support for natural gas could bring a shift in focus away from the development of renewable electricity and smart-grid technologies.
“The concern I have with him is, he has the veneer of this MIT PhD scientist, that somehow he is going to be objective, and in reality he could very well be a political hack for the natural gas industry,” Snape said.
The Obama Administration is doing exactly as predicted in 2008:
*WARS fully funded and EXPANDING- see AFRICOM. Bill sent to our children……Mission Accomplished!
*Trillion Dollars given to friends and campaign contributors on Wall Street. No Strings Attached…Mission Accomplished!
*Military Spending INCREASED….Mission Accomplished!
*Trillion+Dollars given to the Health Insurance Industry. Token, easily avoidable, symbolic only strings attached….Mission almost Accomplished!
*Kill the possibility for a REAL “Public Option” or REAL Universal Health Care for at least another generation, and begin the “Entitlement Reform” defunding of Medicare (-$500 Billion)….Mission almost Accomplished!
*Block ANY re-regulation of BIG BANKS and Credit Cards….Mission Accomplished!
*Protect the Bush War Criminals and Torturers from JUSTICE….Mission Accomplished.
*Expanded Drone Assasinations- Mission Accomplished
*Marginalize Pro-LABOR Democrats and co-opt the Anti-WAR Movement…Mission Accomplished
*Reinforce the worst Police State provisions of the Patriot Act….Mission Accomplished!
*Expand government surveillance- Mission Accomplished!
*Protect the very richest. Tell the Working Class that they CAN will be forced to compete with 3rd World Slave Labor…..Mission Accomplished!
*EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act) killed in the crib….Mission Accomplished!
*More Anti-LABOR “Free Trade”….Mission Accomplished!
*Jobless Recovery….Mission Accomplished!
Do people who have supported the Dems and Obama not have obligations here?
Aren’t they too complicit?
Obama’s isn’t the LESSER of Two Evils – He’s the more EFFECTIVE of the two evils.
Keystone will sail through the bipartisan representatives of the ruling class just like…
Just like Free Trade Job Off-shoring.
Just like De-regulation (see: Clinton & Death of Glass-Steagal)
Just like the public praise of Banksters (see: Obama & Savvy Businessmen)
Is it time to wake up?
The DemoThuglicans and RepubliCrats play the 99% for fools, using
social issues and ginning up fear of the other brand to keep the sheep
And so far – the “Left”, which is supposed to be better educated,
plays right along into the trap – hence Obama, the “Constitutional
Scholar” – making permanent that which was an abuse under RepubliCrat
I hope the Obamabots & Apologencia are proud of their guy Obama.
Yes, wherefore that vaunted GOP opposition to Obama on everything? You know – they won’t let Obama do anything at all.
Except Free Trade.
Except more Drone Warfare.
Except NDAA / Expansion of Government Power.
Except Monsanto @ FDA.
Except link Social Security to the Deficit via the Payroll Tax “Holiday”
Except push for cuts to Social Security / Medicare (did I say cut? I mean make more “efficient”)
Except push the Fiscal Cliff meme.
Except push the 1%’s Austerity Plan.
Except coordinate the crackdown on Occupy via Obama’s Homeland Security.
Except attack Whistleblowers, a-la Bradley Manning & WikiLeaks.
Except shield BP for its Gulf Disaster
Except push through the Trans Pacific Partnership
Except push the meme that Corporate Taxes are Too High (Obama said this during a Presidential Debate)
Except citing Obama’s “Deficit Commission” which was set up by Obama
and stacked with pro-corporate / anti-99% zealots including RepubliCrat
Alan Simpson as co-chair
Except begin the outsourcing of NASA
Except continue giving blanket support to Israel, no matter what Israel does
Except continue beating the drum for war with Iran
Dammit, get me some social issues stat! We need a distraction to see
just how vastly different the RepubliCrats & DemoThuglicans are!
The next chief of AFRICOM wants a 15-fold expansion in drones and other intelligence-gathering. The full-court press against the continent has begun, with the U.S. “building the capability to militarily control all of Africa, in conjunction with its European allies and its African proxies.” But the Black American Misleadership Class couldn’t care less.
There is No Effective Constituency for Africa in the United States
A Black Agenda Radio commentary executive editor by Glen Ford
“The greatest threat to Africa is the United States and its junior partners, the French and British.”
The general nominated by President Obama to take over AFRICOM wants the U.S. to increase by 15 times U.S. spying on the African continent. Army General David Rodriquez told the Senate Armed Services Committee that AFRICOM has only half the drones, spy planes and satellites it needs to keep an eye on northern Africa, where the U.S. is backing up the French intervention in Mali and where the U.S. and NATO dropped tens of thousands of bombs on Libya in an unprovoked, eight-month war. For the whole of the African continent, General Rodriquez is pushing for a 15-fold increase in “intelligence gathering and spying missions.” The United States already has, or will soon build, drone bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Niger, Burkina Faso, and the Seychelles Islands, enabling the Americans to carry out missions over vast regions of Africa. That doesn’t count the drones that can be launched from U.S. Navy fleets, which have greatly increased their patrols of Africa’s coastal waters, especially in the offshore oil zones of the west coast. U.S. Special Forces have a forward base in Kenya, and are roam freely in Congo, Uganda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic. It is inconceivable that these Special Forces in the heart of Africa do not work closely with manned and unmanned aircraft, operating from a network of secret bases dotting the continent. In other words, the U.S. has already erected a formidable intelligence and command-and-control network in Africa – but General Rodriguez and AFRICOM want to expand that network 15-fold.
There is only one conclusion to be drawn: the United States is building the capability to militarily control all of Africa, in conjunction with its European allies and its African proxies. It may be true that the U.S. war machine is making a “pivot” to the Pacific, to pick a fight with China, but what the Americans are doing on in Africa is a full court press – preparations for Africa’s total subjugation.
“The Black American misleadership class doesn’t give a damn about Africa.”
The Obama administration has already designated its own “Axis of Evil” in Africa. The current list includes whoever the U.S. decides to call “al-Qaida” in Africa; Somalia’s Shabaab fighters, who have been resisting U.S. and Ethiopian invasion since 2006; and Nigeria’s Muslim Boko Haram, an armed fundamentalist movement. Washington admits that none of these groups represents a threat to the United States.
The greatest threat to Africa is the United States and its junior partners, the French and British. They have already pacified most of Africa, through bribery and coercion, and are now ready to plunge the continent into endless war. Forty million African Americans could stop this growing holocaust in its tracks. But the Black American Misleadership Class doesn’t give a damn about Africa. They may buy expensive Kinte cloth for show-off occasions, and many of them make a fetish out of Kwanzaa every year – but that’s about it. Armenian-Americans will fight for Armenia, Irish-Americans for Ireland, and let’s not even mention what American Jews will do for Israel. But the U.S. can make war against Africa at will, because Africa has no effective constituency in the United States.
Now, think on that, as we celebrate Black History Month.
With Little More Than a Note, Obama Deploys US Troops To Niger
West African nation that will host fleet of US drones will also have armed US soldiers with "boots on the ground"
- Jon Queally, staff writer
With little more than a note to Congress, President Obama announced Friday morning that he has ordered the deployment of approximately 100 armed US soldiers to the west African country of Niger.
According to the Associated Press, Obama's letter stated that the mission would be to conduct "intelligence sharing" with French troops stationed in the neighboring country of Mali who have joined that country's army in a fight with Toureg fighters in the north.
As AP notes:
The U.S. and Niger signed an agreement last month spelling out legal protections and obligations of Americans who might operate from the African nation. But U.S. officials declined at the time to discuss specific plans for a military presence in Niger.
The announcement of "boots on the ground" in Niger comes just weeks after reports surfaced that the US was in negotiations to establish an airbase in the country so that a portion of its drone fleet could operate in the region.
Events in Mali that led to the current violence followed on the US/NATO intervention in Libya in 2011. The cumulative effect, however, has been a growing chorus of western officials who say that west Africa is now the new front on the "war on terror" and the increased military presence, from Libya, then Mali, and now Niger, suggests that the buildup in the region is just beginning.
In the era of executive authority—almost entirely enabled by the annually renewed Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted after the events of 9/11—the question remains, at what point will Congress reassert its right to control declarations of war and at what point will the US public begin to question a "war on terror" that can deploy US soldiers in a foreign nation with the quick delivery of a simple presidential note?
By the time his term is over, President Obama and his Race To The Top program will have forced the closure and privatization of thousands of inner-city schools, a feat no white Republican or Democrat could have accomplished. But he'll only be president 4 more years. If we can stop this now, his successors won't be able to do this again. Can we? Will we?
On Education, Barack Obama is the President of Privatization. Can We Stop Him? Will We?
by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
Last year we asked why the announcement that the city of Philadelphia planned to close 40 more public schools over the next few months wasn't national news. This year, we could ask the same about Chicago, where officials have announced plans to close more than a hundred schools, or about Los Angeles, New York, Cleveland, Atlanta and dozens of other cities.
The national wave of school closings not national news because our nation's elite, from Wall Street and the hedge fund guys to the chambers of commerce and the business establishment, from corporate media and all the elite politicians of both parties from the president down to local mayors and state legislators are working diligently to privatize public education as quickly as possible. They're not stupid. They've done the polling and the focus groups. They know with dead certainty that the p-word is massively unpopular, and that parents, teachers, students and communities aren't clamoring to hand schools over to greedy profiteers.
On every level, the advocates of educational privatization strive to avoid using the p-word. They deliberately mislabel charter schools, just as unaccountable as every other private business in the land as “public charter schools,” because after all, they use public money. So do Boeing, Lockheed, General Dynamics, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, but nobody calls these “public aerospace companies,” “public military contractors,” or “public banks.” For the same reason, corporate media refuse to cover the extent of the school closing epidemic, or local opposition to it, for fear of feeding the development of a popular movement against privatization, and Race To The Top, the Obama administration's signature public education initiative, and the sharp edge of the privatizers, literally driving the wave of school closings, teacher firings, and the adoption of “run-the-school-like-a-business” methods everywhere.
The privatizers know the clock is ticking. They know that no white Republican or Democrat could have successfully closed thousands of schools, mainly in the inner city and low-income neighborhoods without a tidal wave of noisy opposition. No white Republican or Democrat could have fired or replaced tens of thousands of experienced, mostly black qualified, experienced classroom teachers with younger, whiter, cheaper “graduates” of 5 week “teacher training” programs like Teach For America.
President Obama's black face, and the connivance of the black political class of which he is the reigning exemplar enables the implementation of right wing policies in the areas of war and peace, in growing the police and prison states, in shrinking the parts of the state that protect economic and civil rights, in guaranteeing Big Oil, Wall Street and other corporate malefactors continued immunity and impunity, in privatizing the Postal Service and of course public education. That's the bad news.
The good news is that Barack Obama will only be president less than four more years. If a noisy, contentious, civilly disobedient popular movement to protect public education can be brought into existence in the next year this president and our turncoat black political class can be stopped. The clock is ticking for us too.
The privatizers know that this is their chance to succeed. We must this is our best chance to stop them.
What can we do? What can you do?
If you live in one of the hundreds of jurisdictions that elect school board members in November 2013, now is the time to call your neighbors together and choose which one of you will be a candidate. School board elections are low impact, low budget, low attention and low turnout affairs, the most favorable electoral terrain for amateur and grassroots activists. In Georgia the Green Party will be calling together search and support committees to seek and support school board candidates who oppose privatization. So if you live in Georgia you can email me. My email is at the end of this article.
Join or start an organization of parents, teachers, students or all three in your neighborhood to halt the privatizations. Next week Black Agenda Report will have a resource page for school activists, from which you can read and download materials that will help you educate and inform your neighbors and co-workers on the issue of school privatization.
You can join the parents, students and teachers who are coming to DC the first week of April to Occupy the Department of Education. We'll have more information here at Black Agenda Report on that too.
The clock is ticking. Once we lose the public schools we won't get them back. And if we can stop the black President of Privatization from doing this to us, it should be easy to prevent the next white one from continuing this evil and destructive policy.
Black folks are not only far worse off “since 2009 under President Obama’s economic and job creation policies” – Africans Americans are the only group that “has taken a definitive step backwards since then.” The main reason: “lack of attention to employment in urban and rural geographic areas where Blacks reside.”
The Expansion of Black American Misery under Barack Obama’s Watch
by Dr. Reginald Clark
“Obama has declined to even put forth the idea that ‘low income Black people need targeted help.’”
Here are two facts that may surprise many people.
1. Black misery has been growing since 2009 under President Obama’s economic and job creation policies. Black folks participation in the labor market has been steadily moving DOWNWARD during the Obama presidency – since 2009 when he was first inaugurated.
2. ALL other major racial groups have moved up, albeit moderately, since 2009! Blacks are the only group that has taken a definitive step BACKWARDS since then. Why? This article will argue that it is because for the past 4 years, until last week, Obama has declined to even put forth the idea that "low income Black people need targeted help too!!! Needless to say, has not designed any job creation strategies or policies that would do something for the Blacks who supported him the most.
One indicator of this downward spiral for Blacks is the underemployment rate. Underemployment is measured by the extent to which people who “usually work full time” cannot find full time employment. These include people who are unemployed completely and people who work less than full time (i.e. less than 35 hours a week) due to their inability to find more employment. The underemployment rate does not include the millions of U.S. citizens (mostly Black) who are institutionalized in prisons.
“Obamapologists will hold their fantastical views even when their favorite son creates policies that have helped everybody else except them.”
Recently I contacted the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to obtain unpublished data they had collected about the rate of UNDER-employment for various racial groups in the U.S. since Obama was inaugurated – from 2009 to today. They sent me the reports I requested. These “unpublished” data show that since Obama was inaugurated in 2009, the economic and job creation policies he has advocated and/or implemented have coincided with moderately better employment prospects and opportunities for ALL other racial groups except one – the Black folks who still deeply support him. More specifically:
The rate of UNDER-employment for Hispanic Americans has DROPPED from 15% in 2009 to 12% at the end of 2012. This represents an improvement of about 20%.
The rate of UNDER-employment for White Americans has DROPPED from 10% in 2009 to 8% at the end of 2012. This represents an improvement of about 20%.
The rate of UNDER-employment for Asian Americans has DROPPED from 8% in 2009 to 6% at the end of 2012. This represents an improvement of about 25%.
But the picture for Black Americans is in the opposite direction. The rate of UNDER-employment for Blacks has INCREASED from 16% in 2009 to 20% at the end of 2012. This represents a 25% WORSENING in the rate of Black underemployment during Obama’s first term in office from 2009 through 2012.
Moreover, the true extent of Black misery in the workplace is not reflected in these statistics. At least 2 million Blacks are in prison and unable to seek employment. Half of these Blacks are there for non-violent drug offenses. If these 2 million Blacks were out of jail, living in their communities, and unable to find full time work, the Black underemployment rate would be 30%.
“President Obama’s job creation policies have ignored a specific focus on stimulating the hiring practices in businesses that are located in the geographic areas where Blacks mostly reside.”
Downward mobility for Blacks since 2009 is shown by the unpublished data available from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other studies as well have reported the disproportionate rate of Black job loss since the recession began. For example, one article reported that “While US unemployment is decreasing overall, one minority group is being left out of the recovery. African-Americans are continuing to lose jobs, with the black unemployment rate now standing at 14.3 percent.”
Since 2009, under Obama’s leadership, the data show that Whites have GAINED millions more jobs and their unemployment rate has gone DOWN. But Blacks have lost hundreds of thousands more full time jobs than they had when Obama was inaugurated, and their unemployment rate has gone UP. Black misery as a whole has increased in at least 10 other quality-of-life and socioeconomic areas as well: employment, family wages, home ownership, health care access, median net worth, poverty rate, college education attendance, college financial aid, retirement savings accounts and benefits and consumer debt. (I will discuss these in future articles in Black Agenda Report, and in more detail in my book when it is finished at the end of this year.)
Some Blacks will have a hard time believing these data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some will ask how it could be that Blacks are the only racial group moving backwards in the area of jobs access, while all other groups are experiencing modest improvement in that area. A big part of the answer, I believe, is that for four years President Obama’s job creation policies have ignored a specific focus on stimulating the hiring practices in businesses that are located in the geographic areas where Blacks mostly reside – mostly economically ravaged urban areas and some rural areas.
“This economic holocaust is NOT primarily caused by Black’s education levels.”
Many Blacks know preciously little about Obama’s economic policies and job creation policies, so they are more susceptible to fall for the okie-doke explanations that evasive politicians like to give. Because they know very little about how Obama’s economic policies work against their interests, Blacks often go for the "easy answer" with the "it's all about racism" cop out. Or they claim that “it’s always been that way.” Or they use the excuse that “he can’t single out Blacks because the White racists will jump all over him.” Or they claim that “Blacks shouldn’t try to be focusing on getting government support. Do for self.” Or “Blacks need more education. That’s why they are going backwards.” But this economic holocaust is NOT primarily caused by Black’s education levels. As a recent study stated: “…There is a massive job shortage right now relative to before the recession started at all levels of education. While workers with higher levels of education face substantially lower unemployment rates, they too have seen a large percentage increase in unemployment. Workers with a college degree or more still have unemployment rates that are close to twice as high as they were before the recession began.”
Importantly, all the other racial groups whose members have similar education levels as Blacks are still doing better from Obama’s policies. Rather, the main the reason for this recent downward spiral in Black underemployment rates seems to be the lack of attention to employment in urban and rural geographic areas where Blacks reside. At the same time, as reported by Think Progress, “Corporations have been the overwhelming beneficiaries of Obama’s policies. Over 88% of all the dollars obtained between 2009 and 2011, 88% of national income growth, went to corporate profits, while just 1% went to wages.”
“An Obamapologist is someone who actively looks for every excuse under the sun to explain away questionable and harmful behavior that president Barack Obama does.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. observed 5 decades ago that "Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think." This statement is, unfortunately, often true about how Blacks approach Obama’s policies in an unquestioning manner. They are like protective parents who refuse to hold their favorite son accountable. They will quickly attack the messenger, the teacher, and anyone else who calls their favorite son’s behavior into question. To them, anyone who attacks Obama’s policies are “just picking on” their favorite son. They are what I call Obamapologists. An Obamapologist is someone who actively looks for every excuse under the sun to explain away questionable and harmful behavior that president Barack Obama does to Black and Brown and White low income people all over the world – even when they do not have ANY credible evidence to back them up. Obamapologists will hold their fantastical views even when their favorite son creates policies that have helped everybody else EXCEPT them. That’s why Malcolm X once described Black folks as “political chumps.”
Now, in February 2013, for the first time since he was inaugurated in January 2009, during his State of the Union address, and again on February 15th in Chicago, Obama appeared to acknowledge the deleterious role of the federal government’s job creation policies on the severe depression of low income Black communities. His “solution?” “And this year, my administration will begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet.” For the first time in 4 years he seemed to be saying he will use federal government resources to establish strategies that focus on the needs of low income Black workers seeking employment.
“Obama’s late response to Black Americans’ job needs will yield no significant or effective results for Black American communities.”
He was not forthcoming with exactly what he will do, however. He also urged Blacks to send their kids to good schools that don’t exist (as opposed to the prep-prison schools that do exist), get good jobs that also don’t exist, and buy nice houses with money they can never accumulate because most Blacks live from paycheck-to-paycheck or struggle to find full time employment that pays a living wage. (See the president’s remarks in Chicago on “strengthening the economy for the middle class.”)
I believe we will see over the next 45 months that Obama’s late response to Black Americans’ job needs will yield no significant or effective results for Black American communities. It is highly doubtful that he will provide the level of resources needed to make it a success. His initiatives will be little more than window dressing. Obama started too late trying to pay attention to such a major initiative. Sadly, he will end his presidency not having made ANY significant positive difference for African American workers and their families. What a waste.
How Obama and Valerie Jarrett Helped Launch Their Political Careers in an Outrageous 'Urban Renewal' Scheme
Developers and investors got rich on a project that destroyed the homes of thousands of Chicago's poorest black residents.
January 25, 2013 |
As President Obama's second term begins, and inequality, especially for black Americans, is worse than it was when Obama first took office, it's worth revisiting progressives' and Obama supporters' impression of the president as somebody who might actually care about equality and helping the most unfortunate in society. And a big centerpiece of that impression, which endures despite evidence that he's at best ambivalent, is his early days in Chicago. The narrative that Obama is a salt-of-the-earth community organizer has been spoon-fed to the American populace since Obama first began campaigning. In reality, there's a big piece of the president's past that has gone under-reported that will help us to understand Obama and his closest adviser Valerie Jarrett a bit better: Obama and Jarrett built the nexus of political support that took him to the presidency by participating in one of the most appalling examples of neoliberal-corrupted City Hall-"urban renewal projects" in recent history that enriched developers and investors and destroyed the lives of thousands of Chicago's poorest black residents, in some cases using his community organizer job as camouflage.
We have the opportunity to revisit our impression of Obama thanks to a speech by Robert Fitch, a radical journalist and activist who chronicled the destruction of public housing in his 1996 book, The Assassination of New York, in which he detailed the changing landscape of the city at the hands of bankers and developers. New York's poorest were left to the mercy of the extremely rich, who used their power and money to gentrify, gut and obliterate public housing. Fitch's accounts of the plunder of New York and Obama's efforts in Chicago offer a different narrative than we're often accustomed to hearing -- they weren't the "fault of Republicans," but rather examples of the most frequent attack on democracy and the general welfare: how politicians "of all stripes" served the interests of the richest and most powerful in the society. In the case of NY and Chicago, the powerful took the form of a collection of interests that Fitch called FIRE: finance, insurance and real estate.
During a speech delivered at the Harlem Tenants Associations in November 2008, directly after Obama's presidential win, Fitch explained how the new president and other middle-class blacks, including Valerie Jarrett and Obama's wife Michelle, climbed the power ladder in Chicago at the expense of poor African Americans by aligning themselves with "friendly FIRE":
...[A]s Obama knows very well, for most of the last two decades in Chicago there’s been in place a very specific economic development plan. The plan was to make the South Side like the North Side. Which is the same kind of project as making the land north of Central Park like the land south of Central Park. The North Side is the area north of the Loop—Chicago’s midtown central business district—where rich white people live; they root for the Cubs. They’re neighborhood is called the Gold Coast.
For almost a hundred years in Chicago blacks have lived on the South Side close to Chicago’s factories and slaughter houses. And Cellular Field, home of the White Sox. The area where they lived was called the Black Belt or Bronzeville—and it’s the largest concentration of African American people in the U.S.—nearly 600,000 people—about twice the size of Harlem.
In the 1950s, big swaths of urban renewal were ripped through the black belt, demolishing private housing on the south east side. The argument then was that the old low rise private housing was old and unsuitable. Black people needed to be housed in new, high-rise public housing which the city built just east of the Dan Ryan Expressway. The Administration of the Chicago Housing Authority was widely acclaimed as the most corrupt, racist and incompetent in America. Gradually only the poorest of the poor lived there. And in the 1980s, the argument began to be made that the public housing needed to be demolished and the people moved back into private housing. …
If we examine more carefully the interests that Obama represents; if we look at his core financial supporters; as well as his inmost circle of advisors, we’ll see that they represent the primary activists in the demolition movement and the primary real estate beneficiaries of this transformation of public housing projects into condos and townhouses: the profitable creep of the Central Business District and elite residential neighborhoods southward; and the shifting of the pile of human misery about three miles further into the South Side and the south suburbs.
Obama’s political base comes primarily from Chicago FIRE—the finance, insurance and real estate industry. And the wealthiest families—the Pritzkers, the Crowns and the Levins. But it’s more than just Chicago FIRE. Also within Obama’s inner core of support are allies from the non-profit sector: the liberal foundations, the elite universities, the non-profit community developers and the real estate reverends who produce market rate housing with tax breaks from the city and who have been known to shout from the pulpit“ give us this day our Daley, Richard Daley bread.”
Aggregate them and what emerges is a constellation of interests around Obama that I call “Friendly FIRE.” Fire power disguised by the camouflage of community uplift; augmented by the authority of academia; greased by billions in foundation grants; and wired to conventional FIRE by the terms of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1995. And yet friendly FIRE is just as deadly as the conventional FIRE that comes from bankers and developers that we’re used to ducking from. It’s the whole condominium of interests whose advancement depends on the elimination of poor blacks from the community and their replacement by white people and—at least temporarily—by the black middle-class—who’ve gotten subprime mortgages—in a kind of redlining in reverse.
Evidence of the public-private partnerships’ failures emerged almost immediately.
The public housing included in Senator Obama's transformation plans, such as the 504 apartments in the squat brick buildings of Grove Parc Plaza, quickly fell into disrepair. Reports emerged of uninhabitable units with collapsed roofs, fire damage, mice infestations, and sewage backups. In 2006, federal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale, a score so bad the buildings were demolished in 2011.
A Boston Globe review found that thousands of apartments across Chicago that had been built with local, state and federal subsidies -- including several hundred in Obama's former district -- deteriorated so completely they were no longer habitable. Grove Parc, a project that was, along with several other prominent failures, developed and managed by Obama's close friends and political supporters, became a symbol of the broader failures of handing over public subsidies to FIRE cronies, private companies to build and manage affordable housing, an approach lauded by Obama as the best, sometimes only, replacement for public housing.
At the time, Jarrett was the chief executive of Habitat Co., which managed Grove Parc Plaza from 2001 until the winter of 2008 and co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006 after city inspectors found widespread problems. Jarrett had earlier served as Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development from 1992 through 1995. When questioned by the Globe, Jarrett defended Obama's position that public-private partnerships are superior to public housing.
"Government is just not as good at owning and managing as the private sector because the incentives are not there," said Jarrett, whose company manages more than 23,000 apartments. "I would argue that someone living in a poor neighborhood that isn't 100 percent public housing is by definition better off."
But as theGlobe pointed out, Daley's plans to privatize Chicago public housing quickly drew criticism:
[Chicagoans] asked why the government should pay developers to perform a basic public service -- one successfully performed by governments in other cities. And they noted that privately managed projects had a history of deteriorating because guaranteed government rent subsidies left companies with little incentive to spend money on maintenance.
Most of all, they alleged that Chicago was interested primarily in redeveloping projects close to the Loop, the downtown area that was seeing a surge of private development activity, shunting poor families to neighborhoods farther from the city center. Only about one in three residents was able to return to the redeveloped projects.
"They are rapidly displacing poor people, and these companies are profiting from this displacement," said Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle of Southside Together Organizing for Power, a community group that seeks to help tenants stay in the same neighborhoods.
"The same exact people who ran these places into the ground," the private companies paid to build and manage the city's affordable housing, "now are profiting by redeveloping them."
Obama believes deeply that privatization works. He once told theChicago Tribune that he had briefly considered becoming a developer of affordable housing, but after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1991, he turned down a job with Tony Rezko's development company, Rezmar, to instead work at the civil rights law firm Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland. The firm represented a number of nonprofit companies that were partnering with private developers to build affordable housing with government subsidies.
The Globe reported that shortly after becoming a state senator in 1997, Obama told theChicago Daily Law Bulletinthat his experience working with the development industry had reinforced his belief in subsidizing private developers of affordable housing. "That's an example of a smart policy," the paper quoted Obama as saying. "The developers were thinking in market terms and operating under the rules of the marketplace; but at the same time, we had government supporting and subsidizing those efforts."
What Obama is describing is corporate welfare: the government subsidizes private companies which then lack incentive to provide services to tenants because the government i.e. taxpayers will continue funding them regardless, and then the same private companies win new contracts down the road when they demolish and rebuild apartments as part of a "revitalizing" scheme.
Oftentimes, Obama's community organizer veneer served to camouflage his FIRE roots. For example, Grove Parc Plaza opened in 1990 as a redevelopment of an older housing complex, and the new owner was a local nonprofit company called Woodlawn Preservation and Investment Corp, led by two of the neighborhoods' most powerful ministers, Arthur Brazier and Leon Finney. All of this sounded like grassroots in action. However, Woodlawn Preservation hired a private management firm, William Moorehead and Associates, to oversee the complex. The company then lost that contract and a contract to manage several public housing projects for allegedly failing to do its job, and was subsequently convicted of embezzling almost $1 million in management feeds theGlobe reported.
Woodlawn Preservation then hired a new property manager, Habitat Co., where Valerie Jarrett served as executive vice president. Residents told the Globe that the complex deteriorated under Moorehead's management and the decline continued after Habitat took over. A maintenance worker at the complex told the Globe that money often wasn't available for steel wool to plug rat holes, but regardless federal inspectors rated Grove Parc an 82 out of 100 as late as 2003.
In their extensive report on Obama's private-public partnership failings, theGlobe profiles one of the largest recipients of government subsidies: Rezmar Corp, founded in 1989 by Tony Rezko, who between 1999 and 2008 used more than $87 million in government grants, loans, and tax credits to renovate about 1,000 apartments in 30 Chicago buildings. Companies run by the partners also managed many of the buildings, collecting government rent subsidies. Neither Rezko, nor his partner Daniel Mahru, had any development experience:
Rezmar collected millions in development fees but fell behind on mortgage payments almost immediately. On its first project, the city government agreed to reduce the company's monthly payments from almost $3,000 to less than $500.
By the time Obama entered the state senate in 1997, the buildings were beginning to deteriorate. In January 1997, the city sued Rezmar for failing to provide adequate heat in a South Side building in the middle of an unusually cold winter. It was one of more than two dozen housing-complaint suits filed by the city against Rezmar for violations at its properties.
People who lived in some of the Rezmar buildings say trash was not picked up and maintenance problems were ignored. Roofs leaked, windows whistled, insects moved in.
"In the winter I can feel the cold air coming through the walls and the sockets," said Anthony Frizzell, 57, who has lived for almost two decades in a Rezmar building on South Greenwood Avenue. "They didn't insulate it or nothing."
"Affordable housing run by private companies just doesn't work," Mahru told the Globe. "It's difficult, if not impossible, for a private company to maintain affordable housing for low-income tenants."
Most of Rezko and Mahru's buildings have since been foreclosed upon, forcing the tenants to find new housing.
When Obama opened his campaign for state senate in 1995, Rezko's companies gave $2,000 on the first day of fundraising, and as the Globepoints out, essentially "seeded the start of Obama's political career."
While Obama eventually distanced himself from Rezko, he maintained close ties to other developers. Jarrett became a close adviser, and Obama chose Martin Nesbitt, chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority, as his campaign treasurer. Nesbitt was one of the key overseers of the shift toward private management and development. And Obama kept the rich families around him.
From the Globe story:
As a result, some people in Chicago's poorest neighborhoods are torn between a natural inclination to support Obama and a concern about his relationships with the developers they hold responsible for Chicago's affordable housing failures. Some housing advocates worry that Obama has not learned from those failures.
"I'm not against Barack Obama," said Willie J.R. Fleming, an organizer with the Coalition to Protect Public Housing and a former public housing resident. "What I am against is some of the people around him."
Jamie Kalven, a longtime Chicago housing activist, put it this way: "I hope there is not much predictive value in his history and in his involvement with that community."
In a 2012 Harpersmagazinearticle, Ben Austen writes that the area around Cabrini-Green no longer resembles the neighborhood he remembered from his years growing up in Chicago in the '70s and '80s.
Down the street from 1230 N. Burling stood a mixed-income development of orange-bricked condos and townhomes called Parkside of Old Town. Its squat buildings were outfitted with balconies and adorned with purple ornamentation and decorative pillars. There was a new school, a new police station, a renovated park, and a shopping center with a Dominick’s supermarket and a Starbucks. A Target was expected on the site the last tower would soon vacate. Later, I would warm up two blocks south in @Spot Café, where employees from Groupon’s nearby corporate headquarters streamed in to pay full price for lattes and panini.
Today, what seems harder to fathom than the erasure of entire high-rise neighborhoods is that they were ever erected in the first place. For years the projects had stood as monuments to a bygone effort to provide affordable housing for the poor and working-class, the reflection of a belief in a deeper social contract.
Shortly before the demolition of 1230 N. Burling in 2012, Austen attended a Chicago Housing Authority meeting during which residents protested the board in response to the city forcing poor people off prime real estate. Activists included residents and supporters of a housing project called Lathrop Homes, a development in a well-off section of the North Side that was next in line to be demolished.
“The residents didn’t want to be forced into the private market or into temporary housing, especially since they doubted they’d be able to return to whatever replaced Lathrop; nor did they agree that market-rate apartments were needed in the redeveloped community, as the surrounding area was already full of market-rate condos,” Austen wrote.
Chicago’s $1.6 billion “Plan for Transformation” envisioned a mix of public-housing residents with market-rate condos and subsidized rentals or homes, with one-third of each in these new communities.
In late 2012, NPR detailed how after more than a decade in the works, one of the country’s most closely watched public housing experiments was badly failing, partly due to the flailing economy.
NPR profiled Lathrop resident Mary Thomas:
Thomas has lived here for eight years with her husband and 7-year-old son. Lathrop sits on what many now consider prime land, next to the Chicago River. A busy street splits the development into a north and south section.
The north side is completely shuttered, cordoned off by gates, a ghost town of boarded-up buildings. Thomas lives in the open southern section, where steam from the old heating system wafts into the street. About 170 of the 900-plus units are occupied.
Thomas says all three of the concepts for Lathrop should be dumped and there should be more input from residents. She says there's little affordable housing in the area and there's no need for market-rate units at all.
Far from adopting a reflective attitude in the wake of Chicago’s failed experiment in public-private housing partnerships, Obama has now taken his love of public-private codependence to a national level, touting public-private partnerships in everything from creating jobs to education to tackling insurance fraud to collaborations involving foreign nations, which you can bet means the wealthiest multinational conglomerates teaming up to increase their profits at the expense of the 99 percent.
The First Lady played her own part in the Chicago racket of profiting off the poor. Michelle Obama worked at the University of Chicago Medical Center "redirecting" low-income patients to community hospitals in order to use its own beds for rich patients. Nick Jouriles, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, released a statement saying the practice comes "dangerously close to patient dumping," a practice made illegal by the Emergency Medical Labor and Treatment Act (EMTALA), and reflected an effort to "cherry pick" wealthy patients over poor.
"This is a dangerous precedent that could have catastrophic effects in poor neighborhoods across the country. Congress needs to hold hearings about the problems facing emergency patients. If other community, non-profit hospitals follow this example and shift the lion’s share of resources to its high-revenue elective patients and procedures, it will leave many emergency patients virtually out in the cold. The University of Chicago Medical Center is located in a poor neighborhood whose residents have few, if any, other options for emergency care."
The media barely paid any attention to Michelle Obama's role in all of this, though the Chicago Sun-Times reported in 2008 that her $317,000-a-year role as Vice-President of the hospital helped create the patient-dumping program.
Quoted in a related Washington Post article, Quentin Young, a South Side physician, remarks the scheme is nothing more than an "attempt to ensure that the hospital retains only affluent patients with insurance."
"If you put enough money into it, you could save a whole bunch of community health centers," Young said. "But to date, they haven't."
Edward Novak, president of Chicago's Sacred Heart Hospital, declined to discuss the center's initiative in particular but dismissed as "bull" attempts to justify such programs as good for patients. "What they're really saying is, 'Don't use our emergency room because it will cost us money, and we don't want the public-aid population,' " Novak said.
At the end of January this year, community residents launched a protest outside the University of Chicago Medical Center, angry that the hospital ignored their needs, especially for "victims of gun violence," according to a news report: "One woman said her son, shot just blocks away from the university, died on the way to a hospital ten miles away." Four were arrested at the protest.
Robert Fitch’s words hold true: the poor remain at the mercy of the rich, who are seeking profits on everything possible, including their homes, but also their water, healthcare and education.
Who Got it Right
An Attempt at a Partial Answer to DCblogger's excellent question below.
(Sorry, no links right now. Will post version with them on my website later.)
Who Got it Right?
A common lament among progressive involves those who got it wrong-in many cases, disastrously wrong-walking away from their collisions with reality not only with their reputations untarnished, but actually rewarded in the form of increased access to circles of political power and media influence.
Parade examples include liberal hawks Michael O'Hanlon, Thomas Friedman, Peter Beinart and others, not to mention Hillary Clinton whose enabling of the Iraq disaster is taken as a prime qualification for being placed at the foreign policy helm.
Joining them are a similar collection of elite technocrats from the Robert Rubin circle such as Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner joined by Fed chief Bernanke now being provided the opportunity to run the economy into the ground a second time, while their enablers in the media-the most conspicuous being CNBC hypemaster Jim Kramer continue to enjoy the status of financial gurus.
All this is always good for a few chortles from the gallows from what passes for the left and maybe boosts our morale-something we need a lot of now.
Unfortunately, we can only go so far with this before realizing that the laugh is also on us.
For just as the establishment right and center got Iraq and the economy wrong, the establishment left was indulging in its own fantasy world, and it was one which is now coming to bite us on the proverbial ass, namely the fantasy of Barack Obama.
Plenty of ink has been spilled in recent weeks about "misjudgments" which caused the left to swoon over a candidate who rejected virtually the entirety of what the left (by any reasonable definition) believes. And even more anguish is caused by the grim reality that Obama is now acting on his deepest beliefs: expanding the war on terror, torpedoing banking reform, extending Bush tax cuts, while demanding fiscal austerity in the midst of what appears to be a second great depression.
How We Could Have Known
How could we have known? The answer is that we could have if we had listened.
For there were those who were speaking up but our alleged "reality based community" refused to hear them. Their voices were, quite literally, censored and those raising them were, figuratively speaking, disappeared.
As should have been obvious then and is painfully obvious now, left outlets ranging from the Nation to In These Times to the American Prospect passed over virtually all discouraging words during the campaign denying them access lest they threaten to put a damper on the party atmosphere deemed necessary for selling the Obama product.
The establishment left media was complemented by the progressive blogosphere which reached clinical levels of delusion during the campaign. In dealing with dissenting voices, passive censorship was replaced with the iron fist of repression. At what are now becoming known as "access blogs" such as Daily Kos, Crooks and Liars, Democratic Underground and Firedoglake, those suggesting that the Democratic nominee was anything less than a messiah were subjected to vicious personal attacks, troll rated and in short order summarily banned from discussion boards.
Rather than revisiting the Zombie-like behavior of much of the left during this period, well documented by the Onion, it is by this point probably best forgotten.
What is important now is where we are going-whether the left has learned from its absurd dalliance with a smooth talking Chicago neo-liberal and is now capable of the requisite level of skepticism in our dealings with him as chief executive and the objectively reactionary policies of his administration.
A Tale of Two Professors
As an indication of the distance we still have to travel, it is instructive to focus on a single comparison between two Ivy League professors who made their views known on the Obama phenomenon during the 2008 campaign.
One of these is UPenn Political Science Professor Adolph Reed whose experience goes back to Obama's much hyped days as a community organizer on Chicago's South Side. Far from being favorably impressed, in a Village Voice column from 1996, Reed noted the latter's "vacuous to repressive neo-liberal politics" and presciently described these as "the wave of the future." This future would arrive in 2008 when right wing governance and ideology were successfully marketed to progressives by establishment liberals as "transformative leadership."
Among those selling the Obama product most successfully was another Ivy league Professor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell of Princeton. In increasingly high-profile appearances, Harris-Lacewell repeatedly compared the Obama campaign to iconic moments in the civil rights movements such as the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. Once the Obama administration assumed office, apologetics for neo-liberal rhetoric smoothly transitioned to apologetics for the implementation of neo-liberal policies. These required some logical contortions and more than a little cynicism. Thus, in a stunning Martin Luther Day King posting at the Nation, Harris-Lacewell chose to focus on instances of King's dealmaking, personal failings and sell-outs of core constituencies. The conclusion, according to Harris-Lacewell, was that the comparison of Obama and King remained in force: "extraordinary change can be achieved even through imperfect leadership . . . wholeheartedly groping toward better and fairer solutions for our nation."
It would seem that very few leftists remain who are willing and able to accept the Polyannish equation of the current occupier of the Oval Office with the author of the letter from Birmingham jail. Nor would many grant the benefit of doubt that Obama's "gropings" are anything other than simple capitulations to his primary consistency, the Wall Street brokerage houses, megabanks, insurance companies, energy consortia, and lobbyists who financed his campaign. Given this emerging consensus, one might have expected that Harris-Lacewell's commentaries would be seen as having a limited shelf life while Prof. Reed inconvenient truths would be recognized for what they are: as what we needed to hear then-and need to hear now.
But nothing of the sort has occurred. Prof. Harris Lacewell's remains a regular guest frequently encountered not only on the liberal wing of the corporate media represented by MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Keith Olberman but at seemingly authentic alternative left outlets such as Laura Flanders's GritTV. More disconcertingly, a continuing flow of Obamapologetics will likely be offered through Harris-Lacewell's recently announced "Sister Citizen" to appear weekly in the Nation, an editorial decision which will reduce the contributions of iconic left columnist Alexander Cockburn to once a month.
In contrast to this upward trajectory, Reed remains at his post at Penn, his book on the Obama phenomenon eagerly awaited by a few followers but otherwise a largely invisible prophet undeserving of honor, at least as far as the establishment left is concerned.
An Honor Roll
These two academics are, of course, not the sole representatives of their respective positions with respect to the Obama phenomenon. Harris-Lacewell, while perhaps more enthusiastically fellative than most was different only in degree from Michael Moore, Thomas Frank, Katha Pollit, Michael Tomasky, Barbara Ehrenreich, Bill Fletcher, and numerous others from whom one would have hoped (if not expected) to have asked the right questions and prepared the left for the outcome we are now facing.
Furthermore, while Reed was the earliest to sound the alarm, there were others attempting to do so, among them Paul Street whose widely ignored Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics anticipates some of the arguments which will appear in Reed's forthcoming book. Another was the trio of Bruce Dixon, Glen Ford and Margaret Kimberly at the Black Agenda Report, whose on the ground experience with Obama mirrored that of Reed and led to nearly identical warnings to the left. From his Washington perch, Sam Smith of the Progressive Review saw the light in the tunnel as the oncoming train which would materialize as did former NY Times correspondent, Chris Hedges whose views on this and other matters has by now relegated him to non-person status. Finally, there was Nader's Vice Presidential candidate Matt Gonzalez whose entry into the race was announced by an impressively researched bill of particulars published in Counterpunch.
These are a few entries deserving inclusion on an all-too-short honor role. The point here is that, rather than being rewarded for being right, these figures remain on the marginal fringes of left discourse.
In other words, those who got it wrong dictate not only destructive neo-liberal administration policies from the inside, but how these are to be opposed (if at all) by a left which should have long since been on the streets as if our lives depend on it.
That they do, perhaps more than at any time in our history, should be obvious to anyone with their eyes open.
Where Obamaism Seems to be Going
By Adolph Reed, Jr., July 29, 2008
A friend called me a few days ago from Massachusetts, astounded at a WBUR radio program featuring Glen Greenwald from Salon.com and Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation, in which vanden Heuvel not only unflaggingly defended Obama's open and bald embrace of right-wing positions during the last few weeks against Greenwald's criticism, but also did it from the right herself, calling him a "progressive pragmatist." She affirmed Tom Hayden's insistence on the Progressives for Obama blog that the candidate is a progressive, but a new kind of progressive, or some such twaddle. In response to Greenwald's sharp rebuke of Obama's FISA sellout, she acknowledged that he had "missed an opportunity to lead." Defending his June 30 patriotism speech that included a gratuitous rehearsal of the right-wing line about anti-Vietnam War protesters from the "counterculture" who "blamed America for all that was wrong in the world" and the canard about antiwar activists "failing to honor" returning Vietnam veterans, which Obama asserted "remains a national shame to this day" despite the fact that is an utter lie, vanden Heuvel pointed again to Hayden's endorsement as a sign that Obama's cheap move must be okay because, after all, Hayden was a founder of SDS.
And perhaps most tellingly, despite their disagreements, Greenwald and vanden Heuvel both supported Obama's practice of going out of his way to attack black poor people, most recently in his scurrilous Father's Day speech and again before the NAACP. (And, by the way, he grew up without a father and is running for president, no?) To Greenwald, this is the "Obama we want to see more of," the one who takes positions that are "unorthodox" and "not politically safe." Since when has it been unorthodox or unsafe politically to malign black poor people in public? Who the fuck has been doing anything else for at least twenty years? Public sacrifice of black poor people has been pro forma Democratic presidential strategy since Clinton ran on the pledge to "end welfare as we know it" and made a burnt offering of Rickey Ray Rector, and victim-blaming based on just-so stories about supposed "behavioral pathology" has been the only frame for public discussion of poverty for at least as long.
To vanden Heuvel, Obama's contretemps with Jesse Jackson, who, ironically, has his own history of making such attacks, around this issue reflects a "generational division" among black people, with Obama representing a younger generation that values "personal responsibility." She also, for good measure, asserted that Obama has been "nailed unfairly" for his cozying up to the evangelicals and promising to give them more federal social service money. In explaining that he comes out of a "community organizing" tradition based in churches in Chicago, she didn't quite say that the coloreds love their churches. But she didn't really have to say it out loud, did she?
This is what passes for a left now in this country. It is a left that can insist, apparently, that Obama's FISA vote, going out of his way (after all, he could simply have followed the model of Eisenhower on the Brown decision and said that the Court has ruled; therefore it's the law, and his job as president would be to enforce the law) to align himself - twice, or three times—with the Scalia/Thomas/Roberts/Alito wing of the Supreme Court, his declaring that social problems, unlike foreign policy adventurism, are "too big for government" and pledging to turn over more of HHS and HUD's budgets to the Holy Rollers are both tactically necessary and consistent with his convictions.
So, if those are his convictions, or for that matter what he feels he must do opportunistically to get elected, why the fuck should we vote for him?
I'd been thinking about doing a "See, I told you so" column about Obama; then, especially given the torrent of vituperation and self-righteous contumely I got after arguing that he's not what far too many nominal leftists were trying to make him out to be, I was tempted instead to do a "To hell with you, you deserve what you get" column. But the smug yuppies to whom I'd address that message—the fan club we encounter in foundation offices, faculty meetings, soccer games and dinner parties and on MSNBC and in the Nation—are neither the only people who've listened to Obama's siren song nor the ones who'll pay the price for their self-indulgent idiocy. (And Liza Featherstone deserves acknowledgement for having predicted early that the modal lament of the disillusioned would compare him unfavorably to Feingold.)
Among other things, as I saw ever more clearly while watching Rachel Maddow talk with another of that Dem ilk about Obama and his family—how adorable and "well-raised" or some such his kids are, etc., etc.—a few nights ago on Keith Olberman's show, an Obama presidency (maybe even just his candidacy) will likely sever the last threads of any connection between notions of racial disparity and structurally reproduced inequality rooted in political economy, and, since even "left" discourse in this country seems capable of conceptualizing the latter as a politically significant matter only in terms of the former (or its gender or similar categorical equivalent), that could just about complete purging entirely out of legitimate political discourse the notion that economic inequality is rooted fundamentally in capitalism's political and economic dynamics.
Underclass ideology—where left and right come together to embed a common sense around victim-blaming and punitive moralism, racialized of course but at a respectable remove from the familiar phenotypically based racial taxonomy— will most likely be the vehicle for effecting the purge. Obama's success will embody how far we have come in realizing racial democracy, and the inequality that remains is most immediately a function of cultural—i.e., attitudinal, and behavioral—and moral deficits that undercut acquisition of "human (and/or "social," these interchangeable mystifications shift according to rhetorical need) capital," a message his incessant castigation of black behavior legitimizes.
In this context, the "activism" appropriate for attacking inequality: 1) rationalizes privatization and demonization of the public sector through accepting the premise that government is inefficient and stifles "creativity;" 2) values individual voluntarism and "entrepreneurship" over collective action (e.g., four of the five winners of the Nation's "Brave Young Activist" award started their own designer NGOs and/or websites; the fifth carries a bullhorn around and organizes solidarity demos); 3) provides enrichment experiences, useful extracurrics, and/or career paths for precocious Swarthmore and Brown students and grads (the Wendy Kopp/Samantha Power model trajectory), and 4) reduces the scope of direct action politics to the "all tactics, no strategy," fundamentally Alinskyite, ACORN-style politics that Doug Henwood and Liza Featherstone have described as "activistism" and whose potential for reactionary opportunism Andy Stern of SEIU has amply demonstrated.
Obama goes a step further in deviating from Alinskyism to the right, by rejecting its "confrontationalism," which severs its rhetoric of "empowerment" from political action and contestation entirely and merges the notion into the pop-psychological, big box Protestant, Oprah Winfrey, Reaganite discourse of self-improvement/personal responsibility.
All of the above salves the consciences of our professional-managerial class peers and coworkers who want to think of themselves as more tolerant and enlightened than their Republican relatives and neighbors, even as they insulate themselves and their families as much as possible from undesired contact with the dangerous classes and define the latter in quotidian practice through precisely the same racialized and victim-blaming stereotypes as the conservatives to whom they imagine themselves superior. This hypocrisy, of course, is understood within the stratum as unavoidable accommodation to social realities, and likely to be acknowledged as an unfortunate and lamentable necessity. Yet those lamenting at the same time reject out of hand as impractical any politics that would challenge the conditions that reproduce the inequalities underlying those putative realities.
Obama, in the many ways that Glen Ford, Margaret Kimberley and others have catalogued here, is an ideal avatar for this stratum. He has condensed, in what political dilettantes of all stripes rush to call a "movement," the reactionary quintessence that Walter Benn Michaels in The Trouble With Diversity identifies in a politics of identity or multiculturalism that substitutes difference for inequality as the crucial metric of political criticism. It's apt in this connection that even elites in the Mississippi Delta, down to the level of the Cotton Museum in Lake Providence, LA, and the blues museums that dot every hamlet on US 61 in Mississippi between Greenville and Memphis, have come to appreciate the political and commercial benefits of multicultural celebration and even civil rights heritage tourism, without destabilizing the underlying relations of racialized subordination.
Indeed, Obama represents a class politics, one that promises to cement an alliance anchored in the professional-managerial class (including, perhaps especially, the interchangeable elements of which now increasingly set the policy agendas for what remains of the women's, environmentalist, public interest, civil rights and even labor movements) and the "progressive" wing of the investor class. (See, for example, Tom Geoghagen, "All the Young Bankers," The American Prospect, June 23, 2008.) From this perspective, it is ironic in the short term—i.e., considering that he pushed HRC out of the way— that Obama would be the one to complete Clintonism's redefinition of liberalism as conservatism.
So there's no way I'm going to ratify this bullshit with my participation, and I'm ready to tell all those liberals who will hector me about the importance of voting that it's the weakest, most passive and least consequential form of political participation, and I'm no longer going to pretend it's any more than that, or that the differences between the Dem and GOP candidates are greater than they are, just to help them feel good about not doing anything more demanding and perhaps more consequential.
To be clear, I'm not arguing that it's wrong to vote for Obama, though I do say it's wrong-headed to vote for him with any lofty expectations. I would also suggest that it's not an open and shut case that—all things considered—he's that much better than McCain.
In some ways Obama would be better for us in the short run, just as Clinton was better than the elder Bush. In some ways his presidency could be much worse in the longer term, again like Clinton. For one thing, the recent outpouring of enthusiastic support from all quarters—including on black academic and professional list serves and blogs and on op-ed pages—for his attacks on black poor people underscores the likelihood that Obama will be even more successful than Clinton at selling punitive, regressive and frankly racist social policies as humane anti-poverty initiatives. In a way, I suppose, there could be something useful about having a large strain of the black petite bourgeoisie come out as a militant racial class for itself. Maybe that could be a prelude to a good fight, but unfortunately there's no counterweight. And the black professional-managerial strata, despite their ever more blatant expressions of contempt for black poor people, continue to insist on speaking for the race as a whole.
Lesser evilists assert as indisputable fact that Gore, or even Kerry, wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Perhaps Gore wouldn't have, but I can't say that's a sure thing. (And who was his running mate, by the way?) Moreover, we don't know what other military adventurism that he—like Clinton—would have undertaken to make clear that he wouldn't be seen as a wimpy Democrat. As to Kerry, even though like all the other Dem presidential aspirants who voted for it, except Edwards, he claimed later that he thought he was voting for something else, he did vote to invade Iraq, didn't he? And, moreover, during his campaign didn't he say that, even if he'd known then what he knew in 2004, he'd still have voted for it?
No, I'm not at all convinced that the right wouldn't have been able to hound either Gore into invading Iraq or Kerry into continuing the war indefinitely. Sure, neither Dem would have done it as stupidly and venally as Bush, but that's no comfort to the Iraqis, is it? Nor does it suggest a break from the military interventionism—old school imperialism—that's defined our foreign policy increasingly since Reagan. Obama is on record as being prepared to expand the war into Pakistan and maybe Iran, now apparently even generically anywhere in "Mesopotamia" (NYT, 7/14/08), after he does the Randolph Scott move and "talks" to his targets a couple of times. He's also made pretty clear that AIPAC has his ear, which does it for the Middle East, and I wouldn't be shocked if his administration were to continue, or even step up, underwriting covert operations against Venezuela, Cuba (he's already several times linked each of those two governments with North Korea and Iran) and maybe Ecuador or Bolivia.
This is where I don't give two shits for the liberals' criticism of Bush's foreign policy: they don't mind imperialism; they just want a more efficiently and rationally managed one. As Paul Street argues in BAR, as well as in his forthcoming book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics, an Obama presidency would further legitimize the imperialist orientation of US foreign policy by inscribing it as liberalism or the "new kind" of progressivism.
You know, the black is white, night is day kind. And, as he has shown most recently in his June 30 speech he will similarly sanitize the galloping militarization of the society that proceeds under the guise of "supporting the troops." (How many of you have noticed being called on by flight attendants to give a round of applause to the military personnel on board a flight—it may be only a matter of time before pretending to be absorbed in reading will no longer work, and those who don't cheer them on will be handcuffed—or the scores of other little, and not so little, everyday gestures that give soldiers priority over the rest of us, in the mode of returners from the Eastern Front? Actually, befitting neoliberalism, these gestures are for the image of soldiers, what they get instead of medical care and income support for the maimed.)
All in all, I'd rather have an inefficient imperialism, one that imposes some cost on the US for its interventions. Clinton, like Bush père and Reagan, was able to pull it off with "surgical" (i.e., broadly devastating and terroristic to the objects, relatively painless for the subjects) actions and had the good sense both to select targets that couldn't really fight back and to avoid the hubris of occupation. To that extent, no one complained; this was the new Pax Americana that in principle could have gone on indefinitely, with successive US governments creating and lighting up demon regimes abroad as needed.
This brings to mind Lila Lipscomb, the woman in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," whose son was killed in Iraq. She had proudly and quite happily sent two or three of her kids into the military before this one because it seemed like a reasonable bet for their being able to make the bases for better lives for themselves from the perspective of borderline poverty and general economic distress in Flint. Sure, the military no doubt lied in minimizing the likelihood of seeing combat and about how, if they had to do it, all their cool gear would keep them out of harm's way as they fired up bad guys all over the world who were threatening our or somebody else's "freedom."
And all the politicians, Dems and Republicans, supported every deployment on those terms. And, like the vast majority of Americans, she probably would never have been moved to question the propriety of traipsing all over the world fucking with people— killing them and destroying their lives—who hadn't done anything to us. I don't make light of deaths of American soldiers; nor do I want to make one of those "maybe this will make them understand" points (though we certainly must recognize why people on the receiving end of this country's bipartisan foreign policy would feel that way). I do want to stress that: a) so long as we assign significance only to the death, injury, and sovereignty of Americans and not those of the people on whose countries we make war, we will be all the more likely to repeat wars like this one over and over and over and b) the bipartisan "support the troops" rhetoric that has become a scaffold for discussing the war is a ruse for not addressing its foundation in a bellicose, imperialist foreign policy that makes the United States a scourge on the Earth.
Obama, like other Dems, doesn't want such a discussion any more then the Republicans do because they're all committed to maintaining that foundation. "Antiwar" arguments that begin with clauses like "since the troops are there" or "if they're going to be there" are no antiwar arguments at all. To the extent that Obama and his like christen them as such, they legitimize as "responsible" an "antiwar" discourse that reduces to no more than a technocratic focus on fighting interventionist wars in ways that minimize American casualties. If that's a "progressive" foreign policy, then, in the words of Amos from "Amos ‘n' Andy," include me out. And, by the way, since Obama is so fond of invoking Vietnam these days, I should remind the faithful that every major party presidential candidate between 1956 and 1972—except one, Barry Goldwater, who ran partly on his willingness to blow up the world and was trounced for it—ran on a pledge to end the Vietnam War. Every one of them lied, except maybe Nixon the third time he made the pledge, but that time he had a lot of help from the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.
And then there's the issue of the courts, the big joker the liberals wave when all other arguments seem shaky. But hasn't Obama already aligned himself with the right wing of the current Court, three times in the current session, and on three pretty show-stopping issues? I know, the response would be that he's just posturing and on balance he'd appoint more "centrist"—as even his running dogs put it—judges. (This is the "I know he's always out with her in public and looks like he's enjoying himself, but he told me he really loves me and is just sticking around for the kids" argument.) Frankly, the courts bugbear is beginning to look played out. Past a certain point of giving away the store programmatically and ideologically, it doesn't much matter who's on the Court. And the more ideological ground that's given away, the farther right will be the boundary of acceptable "centrism."
Could Obama now nominate someone with a record of favoring gun control or late-term abortions for mental health reasons or opposing the death penalty? And this isn't even to raise all the other, property and contract related areas where the Courts' actions are significant with respect to people's lives. There's no reason to expect anything from him in this area, especially when you factor in all the hedge fund and investor class money he gets and his close University of Chicago Law School and Economics Department connections.
I'm increasingly convinced that the courts issue looms so large because the liberals have given away everything else. It feels ever more the property of Dem hacks who have to strain to find any basis for plausible product differentiation during election season. (A friend used to maintain that there's so little difference between the two parties in this bipartisan era that people determine their allegiances in the same ways they sort themselves into Ford and Chevy people. Now I think it's more like Buick v. Pontiac; they have the same structure and frame, same engine, and same chassis design—just different flourishes and labels.) It's a deal-maker only if you accept the premise that formal preservation of Roe v. Wade is the paramount issue, the sine qua non, of gender justice in the United States or that holding on to the shreds of a mangled, "mended" version of affirmative action is the same for blacks.
Those two areas don't stand out so much when you add up everything the Dems have caved on that has more directly injurious effects on black people and women, often with more direct and persisting impact on reproductive freedom—or "choice" in the liberals' capitulationist parlance—and economic security than abortion rights, which are exercised, at best, episodically, and affirmative action, the meaningful scope of which is effectively reduced by retreats in other policy areas.
For openers, just think of comparable worth, welfare reform, publicly supported child care, cuts in Federal urban aid, education, the War on Drugs, NAFTA, the ethnic cleansing program of HOPE VI, corporate health care, privatization, abetting union-busting, fetishizing deficit reduction, as only among the most obvious areas where they've rolled over. For most blacks and women, most of the time, abortion rights and affirmative action are at best more symbolic than practically meaningful, particularly in a context in which in all those other areas that affect their lives directly, the Dems have already given away the store.
Trying to stoke hysteria around abortion rights and affirmative action looks more and more like a feeble attempt to deflect attention from that fact, and to convince people who don't stand to get much from a Dem victory that they should commit to them anyway—for the sake of those who do stand to benefit. I've finally realized what this move is all about: what makes the Dems every four years "better" is always something that the hacks and yuppies are likely to imagine getting if they win, and their disgusting moralizing about the imperative to vote for their "lesser evil"—which means "I may get what's important for me, but you have to recognize that what you need is naïve or impractical"—is all about bullying the rest of us into believing we have an obligation to vote for what's good for them.
Bill Clinton's "successful" presidency underscores this point. Like baseball managers, presidents probably get too much credit for economic growth and too much blame for downturns. Yes, the growth of inequality may have been tempered in some ways during his administration. But how was Clinton able to pull off his triangulation that combined stimulating the economy while sharply reducing the deficit? I may be a little out of my depth here, but it seems to me that part of the answer is his support for another burst of deregulation in the financial sector, which generated the speculative stock market boom and its inevitable bust that wrecked so many small investors' lives and gutted their risky, defined-contribution pensions.
Another part apparently was his administration's role in stimulating housing market speculation—which included encouraging in a couple of different ways the proliferation of subprime lending. Thus a longer-term effect in both cases, between bailouts and the concentration that's part of capitalism's crisis tendency, an element of its dynamic of "creative destruction," was upward redistribution. And, by the way, if you add the fact that the steepest cuts in the federal meat inspection program occurred under Clinton (Tyson's Chicken has its needs, after all), then the libs' halcyon, nay Edenic, days of the Clinton presidency lose a lot of their prelapsarian splendor, as its fingerprints are all over three of the biggest domestic crises in this decade.
And there's no reason, other than the will to believe, to expect that Obama would be any better, and it's entirely likely that in some ways—including those bearing on racial justice—he'll be worse, again by moving the boundaries of thinkable liberalism that much farther to the right. There is nothing in his record, much less his recent courting of some of the worst tendencies of the right, to reassure us on this front. The argument that he has to give away everything in order to get elected is substantively only an argument that we have no reason to elect him.
All that said, I reiterate that, although I've been clear about my own decision to abstain from this charade, I'm not arguing that people shouldn't vote for him. Nor do I see any third-party candidate as a serious alternative. I was a Commoner elector in 1980 and voted for Nader in 2000 (I'm proud to declare that, whatever else I may have done in my life, I've voted against Joe Lieberman at every opportunity I've had to do so), but the fact is that third party candidacies are really the same as not voting, just more costly and time-consuming. They aren't an answer to anything. They don't galvanize movements, and unless they emerge from dynamic, powerful movements—like the Republicans in the 1850s—they aren't more than vehicles for collecting and registering protest by isolated individuals. This can be defensible, so far as it goes, but it is not an alternative or shortcut to building a movement capable of changing the terms of political debate. And that can't happen during the heat of an election period.
The point is that we need to approach this presidential election stuff, and not just this time around, with no illusions about the trade-offs involved and recognize that it's not even as simple a matter as Obama being better than McCain in the here-and-now on a select menu of issues. I could understand the impulse to rally the troops to produce the outcome that's better on immediate tactical grounds, if we had some troops to rally. If we had such a base, it might even make sense to consider an organized boycott of the election, which may be the only way to keep from being treated like a 2 am booty-call for triangulating Dems. However, we don't have it, and it can't be built during an election season.
Perhaps the one luxury of the left's weakness now is that we're absolved of the need to hew so closely to such tactical considerations because we can't influence the outcome of the election anyway. Pretending that we can is a convenient excuse for laziness and opportunism, on both intellectual and political fronts. This, by the way, is yet another area where we've been failed by much of the left media that too easily succumb to simple cheerleading, counting up outrages, and engaging in wish fulfillment, indulging the fantasy that there is a coherent political movement out there somewhere that can assert its electoral will.
Here are two sobering thoughts for the "yes, but" left. First, despite all breathless claims about how the Obama campaign "energized" young voters who could remain mobilized to become the cornerstone of the base that will push him to be more like the fantasy Obama, when all was said and done, 18-29 year old voters were 14% of those voting in the primaries. True, that was up a few points from the last several elections, but it is exactly the average of the "youth" turnout over the past thirty years.
Second, the escrow account established by progressive Obama supporters to hold him accountable has, according to The New York Times (July 13, 2008) raised $101,375 from 675 people in nearly a month. By contrast, the campaign's chief fundraiser, Penny Pritzker of the Chicago real estate magnate and philanthropic family, a week earlier scheduled "more than a dozen big-ticket events over the next few weeks at which the target price for quality time with the candidate is more than $30,000 per person" (NYT, July 4, 2008). I guess our side had better get cracking with those bake sales on Democracy Now!
Finally, I recognize that trade-offs would be involved in rejecting the premise that we can't afford to jeopardize the chances for a Democrat's victory, no matter how little he or she may differ from the Republican. Two little items in the July 15 NYT illustrate this point. One is about the Bush administration's effort to push through a regulation requiring any hospital or medical facility that takes federal money not to discriminate in hiring those—nurses or pharmacists, for example—who oppose abortion or contraception on religious grounds. The second is that the GAO has outed the wage and hour division of the Labor Dept for its laxity and worse in handling complaints and apparently not paying attention to low-wage industries at all. When the right is in power, they can push their agenda into the administrative and regulatory interstices insidiously, and a Democratic administration, at least to this point, would be less likely to pursue objectives such as those, which clearly make things substantively worse than they were and at least temporarily more difficult to fight.
When and whether it's appropriate, or not, to accept the immediate costs of such trade-offs is a decision that would be properly made systematically, in the context of a larger strategy for pursuit of political power, not on the fly, by individuals in the heat of the moment. It's an issue that would best be discussed and debated in institutional forums—labor federations, constituent advocacy and membership groups—and through movement-linked media.
But here's the catch-22: The left version of the lesser evilist argument stresses that it's unrealistic and maybe unfair to expect anything of the Dems in the absence of a movement that could push them, and no such movement exists. True enough, but where is such a movement to come from if we accept the premise that the horizon of our political expectation has to be whatever the Dems are willing to do because demanding more will only put/keep the other guys in power, and they're worse?
I remember Paul Wellstone saying already in the early ‘90s that they'd gotten into a horrible situation in Congress, where the Republicans would propose a really, really hideous bill, and the Dems would respond with a slightly less hideous one and mobilize feverishly around it. If it passed, they and all their interest-group allies would hold press conferences to celebrate the victory, when what had passed actually made things worse than they were before. That's also an element of the logic we've been trapped in for 30 years, and it's one reason that things have gotten progressively worse, and that the bar of liberal expectations has been progressively lowered.
It's also one of the especially dangerous things about Obama, that he threatens to go beyond any of his Dem predecessors in redefining their all-too-familiar capitulation as the boundary of the politically thinkable, as the substance of "progressivism." He can manage this partly because of the way that he and his image-makers manipulate the rhetoric and imagery of energizing "youth," whose righteous fervor is routinely adduced to demonstrate the power and Truth of Obamaism, rather than evidence that they just don't know any better.
The Obamistas have exploited the opportunism and bankruptcy of adults whose lack of will and direction, and maybe their hyper-investment as parents, lead them to look to precocious young people as sources of wisdom and purpose. But "youth," first of all, is an actuarial and advertising category, not a coherent social group, and one of its defining features is lack of experience. Another, lest we forget, is its transience; youth, by definition, is a status that disappears with time, and rapidly. (I'm reminded of joking with comrades more than three decades ago, after the Student Organization for Black Unity—SOBU—had become YOBU about what would be the next step in the progression after Student and Youth.)
The many organizational debates over the decades about where to set the upper age limit of the "youth" section should have been a signal of how arbitrary and concocted the category is. And these precocious young, mainly middle class enthusiasts, who believe that the world began when they started paying attention, have not had the experience of being sold out by Dem after Dem; they didn't live through their parents' versions of the exact same overblown and unfulfilled enthusiasms for Jesse Jackson, who also supposedly energized youth and was historic, and/or Bill Clinton. They haven't seen the Dems run a slightly different version of the same candidate and campaign as their Magic Negro every four years since Dukakis, or maybe even Mondale or Carter, with almost always the same result.
Many of them don't understand the difference between a political movement and a protest march, chat room or ad campaign. And, most of all, they by and large don't feel adult anxieties about health care, working conditions, pensions and the like.
Therefore, they are the ideal propagandists for the fantasy that Obama can transform the political environment through his person, as well as his bullshit about "community organizing" and the real progressivism being that which transcends, even obviates, conflict, and his arsenal of student government platitudes like the notion that "hope" has a self-evident, concrete meaning or that partisanship is a bad thing or that "politics of gridlock" is something more than important sounding filler for use by the male and female news bunny corps and their stable of talking head guest commentators.
And, no, I don't mean to dismiss young people's role in politics. Because of their point in life and the social location associated with it, they tend to have more social energy and to be more inclined to experiment than older people. These can be valuable attributes for a political movement. They are also reciprocals of lack of experience and immersion in adult concerns. The Obamistas' opportunistic exploitation of the imagery of youth activism, though, makes it especially important to be clear-headed, to avoid mystifications and facile nostalgia about what role to expect from young people in building a movement.
Neither the civil rights movement nor the Vietnam era antiwar movement was the product of precocious youth, least of all the sort who create their own NGOs, though both at various points depended heavily on the energy, flexibility and other talents of young people, however defined. The direct action explosion of the 1960s civil rights movement in the South was the product of years of organizing and institutional political agitation and action that stretched back to the 1930s. The leadership of the
Montgomery Improvement Association were adults: E. D. Nixon was more than 50 years old and a long-time activist in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and NAACP; Rosa Parks was over 30 and an NAACP functionary, and King himself, the novice, was a married father and pastor. SCLC, CORE and the NAACP similarly were led by long-time activist adults who shaped those organizations' programs and their directions. James Farmer was 40 at the time of the Greensboro sit-in, and Bayard Rustin was pushing 50. And this isn't even to consider the many labor and other organizations that fed into, shaped, and sustained the movement.
The story of the student and antiwar movements is similar. SDS began as an offshoot of the labor-based League for Industrial Democracy, and the anti- Vietnam war movement in no way is reducible simply to its student or youth component. Labor, civil rights, pacifist and many other types of activist organizations shaped, pushed, funded and directed the larger movement. It's telling that the mass youth antiwar movement collapsed almost immediately with elimination of the draft.
I recognize also that one reason it's so difficult to have the discussion about the point at which it makes sense, if not to break with the Dems at least to stop lying to ourselves about the cataclysmic significance of voting for them or not, is that the election year is in a way not the optimal time to have it. This is precisely because of the immediateness of the stakes and the kind of politics—i.e., by definition not "transformative," if we take the term to imply potential to alter the terms of political debate substantially—elections warrant and require. The problem, though, is that even within the ineffectual enclaves that pass for a left, as well as all the more solid left-of-center interest configurations— labor, enviros, women, civil rights, etc.—"politics" increasingly has come to mean only getting someone elected or defeated or some bill or initiative passed or defeated.
So elections are the only context around which it's possible that even politically attentive people and those who see themselves as activists are inclined to discuss political strategy at all. And then, because the frenzy of electoral jockeying stokes passions and leads to extravagant claims, the discussion becomes overheated, and distinctions between tactics, strategies and goals blur, with the first likely to drive the other two rhetorically. The predictably exaggerated claims that support electoral mobilization, e.g., "Obama is a transformative politician," etc, strive to channel and subordinate all political discussion to the immediate goal of winning what can be won right now and not really entertaining questions about how much, not to say whether, it's actually worth winning, or even whether the victory could be pyrrhic.
So we "don't have time" to have the strategic political discussion about how to try to change the terms of debate during the election year, and "we don't have time" to have it between election years because (a) there are other, equally instrumental objectives that consume everyone's time as immediately more pressing—some other 8% adjustment to fight for or against - and (b) the dilettantish left persists in the belief that some gimmick—some Special Candidate, some clever slogan ("No, we're really the ones who ‘support the troops'" or "We need a policy that helps ‘working families' and the ‘middle class'")—can magically knock the shackles from the eyes of the majority that already exists as our constituency but doesn't yet know it, if we could only find the right one.
Then we're back to the next election year, and some new candidate becomes the embodiment of all our hopes and dreams and the one who'll call that majority together for us. Frankly, I've begun to suspect that the election year version of the "now is not the time" argument and its sibling, the "get him elected first then hold him accountable" line, as well as their first cousin, "Well, that's what they all have to do to get elected," reflect nothing better than denial of the grim reality that we can't expect anything from them or make any demands of them. After all, how can we hold them accountable once they're in office if we can't do it when they're running, when we technically have something we can withhold or deliver?
The fact is that they know we don't have the power to make them do or not do anything and treat us accordingly, and they will until we develop the capacity to force them to do otherwise. I know this is a difficult message for those who like to believe that politics is about good people and bad people, or that writing really smart position papers that demonstrate the formal plausibility of a win/win agenda that satisfies everyone's concerns should be enough to counter the influence of those $30,000 per head corporate and hedge fund contributors, but that's just not the way the deal goes down.
So the question is: how are we to break this cycle to be able to try to build the movement we need to do anything more than staunch the bleeding? Consider as well that the staunching looks less and less meaningful to the growing population that gets defined as on the wrong side of the triage line and that each iteration of the losing game further shrinks the ranks of the relatively secure economically, drives more and more people to the margins, and shifts the thinkable terms of political debate, as well as the electorate's center of gravity, more and more to the right. We have seen, for example, that after nearly thirty years of bipartisan government-bashing, even in the wake of massive catastrophes like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the notion of public obligation to provide for the citizenry's well-being is steadily being wiped out of public consciousness.
(And, by the way, those precocious NGO engineers are energetically instrumental in doing a lot of the wiping.)
And it's crucially important for those who identify with the left to recognize that there is no designated moment at which the crisis becomes intolerable and "the People" either "wake up" or "rise." That is simply not the way politics works. Absent concerted, organized intervention, it could go on indefinitely, with all kinds of inventive scapegoating available to stigmatize the previous rounds of losers and provide desperate reassurances to the next. And that would be a political situation and social order likely to grow ever uglier and more dangerous.
Adolph Reed, Jr. is a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. He is author of Class Notes, The Jesse Jackson Phenomenon, W. E. B. DuBois and American Political Thought, and Stirrings in the Jug.
Obama renews budget offer to cut social safety nets
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama raised anew the issue of cutting entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security as a way out of damaging budget cuts, a White House official said on Sunday, as both sides in Washington tried to limit a fiscal crisis that may soon hit millions of Americans.
Signaling he might be ready to explore a compromise to end automatic spending cuts that began late Friday, Obama mentioned reforming these entitlement programs in calls with lawmakers from both parties on Saturday afternoon.
"He's reaching out to Democrats who understand we have to make serious progress on long-term entitlement reform and Republicans who realize that if we had that type of entitlement reform, they'd be willing to have tax reform that raises revenues to lower the deficit," White House senior economic official Gene Sperling said on Sunday on the CNN program "State of the Union."
Last week, conservative Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he was open to raising $600 billion in new tax revenue if Democrats accepted significant changes to Medicare and Medicaid as part of a long-term budget deal.
A few days later, liberal Democratic Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland told Reuters that he had discussed with Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid the possibility of replacing the automatic spending cuts with a mix of entitlement reforms and tax increases.
"Democrats know we have to do entitlement reforms and Republicans know they have to do revenues (increases)," Cardin said.
"We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'
MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).
A List of Goldman Sachs People in the Obama Government: Names Attached to the Giant Squid’s Tentacles
By: fflambeau Tuesday April 27, 2010 1:03 am
At a time when Congressional hearings are set to call testimony from some Goldman Sachs employees, it is vital to understand how widespread that institution’s ties are to the Obama administration. This diary shows the pervasive influence of Goldman Sachs and Goldman created institutions (like the Hamilton Project embedded in the Brookings Institution), employees and influence peddlers in the Obama administration.
While many of the people listed below formerly worked for Goldman Sachs or its offshoots (like the Hamilton Project, including all three of that project’s first Directors) influence can be exerted not only through people but through money, awards, sponsored scholarship, and creation of an agenda favorable to Goldman Sachs (which is where Brookings and the Hamilton Project come in and have proved especially useful to Goldman Sachs).
It is further of note that although Goldman Sachs has been the center of attention especially since Matt Taibbi’s insightful investigative journalism, that I have not been able to find a comprehensive list of the influence of Goldman Sachs in this administration. Recently in the New York Post, for instance, Michelle Malkin wrote a good article called "All the President’s Goldman Men" but she only listed the usual suspects like Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, Rahm Emanuel, Gary Gensler and Mark Patterson.
But that’s just the tip of the Goldman Sachs iceberg. Here you will find, I believe, the most comprehensive list of people-groups yet available to show how Obama’s administration has really become the Goldman Sachs administration. But I need your help. I suspect there are far more people out there with such ties that I have missed even though I have spent lots of time researching this issue. If you know of other people who should be on this list, please help out and give the details in a comment to this diary.
One further caveat. The Obama administration is not the first administration that Goldman has infiltrated, although it is perhaps the one that has been most completely co-opted from top to bottom. Recall that former Secretary of the Treasury Paulson in the George W. Bush era came from–Goldman Sachs where he was its chief. Recall too that the brilliant, late economist John K. Galbreath has written an entire chapter of a book devoted to the Great Depression and the economic collapse of Wall St. that accompanied it to the role of Goldman Sachs.
Law professor William Black, who participated in actions against individuals in the Savings and Loan collapses decades ago, recently told Bill Moyers recently that:
"The highest return on assets is always a political contribution."
In this spirit we name the first two links between Goldman entities and the Obama administration: they are out of alphabetical order for obvious reasons. All the others are in alphabetical order.
Let’s look at the Goldman Sachs government that we have in place now, that is masked by Barack Obama. Fittingly, we begin with Obama:
Although to my knowledge he has never directly worked for Goldman, he has taken boatloads of their money (an investment repaid many times) and he calls Robert Rubin, the former head of Goldman Sachs "my friend Bob". (See the video clip of then Senator Barack Obama’s address to the Goldman-Rubin funded Hamilton Project in a link below where he uses these words and calls for cuts in entitlements and more NAFTA-type agreements).
Jesse Unruh, the late California politician and political thinker, once called "money the mother’s milk of politics." Certainly, Obama sucked at the teats of Goldman Sachs more than any other politician in recent times. It began for him as little-known Senator from Illinois with a razor- thin resume whose ambitions outshine his accomplishments. Obama’s eloquent, heavily prepped address to the Democratic National Convention caught not only the eyes of the Democratic top brass, but that of the big bankers. As early as the Spring of 2006, Senator Barack Obama was intimately involved with Bob Rubin and Goldman Sachs through his involvement with the Hamilton Project.
Fittingly, Senator Obama was chosen by Rubin and the Hamilton Project to give the inaugural address of the Hamilton Project in April, 2006. An excellent, seminal discussion of the Hamilton Project by Dr. Kirk James Murphy, M.D., can be found here. A video clip of then Senator Barack Obama speaking at the inauguration of the Hamilton Project in April, 2006 can be found here and here (with an excellent discussion) and here. Here Obama heaps lavish praise on Robert Rubin ("my friend Bob") and on the Hamilton Project while setting out its (and his subsequent administration’s agenda) of cuts in entitlements, the need for more NAFTA-type free trade pacts and a pro-big corporation government. In 2006 then, Obama was a Goldie and articulating its desires and policies.
Little wonder then, that Goldman and Rubin heavily funded Obama as a Senator (his biggest campaign contributor) and as a presidential candidate. Goldman Sachs employees (and they were not the floor cleaners) contributed $994,795 to Obama’s presidential bid, almost four times the amount they gave to his Republican opponent, according to OpenSecrets. Over Obama’s entire career, Goldman has been his second biggest contributor, according to OpenSecrets, giving him more than $1,051,000. Goldman not only wanted Obama to win, they paid lots of money to insure that their man would occupy the White House. Again, as William Black noted:
"The highest return on assets is always a political contribution."
Goldman’s 30 pieces of silver investment in Obama reaped them billions of dollars in returns as the TARP bailouts and the subsequent news about Goldman Sachs has shown. So although Obama may never have "worked for" Goldman in the traditional sense, he’s one of Robert Rubin’s boys and on Goldman’s books.
University of Minnesota political scientist Prof. Lawrence Jacobs, described the giant squid’s attachment to the Obama administration:
almost everything that the White House has done has been haunted by the personnel and the money of Goldman . . . as well as the suspicion that the White House, particularly early on, was pulling its punches out of deference to Goldman and its war chest.
Is it any wonder that between his service as "Senator Credit Card", his efforts to limit busing for desegregation, and his five draft deferments at the height of the Vietnam War that Joe Biden is attached to one of Goldman’s tentacles? Goldman has been a major campaign contributor to Biden and according to OpenSecrets, Biden in 2007 alone took almost $25,000 from the Robert Rubin related Citigroup (Rubin was its head as well as being a former head of Goldman).
And guess who was the keynote speaker at the Hamilton Project 2010 kickoff event a few days ago (April 20th, 2010) Tuesday morning at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel? That’s right: Vice President Joe Biden spoke at Goldman Sachs/Robert Rubin’s Rosemary’s Baby. You can see some pics of Biden at the Hamilton Project event along with who else–Robert Rubin–here.
As described by the Huffington Post:
Biden was speaking at the relaunch of the Hamilton Project, a think tank founded by ultimate Wall Street Democrat Robert Rubin to publicly despair about the deficit and other things bankers worry about the most.
Note too that in his address Biden paid tribute to Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission, something that the Hamilton Project and Robert Rubin (and Goldman) have been pushing for years because it really means cuts in entitlements (again, have a look at Sen. Obama’s 2006 speech at the Hamilton Project where he calls for entitlement cuts).
Interestingly, the man who introduced Joe Biden at the Hamilton Project’s relaunch (described above) was none other than Roger Altman, who is connected to the Hamilton Project.
Altman may not hold down a desk job in the Obama administration–he’s too big a fish for that just as is Robert Rubin–but he is one of those power brokers with all encompassing contacts within the Democratic Party. Altman is a Hamilton Project member, according to Dan Frumkin’s excellent article in the Huffington Post, as well as having served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under none other than Mr. Goldman Sachs, Robert Rubin. He is now now Chairman of Evercore Partners, which the Hamilton Project program described as "the most active investment banking boutique in the world." (and the Obama administration is trying to sell itself as one that is getting tough on big banks and Goldman?).
Like so many of the Goldman people, Altman has a touch of scandal/criminality about him. According to Wikipedia, Altman was forced from his position as Assistant Treasury Secretary because of a records keeping scandal.
Altman is a co-author, along with Robert Rubin, of the Hamilton Project’s "From Recession to Recovery to Renewal: An Economic Strategy to Achieve Broadly Shared Growth." Some of Altman’s ties to the Goldman-Rubin funded Hamilton Project can be seen here.
Brainard is the United States Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs in the administration of President Barack Obama. She is an associate and protege of Mr. Goldman Sachs, Robert Rubin. She has written numerous articles and bookson the joys of outsourcing work overseas.
Brainard also worked at Brookings which has embedded within in Goldman Sachs and Robert Rubin’s Hamilton Project. Goldman was clever in doing this because they hid a conservative thinking, pro business group like a Trojan Horse in what is generally perceived as a liberal think tank.
Like Timothy Geithner, who is her boss, Brainard is a brainy person who had trouble with income tax rules and regulations, thus joining quite a lengthy list of Goldies who ape the law. The Washington Post reported that:
Brainard’s nomination was held up by Republican concerns over allegations that she failed to pay property taxes on time. (What is it with Treasury and tax problems?)
Speaking of big fish, Warren doesn’t need to work for the US government or for Goldman. But he’s invested billions in Goldman expecting even greater returns. Obama has also admitted in the debates to "pal’in around" with the Sage of Omaha and Buffett is one of Obama’s fundraisers and economic advisers.
For more on Buffett see this written by Michael Winship at Truthout:
On Friday, Susan Pulliam reported on the front page of The Wall Street Journal that, "A Goldman Sachs Group Inc. director tipped off a hedge-fund billionaire about a $5 billion investment in Goldman by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. before a public announcement of the deal at the height of the 2008 financial crisis, a person close to the situation says."
As the Journal notes, the Buffet deal came at a key point in the Wall Street collapse, restoring confidence in the markets and lifting Goldman’s stock from a 40 percent slide to a 45 percent surge. The hedge-fund billionaire in question is Raj Rajaratnam, whose Galleon Group currently is embroiled in one of the biggest insider trading scandals in history: 21, including Rajaratnam, have been charged; 11 already have pled guilty.
Although Barack Obama was the overwhelming favorite of Goldman Sachs to be president in 2008, for he could serve as their Trojan Horse, they were smart enough to hedge their bets, so to speak and back Hillary too. According to the Washington Examiner, Goldman Sachs in 2008 alone gave:
($415,595.63 inflation adjusted), which was itself almost three times as much as Bush received as well.
And of course, it was Hillary’s hubby Bill Clinton who chose ex-Goldman chief Robert Rubin to serve in his White House. Bill, Hillary and Bob Rubin are Washington, D.C. kissing cousins.
Another example of the revolving door between Goldman Sachs and Obama’s administration. Craig served as Obama’s White House Counsel and after resigning, has taken on a position as Goldman Sach’s chief lawyer in defending against its SEC suit. A former Goldie, Robert Hormats, sits at the top of SEC’s enforcement group too. What a hoot!
Note that Craig is a lawyer and lawyer’s rules of professional responsibility prohibit not only direct conflicts of interest but anything that hints at a conflict of interest.
Here is doubtlessly why Goldman wanted Craig as its top lawyer in the SEC complaint:
Greg Craig, Obama’s first White House counsel, has joined Goldman, we learned this week. He may not have too much pull in the West Wing, which drove him out for hewing too close to Obama’s campaign promises, but as a former insider he will provide valuable intelligence to the world’s largest investment bank.
Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/op...#ixzz0mHKfS3hl
Thomas Donilon is Deputy National Security Adviser to Barack Obama (despite having a career that is mostly involved with domestic politics). Donilon was a lawyer at O’Melveny and Myers and made almost $4 million representing meltdown clients including Penny Pritzker (of Chicago) and Goldman. This from Michelle Malkin’s article RealClearPolitics. More information is available on Donilon over at Whorunsgov.com.
Joined Goldman in 1986; partner and managing director until 2007. Federal Reserve Bank of New York President since January 2009 (replacing none other than Timothy Geithner, his Goldman compadre). This all from the Wall Street Journal.
Elmendorf became Obama’s Director of the Congressional Budget Office in January 2009. Elmendorf previously was the Director of the Hamilton Project; it’s third.
Note too that the first 3 Directors of the Hamilton Project ALL serve in the Obama administration. While other journalists/writers have explored the links between Goldman Sachs and Obama, few have looked at the connection between the Hamilton Project and the Obama administration. Note again that the Hamilton Project was funded by Robert Rubin and Goldman Sachs. Note too that the current director of the Hamilton Project, its 4th since its founding in 2006, is Michael Greenstone. How long will it be before Greenstone goes to the Obama administration, making it a perfect 4 for 4 for Directors of the Goldman funded Hamilton Project? To show that there is a revolving door between the Obama Administration and Goldman/Rubin/Hamilton Project, Greenstone served as of Obama’s chief economic advisers.
Rahm, of course, is Obama’s Chief of Staff, the very first person Obama selected to be in his administration. Rahm has lengthy and fruitful ties to Goldman, and vice versa. Rahm took in about $75,000 from Goldman Sachs as a Congressman and was on a $3,000 a month retainer from Goldman while he worked as Bill Clinton’s chief fund raiser.
Timothy Carney has explored some of the links between Emanuel and Goldman Sachs:
…one of Barack Obama’s top sources of funds in this past election, Goldman has always had some particularly strong allies within government. Emanuel is one such ally.
An interesting early chapter in the Goldman-Emanuel relationship took place in the setting of Bill Clinton’s campaign for the White House in 1992. Clinton hired Emanuel as his chief fundraiser.
At the same time, however, Emanuel was on the payroll of Goldman Sachs, receiving $3,000 per month from the firm to “introduce us to people,” in the words of one Goldman partner at the time. This is certainly a noteworthy relationship, but it’s one that has almost entirely escaped scrutiny.
Corporations and partnerships are and were at the time prohibited by law from contributing to federal candidates out of the corporate coffers. So, while Rahm tapped Goldman employees personally for six figures in gifts to Clinton’s candidacy—more than any other firm—Goldman, as a company, was helping keep Clinton’s top fundraiser well-fed.
In his four terms in Congress, Emanuel has raised $74,750 from Goldman, making the firm his number four source of funds. Goldman has helped Emanuel. How has Emanuel helped Goldman?
The most obvious answer, as mentioned in this column two weeks ago, is in Emanuel’s lead role in shepherding the “$700 billion” bailout—first proposed by former a Goldman CEO, Bush Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson—through the skeptical House.
Of course, back in the Clinton days, Goldman benefited from NAFTA and the bailout of the Mexican currency, with Emanuel pushing NAFTA through Congress, and Rubin hammering out the peso bailout.
McClatchey newspaper’s Greg Gordon, in his article entitled, "Goldman’s White House Connections Raise Eyebrows" also noted how Rahm and Goldman worked together to make money:
One White House insider who knows something about how Wall Street does business is chief of staff Emanuel, who earned millions of dollars in investment banking after he left the Clinton White House. His work for the Chicago-based financial services firm Wasserstein Perella & Co. intersected with Goldman in at least one deal.
In 1999, Emanuel was a key player representing Unicom Corp., the parent of Commonwealth Edison, in forging its merger with Peco Energy Co. to create utility giant Exelon Corp. Goldman was also advising Unicom.
The White House declined immediate comment on that connection.
So how real is the Obama/Democratic party’s supposed new toughness on big banks when the administration’s point guard was on the Goldman payroll and become a multi-millionaire through big banks and Wall St. deals?
Diana Farrell is Deputy Director of the National Economic Council (since January, 2009) in the administration of President Barack Obama. She formerly worked for two years at Goldman Sachs in New York according to Whorunsgov.com.
In 2003, Farrell was the author of a paper, "Perspective on Outsourcing" in which she argued that sending American jobs overseas might be "as beneficial to the U.S. as to the destination country, probably more so." In a book titled “The Economists’ Voice: Top Economists Take on Today’s Problems,” Farrell wrote a chapter titled “U.S. Offshoring: Small Steps to make it Win-Win.” Her chapter, published in 2008, centered on offshoring.
In the Obama administration, Farrell works with a coven of Goldies including Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers, who is her boss.
Chairman of Obama’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
According to Wikipedia, Friedman worked for much of his career with Goldman Sachs, holding numerous executive roles. He served as the company’s co-chief operating officer from 1987 to 1990, was the company’s co-chairman from 1990 to 1992, and the sole chairman from 1992 to 1994; he still serves on the company board.
Friedman was another Goldie involved in controversy, as many of the Goldies have been in government service, involving his former employer. His actions, like other affiliated with Goldman, show scant respect for rules, regulations or laws.
On May 7, 2009 Friedman resigned as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in response to criticism of his December 2008 purchase of $3 million of stock in Goldman Sachs. Friedman, who remains a member of Goldman Sachs’ board, came into violation of Federal Reserve policy when Goldman was converted to a bank holding company in September 2008, thereby placing it under the regulatory authority of the New York Fed. Friedman requested a waiver from this violation when the conversion occurred, which was granted roughly two and a half months later.
Robert Rubin’s Chief of Staff while Rubin served as Secretary of the Treasury and an Obama “head hunter” according to “Rubin Proteges Change Their Tune as They Join Obama’s Team” in the New York Times.
Furman served as the second Director of the Hamilton Project after Peter Orszag’s departure for the Obama administration and he in turn left the Hamilton Project in June 2008 to direct economic policy for the Obama Presidential Campaign.
Obama just appointed Fudge to his budget deficit reduction committee. Fudge has been the pr craftsman for some of America’s largest corporations. She sits, according to the Washington Post, as a Trustee of the Brookings Institution within which the Hamilton Project is embedded.
Gallogly sits on the Hamilton Project’s advisory council. He is also, according to Wikipedia, currently a member of President Barack Obama’s President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
He’s one of the most documented of all people within the Obama administration while serving as Obama’s Secretary of the Treasury. He was named head of the New York Fed by none other George W. Bush, again perhaps underscoring Gore Vidal’s observation that American is run by one corporate party and it has two wings: Republican and Democratic.
While at the head of the New York Fed, Geithner prior to the crisis not only failed to see storm clouds on the horizon, he also in 2008 ordered the bailed out AIG not to disclose its sweetheart payments to big banks including, you guessed it, Goldman Sachs. Geithner also worked with W’s Treasury Secretary Paulson to fashion the TARP agreements whereby billions were handed out to Wall St.
Geithner is a protoge of both Robert Rubin and Larry Summers.
Like other Goldies, Geithner has had trouble with rules, tax regulations and various. Recall that he had trouble at his confirmation hearings over his tax returns. Whorunsgov sums them up:
At the end of the Clinton administration, Geithner moved to the International Monetary Fund, where he was director of policy development. That period led to a blot on his personal record. The IMF, unlike most employers, does not pay the employer match on Social Security and Medicare taxes. Geithner was responsible for paying those taxes himself. He did not to do so until he was audited in 2005, and even then only paid the back taxes for 2003 and 2004. He did not pay the back taxes for 2001 and 2002 until after Obama tapped him to be Treasury secretary at the end of 2008.
Many of Geithner’s actions profited Goldman Sachs directly or indirectly, such as Geithner’s decision to deny Goldman’s competitor the same treatment he gave Goldman. As Time magazine noted:
[Geithner]Would not grant Lehman Brothers the right to become a bank-holding company — a status given to both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs just days after Lehman filed for bankruptcy
Lehman Brothers collapsed, leaving Goldman Sachs with fewer competitors and a greater market share.
Gensler was a Goldman Sachs partner who is Obama’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission head. Gensler is the guy who as a former Treasury official exempted the $58 trillion credit default market from oversight. Those financial instrumentals played a key role in the global economic downturn and led to billions of dollars in profits for banks like Goldman Sachs.
Greenstone is the 4th Director of the Hamilton Project. Just as attorney Craig went from advising Obama to defending Goldman Sachs against the SEC complaint, Greenstone has used the revolving door to go from went an economic adviser position to Obama to one of the Goldman Sachs outlets, in this case its think tank embedded in the Brookings Institution and funded by Goldman and Robert Rubin. All 3 previous Directors of the Hamilton Project work in the Obama administration.
HAMILTON PROJECT, THE.
The pro-corporatist think group funded by Goldman Sachs and Robert Rubin and cleverly hidden in the Brookings Institution as their Rosemary’s Baby/Trojan Horse. Espouses cutbacks in entitlements, strict budgetary thinking applied to all social programs (but not the defense department); outsourcing of American jobs overseas; more NAFTA-type agreements. Three of the first 4 Directors of the Hamilton Project serve in the Obama Administration. The fourth went from an economic adviser to Obama to the Hamilton Project.
It might also help to recall that the name "Hamilton Project" is significant. Recall that Alexander Hamilton, after whom the institute was named, had as his most famous dictum that "the people are a great beast." Hamilton espoused a powerful state bank and centralized government and presidency.
Note too that Sen. Barack Obama was the inaugural speaker at the Hamilton Project and lavished praise on "my friend Bob [Rubin]" and called for cuts in entitlements (Social Security) and more NAFTA agreements. This is the same guy who lied to the electorate, then, in union states like Ohio and Pennsylvania during the Democratic primaries when he said "NAFTA needs rethinking." He is firmly and totally behind NAFTA and has done no "rethinking" of it while President and with his party in firm control of Congress.
For more information, see the reading listed below on this subject and the Project’s web site.
The top economics official at Obama’s State Department, Hormats spent the prior 27 years at Goldman Sachs, including as the Vice Chairman of Goldman’s international arm.
Hormat’s appointment to the Obama administration led Glenn Greenwald to this observation:
A Goldman executive as COO of the SEC’s enforcement division. This is all consistent with the observation of Desmond Lachman — previously chief emerging market strategist at Salomon Smith Barney and IMF deputy director — regarding "Goldman Sachs’s seeming lock on high-level U.S. Treasury jobs," which he cited as but one of the many "parallels between U.S. policymaking and what we see in emerging markets."
Imagine how this will play out. The SEC has lodged a complaint against Goldman Sachs. Goldman’s former Vice President in charge of Business Intelligence sits in the SEC’s enforcement division while Obama’s former top lawyer, White House Counsel Gregory Craig, has gone to defend Goldman Sachs!
Former Vice President of Goldman Sachs in San Francisco where he where he led Goldman’s Information Technology Security Investment Banking practice. Kashkari served under Treasury Secretary Paulson and was kept on by Obama after his inauguration for a limited period to work on TARP oversight.
Sometimes called "Obama’s brain", she serves as Obama’s Ambassador to the OECD. Kornbluh was Deputy Chief of Staff to Mr. Goldman Sachs, Robert Rubin.
LEW, JACOB (AKA "JACK") J.
Lew is the United States Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. According to Wikipedia, Lew sits on the Brookings-Rubin funded Hamilton Project Advisory Board. He also served with Robert Rubin in Bill Clinton’s cabinet as Director of OMB.
Like many affiliates of the Hamilton Project, along with Barack Obama, Lew believes that fiscal discipline needs to be applied to Social Security (not much talk about runaway costs in the military budget). According to the New York Times, Lew has testified that:
“Fiscal discipline is essential to protect Social Security and strengthen Medicare, so that both will be there in the years ahead. Reducing the accumulated federal debt will help us to protect these important programs.” (Congressional testimony in March 2000.)
Also like Robert Rubin, Lew has worked with Citicorp. The New York Times reported (same link as above) that:
As executive vice president of New York University, he tangled with a union representing graduate students who help teach courses.
LIPTON, DAVID A.
According to Paul Krugman, Lipton is at now at Obama’s National Economic Council and the National Security Council. Lipton worked with Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner, again according to Krugman, on the US response to the Asian financial crisis of the 1990′s. MergeFoundations reports that Lipton worked closely with Robert Rubin:
[he] advised and assisted Secretary Rubin on many key aspects of international economic policy.
Eric Mindich, while not officially serving in the Obama administration, is a strong Obama supporter with extensive ties to the President, according to a Ben Smith/Politico article. Mindich is a hedge fund manager and sits on the Advisory Council of the Hamilton Project and has worked at Goldman Sachs. In fact, he was the youngest ever partner with Goldman Sachs at the age of 27.
According to Wikipedia:
Prior to forming Eton Park in 2004, Mindich spent 15 years at Goldman Sachs in two main roles: leading the firm’s equities risk arbitrage business and managing the firm’s equities division. He joined the firm in 1988 in the equities arbitrage department and ran that department from 1992 until 2000. In 1994, at age 27, he became the youngest partner ever in the history of Goldman Sachs. In 2000, he became co-chief operating officer of the equities division and in 2002 became co-head of the equities division and a member of the Goldman Sachs Management Committee. In 2003, Mindich joined the Executive Office as senior strategy officer and chair of the Firmwide Strategy Committee.
Another website, Operational Due Diligence at Checkfundmanager, indicates the following about Mindich:
In March of 2009, Eton Park’s [hedge fund founded by him] assets under management were estimated to be around $13 billion.
An article from April of 2009 lists Mr. Mindich among the “inner circle” of economic advisors to Lawrence H. Summers, who is the current chief economic adviser to President Barack Obama. Mr. Mindich is also listed in another article as being a top level Democrat fundraiser.
…Eric Mindich, founder of Eton Park fund, reportedly supports Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy (2007).
…A February 2005 article rattles off a number of impressive credentials for Eric Mindich, including launching the largest hedge fund in history, graduating summa cum laude from Harvard, becoming the youngest ever partner at Goldman Sachs, and being endorsed by former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin.
Obama’s Budget Director was the founding director of the Hamilton Project, funded by Goldman Sachs and Robert Rubin. Furthermore, Wikipedia indicates that Robert Rubin, Goldman’s ex-head, was one of Orszag’s mentors.
A BBC article notes Orsag’s commitment to Hamilton Project ideals like cutting the budget (mostly by cutting entitlements) and his ties to Goldman Sachs:
Mr Obama has signalled his determination to keep the budget deficit in check by appointing Peter Orszag, the head of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), to head the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
It is the OMB, rather than the Treasury, that allocates government spending and estimates the size of future budget deficits.
His appointment could help ease the new president’s relations with Congress.
Peter Orszag is well-known as a fiscal conservative, who is concerned to keep spending and tax cuts in check.
He was one of the first directors of the Hamilton Project, a Brookings think tank initiative backed by Robert Rubin…
The BBC failed to point out that Goldman Sachs also contributed to funding the Hamilton Project, and he was not "one of the first directors of the Hamilton Project" he was its first Director.
former lobbyist for Goldman Sachs who serves under Timothy Geithner as his top deputy and overseer of TARP bailout funds, $10 billion of which went to Goldman.
Ratner is the shady billionaire financier who Obama appointed as his “car czar” and who resigned after it was revealed that his company, the Quadrangle Group, was apparently involved in “pay to play” for a billion dollars or so of New York State pension funds, and was under possible indictment by the New York AG and the SEC, also sits on the Advisory Council of the Goldman funded Hamilton Project.
Rattner is yet another Goldie-Hamilton Project person in trouble with the law. He was the main financial supporter of Harold Ford’s aborted New York Senate run and speculation was that Rattner wanted a Senator to help protect him.
REISCHAUER, ROBERT D.
He was a member of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission from 2000-2009 and was its vice chair from 2001-2008. He too sits on the Hamilton Project’s advisory board.
From this excellent discussion at "Meet Robert Rubin" here’s more information on Reischauer and his extensive links to Robert Rubin:
Robert Reischauer, another policy insider who penned a memo in 2009 with fellow Brookings Institution elites calling for Obama to take "action to stem the growth of Social Security and Medicare," were recently nominated by Obama to be Social Security Trustees. (The Blahous pick he apparently owed to Senator Mitch McConnell.)
Reischauer has close ties to economic wrecking ball Robert Rubin—the Goldman Sachs chairman who became Clinton Treasury Secretary and pushed through radical deregulatory banking laws, then went to Citigroup to score $120 million for driving his company into the ground. Rubin and Reischauer knew each other at both the Harvard Corporation and the Clinton White House, where Reischauer was director of CBO. Reischauer is on the advisory board of Rubin’s Hamilton Project, and the two most recent CBO directors have come straight from Hamilton.
NOTE: since writing this, it appears the above (and the quote below on Alice Rivkin) comes word for word from an Alternet article by Matthew Skomarovsky found here.
Obama just named in March Alice Rivlin to his so called deficit reduction commission. Have a look at her background and you’ll see why and that Obama has stacked that commission with people who want cuts in entitlements.
Again, an excellent summary of her Goldman-Brookings (read Hamilton Project) Obama connections:
One of Reischauer’s co-signers of the Brookings memo, Alice Rivlin, is another fox Obama has put in charge of the Social Security henhouse. Former Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve under Greenspan at the peak of the tech bubble, and also a Hamilton Project board member, Rivlin will likely make another great Wall Street ally on the commission. In 2004 Rivlin co-authored (with Obama’s current Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, among others) a 138-page Brookings report titled "Restoring Fiscal Sanity" advocating $47 billion in entitlement cuts, including an "increase in the retirement age under Social Security" and "more accurate inflation adjustments to Social Security benefits."
Wikipedia also says of her:
She is currently on the board of directors of the New York Stock Exchange.
Wikipedia also notes that she has extensive Brookings Institution connections (within which the Hamilton Project is now embedded) including from 1957–66, 1969–75, 1983–93, and 1999 to the present.
Rivlin is a frequent speaker at the Hamilton Project as shown by this page at the Hamilton Project’s web site; you can see videos of her talks and the subjects of her papers here.
Son of Robert Rubin (see next entry). Served as a headhunter for Obama per the New York Times article, "Rubin Proteges Change Their Tune as They Join Obama’s Team".
Mr. Goldman Sachs and co-funder, along with Goldman, of the Hamilton Project. Served as the 70th U.S. Sect. of the Treasury under Bill Clinton and spent 26 years at Goldman Sachs becoming its Co-Chairman from 1990-1992. He also served as Chairman of Citigroup. Along with Goldman Sachs, Rubin funded the Hamilton Project embedded in the Brookings Institution. In other words, he embedded within what is perceived as a liberal think tank a Trojan Horse that espouses cutbacks in entitlements (but not Defense budgets), more NAFTA like agreements, outsourcing of jobs overseas and strict budget consciousness applied to health care. Rubin used the same tactic with Barack Obama: choosing an essentially ambitious yet cautious conservative and turning him into a Trojan Horse for his causes and those of Goldman’s/the Hamilton Project’s. Rubin is the de facto President of the United States and he and the Hamilton Project tell Obama and his administration what to do. Obama gets to ride on Air Force One.
According to a recent Politico article:
Behind the scenes, Rubin still wields enormous influence in Barack Obama’s Washington, chatting regularly with a legion of former employees who dominate the ranks of the young administration’s policy team. He speaks regularly to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who once worked for Rubin at Treasury.
Prior to advising Timothy Geithner on bailouts, Sperling was paid the paltry sum of $887,727 by Goldman Sachs for one year of consulting work. Sperling, another acolyte of Robert Rubin’s raked in even more that year, according to William Grieder at the Nation:
[he was paid in addition] $480,051 as a director of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, plus $250,000 for his quarterly briefings to two hedge funds, plus the speaking gigs [$158,000] (including an appearance before the Stanford Group in Houston subsequently charged with running a Ponzi scheme). Meantime, his day job at the Council on Foreign Relations paid $116,653. A busy, busy wonk.
Storch worked for Goldman Sachs for 5 years reaching the position of Vice President in the Business Intelligence Group. He is Obama’s Managing Executive of the Security and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement.
It didn’t take Larry Summers long to land a big time job after he crashed and burned as Harvard’s President. He sits at Obama’s right hand as Obama’s chief economic adviser and head of the National Economic Counsel. Summers’s boss at Goldman was non other than Robert Rubin, former co-Chairman of Goldman and also former head of Citicorp.
Summers has reaped nearly $2.8 million in speaking fees to banks and institutions he is now supposed to be helping to regulate and oversee.
Goldman Sachs paid him $135,000 for a single speech he gave in April, 2008, a very good investment repaid many times to Goldman.
Although a lot of work and research was put into this list, I am sure I missed many people. But it gives the most comprehensive look ever published at how extensive the Goldman Sachs ties are in the Obama administration and the revolving door between the two (See attorney Craig’s description above).
It also shines light on a subject that has virtually received no mainstream media attention: the importance of the Hamilton Project (funded by Robert Rubin and Goldman Sachs) as the policy voice for their pro-corporate interests. While Matt Taibbi has dissected Goldman, no journalist has looked at the Hamilton Project (Taibbi misses it too) despite the fact that all three of its first directors serve now in the Obama administration. Its current director, its fourth, worked as an economic adviser to Obama Administration and at MIT. It formulate the pro-big business that Goldman wants and spreads it through academia and the Obama administration.
Robert Rubin and Goldman Sachs cleverly disguished their Rosemary’s baby, the Hamilton Project, within the essentially liberal Brookings Institution. Lots of journalists (including the BBC) have been misled by this, thinking that if it comes out of Brookings, it must be liberal or even progressive. Discussing Peter Orszag, the BBC made this blunder:
He was one of the first directors of the Hamilton Project, a Brookings think tank initiative backed by Robert Rubin which aimed to combine fiscal responsibility with progressive politics.
Not so! The clear message from the Hamilton Project is this:
1) entitlements must be cut, including Social Security;
2) more jobs must be outsourced overseas;
3) more NAFTA-type agreements must be drafted and entered into;
4) strict budgetary policies must be applied to entitlements and especially health care "reform" (whereas the defense department is skirted).
One only has to look at the Hamilton Project, at Obama’s speech to that group in April, 2006, and the numerous articles and books that they have peddled to see that their outlook is overwhelmingly corporatist and pro-big business. It is, then, ant-iprogressive not liberal and certainly not progressive.
RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING:
1. Greg Gordon (McClatchy Newspapers), "Goldman’s White House Connections Raise Eyebrows" April 21, 2010.
2. Fflambeau, "With the Obama Administration Infested With Goldman Sachs People, How Real is the Obama/Democratic Attack on Big Banks" FDL Diary, April 21, 2010.
3. "More Investigations of Goldman Sachs, A Double-Edge Swords for Obama and Democrats"
4. "Meet Robert Rubin" at MyOpera/Personal Finance Blog
5. Paul Street’s article showing that Obama held corporatist ideas long before elected and his indebtedness to the interests of big business.
6. Matthew Skomarovsky, "Obama Packs Debt Commission with Social Security Looters", March 28, 2010 at Alternet.
ESSENTIAL READING ON THE HAMILTON PROJECT AND ITS TIES TO THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION:
1. Kirk James Murphy, M.D. "The Hamilton Project: Same Corporatist Whine In New DLC Vessels." THE seminal article on the Hamilton Project which also features a video clip of then Senator Barack Obama talking about "my friend, Bob [Rubin]" and espousing cuts in entitlements and the "need" for more free trade pacts like NAFTA.
2. Fflambeau, "Obama’s ‘Smoking Gun’: His Hamilton Project Speech Shows His Links to Goldman, Entitlement Cuts, Part 1.
3. Fflambeau, "Obama’s ‘Smoking Gun’: His Hamilton Project Speech Shows His Links to Goldman, Entitlement Cuts, Part 2".
4. Another source for Obama’s Hamilton Project speech of April 2006. Contains video clip.
5. James Kirk Murphy, M.D., "Remember the Hamilton Project?" Dr. Murph’s latest look at the Hamilton Project.
6. David Sirota, "Wall Street Democrats Unveil Plan to Undermine Progessives", April 5, 2006
A progressive sees this and all they see is a 'Goldman-Sachs problem'. If only those evil bastards were dealt with everything would be hunkydory. G-S is just the big fish in the pond at this moment, if not them then someone else when their house of cards collapses. Yet they expect that the next guy will be more amendable to their pathetic regulation than the last, the old Einstein definition of insanity.
"We say to the workers: 'You will have to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and international wars, not only in order to change existing conditions, but also in order to change yourselves and fit yourselves for the exercise of political power."'
MARX (On the Communist Trial at Cologne, 1851).
Obama Promised to Close Guantánamo. Instead, He's Made It Worse
Facing deteriorating conditions and the hopelessness of their legal abyss, detainees are starving themselves in protest
by Murtaza Hussain
In his letters, Guantánamo Bay prisoner Shaker Aamer appeals in desperation to his captors and the outside world:
"Please … torture me in the old way. Here they destroy people mentally and physically without leaving marks."
The majority of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay are currently on hunger strike to protest the prison conditions and the legal limbo of their position. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images
The 44-year-old British resident and father of four has spent over 11 years incarcerated at Guantánamo despite being cleared for release as early as 2007. To this day never charged with a crime, Aamer is just one of hundreds of detainees who remain imprisoned in Guantánamo. Despite running on an explicit campaign promise to shut down the island prison which has become a symbol of the abuses of the "war on terror", President Obama has continued to preside over its operation.
And by recent accounts, under his tenure, the conditions for prisoners there – from both a physical and legal standpoint – have become markedly worse.
This past month, the majority of prisoners at Guantánamo began a hunger strike in protest of alleged mistreatment at the hands of guards at the facility. According to lawyers for over a dozen men involved in the protest, after weeks of refusing food, their clients are "coughing blood, losing consciousness and becoming weak and fatigued". At least five men are reportedly being strapped down by guards and force-fed through their nostrils – an excruciatingly painful procedure that the UN Human Rights Commission has said it considers to be torture.
For the prisoners, the overwhelming majority of whom have never been charged with a crime and over 50 of whom have been cleared for release for years, this represents their last desperate avenue to protest their fate. Under President Obama's tenure, the Kafkaesque legal nightmare of detainees such as these has become even more entrenched.
The deterioration in detainees' living conditions is believed to be tied to a recent change in the military command of the prison. It has been reported that under the new command regime, mistreatment of prisoners has increased, exacerbating a situation already desperate after over a decade of torture, solitary confinement, and detainee deaths at the camp.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that a detainee was shot in the neck by a guard, the first incident of gunfire known to have occurred in the camp's history. In addition to a pervasive atmosphere of violence at the facility – characterized by beatings and other forms of abuse by camp guards – detainees have increasingly had their meager personal effects confiscated or damaged, without cause or explanation. Mundane items such as family photos, letters and CDs have recently been taken away by camp guards and prisoners copies of the Qur'an have been desecrated under the guise of searching for contraband.
To individuals who have spent over a decade imprisoned under draconian circumstances, separated from their families and without any foreseeable prospect of freedom, the latest round of degradations appear to have represented a breaking-point. In the words of Hilary Stauffer, of the UK-based legal charity Reprieve:
"These men are simply trying to pass their days in something that is a reasonable facsimile to 'normality', simply trying to survive. To have their small daily pleasures – their Qur'ans, their personal items – confiscated, or desecrated, is an unbearable indignity … the saddest part is their only means of protest is a hunger strike – there is literally no other avenue available to them."
That the hunger strike is, in large part, a reflection of the increasing hopelessness of the detainees' situation is obvious to all parties, as well as a direct consequence of the policies of the Obama administration. The passage into law earlier this year of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – which contained language and provisions intended to prevent the closure of Guantánamo and make the transfer of detainees from there impossible – has effectively doomed prisoners prospects of freedom.
Even those already cleared for release now face the prospect of indefinite incarceration at the facility – without even the pretense of legal recourse. Despite being publicly petitioned by human rights groups to veto the bill, the NDAA was signed by President Obama – a direct contradiction of his campaign promise to close the prison.
A further demonstration of the Obama administration's resolve to keep open Guantánamo and maintain the indefinite incarceration its prisoners came in the reassignment, in January, of Special Envoy Dan Fried. The man tasked with finding new homes for Guantánamo prisoners – a role described as "the most thankless job in Washington" – was notified early this year of his impending transfer and the abolition of his former post. In closing the special envoy position and transferring its portfolio to a State Department legal department ill-equipped to handle it, Obama has sent a clear message that he intends to maintain the present situation at the prison indefinitely.
Furthermore, the continued denial of access to Guantánamo prisoners for UN torture investigators has made clear that there will be neither a change in detainees' conditions nor any accounting for abuses. For the men at Guantánamo, the message is straightforward: whether they have been cleared for release or not, their freedom will not be forthcoming and their circumstances at Guantánamo will only get worse under this administration.
The hopelessness of indefinite detention – characterized by permanent separation from family and the banishment of the prospect of returning to a normal life – naturally has a deleterious effect on prisoners' well-being. Coupled with increased harassment and humiliation by camp guards, this situation is today manifesting in the supremely desperate act of protest represented in the present mass hunger strike by detainees. That this increasingly draconian reality at Guantánamo has occurred during the tenure of Barack Obama, a man who based his very election in part on a pledge to close the prison, is a tragic irony. It also represents a moral failure on the part of Obama's liberal supporters who excoriated George W Bush for his operation of the camp, but have remained largely acquiescent with President Obama's entrenchment and intensification of his predecessors policies.
For the men who have spent years trapped in Guantánamo and now stare into the legal abyss of permanent detention there, the policies of this administration have meant a worsening of their already fraught conditions. The case of Shaker Aamer, cleared for release in 2007, yet still languishing in Guantánamo nearly six years later, offers some clue as to why the Obama administration may be taking extraordinary measures to ensure detainees such as him remain behind bars. In the words of his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith:
"I have known Shaker for some time; because he is so eloquent and outspoken about the injustices of Guantánamo, he is very definitely viewed as a threat by the US. Not in the sense of being an extremist, but in the sense of being someone who can rather eloquently criticize the nightmare that happened there."
For those who have experienced and borne witness to beatings, torture, and even death at Guantánamo Bay over the past decade, Barack Obama has ensured that the prospect of freedom will remain as remote as ever.