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Saturday, August 21, 2010


It is looooooooong past time to recognize one of the truisms of political life: Meaningful reform only happens when the system is threatened.

The forms of that threat are complicated and multiplicitous. It could be the threat of actual revolution, it could be the threat of international repudiation (I would argue, for example, that the civil rights movement was more successful because the Soviet Union was using the US racist system as a propaganda point in the Cold War), it could be the threat to profits, etc.

However you slice it, Frederick Douglass was right, "power concedes nothing without a demand, it never did and it never will."

Once again for the most part Obama is doing exactly what he said he would do: kill more people in Asia, shovel money at Wall Street, continue all aspects of the Bush human rights/constitutional rights approach.

He couldn't have been clearer that this was the program, and he's stuck to it. These Democrat losers only lied to themselves.

OK, we know these things. Question is, what are we going to do about it?
Blogs are the beginning, but not the end.
I'm hungry for something new. Well, not just hungry- I'm working mightily to figure out what that "next" thing could be, what organizing strategy will work to motivate many, not just the choir.
Electoral politics is rife with compromises- how could it be otherwise in this nation?
In these times?
Somehow, I think that cultural work (visual arts, music, dance, poetry, spoken word, literature) holds the key. We gotta get creative!!
Anyone out there agree?

Let's just write in Feingold for 2012, I say.

Rojo: Meaningful reform only happens when the system is threatened.

Yep, and given that these people are unwilling to make even the mildest of threats, we all know where that leaves meaningful reform.

QChris: Once again for the most part Obama is doing exactly what he said he would do: kill more people in Asia, shovel money at Wall Street, continue all aspects of the Bush human rights/constitutional rights approach.

There's some truth to that, but you're not giving Obama enough credit for the lengths he went to to deceive people. Here's the Council on Foreign Relations summarizing candidate Obama's position on military tribunals and Guantanamo, for example:

Obama says Guantanamo should be closed and habeas corpus (AP) should be restored for the detainees. He says the United States should have “developed a real military system of justice that would sort out the suspected terrorists from the accidentally accused.”

In June 2008, Obama praised (NYT) a Supreme Court decision allowing Guantanamo prisoners to challenge their detention in civilian courts. He called the ruling "an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus."

In February 2008, Obama criticized the prosecution of six Guantanamo detainees charged with involvement in the 9/11 attacks. He said the trials are "too important to be held in a flawed military commission system that has failed to convict anyone of a terrorist act since the 9/11 attacks and that has been embroiled in legal challenges" (SFChron). Instead, Obama said, the men should be tried in a U.S. criminal court or by a military court-martial.

Obama voted against the Military Commissions Act of 2006.

I definitely agree that it doesn't excuse those who believed him despite the many signs that he was going to be exactly what he is, but it's not the case that these people only lied to themselves--he lied to them as well. Their main failing (and the one they exhibit over and over again) was to show insufficient skepticism about the promises of yet another standard-issue corporate Democrat.

Hey John -

I like your blog a lot and don't want to get too much into an argument about this, but...

... beginning in 2004 with his awful warmongering speech in support of that other enormity John Kerry, Obama essentially backed what came to be known as the "surge" (when Bush did it) in Iraq. He vowed to hunt and kill "the terrorists" (which is to say anyone in the Middle East protecting themselves in addition to any actual terrorists) in same speech. I believe the words "hunt" and "kill" were actually used IIRC.

Now maybe there was as you document some lip service given to close Guantanamo, but I believe this was "goal" for Bush as well. So Obama lied about about that let's say (and did anyone reading a blog like this believe him..?)...

He absolutely promised to increase troop levels in Afghanistan in the 2008 race. There's no question about this. If there was any word on his part in support of the Palestinians since at least his senate race I'm not aware of it. Obama mouthed the usual platitudes about getting "combat troops" out of Iraq by this year, with no mention of the permanent bases and 50,000 "non-combat" personnel (has someone mentioned this to the Iraqis by the way? "Oh no no... those are NON-COMBAT occupying troops, so yeah, we're not actually supposed to be blown up by IEDs now... yeah, thanks...") and our variety of contract mercenaries.

While in the senate Obama voted against the sane and decent position on telecomm immunity. There wasn't much of any question to anyone paying attention that Obama was fond of the secutity state.

During the campaign he made some noises about how great Reagan was, which raised my eyebrows, and my Dem friends struggled to explain this away. F---in' REAGAN. How does one finesse that? How does one parse that as progressive or liberal or anything other than troglodyte neocon/neolib BS?

Of course Obama (and McCain belatedly) scrambled BEFORE THE NOVEMBER ELECTION to announce that the nation's coffers would be open to Wall Street as Job #1 upon taking office.

So I reiterate that Obama is very much exactly what he said when you could nail him down on actual positions: 1) in favor of the national security state 2) pro-war, pro-military spending and 3) Wall Street's whore. This was obvious and one of the several reasons I voted for Nader again.

The Dems just wrap themselves in self-delusion. The Dem candidates by and large are openly hostile to their own constituents. Fool them 5,976 times, shame on them.

Another open letter to Obama--reminds me of one of the most insightful posts ever written by Chris Hedges: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/liberals_are_useless_20091206/

Chris: I like your blog a lot and don't want to get too much into an argument about this, but...

Actually you're preaching to the choir; you may not have been reading here for long, but I've been pounding Democratic voters mercilessly for this kind of thing pretty much since the day I started this blog.

I agree that people who voted for him deserve to be held responsible for rationalizing away his most egregious statements--I'm thinking in particular of genuine progressives, who'd learned their lesson already with Clinton and had no excuse for not being more skeptical. But Obama constantly talked out of both sides of his mouth (as in the example I cited above and this one I mentioned a week ago, which are just the tip of the iceberg), and he deserves to be held responsible for that as well. It's not and doesn't need to be just one or the other.

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