November 4, 2012 archive

Pragmatic Centrism

The Left Wing Case Against Obama and Obama’s Next Term

by Ian Welsh

2012 November 3

The key thing to realize is that Obama is the President who normalized Bush’s Republic.  He normalized routine civil liberties violations, normalized anti-immigrant raids, normalized the eternal war on terror, pushed executive power even further than Bush with a unilateral war against the wishes of Congress in Libya and by arrogating for himself the right to kill any American.  He made sure the rich not only stayed rich, in the face of a financial collapse which he could have used to break their power, but has increased inequality significantly.  The wealth and wages of ordinary Americans have dropped, the portion of the country’s income going to the wealthy has increased, and the US is well on its way to becoming a corrupt petro-state.  Nothing is more hilarious than Mayor Bloomberg endorsing Obama because of climate change, when Obama has quite deliberately overseen a huge increase in hydrocarbon production and openly embraces so-called “clean” coal.   Obama may agree that Global Warming exists, and Romney may pretend that it doesn’t, but the policies of the two are functionally identical and the money Obama spent on renewables was so horribly misspent as to do nothing but discredit the industry.

The argument for “who cares” is simple enough.  Yes, Romney will be worse than Obama in certain respects, but if Obama is not in charge, then the Democrats are far more likely to oppose both civil liberties absuses and efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Let me tell you how Obama’s second term will play out.

1) He will appoint a milquetoast “liberal” to the Supremes.  You’ll keep the remains of Roe vs. Wade, but he’ll keep doing things like overruling Plan B as an over the counter medicatin, because he doesn’t really believe that girls impregnated by their fathers have a right to an abortion.  And every case that enshrines oligarchy, like Citizens United or HCR, will go for oligarchy (you aren’t stupid enough to think that Roberts switched his vote for any reasons other than to give insurance companies their bailout and gut Medicaid, I hope.)

2) The economy will struggle along till he gets his grand bargain, then it will absolutely crater.  You’ve got a couple years of lousy but not awful economy at most, use it, because years 3 and 4 are going to be awful.

3) He will make a Grand Bargain.  Winning by only a small margin of the popular vote will help with this.  The rich will pay slightly more, but most of the money will come from cutting Social Security, Medicare and other such programs.  The Republicans will give him just enough votes to pass it, so that it will be the Democrats who have gutted SS and Medicare.

4) The Republicans will nominate a right wing crazy in 2016.  He will stand a good chance of winning, because the Democrats, having cut SS and Medicare will now stand for nothing other than “fear the Supreme Court!”  In fact, the Republicans will run as the defenders of SS and Medicare.

Because the Republican Congress is now extremely far right wing, in fact reactionary, when they get their President, they will be able to do almost anything they want.  And all they will need is the House and 51 votes in the Senate, because they will not play stupid games about the filibuster, they’ll pass under reconciliation or just do it with 51 votes and tell everyone to go fuck themselves.  There will be no nonsense about super-majorities.  HCR will, at that point, be removed or gutted.  The court decision making Medicaid optional, however, will remain the law of the land.

Reelecting Obama does mean a better economy for the next couple years.  It does mean that people who can afford health care with mandated issue, and who must have it to make the bridge to Medicare, will get that.  It means nothing else.  It will gut the Democratic coalition, it will make a reactionary right wing president far more likely, it will kick the restructuring of the economy which is needed down the road further, making it more difficult when, or rather if, it ever occurs.  It will make the Grand Compromise, meaning SS and Medicare cuts, far more possible than if Romney were in power and Democrats were opposing the bill.  And yes, poor women will still be able, at least theoretically, to get abortions (upper middle class women are always able to get them, since they can travel.)


High time we raised the tone around this place.

Abduction of  Figaro by P.D.Q. Bach (2:24)

I’m soo mad.

How mad?

I’m sooooo mad!


I’m so mad I’m not even going to sing my aria.

What do you mean “We”?

Why is the left defending Obama?

Matt Stoller, Salon

Saturday, Nov 3, 2012 10:00 AM EDT

The 2012 election is next Tuesday. We face a choice between Barack Obama, a candidate whose Presidency we can examine and evaluate, and Mitt Romney, who is a dangerous cipher. My argument – made last week in “Progressive Case Against Obama“, is that progressives should evaluate these risks honestly, with a clear-headed analysis of Obama’s track record.This piece sparked a massive debate that has had both Obama loyalists and Republicans resort to outlandish name-calling, evidently as a result of their unwillingness or inability to address the issues raised.

It is remarkable to see the level to which Obama defenders have sunk. Let’s start with a basic problem – why is Obama in a tight race? Mitt Romney is more caricature than candidate, a horrifically cartoonish plutocrat whose campaign is staffed by people that allow secret tapings of obviously offensive statements. The Republican base finds Romney uninspiring, and Romney has been unable to provide one good reason to choose him except that he is not the incumbent. Yet, Barack Obama is in a dog fight with this clown. Why? It isn’t because a few critics are writing articles in places like Salon. The answer, if you look at the data, is that Barack Obama has been a terrible President and an enemy to progressives. Unemployment is high. American household income since the recovery started in 2009 has dropped 5%. Poverty has increased substantially. Home equity – the main store of wealth for the middle class – has dropped by $5-7 trillion, in contrast to the increase in financial asset values held by Obama’s friends and donors. And this was done explicitly through Obama’s policies.

Obama came into office with a massive mandate, overwhelming control of Congress, hundreds of billions of TARP money to play with, the ability to prosecute Wall Street executives and break their power, and the opportunity for a massive stimulus. Most importantly, the country was willing to follow – the public believed his calls for change. Yet, instead of restructuring the economy and doing obvious things like hardening infrastructure against global warming, he entrenched oligarchy. This was explicit. Obama broke a whole series of campaign promises that would have helped the middle class. These promises would have reduced household debt, raised the minimum wage, stopped outsourcing, and protected workers. He broke these promises for a reason – Barack Obama uses his power for what he believes in, and Barack Obama is a conservative technocrat. Obama sided with Wall Street. He probably made the foreclosure crisis worse with a series of programs designed to help banks but marketed to help homeowners. These were his policies, they reflected the views of his most valued advisors like Robert Rubin and his Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Moreover, he’s proud of this record – the only mistake he cites in his first term is inadequately communicating how effective he has been, focusing too much on getting the policy right.

And the result is inequality in income gains that is higher than that under George W. Bush. Most of Obama’s defenders refuse to acknowledge Obama’s role in this policy mess. He deserves credit for the auto bailout, but when it comes to the bank bailouts, hey he’s just one man. What could we possibly expect? Yet, reelecting this man to a Presidency that is hamstrung by the system is the most important thing in the world. In other words, just as they’ve been arguing for years, Obama is both entirely powerless and utterly essential.

In other words, as Glen Ford put it, Obama is not necessarily the lesser of two evils, he may be the “more effective evil“. He puts the left to sleep (whether by defunding progressive groups or allowing the destruction of Occupy encampments), and the left is where the resistance to imperial tendencies currently resides. It is this problem, of how to organize large groups of people into a political force for justice, that should concern us. Otherwise, under Bush or Obama, inequality would continue to increase. And with this, I’d bring us to the argument I made about leverage points, most notably, that policy leverage is apparent during a crisis.

Consider that there is a crisis right now, in the Frankenstorm, Sandy. Parts of lower Manhattan are still without power, and much of the Eastern seaboard will never be the same. Late night comedians, NBC, and even Businessweek are jumping up and down and screaming that this catastrophic storm is a result of climate change. Yet, on Monday, no major environmental groups except Bill McKibben’s featured Sandy on its home page. These groups, from the Sierra Club to the Environmental Defense Fund – focused instead on the safety of chemicals, saving the Osprey, voting for Obama, or other such problems. As Brad Johnson noted, almost every left-wing journalist or advocate was equivocating as to whether climate change was the cause. This is the moment of leverage, when an organized advocacy space should have been arguing for a massive emergency mitigation and adaptation efforts. Tens of billions of dollars will flow into the Northeast, this money could be used for rebuilding unsustainable Con Ed, or for powering the New York with entirely renewable and robust energy. Instead, the right-wing, including Democrats like MSNBC contributor Ed Rendell, are working to undermine environmental, labor rules in the reconstruction while privatizing rebuilt infrastructure.

Progressives are obsessed with reelecting Obama instead of governing, so there is silence in response to a massive leverage point (except on CNBC, where the anchors are screaming for more refining capacity in response to Sandy). We the people need to protest and demand the solutions that might have a chance at saving our civilization from the many Sandy’s to come. Indeed, global warming fueled Hurricane Katrina killed 3000 people, and we did nothing except allow the privatization of the New Orleans school system. But as we see now, this is not just because of George Bush, it is because our theory of change, of looking to right-wing politicians entrenched in the Democratic Party as an answer, was an utter failure. It is the politics of self-delusion, and catastrophe. Voting third party is a way of indicating, to yourself and your community, that you will not be party to this game any more. Voting third party is a way of showing, to yourself and your community, that you consider Barack Obama an opponent, and that you oppose his policy. This is a profound admission, and it creates the space for real opposition, for real resistance.

Well, you know, so many of them have web infrastructure in New York and are experiencing service disruptions until after the election.

After 35,000 hours what’s a mere 170 or so between “friends?”

(h/t Naked Capitalism)

On This Day In History November 4

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

November 4 is the 308th day of the year (309th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 57 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1922, British archaeologist Howard Carter and his workmen discover a step leading to the tomb of King Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

The British Egyptologist Howard Carter (employed by Lord Carnarvon) discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb (since designated KV62) in the Valley of the Kings on November 4, 1922, near the entrance to the tomb of Ramesses VI, thereby setting off a renewed interest in all things Egyptian in the modern world. Carter contacted his patron, and on November 26 that year, both men became the first people to enter Tutankhamun’s tomb in over 3000 years. After many weeks of careful excavation, on February 16, 1923, Carter opened the inner chamber and first saw the sarcophagus of Tutankhamun. All of this was conveyed to the public by H. V. Morton, the only journalist allowed on the scene.

The first step to the stairs was found on November 4, 1922. The following day saw the exposure of a complete staircase. The end of November saw access to the Antechamber and the discovery of the Annex, and then the Burial Chamber and Treasury.

On November 29, the tomb was officially opened, and the first announcement and press conference followed the next day. The first item was removed from the tomb on December 27.

February 16, 1923 saw the official opening of the Burial Chamber, and April 5 saw the death of Lord Carnarvon.

On February 12, 1924, the granite lid of the sarcophagus was raised In April, Carter argued with the Antiquities Service, and left the excavation for the United States.

In January 1925, Carter resumed activities in the tomb, and on October 13, he removed the cover of the first sarcophagus; on October 23, he removed the cover of the second sarcophagus; on October 28, the team removed the cover of the final sarcophagus and exposed the mummy; and on November 11, the examination of the remains of Tutankhamun started.

Work started in the Treasury on October 24, 1926, and between October 30 and December 15, 1927, the Annex was emptied and examined.

On November 10, 1930, eight years after the discovery, the last objects were finally removed from the tomb of the long lost Pharaoh.

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Close Army Ties of China’s New Leader Could Test the U.S.


On one of his many visits abroad in recent years, Xi Jinping, the presumptive new leader of China, met in 2009 with local Chinese residents in Mexico City, where in a relaxed atmosphere he indirectly criticized the United States.

“There are a few foreigners, with full bellies, who have nothing better to do than try to point fingers at our country,” Mr. Xi said, according to a tape broadcast on Hong Kong television.  “China does not export revolution, hunger, poverty nor does China cause you any headaches. Just what else do you want?”

Mr. Xi is set to be elevated to the top post of the Chinese Communist Party at the 18th Party Congress scheduled to begin here on Nov. 8 – only two days after the American election. He will take the helm of a more confident China than the United States has ever known.

Sunday’s Headlines:

Fears grow over pace of reform as China ushers in new leaders

Steering EU-Asian ties through the debt crisis

Mediators to push Mali Islamists to cut al-Qaeda ties

Zetas cartel occupies Mexico state of Coahuila

How tourism cursed tomb of King Tut

What We Now Know

Up with Chris Hayes host, Chris Hayes (@chrishayes) discusses what we have learned this week with his guests John Nichols (@NicholsUprising), Washington correspondent for The Nation magazine, associate editor of The Capital Times (Madison, WI); Michael Moynihan (@mcmoynihan), cultural news editor for Newsweek and The Daily Beast; Betsey Stevenson (@BetseyStevenson), columnist for Bloomberg View, assistant professor of business and public policy at The Wharton School at The University of Pennsylvania and former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor (2010-2011); and Esther Armah (@estherarmah), host of WBAI-FM’s “Wake Up Call.”

Bro: House candidate Bentivolio ‘mentally unbalanced’

by Kate Nocera at Politico

The brother of Kerry Bentivolio says the Michigan congressional candidate, who’s favored to win on Tuesday, is “mentally unbalanced” and could end up in jail.

“I’ve never met anyone in my life who is conniving and dishonest as this guy,” Phillip Bentivolio said, according to the Michigan Information and Research Service   (subscription required). “He’s my brother so it’s hard to talk about this, but I believe that if he gets elected, he’ll eventually serve time in prison.” [..]

Kerry Bentivolio is a Santa Claus impersonator and reindeer farmer. He made headlines after old court documents surfaced quoting him saying he had a “problem figuring out which one I really am, Santa Claus or Kerry Bentivolio.”  He’s running against Democrat Syad Taj.

Democrats Press Rivals to Give Source of Akin Ad Funds

by Kathleen Hunter and Greg Giroux at Bloomberg Businessweek

The Republican campaign committee announced it wouldn’t spend money to support Akin after he said Aug. 19 that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy. Akin is trying to defeat first-term Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill, and Republican leaders abandoned his campaign after his remark about rape. [..]

The source of the funds hasn’t been disclosed. NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh declined to comment on whether the national Republican campaign organization provided money to the state party to help pay for the ads. Akin on the same day spent $300,000 of his campaign money on new ads.

The Artwork That Infuriated Big Coal

by Michelle Nijhuis at Slate

Carbon Sink: What Goes Around Comes Around” was installed on the U.W. campus in late 2011. Funded by an anonymous donor and by the state Cultural Trust Fund, it consisted of a 36-foot-wide circle of logs from beetle-killed trees, arranged in a whirlpool pattern around a pile of coal. Drury hoped the sculpture would be left in place until it disintegrated, and the director of the campus art museum said there were “no plans to uninstall it.” It was, Drury said, intended to inspire a conversation.

In May 2012, however, just after most students left campus, Carbon Sink quietly disappeared.

When University of Wyoming graduate Joe Riis inquired about the fate of Carbon Sink, a university vice-president told him that it had been removed due to water damage. But emails recently obtained by Irina Zhorov, an enterprising reporter at Wyoming Public Media, tell a different story. After the university announced the installation of Carbon Sink, Marion Loomis, the president of the Wyoming Mining Association, wrote to a university official and asked: “What kind of crap is this?” Both industry representatives and state legislators weighed in on the sculpture, some threatening the university’s funding in no uncertain terms.

Late Night Karaoke

Fall Back Position

Though mentioned by Benjamin Franklin in 1784, the modern idea of daylight saving was first proposed in 1895 by George Vernon Hudson and it was first implemented during the First World War.

Thus proving that not every idea is as good as bi-focals (Wait.  Bi-focals are a good idea?).

An alternate view-

What?  Too soon?

In any event I think this means that we will be joining the action from Yas Marina at a time that is actually legally 8 am but which will seem like 9 am to your body and any clock you haven’t adjusted.

Since my clocks are set 2 hours in advance anyway I’m not quite sure what they’ll say.

Today on The Stars Hollow Gazette

Our regular featured content-

And these featured articles-

Write more and often.  This is an Open Thread.

The Stars Hollow Gazette