Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Debilitating Costs of Capitulation: President Obama Caves In To His Republican Enemies


How utterly spineless, inept, scared, and WEAK can anyone possibly be? Barack Obama received a record 69 million votes in 2008, beat McCain by 10 million votes and received the highest percentage of votes (53%) than any President since 1984 and yet has SQUANDERED, WASTED, AND GIVEN AWAY NEARLY ALL OF HIS POLITICAL CAPITAL TO THE REPUBLICANS IN JUST TWO YEARS! Unbelievable. Incredible. Stunning. Amazing. Unprecedented. Disgusting. I've never seen ANY person with this much actual political power absolutely lack any Guts, Heart, or Fight when it came to defending, advocating, or protecting their own alleged ideas, principles, values, and convictions. Is this man capable of fighting or standing up for ANYTHING? Clearly it's a rhetorical question at this point...


White House Gives In On Bush Tax Cuts
by Howard Fineman and Sam Stein
November 11, 2010
Huffington Post

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's top adviser suggested to The Huffington Post late Wednesday that the administration is ready to accept an across-the-board, temporary continuation of steep Bush-era tax cuts, including those for the wealthiest taxpayers.

That appears to be the only way, said David Axelrod, that middle-class taxpayers can keep their tax cuts, given the legislative and political realities facing Obama in the aftermath of last week's electoral defeat.

"We have to deal with the world as we find it," Axelrod said during an unusually candid and reflective 90-minute interview in his office, steps away from the Oval Office. "The world of what it takes to get this done."

"There are concerns," he added, that Congress will continue to kick the can down the road in the future by passing temporary extensions for the wealthy time and time again. "But I don't want to trade away security for the middle class in order to make that point."

It has been widely assumed that the president would have to accept an across-the-board deal of some kind, but Axelrod's remarks were the first public confirmation of that fact -- and by a figure regarded as closer to Obama than any other White House staffer.

Also dealing "with the world as we find it," Axelrod declined repeatedly to comment on any of the controversial debt-reduction measures suggested by the chairs of the president's own commission -- even those, such as raising the Social Security retirement age, that go against Obama campaign pledges and strike at the heart of Democratic constituencies.

He said that the White House would wait until the commission made its final recommendations on Dec. 1 before adding, "the president's commitments haven't changed."

By giving ground on taxes and remaining silent on budget suggestions that others, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and AFL-CIO head Richard Trumka, quickly denounced, Axelrod showed the subdued caution of an adviser to a humbled boss.

But the top Obama aide also erected some barriers against newly-emboldened Republicans and their Pentagon allies.

Axelrod said that his boss would veto repeal of his cherished health care law, though he would "work with people" who "have constructive ideas about how to strengthen" it. The veto threat was not unexpected, but it was the first time that a top administration figure had issued such a threat on the record. And in doing so, Axelrod predicted that Republicans would be making a major misstep by challenging the White House's commitment on this front.

"I'm not going to prejudge what they are going to do," Axelrod said of Republican opposition to the legislation. "But I will tell you this -- we are firm in our commitment, we are willing to work with people to improve this plan we are not going to stand for those who want to undermine it and destroy it."

"The notion of spending the next two years fighting over this, I think, is a complete misreading of what the American people want," he added. "They want us to focus on the economy. They don't want us to fight the battles of the last two years. But we are not going to stand by and go back to allowing people with preexisting conditions to be discriminated against, go back to the situation where people can be thrown off their insurance simply because they become seriously ill or you can't get on your parents' insurance after the age of 20. There are so many things that are just central."

Meanwhile, on the war in Afghanistan -- an expensive and increasingly unpopular conflict -- Axelrod pushed back hard against the notion, floated in some recent stories quoting "senior administration sources," that the deadline for beginning troop withdrawals had been pushed back from July 2011 to some time in 2014.

"If it is being sourced to senior administration officials, then someone has bad administration sources," Axelrod said. "There is no change in the president's position. There is no change in that basic commitment."

But there is just such a change on taxes.

Although the president "took the position he felt was the right position" -- favoring a continuation of the cuts only for families earning up to $250,000 -- Axelrod portrayed this "optimal" stance as unrealistic in the lame-duck Congress that begins next week.

For one, time is not on the administration's side. All of the tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, will expire at the end of this year unless Congress acts. The Republicans in effect "built in tax increases," Axelrod said. And separating out different categories of tax cuts now -- extending some without extending others -- is politically unrealistic and procedurally difficult, he added.

"We don't want that tax increase to go forward for the middle class," he said, which means the administration will have to accept them all for some unspecified period of time. "But plainly, what we can't do is permanently extend these high income taxes."

In other words, the White House won't risk being blamed for raising taxes on the middle class even though, arguably, it is the GOP's refusal to separate the categories that has put Obama in this bind. The only condition, at least initially, seems to be that the tax cuts for the wealthy not be extended "permanently."

A student of history and a onetime political reporter, Axelrod expressed curiosity and even some optimism about the tea party, suggesting that Obama could work with them on matters such as a ban on spending earmarks and on winding down the war in Afghanistan.

If so, Obama would turn the Clinton-era triangulation strategy on its head, reaching out not to the moderates in the other party but to the new breed of conservatives who could bring the ideological arc of Congress full circle.

Can the White House work with them? "It is a fascinating time in our history," he said, "and I don't think anybody really knows. I mean I have watched carefully some of these folks on television. I don't think this is nearly as predictable as people think."

President Obama, in fact, has called every new Republican senator-elect and many of the incoming GOP House members -- "well over 100 calls" in all, said Axelrod.

That's how a shellacked president spends his plane time on a trip to Asia.

The National Debt Crisis and The Political Abdication of the Obama Administration To the Right


Though many of us don't want to hear it this is the truth and we had all better wake up in the U.S. generally and Black America in particular to what is REALLY going on--and President Obama's clearly inept and sadly manipulative role in it-- before it's too late (and we're very close to that point already--much closer than any of us would care to admit)...Any other course is not only massive irresponsibility on our part as citizens but a sure recipe for disaster because after last week's horrific vote for a Republican majority in the House chamber of Congress the virulently racist, very powerful, extremely wealthy, and well organized rightwing in this country is gonna continue to relentlessly attack and destroy not only Obama's presidency but this society in general. In that case if we as citizens don't properly respond on a national scale to this dangerous challenge in a politically aggressive and well organized and coordinated manner only we will be the huge losers in both the short and long run...

The following extraordinary article by Glen Ford, editor of the Black Agenda Report (BAR) was initially published three weeks ago on October 20, 2010 and has turned out to be eerily and disturbingly prophetic given the shocking press conference held today by the Co-Chairmen of Obama's debt commission which made a series of very reactionary and ethically bankrupt recommendations (for the ugly details read today's New York Times article "Panel Seeks Social Security Cuts and Tax Increases" by Jackie Calmes following the Glen Ford piece below)...


Obama Prepares to Triangulate Himself
By Glen Ford
October 20, 2010

Black Agenda Report


by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

What a guy! Barack Obama has neutralized Blacks, the white left, and the majority of his own party in service to Wall Street, and some still call him “liberal” (The insane call him “socialist.”) With Social Security and Medicare in his sights, “the stage is set for a performance of presidential political gymnastics that will make Bill Clinton, once known as the Great Triangulator, bow down to the master.”

“Obama invented the deficit reduction commission as his customized vehicle to subvert his own party’s cherished ‘entitlement’ programs.”

One thing is certain: the corporations will win and civilization will lose on November 2nd. The outcome is foreordained, since the dwindling electoral forces of civilization don’t have enough candidates in contention even to fill an effective caucus.

With 83 nominal members, the Progressive Congressional Caucus [5] is, on paper, the largest of the House ideological groupings, but has been neutered since Barack Obama entered the White House. The Congressional Black Caucus has not been a coherent force for progressive change for most of this century, and now behaves as if lobotomized by the presence of a Black chief executive. Having allowed themselves to be whipped, kicked and scorned by a White House concerned only for the president’s most narrow interests and schemes, “left” Democrats are at their nadir of legislative influence, despite their chairmanships.

Whether the GOP actually wins one or both chambers of Congress or not, the people’s interests are in deep trouble. The most immediate threat looms, not from the Tea Party, which will no doubt have its own little caucus in the next Congress, but from Barack Obama and his President’s National Commission [6] on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. When the right-heavy commission makes its recommendations in early December, the stage will be set for a performance of presidential political gymnastics that will make Bill Clinton, once known as the Great Triangulator, bow down to the master.

Barack Obama will triangulate himself.

“’Left’ Democrats are at their nadir of legislative influence, despite their chairmanships.”

President Clinton skillfully triangulated his own Democrats, seeking to position himself between the party’s liberal-ish core and the Republicans, thus moving the center of political gravity rightward through the Nineties. Obama, whose first major act while still a candidate was to save the Bush bank bailout after it failed a first vote in October, 2008, has elevated Clinton-style triangulation to what he hopes passes for statesmanship. Obama likes to calls it “non-partisan,” “consensus-building” politics and other variations on the theme, but the result is always the same: the fundamental interests of corporations are protected at the beginning of the process, which can only end with the people in worse shape than before it started. This is how a broad and deep public demand for comprehensive health reform was transformed into a guaranteed, subsidized, central role in the national health system for the hated insurance and drug companies for the foreseeable future.

Obama, a genius at creating opportunities for himself while undermining the life prospects of others, invented the deficit reduction commission as his customized vehicle to subvert his own party’s cherished “entitlement” programs: Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, and others. Republicans didn’t force his hand or box him in. Instead, Obama set the torpedoes in motion against entitlements in the days before his inauguration, declaring, on January 8, 2009 [7], that an overhaul of Medicare and Social Security would be “a central part” of his presidency. Not long afterwards, he said that Social Security and other entitlements would be “on the table” for cutting. All this, before any Republican had blurted an angry word about Obama in congressional debate.

“Obama has elevated Clinton-style triangulation to what he hopes passes for statesmanship.”

Obama’s ambush of entitlements is premeditated. He was determined from the very start to succeed where George Bush failed – by gutting Social Security. That’s how Obama measures greatness.

The problem was, most Republicans remembered Bush’s Social Security debacle of 2005 [8], and were not anxious to relive the experience, while debating Social Security was the last thing on Democratic congressional minds. With Republicans in no mood to launch a legislative attack on Social Security, there was nobody for Obama to make one of his grand comprises with. So, in February of this year, he issued an executive order [9] creating his own anti-entitlement missile, the 18-person [10] panel that quickly became known as the “cat food” commission [11], harkening back to the pre-Social Security days when many of the elderly where reduced to eating cat food.

Obama’s trick was to conjure up a political demand for the gutting of entitlements when no serious movement in that direction existed in the Congress. The commission route allowed him to concoct a majority right-wing constituency in a bottle, so to speak, by weighting the membership with pro-corporate players.

No one doubts that the panel is rigged to recommend cuts that Democrats (and a few Republicans) would be prepared to fight tooth and nail if proposed by the GOP. Blood would flow in the halls of the House and Senate, and in the end the assailants would likely lose. But by packaging the poison in a commission, Obama is allowed to behave as if the entitlement debate has oozed from the ether, demanding to be made manifest.

“The commission route allowed him to concoct a majority right-wing constituency in a bottle, so to speak.”

Now comes the good part. In a classic triangulation, Obama would position himself as close to the Republican legislative position as politically convenient. However, that’s easier said than done, and full of risks, in the heat of debate on tricky congressional terrain. Instead, the presidential commission, acting as the supposed “deliberator” of the fate of the nation’s sick and elderly, will spew forth a range of recommendations from which Obama will pick and choose. He will vow to protect “the most vulnerable” from the more draconian ideas put forward by his commission. In the end he will stake out and occupy a “non-partisan,” “consensus” center as defined by the makeup of the commission, the president’s own creation.

Obama will have triangulated himself, and screwed us all. Mark my words.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Panel Seeks Social Security Cuts and Tax Increases
November 10, 2010
New York Times

WASHINGTON — The chairmen of President Obama’s bipartisan commission on reducing the national debt outlined a politically provocative and economically ambitious package of spending cuts and tax increases on Wednesday, igniting a debate that is likely to grip the country for years.

The plan calls for deep cuts in domestic and military spending, a gradual 15-cents-a-gallon increase in the federal gasoline tax, limiting or eliminating popular tax breaks in return for lower rates, and benefit cuts and an increased retirement age for Social Security.

Those changes and others, none of which would take effect before 2012 to avoid undermining the tepid economic recovery, would erase nearly $4 trillion from projected deficits through 2020, the proposal says, and stabilize the accumulated debt.

“It’s time to lay it out on the table and let the American people start to chew on it,” said Alan K. Simpson, the former Republican Senate leader who is one of the co-chairmen, along with Erskine B. Bowles, who was White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton.

Their outline will be the basis for negotiation within the commission, which has a Dec. 1 deadline for submitting a final plan. It represents a challenge to both parties: to Mr. Obama and the Democrats, to show in the wake of the midterm election that they are serious about their pledges to address long-term deficits, and to Republicans, who for the most part have ruled out consideration of tax increases even as they have promised new adherence to fiscal responsibility.

Liberal groups immediately condemned the plan when news of it broke, for its Social Security and Medicare changes and for the scope of the spending cuts. The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in a statement called it “simply unacceptable.”

The furor on the left was not matched — yet — by a similar outcry from the right to the draft’s proposed revenue increases, cuts to the military or other options.

The plan has many elements with the potential to draw intense political fire. It lays out options for overhauling the tax code that include limiting or eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, the child tax credit and the earned income tax credit. It envisions cutting Pentagon weapons programs and paring back almost all domestic programs.

The plan would reduce cost-of-living increases for all federal programs, including Social Security. It would reduce projected Social Security benefits to most retirees in later decades, though low-income people would get higher benefits. The retirement age for full benefits would be slowly raised to 69 from 67 by 2075, with a “hardship exemption” for people who physically cannot work past 62. And higher levels of income would be subject to payroll taxes.

But the plan would not count Social Security savings toward the overall deficit-reduction goal that Mr. Obama set for fiscal year 2015, reflecting the chairmen’s sensitivity to liberal critics who have complained that Social Security should be fixed only for its own sake, not to help balance the nation’s books.

Mr. Obama created the commission last February in the hope it would provide political cover for bold action against deficits in 2011. His stance now, in the wake of his party’s drubbing, will go a long way toward telling whether he tacks to the political center — by embracing such proposals — or shifts to the left and leaves them on a shelf.

For Republicans, the chairmen’s proposals and a similar report coming next week from a private bipartisan group will challenge their contention that the budget can be balanced by spending cuts alone. That is a claim that many conservative economists and budget analysts reject, given the scale of projected debt as the baby boom generation retires and begins claiming costly federal benefits, after a severe recession.

Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson said their plan was “a starting point” as members of the commission met behind closed doors to consider it.

That was clear from the initial reactions of the members, nine of them Democrats, seven Republicans. None embraced the package and several made clear they would not support it without big changes.

“I think every member of the commission would agree that this is not the plan,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky, Democrat of Illinois, who is perhaps the panel’s most liberal member.

The group had made no decisions before the midterm elections, to avoid politicizing the painful options. Even so, the election results — by emboldening victorious antitax conservatives and having led to the defeat of many fiscally conservative Congressional Democrats — are widely seen as having reduced the already slim chance that a supermajority of the commission could agree to a package of proposals by Dec. 1.

Under Mr. Obama’s executive order creating the panel of 12 members of Congress and six private citizens, 14 of the 18 commissioners must agree in order to send any package to Congress for a vote in December. The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and Ms. Pelosi, who will remain the speaker until January, have promised in writing that the Senate would vote first and, if it approves a plan, the House would vote.

“I think it’s possible” that 14 members will agree, said Senator Tom Coburn, a conservative Oklahoma Republican who worked closely with the chairmen on proposed reductions from the military and in so-called tax expenditures, the myriad tax breaks for individuals and businesses that cost more than $1 trillion a year. “You don’t know until you see what the final plan is.”

In five hours of deliberations on Wednesday, the commission did not discuss the plan’s particulars much but instead talked at length about whether a lame-duck Congress would have time to write specific legislation and then vote, members said in interviews. It was unclear, they said, whether that was a sign other members thought the commission actually could reach agreement, or whether they were hiding behind concerns about legislative procedures to avoid tough policy decisions.

“At least people stayed in the room,” Andy Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union, said in an interview, recalling his concerns and others’ that Republicans would walk out if taxes were on the table and Democrats if Social Security and other spending programs were.

Right now the biggest issue facing the lame-duck Congress is whether to extend the Bush-era income tax cuts, which expire Dec. 31, for all taxpayers, as Republicans want, or for income below $250,000, as Mr. Obama and Democrats want. The Bowles-Simpson plan includes one option that assumes only the lower-income rates are extended and another that ends all Bush tax rates and replaces the tax code with simpler, lower rates and many fewer tax breaks.

Extending all the Bush tax cuts through 2020 would add more than $4 trillion to the debt — coincidentally, about the same amount that the chairmen’s painful options are designed to cut in the same time frame.

Their proposed simplification of the tax code would repeal or modify a number of popular tax breaks — including the deductibility of mortgage interest payments — so that income tax rates could be reduced across the board. Under one option, individual income tax rates would decline to as low as 8 percent for the lowest income bracket (it is now 10 percent) and to 23 percent for the highest bracket (now 35 percent). The corporate tax rate, now 35 percent, would be reduced to as low as 26 percent.

But how low the rates are set would depend on how many tax breaks are reduced or eliminated. Some of them, including the mortgage interest deduction and the exemption from taxes for employees’ health benefits, are political sacred cows.

The 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal gasoline tax would rise by 15 cents between 2013 and 2015 so that transportation spending no longer requires money from the general treasury.

The plan would cut $2 from spending for every $1 in new revenues. Total spending would be about 22 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product, and revenues would be held to 21 percent.

Cuts in annual discretionary spending, domestic and military, would be the largest in recent decades. Farm subsidies would be reduced. To further reduce growth in the fast-growing entitlement programs, the plan would expand on the hard-won Medicare cost savings in Mr. Obama’s health care law. And it would limit malpractice awards, long a Republican goal.

President Obama Must Take Full Responsibility for His Failures At Home and Abroad--NO MORE EXCUSES!


The ever escalating lies, ineptitude, opportunism, timidity, abdication, cowardice, and sheer bullshit by the now tottering Obama Administration is getting worse and more obvious by the day and the foul odor is frankly beginning to smell a whole lot like the heinous Bushwhacker regime. There is NO EXCUSE WHATSOEVER for this ongoing madness and this President and his administration is now 100% politically responsible for it at this point no matter what Obama says to the contrary. I'm also utterly sick and tired of all the endless emotional and intellectual apologias for him and his increasingly clueless and myopic policies by people who simply "feel sorry for the huge and unfair mess he has inherited from his predecessor." This by now empty, infantile, and self pitying sentiment won't cut it anymore. After all this ain't about him in the end, it's about US, and it's way past time that we fully recognize and come to serious grips with that fundamental fact...


Report: Obama to Renege on Afghan Drawdown
Wednesday 10 November 2010
by: Robert Naiman, t r u t h o u t | News Analysis

Remember what Vice President Biden told Jonathan Alter in "The Promise"?

At the conclusion of an interview in his West Wing office, Biden was adamant. "In July of 2011 you're going to see a whole lot of people moving out. Bet on it," Biden said as he wheeled to leave the room, late for lunch with the president. He turned at the door and said once more, "Bet. On. It."

Let's hope for Alter's sake he didn't put any serious money down on Biden's wager. Because that "Promise" is starting to look pretty shaky.

McClatchy reports:

The Obama administration has decided to begin publicly walking away from what it once touted as key deadlines in the war in Afghanistan in an effort to de-emphasize President Barack Obama's pledge that he'd begin withdrawing U.S. forces in July 2011, administration and military officials have told McClatchy.

Why is this happening, according to McClatchy? Several reasons are cited:

"U.S. officials realized that conditions in Afghanistan were unlikely to allow a speedy withdrawal."

"During our assessments, we looked at if we continue to move forward at this pace, how long before we can fully transition to the Afghans? And we found that we cannot fully transition to the Afghans by July 2011," said one senior administration official.

On the face of it, this statement does not make sense. First of all, according to previous, repeated statements of US officials, including President Obama and Defense Secretary Gates, the date was not supposed to be conditions-based. The pace of the drawdown was supposed to be conditions based. So, if the McClatchy story is true, this is a big reversal of an Obama promise.

Second, the longstanding publicly stated policy that the Obama administration is, according to McClatchy, about to publicly walk away from, did not include a promise of a "speedy withdrawal." So, what these US officials are really telling McClatchy is not "we realized that conditions don't permit a speedy withdrawal," since these officials were never intending to carry out a "speedy withdrawal," but that according to them, conditions do not permit any meaningful withdrawal at all that starts in July 2011.

Third, it was never US policy to "fully transition to the Afghans" by July 2011; no human being on planet Earth, that I am aware of, ever stated or believed that that was going to happen. July 2011 was supposed to mark the beginning of the transition. So, this statement is like saying, "During our assessments, we realized that it is sometimes cold in parts of Alaska." Instead, what these officials are saying is: according to our assessments, we won't be able to transition to Afghan control by next summer to a sufficient degree to withdraw enough troops to plausibly call it a meaningful withdrawal.

What can we conclude from this?

First, the "surge" was a military failure. This should be openly acknowledged by everyone. Every US general and laptop bombardier pundit should have to write it on the blackboard 100 times: "The surge was a military failure."

But more importantly, the political policy in which the surge was embedded was a political failure. By coupling his capitulation to the military on the surge with his insistence on a date to begin troop withdrawals, we were told, Obama had politically outfoxed the military. Regardless of whether the surge succeeded or failed militarily, the troops would begin to come home anyway, and the military had signed off on that. If the McClatchy report is true, this was all hot air and rationalization. The surge failed militarily, and the conclusion being drawn is that the troops have to stay.

A second reason is cited:

Pakistanis had concluded wrongly that July 2011 would mark the beginning of the end of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.

That perception, one Pentagon adviser said, has convinced Pakistan's military - which is key to preventing Taliban sympathizers from infiltrating Afghanistan - to continue to press for a political settlement instead of military action.

This is striking. Indeed, the Obama administration's announcement that US troops would begin withdrawing next summer has been widely credited with pushing forward efforts to achieve a political settlement. What is striking about this is that the Pentagon is explicitly saying that from the Pentagon's point of view, a political settlement must be prevented and, therefore, the timetable to begin withdrawal is bad because it was pushing forward prospects for a political settlement.

It's not shocking that Pentagon officials think this; it's shocking that they say it openly. It imitates Robert Mankoff 's recent New Yorker cartoon in which a general says:

"Well, I'm an optimist - I still think peace can be avoided."

A third reason is cited:

Last week's midterm elections also have eased pressure on the Obama administration to begin an early withdrawal. Earlier this year, some Democrats in Congress pressed to cut off funding for Afghanistan operations. With Republicans in control of the House of Representatives beginning in January, however, there'll be less push for a drawdown. The incoming House Armed Services chairman, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., told Reuters last week that he opposed setting the date.

It is beyond dispute that Republican control of the House is a big setback for pressure to withdraw troops. But several things should be noted.

First, Representative McKeon did indeed tell Reuters that he opposed setting the date. But he also told Reuters that he saw the date as a done deal and wouldn't press to change it:

Reuters: But the actual deadline itself, you're not going to press for that to be changed?

McKeon: No. I think that's installed.

So, using Representative McKeon's statement to Reuters as an excuse to throw away the drawdown date is pretty weak.

Second, while leadership of the House and House committees is obviously a very big deal, the actual composition of the House with respect to opinions on the war in Afghanistan hasn't changed all that much. As I noted last week, 12 Democratic incumbents defeated last week were supporters of the McGovern Amendment which would have required the president to establish a timetable for military withdrawal from Afghanistan. 39 Democratic incumbents defeated last week voted against the McGovern Amendment. The overwhelming majority of the 153 Democrats in the House who wanted a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan are still in the House or were replaced by Democrats, joined by a new group of Republicans, some of whom - it's not clear yet how many - may be skeptics on the war.

Third, Democrats still control the Senate, and Armed Services Chair Senator Levin has been a strong supporter of the July 2011 date, which he has said is needed to put pressure on the Afghan government. Sen.-Elect Rand Paul recently stated that the Senate and the House need to debate the Afghanistan war, and that the arguments and authorization of force from ten years ago cannot justify US policy today. He has also said that military spending has to be on the table for cuts, and that the wars have to be part of that discussion.

Finally, there is a wild card. If you were going to draw up a list of five things that President Obama could do that would be likely to draw a primary challenge in 2012, throwing the Afghanistan drawdown in the trash would surely be on that list. From the point of view of the White House political people, that's a real political threat, even if they see Obama's renomination as a done deal: they don't want to see some Eugene McCarthy candidate take a third of the Democratic primary vote in New Hampshire or Iowa.

So, publicly walking away from the July 2011 drawdown is a "very big deal," and the White House political people should be screaming.

UPDATE: McClatchy has updated its original story, to include the following paragraph:

The White House vehemently denies that there is any change in policy. "The president has been crystal clear that we will begin drawing down troops in July of 2011. There is absolutely no change to that policy," said Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman.

It's very good that the White House has vigorously responded to this story. It's very bad that "unnamed Administration officials" are allowed to publicly attack the president's "crystal clear" policy. If these "senior Administration officials" misrepresented the president, why can't the White House put a stop to "senior Administration officials" publicly attacking the resident's "crystal clear" policy?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Chris Hedges on the Irrational Direction of American Politics And Its Dire Consequences


The always intellectually courageous and politically fearless Chris Hedges once again says what desperately needs to be said whether we really want to hear it or not. Though I truly shudder quoting a slogan coined by none other than Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican candidate for President and the notorious founder of Neoconservatism (as well as the political mentor of Ronald RayGun) I think the fundamental spirit of the slogan still applies to Hedges: "In your heart you know he's right"...


A Recipe for Fascism
November 8, 2010
by Chris Hedges
| Truthdig | Op-Ed

(Photo: Doha Sam; Edited: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)

American politics, as the midterm elections demonstrated, have descended into the irrational. On one side stands a corrupt liberal class, bereft of ideas and unable to respond coherently to the collapse of the global economy, the dismantling of our manufacturing sector and the deadly assault on the ecosystem. On the other side stands a mass of increasingly bitter people whose alienation, desperation and rage fuel emotionally driven and incoherent political agendas. It is a recipe for fascism.

More than half of those identified in a poll by the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports as “mainstream Americans” now view the tea party favorably. The other half, still grounded in a reality-based world, is passive and apathetic. The liberal class wastes its energy imploring Barack Obama and the Democrats to promote sane measures including job creation programs, regulation as well as criminal proceedings against the financial industry, and an end to our permanent war economy. Those who view the tea party favorably want to tear the governmental edifice down, with the odd exception of the military and the security state, accelerating our plunge into a nation of masters and serfs. The corporate state, unchallenged, continues to turn everything, including human beings and the natural world, into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse.

All sides of the political equation are lackeys for Wall Street. They sanction, through continued deregulation, massive corporate profits and the obscene compensation and bonuses for corporate managers. Most of that money—hundreds of billions of dollars—is funneled upward from the U.S. Treasury. The Sarah Palins and the Glenn Becks use hatred as a mobilizing passion to get the masses, fearful and angry, to call for their own enslavement as well as to deny uncomfortable truths, including global warming. Our dispossessed working class and beleaguered middle class are vulnerable to this manipulation because they can no longer bear the chaos and uncertainty that come with impoverishment, hopelessness and loss of control. They have retreated into a world of illusion, one peddled by right-wing demagogues, which offers a reassuring emotional consistency. This consistency appears to protect them from the turmoil in which they have been forced to live. The propaganda of a Palin or a Beck may insult common sense, but, for a growing number of Americans, common sense has lost its validity.

The liberal class, which remains rooted in a world of fact, rationalizes placating corporate power as the only practical response. It understands the systems of corporate power. It knows the limitations and parameters. And it works within them. The result, however, is the same. The entire spectrum of the political landscape collaborates in the strangulation of our disenfranchised working class, the eroding of state power, the criminal activity of the financial class and the paralysis of our political process.

Commerce cannot be the sole guide of human behavior. This utopian fantasy, embraced by the tea party as well as the liberal elite, defies 3,000 years of economic history. It is a chimera. This ideology has been used to justify the disempowerment of the working class, destroy our manufacturing capacity, and ruthlessly gut social programs that once protected and educated the working and middle class. It has obliterated the traditional liberal notion that societies should be configured around the common good. All social and cultural values are now sacrificed before the altar of the marketplace.

The failure to question the utopian assumptions of globalization has left us in an intellectual vacuum. Regulations, which we have dismantled, were the bulwarks that prevented unobstructed brutality and pillaging by the powerful and protected democracy. It was a heavily regulated economy, as well as labor unions and robust liberal institutions, which made the American working class the envy of the industrialized world. And it was the loss of those unions, along with a failure to protect our manufacturing, which transformed this working class into a permanent underclass clinging to part-time or poorly paid jobs without protection or benefits.

The “inevitability” of globalization has permitted huge pockets of the country to be abandoned economically. It has left tens of millions of Americans in economic ruin. Private charity is now supposed to feed and house the newly minted poor, a job that once, the old liberal class argued, belonged to the government. As John Ralston Saul in “The Collapse of Globalization” points out, “the role of charity should be to fill the cracks of society, the imaginative edges, to go where the public good hasn’t yet focused or can’t. Dealing with poverty is the basic responsibility of the state.” But the state no longer has the interest or the resources to protect us. And the next target slated for elimination is Social Security.

That human society has an ethical foundation that must be maintained by citizens and the state is an anathema to utopian ideologues of all shades. They always demand that we sacrifice human beings for a distant goal. The propagandists of globalization—from Lawrence Summers to Francis Fukuyama to Thomas Friedman—do for globalization and the free market what Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky did for Marxism. They sell us a dream. These elite interpreters of globalism are the vanguard, the elect, the prophets, who alone grasp a great absolute truth and have the right to impose this truth on a captive people no matter what the cost. Human suffering is dismissed as the price to be paid for the coming paradise. The response of these propagandists to the death rattles around them is to continue to speak in globalization’s empty rhetoric and use state resources to service a dead system. They lack the vision to offer any alternative. They can function only as systems managers. They will hollow out the state to sustain a casino capitalism that is doomed to fail. And what they offer as a solution is as irrational as the visions of a Christian America harbored by many within the tea party.

We are ruled by huge corporate monopolies that replicate the political and economic power, on a vastly expanded scale, of the old trading companies of the 17th and 18th centuries. Wal-Mart’s gross annual revenues of $250 billion are greater than those of most small nation-states. The political theater funded by the corporate state is composed of hypocritical and impotent liberals, the traditional moneyed elite, and a disenfranchised and angry underclass that is being encouraged to lash out at the bankrupt liberal institutions and the government that once protected them. The tea party rabble, to placate their anger, will also be encouraged by their puppet masters to attack helpless minorities, from immigrants to Muslims to homosexuals. All these political courtiers, however, serve the interests of the corporate state and the utopian ideology of globalism. Our social and political ethic can be summed up in the mantra let the market decide. Greed is good.

The old left—the Wobblies, the Congress of Industrial Workers (CIO), the Socialist and Communist parties, the fiercely independent publications such as Appeal to Reason and The Masses—would have known what to do with the rage of our dispossessed. It used anger at injustice, corporate greed and state repression to mobilize Americans to terrify the power elite on the eve of World War I. This was the time when socialism was not a dirty word in America but a promise embraced by millions who hoped to create a world where everyone would have a chance. The steady destruction of the movements of the left was carefully orchestrated. They fell victim to a mixture of sophisticated forms of government and corporate propaganda, especially during the witch hunts for communists, and overt repression. Their disappearance means we lack the vocabulary of class warfare and the militant organizations, including an independent press, with which to fight back.

We believe, like the Spaniards in the 16th century who pillaged Latin America for gold and silver, that money, usually the product of making and trading goods, is real. The Spanish empire, once the money ran out and it no longer produced anything worth buying, went up in smoke. Today’s use in the United States of some $12 trillion in government funds to refinance our class of speculators is a similar form of self-deception. Money markets are still treated, despite the collapse of the global economy, as a legitimate source of trade and wealth creation. The destructive power of financial bubbles, as well as the danger of an unchecked elite, was discovered in ancient Athens and detailed more than a century ago in Emile Zola’s novel “Money.” But we seem determined to find out this self-destructive force for ourselves. And when the second collapse comes, as come it must, we will revisit wrenching economic and political tragedies forgotten in the mists of history.

Chris Hedges, who writes a weekly column for Truthdig, is the author of “Death of the Liberal Class.”