Monday, September 21, 2009


Both prior to, and after, the November election of President Obama, there has been much criticism of those progressives who dared point out certain inconsistencies between the "hope" and "yes we can!" rhetoric presented by the Obama campaign, and his appointments and actions. We suggested that his campaign advisors (Rubin for just one example), his appointments of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Defense Secretary Gates, and the appointments of people like Sommers and Geithner, not to mention the campaign contributions he had received from the financial sector and the drug and medical industries, might suggest a path that differed from both his "promise" and the path he would be taking. We were told to "give him a chance." I went so far as to say that we had been "Snookered Again!" just after his election, which brought similar rebuke.

Well, he has had a chance, almost a year of it, and he has shown that the nay-sayers were right. Once again, progressives have been sold out by the Democratic Party and the candidates they dictate to us. Lets hear it for cynicism and alternative party politics!

Tonight, and in some future posts, I will begin to present some of the criticisms, from people far more experienced and articulate, that have been mounting in recent months. The most recent come first, but those of months past will be mixed in for perspective.

- Ralph Nader on the G-20, Healthcare Reform, etc.
- The Health Care Deceit - It is the War in Afghanistan Obama Declared a "Necessity," Not Health Care
- Globalization Goes Bankrupt
- Go to Pittsburgh, Young Man, and Defy Your Empire
- How Tough Is Our President?
- Obama a very smooth liar

Ralph Nader on the G-20, Healthcare Reform, Mideast Talks and His First Work of Fiction, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!”

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us, Ralph.

Well, let’s start on the economy, on this year anniversary of the collapse, and where you think we have come to in this year.

RALPH NADER: Well, President Obama is engaging in political progressive talk, but one year later, nothing has happened in Congress. There hasn’t even been a bill to financially regulate, bring under the rule of law and accountability Wall Street and the financial industry, hasn’t even gone to a committee yet. They’re just going to begin hearings in the Senate Banking Committee. There’s a massive attack on the consumer regulatory agency to protect people who have mortgages and credit cards and other financial instruments by the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate lobbies. So you see the corporate lobbies swarming over Congress, political action committee money, but no legislative action whatsoever.

I don’t think this has a precedent in American history. There’s never been a criminal, speculative, massive collapse, such as occurred on Wall Street, affecting trillions of dollars of worker pension money, mutual funds, savings, jobs, affecting communities all over the country, and no action in Congress. That’s the test. It’s not the rhetoric. It’s whether these bills are moving through, by 535 men and women who put their shoes on every day like you and I do. And that’s not happening. And that’s the way you want to analyze it.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to happen? What is that legislation that needs to be passed?

RALPH NADER: Well, there’s a proposal crafted in part by Elizabeth Warren, who’s head of the Congressional Oversight Panel, to make sure that the Wall Street firms behave themselves. And she’s a professor of law at Harvard Law School. That’s a very well-drafted bill. There are some proposals to strengthen the organization of financial consumers, bank depositors, insurance policy holders, etc., that needs to be put in there. But the overall bill to repeal the Clinton-era repeal of Glass-Steagall, to repeal the Franklin Delano Roosevelt reforms—you have to repeal the repeal of those reforms, which set the stage in 1999 and 2000 for the rampant, wild speculation with other people’s money by investment banks and banks—Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America and others, Goldman Sachs, of course.

AMY GOODMAN: The poverty rate, the number of people who are losing their homes, foreclosure, where do we stand?

RALPH NADER: Well, again, the administration cannot level with the American people, because whether it’s Obama or Bernanke or Secretary Treasurer Geithner, they cannot say anything negative, because they’re afraid of the markets. And so, all they say is mild positives. And so, they can’t level with the American people. So they use indicators that favor the corporate balance sheet, but not the worker balance sheet or the pensioneer balance sheet.

And so, poverty is going up, unemployment is shooting up, underemployment is massive. There’s probably 17 percent of the American people are unemployed or underemployed. Wages are stagnant or declining. And, of course, consumer debt is increasing. Home foreclosures are increasing. Those are the indicators you’ve got to put front and center. They’re the people indicators, not the corporate, business, economist indicators.

Hey, the banks are starting to make more profit. Yeah, but they’re being bailed out by Washington, and they can be technically insolvent and still make more profit, because they’re charging such high interest rates, fees and penalties.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, you talk about legislation saving us. A new report by the watchdog group Common Cause reveals the financial industry spent $42 million lobbying Congress during the first six months of the year and that nine of the top recipients of securities money so far this year are Democrats, like Senator Schumer of New York, topping the list, taking in something like $680,000 in campaign contributions.

RALPH NADER: It’s the same old rut. And that’s why I really wrote this work of fiction, because we are not imagining, Amy, what is necessary by way of money, organizers in the field, strategy, smarts, determination to break this massive corporate-state gridlock that’s put our country into a paralysis. Our country is stuck in traffic. It is being prevented from solving many problems or diminishing them—public transit, housing, consumer protection, living wage, universal health insurance, single payer, all these corporate crime crackdowns. All of these are problems that can be addressed and solved, but not when there’s too much power in too few hands, who make the decisions for the many to the many’s disadvantage.

So we have to—we have to ask ourselves the question: What will it take to break through? What will it take to put the people back into their sovereignty? What will it take to make sure that we enforce the Constitution and we don’t get in these foreign military adventures that are unconstitutional, violate statutes and violate international treaties, not just under Bush-Cheney, but there’s an unseemly continuity in this area under the Obama administration.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ve been talking about Congress. What about the G-20? I mean, you have world leaders gathering in Pittsburgh later this week. Also, many thousands of protesters are expected. But where does this story, whether we’re talking about the economy or healthcare, fit into the global picture and G-20? What can be accomplished there?

RALPH NADER: G-20 is a talk fest. It’s good for the Pittsburgh economy for about a week. The rallies are good, indicates that people are still trying to fight back. Nothing’s going to happen. We’ve seen this again and again with the G-20 and whatever G-number has had these meetings, whether in Canada or Europe or United States.

The issue again is, are we going to get the leadership from the enlightened super-rich to put the field organizers on the ground and to put the money into progressive campaigns and citizen action? For example, $1 billion will get us single payer in a year—that’s my sense—if we had field organizers and mobilization in every congressional district. I mean, if there was a private vote right now in Congress, about a third of them would support a single-payer system. But they are surrounded by these drug industry and health insurance lobbies and the money that’s dangled before them.

So we have to break through, and the only way we can break through is the majesty of our mind generating a higher level of imaginative “what if.” What if we have this kind of resource or these kinds of film organizers or these kinds of mass media attentions? Which is why I wrote this book, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” And that’s in quotes. And it comes from a very interesting story at the beginning of the book that I can tell you, if you’re interested.

. . . .

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama on CBS’s Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer. Ralph Nader, your response?

RALPH NADER: Well, it just shows is—he’s saying the right things, but the proposals he has are riddled with verbal indecision, like he won’t say if he doesn’t get a public choice or a Medicare alternative for people who are unable to afford private insurance, he won’t sign the bill. Now, in Congress, if you don’t draw the line the way LBJ used to, for example, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they eat you alive. They sense weakness. They sense excessive concessions. And that’s what he’s doing with all the media coverage he’s getting. He’s not putting forth a straightforward “this is what has to be done if we’re going to reduce the gouging and the waste and the fraud.”

The only approach that can do that is full Medicare for all, full government health insurance with private delivery, free choice of hospital and doctor. You’ve heard it a hundred times. That’s the only way, in western Europe and Canada, they’ve been able to control costs. So, in western Europe and Canada, they cover everybody for less than $4,000 per capita a year. In this country, it’ll be $7,500 per capita this year. And there won’t be—the tens of millions, 50 million people, won’t be covered, and tens of millions will be underinsured. I mean, to see all this data, it’s on this website, (

But the point is that he keeps saying we’ve got to squeeze the waste and fraud, etc., and there’s enormous fraud. There’s $250 billion of billing fraud and abuse. And you can check the—Malcolm Sparrow at Harvard University has got the information on that. ( There are $400 billion out of $2.5 trillion, which is the health expenditure bill—$400 billion in administrative waste, all these people in Aetna and CIGNA and other companies denying people’s benefits and all the bureaucracy that these corporations generate, and not to mention their executive compensation.

So we really got—we have documented these problems. This country’s progressive movement has documented these abuses from A to Z—books, articles, documents, congressional reports. It’s time to ask the question: What is it going to take in terms of money, organizers, resources, creativity, to turn this country around in the reflection of what most people would like to see the United States of America become?

. . . .
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, as we go back to the issue of healthcare and what needs to be done, one of your key issues over the decades, Max Baucus, after months of negotiation, comes out with a bill, which now has no Republican support. Many Democrats are saying they will not support it. What do you think of Baucus and his plan and where really this is going to go and what you think needs to happen? Would you support a plan without a public option, though you are a single-payer advocate?

RALPH NADER: No, the public option, or what they should have called it, “public choice,” if they knew language, it’s not going to work. It will always be strapped by all kinds of restrictions. Even if it passes, they’ll have it straightjacketed. Only a certain number of people can even buy insurance from this proposed public option.

Senator Baucus is a typical Democrat in Republican clothing. He’s a crypto-Republican. Now, would he get away with this if there were several million dollars in grassroot mobilization in his home state of Montana? I mean, Montana has sent some pretty progressive senators in the past. The people haven’t changed. They just are not being brought together by field organizers in the kind of effort that’s described in this book, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” But there’s very little going on in Montana. There’s a few rallies. There are a few demonstrations. But there’s a critical mass that’s needed there.

It looks like Baucus’s version is going to prevail with some tweaks in the Senate. Then you’re going to have the Waxman version in the House in the various committees. And then what are they going to do when they come into conference with the swarms of drug and health insurance lobbies? The drug companies have 450 full-time lobbyists on Capitol Hill, almost one to every senator and representative, not to mention their nationwide support network.

Now, the single-payer people, I don’t even know if they have one full-time lobbyist. So we have to ask ourselves, are we serious here? And if you are a super mega-rich, enlightened elderly person, or not elderly person, are you going to get serious, in terms of where you, without anybody persuading you, where you already want this country to go? That’s what we have to confront here.

The single payer is a majoritarian issue. It’s supported by 59 percent of physicians in a poll last year. A larger number of nurses, a lot of health economists support it. Why isn’t it moving? Because the people are not in charge of the Congress, even though they’re the only ones that have the vote; corporations are in charge, even though they have no vote.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, last question, and we only have less than a minute, but the White House has announced that President Obama is going to be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Palestinian President Abbas in New York on Tuesday. That’s tomorrow. This, after US special envoy George Mitchell left Israel with no deal on a resumption of peace talks in the region. What do you think needs to happen there?

RALPH NADER: For a minute, I thought you said President Obama was going to meet with progressives in the White House on healthcare, which he’s never done. He’s met with CEOs.

I don’t think President Obama has any cards with the Israeli military approach to the Palestinians. He’s not going to cut off economic aid, which Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996 in a joint address to Congress said he was going to phase out, because Israel is a modern economy, which has universal health insurance, by the way. He’s not going to cut off military aid. What are his cards? Poor George Mitchell is shuttling back and forth between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Ramallah. He has no cards either.

The only way to begin changing this is to bring the Israeli peace movement to the US Congress for widely publicized hearings. These are ex-generals, ex-security chiefs, former mayors, members of the Knesset, former ministers. They’ve been pummeled by the recent events of the militarists. But once they’re given a national exposure here in this country, they will connect with about 50 percent or more of the Israeli people who want a two-state solution.

You know, it’s just like anything else. The majority of the people were against the Iraq invasion, yet the neocons and people in the White House, a minority among public opinion, plunged us into this war. Similarly, in Israel. Once the Israeli peace movement, with all those credentialed and accomplished people, connect with the Palestinian peace movement, with whom they have worked out in intricate ways in the Geneva meetings years ago a two-state solution, then you’ll see Israeli society begin turning around. And that’s about the only political lever the Congress and Obama would have. Put them up before the Senate and the House. In sixty years, they have—Israeli peace movement leaders have never been invited for one hour of congressional testimony.

It is the War in Afghanistan Obama Declared a "Necessity," Not Health Care

The Health Care Deceit

September 14, 2009

The current health care “debate” shows how far gone representative government is in the United States. Members of Congress represent the powerful interest groups that fill their campaign coffers, not the people who vote for them.

The health care bill is not about health care. It is about protecting and increasing the profits of the insurance companies. The main feature of the health care bill is the “individual mandate,” which requires everyone in America to buy health insurance. Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont), a recipient of millions in contributions over his career from the insurance industry, proposes to impose up to a $3,800 fine on Americans who fail to purchase health insurance.

The determination of “our” elected representatives to serve the insurance industry is so compelling that Congress is incapable of recognizing the absurdity of these proposals.

The reason there is a health care crisis in the US is that the cumulative loss of jobs and benefits has swollen the uninsured to approximately 50 million Americans. They cannot afford health insurance any more than employers can afford to provide it.

It is absurd to mandate that people purchase what they cannot afford and to fine them for failing to do so. A person who cannot pay a health insurance premium cannot pay the fine.

These proposals are like solving the homeless problem by requiring the homeless to purchase a house.

In his speech Obama said “we’ll provide tax credits” for “those individuals and small businesses who still can’t afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange” and he said low-cost coverage will be offered to those with preexisting medical conditions. A tax credit is useless to those without income unless the credit is refundable, and subsidized coverage doesn’t do much for those millions of Americans with no jobs.

Baucus masquerades as a defender of the health impaired with his proposal to require insurers to provide coverage to all comers as if the problem of health care can be reduced to preexisting conditions and cancelled policies. It was left to Rep. Dennis Kucinich to point out that the health care bill ponies up 30 million more customers for the private insurance companies.

The private sector is no longer the answer, because the income levels of the vast majority of Americans are insufficient to bear the cost of health insurance today. To provide some perspective, the monthly premium for a 60-year old female for a group policy (employer-provided) with Blue Cross Blue Shield in Florida is about $1,200. That comes to $14,400 per year. Only employees in high productivity jobs that can provide both a livable salary and health care can expect to have employer-provided coverage. If a 60-year old female has to buy a non-group policy as an individual, the premium would be even higher. How, for example, is a Wal-Mart shelf stocker or check out clerk going to be able to pay a private insurance premium?

. . . . (Important details)

What the US needs is a single-payer not-for-profit health system that pays doctors and nurses sufficiently that they will undertake the arduous training and accept the stress and risks of dealing with illness and diseases.

A private health care system worked in the days before expensive medical technology, malpractice suits, high costs of bureaucracy associated with third-party payers and heavy investment in combating fraud, and pressure on insurance companies from Wall Street to improve “shareholder returns.”

Despite the rise in premiums, payments to health care providers, such as doctors, appear to be falling along with coverage to policy holders. The system is no longer functional and no longer makes sense. Health care has become an incidental rather than primary purpose of the health care system. Health care plays second fiddle to insurance company profits and salaries to bureaucrats engaged in fraud prevention and discovery. There is no point in denying coverage to one-sixth of the population in the name of saving a nonexistent private free market health care system.

The only way to reduce the cost of health care is to take the profit and paperwork out of health care.

Nothing humans design will be perfect. However, Congress is making it clear to the public that the wrong issues are front and center, such as the belief of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and others that illegal aliens and abortions will be covered if government pays the bill.

Debate focuses on subsidiary issues, because Congress no longer writes the bills it passes. As Theodore Lowi made clear in his book, "The End of Liberalism," the New Deal transferred law-making from the legislative to the executive branch. Executive branch agencies and departments write bills that they want and hand them off to sponsors in the House and Senate. Powerful interest groups took up the same practice.

The interest groups that finance political campaigns expect their bills to be sponsored and passed.

Thus: a health care reform bill based on forcing people to purchase private health insurance and fining them if they do not.

When bills become mired in ideological conflict, as has happened to the health care bill, something usually passes nevertheless. The president, his PR team, and members of Congress want a health care bill on their resume and to be able to claim that they passed a health care bill, regardless of whether it provides any health care.

The cost of adding public expenditures for health care to a budget drowning in red ink from wars, bank bailouts, and stimulus packages means that the most likely outcome of a health care bill will benefit insurance companies and use mandated private coverage to save public money by curtailing Medicare and Medicaid.

The public’s interest is not considered to be the important determinant. The politicians have to please the insurance companies and reduce health care expenditures in order to save money for another decade or two of war in the Middle East.

The telltale part of Obama’s speech was the applause in response to his pledge that “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits.” Yet, Obama and his fellow politicians have no hesitation to add trillions of dollars to the deficit in order to fund wars.

The profits of military/security companies are partly recycled into campaign contributions. To cut war spending in order to finance a public health care system would cost politicians campaign contributions from both the insurance industry and the military/security industry.

Politicians are not going to allow that to happen.

It was the war in Afghanistan, not health care, that President Obama declared to be a “necessity.”

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. His new book, War of the Worlds: How the Economy Was Lost, will be published next month by AK Press/CounterPunch. He can be reached at:

Globalization Goes Bankrupt
By Chris Hedges

September 21, 2009 "Truthdig" -- (

Every day counts. Every deferral of protest hurts. We should, if we have the time and the ability, make our way to Pittsburgh for the meeting of the G-20 this week rather than do what the power elite is hoping we will do—stay home. Complacency comes at a horrible price.
. . . .
Our global economy, like our political system, has been hijacked by a tiny oligarchy, composed mostly of wealthy white men who serve corporations. They have pledged or raised a staggering $18 trillion, looted largely from state treasuries, to prop up banks and other financial institutions that engaged in suicidal acts of speculation and ruined the world economy. They have formulated trade deals so corporations can speculate across borders with currency, food and natural resources even as, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 1.02 billion people on the planet struggle with hunger. Globalization has obliterated the ability of many poor countries to protect food staples such as corn, rice, beans and wheat with subsidies or taxes on imported staples. The abolishment of these protections has permitted the giant mechanized farms to wipe out tens of millions of small farmers-2 million in Mexico alone-bankrupting many and driving them off their land. Those who could once feed themselves can no longer find enough food, and the wealthiest governments use institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization like pit bulls to establish economic supremacy. There is little that most governments seem able to do to fight back.

But the game is up. The utopian dreams of globalization have been exposed as a sham. Force is all the elite have left. We are living through one of civilization's great seismic reversals. The ideology of globalization, like all utopias that are sold as inevitable and irreversible, has become a farce. The power elite, perplexed and confused, cling to the disastrous principles of globalization and its outdated language to mask the political and economic vacuum before us. The absurd idea that the marketplace alone should determine economic and political constructs caused the crisis. It led the G-20 to sacrifice other areas of human importance-from working conditions, to taxation, to child labor, to hunger, to health and pollution-on the altar of free trade. It left the world's poor worse off and the United States with the largest deficits in human history. Globalization has become an excuse to ignore the mess. It has left a mediocre elite desperately trying to save a system that cannot be saved and, more important, trying to save itself. "Speculation," then-President Jacques Chirac of France once warned, "is the AIDS of our economies." We have reached the terminal stage.

"Each of Globalization's strengths has somehow turned out to have an opposing meaning," John Ralston Saul wrote in "The Collapse of Globalism." "The lowering of national residency requirements for corporations has morphed into a tool for massive tax evasion. The idea of a global economic system mysteriously made local poverty seem unreal, even normal. The decline of the middle class-the very basis of democracy-seemed to be just one of those things that happen, unfortunate but inevitable. That the working class and the lower middle class, even parts of the middle class, could only survive with more than one job per person seemed to be expected punishment for not keeping up. The contrast between unprecedented bonuses for mere managers at the top and the four-job families below them seemed inevitable in a globalized world. For two decades an elite consensus insisted that unsustainable third-world debts could not be put aside in a sort of bad debt reserve without betraying Globalism's essential principles and moral obligations, which included an unwavering respect for the sanctity of international contracts. It took the same people about two weeks to abandon sanctity and propose bad debt banks for their own far larger debts in 2009."

The institutions that once provided alternative sources of power, including the press, government, agencies of religion, universities and labor unions, have proved morally bankrupt. They no longer provide a space for voices of moral autonomy. No one will save us now but ourselves.

"The best thing that happened to the Establishment is the election of a black president," Holmes said. "It will contain people for a given period of time, but time is running out. Suppose something else happens? Suppose another straw breaks? What happens when there is a credit card crisis or a collapse in commercial real estate? The financial system is very, very fragile. The legs are being kicked out from underneath it."

"Obama is in trouble," Holmes went on. "The economic crisis is a structural crisis. The recovery is only a recovery for Wall Street. It can't be sustained, and Obama will be blamed for it. He is doing everything Wall Street demands. But this will be a dead end. It is a prescription for disaster, not only for Obama but the Democratic Party. It is only groups like ours that provide hope. If labor unions will get off their ass and stop focusing on narrow legislation for their members, if they will go back to being social unions that embrace broad causes, we have a chance of effecting change. If this does not happen it will be a right-wing disaster."

Go to Pittsburgh, Young Man, and Defy Your Empire

Aug 31, 2009
By Chris Hedges
. . . .
The longer we speak in the language of global capitalism, the longer we utter platitudes about the free market—even as we funnel hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars into the accounts of large corporations—the longer we live in a state of collective self-delusion. Our power elite, who profess to hate government and government involvement in the free market, who claim they are the defenders of competition and individualism, have been stealing hundreds of billions of dollars of our money to nationalize mismanaged corporations and save them from bankruptcy. We hear angry and confused citizens, their minds warped by hate talk radio and television, condemn socialized medicine although we have become, at least for corporations, the most socialized nation on Earth. The schizophrenia between what we profess and what we actually embrace has rendered us incapable of confronting reality. The longer we speak in the old language of markets, capitalism, free trade and globalization the longer the entities that created this collapse will cannibalize the nation.

What are we now? What do we believe? What economic model explains the irrationality of looting the U.S. Treasury to permit speculators at Goldman Sachs to make obscene profits? How can Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, tout a “jobless recovery”? How much longer can we believe the fantasy that global markets will replace nation states and that economics will permit us to create a utopian world where we will all share the same happy goals? When will we denounce the lie that globalization fosters democracy, enlightenment, worldwide prosperity and stability? When we will we realize that unfettered global trade and corporate profit are the bitter enemies of freedom and the common good?

Corporations are pushing through legislation in the United States that will force us to buy defective, for-profit health insurance, a plan that will expand corporate monopolies and profits at our expense and leave tens of millions without adequate care. Corporations are blocking all attempts to move to renewable and sustainable energy to protect the staggering profits of the oil, natural gas and coal industries. Corporations are plunging us deeper and deeper as a nation into debt to feed the permanent war economy and swell the military budget, which consumes half of all discretionary spending. Corporations use lobbyists and campaign contributions to maintain arcane tax codes that offer them tax havens and tax evasions. Corporations are draining the treasury while the working class sheds jobs, sees homes foreclosed and struggles to survive in a new and terrifying global serfdom. This has been the awful price of complacency.

How Tough Is Our President?
Tuesday 18 August 2009
by: Robert Reich

Latest word from the White House is that the President still
supports a public option but is also standing by Health and
Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's remark last
weekend that a public insurance plan is "not the essential
element" of health-care reform. So where, exactly, is the White
House on the public option? Just about where it is on the
question of whether it agreed with Big Pharma to bar
Medicare from using its bargaining clout to get lower drug
prices -- or didn't. In other words, we don't know.
Obama a very smooth liar
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

IT ISN’T QUITE FAIR to call Barack Obama a liar. During the campaign he carefully avoided committing to much of anything important that he might have to take back later. For now, I won’t quibble with The St. Petersburg Times’s Obamameter, which so far has the president keeping 30 promises and breaking only six.

And yet, broadly speaking, Obama has been lying on a pretty impressive scale. You just have to get past his grandiloquent rhetoric — usually empty of substance — to get a handle on it. I offer a short, incomplete list, which I’m sure others could easily enlarge.

• Obama portrayed himself as the peace candidate, or at least the anti-war candidate. He is not a peace president, nor is he stopping any wars. True, he promised military escalation in Afghanistan (to blunt John McCain’s accusations of wimpishness), but well-meaning folks believed their new hero would genuinely move to end the occupation of Iraq and seriously try to negotiate with the Taliban. Instead, he has not only increased the number of troops and attacks against the Afghan insurgency, he has also expanded on George Bush’s cross-border raids into Pakistan, which have killed many civilians. The way things are going, Pakistan could become the new Cambodia and Obama the new Nixon.

In Iraq, Obama has promised to withdraw all the troops . . . unless, which means that we’re not leaving. Whether it’s 50,000 troops remaining at the “invitation” of the so-called government of Iraq, or just enough to man the 14 permanent military bases, or some combination of U.S. military personnel and private mercenaries that exceeds 50,000 soldiers, our army will almost certainly stay in Iraq past the stated deadline of Jan. 1, 2012.

• Obama said he wanted to reform Washington and “fix” its “broken” system of corrupt lobbying. But Obama is neither a reformer nor a skilled legislative mechanic. Hatched from the Daley Machine in one-party Chicago, Obama wouldn’t be president today if he rocked boats. Witness the appointment of Roland Burris by the corrupt former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill Obama’s Senate seat: not a word of public protest from the new administration because Burris is a made man in the Chicago Democratic organization. So what if “Tombstone Roland” can be heard on the U.S. attorney’s wiretaps of Blagojevich, dancing around the delicate question of how to raise money for Blago without appearing to be buying his seat.

As for pork-barrel politics, Obama named one of its greatest champions, Chicago’s own Rahm Emanuel, as his chief of staff, and the new budget (as well as the “stimulus” package) is loaded with pork. Meanwhile, have you heard anything serious about campaign-finance reform from Obama? Not very likely from someone who refused public financing and still has about $10 million left over from record receipts of $745.7 million. It’s just a detail, I know, but Obama’s naming of former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn III as deputy secretary of defense seems to be at odds with the president’s alleged crusade against special interests and the “revolving door” between private business and government. He has also “sold” ambassadorships to campaign donors. The biggest plum, London, is slated for Lou Susman, a Chicagoan and former Citigroup executive who bundled $239,000. Paris has been reserved for Charles Rivkin, who raised about $500,000 for Obama.

• Obama, with his Arabic middle name and his big Cairo speech, wants people to think that he is the Muslim world’s new best friend. Well, the photograph of a cheery Obama with Saudi King Abdullah and a smiling Emanuel with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, proves the contrary. The Saudi royal family hates the idea of representative government for ordinary Muslims and is cruelly indifferent to the fate of the Palestinians. A democratic, independent, partly secular Palestine could only make the Saudi oligarchy look bad. Thus, the House of Saud is perfectly happy with the status quo, and so, evidently, is Obama.

Without Saudi pressure, there will be no resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since Saudi oil is the only lever that would cause America to press Israel into making real concessions. Indeed, the president doesn’t mean for one minute to force Israel into anything more than symbolic withdrawals of its illegal settlements on the West Bank. Meanwhile, the Saudi elite continues to play its double game, paying protection money to extremist Islam and granting pensions to the relatives of suicide bombers. It’s just politics, say Barack and Rahm, grinning ear-to-ear with their sleazy new friends from Riyahd. Just keep the oil pumping around election time and all will be well.

• Obama makes like he’s a friend of organized labor, at least he did during the Ohio primary when he needed to beat Hillary Clinton. At the time, he put out a flier headlined “Only Barack Obama fought NAFTA and other bad trade deals” and charged that “a little more than a year ago, Hillary Clinton thought NAFTA was a ‘boon’ to the economy.” In a debate with Clinton on Feb. 26, 2008, he said, “I will make sure that we renegotiate [NAFTA] in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about” and “use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage” to get “labor and environmental standards that are enforced.”

But two months ago, U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk said such a blunt instrument was no longer necessary and that the leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico were now “of the mind that we should be looking for opportunities to strengthen [the North American Free Trade Agreement].” And, of course, there is no discussion at all about renegotiating Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, a “bad trade deal” that has done even greater harm to American workers and unions than has NAFTA.

Meanwhile, as I noted in my April 15 column, “Wall Street sharks circle the UAW,” Obama and his banker friend Steven Rattner are liquidating the United Auto Workers even as they liquidate the American auto industry. Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s pseudo-secretary of labor, said as much. “The only practical purpose I can imagine for the bailout is to slow the decline of GM to create enough time for its workers, suppliers, dealers and communities to adjust to its eventual demise,” he wrote last month in the Financial Times — no surprise, considering that Obama’s chief economic adviser remains Lawrence Summers, a champion of deregulation and “free-market” economics in the Clinton administration and very much the enemy of labor unions.

Yes, of course it’s nice to have a president who speaks in complete sentences. But that they’re coherent doesn’t make them honest.

John R. MacArthur, a monthly contributor, is publisher of Harper’s Magazine.

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