Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Notes About the 2010 Election Debacle

The predicted disaster for Democrats and those who still call themselves "progressives" has occurred. Corporate and special interest money, along with corporate media inspired voter confusion, has helped to defeat two of the last few thoughtful and progressive Congressional voices--Russ Feingold and Alan Grayson--and the "just say no" Republicans have taken over the House of "Representatives."

The only high point for "progressive" Oregonians is that John Kitzhaber has apparently won the Governor's race here.

The message for low income and forgotten Americans is that the Republicans and many Democrats, neighbors, and in some cases friends, simply do not care if you live or die. The "war of all against all" is now upon us. The elites in both parties do not understand and cannot comprehend your situation. They know little about your lives--what you have felt, seen and experienced. This has been especially spelled out in the debate over healthcare, and reinforced by Obama and the rest of Congress in ignoring the plight of the jobless and those being foreclosed upon by the bailed-out banksters.

In thinking about where our country has ended up over the last two years, I am wondering if the only solution for the poor and the abandoned jobless is to find the resources to buy a decent gun, ammunition, and a cleaning kit.

In a recent article concerning the plight of people in England, John Pilger quoted the English poet Percy Shelley. The situation in Britain, you see, is not so different from our own.

See: The Party Game Is Over. Stand And Fight

Shelley wrote:

Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number.
Shake your chains to earth like dew.
Which in sleep has fallen on you.
Ye are many – they are few.

In the time of Shelley, or Thomas Jefferson, such thoughts would have been taken seriously, but not in our times of American domestication, when we accept the most subjugating insults and loss of our basic rights, like sheep in an impoverished pasture.

What follows are some thoughts on the election from some of our informed voices in what is left of the "progressive" movement in America:

Michael Moore on Midterm Elections

In the morning, President Obama is going to hold a press conference, and he’s going to take the wrong path. He’s going to say what we really need now is more bipartisanship and more kumbaya. And the other side wants none of that. And I don’t know—I don’t know how much you have to be battered and bruised to understand when the abuser is not going to stop abusing.

Ralph Nader: Dems Face Losses to "Most Craven Republican Party in History"

The corporations now dominate every department and agency in the federal government, from the Department of Defense, Department of Treasury, Department of Agriculture, Interior and other departments. By that I mean, the outside influence on these departments is overwhelmingly corporate, even the Labor Department. Number two, they have something like 9,000 political action committees—auto dealers, insurance companies, banks, drug companies—funneling money into members of Congress and the White House. Number three, they’ve put their executives in high government positions. Now, nobody comes close to that kind of triple control of our government. And when Franklin Delano Roosevelt sent a message to Congress in 1938 to set up the national—temporary national commission on corporate concentration—and they did pass that—he said in his message, when government is controlled by private economic power, that’s fascism. That was in 1938. And now, more than ever, we have a corporate government in Washington, DC, corporate-occupied territory, that is destructive of any semblance of democratic process. Voice for the people, voice for labor, a voice for small taxpayers, consumers, they’re shut out. They’re excluded.

Doomsday for Democrats?

The mass media-exaggerated aura of the Tea Party, pumped by Limbaugh, Hannity and the histrionic Glenn Beck, has put the Democrats in a defensive posture. It is giving the puzzled Republicans an offensive image. I say puzzled because they can’t figure out the many disparate strands of the Tea Party eruption which includes turning on the Republicans and George W. Bush for launching this epidemic of deficits, debt, bailouts and unconstitutional military adventures.

Being on the defensive politically becomes a nightmarish self-replicating wave among that 10 percent slice of swing voters who can make the difference between a big win or a big loss. These are also the non-hereditary party voters whose philosophy is to “throw the bums out” again and again until they get themessage.

US Is Not Greatest Country Ever
by Michael Kinsley

The theory that Americans are better than everybody else is endorsed by an overwhelming majority of U.S. voters and approximately 100 percent of all U.S. politicians, although there is less and less evidence to support it. A recent Yahoo poll (and I resist the obvious joke here) found that 75 percent of Americans believe that the United States is "the greatest country in the world." Does any other electorate demand such constant reassurance about how wonderful it is - and how wise? Having spent a month to a couple of years and many millions of dollars trying to snooker voters, politicians awaiting poll results Tuesday will declare that they put their faith in "the fundamental wisdom of the American people."

Not me. Democracy requires me to respect the results of the elections. It doesn't require me to agree with them or to admire the process by which voters made up their minds. In my view, anyone who voted for Barack Obama for president in 2008 and now is supporting some tea party madwoman for senator has a bit of explaining to do. But the general view is that the voters, who may be fools individually, are infallibly wise as a collective - that their "anger," their urgent desire, yet again, for "change," is self-validating.

Everybody will be talking in the next few days about the "message" of the elections. They mean, of course, the message from the voters. This is one of the treasured conventions of political journalism. Yesterday, the story was all about artifice and manipulation, the possible effect of the latest attack ad or absurd lie. Today, all that melts away. The election results are deemed to reflect grand historical trends. But my colleague Joe Scarborough got it right in these pages last week when he argued that the 2010 elections, for all their passion and vitriol, are basically irrelevant.

Nov. 2: The Death Knell of Corporate Liberalism
by Matthew Rothschild

I feel like one of Custer’s relatives after the Little Big Horn.

Except that Tuesday’s slaughter at the polls was not unexpected. It marked the death knell of corporate liberalism, and it signed the death certificate of petty gradualism.

I’m tired of the Democratic Party’s excuses, and Barack Obama’s apologists.

Yes, Bush and Cheney trashed the place like a couple of crazed heavy metal bands in a hotel room.

Yes, they left an exploding economy on Obama’s desk.

Yes, the Republicans in Congress obstructed Obama at every turn and conspired to stop him at all costs.

Yes, the Republican rabble did everything in their power to discredit him, from concocting the birther controversy to spreading the “Is he a Muslim” nonsense.

And yes, the Supreme Court opened the corporate floodgates with its execrable decision in the Citizens United case. As a result, spending by undisclosed outside groups mushroomed by more than 500 percent from the 2006 midterm elections.

Those were the objective conditions, and they were about as nasty as they come.

But Obama didn’t help himself by trying to placate the Republicans and by muddling his messaging.

He didn’t help himself by lowballing the stimulus and by rejecting a moratorium on foreclosures.

He didn’t help himself by playing a Washington insider game, by trying to buy off a couple of Republicans in Congress and by playing footsie with huge industries, like the banks and the pharmaceutical companies.

This was timid corporate liberalism, RIP.

Obama was given a mandate for change, and he squandered it.

He never mobilized the base to take on the vested interests.

Example: health care. He didn’t call people to march on Washington for universal health care, or at least Medicare for all who want it. So a few tea party hucksters were able to hijack the debate. He didn’t even push Harry Reid to give the health care bill to Senator Tom Harkin’s committee, throwing it instead into the untrustworthy arms of Max Baucus.

As a result, an inferior law came on the books with some important insurance reforms in it, but it didn’t threaten the private health care providers or the pharmaceutical companies. And it didn’t deliver the immediate relief that most Americans needed.

On the jobs front, he refused to follow the lead of Christina Romer, head of his Council of Economic Advisers, or the recommendations of Nobel Prize winners Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz. All three said he needed a stimulus package that was at least 50 percent larger than the one he proposed. Nor did he propose a new WPA, like FDR did when the country faced a similar, if not quite so staggering, free fall. Obama was afraid to come on too strong. So he came on too weak.

Same on the banking front. Obama could have, and should have, nationalized Bank of America and Citibank, or at the very least, compelled them to halt foreclosures and write down the principal on all their mortgages by 25 or 30 percent. But Obama didn’t get anything from the banks in exchange for the hundreds of billions of dollars the Treasury doled out, and the trillions in guarantees. And so the bankers laughed all the way to the vault, and even some Republicans scored by running commercials against Democrats who voted for the [Bush/Republican inspired - Chris] bailout.

Same on the environment. Obama sold out the cause at Copenhagen, and with amazingly bad timing he came out for offshore drilling just weeks before the BP disaster, in hopes, again, of getting concessions from Republicans and from industry.

His messaging was as poor as his governing. First he blamed the Wall Street CEOs for their obscene bonuses; then he called them “very savvy businessmen,” adding: “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free-market system.”

Similarly, on the budget, first he argued for deficit spending; then he said we need to cut the deficit in half by the end of his term.

This was confusing to millions of Americans, dispiriting to the base, and diverting to his enemies.

But basically, he didn’t give people enough tangible benefits to say, OK, I’m with him. He’s helped me. I’ll vote for Democrats again.

You can’t tell an unemployed person that you’d have been twice as unemployed without my help. You need to give that person a job now.

You can’t tell an elderly person you’re closing the donut hole on prescription drugs—by the year 2020. You need to close it now.

You can’t tell an adult with a pre-existing condition that you’ll force insurance companies to cover you—by the year 2014, when you may be dead. You need to cover people now.

You can’t tell families being foreclosed upon that you’re trying hard to keep them in their homes. You need to keep them in their homes now.

But to do any of that, Obama would have had to confront corporate power head on. But he, and Rahm Emanuel, and Larry Summers, and Tim Geithner were unwilling to do so and ideologically unprepared to even consider it.

They lived by corporate liberalism. And Democrats around the country died by it.

The Tragedy of Under-Reaching
After the Election Disaster: Back to Basics
by Norman Solomon

The mass-media echo chamber now insists that Republicans have triumphed because President Obama was guilty of overreach. But since its first days, the administration has undermined itself -- and the country -- with tragic under-reach.

It's all about priorities. The Obama presidency has given low priority to reducing unemployment, stopping home foreclosures or following through with lofty pledges to make sure that Main Street recovers along with Wall Street.

Far from constraining the power of the Republican Party, the administration's approach has fundamentally empowered it. The ostensibly shrewd political strategists in the White House have provided explosive fuel for right-wing "populism" while doing their best to tamp down progressive populism. Tweaks aside, the Obama presidency has aligned itself with the status quo -- a formula for further social disintegration and political catastrophe.

Payback at the Polls
by Robert Scheer

Barack Obama deserved the rebuke he received at the polls for a failed economic policy that consisted of throwing trillions at Wall Street but getting nothing in return. His amen chorus in the media is quick to blame everyone but the president for his sharp reversal of fortunes. But it is not the fault of tea party Republicans that they responded to the rage out there over lost jobs and homes while the president remained indifferent to the many who are suffering.

At a time when, as a Washington Post poll reported last week, 53 percent of Americans fear they can't make next month's mortgage or rent payment, the president chirped inanely to Jon Stewart that his top economics adviser, Lawrence Summers, who was paid $8 million by Wall Street firms while advising candidate Obama, had done a "heckuva job" in helping avoid another Great Depression. What kind of consolation is that for the 50 million Americans who have lost their homes or are struggling to pay off mortgages that are "underwater"? The banks have been made whole by the Fed, providing virtually interest-free money while purchasing trillions of dollars of the banks' toxic assets. Yet the financial industry response has been what Paul Volcker has called a "liquidity trap"-denying loans for business investment or the refinancing necessary to keep people in their homes.

Instead of meeting that crisis head-on with a temporary moratorium on housing foreclosures, as more than half of those surveyed by the Post wanted, the president summarily turned down that sensible proposal. Instead he attempted to shift the focus to his tepid health care reform and was surprised that many voters didn't think he did them a favor by locking them into insurance programs not governed by cost controls. Health care reform was viewed by many voters with the same disdain with which they reacted to the underfunded and unfocused stimulus program. Neither seems relevant to turning around an economy that a huge majority feels is getting worse, according to Election Day exit polls.

That is a problem that is not obvious to the power elites whom the leaders of both political parties serve or to the high-paid media pundits who cheer them on. The tea party revolt, ragged as it is, fed on a massive populist outrage that so-called progressives had failed to respond to because of their allegiance to Obama. As a result the Democrats squandered the hopes of their base, which rewarded the party with a paltry turnout at polling stations.

Election 2010: A Disaster for Peace
Posted By Justin Raimondo On November 2, 2010

The expected Election Day Republican “wave” that broke over our heads is a disaster for the anti-interventionist cause in the immediate sense – but there may be a silver lining.

The disaster is embodied in the various GOP warmongers who will be placed in key positions in Congress, and a good case could be made that among the worst of the worst will be the probable majority leader in the House: Eric Cantor.

Cantor is a walking, breathing stereotype, a neocon through and through, who pays lip service to the “tea party”-ish idea of limiting government spending, but is in reality committed to lavishing tax dollars on any project as long as it can be somehow construed as contributing to US security. Thus, references his views on “foreign aid” and the budget:

“Cantor told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the president’s proposed budget might have to be rejected outright if Republicans take power – after separating out U.S. aid for Israel, of course.”

Cantor is a big fan of Israel’s, and has gone so far as to say that, in the context of tensions between Washington and Tel Aviv over the settlements and other issues, “Israel is not the problem” – leaving unspoken the presumption the US is at fault. In line with the Israel lobby’s campaign to goad us into war with Iran, he demands that the US cease negotiations with Tehran, impose draconian sanctions unilaterally, and openly threaten the use of force. . . . .

Far worse than anyone I have yet mentioned is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, who never saw a war she didn’t salivate at the prospect of and has called for the assassination of Fidel Castro. She is a militant supporter of Israel, constantly criticizes the US for not kowtowing quickly enough to Tel Aviv, and is a vocal supporter of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a Marxist terrorist organization that has provided much of the phony “intelligence” purporting to show Iran is developing nuclear weapons. She will be chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee when the GOP takes the House.

The big problem with a Republican-dominated House is that those GOPers who take an interest in foreign policy issues are invariably hawks: these are the committed neocons, like Cantor and Kyl. The tea partiers, for their part, avoid the issue, focused exclusively as they are deficits, taxes, and budget-cutting.

There is, however, a silver lining to all this: the Empire is going bankrupt. Our invasion of Iraq is estimated by economist Joseph Stiglitz to cost some 3 trillion dollars, when all is said and done. Neocons Bill Kristol and the heads of the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation came out with an op ed warning the tea party types not to go near their precious “defense” budget with the cost-cutter’s knife. But the tea partiers are unlikely to listen to Kristol & Co., or, indeed, any members of the Republican establishment, who, after all, presided over the spendthrift Bush administration all the while proclaiming their support for what they called “big government conservatism.”

Objectively, the momentum for cost-cutting will run up against the neocons’ militarism, and a conflict seems inevitable. Yet nothing is inevitable when it comes to human affairs, so we’ll just have to see what happens.

Another discouraging aspect of the GOP’s triumph is that it will give Obama very little room to maneuver on domestic matters – and he’ll have little choice but to concentrate more of his attention on foreign policy. This is not good, from an anti-interventionist viewpoint, because the President will no doubt use foreign policy issues to gain Republican support for his domestic initiatives. This increases the influence of the McCain-Cantor-Petraeus more-troops-to-Afghanistan lobby – but it gets worse….

US Voters Drink Reaganism's Kool-Aid

By Robert Parry

Obama’s Mistakes

Obama’s core political mistake may have been trying to stabilize a very sick patient – the U.S. economy – rather than applying more radical remedies. His stabilization approach largely worked, at least for those heavily invested in the stock markets which have rebounded to two-year highs.

Obama’s stimulus plan and auto bailout also saved many jobs that would have been lost if he had adopted a laissez-faire approach.

His other option would have been to shake up an already badly shaken system by, say, nationalizing ailing Wall Street banks. He also could have challenged the Washington power structure by ordering investigations of Bush-43’s war crimes and bringing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to prompt conclusions.

But that course of action would have risked a wider economic collapse, even worse joblessness and bitter conflicts between Obama and potent political/media interests in the power centers of Washington and New York. He would have faced even more accusations of overreaching.

Plus, the weak American Left would have provided little meaningful political support. More than likely, it would have continued to find something to criticize.

The media reality that Obama faced was what I encountered last month when I was driving late at night from upstate New York back to Washington. To stay awake, I sampled what was available on the AM dial and was stunned to discover how many different right-wing voices there were sneering at Obama and the liberals. I could find no channel that offered an alternative.

Even decades into this dangerous media imbalance, the Left mostly continues to ignore its messaging gap. Wealthy progressives spend some money on tracking what the Right is up to (i.e. Media Matters) and subsidizing non-controversial investigative journalism (i.e. ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity), but they still do little to support real independent journalism that examines systemic problems or high-level crimes.

After Obama’s election in 2008, the Left’s most promising – though flawed – media effort, Air America Radio, was deemed expendable by wealthy progressives. Rather than spend the money and provide the management skills to improve Air America, they pulled the plug in January 2010, the same week of the Supreme Court’s ruling on corporate donations. [See’s “US Democracy’s End of the Road.”]

Today’s other progressive media operations remain fragile or limited.

MSNBC, which is owned by General Electric pending a sale to Comcast, has experimented with a liberal evening line-up (only after failing at everything else, including trying to out-fox Fox). But MSNBC could easily shut down its experiment if it senses a risk to the interests of its corporate parent, whether GE, a charter member of the military-industrial complex, or Comcast.

Faced with this paucity of independent or left-leaning media, many rank-and-file progressives have turned to the liberal-oriented irony of Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who sponsored a massive rally for sanity on the National Mall last Saturday.

However, as many progressive writers have noted, Stewart and Colbert are primarily entertainers, not activists committed to changing the political/economic system.

So, Tuesday’s congressional elections represented the latest wake-up call to American progressives that they must make a much bigger commitment to building media. However, they have shown a remarkable tenacity to hit the snooze button no matter how loud the alarm.

Instead of action, one can expect a number of articles from the Left about how Obama and the Democrats failed because they weren’t leftist enough. Despite all the evidence, the Left remains obstinate against the need to reconsider what it’s been doing for the past several decades.

The bottom line is that the Left has a fanciful view of its own influence, or perhaps its problem is an unshakeable faith that the working class will somehow naturally understand its own interests.

However, a near-voiceless progressive movement and a noisy Right telling fearful Americans that they should again follow in Ronald Reagan’s footsteps make a dangerous combination, only likely to get worse when Reagan’s centennial birthday is lavishly celebrated in 2011.

Based on Tuesday’s elections, the American people appear eager to march down the old road marked by Reaganism, even if the path leads to vats of Kool-Aid laced with arsenic.

Darker Economic Days Likely Ahead

By Danny Schechter

Here are the key issues we will still be facing – and many may still be in denial about.

l. There has been no real recovery. Unemployment is up and so are foreclosures. The mortgage mess is only getting worse, and the relationship between these two issues has been confirmed by a new report by the International Monetary Fund.

If there is no progress on foreclosures, there will be no progress on jobs.

AP explains, “A growth rate of 5 percent or higher is needed to put a major dent in the nation's 9.6 percent unemployment rate.” They cite reasons why that's unlikely well into next year and maybe beyond.

The Economic Policy Institute reports: “‘Never since World War Two has it taken so long to recover to pre-recession levels of GDP,’ said Economist Josh Bivens.

“Although the pace of growth in the third quarter marks a modest increase from the 1.5 percent annualized rate of growth in the second quarter, it is a sharp deceleration from the 3.7 percent annualized growth rate show in the first quarter.”

2. Millions of Americans are facing the end of all benefits. What will they do then?

Some will turn to despair and slide into poverty, others, perhaps to crime. And many more to more radicalized politics on the left and right. Mao’s axiom that revolutions are not tea parties may be relevant, even prophetic in this context of continuing economic decline.

3. While some banks and individual banksters, thanks to the bailouts, have done well, hundreds of banks are facing insolvency. The Credit Writedowns site reports: “The U.S. Banking Crisis Has a Long Way to Go.”

The “Calculated Risk website maintains an unofficial problem bank list compiled from publicly available records. The list has now reached 894. The FDIC has an official list of troubled banks and the number of troubled banks was last released August 31 when the total was 829. The FDIC does not make the names of troubled banks on their list public.”

The Guardian in the United Kingdom has even published a map of failing American banks at .

3. The Federal Reserve Bank is moving slowly and sluggishly. Fed Head Ben Bernanke, a Republican, reportedly wants more stimulus money pumped into the economy but has been too frightened to antagonize members of his own party. Many economic wise men fear his plan will fail.

Notes Dean Baker: “A Washington Post article discussing the risks associated with another round of quantitative easing raised the possibility that the Fed could lose its credibility if the program does not lead to the intended growth. It implies that the loss of credibility would be a major harm.

“It is worth noting that the whole economic collapse came about because of the Fed's failure to notice and/or do anything about an $8 trillion housing bubble. Given this enormous failure, it is not clear how much credibility it currently enjoys among people who follow the economy.”

4. The gap between the very rich and what was once the middle class continues to grow, according to Holly Sklar who explains, “Before Wall Street drove our economy off a cliff, bullish Citigroup strategists dubbed the United States a ‘plutonomy.’ They said, ‘There are rich consumers, few
in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take. There are the rest, the “non-rich,” the multitudinous many, but only accounting for surprisingly small bites of the national pie.’"

Jacob Hacker of Yale and Paul Pierson of the University of California at Berkeley argue that “over the last generation, more and more of the rewards of growth have gone to the rich and superrich. The rest of America, from the poor through the upper middle class, has fallen further and further behind.”

The number of Americans making $50 million or more has increased five fold.

And so it goes. . . .

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