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Clintonians Flock With Vultures Over Argentina July 24, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Argentina, Congo, Economic Crisis, Latin America, Peru.
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Roger’s note: I confess to an intense dislike of the Clintons and their retinue.  Whereas right wing ideologues and bigots make no secret of where they stand, the Clinton crowd pose as progressives as they and their close friends and supporters become millionaires whilst enacting and promoting policies that are damaging to the constituencies they claim to represent.  From Bill the president we had drastic welfare reductions camouflaged as “reforms,” and the deregulation that led to the 2008 economic crisis that resulted in thousands losing their homes.  From Hillary the Secretary of State we had super hawk foreign policy, a continuation of the Monroe Doctrine in Latin America, and support for military coup d’etat in Honduras, Egypt and now the Ukraine —  all in the service of US corporate and geopolitical interests.  A pox on their house.

 

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By OpEdNews Op Eds 7/24/2014 at 15:16:53

It is no surprise that right-wing Republican and hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer should be trying to wring hundreds of millions of dollars out of Argentina for a debt that Buenos Aires doesn’t really owe him. He screwed tens of millions of dollars out of poverty-stricken Peru and the Republic of Congo using the same financial sleight of hand. What may surprise people, however, is that key leaders in the administration of former President Bill Clinton are helping him do it.

Singer, who owns Elliot Management, a $17 billion hedge fund, is the leading “vulture investor” — a financial speculator who buys up the bonds of debt strapped nations for pennies on the dollar and then demands payment in full. When Argentina defaulted on its foreign debt in 2001, Singer moved in and bought up $48 million in bonds. He is now demanding that those bonds be paid at full-face value — $1.5 billion — plus interest and fees. It is a move that could derail Argentina’s long climb back into solvency, as well as undermine debt settlements worldwide.

A recent decision by federal District Judge Thomas Griesa in Manhattan may not only force Argentina to pay the vultures, it could unravel a 2006 debt deal between Buenos Aires and other creditors. Under the highly controversial principle of “pari passu” (“equal ranking among creditors”), if the vultures are compensated, so must all the other creditors, even those who settled back in 2006. That bill could reach $15 billion. Given that Argentina has only about $28 billion in foreign reserves, the tab could send Buenos Aires into a recession or force the country into bankruptcy.

The “sleight of hand” involves the fact that the countries the vultures prey on are not really in debt to creditors such as Singer and Eric Hermann of FH International Asset Management LLC. The hedge funds look for distressed countries, then buy their debt at bargain basement prices and sit on it. In the meantime, other creditors cut a deal to take a reduced payment on their bonds, which in turn helps improve the debtor’s economy and allows it to emerge from default.

That’s when the vultures sue, threatening to shut down outside aid programs, seize assets and freeze debtor nations out of international finance if they don’t pay up. Recent examples involving Singer include the Republic of Congo being forced to pay him $90 million on a $10 million investment. Singer’s investment of $48 million in Argentina’s debt would net him a 1,608 percent profit if Buenos Aires pays in full. Peru was similarly plundered.

It is more than dollars and cents at stake in all this. As journalist Greg Palast points out, “In Congo-Brazzaville [the capital of the Republic of Congo] last year, one-fourth of all deaths of children under five were caused by malnutrition.” That $90 million might have made a difference.

Singer’s rap sheet is consistent with hard-nosed vulture tactics. He is a leading Republican fundraiser, and a member — along with former Vice President Dick Cheney and Iraq War designer Richard Perle — of the right-wing Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. He helped bankroll Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and is a bitter critic of “unpayable” social welfare programs, including Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

But the people who head up the main lobbying organization behind Singer’s current campaign, the American Task Force Argentina (ATFA), sit on the high councils of the Democratic Party and would likely be part of any Hillary Clinton administration.

The task force is essentially a front for several vulture funds, conservative and libertarian business groups, and agricultural organizations, like the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, which would like to damage Argentina’s cattle export business. And its executive director is Robert Raben, former counsel for liberal Congressman Barney Frank, Democratic counsel for the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration.

ATFA’s two co-chairs are Clinton’s former undersecretary of commerce, Robert Shapiro, and Clinton appointee to the United Nations Nancy Soderberg. Shapiro was an adviser to Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and a senior adviser to Al Gore’s 2000 run for the White House. Soderberg, who served as a senior foreign policy adviser to Sen. Edward Kennedy, was also a member of Clinton’s National Security Council and an alternative representative to the U.N. with the title of ambassador. She is currently a Democratic Party activist in Florida and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Raben, Soderberg and Shapiro have written numerous opinion pieces on Argentina using their Clinton administration credentials and, depending on the publication, have not always disclosed their lobbying ties. The three snookered the progressive Huffington Post into running opinion pieces until journalists Christina Wilkie and Ryan Grim uncovered their ties to ATFA. HuffPo subsequently removed the articles from its website.

Because of the huge debt burdens borne by nations from Latin America to Europe, the Griesa decision has opened up a Pandora’s box of trouble. A number of financial institutions and countries — including the International Monetary Fund and organizations representing 133 nations — have condemned the vultures or filed amici curiae briefs on behalf of Argentina, fearing that the decision could chill future debt negotiations and threaten economies trying to work themselves out of the red.

Given the ongoing hangover from the 2007-08 international meltdown, there is a lot of vulture food out there.

The key role being played by important Democratic Party activists in this cruel business — for there is no other word to describe taking money from countries struggling to emerge from debt and recession — may seem contradictory. And yet it was the Clinton administration that deregulated national and international finance and fought so hard for policies that ended up impoverishing some of the countries the vultures are now preying on.

In the 1990s, the Clinton administration pushed Argentina to privatize its state-owned industries, tie its currency to the dollar and institute the “Washington Consensus” of combining tax cuts with austerity. The result was economic disaster. From 1998 to 2002 Argentina’s economy shrank 20 percent and half the population fell below the poverty line.

Buenos Aires defaulted on its $100 billion debt in order to staunch the hemorrhage and pull the country out of an economic death spiral. In 2006, it negotiated a deal with 92.4 percent of its debt holders to pay 30 and 50 cents on the dollar. It was that deal that drew the vultures, which swooped in, scooped up some of the debt and then refused to accept the settlement.

The 2001 default blocked Argentina from tapping into international finance to tide it over until the economy recovered, but policies to end austerity and increase government spending eventually did the job. The economy grew at an average rate of 6 percent from 2002 to 2012 and Argentina paid off the IMF in 2006 and the Paris Club countries (representing the world’s 20 largest economies) in 2014.

But the vultures now threaten to undo much of this.

The Obama administration has come down on the side of Argentina because it is worried that financial institutions will shift their business to London if “pari passu” is allowed to stand. Hillary Clinton, however, has been quiet on the subject of international debt and Argentina. Given that her husband’s administration helped push Argentina off the cliff, that is hardly a surprise.

What is disquieting is that Clinton and people such as Raben, Shapiro and Soderberg have an economic philosophy that many times marches in step with that of Wall Street.

According to The New York Times, the financial sector was the second largest contributor to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 run for the White House. She is also close to the center-right Third Way think tank that advocates cutting Social Security and tends to be allergic to financial regulations. It is hard to imagine a Hillary Clinton administration stacked with Wall Street insiders and hedge fund lobbyists coming down on the vultures.

Clinton’s most recent comment on the debt crisis was to complain that she and Bill were “dead broke” when they left the White House in 2001, rhetorically putting herself in the same boat as tens of millions of indebted people in the U.S. and around the world. “Dead broke” in Chappaqua, N.Y., is not quite the same as “dead broke” in Brazzaville, or in the growing number of homeless encampments around the U.S.

Argentina is currently negotiating a compromise with the vultures, who have Buenos Aires over a barrel. The country desperately needs outside financing to exploit its huge Vaca Muerta gas reserves and to underwrite agricultural exports. “These hedge funds are equipped with an instrument [the New York court decision] that forces struggling countries into submission,” saysEric LeCompte, executive director of the anti-poverty religious organization Jubilee USA Network.

Countries are wising up to the hedge funds. Many of them now require that a debt agreement include a collective action clause (CAC), in which a majority or two-thirds vote by creditors is binding on all and would block a handful of vultures from tying up agreements. Because they signal economic fragility however, the CACs will string out negotiations and may result in higher interest rates.

In the meantime, the vultures have backed Buenos Aires against the wall. At a minimum, Democratic candidates for the presidency should make it clear that they stand with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. One way would be to endorse campaigns by organizations such as Oxfam and Jubilee to forgive foreign debt, and to make it clear they will also press for financial regulations to block vulture speculation.

In the world, vultures are estimable creatures. There is a “yuck” factor, but at least they wait until their prey are dead before making a meal of them, and they do clean up after themselves. The vultures of Wall Street prey on the living and leave behind an unspeakable mess.

Read more of independent journalist Conn Hallinan’s work at his blog, Dispatches from the Edge.

Conn M. Hallinan is a columnist for Foreign Policy In Focus, “A Think Tank Without Walls, and an independent journalist. He holds a PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. He oversaw the (more…)

A Thousand Words April 25, 2014

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Political Commentary.
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Roger’s note: This photo taken at a BBQ in 1983 shows these Three Amigos: racist Alabama governor George Wallace; point man for the MIC and CIA, G.W.H. Bush; and future President and destroyer of what little was left of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton.  Notice the smirk on Clinton’s face and the all around bonhomie.  They’re having a great time (at whose expense?).  It’s all one big happy family of Republicrats, united to screw ordinary Americans and the peoples of nations around the globe.  American democracy in action.  Eat up!

 

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Here we see Bill having a belly-splitting laugh with his good friend and mentor, Egyptian Dictator Mubarak:

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Masters of disaster bring cholera to Haiti and polio to Syria November 1, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Haiti, Hillary Clinton, Imperialism, Israel, Gaza & Middle East.
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Roger’s note: you will observe that the Clintons are key players in both of the disasters chronicled here.  Full disclosure: they are not my favorite couple.  Hubby as president with his so-called welfare reform paved the way for today’s ongoing destruction of the social safety net, and his foreign policy, like that of the Missus in her role as Secretary of State, was oriented toward protecting U.S. corporate interests abroad at the cost of the social, economic and environmental welfare of the peoples of the various nations involved.  Both Clintons are already there or at least on the way to being multi millionaires, while third world suffering increases abroad and at home.  And these are the Democratic Party’s leadership, the so-called good guys.  Hillary for President.

 

By (about the author)  http://www.opednews.com,

OpEdNews Op Eds 11/1/2013 at 03:54:20

Haiti and Syria are victims of their rescuers.  The two nations are now sites of major disease outbreaks.  Cholera in Haiti and polio in Syria didn’t just happen.   Through negligence, those who claim to rescue the people imported the disease entities and fostered the conditions for wider outbreaks.

680,000 cases of cholera in Haiti since UN rescue mission

The 7.0 Mw earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010 collapsed an already fragile society and infrastructure.   The United States and major European powers sprung into action.  Bill Clinton was the front man for the relief effort.  The United Nations provided the vehicle to deliver much of the aid.  Welcome to the new Haiti said former president Clinton boasting of the relief effort that would transform the near failed state.  Within ten months, the vaunted relief efforts lead to a major outbreak of cholera.

The source of the outbreak was identified quickly.  UN enlisted troops from Nepal set up camp and began their work.  Someone forgot to screen the troops for cholera, a known problem in Nepal.  Prior to these arrival of these peacekeepers, Haiti had never experienced a cholera outbreak.  The recent suit for compensatory relief from the UN describes the situation elegantly:

“In or around October 2010, human waste from the base seeped into and contaminated the Meille Tributary with cholera. From the Meille Tributary, the contaminated waters flowed into the [320 km long]Artibonite River, resulting in explosive and massive outbreaks of cholera along the river and eventually throughout the entire country.”  Haitian citizen class action suit versus the UN, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Oct 9, 2013

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon responded that the suit was “not receivable” in an attempt to fabricate sovereign immunity for the UN (See Inner City Press, Feb 21, 2013 and Oct 10).  Ki-Moon’s initial gambit was to deny any UN role in the outbreak. When it became abundantly clear that the UN’s failure to screen outside forces for infectious diseases caused the outbreak,  the secretary switched to fictitious legalisms at odds with international law.

The bottom line is simple.  The UN’s negligence caused the cholera outbreak.  It is massive.  The Centers for Disease Control reported that:  “As of October 17, 2013, 684,085 cases and 8,361 deaths have been reported since the cholera epidemic began in Haiti. Among the cases reported, 380,846 (55.4%) were hospitalized.” CDC, Oct 30.

Polio comes to Syria

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed multiple reports of an outbreak of wild poliovirus 1 in Syria.  The disease is showing up among the very young.  WHO went on to warn of a regional outbreak absent coordinated efforts to beat back the disease.  Due to, “frequent population movements across the region and subnational immunity gaps in key areas, the risk of further international spread of wild poliovirus type 1 across the region is considered to be high.”  WHO, Oct 29

Since the domestic political conflict turned violent in Syria in 2011, the Syrian Arab Army has fought domestic and foreign fighters funded and armed by the Gulf oil oligarchs and the U.S. and its NATO allies.  Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took the lead on U.S. support for the rebels through her insistance that Assad must go.  Clinton traveled the world announcing her command that the elected president of Syria leave the country.

This effort at regime change by the same crew that sought to rescue Haiti is apparently doing an encore in war torn Syria.

A senior WHO official announced that Pakistan was the likely source of the Syrian poliovirus outbreak.  Taliban controlled areas of Pakistan refuse to cooperate with vaccination programs.  One reason for the reluctance was a U.S. organized fake vaccination drive to gather intelligence in the hunt for Osama bin Laden.  Pakistan is a known source of foreign fighters in the Syria rebel cause.

DNA testing will confirm the Pakistan speculation.   Regardless of the source, however, the conditions created by the attack on Syria by the largely foreign fighter manned brigades created the basis for an outbreak of poliovirus and other infectious diseases.

A legion of fools

Imagine that a friend or acquaintance with an opinion on just about everything that turned out to be wrong on a consistent basis.  His actions made any situation worse than it was before he got involved.

Now, imagine that your friend or acquaintance was multiplied by a factor of ten and controlled the most powerful nation on earth.

Instead of an annoying individual with poor judgment, someone whom you could ignore without much effort, the carriers of consistent bad judgment, mistakes, and suffering are everywhere.  Whatever these powerful fools touch turns to utter disaster.

Some rescue; some rescuers.

Clintons’ Pet Project for Privatized ‘Aid’ to Haiti Stealing Workers’ Wages: Report October 17, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Haiti, Hillary Clinton.
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Roger’s note: Ah, the Clintons, the couple I love (to hate), major destroyers of what little was left of liberal progressiveness in the Democratic Party.  Here they are in Haiti with their bloodsucking “private” capitalistic venture in Haiti, which is the home to one of the poorest peoples in the world, helping to make them even poorer.

“We’re sending a message that Haiti is open for business again,” Hillary Clinton declared upon the announcement of the opening.  What she mean was “open for exploitation.”

 

 

‘This calls into question the sustainability and effectiveness of relying on the garment industry to lead Haiti’s reconstruction’

 

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Former President Bill Clinton and then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attend the opening ceremony of the Caracol Industrial Park in Caracol, Haiti, Monday, Oct, 22, 2012. (Photo: AP/Larry Downing, Pool)

Haiti’s Caracol Industrial Park—the U.S. State Department and Clinton Foundation pet project to deliver aid and reconstruction to earthquake-ravaged Haiti in the form of private investment—is systematically stealing its garment workers’ wages, paying them 34 percent less than minimum wage set by federal law, a breaking report from the Worker Rights Consortium reveals.

Critics charge that poverty wages illustrate the deep flaws with corporate models of so-called aid. “The failure of the Caracol Industrial Park to comply with minimum wage laws is a stain on the U.S.’s post-earthquake investments in Haiti and calls into question the sustainability and effectiveness of relying on the garment industry to lead Haiti’s reconstruction,” said Jake Johnston of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in an interview with Common Dreams.

Caracol is just one of five garment factories profiled in this damning report, released publicly on Wednesday, which finds that “the majority of Haitian garment workers are being denied nearly a third of the wages they are legally due as a result of the factories’ theft of their income.” This is due to systematic employer cheating on piece-work and overtime, as well as failure to pay employees for hours worked.

WRC charges that the wage theft at these 5 factories is “typical” across the country’s garment industry, leading to the suppression of national wages at deep poverty levels. As a result, workers have trouble affording food, shelter, and medical care, the report finds.

Through a series of in-depth interviews, as well as review of pay records, researchers discovered that the problem of wage theft throughout the country’s garment industry is “egregious” at Northern Haiti’s Caracol Industrial Park, which sits at the center of U.S. ‘reconstruction’ efforts and is slated to employ an estimated 20,000 people.

Financers included the Inter-American Development Bank, the U.S. State Department, and the Clinton Foundation, who invested a total of $224 million with promises to uphold high labor standards. Its anchor tenant is the Korean S&H Global factory, which sells garments to Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, and Old Navy, according to the report.

The largest post-earthquake U.S. investment in Haiti, Caracol’s backers have championed it as a model for privatized reconstruction. In a July press release, the U.S. State Department champions the park as a chance to “spur economic growth and bring jobs to Haiti’s underserved regions.”

Then-U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former U.S. President Bill Clinton attended Caracol’s opening ceremony a year ago. “We’re sending a message that Haiti is open for business again,” Hillary Clinton declared upon the announcement of the opening.

The Clinton Foundation did not immediately respond to a request from Common Dreams for an interview.

_____________________

Clinton Legacy: “Restoring Slavery” at $300m Haitian Industrial Complex October 23, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Caribbean, Haiti, Imperialism.
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Published on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 by Common Dreams

Re-imagining the “Taiwan of the Caribbean,” again

  – Common Dreams staff

The Clintons are in Haiti to inaugurate the new $300 million industrial facility touted as “transformative” for the quake-ravaged country, but many wonder if this is simply the next round of imperialism in a country that has been plagued (literally) by outside intervention for too long.

The Clinton’s travel to Haiti to celebrate the opening of a new $300 million sweatshop. (Photo by Associated Press)

The Caracol Industrial Park, which is hailed as “the centerpiece of the U.S. effort to help the country recover from the 2010 earthquake,” according to Trenton Daniel for the Associated Press, is slated to be built on a remote 617-acre site of farmland, mangroves and coral reefs in the northern part of the country.

Critics of the project believe that the industrial park does little more than replicate failed efforts from the past and will benefit outsiders more than Haitians. Writing for Haiti Liberte, Mona Péralte notes, (translated) “this park is a direct illustration of the role of imperialism in the country namely for exploit [if it] come cheaply, if not restore slavery.”

Alex Dupuy, a Haiti-born sociologist at Wesleyan University, adds, “this is not a strategy that is meant to provide Haiti with any measure of sustainable development […] The only reason those industries come to Haiti is because the country has the lowest wages in the region.”

Workers are already protesting the wages offered by the park’s anchor tenant, the South Korean apparel company and Walmart supplier, Sae-A Trading Co. Ltd. Etant Dupain writing on the Let Haiti Live website, notes:

Before the official inauguration, several thousand employees have been working in the Caracol park for the last three months at a wage of 150 gourdes ($3.75 US) a day. Since October 1st, the new minimum wage law has gone into effect, with the government setting the minimum at 300 gourdes a day. Despite this, the managers of the factory operating at Caracol aren’t respecting the new official minimum wage.

Sae-A’s Haiti representative, Daniel Cho, told AP that the employees “will be paid almost $5 for eight hours of work.”

In an effort to attract other tenants to the park, the project’s architects are offering duty-free status and a 15-year tax holiday. Dupuy says that because of these tax breaks, “outside investors will have more to gain than Haitians,” from this project.

The Clintons and their celebrity supporters (Sean Penn, Ben Stiller, fashion designer Donna Karan and British business magnate Richard Branson were all in tow) were in Caracol on Monday to celebrate the opening. Government officials have been lauding the Caracol project as panacea for Haiti’s debilitating economic woes. “We had learned that supporting long-term prosperity in Haiti meant more than providing aid,” Secretary Clinton told a roomful of investors. “So we shifted our assistance to investments to address some of the biggest challenges facing this country: creating jobs and sustainable economic growth.”

Backers of the complex estimate that the park has the potential to generate up to 65,000 total jobs; Sae-A Korea, who already employs 400 people, agreed to create 20,000 permanent jobs within six years and build 5,000 employee houses on site.

The project—which was in the works before the earthquake—became a top priority for the Obama administration after the disaster. Washington has since invested $124 million in the project, making it the U.S.’s biggest single investment in the aftermath of the quake. According to the Associated Press, “it is certain to shape the legacy of the Clintons.”

For many local Haitians, there are flashbacks to the baseball factories built in the 1970s and 1980s under the regime of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. AP writer Daniel notes:

Those jobs prompted thousands of farmers to leave their fields for the capital, and agricultural areas suffered from neglect. Shantytowns like Cite Soleil emerged to house the new workers. The factories got tax breaks but there was no income to offset Duvalier’s alleged plundering of state coffers. Haiti was supposed to become the “Taiwan of the Caribbean” but instead suffered through economic collapse brought on by political instability.

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Bill Clinton’s $80 Million Payday, or Why Politicians Don’t Care That Much About Reelection August 4, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis.
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Future Millionaires

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

 

“There was a kind of inflection point during the five-year period between 1997 and 2003 — the late Clinton and/or early Bush administration — when all the rules just went away. You went from a period, a regime, where people did have at least some concern about going to jail, to a point where everything is legal, and derivatives couldn’t be regulated at all and nobody went to jail for anything. And looking back I would say that this period definitely started under Clinton. You absolutely cannot blame this on George W. Bush.” – Charles Ferguson of Inside Job

“I never had any money until I got out of the White House, you know, but I’ve done reasonably well since then.” Bill Clinton

On December 21, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed a bill called the Commodities Futures Modernization Act. This law ensured that derivatives could not be regulated, setting the stage for the financial crisis. Just two months later, on February 5, 2001, Clinton received $125,000 from Morgan Stanley, in the form of a payment for a speech Clinton gave for the company in New York City. A few weeks later, Credit Suisse also hired Clinton for a speech, at a $125,000 speaking fee, also in New York. It turns out, Bill Clinton could make a lot of money, for not very much work.

Today, Clinton is worth something on the order of $80 million (probably much more, but we don’t really know), and these speeches have become a lucrative and consistent revenue stream for his family. Clinton spends his time offering policy advice, writing books, stumping for political candidates, and running a global foundation. He’s now a vegan. He makes money from books. But the speaking fee money stream keeps coming in, year after year, in larger and larger amounts.

Most activists and political operatives are under a delusion about American politics, which goes as follows. Politicians will do *anything* to get reelected, and they will pander, beg, borrow, lie, cheat and steal, just to stay in office. It’s all about their job.

This is 100% wrong. The dirty secret of American politics is that, for most politicians, getting elected is just not that important. What matters is post-election employment. It’s all about staying in the elite political class, which means being respected in a dense network of corporate-funded think tanks, high-powered law firms, banks, defense contractors, prestigious universities, and corporations. If you run a campaign based on populist themes, that’s a threat to your post-election employment prospects. This is why rising Democratic star and Newark Mayor Corey Booker reacted so strongly against criticism of private equity – he’s looking out for a potential client after his political career is over, or perhaps, during interludes between offices. Running as a vague populist is manageable, as long as you’re lying to voters. If you actually go after powerful interests while in office, then you better win, because if you don’t, you’ll have basically nowhere to go. And if you lose, but you were a team player, then you’ll have plenty of money and opportunity. The most lucrative scenario is to win and be a team player, which is what Bill and Hillary Clinton did. The Clinton’s are the best at the political game – it’s not a coincidence that deregulation accelerated in the late 1990s, as Clinton and his whole team began thinking about their post-Presidential prospects.

Corruption used to be more overt. Lyndon Johnson made money while in office, by illicitly garnering lucrative FCC licenses. It was the first neoliberal President, Jimmy Carter, who began the post-career payoff trend in the Democratic Party. In 1978, Archer Daniels Midland CEO Dwayne Andreas convinced Carter to back ethanol subsidies. After Carter lost to Reagan, he faced financial problems, as his peanut warehouse had been mismanaged and was going bankrupt. AMD stepped in, overpaying for the property. But Carter wasn’t nearly as skilled as Clinton, because he didn’t stay in the club.

Over the course of the next ten years after his Presidency, Clinton brought in roughly $8-10 million a year in speaking fees. In 2004, Clinton got $250,000 from Citigroup and $150,000 from Deutsche Bank. Goldman paid him $300,000 for two speeches, one in Paris. As the bubble peaked, in 2006, Clinton got $150,000 paydays each from Citigroup (twice), Lehman Brothers, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and the National Association of Realtors. In 2007, it was Goldman again, twice, Lehman, Citigroup, and Merrill Lynch. He didn’t just reap speaking fee cash from the financial services sector – corporate titans like Oracle and outsourcing specialist Cisco paid up, as did many Israel-focused groups, Middle Eastern interests, and universities. Does this explain the finance-friendly, oil-friendly and Israel First-friendly policies pursued by the State Department under Hillary Clinton? Who knows? But if you could legally deliver millions in cash to the husband of a high-level political official, it wouldn’t hurt your policy goals.

Speaking fee money isn’t just money, it is easy money. In one appearance, for one hour, Clinton can make $125,000 to $500,000. At an hourly rate, that’s between $250 million to $1 billion annually. It isn’t the case that Clinton is a billionaire, but it is the case that Clinton can, whenever he wants, make money as quickly and as easily as a billionaire. He is awash in cash, and cash is useful. Cash finances his lifestyle. Cash helped backstop his wife’s Presidential campaign when it was on the ropes.

And these speaking fees aren’t the only money Clinton got, it’s just the easiest cash to find because of disclosure laws. Apparently, Clinton’s firm apparently had a paid $100k+ a month consulting relationship with MF Global, and Clinton and Tony Blair have teamed up to help hedge funds raise money. His daughter worked for a giant hedge fund and political ally (Avenue Capital). And Clinton has unusual relationships with billionaires and Dubai-based investors.

Bill and Hillary Clinton are the best at what they do, but they aren’t the only ones who do it. In fact, this is what politics is increasingly about, not elections, but staying in the club. Erskine Bowles, former White House Chief of Staff, lost two Senate elections. But he’s on the board of Facebook and Morgan Stanley, as well as authoring the highly influential Simpson-Bowles plan to gut Social Security and Medicare. Tom Daschle, who lost a Senate race in 2004, is a millionaire who in large part crafted Obama’s health care plan. Former Senator Judd Gregg is now at Goldman Sachs. Current Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel made $12 million in between his stint at the Clinton White House which ended in 2000 and his election to Congress in 2002. Former Congressman Harold Ford, now at Morgan Stanley, is routinely on TV making political claims. Larry Summers is on the board of the high-flying start-up Square. Meanwhile, Russ Feingold, a Senator who did go after Wall Street, is a professor in the Midwest. Eliot Spitzer is a struggling TV host and writer.

In other words, Barack Obama and his franchise are emulating the Clinton’s, and are speaking not to voters, but to potential post-election patrons. That’s what their policy goals are organized around. So when you hear someone talking about how politicians just want to be reelected, roll your eyes. When you hear an argument about the best message or policy framework to use for reelection, stop listening. That’s not what politicians really care about. Elections in many ways are just like regular season games in basketball – they are worth winning, but it’s not worth risking an injury. The reason Obama won’t prosecute bankers, or run anything but a very mild sort of populism, is because he’s not really talking to voters. He just wants to be slightly more appealing than Romney. He’s really talking to the people who made Bill and Hillary Clinton a very wealthy couple, his future prospective clients. We don’t call it bribery, but that’s what it is. Bill Clinton made a lot of money when he signed the bill deregulating derivatives and repealed Glass-Steagall. The payout just came later, in the form of speaking fees from elite banks and their allies.

Ironically, Clinton has come to express regret about deregulating derivatives. He has not given the money back.

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The deep roots of the war on contraception February 15, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Health, History, Religion, Right Wing, Women.
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The uproar over Obama’s decision stems from tensions between Democrats and Catholics that date back to FDR and LBJ

By Ellen Chesler, New Deal 2.0
fdr_lbj

    (Credit: Library of Congress/The White House)

This piece originally appeared on New Deal 2.0.

Republicans for Planned Parenthood last week issued a call for nominations for the 2012 Barry Goldwater award, an annual prize awarded to a Republican legislator who has acted to protect women’s health and rights. Past recipients include Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, who this week endorsed President Obama’s solution for insuring full coverage of the cost of contraception without exceptions, even for employees of religiously affiliated institutions. And that may tell us all we need to know about why President Obama has the upper hand in a debate over insurance that congressional Tea Partiers have now widened to include anyone who seeks an exemption.

It’s a long time ago, but it is worth remembering that conservative avatar Goldwater was in his day an outspoken supporter of women’s reproductive freedom — a freethinker who voted his conscience over the protests of Catholic bishops and all others who tried to claim these matters as questions of conscientious liberty and not sensible social policy. With Goldwater on his side, Obama sees a clear opening for skeptics wary of the extremism that has captured Republican hopefuls in thrall to the fundamentalist base that controls the GOP presidential primary today. Holding firm on family planning — even if it means taking on the Catholic hierarchy and other naysayers by offering a technical fix that would have insurers cover costs instead of the churches themselves — is a calculated political strategy by the Obama campaign, not a blunder as it has been characterized by many high powered pundits, including progressives like Mark Shields of PBS and E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post.

Recent public opinion polling on the subject is worth reconsidering. For years, it has been perfectly clear that a substantial majority of Americans see the value of expanding access to contraception and reliable sex education as essential tools to prevent unwanted pregnancy and abortion and to help women balance the competing demands of work and family. But unlike a zealous minority on the other side, these moderates have not necessarily privileged these social concerns over important questions of economics or national security that mattered more to them at election time.

That’s what seems to be changing. With his now-famous “nope, zero” response last spring, President Obama simply shut down Republicans in Congress who wanted to defund family planning as part of a deal to reduce the federal deficit. The action elicited a sudden surge in his popularity, especially in the highly contested demographic of women voters between the ages of 30 and 49 who voted for him in 2008 but wound up frustrated by failed promises and disappointing economic policies. Campaign polling has since uncovered a big opening for Obama with this group because they are furious over Republican social extremism. An astonishing 80 percent of them disapproved of congressional efforts to defund Planned Parenthood last spring. Polling among Catholics in response to last week’s controversy shows identical patterns, with 57 percent overall supporting the Obama “compromise” to ensure full coverage of contraception, according to reporting by Joe Conason in The National Memo, and cross-tabs demonstrating much higher margins of support from Catholic women, Latinos, and independent Catholic voters — all prime Obama election targets.

If the numbers are so persuasive, why then have Republican conservatives strayed so far from the greater tolerance of the Goldwater age? Why have they allowed the family planning issue to tie their candidates up in knots in 2012? The answer is in just how outsized the influence of a minority viewpoint can be on a political party, so long as it represents the base of that party’s support.

A bit of history going all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal is instructive. Back then, birth control was still illegal in this country, still defined as obscene under federal statutes that remained as a legacy of the Victorian era, even though many states had reformed local laws and were allowing physicians to prescribe contraception to married women with broadly defined “medical” reasons to plan and space their childbearing.

The movement’s pioneer, Margaret Sanger, went to Washington during the Great Depression, anticipating that Franklin Roosevelt, whose wife Eleanor was her friend and neighbor in New York, would address the problem and incorporate a public subsidy of contraception for poor women into the safety net the New Deal was constructing. What Sanger failed to anticipate, however, was the force of the opposition this idea would continue to generate from the coalition of religious conservatives, including urban Catholics and rural fundamentalist Protestants who held Roosevelt Democrats captive, much as they have today captured the GOP. It was Catholic priests, and not the still slightly scandalous friend of the First Lady, who wound up having tea at the Roosevelt White House.

The U.S. government would not overcome moral and religious objections until the Supreme Court protected contraceptive use under the privacy doctrine created in 1965 under Griswold v. Connecticut. That freed President Lyndon Johnson to incorporate family planning programs into the country’s international development programs and into anti-poverty efforts at home. As a Democrat still especially dependent on Catholic votes, however, Johnson only agreed to act once he had the strong bipartisan support of his arch rival Barry Goldwater’s endorsement and also the intense loyalty and deft maneuvering of Republican moderates like Robert Packwood of Oregon in the Senate. Packwood, in turn, worked alongside Ohio’s Robert Taft, Jr. in the House and a newcomer from Texas by the name of George H. W. Bush. Bush would remain a staunch advocate of reproductive freedom for women until political considerations during the 1980 presidential elections, when he was on the ticket with Ronald Reagan, accounted for one of the most dramatic and cynical public policy reversals in modern American politics.

Reagan had supported California’s liberal policies on contraception and abortion as governor, and Bush as Richard Nixon’s Ambassador to the United Nations had helped shape the UN’s population programs. But Republican operatives in 1980 saw a potential fissure in the traditional New Deal coalition among Catholics uncomfortable with the new legitimacy given to abortion after Roe v. Wade and white southern Christians being lured away from the Democrats around the issue of affirmative action and other racial preferences. Opposition to abortion instantly became a GOP litmus test, and both presidential hopefuls officially changed stripes.

Fast forward to 1992 and the election of Bill Clinton as America’s first pro-choice president, coupled with the Supreme Court’s crafting of a compromise decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that put some limits on access to abortion but essentially preserved the core privacy doctrine of Roe v. Wade. The perceived double threat of these political and judicial developments unleashed a new and even more powerful conservative backlash that took aim not only at abortion, but at contraception and sex education as well.

Exploiting inevitable tensions in the wake of profound social and economic changes occurring across the country as the result of altered gender roles and expectations — changes symbolized and made all the more palpable by Hillary Clinton’s activist role as First Lady — conservatives, with the support of powerful right-wing foundations and think tanks, poured millions of dollars into research and propaganda promoting family values and demonizing reproductive freedom, including emotional television ads that ran for years on major media outlets. A relentless stigmatizing of abortion, along with campaigns of intimidation and outright violence against Planned Parenthood and other providers, had a chilling effect on politicians generally shy of social controversy. And Bill Clinton’s vulnerability to charges of sexual misconduct left his administration and his party all the more defensive.

Since the welfare reform legislation of 1996, aptly labeled a “Personal Responsibility Act,” not only has access to abortion been curtailed, but funds for family planning programs at home and abroad have been capped. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been allocated to the teaching of sexual abstinence, rather than more comprehensive approaches to sex education. Just as tragically, U.S. programs addressing the crisis of HIV/AIDS — admirably expanded during the presidency of George W. Bush — were nonetheless made to counsel abstinence and oppose the use of condoms and other safe sex strategies, leaving women and young people all the more vulnerable to the ravages of the epidemic.

Empirically grounded studies over and over again undermined the efficacy of these approaches, which also flew in the face of mainstream American viewpoints and basic common sense. With Barack Obama’s election they have largely been revoked, enflaming the conservative base that put them in place and has lived off the salaries supported by government funding for faith-based social policy.

Even more disheartening to conservative true believers is the promise that the Affordable Care Act will vastly expand access to contraception by providing insurance coverage for oral contraceptives. This guarantee, endorsed by all mainstream health advocates, also includes emergency contraception, popularly known as the morning-after pill, that holds the promise of further reducing unwanted pregnancy and abortion and was meant to offer common ground in an abortion debate long defined by a clash of absolutes. The strong dose of ordinary hormones in emergency contraception act primarily by preventing fertilization, just like daily contraceptive pills, but in rare instances may also disable a fertilized egg from implanting by weakening the uterine lining that it needs for sustenance, causing opponents to vilify it as an abortifacient.

Supporting the Obama policy changes, on the other hand, is a new generation of progressive activists in reproductive health and rights organizations, energized by the intensity of the assaults against them, and now well-armed to educate and activate their own supporters by using traditional grassroots strategies and more sophisticated social networking. No institution has been more important in this effort than Planned Parenthood, with its vast networks of affiliates and supporters in every state, millions more supporters online, and a powerful national political and advocacy operation based in Washington D.C. that has been put to use to great effect in recent months.

The strength of the Planned Parenthood brand, coupled with the organization’s demonstrated ability to rally hundreds of thousands of supporters when it is attacked, has helped overcome traditional political reticence on reproductive justice issues. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is already out with a strong new appeal warning politicians that women are watching. “Enough is enough. Back off on birth control,” is the new advocacy mantra.

Mindful of the numbers — and with the added ballast of what now amounts to a daily drumbeat of progressive television talk and comedy that delights in pillorying Republican prudery — Democrats are intensifying their resolve to take on this fight. Two things we can be sure of: Whoever emerges from the bloodbath of the GOP contest will try and backtrack from the birth control extremism of the primary. And Obama supporters, backed up by the advocacy community, will in turn stand ready to pounce on this inevitable flip-flopping.

Both sides may well summon the spirit and words of Barry Goldwater, who cautioned against allowing faith-based extremism to gain control of the Republican Party. “Politics and governing demand compromise,” he told John Dean, who reports on the conversation in his 2006 book, “Conservatives Without Conscience.”But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know. I’ve tried to deal with them.”

Ellen Chesler is a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute and author of “Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America.”   More Ellen Chesler

The Puppet, the Dictator, and the President: Haiti Today and Tomorrow January 21, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Caribbean, Haiti, Imperialism.
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Created 01/17/2012 – 20:13

Submitted by Jemima Pierre on Tue, 01/17/2012 – 20:13

by BAR editor and columnist Jemima Pierre, PhD

There they were, at the official ceremony: the living, breathing banes of Haiti’s existence. “Rubbing shoulders on stage, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries were Haitian President Michel Martelly, former US President and UN Special Envoy, Bill Clinton, and, Jean Claude Duvalier,” the mass murderer and former dictator. The dictator is hoping for some kind of comeback, and the puppet president “will open up Haiti to permanent US occupation and economic exploitation while terrorizing Haitians who fight back.” Clinton oversees the whole process on behalf of imperialism.

 

Duvalier has been allowed to roam Haiti’s streets, even dining at the finest restaurants with the likes of Sean Penn.”

 

Lost amidst the heart-wrenching stories and photographs of the “poor Haitians” living in squalor and misery circulating on the second anniversary of the 12 January 2010 earthquake, another set of images appeared. Few people noticed these other images – they received little attention in the mainstream media – but they offer an insight into the prospects for Haiti’s reconstruction and, indeed, into the prospects for Haiti’s political and economic future.

The images [4] were taken during the official commemoration ceremonies at the hillside ofTitanyen [5] [pdf], north of Port-au-Prince, where former dictators Jean Claude Duvalier and his father, Francois Duvalier, discarded the bodies of their political opponents. After the earthquake, it became the gravesite of thousands of unidentified earthquake victims. During the ceremonies, local delegates and international diplomats paid their respects to the Haitians that lost their lives and pledged to help those who lived. But the most striking image [6] that emerged during the ceremonies was that of an immoral triumvirate. Rubbing shoulders on stage, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries were Haitian President Michel Martelly, former US President and UN Special Envoy, Bill Clinton, and, Jean Claude Duvalier. To understand the future of Haiti, we have to shift our focus from the “poor Haitians” who dominate Haiti coverage and understand the significance of these three figures to the shaping of US imperial designs on Haiti.

President Martelly is the face – and backbone – of a resurgent Duvalierism.”

Baby Doc” Duvalier returned to Haiti after twenty-five years in exile on 16 January 2010. His arrival was supposedly a surprise, though it is becoming clear that he was given the go-ahead by France and the United States. The Obama administration’s relative silence around the return of Duvalier needs to be contrasted with the noise it made while it forcefully [7] tried to prevent [8] the return of Jean Bertrand Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically elected President. The contrast smacks of duplicity. Let’s remember that under Duvalier (and his father, Francois) nearly 50,000 [9] Haitians were killed, disappeared, and tortured by the reviled tonton macoutes [10], his private army. At the same time, Duvalier embezzled [11] hundreds of millions of dollars, most of which sponsored an exiled life of grandeur [12]. Despite the calls for his arrest and prosecution by Haitian survivors, lawyers, and international human rights organizations, Duvalier has been allowed to roam Haiti’s streets, even dining at the finest restaurants with the likes of Sean Penn.

What does Duvalier symbolize? For Haiti’s elite, he represents a form of totalitarian nostalgia. There is a cultish aura that surrounds Duvalier, a reminder of the era of “macoutized bourgeoisie [13],” as journalist Kim Ives has referred to it, when there was an alliance between the elite and the paramilitary forces of terror. But Duvalierism was also good for US politics and economics. In the 1960s, they needed Francois (“Papa Doc”) Duvalier to offset the rise of revolutionary communist Cuba. Under Jean Claude (“Baby Doc”), they were able to open up the Haitian markets and resources to US businesses, expand sweatshops, and lay the basis for the coming neoliberal economic policies.

Duvalierism was good for US politics and economics.”

This is where the US-selected President Martelly and “Papa” Bill Clinton come in. As we’ve pointed out here [14] on Black Agenda Report, right-wing candidate Martelly was handpicked by the Obama administration to become Haiti’s president in a forced election marred by irregularities and low voter turn out. More importantly, he is the face – and backbone – of a resurgent Duvalierism. His Duvalier affinities are well known as is his animus [15] towards former President Aristide. He has historic ties with Duvalier loyalists, has called for “amnesty [16]” for Duvalier, and is now in the process of reestablishing the Haitian army. Moreover, his erratic and belligerent interactions with his constituency and political colleagues – and, in particularly, his threats against Haitian journalists – are early indications of his repressive tendencies.

But he is a good puppet. As Ezili Danto of the Haitian Lawyers Leadership Network reminds us: “Martelly is merely a tool to be used by those ‘more schooled in the patterns of privilege and domination’ than any self-serving Haiti politician could ever dream to be. Martelly is the valve that releases accumulated surface pressure while reinforcing the ‘violent Haitian’ narrative. Brilliant US/Euro move. A no brainer.” In the meantime, he will open up Haiti to permanent US occupation and economic exploitation while terrorizing Haitians who fight back. As the U.S. attempts to consolidate its military presence in the Western hemisphere, control of Haiti is important. For many, this is one of the reasons explaining Haiti’s currently military occupation by the UN-led criminal force, MINUSTAH, the largest UN military force in a country that is not at war. It is also the reason for the massive new US embassy in Haiti, the fourth largest US embassy in the world.

Clinton practically dictates Haitian policy.”

And then there’s Bill Clinton. Clinton provides the “kind [17]” face of US control of Haiti. With his push to turn Haiti into a Western tourist paradise while Haitians become cheap sweatshop labor [18] for making Western goods, Clinton is the arbiter of a new phase of neoliberalism. Clinton practically dictates Haitian policy. In fact, in one of the more absurd and nepotistic twists of Haiti’s political history, Haiti’s Prime Minister, Gary Conille, is Clinton’s former chief of staff [19]. Conille also has a long family [19] history with the Duvaliers: his father was a minister to Baby Doc. As @dominique_e recently said on twitter, everything is set to “kill Haiti with neoliberalism.”

Last week, Glen Ford remarked [20] that in the US media, “Haiti is most often spoken of as a tragedy – when it is actually the scene of horrific crimes, mainly perpetrated by the United States over the span of two centuries.” With the puppet, the dictator, and the president on the scene, it is hard to imaging a more sinister cohort guiding Haiti down the path of US exploitation.

Jemima Pierre can be reached at BAR1804@gmail.com [21].

Get Ready for the Obama/GOP Alliance November 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Health, Iraq and Afghanistan, Right Wing.
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Published on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 by CommonDreams.orgby Jeff Cohen

With Obama pushing a huge troop escalation in Afghanistan, history may well repeat itself with a vengeance. And it’s not just the apt comparison to LBJ, who destroyed his presidency on the battlefields of Vietnam with an escalation that delivered power to Nixon and the GOP.

There’s another frightening parallel: Obama seems to be following in the footsteps of Bill Clinton, who accomplished perhaps his single biggest legislative “triumph” – NAFTA – thanks to an alliance with Republicans that overcame strong Democratic and grassroots opposition.

It was 16 years ago this month when Clinton assembled his coalition with the GOP to bulldoze public skepticism about the trade treaty and overpower a stop-NAFTA movement led by unions, environmentalists and consumer rights groups. How did Clinton win his majority in Congress? With the votes of almost 80 percent of GOP senators and nearly 70 percent of House Republicans. Democrats in the House voted against NAFTA by more than 3 to 2, with fierce opponents including the Democratic majority leader and majority whip.

To get a majority today in Congress on Afghanistan, the Obama White House is apparently bent on a strategy replicating the tragic farce that Clinton pulled off: Ignore the informed doubts of your own party while making common cause with extremist Republicans who never accepted your presidency in the first place.

“Deather” conspiracists are not new to the Grand Old Party. Clinton engendered a similar loathing on the right despite his centrist, corporate-friendly policies. When conservative Republican leaders like Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey delivered to Clinton (and corporate elites) the NAFTA victory, it didn’t slow down rightwing operatives who circulated wacky videos accusing Clinton death squads of murdering reporters and others.

For those who elected Obama, it’s important to remember the downward spiral that was accelerated by Clinton’s GOP alliance to pass NAFTA. It should set off alarm bells for us today on Afghanistan.

NAFTA was quickly followed by the debacle of Clinton healthcare “reform” largely drafted by giant insurance companies, which was followed by a stunning election defeat for Congressional Democrats in November 1994, as progressive and labor activists were lethargic while rightwing activists in overdrive put Gingrich into the Speaker’s chair.

A year later, advised by his chief political strategist Dick Morris (yes, the Obama-basher now at Fox), Clinton declared: “The era of big government is over.” In the coming years, Clinton proved that the era of big business was far from over – working with Republican leaders to grant corporate welfare to media conglomerates (1996 Telecom Act) and investment banks (1999 abolition of the Glass-Steagall Act).

Today, it’s crucial to ask where Obama is heading. From the stimulus to healthcare, he’s shown a Clinton-like willingness to roll over progressives in Congress on his way to corrupt legislation and frantic efforts to compromise for the votes of corporate Democrats or “moderate” Republicans. Meanwhile, the incredible shrinking “public option” has become a sick joke.

As he glides from retreats on civil liberties to health reform that appeases corporate interests to his Bush-like pledge this week to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, an Obama reliance on Congressional Republicans to fund his troop escalation could be the final straw in disorienting and demobilizing the progressive activists who elected him a year ago.

Throughout the centuries, no foreign power has been able to “finish the job” in Afghanistan, but President Obama thinks he’s a tough enough Commander-in-Chief to do it. Too bad he hasn’t demonstrated such toughness in the face of obstructionist Republicans and corporate lobbyists. For them, it’s been more like “compromiser-in-chief.”

When you start in the center (on, say, healthcare or Afghanistan) and readily move rightward several steps to appease rightwing politicians or lobbyists or Generals, by definition you are governing as a conservative.

It’s been a gradual descent from the elation and hope for real change many Americans felt on election night, November 2008. For some of us who’d scrutinized the Clinton White House in the early 1990s, the buzz was killed days after Obama’s election when he chose his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, a top Clinton strategist and architect of the alliance that pushed NAFTA through Congress.

If Obama stands tough on more troops to Afghanistan (as Clinton fought ferociously for NAFTA), only an unprecedented mobilization of progressives – including many who worked tirelessly to elect Obama – will be able to stop him. Trust me: The Republicans who yell and scream about Obama budget deficits when they’re obstructing public healthcare will become deficit doves in spending the estimated $1 million per year per new soldier (not to mention private contractors) headed off to Asia.

The only good news I can see: Maybe it will take a White House/GOP alliance over Afghanistan to wake up the base of liberal groups (like MoveOn) to take a closer and more critical look at President Obama’s policies.

Jeff Cohen is an associate professor of journalism and the director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, founder of the media watch group FAIR, and former board member of Progressive Democrats of America. In 2002, he was a producer and pundit at MSNBC (overseen by NBC News). His latest book is Cable News Confidential: My Misadventures in Corporate Media.

Obama and “Pre-Emptive Capitulation” as a Modality of Democratic Governance July 4, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama.
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(Roger’s note: this article bemoans Barack Obama’s betrayal of his promise to generate genuine change; I for one do not feel betrayed becuase I never believed in him in the first place — full disclosure, I voted for Obama and do not regret it as McCain/Palin would have spelled disaster on a far greater scale.  In positing Obama’s failure to confront the Republican Party, Calhoun does not go deep enough in his analysis.  However, in showing how a progressive president congressional majorities cannot achieve a progressive agenda while at the same time Republican presidents achieve reactionary agendas with Democratic congresses, he does suggest the crux of the problem: the United States is for all intents and purposes a one-party quasi-dictatorship.  Republicrat.  Democratican.  Call it what you will.  It is not the Republicans that Obama lacks the guts or  imagination to confront, rather the military and the corporate Behemoth, the military-industrial complex against which Dwight Eisenhower warned us in his historic farewell address.)

Herbert Calhoun

www.opednews.com, July 4, 2009

 

Given that Obama is up against ideologica opponents

that fight to the death and play dirty in defense of their own (almost always
bad) ideas, one wonders what Obama hopes to accomplish with his Rodney King like
“can’t we all just get along” approach to getting his progressive agenda
through. Does he really think he can finesse his way around this minefield of conservative
pit bulls (sacrificing those who voted for him in the process), with this sweet
talk of empty bipartisanism? Has he not learned that the republicans do not
“play the game of bipartisanism” fairly; that is, unless it means that they can
“flip” progressive ideas? They will eat the part of his body that Jessie Jackson
was going to cut off, for breakfast, and then laugh all the way to the next
election cycle, unless he gets busy using those same parts to push
through the meaty ideas of those who gave him a mandate.

-

This is serious business; time to cut deeply into and roll
back the regressive conservative agenda of the last twenty-four years, rather
than giving us (the ones who got him elected), the gravy and the crumbs trimmed
from around the edges (like the limp-wristed credit card protection bill. Please,
give me a frigging break?).

We want some “progressive meat,” not just the carcass of the
old Conservative centrist Bill Clinton programs and ideas. This pussyfooting
around the edges has got to stop and soon, or else this “Obama run train to
Washington” is going to be short-lived: derailed in the mid-term election.
Obama had better “start dancing with the one who brung him,” or else he is
headed to the “graveyard of one-term Presidency land” and lack of my vote is
going to be one of the many progressive nails in his coffin.

-

I would like to remind him that although I am a black man
who followed his career while he was a “community organizer” in the Altgeld
ghetto community in South Chicago, and who has reviewed both of his books on
Amazon.com, through the years, I am frankly still not all that impressed with
his results. I voted for him not because he is black, or edited the Harvard Law
Review; or just to see a black family in the White House, but because, I
thought he would put his foot on the accelerator and get progressive ideas
enacted quickly, and for no other reason. Unless he begins to show some
fighting spirit, some moxie, in the next election cycle I’ll vote against him and
all those limp-wristed Congressional democrats like Nancy Pelosi in a heartbeat,
and gladly send them all packing. Unless they get busy doing the business of
those who got them elected, their political capital is going to dry up like the
Sahara Desert.

-

So far, even with a mandate and a filibuster proof Congress, all Obama has shown us is a lot of-
“TV style” totally devoid of progressive substance. I am frankly tired
of seeing him on the TV. -(And
don’t send me any more of those emails asking for more money and touting these
milquetoast centrist ideas: I am not a centrist; I am a progressive!). I’d
rather see you twisting a few Republicans arms in the back rooms, and a lot less
of this empty media show. In short, so far Obama looks like, acts like, and
quacks like a “good old Bill Clinton Republican,” “a good ol’ boy, pre-emptively
giving up his progressive bona fides behind the scenes.- And giving us lots of TV style smiles,
and sweet talk. -Lets have more
grimaces and a little rough talk; that way, we know you are working for our
causes.

-

Do we need to remind Obama that when the Republicans were in
office (with Bill Clinton’s help), even without a mandate and a filibuster
proof Congress, they aggressively pursued every one of their bad ideas? And got
most of them through a democratic Congress? To wit: All of them went to work on
the number one “global Republican project:” dismantling FDR New Deal social safety
net. Ronald Reagan, GWH Bush, the not too bright, GW Bush, Jr, and even with the
centrist Bill Clinton’s help, together, all but supplanted FDR’s programs with
the new existing playing field: the over-arching capitalist model of economic insecurity.
Now, that is what we have as the new playing field. That is the “given.” That
is the new ground zero.

So, Obama begins his presidency on Ronald Reagan’s playing
field, but with a bulletproof Congress. And what does he do? Forgets about the
big ideas and proceeds to preemptively capitulate on the number one progressive
idea, single payer healthcare system; gives us a weak-kneed credit card bill
instead; a watered down energy bill that even GW would be proud of, and more
importantly, has not shown us that he is willing to fight the republicans
toe-toe for any of the progressive programs that are important to the people
who elected him. -We are now wedded
to a worse version of the private Healthcare system than the one we already
have. What about the campaign promises of lower cost for everyone and to getting
everyone covered? -[Barack, your
slip is showing...]

-

-

And as an aside, Obama, of course, since he can’t even
openly acknowledge or be seen championing mainstream progressive causes, would
not be caught dead pushing any overt black causes. I suppose that dealing with
black concerns, like the inner social city meltdown, the public schools, etc.,
are either completely out of the question, or, are so far down the Obama agenda
that we are not likely to see them until a second term, if at all.

This pre-emptive capitulation is for the birds, and if it
does not stop soon, I am going to personally lead a group to picket the White
house to further dramatize how weak-kneed the Obama team really is. I never
thought I would be the one to say this but what we really need is a democrat,
with GW’s like moxie of full speed ahead, working a progressive agenda. Barack
Obama, ugh!

Retired Foreign Service Officer and past Manager of Political and Military Affairs at the US Department of State. For a brief time an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Denver and the University of Washington at (more…)
 
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