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Hope: A Tragedy: A Novel

Hope: A Tragedy: A Novel

By Shalom Auslander

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Economic Policy Could Scuttle Obama’s Good Start

Posted on Jan 27, 2009
AP photo / Charles Dharapak

Barack Obama finishes a speech about the economy on Jan. 8 at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

By Robert Scheer

Only a week into the new administration, and yet there is this nagging thought that Barack Obama’s legacy already hangs in the balance. Sounds absurd, I know, given the brief time, but his early response to the financial meltdown is just that important. Despite a terrific start in so many directions, Obama is up against an economic crisis that, although not of his making, will, if handled improperly, spell his—and the nation’s—undoing.

Obama is in these early weeks making trillion-dollar decisions that will cast the die for the rest of his promising agenda. Unfortunately, while the new president has already proved to be a brilliant and super-competent agent of change in so many ways, in matters of economic policy he has relied excessively on the financial “experts” who helped get America into this mess.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and top White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers are retreads from the Clinton years who sided with congressional Republicans in unraveling the regulatory regime created by Franklin Roosevelt that had served the nation so well. Perhaps they have now come to their senses, given the financial horrors that their deregulatory mania unleashed, but it gives one pause to see these folks back on center stage performing with the same arrogant aplomb as they did when they had it all wrong.

We can only hope they are now prepared to make amends, although Geithner and Summers often seem to be pushing for more of the same: bankers first, women and children later. The good news is that the message coming from the mouth of the new president is that he intends to make a significant departure from the Bush bailout, by placing emphasis on preventing foreclosures, curtailing bank lobbying and holding the recipients of federal funds responsible for opening the tap of loans to the public. The structure of the stimulus package is also reassuring, with its emphasis on spending money in ways that will improve the quality of life for ordinary Americans and its ban on bonuses for corporate execs who utterly failed in their responsibilities. Imagine how much better off we would be if we had just taken the first $350 billion of TARP funds and used it to help teachers, cops, nurses and firemen buy homes in the communities they serve.

We certainly should give Obama the benefit of the doubt. In every other area his early performance has been stellar. Certainly so with respect to human rights and protection of civil liberties; in his first week in office, he reversed many of the atrocious Bush-era policies. With an urgency unmatched by any other modern president, Obama has sharply countered America’s tainted image by acting to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, ban the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation tactics and restore the power of the Freedom of Information Act to ensure public access to the information required for an informed democracy.


Square, Site wide

In other important instances, Obama has been refreshingly true to the promises of his campaign by taking the first steps toward ending the U.S. occupation of Iraq, by moving toward energy conservation and by ending punishment of international health organizations that have been severely undermined by the dictates of anti-abortion zealots. His early actions on global warming and the Mideast show a clarity of commitment absent from the executive office over the past eight years.

In these areas, Obama has acted with an informed confidence not always evidenced in his initial moves on the economy. Why, in the management of the economy, do we hear so little from the Chicago community organizer concerned with the pain of the average person and instead perceive so much of the sensibility of the Harvard business and law school elite, preoccupied with the well-being of the denizens of Wall Street?

As Obama stated in his inauguration speech, “A nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.” That is the problem with the Bush bailout, which Obama asked to be extended and which has resulted in little more than a rearranging of the chairs, not to mention the commodes, of the first-class passengers on a sinking ship. It has been the biggest corporate welfare program in history, enabling Wall Street hustlers to cut themselves lucrative deals while so many millions lose their jobs and homes. I’m betting that Obama will try to put a stop to all of this, but he needs to hear from ordinary folks who are hurting and outraged.

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By cyrena, January 29, 2009 at 5:58 pm Link to this comment

•  “Despite a terrific start in so many directions, Obama is up against an economic crisis that, although not of his making, will, if handled improperly, spell his—and the nation’s—undoing.”

Well, in terms of the economic crisis that wasn’t of Obama’s making, the nation is ALREADY ‘undone’. This ‘code blue’ was sounded long ago, and nobody showed up with the crash cart and the paddles until now.
So his ‘handling’ of it will require bringing us back from the dead and/or preventing more death.  My guess is that he’s focusing on keeping those of us who haven’t died yet -  alive. At least that’s what I’m hoping.

Thanks for mentioning this Mr. Scheer:

•  “With an urgency unmatched by any other modern president, Obama has sharply countered America’s tainted image by acting to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, ban the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation tactics and restore the power of the Freedom of Information Act to ensure public access to the information required for an informed democracy.”

Specifically the part about restoring the power of the Freedom of Information Act, because that was one of the FIRST things he did by day 2 or 3. That came immediately to mind when I was listening to Rachel Maddow yesterday, as she made a big ‘to do’ about the ACLU’s filing of a request (yesterday) for tons of information that can hopefully be used to investigate the former Thug regime of Dick Bush. Now of course this is a very good thing that the ACLU did, but Rachel seemed to consider it some sort of ‘hostile challenge’ to the new administration. It made me wonder if she had somehow MISSED the fact that President Obama very specifically went through the motions to make sure that the power of the Freedom of Information Act would accomplish exactly this.

In other words, that’s why he DID it!! All of this information has been held in secret for 8 years, and Cheney long ago RE-classified stuff that had been declassified under the appropriate statues and time limits. That President Obama made a clear commitment to undoing this (of many) atrocities, it was the same as saying (at least in my interpretation) “OK folks, you’ve been waiting to get at this information that should have been available to you all along. So, get your requests in now. If we’ve got it, we’ll send it out, and in a format that is NOT just pages and pages of redaction.

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. I’m even thinking of filing a request for information, just to see what it would look like if the whole thing isn’t blacked out. Does anybody have any suggestions for what information I should request? Think of something worthwhile, because it’s a big fat bureaucratic nightmare to file these things. Might as well make it worth it.

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By mill, January 29, 2009 at 5:45 pm Link to this comment


economic growth is tied to population growth.  if the population is growing, we need economic growth to keep pace, or we live less well.  the US population is growing.

if you can get the population to shrink, then growth would be less of an issue.  managing contraction would be the challenge like today’s economy.  practice for a declining population future perhaps?

productivity matters too, not just growth.  the more each of us can contribute, the better assuming green standards for production

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By thebeerdoctor, January 29, 2009 at 5:10 pm Link to this comment

Everybody needs a job that pays. The whole world needs paying jobs. The wizards of high finance actually believe they can downsize to prosperity.
Everybody need a paying job, with a sustainable living wage. This is not a matter of economics, but of the survival of humanity.

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By KDelphi, January 29, 2009 at 3:35 pm Link to this comment

Wait a minute—did someone say “Reich”? As in Robert? Youve got to be kidding.

The GOP (DeMint, Okie from Muskoggie—(sp? Never mind, I dont care) are arguing on c-span, right now, that we must help children buy private heatlh policies to “preserve their dignity”.

I am not kidding, They are simply not worth listening to. They are the Theatre of the Absurd.

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By donna, January 29, 2009 at 3:08 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What is this supposed to mean: “We can only hope they are now prepared to make amends, although Geithner and Summers often seem to be pushing for more of the same: bankers first, women and children later.”  Why the lumping of women and children together like some pre-feminist slur? It’s insulting. We women are not defined by our reproductive organs, or as part of a helpless class to be protected by men. Please remember, even in difficult times, women have equal rights as men, not children.

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By Folktruther, January 29, 2009 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment

Obama was supported by the neoliberal power structure not to TRANSFORM Bushite policies, but to ideologically REHABILITATE them.  his function is to say pretty words and engage in politial theater while maintaining the neoliberal polices of Bush.  Obama’s support of the Bailout swindle was an obvious indication of what he was to do.

He really has no choice unless he abandons the American neoliberal model and goes with the state capitalism of China, the only power structure thriving in a world of depression.  China has nationalized the banks and major industry, the state owning about a third of the economy while light consumer industries are left to private enterprise.

They have been growing at a phenomenal rate for half a century, now having an economy, as near as I can tell through the massive deception by East and West, larger than the US economy, and still growing at a fantastic rate.

But this has been done at the cost of Western Freedom, the freedom of the owners of the banks and industry to dictate to the state how to run the economy.  The Freedom of the bankers and large corporations translates into the power of their goverment agents, Geither,Summers and Rubin.  They are promoting the Freedom of the banks and corporations to rip off the population, preventing the kind of regulation needed to promote the general eonomic welfare.

It doesn’t work, and it’s failure is disguised by the bullshit of liberal economics that states that it does.  If the economically powerful promote each their own interests, it is NOT THE CASE that the Invisible Hand will promote the general good. But even though they do not completely control the communal Invisible Hand,  they do control the Invisible Brain that that produces the sanitized mainstream truth, and this is used to delude and confuse the population.

If Obama is going to make any successful change at all, he must swing to the partisan left as Roosevelt did to attack the Malfactors of Great Wealth.  Can you see this happening by old Bipartisan Hope n Change?  His function, like Bush’s, is public relations, nice political rhetoric and political theater to justify Business as Usual.

The Bushites deliberately left him with three wars, enourmous debt, great class inequality, and a militarized police state to intimidate dissent.  That is what we can look forward to from Hope n Change for the next four to eight years.  As Scheer, in mainstreamspeak, suggests in his piece.

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By TAO Walker, January 29, 2009 at 2:51 pm Link to this comment

(C)ann4ing probably knows already that being more “sophisticated” ain’t necessarily a good thing….unless clever shallowness, willful ignorance, and boastful inexperience are personal and societal virtues all should strive-for.  Neither is “green” such an unalloyed blessing, when it refers to the induced immaturity rampant among the domesticated peoples.

One thing that sure doesn’t seem to’ve changed in Obama-world is the tendency of america’s wannabe ruling-class to tell the rest of theamericanpeople to remain essentially passive infant/consumers, while the “really big kids” continue to appear to wrestle heroically-with (while somehow never actually solving) “The Problem.”  An important part of the pyramid scam, of course, is refusing ever to actually DEFINE the thing, keeping the masses in constant fear of some amorphous threat that can be media-molded into whatever shape promises “the-most-bang-for-the-buck,” from one day to the next, for those with something to sell to public procurers.

It isn’t particularly surprising to us surviving Savages that our tame Sisters and Brothers will grasp at every straw, trying vainly to keep from drowning in the cesspool of their own “civilized individual”-ism….nor that virtually all of ‘em put the “cart” (of their completely false “economy”) before the “horse” (of their organic functional integrity).  What must first be reFORMed here is their own half-baked “selves”....into Living Communities (Call these Tiyoshpayes, maybe.).  Necessary and mutually beneficial changes in ideological, institutional, and electro-mechanical arrangements will then follow of-necessity.

The new U.S. president can hardly be blamed for suffering the same delusional insufficiencies of knowledge and understanding that afflict every other member of the sub-species homo domesticus.  Where in their heyoka virtual-world-o’-hurt would Barack Obama have ever been exposed to anything at all to fill-in the fatal gaps in his “education”?  So it’ll be the better part of wisdom to look for more-of-the-same-old futile, crashing-and-thrashing-around inside the “global” CONtraption, until every last CONventional “remedy” has been exhausted to no good effect.

Us free wild Indians’ll still be here when that Day comes.  It remains to be seen, however, whether any among our domesticated Human relations will still have enough of their wits left to even see us there….nevermind look to us for a Way through and beyond their by-now almost entirely self-inflicted predicament.


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By Big B, January 29, 2009 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment

While I agree that it has only been a week and Barry should be given a chance, it is disconcering to see that that he has already tried to bend over backwards to copitulate to the likes of Boehner and Mcconnell. These two and their repug compadres would like nothing more than to see Barry wasting his time buddying up to the people most reponsible for the mess we are in. They can later claim that it showed a lack of leadership.

Barry needs to govern like the repugs don’t exist. Stand behind his own ideas and policies, and let the chips fall. If he is right, and successful, the repugs will be a distant bad memory. If he’s not, well, they will be there to feed off his carcass.

Barry needs to realize that if he fails now, we all do.

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By KDelphi, January 29, 2009 at 2:07 pm Link to this comment

As Rep. DeFazio said, Obama is “ill-served” by Larry Summers, as are all USAns! That makes “putting it mildly” an understatement! Geithner was also involved in creating the mess we are in. How Geithner was confirmed is a mystery to me..

What these people on Wall St have done is illegal. Unless you think that they would cut you the same kind of slack for “missing” yur taxes, or lying to people about products, I have no idea why you want to cut them slack, and bail them out.

We have had 20 yrs of tax cuts. They dont work. They dont work. At the World Economic Forum, yesteray , barely covered in the press,the US system of laissez faire and de-regulation was handed its ass. Not that I approve of the IMF—-hey, who founded it anyway..

Alan Beattie, of the Finanaical Times, reported that there was talk of setting up “bad banks”.(by Geithner) While this may take “toxic assets” off the markets, it still sets up a system to bail out the people at the top. It worked in Sweden—-but, there , there is not so much antithema to nationalizaation of banks! We bought them—we just didnt get them!

As economist Paul Krugman explained simply, “The one thing we know is that the good thing about federal spending is it’s actually spent, that it actually does boost the economy. And if it’s infrastructure, it also leaves you with something of value afterwards. Whereas if you do it the way the Republicans want to do it, which is always tax breaks, first of all, it might not be not be spent or it might not help the economy at all. And then, you’ve got nothing to show for when the thing is over.”

Dems should clearly see that the business tax cuts that they put in the “ESP” to sweeten the deal for conservatives, is a huge waste of taxpayer money—-as Dave Sirtoa says, how much should the working people have to pay, so that the new adminisatation can claim “bi-partisanship”?

At the rate the Bailout was spent—-why not just give them a blank check from your own account?

nino—Ha! Exactly….

“Wake up people. This is a finite planet - period. The word “growth” should only be applied to children and your garden.”

“grow the economy”- as if you can do so infinitely!

whyziowl1—Agree, agree, agree. This part should be part of an article on TD: “Obama didn’t “deceive” anyone that I know of. He positioned himself directly in the center (that is, the right) of the American political spectrum from the start. He never spoke out against The Empire, or suggested he was interested in cutting it back, let alone dismantling it. He said right along that he thought Afghanistan was the “central front of the War on Terror,” and that he would focus his attention there. He never advocated single payer healthcare, and offered general support for the Bush regime’s bailout of the oligarchs. Really, folks, what were you expecting?”

CJ—I agree that Pres. Obama is ignoring Palsetine. Hamas was democratically elected—at least as much so as any of the dolts sitting in DC were. As for the interview on Al-Arabiya—of course, it is better than just speaking to uS MSM, but, how about one not owned by the Saudis next time?

dihey—MoJo reported that Obama’s mansion cost $1.9 million—just a factoid (i think)

cann4ing—-Who is going to nationalize the banks? Has someone mentioned that as a serious alterntative, except perhaps Kucinich or Sanders (I am not being rhetorical)

As far as the wiretapping, isnt there a lawsuit, to sue the Bush Administration over this? And, what has President Obama said about it? There was an article on “Wired” out of San Francisco, but it was a little “sourceless”, so I will not quote it..

$10 billion per month on the “wars” in Iraq and Afghanaistan. What could we do with that, besides kill?

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By Leefeller, January 29, 2009 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment

Only if I were King, would everything go as planned, changes would be done and hope would not be necessary.  Of course I am not king, so Obama is doing his job at a level of 7.5 on the leefeller scale.  Now compare that to Bush who was way down on minus 5.  Today Obama signed the Lilly Ledbitter Act, I suspect this is a little slice of change from the last eight years, though some of you well not appreciate it.  For some the blood letting is never enough,  sour grapes continue to be the feast of choice. 

Going in I did not agree with Obama on his Medical plan.  It should be noted the leefeller scale is not set in stone and can go down or up according to if I were King requirements. 

Since I also was a Kucinich supporter, must make me a socialist of sorts.

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By Sleeper, January 29, 2009 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment

I read an analogy quite a while back that explains our mess and where it came from to how it grew to dominate our government:

Check it out.

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By Louise, January 29, 2009 at 11:58 am Link to this comment

I don’t pretend to understand finance to the degree I can step in and put everything right. Likewise, I don’t understand where the best place to start is. Instinct tells me let their “filthy lucre” creating mess collapse. But reality tells me if we do that we are ALL going to get hurt much worse than we’re already hurting! So I think of something from Alice In Wonderland, “Begin at the beginning and stop when you come to the end.” Possible only when you can figure out where the beginning is, [Alice never could] and recognising when you get to the end. Which in the case of Alice, never came ... because she woke up!

But we are not in a dream, this is real! So we cant wait around to simply wake up!

When years of neglect have resulted in mountains of collectables, paper work and other stuff that fills an entire room, it becomes obvious the mess needs to be thinned and organized. So you begin. After a few hours you come to realize your method of organizing is getting you nowhere, so you start over. May have to start over several times. Start with three piles, thin to six, then thin to twelve. Sounds crazy but the first general attack cant take on the twelve until they are clearly defined, so you start with the three. And that three is defined by what may be a fire hazard, what may be necessary and what can go.

Clearly defining what may be a fire hazard looks to me like a good place to begin. Especially if it erupts in flame!

So we threw water on the fire with the first tarp money. But it doesn’t seem to have achieved the desired result. Except maybe it more clearly defined where the hot spots are, so we need to go after them. More thinning and more piles - this can stay, this needs to go - a real headache I know, but were still looking for the beginning!

While we may all sit here smelling the smoke and wanting for someone to do something, we are none of us the fireman! We gave president Obama that job! And since I don’t know how to put out the fire, I’m really, really glad President Obama is there trying! Whatever he does promises no instant solution. The pile is to deep and has been growing for far to many years. But working from the top down, even if the first effort only ends up requiring doing something different, is at least trying!

Seems to me trying is a heck of a lot better than spending endless hours moaning and groaning, nothing will work. Kinda like the nay-sayers left on the “right” side of the aisle. While they dicker over trivia, the fire threatens to erupt again. I say it’s better to try something than simply debate! If it doesn’t work, we’ll have to try something else, wont we? Regardless trying something is better than doing nothing! Besides, when did those repubs ever demonstrate their way works? If it ever did would we even be in this mess? No!

Those folks on the right side of the aisle are nuts!

If a mans house catches fire and he calls the fire department, does he get a shotgun and refuse to let the firemen try to put out the fire? Or what if the firemen show up and inform the man they see no need to try and put out the fire, because the house will burn down anyway?

Both scenarios work well when defining repub action! They can slice it, dice it and try to justify it any way they can. The simple truth is the repubs want the fire to burn!

You-all complain. President Obama has had almost SEVEN working DAYS to solve all the problems the repubs took EIGHT YEARS to create, so he isn’t trying, right? Well guess what, the folks on the right side of the aisle aren’t the only ones who are NUTS!

Yep, nuts! Just plain nuts!

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By nino, January 29, 2009 at 6:14 am Link to this comment


Right on! I was a big supporter of Dennis Kuchinich. Oh and I am as Prepared as one can - at least mentally.

I just posted this to “Economic Policy That Might Actually Work? Who Knew?”  but it applies to this one as well:


Growth, growth, growth. That’s all I hear. The neocons want their corporate buddies to have lower taxes and bigger loop holes singing “my shit does trickle down - see.” The progressives want their social safety nets and billions for the highways. More, more, more.  Grow, grow, grow. “Let’s get those Caterpillar’s rolling!”

Wake up people. This is a finite planet - period. The word “growth” should only be applied to children and your garden. Ever hear the Biology term “overshoot and collapse?” How about “Are humans smarter than yeast?” If the answer is no then get Googling! You see, even the most modest growth can NOT be sustained. That is a mathematical reality folks. Sorry to rain on your Hydrogen Economy.

The last thing we need to do as a relatively intelligent society is to continue this model of “growth” = “The American way of life.”  We need to put every last dollar and ounce of remaining easy energy to the tasks of rebuilding a sustainable country or world.

Sure, we need social safety nets but what is going to save those safety nets when there is no food grown at the massive industrial levels it currently is? What good will heating bill aid do when their is no more natural gas to heat with? Resource depletion, weather it is oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, iron, magnesium, etc., is an absolute mathematical fact. 6.6 billion in human population can not just keep growing. We have reached the tipping point on resource depletion as well as climate change. Grow, grow, grow is the last fucking thing we need.

President Obama may be light years ahead of any president since Jimmy C. but he is still not able to grasp this single geological fact. Come on Obama, stop listening to industry and Wallstreet and look ahead.

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By Outraged, January 29, 2009 at 1:25 am Link to this comment

Personally… I haven’t read through the 647 pages….. yet.  But for those who have the interest and haven’t already found the verbiage… HR 1. passed by the house today (sorry…make that yesterday).

The more palatable summary,


On to the senate…..

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By whyzowl1, January 28, 2009 at 11:30 pm Link to this comment

By the way, I expect that in six months, more or less, Obama’s stimulus plan will be seen to have failed and he will be forced to reinvent himself. We should be organizing now to take the fullest advantage of that potential opportunity. It’s just possible that when his “centrist,” kiss-the-oligarch’s-ass approach comes a cropper, he’ll be open to alternative solutions. It’s Boy Scout Oath time: Be Prepared.

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By whyzowl1, January 28, 2009 at 10:36 pm Link to this comment

The only way one can become disillusioned is to have had illusions in the first place. Is there anybody here who really thought Obama was in any way a true “left” candidate? The only left candidate in the race for the Democratic nomination was Dennis Kuchinich. If any of you failed to support and organize for the election of Dennis, then you get what you get.

Obama didn’t “deceive” anyone that I know of. He positioned himself directly in the center (that is, the right) of the American political spectrum from the start. He never spoke out against The Empire, or suggested he was interested in cutting it back, let alone dismantling it. He said right along that he thought Afghanistan was the “central front of the War on Terror,” and that he would focus his attention there. He never advocated single payer healthcare, and offered general support for the Bush regime’s bailout of the oligarchs. Really, folks, what were you expecting?

The one campaign promise he seems to have clearly dropped, was his call to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy. Is anybody really shocked, Shocked, SHOCKED by this?

Look, Obama represents a tentative—very tentative—first step in the right (that is, left) direction. Our task is to push his decisions in a leftward direction to the fullest extent possible, while at the same time organizing to built a solid left majority in this country and identifying and grooming attractive left candidates for local, state and national office. Rome (so to speak) wasn’t built in a day. If you want to live in a progressive, as opposed to regressive, country, then you’ve got to work and fight your asses off to achieve that goal.

Me? I’ll just sit back here on the web and criticize everything without ever lifting a finger to try to turn America into the social democratic paradise I so fervently yearn for. Touche?

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By CJ, January 28, 2009 at 9:41 pm Link to this comment

Yes, despite retreads (Summers and Geithner) Scheer mentions, Obama has offered up something that provides for more oversight than that for which Bush bailout provided. I too am skeptical of those chosen making amends. Obama might have chosen differently. And not only for Treasury.

I can’t agree with Scheer that Obama has otherwise proven “stellar.” Yes, he’s done, or said, as Scheer notes, but his (lack of) comments regarding the plight of Palestinians have been woefully inadequate. He’s yet to call Israeli government on patent, blatant, lying opportunism, let alone on ongoing terror rained down not only on Palestinians but also on Lebanese and on Syrians too. I heard Obama speak—absurdly—of closing the need to close tunnels by means of which Hamas supposedly obtains weapons (forever from Iran according to mainstream media). No mention of Gaza or West Bank, or Lebanon and Syria, defending themselves. No demand that Israel recognize Palestinians—rights or state.

But interview granted Al Arabiya (noticeably not Al Jazeera) during which time he talked the talk. So did Bush regarding Islam, as some might recall.

Not to nitpick, but exactly why a year to shut down Guantanamo? Never mind 16 months or 18 months to get out of Iraq. When the first could be done in a week, the second in a month or two. (For any suspected al Qaeda, cells at federal prisons to hold them pending adjudication.) Timetables appear only delays.

Mitchell did well in negotiating Northern Ireland, but in that case the U.S. was fairly honest broker. Obama has given no indication that the U.S. will be honest broker in the case of Palestine-Israel, such that Mitchell might wind up hung out to dry. Unless via old backdoor Obama didn’t mention. Pitiful that governments seem forever to have to carry on in secret. What might Obama’s backdoor diplomacy amount to? Since backdoor we have no idea.

Otherwise, as was noted at TD a few days ago (by Hedges, if I recall rightly), Holbrooke too is retread, dismal choice. Then there are Obama’s choices for departments concerned for gathering so-called “intelligence.” (Oxymoron unto itself)

Then there’s Obama’s claim that computerizing medical records will save healthcare dollars. A ludicrous proposition, not to mention opportunity for hacking, most particularly by government.

Obama, as Scheer notes solely in connection with Obama’s own pending bailout, has yet to prove to me that he’s about a whole lot in the way of serious change. He’s not looking FDR-ish. And looking good next to Bush is hardly trick.

Having said all this, Obama does come over as down-to-earth personable as hell. (Alas, so did Bush come over to conservatives. Reagan, evidently, to damn near ALL Americans, inexcusably enough. Such that it’s not easy to determine just how much nationalistic proto-fascism abides in the collective heart of Americans by now terrified of damn near everything—from terrorism to sex to Rock & Roll, what remains of latter. To actual freedom.)

Best to remain skeptical. I see no reason we should give Obama benefit of any doubt. If Presidents we must have, then Presidents have to prove themselves worthy. It’s been only eight days for Obama. Not time to judge him “stellar” or “failure.”

As for bailouts, I recommend to all, Doug Henwood in LBO, #118. (I’m not shill, only fan of the best economist in the business.) As he notes, among a vast number of other things: “No banks, no economy.” Whatever else is true, that succinct point certainly is under circumstances of finance capitalism. With which we some time ago stuck ourselves, and for which we’re now paying the price. For laissez-faire thinking too.

Otherwise, as Scheer notes.

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By Fadel Abdallah, January 28, 2009 at 6:18 pm Link to this comment

Here’s an article by someone who doesn’t believe that Obama had a good start!

Nine Brutal Disappointments For US Obama Fans
By Jay Janson

As the news rolls in, we who wait patiently, and hope Obama will eventually be an exception to the frightful imperialism of corporate governance in spite of knowing that it was the backing of the banks and corporations that allowed for his election success, we must, especially if we want to give Obama the benefit of the doubt, help him by reacting loudly to aberrations, if that is what these following notated points be ....

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By dihey, January 28, 2009 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment

Is this what you get when you elect another lawyer? It is becoming apparent that economics & finances (reckless tax reductions and rebates!), diplomacy (Israel/Gaza!), and warfare (Afghanistan/Pakistan!) could be way over the head of Obama-baby. Inasmuch as these areas were also way over the head of his predecessor we can only expect eight more years of disaster.
Just one example. Giving more TARP billions to a still deregulated banking system is analogous to giving a beer to an alcoholic hoping that he will remain sober forever after that drink. Timothy Geithner has always been and will continue to be a champion enabler handing out multiple bottles of greenback-beer to his dollar-alcoholic buddies on Wall Street accompanied by a little bit of harmless tut-tutting inasmuch as the 1999 deregulation law can only be made undone by Congress. This is an ass-backwards policy a la Bush. Re-regulation by Congress must precede any additional largess to the banks.
A second example. According to Secretary Gates the “new-hope, yes-we-can” policy for Afghanistan is “training the Afghanistan military and police so that they can take over from us (when the millennium comes?)” How many soldiers and policemen can be trained by one good trainer? My guess is 100. Are we going to train 6 million Afghans with our 60,000 troops in that country? No way. They are going to kick in doors to arrest and terrorize civilians. The bombing in Pakistan tells me that Obama-baby is already trying to deceive us Bush-style.
The cause of the economic and financial meltdown according to Mr. Obama: our collective and irresponsible addiction to “greed”. Now, that is rich from a guy who bought a 1 million dollar home in Chicago with the help from a convicted felon!

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By truedigger3, January 28, 2009 at 4:36 pm Link to this comment

Mr. Scheer,

You wrote about Obama:
” he has already proved to be a brilliant agent of change”.
Can you please give an example of that REAL change.
Good oratory and the so called clarity of commitment will not do!!
The “intention!!!” of closing Gitmo within a year while leaving the other secret prisons here and abroad coupled with secret rendition is a good example of change which is not a change but only
playing with words and smoke and mirrors.
A look at Obama’s cabinet choices specially for defense and economic policies and treasury will tell
that there will be no REAL CHANGE and business will
be as usual in Washington DC.

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By troublesum, January 28, 2009 at 4:26 pm Link to this comment

“Entitlement” is a dirty word in Washington when it refers to subsistence payments made to the elderly in return for the money they paid into the social security system, but when banks get trillion dollar handouts from the public treasury it’s called “Troubled Asset Relief.”  It looks like a lot of people are having asset trouble these days but you have to be a bank to qualify for the program.  There is also something called the “Troubled Bonus Administration.”  Details are sketchy, but unless you’re a banker don’t hold your breath.

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By troublesum, January 28, 2009 at 3:37 pm Link to this comment

Today Bernie Sanders said on democracynow that the country is on the edge of a depression.  He’s saying publicly what the others are saying privately.  Publicly they are still doing pep talks.  He also said that no one knows what the banks are doing with the money they received and in addition the federal reserve has been handing out billions more without saying which banks are getting money and what they are doing with it.  The republicans are really bothered by the fact that the stimulus package is meant to help ordinary people who work for a living.  They can’t wrap their minds around such an idea.  The government is there to serve business interests not the interests of little people.

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By Praedor Atrebates, January 28, 2009 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The only economic advisors Obama should be listening to are Paul Krugman and Robert Reich.  The rest are mere retread Friedmanites and “Free Market” religionists.

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By thebeerdoctor, January 28, 2009 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment

Consider this: how much money does it take on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis, just to keep out present military commitment functioning? And what is all this talk from President Obama about increasing the war in Afghanistan? How much oil does the U.S. military use in a single day? And what exactly is the total expenditure given by the U.S., to maintain Israel’s wars?

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By Bubba, January 28, 2009 at 1:41 pm Link to this comment

It’s unfortunate that Obama, with all his education, is an ignoramus on the subject of economics.  If he weren’t, most of the economists on his team wouldn’t be there. 

Unfortunately Obama is not only ignorant on the subject of economics.  He’s also “non-partisan,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.  And the result of his being “non-partisan” has meant the exclusion left-leaning economists who would be at least a partial cure to the economic woes brought on by a generation of partisan, right-wing economists. 

This is all quite ironic.  But not at all funny.

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By mill, January 28, 2009 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment

Some fallacies of thinking are in play here.  Because some financial experts got it seriously wrong about financial institution self-regulation (see Federal Reserve Chairman Greenspan, Senator Grams of Texas)  that doesn’t mean that all experts about the economy are wrong.  Mr. Bernake (US Govt/expert in Great Depression) and Mr. Klugman (Princeton/NY Times/Nobel Prize in Economics)  are pushing for the stimulus package that President Obama wants.  I still tend to believe these two experts.

Of course there are still Republicans who say - with a straight face no less - that we should cut taxes (see Mr. Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota) on business so they’ll grow more jobs (see job growth under Bush tax cuts versus job growth during Clinton’s increased-tax era).  Those Republicans no one should listen to anymore.

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By Frank Newman, January 28, 2009 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As usual, I’m a little late. Most of you folks have missed the gorilla in the room, The influence probably negative, that the FED has brought to bear. They started quietly buying up bad mortgages way back in October. By late November Ben’s boys had bought up almost 2 trillion in bad mortgages (AP).
A more recent bit of information is that the price tag is up to 4 trillion. Bloomberg News actually sued them in Federal court because they refused to say how much or who they had bought the bad stuff from. The FED said it was PROPRIETARY information!(Bloomberg News, Dec 12). Congress hasn’t let out a peep about this, so add this to the list of outrageous things the bankers seem to be getting away with. In China, there would already be busloads of bankers being hauled off for execution for “high economic crimes”.

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By cann4ing, January 28, 2009 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment

By Hulk2008, January 28 at 10:49 am #

If nothing else, Americans have learned that Instant Gratification is our finest product…

The issue, Hulk2008, is not whether the Obama administration reflects a vast improvement over the last one—obviously it does.  It is not whether the steps he is taking can produce immediate results.  The question is whether the basic policies advanced by the administration are even capable of preventing a complete economic meltdown.

There are many of us who supported Obama even though we had concerns “before” he was elected that some of his policy positions failed to address fundamental inequities.  The act of challenging those aspects of the Obama agenda that fall short, e.g., his position on “universal coverage” which amounts to a scheme for subsidizing the unnecessary parasites of the health care industry (for-profit carriers and HMOs which account for 31% of health care costs as compared to administrative costs of 1% to 2% in single-payer countries) does not equate to the whining of spoiled children, as you seem to imply.  Its called “democratic debate.”  Indeed, if you had listened carefully to Obama during the campaign, you would have heard him say that the election was not about him—it was about us. 

In a true democracy, no one, including a recently elected president, is beyond criticism.  Dissent is patriotic.

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By Hulk2008, January 28, 2009 at 11:49 am Link to this comment

Gee,  so many critics and so many critcisms and such teenie-bopper style impatience!  After all, you guyz have given Barack a WHOLE WEEK to solve all your problems - Afghanistan-Pakistan, Israel-Palestine, TARP-Stimulus, Gitmo-Ecology, Acne, The Common Cold, and World Hunger.  Obviously to you the man is a bought-and-sold thrall to the wealthy and intends to “rob you blind”.  After all, he should have handled all these mere trivialities while he was putting on his socks last Wednesday morning, right? 
  If nothing else, Americans have learned that Instant Gratification is our finest product - our mantra du jour.  We should cut Presidential terms to 4 weeks instead of 4 years, right?  World catastrophes should be fixed while the microwave finishes warming your coffe. 
  At least Bob Scheer is willing to wait a bit to see if the New Kid In Town can make some headway.  Honestly, between Faux Snooze, the right wingnutz on the radio, and bloggers, there hasn’t been so much impatient doomsaying since the Reign of Terror and Robespierre. 
  My prescription for now:  put aside the Viagara and Red Bull and 5-Hour-Engergy pop for a few weeks - maybe a month or two - and Chill Out.
  Many thanks to Robert Scheer for some adult-style wait-and-see attitude.

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By Sleeper, January 28, 2009 at 11:36 am Link to this comment

I think Obama is doing as well as one man can.  Personally, there are appointments that I’m not so happy with like Robert Gates. 

Like the article states if anyone can find a way out these retreads do have a chance.  The people need to pay attention, especially when action is rushed and the devil will reveil himself in the details that nobody read before they agreed to make the bill a law.

Politicians are mostly lawyers and that is what they are good at hiding significant loopholes in the fine print.  I’m glad to see debates on large spending issues.  It serves to show who’s buttering which politicians bread.  We need help.  The lobbiest are too powerful and have too much access with qui pro quo results.

Lawyers can make this legal, for the rest of us, “WE THE PEOPLE” it would be bribery and that is what we really need to fix.

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By cann4ing, January 28, 2009 at 11:30 am Link to this comment

By felicity, January 28 at 7:03 am #

cann4ing - speaking of investing in things that ‘really matter’, the American Society of Civil Engineers just put out an estimated price tag on repairing our infrastructure - $2.2 trillion.


Which underscores the insanity of devoting so much money to the military-industrial complex, the bail out of the thieves on Wall Street and more tax cuts.  The remedies that were available to FDR in 1933 are currently undercut by the desire to maintain the Empire and a neoliberal world order devoted to maintaining inequality—a neoliberal world order that Obama’s chief financial adviser, Larry Summers, helped to erect.

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By No change with Nobama, January 28, 2009 at 11:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Why isn’t the media questioning the validity of this pork barrel spend Obama is pushing for.

Can someone explain why under the Neighborhood Redevelopment section of the bill there is five billion dollars earmarked for ACORN?

When a leader is elected on the promise of hope and change shouldn’t we be alarmed by “business as usual”?

Isn’t increasing federeal money for ACORN a contradiction of his stance towards lobbyists and conflicts of interest?

Embracing change means holding this administration accountable for the change it promised. That change does not come through unnecessary spending on ACORN.

What could that same money do for shcools or continuing education grants?  What could it do if put towards some of our agiang infrastructure?

What is it doing in the hands of ACORN?

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By Kashilinus, January 28, 2009 at 11:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When nobody understands what is going on (though there are plenty who pretend to know) maybe the best solution is to hunker down, take the hits and trust that time and caution will accomplish repairs. Tough, but it means higher taxes. It also means withdrawal from military adventures purportedly contrived to “fight terror” when the real solution is police action and intelligence sharing among nations.  There is no sign as yet of the public setting policy. We leave it all to a few and hope for the best.

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By Me, January 28, 2009 at 11:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mr. Obama’s fate was sealed when he voted for the gigantic Bush bailout plan while still a senator.  He has entirely accepted the borrow-and-spend policies of his predecessor—and augmented them by trillions.  His plan amounts to this:  beg the world to loan a dead-broke America trillions indefinitely because this unlimited future borrowing will somehow bail us out of the depression that unlimited previous borrowing got us into.  Evidently Mr. Obama really believes that debt is wealth and that the more money you owe, the better off you are.  Mr. Obama’s economic ideas are just as crack-pot as those of Mr. Bush, whom he will soon rival as the worst president of the 21st century.

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By Eric L. Prentis, January 28, 2009 at 10:35 am Link to this comment

President Obama was co-opted into selecting Tim Geithner for Treasury and Lawrence Summers as his White House economic advisor. Geithner/Summers have a narrow focus on saving banking institutions and will sacrifice the American people to rescue their precious banking class. President Obama should not rely on Republican thinking which equates “saving the banks to saving the US economy” to get the US out of a this Republican induced banking catastrophe.

The people that got the US into this GREAT RECESSION, i.e. Geithner/Summers/Bernanke, who are all shills for the financial ruling class, don’t want bank directors, senior bank managers, bank stockholders or bank bondholders to pay to get themselves out of their self-induced economic hole. Replacing bank management, equity and bond holders through nationalization is the only fair and effective solution, anything else just condemns the US to a decade of poor economic growth.

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By Hemi*, January 28, 2009 at 9:14 am Link to this comment

“WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner picked a former Goldman Sachs lobbyist as a top aide Tuesday, the same day he announced rules aimed at reducing the role of lobbyists in agency decisions.
Mark Patterson will serve as Geithner’s chief of staff at Treasury, which oversees the government’s $700 billion financial bailout program. Goldman Sachs received $10 billion of that money.” -By Fredreka Schouten, USA TODAY

One week in and Obama is robbing us blind.
On CNBC this morning, Steve Forbes said the deficit spending would have little if any positive effect on the economy recovering. He went on to say he thought we would see the beginning of recovery as soon as this Spring without any government intervention. If this is the case the entire plan is pork barrel spending. So, Steve Forbes and I are the only two people in the United States that thought this.

If this bailout package is pushed through, this financial crisis will have been used in the way Rahm Israel Emanuel is on record as stating: “This opportunity isn’t lost on the new president and his team. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,”

“Emanuel made $16.2 million in his two-and-a-half-year stint as a banker, according to Congressional disclosures.” - Wikipedia

That’s not chump change for a ballerina with a master’s degree in Speech and Communication. Why would Wasserstein Perella take on an associate without a background in finance? Could it have been the opportunity for political influence from his White House connection? Nah! Move on it’s government business, there’s nothing to see here. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

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By michael roloff, January 28, 2009 at 8:29 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What did anyone expect: Wall Street supported Obama to the hilt - he took the money, the claim that his multi-million dollar campaign depended on on-line donations was just another piece of wool pulled over the ever-hopeful sheep’s eyes. summers and geithner et al aren’t just clinton retreads, they are part of the problem that created the 40 trillion world wide toxidity of the financial system. in foreign policy it is just as bad: clinton and bush retread and continuity. absolutely nothing new, no originality. obama goes down easier, he makes pleasant noises and surface changes. That’s what always been the case for a “new coke.” a change in style unfortunately is not all that is needed.

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By felicity, January 28, 2009 at 8:03 am Link to this comment

cann4ing - speaking of investing in things that ‘really matter’, the American Society of Civil Engineers just put out an estimated price tag on repairing our infrastructure - $2.2 trillion.

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By GW=MCHammered, January 28, 2009 at 7:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’m no Democrat but what rings true in these times is that neither a borrower nor a lender be, a taxpayer nor a GOPer either be:

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By Allan Gurfinkle, January 28, 2009 at 7:25 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Great post !  The article was unbelievable coming from Scheer.  What has happened to him, or has he always been like that? 

Scheer should consult with prole before publishing another article, to avoid further embarrassment to himself.

The fact is that the great mass, the hoi polloi, myself included, have no idea what is going on with the economy (and I’ve been studying it for a few weeks), and we have no idea why we are even in Afghanistan.  But surely we’re bright enough to recognize claptrap like this article when we see it.

On the economy - I’m reading “The Globalization of Poverty” and on Afghanistan “Petrodollar Warfare”, trying to figure it out.  The connection is that the same cast of characters are running both the economy and foreign policy, so, of course they are connected.

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By Dean, January 28, 2009 at 7:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You folks are so naïve. A trillion dollars of earmarks is about to be dumped into the economy and the government does not have the management infrastructure to support it. This money will be going to the same contractors that have ruled the capitol for many years. They are masters at bleeding every cent allocated and even pay a bonus to the project managers for over runs when they are able to extract even more money.

No oversight will stop this. It’s perfectly legal and contractors have honed special skills to ensure it is by training employees on ways to do it. I know because I spent years doing it and can tell you that Project managers are chosen by their ability to increase revenue. Bring a project in on time or on budget – forget it. Your gone. Just look at the performance of past contracts and you will see that I am right.

Government contracting officers and technical reps are under staffed and not qualified to handle the money they have now.  Millions of your tax dollars are being wasted every day and its not going to change under the current system. Before you blame Bush, you should understand that it was Clinton who made it so easy.

I predict that this single action will be the downfall of Obama. Once the money is released and story after story hits the headlines about how much money was wasted, people will grow tired of he and his administration.

The only thing that will be stimulated by this is the contractor’s wallets. You might get some scraps if the political dogs dont get it first.

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By Paul_GA, January 28, 2009 at 6:39 am Link to this comment

As I see it, what needs to be done ASAP is to end the overseas wars and withdraw. I’ve never heard of a country trying to save its economy AND trying to fight expensive foreign wars at the same time; Mr. Obama ought to make up his mind that he can do the one or the other, but not both.

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By Verne Arnold, January 28, 2009 at 6:36 am Link to this comment

While I realize Obama cannot be all things to all people; cracks are beginning to appear. His continuation of Bush’s failed Afghanistan policy will be his undoing. The use of Predator Drones in anything other than a clearly defined theater of battle is criminal. One can never “kill” via a TV screen and be certain of the “target” outside of the theater of battle. Thus, the disproportionate number of civilians killed for the very few “combatants” killed. We’re following Israel’s policy of scorched earth. At it’s best it’s immoral and at it’s worst it’s criminal. There will be a reckoning.

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By RdV, January 28, 2009 at 6:01 am Link to this comment

The symbolism of the failure of the banks was too shocking to confront. It came too uncomfortably close to the Depression movie—and so suddenly the rug was yanked—and there was that confidence argument—would there be another run on the banks?
    But they need to be more upfront and not hand us this “need to free up credit” excuse. Part of the problem was too much easy credit and I still get appeals for credit cards and all the scams and bad mortgage practices are still operating. No one is buying that crap while we subsidize the entitled class at the expense of our own lives. There would be cheering in the streets if the CEOs started leaping off buildings.
  They need to enforce tough regulation—not this show of disapproval when the CEO’s continue their lavish excesses while continuing to funnel the treasury into their pockets with the hope they will behave responsibly. The very fact that they haven’t behaved responsibly is what created the disaster. Inflating the banks with cash will hoist up the market until the well is dry and then it will come crashing down. Massive layoffs are good for the bottom line until even more people default on their loans and won’t be able to afford to buy less goods and then it will all come crashing down.
  That is just common sense-nothing will change if the structural problems aren’t adddressed-and Obama better be on a fast learning curve otherwise he is simply postponing the inevitable.

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By keatsshelley, January 28, 2009 at 4:53 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Dear Mr Sheer,

I am not as optimistic as you are… Moreover, the essay neglects to consider
a number of important concerns or issues:

1) Why does it require one year to close GITMO?
2) Where will Obama acquire the funds for the economic stimulus package, especially if he does not refrain from the war on terror rhetoric and actions; in addition, he must immediately withdraw form Iraq and Afghnaistan;
4) Obama continues the Bush 43 missile strike campaign against Pakistan:
breaking Geneva Conventions and the Human Rights Declaration of 1949
5) Mr Obama requires a more critical position vis=a-vis Israel.



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By prole, January 28, 2009 at 2:59 am Link to this comment

Screw “Barack Obama’s legacy”. What good is a “legacy”? Something for academic scribblers and paid pundits to agonize over? It does sound absurd - “only a week into the new administration and yet there is this nagging” journalistic jabberwocky about a “legacy” Is the whole society - indeed the whole world - simply a set of props for a real life re-enactment of David Axelrod’s staging of ‘The West Wing’? Are the underlying population simply bit players in a melodrama about presidential megalomania? Does anyone other than a fawning journalist give a damn about a president’s “legacy”? Or even know what it is, other than a collection of carefully chosen and arranged factoids woven together to create a public persona, either good or evil, depending on the political persusasion of the reporter? “Only a week into the new administration” and, despite taking the most miniscule, hesitant steps, already Obama Copacabana is being credited with evacuating Iraq, pacifying Palestine and ending global warming!  So with all that out of the way, that leaves the next three years and fifty-one weeks to solve the financial crisis, the final piece in the “legacy” puzzle. “And yet there is this nagging thought” that “in every other area his early performance has been” less than stellar.  Unless you give him a whopping “benefit of the doubt” to compensate for the lack of substantial supporting evidence. He’s done little more than the bare minimum “with respect to human rights and protection of civil liberties”; Gaza is still under seige, the American-provided tanks and F-16’s have been busy making more deadly forays in another round of Israeli-style ‘shuttle diplomacy’. The USA PATRIOT ACT and revised FISA,including wireless wiretapping - that Obama supported in the Senate - are still in force. “The Guantanamo Bay detention center” may or may not be closed in a year, etc. “Unfortunately, while the new president has already proved to be a” brittle and super-deceptive “agent of change in so many ways, in matters of” foreign policy as also “in economic policy he has relied excessively on the financial [and foreign policy] ‘experts’ who helped get America into this mess.”  “Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and top White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers are retreads from the Clinton years who sided with congressional Republicans” - as are Hillary, Rahm Emanuel, Dennis Ross, who sided with congressional Republicans in supporting the illegal invasion of Iraq and the unlawful occupation of Palestine. “Perhaps they have now come to their senses, given the [humanitarian]  horrors that their [imperialist] mania unleashed, but it gives one pause to see these folks back on center stage performing with the same arrogant aplomb as they did when they had it all wrong.” “We can only hope they are now prepared to make amends, although [Clinton and Emanuel] often seem to be pushing for more of the same: [Hamas] first, women and children later”, death and destruction, all around. The further bad news is “that the message coming from the mouth of the new president is that he intends to make a significant departure from the Bush” brutality in Afghanistan by doubling troop levels there. “In these areas, Obama has acted with an [imperial] confidence not always evidenced in his initial moves on the economy”. “That is the problem with the Bush” predatory foreign policy, “which Obama asked to be extended and which has resulted in little more than a rearranging of the chairs, not to mention the commodes, of the first-class passengers on a” diplomatic gunboat. Thus “enabling [AIPAC] hustlers to cut themselves lucrative deals while so many millions lose their jobs and homes” in occupied lands. “I’m betting that Obama will [not] try to put a stop to all of this, but he needs to hear from ordinary folks who are hurting and outraged” in Gaza and Iraq and Afghanistan. Their “legacy” is far more important.

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By dojero, January 28, 2009 at 1:47 am Link to this comment

Who would have thought that Robert Scheer would become a delicate political diplomat so soon in the Obama presidency? 

Look at this: “His early actions on global warming and the Mideast show a clarity of commitment absent from the executive office over the past eight years.”.

Apparently clarity of commitment is more important now than quality of policy.  Obama’s support of the Israeli invasion of Gaza and murder of at least 500 innocent people was appalling.  Yet it earns no concern from Scheer.  His increasing of the number of troops in Afghanistan (which we know Scheer abhors) gets no nod. 

In order to make the point about Obama and the capitalists, Scheer digs himself a whole; he wants to contrast Obama’s engagement with the bankers with the rest of his policies.  But it won’t wash.  Reversing Bush on stem cell research and abortion bans is easy and quick.  I’m happy, too, about those.  But we need more than just a concern for the common man from Obama.  We need a concern for the Afghanis and the Palestinians.  And until we see it, he should be criticized for those omissions too.

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By cann4ing, January 28, 2009 at 12:18 am Link to this comment

While a nationalization of the banks and a job creating stimulus that entails the development of green technologies are steps in the right direction, neither will resolve what is fundamentally wrong with our economy—a point underscored by David Korten’s observations.

The “Wall Street system…is built around an illusion…that money is wealth, which then translates into the idea that people who are…making money are in fact creating wealth. And what Wall Street has become extremely expert at is creating money out of nothing through financial bubbles, through pyramiding lending to create fictitious assets that become collateral for more bank lending, and then combining that with the predatory aspects of usurious lending and deceptive lending and the use of credit cards as a substitute for a living wage—all the games that Wall Street is playing. And it’s actually based on a philosophy that says we don’t need to produce anything as a country, if we can—you know, if we can do all this financial innovation that allows us to create financial assets without producing anything of real value.”

Historically, the replacement of a nation’s manufacturing base with financial speculation typifies the end stage of Empire.  But, as Korten astutely observes, the problem is deeper than that as our focus on military spending and reckless consumption is destructive not only of the environment but responsible for “the fragmentation of society.”

Korten’s solution appears to be a more sophisticated version of what Tao refers to as “The Way.”

“If we began to really organize our economic activities around the things that really matter, we’d be looking at…how do we organize our economy so that it actually builds human relationships, so it supports families, so it creates an environment in which our children can grow up both physically and psychologically healthy?”  Korten suggests a good start would be to “end war….[and] start reducing our dependence on automobiles and recognize that rather than reemploying autoworkers in making automobiles, we should be employing them in building bicycles, building public transportation and so forth, all the things we need. Instead of investing massively in advertising, you know, redirect those creative communications resources to education. You begin to see, in almost every aspect of our economy, the opportunity to redirect resources in ways that actually increase our well-being—they’re not about sacrifice, ultimately—and bringing ourselves into balance with one another and with earth.”

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