PERCEPTIONS OF OBAMA CARE [sic] OR AFFORDABLE HEALTHCARE SUCCESS

OBAMA AS YOUR DOCTOROBAMA CARESOBAMACARE HITLEROBAMACARE OBAMA pictures not intended to be “appropriate” but to show a sample what Google Images yields when Obama care typed in

Paul Krugman pointed out—in the NY Times and referenced in a Salon.com article, what the administration has been saying and what many of has have suspected: Affordable Healthcare is working better than many suspected, though the evening is young, and better than the media have credited it for. His explanation for the media lack of interest—that they live in circles with no health insurance problems, falls short of the mark. That may be true, but the media snoozing goes much deeper. Let’s take a look:

 

1. The media today: newspaper chains, TV and radio network and TV cable news shows are the prime offenders, with internet websites and hardbound books showing a little more variety and interest in “Obamacare’s achievements” (of course there are plenty of websites and books that are critical of the President’s Health plan

 

2. Many newspapers are fighting for their lives, and they and the news shows are dependent upon advertising, upon maximizing readership and listenership—stands to reason that with the avalanche of money and a history of conservative aversion to socialized medicine, the those outlets must tread lightly—and also reflect at least Somewhat the 40% of their readers who may be hardcore conservatives and who have bought the pitch that Affordable healthcare is going to be a bad deal

 

2. The media move to the right—Mother Jones,The Nation, MSNBC are not typical—going back to Reagan has send out long and hearty green tendrils of “fair and balanced”—usually meaning balancing a hard right conservative against a milder left of center writer or talking head… this is not just about healthcare, although Krugman is certainly right about the NEWS not noticing the Obama Plan’s “failure to fail”

 

3. It is also about the muffled treatment of immigration reform, education, climate change and fuel, bank regulation, income inequality, the amnesia about taxation to pay for government services, race and “postracialism”, defense spending and, to a lesser extent, much misguided wasting of blood and treasure of the 21st C. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

4. The canary in the mineshaft for this blogger is the news coverage and commentary on Public Radio (NPR), which has become blander and more centrist even as it has moved out of dependence on government funding; it may be the one set of news broadcasts (All Things Considered, etc.) where the listeners are to the left of the commentators.

 

The substance of Krugman’s other arguments: e.g., that many of the dire risk prediction have not come to pass; that, it’s a remarkable thing — an immense policy success is improving the lives of millions of Americans, but it’s largely slipping under the radar, will have to be taken up in later blog-posts. The New Republic is an example of a magazine—and one hardly in the cheering gallery for Obama on a regular basis—had a piece in April that indicated: “We are impressed”… , it’s a remarkable thing — an immense policy success is improving the lives of millions of Americans, but it’s largely slipping under the radar. http://www.newrepublic.com/article/117454/obamacare-enrollment-gives-democrats-space-promote-popular-agenda .  This article also deals with the impact of the Plan’s successes for Democrat election prospects this fall, although that part seems more problematic now in mid -July..

A less favorable picture of the Obama law’s practical success can be found at the American Enterprise Institute’s website, July 7th. . http://www.aei-ideas.org/2014/07/what-we-learned-about-obamacare-july-1-7-2014/ . In fact, we may have to adjust our characterization of the internet (specifically google-search) media coverage as offering relatively more choices and less influence by any one interest or interest group. “It all depends on what search words you type in”, but Obama Care Report Card July 1914, Affordable Healthcare Assessed, Obamacare Assessed and several similar keywords yielded a Negative view of the law and its implementation to date at a ratio of about 8 to 1 over Positive ones. It would seem that Talk Radio is not the only “open forum” dominated by conservative opinion leaders. For comfort, progressives/ Obama supporters might turn to Business Insider http://www.businessinsider.com/study-obamacare-reduces-uninsured-rate-2014-7

or Rick Unger in, of all place FORBES online at http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2011/05/23/more-solid-proof-that-obamacare-is-working/2/ .

 

London Review of Books on “Obama’s World” VOL. 36 NO. 13, June 25, 2014

OBAMA'S WORLD OBAMA AGING IN OFFICE    

Editors note: Here is a long and wide-ranging perspective on how the U.S. President came to his present place in political history, from a highly regarded Yale professor of English. We take the unusual step of reprinting it in full for your comments. And later–ours. The author of the piece is DAVID BROMWICH.

 The first year and a half of Barack Obama’s second term has been preternaturally unlucky. The stymied enrolments for his healthcare plan, the multiple errors of computer co-ordination that forced people to wait days or weeks in front of blank screens, marred the new faith in government the plan had been intended to affirm. Just when, around the end of April, the trouble seemed to be halfway resolved, with millions finally insured and several deadlines put off, there emerged stories of faked records of treatment and months-long waiting lists at Veterans Hospitals. It was another failure of managerial competence, in another branch of government to which Obama had professed the warmest commitment. And there has been nothing resembling a success in foreign policy to offset the embarrassments at home. The United States, which always needs to be doing something, was in no position to do much about the Russian annexation of Crimea or the conflict in Ukraine.

A common feature in all these events was that Obama himself seemed far from the scene. He was looking on, we were made to think, with concern and understanding. But in matters like these, one could easily feel that a conspicuous sign of a ‘hands-on’ president was needed. Apparently Obama was startled by the bad rollout of healthcare – shocked and dismayed like all Americans. But shouldn’t he have known more about it than most Americans? Again, the Veterans Affairs scandal was something he learned about when he read the papers, but why only then? His show of injured trust and surprise had been received more charitably on the still obscure earlier occasion when four Americans were killed in Benghazi on 11 September 2012. He was notified at the time, but he was in the middle of campaigning and left the crisis to the State Department. Absent and accounted for. Yet there has been, all along, an airy and unnerving quality about these absences. Obama launched the bombing of Libya in March 2011, having previously signalled that he intended no such action, in an emergency speech during a state visit to Brazil.

The second term had begun on a quite different note, with a spontaneous initiative which sprang from Obama’s voluntary presence at a scene he could have avoided. After the mass killing of schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012, he vowed to pass a stringent new measure to strengthen gun control. For anyone who has been watching him, it was the most deeply felt moment of his presidency, and the largest risk he had taken on any issue. The time to publicise the outlines of such a bill was during those December days when the grief of the parents overwhelmed the country. Obama’s solution was characteristic. He announced that Joe Biden would explore the legislative possibilities and report back in a month. As the weeks passed, various weapons bans were drawn up and canvassed in public, but the National Rifle Association had been given time to rally and the moment passed. Much the same happened with the pledge in January 2009 to close Guantánamo. Obama left the room and asked his advisers to call him when they had solved it. A prudential pause was lengthened and became so clearly a sign of unconcern that the issue lost all urgency.

Obama is adept at conveying benevolent feelings that his listeners want to share, feelings that could lead to benevolent actions. He has seemed in his element in the several grief-counselling speeches given in the wake of mass killings, not only in Newtown but in Aurora, at Fort Hood, in Tucson, in Boston after the marathon bombing; and in his meetings with bereft homeowners and local officials who were granted disaster funds in the aftermath of recent hurricanes. This president delivers compassion with a kind face and from a decorous and understated height. And that seems to be the role he prefers to play in the world too. It was doubtless the posture from which he would have liked to address the Arab Spring, and for that matter the civil war in Syria, if only Assad had obeyed when Obama said he must go. Obama has a larger-spirited wish to help people than any of his predecessors since Jimmy Carter; though caution bordering on timidity has kept him from speaking with Carter even once in the last five years. Obama roots for the good cause but often ends up endorsing the acceptable evil on which the political class or the satisfied classes in society have agreed. He watches the world as its most important spectator.

Yet he shuns the company of other politicians – a trait now generally familiar and wondered at. A leading Democrat in the Senate, when asked how often he had spoken to Obama in the past year, answered that they had spoken once. The same senator declined to be named because that degree of intimacy would arouse the jealousy of his peers. Obama’s lack of concern with the daily business of politics – the bargaining and immersion in other people’s interests, the often merely formal but necessary exchange of views – has done much to blunt his sensibility to changes in public sentiment. Conflict-averse as he is, he never sees a fight coming until it is on him and almost out of control. The Tea Party got its start in spring 2009, with a rant at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange by the former hedge fund manager Rick Santelli, who asked why good Americans should pay for the losers whom the financial collapse had sunk with unpayable mortgages. Santelli promised to deliver a new insurgent group in the coming weeks, modelled on the Boston Tea Party. It was a clever speech, but morally ugly on the face of it, and could have been parried. Obama noticed the Tea Party more than a year later. By then, it was well organised and in a position to hand him the midterm congressional defeat of 2010 from which his administration has never really recovered.

Why these recurring shocks? Obama entered the presidency never having run anything. He appointed several qualified-looking but (as they turned out) inept officials with none of the relevant management skills. Steven Chu, the secretary of energy in Obama’s first term, was the winner of a Nobel Prize in physics, but he promulgated without complaint the ‘all of the above’ energy policy, which included, with ecumenical indifference, nuclear power, deep-sea drilling, Arctic drilling, and fracking. Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, had been governor of Kansas and a loyal supporter of Obama, but was quite untested as a large-scale administrator before she was handed the gigantic apparatus of the Affordable Care Act. The same was true of Eric Shinseki, the general famous for telling the truth about the number of troops that would be needed to secure Iraq. Shinseki was misplaced as chief VA administrator and sacked a few weeks after Sebelius.

Disengagement has become the polite word for Obama’s grip on his own policies. Absent and not accounted for was the general view of him as the crisis in Ukraine built up in January and February. The overthrow of Yanukovich and seizure of power by a provisional government in Kiev had been anticipated and indeed encouraged by the European and Eurasian desk of the State Department. The assistant secretary in charge there is Victoria Nuland, a neoconservative who made a highly successful transition in 2009 from Dick Cheney’s staff to Hillary Clinton’s. Nuland is married to the co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, Robert Kagan, one of the leading promoters of the Iraq war. We may never know what Obama thought Nuland was up to when she flew in to the Maidan to pass out cookies to the protesters in Russia’s backyard. But the message has got around by now that Obama doesn’t particularly want to know things. On Ukraine, he seemed far out on the margins of the action, and possibly not aware of the implications of the State Department’s investment in civil society and democracy promotion in Ukraine: a subsidy of more than $5 billion since 1991, as Nuland revealed at the National Press Club on 13 December – a tremendous sum by USAID standards. Obama ceded control of America’s public stance to his secretary of state, John Kerry. The result with Ukraine in 2014, as with Syria in 2013, was to render a critical situation more confused, and bristling with opportunities for hostility between the US and Russia. Eventually, in late March, Obama gave a speech to the EU in Brussels that dressed up the debacle as policy.

His obliviousness to the Cheney weeds in his policy garden is characteristic and revealing. As Barton Gellman revealed in Angler, still the best book about Cheney, the vice president in 2001 was given a free hand to sow the departments and agencies of government with first and second-echelon workers who were fanatically loyal to him. Many of those people are still around; Obama made no effort to scour his government of their influence. Disgust with Bush and Cheney, even in the Republican Party, was general in early 2009 and it gave real leverage to a new president. But the idea of a return to the rule of law has not prospered under Obama; the phrase itself has scarcely been heard. We have seen not one significant prosecution of a Wall Street criminal and not one legal action against a lawyer who justified torture or an officer who ordered torture or an agent who committed it. Where Cheney and Bush are felt to have instigated crimes, Obama is seen to have countenanced or condoned them.

His relaxed way with the Constitution has finally put him on the wrong side of his most faithful allies even among centrist Democrats. The White House is now involved in a wrangle with the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, who is almost routinely a defender of the interests of police and intelligence services against suspects and citizens. The CIA’s refusal, over months of delay, to approve the release of a Senate committee report on its actions since 2001 has prompted Feinstein at last to question the role of the White House in suppressing the report. She interpreted Obama’s elaborate show of impartiality as one more extension of executive privilege against the branch of government that is responsible for oversight.

Executive action was once again Obama’s preference in arranging the return on 31 May of Bowe Bergdahl, the American prisoner in Afghanistan, in exchange for five Taliban prisoners in Guantánamo. On 2 June, the Environmental Protection Agency, with Obama’s explicit backing, announced rigorous new carbon limits calculated to shorten the life of coal-fired power plants. These two actions, one in domestic, the other in foreign affairs, are the boldest Obama has taken in five years; but both were presented as executive decisions, owing nothing to consultNNation with lawmakers. Election-wary Democrats who were not consulted have been reluctant to defend the prisoner exchange, while Democrats from coal-mining states such as West Virginia and Kentucky are actively denouncing the carbon limits. Obama’s determination to do things however he can in his last years in office, and act alone when he cannot act with Congress, has now committed him in ways that allow no exit. These are decisions which cannot by their nature be walked back. If the Republican Party hadn’t squandered an impeachment a little too recently on Bill Clinton, they would probably answer the drumbeat of their rank and file and impeach Barack Obama.

*

The Tea Party has the reputation of being the home of American libertarians: defenders of the separation of powers and the Bill of Rights, especially the first, second, fourth and fifth amendments to the Constitution, which assure respectively the freedom of speech, the press, religious practice and peaceable assembly; the right to bear arms; the right of citizens to be secure against unwarranted searches and seizures; and the right not to be charged with a capital crime, or convicted or punished, without due process of law. But the Tea Party encompasses believers of at least two sorts in addition to the ‘rights’ libertarians: fanatical defenders of private property and earnings (no matter how acquired) as a good on a par with life and limb; and haters of government action and government itself, except in the cause of imprisoning criminals and waging war on enemies of the state. So far, only one credible non-Tea Party candidate seems prepared to run for the presidency in 2016. This is Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, younger brother of George W. and, according to their father, the more sensitive of the two.

Meanwhile the Tea Party aspirants are a peculiar array that reflects the still uncertain character of the party. Marco Rubio, the handsome junior senator from Florida, has an effortless flow of speech, fast, glib and shallow, and might possibly be equipped to recapture the Hispanic vote which the Republicans need if they are to survive. Rubio was caught in a patent falsehood a few months ago, having postdated his parents’ flight from Cuba to make them look like refugees from Castro and Communism, but he was soon forgiven: in the Southern states generally, the anti-Castro mania has outlasted its motive, and in such a cause fiction and fact will inevitably be mingled. Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, a graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School, presents himself as another adoptive and grateful American of Cuban descent (though born in Canada). He bears an uncanny physical resemblance to Joe McCarthy – a clean-shaven, teetotal McCarthy, without the jowl and the after-hours squint. Cruz talks smoothly and skilfully, always in a tone of accusation: a manner that one might suppose had passed with the death of McCarthy, but nationalist rage and resentment have a melody that lingers on.

‘The undisputed party leader’ in Texas (according to the Dallas Morning News), Senator Cruz has pledged to carry into national politics the 2014 platform of the Texas Republicans. The elements of the platform include: sealing off the border with Mexico and prohibiting amnesty for illegal immigrants; permitting owners of businesses to refuse service to persons they find offensive on moral or religious grounds; abolition of property taxes; abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency; repeal of the minimum wage; termination of affirmative action; endorsement of ‘reparative therapy’ to convert homosexuals to heterosexual practice; and repeal of the state lottery. Any hope of tempering the rigours of such a programme by the national Republican establishment was considerably weakened on 10 June, when a Tea Party insurgent defeated Eric Cantor, the majority leader in Congress, in the Republican primary in Cantor’s Virginia district. Cantor had seemed to define the outermost limit of Republican intransigence during the debt-ceiling negotiations of 2011, and he held the status of Benjamin Netanyahu’s virtual representative in the US. The man who beat him on a shoestring budget, Dave Brat, is a professor of economics, a denouncer of crony capitalism, and an immigration alarmist. ‘The guy,’ the blogger who signs himself Pangloss wrote in sheer wonder, ‘found room to the right of Cantor.’

 

Rand Paul, the son of the libertarian Ron Paul, remains alongside Cruz a contender for Tea Party support in 2016. He is among the most interesting of contemporary politicians, and also the most troubling in his inconsistency. Paul’s speech against the nomination of John Brennan to head the CIA, which became a 13-hour filibuster against the president’s right to order drone strikes, was a singular event of 2013, yet it has turned out to be a prelude without a sequel. More prudential displays of ambition by Paul, such as his equivocal postponement of judgment on climate change, his trip to Israel (with the usual ritual obeisance), his gimmicky solution to Ukraine (give it to the Russians, cut off all relations and let it bankrupt them), have suggested nothing like the single-mindedness of his father. Nevertheless it will be interesting to see how much of Ron Paul’s libertarianism, shared by no other politician of national standing, might come to be represented in some way by Rand.

 

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On 21 May he delivered an extraordinary speech against the nomination of David Barron to the federal appeals court; and he did so on the grounds that Barron, author of the secret document rationalising the president’s drone assassination of Americans, manifestly held beliefs about executive power that were in themselves disqualifying. Paul read from the writings of journalists hardly identified with the American right, such as Glenn Greenwald and Conor Friedersdorf; and he made the substance of his criticism the all-importance of trial by jury and the legal standard requiring proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt:

 

In these memos [written for the president by Barron] there’s a different standard … The standard is that an assassination is justified when ‘an informed, high-level official of the US government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States.’ So we’re not talking about beyond a reasonable doubt any more. That standard’s gone. We’re talking about an informed, unnamed high-level official in secret deciding that an imminent attack is going to occur.

 

The interesting thing about an imminent attack is we really don’t go by the plain wording of what you might think would be ‘imminent’ any more … You wonder about a definition of imminence that no longer includes the word immediate … The president believes, with regard to privacy in the fourth amendment, and with regard to killing American citizens in the fifth amendment, that if he has some lawyers review this process, that that is due process. This is appalling, because this has nothing to do with due process … You cannot have due process by a secret, internal process within the executive branch … Next time they kill an American, it will be done in secret, by the executive branch, because that’s the new norm.

 

You are voting for someone who has made this the historic precedent for how we will kill Americans overseas. In secret – by one branch of the government – without [legal] representation – based upon an accusation. We’ve gone from you have to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to an accusation being enough for an execution. I’m horrified that this is where we are… . We need to ask ourselves: how precious is the concept of presumption of innocence?

 

In the second term of the Obama presidency, it was left to a Republican to speak these words on civil liberties – though he stood alone in his party. By contrast, the Harvard law professor who wrote the memorandum justifying the assassination of Americans was looked on kindly by the liberal establishment because he had a good position on gay marriage. The Democrats hold the majority in the Senate and Barron’s ascent to the judgeship has now been approved.

 

The anomaly of Paul’s speech in dissent and the Democratic vote for the drone lawyer points to a deeper puzzle. A perilous and unspoken accord in American politics has grown up while no one was looking, which unites the liberal left and the authoritarian right. They agree in their unquestioning support of a government without checks or oversight; and it is the Obama presidency that has cemented the agreement. The state apparatus which supports wars and the weapons industry for Republicans yields welfare and expanded entitlements for Democrats. The Democrats take to the wars indifferently but are willing to accept them for what they get in return. The Republicans hate the entitlements and all that goes by the name of welfare, but they cannot escape the charge of hypocrisy when they vote for ever-enlarging military entitlements.

 

At the end of May, Obama added two and a half years to his promised deadline for removing American troops from Afghanistan. December 2016 now marks the date for final withdrawal. Two days later, he hosted a ‘Concussion Summit’ at the White House on the effects of head injuries on small children – just the sort of thing Republicans single out for mockery because it seems beneath the dignity of the presidency. Obama chose the day between those two events to deliver a West Point commencement address, which was advertised by his handlers as the main formulation of the Obama doctrine in foreign policy. The speech faithfully represents the have-it-both-ways tendency of the president, even as it ratifies the bargain on state power that is the overriding force in American politics. He asserted that the United States would engage in more military actions than ever before, but with far fewer American deaths. We would look to the well-being of our own country first, without forgetting the need to defend something broader and harder to set a limit to: our ‘core interests’ and our ‘way of life’.

 

The invisible epigraph for Obama’s address might have come from Madeleine Albright, the secretary of state in Bill Clinton’s second administration. ‘If we have to use force,’ Albright said, ‘it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future.’ Very much in that spirit, Obama told the graduating West Point cadets that the US must lead the world even though it cannot police the world. For that, an international consensus is necessary in order to enforce ‘international norms’. This last phrase has become an important piece of intellectual furniture for Obama: international norms split the difference between international law, which the US reserves the right to violate, and the new ‘world order’ of which the US was the maker and must remain the guardian.

 

Chicago University Press

We have pulled out of Iraq, Obama said, and are ‘winding down our war in Afghanistan’; al-Qaida’s leadership in border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan ‘has been decimated, and Osama bin Laden is no more’. Accordingly, ‘the question we face … the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead but how we will lead.’ But why must the United States continue uniquely to lead and enforce? Because ‘if we don’t, no one else will.’ So far, the deference to Albright’s national boast had been preserved, and it clearly left an opening for the doctrine of humanitarian war espoused by Samantha Power – a successor of Albright’s as UN ambassador who has become Obama’s steadiest consultant on the wisdom of foreign engagements. Power helped him to rewrite his second book and may have helped to draft the West Point speech itself. In deference to this way of thinking, which mixes persuasion, force and emergency rescue, ‘US military action’, he went on to say, ‘cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance.’ The preferred mode of address to international problems that ‘tear at the conscience’ will be multilateral. The US, however, will use force unilaterally ‘when our core interests demand it; when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; when the security of our allies is in danger.’

 

Every key word in that last passage is ambiguous. And the sentence as a whole invites interested construal by those who look for ambiguities to carve an opportunity for force. Even the phrase our people – does that include camp followers and spies? Special forces operating illegally? But the most shifting word of all is the all-purpose excuse for action, security. There follows a sentence that is echt Obama: ‘International opinion matters, but America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland or our way of life.’ In short, we try to respect international opinion, by getting it to go along with us, but ultimately we do as we please: enforcement of international norms by violence is not a crime on a par with a war of aggression, no matter what international opinion may say. The president and the secretary of state have called for $5 billion from Congress to support ‘a new counterterrorism partnerships fund’ which will ‘facilitate partner countries on the front lines’. Five billion dollars echoes the amount cited by Nuland for Ukraine, and it calls to mind the curious fact that violent as well as non-violent foreign assistance now often comes from the State Department rather than Defense. Syria will be the first theatre of action for those funds; the partners are to be Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan. ‘I believe in American exceptionalism,’ Obama said in conclusion, ‘with every fibre of my being.’ This formulation has lately become the measure of allegiance, hand on heart, expected from every American leader, and Obama spoke the words with the necessary throb and unction. Still, he added that the US should be willing to work with Nato, the UN, the World Bank and the IMF. The international organisations and financial institutions were grouped together without distinction.

 

*

 

What can be the reason for Obama’s decision to ‘partner’ in counterterrorist training and the supply of weapons to protract the civil war in Syria? This would scarcely seem to be in his interest if he wants a settlement with Iran to round off his record in foreign affairs. And yet Obama has a propensity, which no walk of reason could justify, to pledge to do a thing that looks strong, then call it off, then halfway do it anyway. Syria in the summer and autumn of 2013 was the most damaging instance of this to occur in open view. From threat to hesitation, to declaring an attack, to postponing the attack, to aborting the attack because a solution was offered from outside that didn’t require the use of force: the giddy succession of warlike postures entertained and abandoned last year is now to be followed by the subsidising of a proxy war after all.

 

The worst American mistake of the past decade was to speak of a war on terror rather than a co-operative international police operation. Obama does not like to say ‘war on terror’ but he speaks constantly in terms of war-readiness and war capacity, and lets Americans take for granted that we will have to be involved in more than one war at a time for longer than a generation. It is instructive that Dick Cheney, in 2002 and 2003, alluded repeatedly by name to the possible ‘criminal’ or ‘police’ description of a hypothetical policy of defence, and heaped contempt on it. He knew that if it ever caught hold of common sense, the panic that his own policy required would be starved of fuel. The fact is that ever since 2002, with the exception of the early months in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US has been fighting against insurgencies. The enemies are rebels opposing governments we want to keep in place, in Afghanistan, in Yemen, in Somalia and now in Libya too. The adepts of humanitarian war – Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power above all – in their push for the Libya war stretched the target and confused the aim by making the US equally the opponent of a sovereign government, and by claiming the prerogative of siding against a government and publicising its crimes while ignoring the crimes of the rebels. They soon extended the same rationale to Syria. The details might displease Cheney, but the result is much on his lines. The new Obama partnering in counterterrorism will mean there is nothing odd about fighting a dozen little wars at the same moment all around the world.

 

The next election is already being handicapped by the press. It is widely assumed – almost, indeed, accepted – that the Democratic nominee will be Hillary Clinton. She was a dutiful secretary of state under Obama. She never spoke flashy, quotable and negligent words that could upstage and embarrass the president, as her successor, John Kerry, has done again and again. At the same time, Clinton made Afghanistan a harder and longer trial for Obama by siding with the generals, and she dug a deep ditch for him, and for the country, by pressing for the overthrow of Gaddafi. Mrs Clinton is busy now positioning herself to the right of Obama. This suits her sense of the mainstream consensus, just as it did in 2008. In recent weeks, she has avowed her longtime preference for arming rebel forces in Syria, has compared Putin to Hitler, and has suggested that her view of Iran is more jaundiced than Obama’s: no decent bargain should be expected from the negotiations over uranium processing. It is a craven and cynical approach; who can say that it will not succeed? Iraq – a war that both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry voted to authorise – was a catastrophe that might have jerked us awake; but since American troops have departed, we hold ourselves answerable for none of the subsequent violence there. Even so Obama responded to the June rebellion in the Sunni Triangle by deploying 275 marines to help defend the US embassy in Baghdad. As an afterthought, under pressure, he added three hundred military ‘advisers’; and he has said he may order airstrikes and drone killings. Neoconservatives are on the march again in the op-ed pages. The Republican Party and some Democrats are saying the US should do more, though they don’t know exactly what. To judge by the chaos in the region and the confusion of the American political class, whose most ambitious members continue to outbid one another in delusion and posturing, there will have to be further echoes of the disasters of Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan before the US is forced to think again.

 

20 June 2014

 

 

They’re Mad As Hell

ANGRY MITCH MCCONNELLANGRY BARACK OBAMAANGRY JOHN BOEHNER

 

 

BLOG PIECE: JULY 11, 2014~

 

Progressive future usa has generally preferred to focus on the Big Issues and not get too involved with the day to day “drama” of partisan politics and the rarely achieved near perfection of split-government gridlock and gottcha that afflicts Washington today. And many of the state capitals.

 

Education debates, income/wealth inequality, austerity v. Keynesian spending, insane taxation premises, climate change, and more recently, foreign policy questions have been our normal fare. After all, the very first “launch piece” in this weblog stated that the longer term political trends between 1990 and 2050—trends in a progressive direction—were our “niche”. Many others are doing a variegated but generally fine and colorful job of massage the shorter news cycles. We are not talking about “short” today exactly. But it is important to understand the level of desperation of mainly Republican attacks—“lobbing shells”—that have in turn triggered both a hunkering down in the Obama White House and a vague dispiritedness magnified by much jabbering media. “Why isn’t “he” (POTUS) fighting back more?” or “he has nothing to lose by a populist unloading  on the Boehner’s, McConnell’s , and (the late) Eric Cantor’s.

Much electronic ink has been spilled on the “drunk punching” of the Tea Party, the (now) orthodox Reagan Republicans now in charge of Congress (or maybe Reagan would be considered a gregarious moderate now and Nixon positively left of center), and—to be “fair and balanced”—the seeming aloofness (a kind of passive aggressive punching) of the President and fiercer jabs by the Keith Olbermann’s, the Rachel Maddow’s, and further left, the fading but still fierce voice—very different—of Noam Chomsky. We might start here with a kind of bulleted chronology, not simply of folly and evasion of responsibility, but of the ‘normalization of polarization’ that is the province of true believers.

 

Contrary to popular and even “informed media” (say George Will or E.J. Dionne) assumptions that there is some electoral cynicism—playing to the constituency galleries—among conservative office holders—and Democrats—what strikes us is that the Pelosi’s and Reid’s and the Boehner’s and McConnell’s, really live in very different political thought worlds and as political full-timers, reflect beliefs and hostilities found in the public at large. Let’s start with Now and work back—with bullets and white space—and try with a combination of aphorisms and factoids to make sense of the “essence amidst the noise”:

 

  • Mid-2014- Speaker of the House John Boehner straight-facedly forges ahead with a House plan to “sue the president” for unauthorized tempering with the Affordable Health Care Act (esp. employer mandate) provisions without Congressional consent. Obama and supporters respond with terms like “frivolous”, “waste of time”, and “posturing”
  • January, 2014 and ensuing months- the president threatens unilateral executive action wherever possible if needed to break partisan gridlock and proceeds to use executive powers on immigration, environmental, prisoner exchange, health care and other issues

 

 

  • November 2010-Following the Republican takeover of the House of representatives in the 2010 elections, emboldened conservatives treat Obama to a series of “showdowns” over every conceivable issue opportunity: government shutdown in 2013, and near-shutdown in 2012; deficit reduction and taxation clashes, environmental and immigration battles, judicial and executive nominations, attempts to derail the unrolling of Affordable Health Care (Obamacare)

 

 

  • November, 2009 -Pres. Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Majority leader Reid pull out all the stops to get the affordable Health Care Act passed by a narrow margin, without any Republican support, and some arm twisting of more conservative Democrats—and the use of political pork…the theory was: This flawed but monumental and long overdue legislation was such an important omelet that it was necessary to break a few eggs (see http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/march_april_2012/features/obamas_         top_50_accomplishments035755.php?page=all from the Washington Monthly

* Much of the 2009-10 first two years of the Obama opening term was characterized by hard-fought narrowly won battles resulting in legislation on the near-$800 billion dollar fiscal stimulus, food safety legislation, resurrecting the U.S. auto industry, the “Lillie Ledbetter” pay equality and fairness act, and many other laws made possible by the Democratic Congress elected in 2008 and 2006; the price for this was to give Republicans, pushed by the Tea Party uprising, an increasing sense of a decisive picot to the left, or left center as characterized by Clinton (1990s), Carter (1970s), Kennedy-Johnson (1960s)

 

 

  • Simplifying the storyline it might be said that the Republicans bridled at “Obamanation,” in a way not unlike the Democrats’  reaction to the perceived unmitigated disaster of the Bush 43 years, which in turn were a Republican reaction to the politically cagey and amoral/immoral–as they saw it– reign of Bill Clinton, 1993-2001, which in turn was a reaction to Reagan-Bush 41- ism (1981-1993)The story does not end here however; it will be continued an more depth at this website, With a Difference, Soon, So Please Stand by!…

 

 

 

[fs1]

Why are we in Iraq training an army we’ve trained for 11 years?

OBAMA  CHAGRINNED IRAQI ARMYIRAQI ARMYOur colleague asks this important question. Here is Prof. Arthur Lerman’s letter to the editor, BERGEN RECORD, NJ:

From: Lerman, Arthur
Sent: 
Thursday, June 26, 2014 2:33 PM
To: 
LettersToTheEditor@northjersey.com
Subject: Your Views: Iraq Army Crumbling

To the Editor:

Regarding “For seasoned vets, a sense of sadness” (Opinion, June 23):

The writer, retired Army Major General, Robert H. Scales, finds that an important reason for the Iraqi “army…crumbling at first contact with Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fighters” is insufficient training.  In spite of a training program dating back to 2003, U.S. officers still need “at least five more years and 25,000 trainers.”

My question is, how come the opposing army is doing so well without the eleven years of training that the Iraqi forces have already had?

Arthur J. Lerman

256 Edgemont Terrace

Teaneck, New Jersey 07666-3404

——————————————————————————-

Shiels:

It is a valid point indeed. A great deal of money that could have been put to use in sorely needed areas  for US domestic needs has gone into the Iraqi conflict in general and the bolstering of the Iraqi army specifically. This alone merits all of the attention it is getting

Although the “ISIS” insurgent army is spreading out and hitting points that were supposed to be well protected by Iraqi forces taking quite a bit of territory, the best explanation I’ve heard for the underperformance of the Iraqis (and there are other but this seems to make some sense): for better or worse the Iraqi armies were trained for localized insurgencies and keeping areas secure in local areas. They have been well regarded in their work at that level.

A coordinated and widespread insurgency such as the current one, with considerable outside aid, is something more strategic, than tactical, and seems to have flummoxed the Iraqi forces by the suddenness and vigor of the uprising. The Iraqi forces did well at the company and brigade level after the U.S. withdrawal (and before), these actions focused of local policing.

We will keep track as the Obama administration goes forth with its plan for advisors and some equipment. An more analysis of how the formidable ISIS grew under the radar of US and Iraqi intelligence will be forthcoming. This is as much a failure of intelligence as it is one of the army itself.

NEW DIRECTIONS FOR PROGRESSIVE FUTURE USA

yogi-berra-quotes-13MOSESGLOBEArguably one of the greatest American philosophers of the 20th Century, Yogi Berra, is credited with saying: “when you come to a for in the road take it!”     Well, we are doing just that. To date we have been concerned with forces leading to increasingly more progressive politics, albeit in fits and starts, during the period 1990-2040, but especially beginning in 2008 with the election of Barack Obama. Our pieces have stressed that with Affordable Health Care, initiatives on the environment, the Depression-dodging stimulus package, and many  incremental steps the country has moved slowly back toward the center. But in the short term, we are not so sure. And as Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman have pointed out in domestic and foreign policy, the “slouching toward progressive rationality,” and difficulties of the Obama administration are not primarily of Obama’s making.

So here is the fork this blog is taking: 1. We want to become more involved in discussing foreign policy questions, really as much a part of a progressive agenda as domestic policy; we will have pieces on current and future dilemmas by Shiels and Lerman, 2. We want to open up a debate about how progressives should proceed in the next five years. It is clear that there is unprecedented polarization and deadlock, likely to continue until 2016. So We, The Blog, have the same choices that progressive “real world” strategists do: 1. shall we turn to a more wrathful, (read honest), fusillade against the reactionary, obstructionist forces of the Boehner/McConnell Congress and its Tea Party “Observers.”? or

2. should we stick with the thesis that incremental, dogged, centrist change– the style seemingly favored by Obama and the Clintons, will inch us forward, while the country tires of the unrelenting negativity of the Republican Congress. Republican, perhaps, only until 2016. The senate of course is technically Democratic and with luck may remain so. But with the lavish use of the filibuster, it is effectively neutralized even if it is lucky enough to hold on through the next election cycle. A mantra increasingly gaining traction among commentators is: 2014 will be a bad year for the Democrats, 2016 will be a Horrible year for the Republicans. More on this to come!

 

So What’s Wrong With Inequality?: the Case for Elites

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This website has from the outset seemed dedicated to the proposition that after a conservative interregnum of almost 50 years (1980-2008) the country was returning and would Inevitably return to a more Progressive-New Deal- Great Society mentality, updated for the decades 2 through 5 of the Twenty First Century. And this is certainly true.

 

But we will be less interesting, and just one of dozens of blogging talk-athons about the evils of socio-economic inequality and the selfishness of the rich, if all we did was present thought-clips promoting progressive ideas and agendas. Progressives cannot prevail, their progress will be sluggish—mark or words—if we cannot get inside the heads of the following: conservative Republicans (are their any other kind), Tea Party “Republicans,” Independents wary of too much Obama and Clinton (Hillary And Bill) kinds of changes, and last—but not least—the great 40-50% of adults who do Not regularly vote.

So we offer the following “contrarian” thought bullets using the voice of someone who is making a good case for “enlightened” or realistic elites—elites of wealth and accomplishment and the desire that government and academia not try to tamper with this existing order:

 

  • Item- Historically, from Egyptian, Mesopotamian and early Chinese times, an elite class has governed: this has been the natural order of things; they have held a vastly disproportionate share of their societies’ wealth, they were true one per-centers in every sense of the word

 

  • This elite class has been responsible for much of what we study in history: the building of great temples and public buildings, the forging of ever larger states and empires, the development of agriculture, irrigation, ever larger urban areas, learning and especially writing, making their territories safe for the religions and social practices of their choice…i.e. Pyramids, jungle and desert Temples, fortified towns, cathedrals and castles, great chateaux and manor houses: all of these are elite, one percent undertakings and accomplishments
  • Eventually something that would be called universities and physical infrastructure: roads, bridges, harbors, and facilities to foster trade and exploration would be promoted by this elite class, as would, of course, the arts of warfare: defensive and offensive
  • Many of the wealthiest “elite” Americans, and more so than Europeans or other population “zones—are only a few generations, perhaps only one—away from humble, even poor origins. Yet the Henry Fords and Andrew Carnegies, with no silver spoon-feeding, built great industrial empires and spread wealth and ingenuity+- around in different but impressive ways
  • It can be argued that to a degree outstanding talent and drive have fueled social mobility in America, the “Horatio Alger” phenomenon, though it is more accurate to say that these exceptional cases nourish a kind of cultural narrative that Americans seem to Need to believe in because there are many outstanding examples, and also many examples in which poverty, race, gender, and importantly bad luck or timing Prevented or impeded social mobility in spite of themselves
  • There is a plausible argument that concentrations of capital, from the Pyramids to cathedrals to railroads to Silicon Valley have made possible critical masses of construction, urbanization, exploration, invention and technology, economies of scale – to offer a somewhat random sample of wealth generated social “goods;” and of course it can be argued in all of these cases that the wealth concentrations have been abused, wasteful in many conspicuous consumption (read T. Veblen) cases
  • The flaws in the Iron Law of Oligarchy (Michels) and the tendency of wealth—not always fairly earned—to perpetuate itself, will be teased out in future posts, but we emphasize that the wealthy, the Social Darwinist’s, the “aristocrats or plutocrats” depending on your point of view have some compelling points to make, and these points must be taken seriously… Marx himself stood in awe of  “just pre-Gilded Age capitalism” as the most powerful social force of history to that time (the 1840’s to 1870’s) and then went on to critique it in devastating fashion, focusing partly on the cost to the working classes, who did not rise up—at least in the way he predicted… So we end with recognition of the considerable accomplishments of elites and then capitalist elites, and we will want to fast forward to the 21st Century and examine both the rationale for concentrations of wealth, for “neo-laissez faire”, and the considerable costs to the poor and middle classes and the unique Dysfunctions of many forms of inequality

ALSO SEE “THE RICH SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH” Atlantic Monthly, June 2014

p 36    ATLANTIC HOW THE RICH SHALL

 

 

PROF. ART LERMAN ON THE COLLEGE ADJUNCT COMPENSATION PROBLEM


adjuncts
My one point is that–throughout the nation–adjunct faculty have become the cheap labor base on which U.S. higher education now stands. I know that U.S. higher education is overly expensive, but it’s not adjunct faculty compensation that makes it so.

There is no excuse to pay an adjunct anything less that the equivalent amount that a full-time faculty member receives for the same amount of work.

I also am aware that colleges and universities have extended their programs on the backs of this substandard adjunct compensation. They would likely go bankrupt (or would have to severely cut back the number of students they teach), if they depended on their own resources to pay adjuncts fairly.

Perhaps some improvement could come from reallocation of their own resources, but that is unlikely to get us very far.

The only (though politically very difficult) solution is to tell the American people and their elected representatives (yes, lobbying) that, for all the expenses they are already paying, they are receiving higher education on the cheap–dependent on unconscionable faculty salaries–and through public policies (e.g., progressive taxation) the public has to aid our colleges and universities to end this exploitation.

PREVIEW OF COMING TOPICS ON http://progressivefutureusa.com/

unions  RACHEL MADDOW

 

PLAYBOOK FOR 2014 PROGRESSIVE  ACTIVISTS

 

  • How to “bring unions back,” updated if need be, so that they are more of a force to reckon with in U.S. politics… (this will probably involve beefing up left-to-center think tanks and gradual infiltration into the essentially passive and spineless media)

 

  • Related: Progressives: Democrats, Independents, and (if there are any left) Republicans need to recruit millionaires/billionaires, 1%-ers, 10%-ers to bankroll publicity, websites, newspapers, journals, electronic media (radio, TV, I-Net) for progressive causes: environment, education, poor, women, minorities, Labor, infrastructure, you-name-it… offset or “mine” Citizens United for their own purposes

 

  • Related- Progressives need to stop playing softball; they can occupy the center ground, and in reddish states even move a bit right but comfortably to the left of the hard-Red intransigents (of which there are plenty)… Rachel Maddow and Thomas Frank are a good examples of people who can play “hardball” and administer the kind of sane medicine to the public, as an antidote to the  Conservative talk-meisters, not to mention radio nut-cases

 

  • Related- In the near future, the climate of, say, the mid-1960s—1970’s, the 1930s, or the T. Roosevelt-Taft-Wilson period, 1901-1915, may not be attainable in the U.S., with its present extreme polarization and federal government dysfunction… but the tide is turning, especially in the Executive branch… keeping an eye on Texas, the White House may well be out of reach for the Republicans by 2020 (and likely in 2016)… it will take winning hearts and minds for the Congressional districts/ House elections to turn the country around for the progressives

 

  • Related-  Progressives have to realize that while their agenda is, without doubt, the sane way to go, and that in today’s political climate “fair and balanced” is a myth if, for example, that means Intellectually buying into the idea of splitting the difference between the climate-change deniers and the cutting edge climate environmentalists, STILL politically they have to face the fact that there are a lot of conservative folks out there, voters who have been Reaganized and have little memory of the party of Dirksen or Javits… We’re not just talking about the 20-25% Tea Party types who have drunk the kool-aid and are out of reach, but the next 25% who voted for McCain and Romney… they must be coaxed into reason (did someone say Bill Clinton?) a bit at a time and we, at http://progressivefutureusa.com/ , are staking our reputation on the slow steady leftward drift of the Zeitgeist in the U.S. from now through 2050 and beyond… “marriage equality” is a good sign, maybe in ten years or so, flag lapel pins for politicians will become “declasse

 

  • We have to face up to the fact—and make this palatable—that at least some increase in taxation, especially at the higher levels, has got to happen, to shore up Medicare and Social Security, for starters… the Grover Norquist and company argument that taxation is outdated are not mentally living on this planet, but too many people buy their pitch… this is fundamental change, let’s face it, and it will be an uphill climb.

 

 

 

ILLUSIONS OF WEALTH IN AMERICA: PAUL KRUGMAN AND OTHERS

PAUL KRUGMANhere-comes-the-one-percenters

Bullet points in a recent op ed piece by Krugman in the New York Times with my commentary in brackets; note that I paraphrase and interpret Krugman rather than quoting him:
1. Beyond the 1 % there is a group of very, very rich Americans with spectacular concentrations of wealth: 25 men, in this case hedge fund speculators who (combined) earned $25 billion in 2013

2. These men and others like them in different financial sectors, made money, “educatedly” guessing what direction market prices, currencies, etc. would take and buying and selling paper at huge profits… they produced nothing, or rather little but identifying potential windfalls for themselves and clients

3. The finance industry in general went of of control in 2006 and 2007 (especially) and the huge bank bailouts in effect stabilized the system but also saved those who were making some mischief

4. The $ 25 billion made by these speculators was more than the sum of salaries of all kindergarten teachers in the US combined; most if not all of the income they moved around in their direction [benefited people who were already wealthy and to the top financiers themselves],

5. There are many defenses for financial “heroes” who detected shifts in market forces, acted in some ways as entrepreneurs: they generated money for investors, they were just exercising their powers of prediction, they also had a lot to lose etc. Trillions of dollars were lost in savings and jobs as a result of their mistakes [they took a disproportionately lit hit compared with millions of more vulnerable Americans]

INCOME INEQUALITY INCREASING, YES! BUT HOW BIG A PROBLEM? 1st in a series

US WEALTH DISTRIBUTION 2007          MAP OF USA WEALTH OWNERSHIP

Income inequality

Much has been written about income and wealthy inequality in the United States. You probably know the round figures (illustrated in the graph above for 2007, but not much has changed in 7 years): 1% of the population owning 34% of the wealth and the next 9% owning 36%, for a total of 70% of the wealth held by 10% of Americans. The Bottom 50% of the population holds 2.7% of the wealth. (perhaps the 9% who share roughly the same % of the wealth as “the 1%” – about 35% each—should be jealous!).

We will be discussing the closing gap of income inequality between the U.S. and Brazil, the latter another very large economy with the reputation for even more inequality. Using the Gini index of inequality Brazil ranked 120th of 133 countries studied, but the U.S. was 80th. This gap has closed somewhat. Neither country is at all competitive with countries like Canada or most of the European countries.

But wait—a contrarian question might be “so what”? Throughout history a very small percentage of the population owned vastly disproportionate shares of the material resources of society, particularly in the post hunter-gatherer populations, and dramatically so in most of the centuries since the rise of the first urban civilizations about 3000 to 2500 BCE. Between about 1895 and 1995, there was a gradual shift toward slightly more widespread dispersion of wealth throughout the industrializing world (mostly Europe and North America), but in the U.S. the trend has reversed in the past 20 years.

 ANNUAL SHARE OF THE T0P 1 % 1910 TO 2010

A particularly striking statistic is the trend for “1%” followers is to look at their share of the national income over the last 70 years. Between 1940 and 1980 this share fluctuated between 10 and 15% of INCOME (not wealth). Between 1980 and 2007 that share went from about 10% to 20%. Otherwise put, in 1980 income from wages, salaries, and investment yield increases for every $1000 of American income went from $10 for the top 1%– one out of every hundred Americans—to $20, an approximate doubling. Although it may be even more troubling in fairness and utilitarian terms that similar increases in income occurred for the top 10% of Americans, the focus of the left to center commentators (and Occupy Wall Streeters) was on the ONE PERCENT. That seems to be where the drama lies. Think again now: 1%+> 20% of income, 10% => 40% of income and the bottom 40% (2 lowest quintiles) shared 9% repeat 9% of the income of the country. This is a lot of numbers to absorb, and more detailed breakdowns and explanations and conclusions can be found in numerous sources.

What we want to argue HERE is that yes, clearly there is a dramatic shift of wealth going on in the direction of a small group at the top. America in this sense MIGHT be said to not only becoming more like a typical Third World country, or like many societies throughout history going back through the Middles Ages to ancient times, but also that the U.S. is becoming dramatically less equal in income along several lines of measurement in the past 30 years and compared with the 60 years before that.

Again we pose the question, “So what?” It may seem self-evident that this is not a good thing, that more equality is better, but this is not universally agreed upon. It will be good to hone in on the arguments (the very most important ones—and unusual) for both or several points of view on this!