The American Bear


Does President Obama Want to Cut Social Security by 3 Percent? | Dean Baker

That is a pretty simple and important question. Unfortunately, most voters are likely to go to the polls this fall without knowing the answer.

If the backdrop to this question is not immediately clear, then you should be very angry at the reporters who cover the campaign. One of the items that continuously comes up in reference to the budget deficit is President Obama’s support for the plan put forward by the co-chairs of his deficit commission, Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles and former senator Alan Simpson. On numerous occasions, President Obama has indicated his support for this plan.

One of the items in the Bowles-Simpson plan is a reduction in the annual cost-of-living adjustment of roughly 0.3 percentage points. This would be accomplished by using a different index that, by design, would show a lower measured rate of inflation. It is important to recognize that this is an annual cut that would accumulate over time. After a retiree has been receiving benefits for ten years, the cut would be 3.0 percent; after 20 years. it would be 6 percent. If a typical retiree lives long enough to get benefits for 20, years the average benefit cut over their years of retirement would be 3 percent.

This is the most immediate cut in Social Security in the Bowles-Simpson plan, but it is not the only one. The plan also would gradually raise the age at which retirees receive full benefits to 69. It also phases in a reduction in benefits for workers whose earnings averaged more than $40,000 a year over their working lifetime.

When President Obama indicates his support for the Bowles-Simpson plan, he is indicating his support for all of these measures. Of course, he is not required to accept the plan in its entirety, but if he does oppose the cuts that the plan imposes on Social Security, it would be reasonable to expect him to state this explicitly.

In principle, this would be exactly the sort of issue where we would expect reporters to be grilling President Obama and his staff. After all, while President Obama has been proclaiming his support for the Bowles-Simpson plan, his vice president has been assuring the public that Social Security will not be touched in a second Obama administration.

Last month in Virginia, Joe Biden said in the strongest possible terms that there will be no cuts to Social Security in a second Obama administration. He repeated the statement with the additional line that, “I guarantee it.” This would seem to be a pretty clear contradiction of President Obama’s support for Bowles-Simpson.

The media should be trying to resolve this contradiction. Then voters could go to the polls knowing whether they are voting for someone who wants to follow Bowles-Simpson and cut Social Security benefits, or alternatively, would pick up the gauntlet thrown down by Vice President Biden and be a rock-solid defender of the program.

What Obama Has Wrought | Glen Ford

It is as useless to anchor a serious political discussion to this year’s Democratic and Republican convention speeches, as to plan the liberation of humanity during Mardi Gras. Truth is no more welcome at the former than sobriety is at the latter. So, forget the conventions and their multi-layered lies. Here are a few highlights of what Barack Obama has inflicted on the nation and the world:

Preventive Detention

George Bush could not have pulled off such an evisceration of the Bill of Rights, if only because the Democrats and an aroused street would not have allowed it. Bush knew better than to mount a full-court legislative assault on habeas corpus, and instead simply asserted that preventive detention is inherent in the powers of the presidency during times of war. It was left to Obama to pass actual legislation nullifying domestic rule of law – with no serious Democratic opposition.

Redefining War

Obama “led from behind” a 7-month Euro-American air and proxy ground war against the sovereign nation of Libya, culminating in the murder, after many attempts, of the nation’s leader. The president informed Congress that the military operation was not subject to the War Powers Act, because it had not been a “war” at all, since no Americans were known to have been killed. The doctrine was thus established – again, with little Democratic opposition – that wars are defined by the extent of U.S. casualties, no matter how many thousands of foreigners are slaughtered.

War Without Borders

Obama’s drone war policies, greatly expanded from that inherited from Bush, have vastly undermined accepted standards of international law. This president reserves the right to strike against non-state targets anywhere in the world, with whatever technical means at his disposal, without regard to the imminence of threat to the United States. The doctrine constitutes an ongoing war against peace – the highest of all crimes, now an everyday practice of the U.S.

The Merger of Banks and State

The Obama administration, with the Federal Reserve functioning as a component of the executive branch, has funneled at least $16 trillion to domestic and international banking institutions, much of it through a virtually “free money” policy that could well become permanent. This ongoing “rescue” of finance capital is unprecedented in sheer scope and in the blurring of lines between Wall Street and the State. The routine transfer of multi-billions in securities and debts and assets of all kinds between the U.S. Treasury, the Federal Reserve and corporate accounts, has created de facto structures of governance that may be described as institutional forms of fascism.

These are world-shaking works of Obama-ism. Even Obama’s “lesser” crimes are astounding: his early calls for austerity and entitlement-axing (two weeks before his inauguration) and determined pursuit of a Grand Accommodation with the GOP (a $4 trillion deal that the Republicans rejected, in the summer of 2011) reveal a politician intent on ushering in a smoother, more rational corporate hegemony over a thoroughly pacified civil society. Part and parcel of that pacification is the de-professionalization of teaching – an ambition far beyond de-unionization.

(Source: jayaprada)

As U.S. Inequality Widens, Scholar Cornel West and Broadcaster Tavis Smiley Launch Poverty Tour 2.0

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: … and Cornel West, how would you respond to maybe some of the strategists for President Obama’s re-election campaign saying you’re playing a discordant note here as they’re trying to focus on the middle class and to assure a victory for the president in November?

CORNEL WEST: No, I mean, we would say that the mendacity and mediocrity of Romney is such that it’s fairly clear that Obama will win. The problem is, is that Obama himself, though better than Romney, is still very much part of a system that has failed poor and working people. It’s fairly clear capitalism is not working for poor and working people in America. And we have to bear witness to that. We have to tell that truth. Of course we’re very sensitive when it comes to the fear of a right-wing takeover of the White House with Romney, would be catastrophic. But as I have also noted, so far, Obama has been disastrous. So the question is, how do we acknowledge that this suffering is real, keep track of not just the statistics, but the precious humanity of the folk who are catching hell?

AMY GOODMAN: Cornel West, I wanted to ask you about a New York Times profile of Valerie Jarrett, perhaps the most important adviser to President Obama. And in it, they talk about a moment where she calls you up to, well, basically chew you out, to ream you. Can you explain what this was about?

CORNEL WEST: Well, I think it had to do with a—both an interview I had given that reflected on the president and then my claims, of course, that the president was a—what was the language, though, Brother? Was it a—

TAVIS SMILEY: A black mascot and a puppet.

CORNEL WEST: A black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. I was talking about the Wall Street government of Geithner and Summers and others two-and-a-half years ago. And she asked me to take it back. I said, “No, I thought I was speaking the truth.” And she then went at me and tried to just keep me in line. I said, “No, I’m not that kind of Negro. I’m a Jesus-loving free black man who tells the truth and bears witness, be it in the White House, crack house or any other house.” And then I had heard that she called me crazy and un-American. And I said, “Well, you know, under many circumstances, being called un-American is a compliment.”

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

CORNEL WEST: That I am anti-injustice in America. Usually if you’re anti-injustice in America, you’re often viewed as being un-American or anti-America. So that’s a compliment. [++]

Has Dyson forgotten the lessons of the abolitionist and civil rights movement (among others) which taught that through civil disobedience that policies can be influenced from without, regardless of elections? Otherwise, I can’t explain his single-minded focus on presidential elections as a vehicle for change. Finally, to say that by not supporting Obama for the principled reasons that you have elucidated isn’t doing anything constructive for the poor is the most disingenuous form of cheap shot I have ever witnessed. I was infuriated by this in particular because it is the poor who most desperately need change and for someone to stand up and fight for them. Obama has been missing in action on so many issues that have affected struggling people. So for him to say that by critiquing Obama in the way that you have is actually destructive to the poor is just disgusting

From a commenter on Glen Ford’s piece at BAR, Debating Dr. Dyson: Facts vs. The “Wall of Words”

He was responding to the following accusation from Dr. Michael Eric Dyson:

Dyson, who was speaking from Charlotte and sounding like a delegate to the convention, said folks that don’t “get in the game” of Democratic politics are “engaging in a form of rhetorical narcissism and ideological self-preoccupation that has no consequence on the material conditions of actually existing poor people.”

Another commenter responded to Dyson (with Ford noticing his penchant for sarcasm):

“Like you, I believe it is time to move beyond the reflexive opposition of the black left to imperialist violence, lawlessness and racism, opposition that was formerly embodied by such figures such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Paul Robeson, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the millions of sisters and brothers in the movements they led and represented. Some call your position grasping opportunism, or perhaps a modern form of Bookerism, but I prefer to name it pragmatism and realism.

“Once again, I would like to thank you for lending such a powerful and intelligent black voice to that cause.”

Debating Dr. Dyson: Facts vs. The “Wall of Words” | Glen Ford

It was great fun to confront Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, the Baptist preacher and Georgetown sociology professor who stood in for the so-called “progressive” wing of Obama boosters, last Friday on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! We got the chance to make BAR’s case, that the First Black President has shown himself to be, not the lesser of two evils on the corporate electoral menu in November, but the more effective evil.

Over the last four years, Obama has crafted a “veritable model” for austerity through his “deficit reduction commission, which came up with the figure of $4 trillion in cuts, which he now includes among his solemn promises to the American people.” Obama put Social Security and other entitlements “on the table” for chopping two weeks before taking the oath of office, and has pursued an austerity partnership with the GOP ever since.

The Affordable Care Act, Obama’s most heralded achievement (aside from killing bin-Laden), “was actually born in the Heritage Foundation—that’s a right-wing Republican think tank—in the late ’80s. Essentially the same bill was a Republican bill in 1993. Bob Dole ran on that bill in 1996. Mitt Romney picked up that bill for Massachusetts later on. And it then emerged as the Obama bill.” Obama has locked the drug and insurance corporations so deeply into the federal health care money flow, it will be damn near impossible to dislodge them in the foreseeable future.

He has accomplished “a kind of merging of the banks and the state, with $16 trillion being infused into these banks…and the line between Wall Street and the federal government virtually disappearing.” In other words, Obama is constructing the classic edifice of fascism, which is aptly described as the unbridled rule of the most reactionary, rapacious elements of finance capital.

Like no other president in history, and far out-Bushing George Bush, Obama has mortally wounded the Bill of Rights with his preventive detention legislation, signed into law while the nation celebrated last New Year’s Eve. Under Bush, a president’s authority to indefinitely detain American citizens without charge or trial was merely a theory of the resident chief executive. Obama made the theory into a law that all future presidents will have at their disposal – an alloyed evil worthy of all the superlatives of Hell.

Obama is the war president who simultaneously drone-bombed five countries – Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan – and who has boldly redefined war. After bombing Libya for seven months, Obama told Congress that there was no need to trigger the War Powers Act because nothing resembling a war had actually occurred. “It is not a war, as far as Obama’s doctrine is concerned, unless Americans are killed. So you can slaughter as many people in the world as you want to, as long as Americans’ casualties are kept at low or no.”

The impulse toward so-called “humanitarian military intervention” now trumps centuries of international law, thanks to Obama. Terms like “national sovereignty” are no longer useful to the Chief Executive of Empire, who commits crimes against peace – the highest crime on the planet – as a matter of daily routine. Under the Nobel laureate president, “wherever the United States deems evil to occur, it will and should intervene militarily. That is anarchy. That is chaos. But actually, it’s called imperialism.”

These are just a few of the damnable highlights of Obama’s presidential record, which should be the basis for evaluating his worthiness of support. Obamite “progressives” like Bill Fletcher and Carl Davidson insanely insist in the title to their August 9 Alternet article that “The 2012 Elections Have Little To Do With Obama’s Record…Which is Why We Are Voting For Him.” The fact is, on progressive terms, Obama’s record is indefensible – which is why Dr. Dyson was compelled to repeatedly agree with my set of facts on Democracy Now!

I’m quite please with how the exchange with Dyson went. His style is to throw up a “Wall of Words,” like an anti-aircraft gunner filling the sky with flak. It’s impossible to engage all of the bits and pieces of subjects swirling around his ascending speech-column – and silly to try, since your job is to make your own case, not to dignify the other guy’s every utterance. However, some of Dyson’s remarks are worth a playback – if only to note how far to the right the political conversation in Dyson’s circles has gone in the Age of Obama. [read on]

He’s not the peace president; he is the war president and recognized as such. That’s why his war-making prowess has such a high profile in his re-election campaign. At one point, President Obama was simultaneously drone-bombing five countries. Those were Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And he has succeeded in redefining war. These are historical accomplishments of the worst kind. He’s redefined war, and he did this with Libya, after bombing this country for seven months, certainly inflicting tens of thousands of deaths, although the United States doesn’t acknowledge how many people were killed. After seven months of bombing Libya, President Obama tells the U.S. Congress that this doesn’t come under the War Powers Act, because it wasn’t a war at all. And it wasn’t a war at all because, as far as we know, no Americans were killed. And this is a redefinition of war. This is truly historic, a redefinition of war. It is not a war, as far as Obama’s doctrine is concerned, unless Americans are killed. So you can slaughter as many people in the world as you want to, as long as Americans’ casualties are kept at low or no. Then it’s not a war, and it’s not even the Congress’s business what you do. So, this is definitely a war president. Glen Ford (via azspot)

(via azspot)

"Effective Evil" or Progressives’ Best Hope? Glen Ford vs. Michael Eric Dyson on Obama Presidency

As President Obama accepts the Democratic nomination to seek four more years in the White House, we host a debate on his presidency with Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report and Michael Eric Dyson, professor at Georgetown University and author of numerous books. Ford calls Obama the “more effective evil” for embracing right-wing policies and neutralizing effective opposition, while Dyson argues Obama provides the best and obvious choice for progressive change within the confines of the U.S. political system.

People are in the crosshairs. We don’t have jobs, our wages are going down, a generation of students is essentially indentured servants for the foreseeable future, climate is in meltdown, the attack on our civil liberties initiated by George Bush has been massively expanded under this president with the criminalization of protest, indefinite detentions and the assassination, now, even of American citizens, which have been basically written into law under this president. So, this politics of fear that tells you “you’ve got to stay the course, don’t dare stand up for yourself”—that politics of fear has a track record now over the past ten years. That politics of fear has proven to be not an effective political strategy. In fact, politics of fear has delivered everything we were afraid of. It’s time to stand up with the politics of courage, and lead us forward.

Jill Stein, Green Party Presidential Candidate Presents a “New Green Deal”

“A green party president means an end to unemployment, to foreclosures, to student debt, to climate change, and and end to corporate rule. We’re not talking spare change. We need a revolution. That’s what we deserve. What we don’t deserve is pandering irresponsible bullshit that passes itself off as campaigning. I can’t believe I just said that, but that’s how I feel.”

(via planetsconverse)

(via jonathan-cunningham)


Obama: If you say that climate change is not a hoax, but then commit to MORE offshore drilling, MORE coal consumption, and MORE nuclear power, then you must simply not CARE that climate change is real. I don’t know what’s worse — someone who DOESN’T believe in climate change and continues to screw the planet, or someone who DOES believe in climate change and continues to screw the planet …

[To] put the question back, where have the intractable, obstructionist Republicans been when it came to intractable obstruction of Mr. Obama’s never ending sops to the ruling class? They could have revived the fortunes of their party with calls to jail the banking malefactors who Mr. Obama gave free passes to, to end the ‘too-big-to-fail’ guarantees that maintain the corrupt, dysfunctional banking system and with calls to end his Afghanistan adventure that funds military contractors and slaughters innocent civilians. The answer is that current Republicans are ideologically opposed to holding the ruling class responsible for their crimes and limiting how much they can loot and Democrat Barack Obama is factually opposed to holding the ruling class responsible for their crimes and limiting how much they can loot. How do we know this? Those are his policies. Rob Urie

On Hope and Change in 2012

From the introduction to John Feffer’s piece at TomDispatch, Dumb and Dumber.

Nick Turse:

Think back to the election of 2008. Do you remember how one candidate had it easy? He had eight years of abject failure to run against. Eight years that included the launching of two dismal wars, the creation of a torture gulag with its crown jewel at Guantánamo Bay, the ushering in of a program of robotic assassination missions and secret spying programs, all presided over by an administration that talked tough about silencing leakers and reporters who aided them, and a president who kept a list with mug shots of people he wanted bumped off. (When his triggermen killed one, he’d cross off his face.) The roster of the administration’s “triumphs” reads like something out of dystopian fiction and people were tired of it. They wanted change, which was good news for the change candidate, because his rival was an old hawk who talked more of the same.

Fast forward to today. The candidate who won the 2008 contest expanded the country’s war in Afghanistan, struggled to keep American troops in Iraq (before fulfilling his predecessor’s pledge to withdraw), and oversaw escalating military interventions in Pakistan, Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere. The winning candidate failed to close Guantánamo, radically expanded the robotic assassination program, continued and expanded domestic surveillance, vigorously pursued and used the Espionage Act against more governmental whistleblowers than all other administrations combined (but prosecuted no one else in the National Security Complex for illegal activities), and kept his own extensive kill list, personally okaying assassinations. Could it really be that the “change” candidate won? Could it have been any worse than if the old hawk had?

Another question follows. Almost four years later, are people happy about the types of “change” he ushered in? After all, as president, the change candidate killed public enemy number one and he’s still fighting for his political life against a challenger whose own party once rejected him and now does little more than tolerate him. He, too, is now talking “change.” Yet the type of change the challenger is speaking about includes even more profligate military spending, even more troops to send to war, and possibly the addition of a new war or two to the American agenda. So much change and yet so much remains the same. Confusing, isn’t it? Luckily, TomDispatch regular John Feffer, author of Crusade 2.0: The West’s Resurgent War on Islam, makes some sense of this strain of American politics and what four more years under President Obama or four years under President Romney is likely to mean for us — and the rest of the world. No matter who wins, be ready to lose hope and fear change.

Dear Democrats: If you do That you have to do This | Juan Cole

Dear Democratic Party:

If you bring Gabby Gifford to say the Pledge of Allegiance, you have to bring up the issue of gun control somewhere in your speeches or platform.

If you slam Republicans for foreign policy naivete, you have to explain why you just pissed off 1.5 billion Muslims by giving away all of Jerusalem to Israel as its capital.

If you boast of taking out Osama Bin Laden by saying if someone kills innocent Americans we will follow them to the ends of the earth, you have to explain why it is all right to kill innocent civilians in Yemen with drone strikes when there is no legal framework for US attacks on Yemen.

If you slam Mitt on Afghanistan policy, you have to explain why your Afghanistan “surge” was not a failure.

If you keep invoking the ‘scripture’ and ‘God’ you have to explain why we shouldn’t just let the Republican evangelicals run things.

If you say care about global warming and the rising seas, you have to explain why you are praising more oil and gas drilling.

If you praise the Arab masses’ striving for rights, you have to explain why you passed through the unconstitutional PATRIOT Act here at home through 2014, which allows warrantless surveillance of Americans of the sort deployed by Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Qaddafi on their populations.