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02.22 To solve its pension crisis, Maryland should change how its funds are invested [as California and other states have discovered...]

02.21 Baltimore public schools face $129 million budget deficit, plan mass layoffs [city needs more help from businesses and the public!]

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02.25 Revealed: thousands of children at London schools breathe toxic air [you can't see the most dangerous pollution, the particles are too small which makes them dangerous]

02.24 OMG measurements of Greenland give us a glimpse of future sea rise

02.24 Dutch minister calls on UK to join safe abortion fund after Trump ban

02.23 BREAKING: Exxon to Leave Up to 3.6 Billion Barrels of Tar Sands/Oil Sands in the Ground [Yay!]

02.23 Lancet Study on Life Expectancy by 2030 Confirms Poor US Performance

02.23 Climate scientists face harassment, threats and fears of 'McCarthyist attacks' [sociopathic behavior...]

02.23 The Case for a Fracking Ban

02.22 Federal judge blocks Texas attempt to defund Planned Parenthood

02.22 'Medicare for All' Only Way for Trump to Keep Healthcare Promises

02.22 'This building is its own power plant': your stories of renewables in the city

02.22 What next for renewables in cities? – the expert view

02.21 Norway Pledges Millions to Growing Anti-Trump Global Abortion Fund

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02.25 Donald Trump press ban: Guardian, BBC and CNN denied access to briefing

02.21 ‘With Such a People You Can Then Do What You Please’

02.21 'Last night in Sweden' was a figment of Trump's Fox News-inspired imagination

02.21 Freedom of the press isn't guaranteed. Especially when it's labeled the 'enemy'

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02.25 Wanted: Three Principled Republicans to Save America From Trump

02.25 REPUBLICANS ACCUSE VOTERS OF USING TOWN HALLS TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES

02.25 Resistance Recess Puts Congress on Notice for Supporting Trump’s Agenda

02.25 Steve Bannon: Trump is 'maniacally focused' on executing promises [videos; will increasingly unregulated and immoral capitalism save us?]

02.25 Donald Trump vows to 'get the bad people out' of US – as it happened

02.24 Police remove last Standing Rock protesters in military-style takeover [our government supports polluter rights over the public rights]

02.24 'I was naive': after losing healthcare battle, factory workers fear next blow [4:38 video; sociopathic CEOs don't care about workers]

02.24 Islamophobia grows louder in North Carolina: 'Can we not kill them all?' [sociopathic groups uniting in hate]

02.23 Why Kansas' Fiscal Implosion Is Bad News for Trump ["Stupid is as stupid does." – Forrest Gump]

02.23 “Donald Trump makes Mexicans not important”: Sen. Tom Cotton faces angry constituents at town hall meeting

02.23 Manafort faced blackmail attempt, hacks suggest

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02.25 White House confirms conversation with FBI about Trump and Russia

02.24 New Law Would Let Arizona Treat Organized Dissent as Organized Crime [to suppress non-fascists only, perhaps?]

02.24 French human rights 'at tipping point' as state of emergency continues, says Amnesty International

02.24 Trump admin rescinds plan to reduce private prison use

02.24 Uber accused of 'calculated theft' of Google's self-driving car technology

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02.25 Just as neoliberalism is finally on its knees, so too is the left

02.24 Michael Hudson: Why Failing to Solve Personal Debt and Polarization Will Usher in a New Dark Age

02.22 Donald Trump's Mystery $50 Million (or More) Loan [will our nation's bookkeeping become more like Trump's?]

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02.25 CHINA’S NORTH KOREA PROBLEM

02.25 TRUMP, PUTIN, AND THE NEW COLD WAR

02.25 Marine Le Pen refuses to be questioned by French police

02.24 A Global Counter-Trump Movement Is Taking Shape

02.24 UN: $4.4bn needed to prevent 'catastrophe' of famine

02.24 Kim Jong-nam killed by VX nerve agent, say Malaysian police

02.22 WHY FACTS DON’T CHANGE OUR MINDS

02.22 Like Shoplifting: Israel gives Azarya 18 mos. for Killing subdued Palestinian Assailant

02.22 Palestinians must hang on to the green line, whether the aim is two states or one [We mustn't let fear trump morality]

02.22 EUROPE’S CHILD-REFUGEE CRISIS [We mustn't let fear trump morality]

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  Change We Can Believe In?
Newspaper logo

COMMENTARY:

Change We Can Believe In?

by Gary Olson
Originally published in This Can't Be Happening on 29 November 2009

Afghanistan, the “Graveyard of Empires,” is this administration’s most egregious failing and is now fated to define Obama’s legacy.

In the 2009 film "The Messenger," we follow two officers from the Casualty Notification Office from Fort Dix, New Jersey as they knock on doors to inform relatives of loved ones recently killed in action in Iraq. These scenes are almost unbearable to watch as we witness the reactions to this heartbreaking news. It struck me that these emotionally affecting scenes on screen are as as close as most of us get to the grim reality of war.

With Obama’s massive troop escalation (can the Nobel Peace Prize be rescinded?) he’s made Afghanistan his war, reminiscent of President Johnson’s Vietnam War escalation. At the current death rate of 500 soldiers per year, the events depicted in the film will soon become a shattering reality for many more Americans. And next year Obama will spend some $65 billion on Afghanistan, more than for the Iraq war.

Afghanistan, the “Graveyard of Empires,” is this administration’s most egregious failing and is now fated to define Obama’s legacy. Beyond Afghanistian, maintaining permanent military bases and large garrisons in Iraq, allowing Israel to evade a just two-state peace with the Palestinians, clandestine Blackwater (now Xe services) assassins roaming around Pakistan, the killing of hundreds of Pakistani civilians by CIA Predator drone attacks authorized by Obama early in his tenure, and a continuing U.S. military build-up in Colombia under the guise of a phony “war on drugs” are also on the list.

A one-year litany of domestic disappointments could be captured by a bumper sticker reading "the audacity of hopelessness." After handing over almost $3 trillion to bankers, we have a jobless "economic recovery," an official 10.2 percent unemployment rate which is actually 16.5 percent, the number of home foreclosures continues to rise and a country in which one in four children only manage to keep hunger pangs at bay because of food stamps and soup kitchens.

In the face of this situation, Obama’s first stimulus package was pitifully small, and while it did “save” some jobs it wasn’t nearly enough for serious job creation. Obama’s professed support for helping workers to unionize evaporated shortly after his inauguration. And under Obama’s watch, as noted by New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, “Even as tens of millions of working Americans are struggling to hang onto their jobs and keep a roof over their families’ heads, the wise guys of Wall Street are licking their fat-cat chops over yet another round of obscene multibillion dollar bonuses—this time thanks to the bailout billions that were sent their way by Uncle Sam..." (10/20/09). The nine largest banks are distributing $32.6 billion in bonuses. But given the jobs crisis and depression-like situation confronting tens of millions of our fellow citizens, Obama found a record-breaking $664 billion for the Pentagon for fiscal 2010.

Finally, Obama and many Democrats quickly abandoned government single payer national health insurance—the only plausible solution to our healthcare crisis—caving to the predatory for-profit private health insurance lobbyists. (Note: These lobbyists gave $1.8 million to 18 key members of Congress).

For those who worked and voted for Obama, especially younger folks, all of this must be a bitter pill to swallow, a giant step backward toward disillusionment and cynicism. I prefer to interpret it as a necessary and valuable lesson in electoral illusions for those truly serious about making this a better country: Obama, a brilliant and charismatic politician, was always a conservative corporate Democrat, a self-described believer in “the free market,” and an enthusiastic accommodator to the rich and powerful. In the words of one pundit, Obama is Clinton without the sleaze.

Obama would never have been given a favorable vetting by the financial elites who chose our presidential candidates if he represented the slightest threat to their domestic interests and global empire.

He would never have been given a favorable vetting by the financial elites who chose our presidential candidates if he represented the slightest threat to their domestic interests and global empire. By the way, the latter includes 800 military bases in 130 countries.

According to historian and political analyst Paul Street, the Obama campaign set new corporate fundraising efforts, including nearly $1 million from Goldman Sachs. Street has been uncannily prescient about Obama from the start and I recommend his book, Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (Paradigm, 2008). In short, aside from some crafty rhetoric, Obama was never a social justice populist, and viewing him that way always contained a massive dose of wishful thinking. In that narrow sense, Obama has been entirely consistent and didn’t really betray anyone.

More and more Americans are wise to the fact that because Democrats and Republicans are virtually indistinguishable on the issues that matter most, the “change we can believe in” will not be forthcoming from these two business parties.

More and more Americans are wise to the fact that because Democrats and Republicans are virtually indistinguishable on the issues that matter most, the “change we can believe in” will not be forthcoming from these two business parties. Short term, we need a mobilized and vocal movement from below that dramatically increases the political costs for those resisting needed reforms. Longer term, we need systemic change, change in the class structure of capitalism.

Until and unless workers who produce all the goods and services in our society participate in making the major economic policy decisions—to run the economy democratically—we will only be tinkering with a system that primarily serves those who own it. We need a new broad-based political party that actually responds to the genuine grievances and aspirations of ordinary working people and youth.


Gary Olson, Ph.D., is chair of the political science department at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. He's a frequent contributor to Znet and his pieces have appeared in The Baltimore Chronicle. Contact: olson@morvian.edu.



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This story was published on December 1, 2009.
 

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