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03.26 Natural gas leaks from power plants, refineries, 100 times greater than thought

03.25 THE PLANT NEXT DOOR

03.25 Colorado Youth Score Decisive Legal Victory Against Fracking Industry

03.25 Keystone XL: Trump issues permit to begin construction of pipeline ["Stupid is as stupid does." –Forrest Gump]

03.25 Rotavirus vaccine could save lives of almost 500,000 children a year

03.24 How Corruption Fuels Climate Change

03.24 ‘Moore’s law’ for carbon would defeat global warming

03.24 A river of rubbish: the ugly secret threatening China's most beautiful city

03.24 Europe poised for total ban on bee-harming pesticides

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03.27 PBS is the only network reporting on climate change. Trump wants to cut it

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US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'

03.28 The Feuding Kleptocrats

03.28 Trump signs four bills to roll back Obama-era regulations

03.28 A white supremacist slew a man in Manhattan. Why is the president silent?

03.28 Is the US facing an epidemic of 'deaths of despair'? These researchers say yes

03.28 The Trump Administration’s War on Science

03.27 How the Disappearing Middle Class Threatens Our Democracy [Citizen's United ruling is ruining America]

03.27 How the Disappearing Middle Class Threatens Our Democracy

03.27 'Whoa, Whoa, Whoa': Sanders Says Democrats' Intransigence Is Solution, Not Problem [videos]

03.27 The DLC Lives: "Third Way" Democrats Are Trying to Push the Party Rightward

03.27 Donald Trump's dizzying Time magazine interview was 'Trumpspeak' on display

03.27 Protesters target Connecticut's uber wealthy with 'tax bills' in bid to end loophole

03.27 'People aren't spending': stores close doors in 'oversaturated' US retail market

03.26 'Follow the Facts': Top Dem Demands Independent Trump-Russia Commission

03.26 Nearly 15% of female undergraduates at UT Austin report being raped [does sociopathic behavior come from right-wing media?]

03.26 Neil Gorsuch's confirmation hearing revealed his hidden similarity to Trump

03.26 The showdown that exposed the rift between Republican ideology and reality

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03.24 TRUMP’S RUSSIA PROBLEM IS FAR FROM MARGINAL

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03.26 Iraq suspends Mosul offensive after coalition airstrike atrocity

03.25 The US Is Bombing Syria So Much That Watchdogs Can't Keep Up

03.25 Mosul's children were shouting beneath the rubble. Nobody came

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03.25 Wall Street First

03.23 Bank that lent $300m to Trump linked to Russian money laundering scam

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03.28 Negotiations to ban nuclear weapons begin, but Australia joins US boycott

03.27 Two Years of Uncertainty: Europe Prepares for Tough Brexit Negotiations

03.27 Left Behind: Germany's Race to Catch Up in the Startup World

03.27 A Wounded Metropolis: London in the Age of Terror and Brexit

03.26 Foreign companies flock to build nuclear plants in the UK [what could go wrong?]

03.26 Congolese militia decapitates more than 40 policemen as violence grows

03.26 Africans are rising - we can hold our leaders to account and build a better kind of future

03.26 Rise of Hindu ‘extremist’ spooks Muslim minority in India’s heartland

03.26 Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron face off for the soul of France

03.26 'A runaway crisis': Argentina activists aid shanty towns state has left behind

03.26 In war-scarred Gaza, water pollution behind health woes

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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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