Saturday, July 11, 2009

A Call for Unity -- Strong, Loud, Pushy, Relentless, Quarrelsome Unity; Make No Mistake -- They are Still "Hunting the President"

Susan McDougal (Photo Credit: Associated Press)

Four knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that [AG Holder] is now leaning toward appointing a prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration's brutal interrogation practices, something the president has been reluctant to do. While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months. "I hope that whatever decision I make would not have a negative impact on the president's agenda," he says. "But that can't be a part of my decision." Newsweek, 7-11-09

My prediction, then? Not a V, not a U. But an X. This economy can't get back on track because the track we were on for years -- featuring flat or declining median wages, mounting consumer debt, and widening insecurity, not to mention increasing carbon in the atmosphere -- simply cannot be sustained.
The X marks a brand new track -- a new economy. What will it look like? Nobody knows. All we know is the current economy can't "recover" because it can't go back to where it was before the crash. So instead of asking when the recovery will start, we should be asking when and how the new economy will begin.
Robert Reich, When Will The Recovery Begin?, Common Dreams, 7-10-09

Well, there are two ways it contains costs. The first is that, of course, it's a huge pool. The second is, in terms of containing costs for ordinary Americans, [Medicare] can't and won't engage in the kinds of things that private insurance companies do. They don't have bureaucrats who second-guess doctors and make bad medical decisions. They don't pay extraordinary amounts of money for repeat procedures - at least they do that less than the private sector does. They don't pay chief executives in the seven-, eight- or nine-figure range for their salaries. They don't have to advertise.
So it's much cheaper and more effective and efficient to control costs if you have a large public option. And the other thing about this is that the American people get to choose. You know, the Republicans are screaming and yelling about socialized medicine. Well, let the American people choose - if they don't like it they won't choose it.
Howard Dean, "This Is Ridiculous. We're 60 Years Behind the Times" on Fixing Health Care, AlterNet via Truthout, 7-8-09

A Call for Unity -- Strong, Loud, Pushy, Relentless, Quarrelsome Unity; Make No Mistake -- They are Still "Hunting the President"

By Richard Power

Whatever AG Holder decides, and I hope he decides to appoint a special prosecutor, the next few months are going to be very intense.

Recently, in deepening frustration with some of the Obama administration's decisions (both strategic and tactical), I sat myself down to watch The Hunting of The President again. And I urge you to do the same.

Don't get me wrong. Be loud, very loud. Be relentless. Push hard. Burn up the wires, and fill up the air waves. Make them do the right thing.

But, at the same time, understand what progressives (and genuine centrists) are really up against in this country.

The book, Hunting of the President, written by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, was one of the most important books of the great left and center uprising that began in response to the Starr Chamber pogrom of the late 1990s, and reached its zenith in the 2008 struggle to liberate the White House (stolen in 2000 and 2004) from the clutches of the Cult formerly known as the Republican Party.

The documentary film based on Hunting of the President is a powerful teaching tool, and a vital self-reset device, for those who refuse to let the vision of the Founders be swallowed up in greed, ignorance and fear.

Do you remember what happened to Susan McDougal? You really should refresh your memory if you don't. Because this struggle against madness has not yet been successfully concluded; we have secured the high grounds, but there is much that is armed and dangerous, prowling around in the lowlands of the national psyche. There is still a low-grade fever in the US body politic; and we better make damn sure it does not flare up again.

This summer and the fall to come are of great importance to us all.

The economic stimulus package was not big enough, and too much of it was wasted on tax cuts. That's what Krugman and other enlightened economists said at the time of its passing. Words of Power documented their misgivings. The stimulus can still have a positive impact, and do much of what it was intended to do; IF, and it is a big IF, Obama and the House and Senate leadership succeed in the two other profound issues identified as the top legislative priorities for the rest of this year, i.e., healthcare and climate change.

Just as the economic stimulus package was unsatisfactory, these two bills (IF they pass) will no doubt also be unsatisfactory. But taken together, the three infusions of reality (in spite of their shortcomings) may indeed instigate a chemical reaction that will lead to further change, i.e., accelerated and meaningful change, on all three fronts.

Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress has issued a scathing rebuke of James Hansen's attack on Waxman-Markey. (Although Words of Power backs Waxman-Markey, out of respect for Hansen, a Hero of the Evolution, I excerpted and linked his screed in While the G-8 Stumbles, Weak & Conflicted, There is Clarity on the Streets of Tehran & in the Minds of James Hansen, Jane Hamsher & Joe Stiglitz)

Of course, in a healthy mainstream, Romm and Hansen would be debating on Sunday morning news programs; but if one of the networks ever covered the Climate Crisis on a Sunday morning, they would face either Romm or Hansen off against a Climate Change denier, just to waste more of our time. But, no, Romm and Hansen are debating in the Huffington Post, not on Fork the Nation or Meat the Press.

Meanwhile, the truth is that both Romm and Hansen are right. The bill does not go far enough, as Hansen says. But as Romm says Hansen's carbon tax is simply political suicide. Of course, as a nation and a species we are committing suicide by even playing politics with this issue. I commend both pieces to you.

Although honestly Hansen is getting himself arrested in W. VA these days, and that carries some serious credibility. The issue is a dire one, this is an emergency; and inside Beltwayistan, even proponents are not communicating the appropriate sense of urgency to the public.

If the Obama administration and the House and Senate leadership fail to deliver on healthcare and energy, and the stimulus package is left to twist slowly in the wind, we will be in big trouble; if the economy goes through the basement floor, having already fallen from the penthouse, and then plunges into the chasm below; if we are attacked again, 9/11-style or worse; then Obama's fate will be worse than that of either Clinton (two terms with little more than peace in Northern Ireland to show for it, in the end) or Carter (one term, and little more to show for it than the Camp David accord, in the end).

Yes, I perceive Geithner and Summers and their ilk as part of the problem, and find it implausible that they can prove to be part of the solution. Yes, I too am grateful for the work that Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone has done to reveal the role of Goldman-Sachs, and I understand why Dennis Kucinich voted against giving them Cap and Trade as a new toy with which to work further mischief.

But I also understand the nature of entrenched power, and how inter-connected all of it is, and I tell you if you think that Obama-Biden can take on the healthcare insurance industry lobby, as well as the energy sector lobby, while at the same time fighting the financial services sector lobby, then you are hopelessly naive. (And in the context of this post, I have not even mentioned the Military-Industrial Complex, or the demands of dealing with it.) Show me a general strike for universal healthcare, show me massive non-violent civil disobedience against the building of coal power plants, show me widespread consumer boycotts, and then I would think differently about the options available to Obama-Biden.

In the absence of such demonstrative maturity, I suggest that the struggle of Obama-Biden will look more like Akido than steelcage fighting, i.e., using your opponents' own strength against them rather than simply overpowering them with brute force.

It is going to take a long time, and a lot of careful work, to defuse this bomb.

We must turn the page on the economy, healthcare and the environment; and dog-ear those pages that cry out for accountability on treason, torture, the theft of elections, and the rest of it.

Instituting a clean public option on healthcare (no triggers, no co-opts, etc.) and a cap and trade system on carbon emissions will turn the page. These two breakthroughs may well unleash the forward motion of history, which will in turn demand from us the full greening of the energy sector and the transformation of healthcare into a single-payer system.

If we win these battles, and survive the mid-term, we can spend quite awhile on those many dog-eared pages. (Indeed, by then the special prosecutor's investigation could both be gaining traction and expanding in scope.) But if winter comes, and there is no public option, and no cap and trade system (and no special prosecutor), you and I must take stock of where we are, what should be next, and who we are willing to stand behind.

If the Obama administration and the House and Senate leadership do not succeed on healthcare and climate change, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Newt Gingrich, et al may not seem so ridiculous anymore. They will have gotten the opening they are positioning themselves to take advantage of; and they will be once again, very dangerous. We must not give that opening to them.

Obama is as brilliant a politician as Bill Clinton, and as principled a leader as Jimmy Carter. But as you well remember, both Clinton and Carter failed, albeit in different ways, and for different reasons. Obama is not likely to be Clintonized, but he is vulnerable to be Carterized. We must all keep the lessons of both the Clinton and Carter administrations in front of us.

This is a call for unity, and clarity of mind, and strength of purpose, and ferocity.

Keep your eye on the prize.

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available now! Click here for more information.

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