It sort of came to me in waves this past week. One wave involves the so-called "health care reform" battle. The other regards the seriousness of the climate crisis and how that is playing out in Alaska in the context of the deepening racist treatment of Native Alaskans under the Obama and Begich administrations.
I. As most liberals and progressives who can read know, Obama's popularity is plummeting nationwide because he has abandoned principle in a cynical bid to steal the K Street lobbyists from the GOP. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman detailed why this may be:
[I]t’s possible to have universal coverage without a public option — several European nations do it — and some who want a public option might be willing to forgo it if they had confidence in the overall health care strategy. Unfortunately, the president’s behavior in office has undermined that confidence.
On the issue of health care itself, the inspiring figure progressives thought they had elected comes across, far too often, as a dry technocrat who talks of “bending the curve” but has only recently begun to make the moral case for reform. Mr. Obama’s explanations of his plan have gotten clearer, but he still seems unable to settle on a simple, pithy formula; his speeches and op-eds still read as if they were written by a committee.
Krugman goes on to attack Obama's financial policy decisions:
I don’t know if administration officials realize just how much damage they’ve done themselves with their kid-gloves treatment of the financial industry, just how badly the spectacle of government supported institutions paying giant bonuses is playing. But I’ve had many conversations with people who voted for Mr. Obama, yet dismiss the stimulus as a total waste of money. When I press them, it turns out that they’re really angry about the bailouts rather than the stimulus — but that’s a distinction lost on most voters.
Krugman also notes that progressives and liberals are beginning to distrust Obama's approach to foreign policy. The Israelis are treating him as even more of a doormat than his predecessor. He's continuing to employ Xe Services, the successor to Blackwater as his own mercenary army, even expanding their role by having them arm pilotless aircraft to bomb Pakistani and Afghan civilians. And he's continuing to employ Bush's policy of extraordinary rendition:
In court papers, Azar said he was denied his eyeglasses, not given food for 30 hours and put in a freezing room after his arrest by "more than 10 men wearing flak jackets and carrying military style assault rifles."
Azar also said he was shackled and forced to wear a blindfold, dark hood and earphones for up to 18 hours on a Gulfstream V jet that flew him from Bagram air base, outside Kabul, to Virginia.
Before the hood was put on, he said, one of his captors waved a photo of Azar's wife and four children and warned Azar that he would "never see them again" unless he confessed.
"Frightened for his immediate safety . . . and under the belief he would end up in the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib to be tortured," Azar signed a paper he did not understand, his lawyers told the court.
Hugh has now started a similar list for Barack Obama:
After 8 years of the incompetence, cronyism, and criminality of the Bush Administration, Barack Obama was elected President on the slogan of “Change we can believe in”. But it quickly became apparent that what he meant by this and what the country thought he meant were vastly different. His selections to fill the posts in his Administration were almost entirely Clinton era retreads and Republicans. Liberals and progressives who had actually been right, and reflected where most of the country was at, on issues such as the wars, domestic spying, torture, healthcare, the economy, Israel, and investigation of Bush Administration illegalities were frozen out.
Far from believing in change, Obama believed in the traditional Washington Establishment, both Democratic and Republican. This Establishment had largely been pushed aside during the Bush Administration. Those in it did not disagree that much with Bush’s policies, even the failed and extreme ones. They just thought they could have done a better job, even though they and their policies had not been that successful the last time they were in power. Obama’s election announced their triumphant return. His principal economic advisers were two neoliberal Clinton Treasury Secretaries. Obama kept on Bush’s Republican Defense Secretary and his favorite generals. His Chief of Staff, the gatekeeper to the President, was the very unliberal attack dog Rahm Emanuel. He picked a Washington insider, rather than a reformer, to put back together the devastated Justice Department. His choice for Secretary of State fell not on a Clintonista but an actual Clinton.
Here's Hugh's Obama Scandal List (as of eight weeks ago - it has gotten longer):
1. Reneged on pledge to filibuster FISA Amendments act (July 2008)
2. Lobbied for $700 billion Paulson TARP
3. Pushed for no sanctions against Lieberman who supported John McCain
4. Nominated healthcare company lobbyist Tom Daschle as Secretary of HHS
5. Had neoliberal Robert Rubin as his chief economics adviser
6. Then had the equally neoliberal Larry Summers assume this role
7. Chose the failing upwards Timothy Geithner to head Treasury
8. AIG bonuses and money to Goldman under Obama
9. Doubling down in Afghanistan
10. Delay and reduction of withdrawal from Iraq
11. Moving Guantanamo activities to Bagram
12. Military commissions for some detainees
13. Support for indefinite detention
14. Refusal to release torture photos under FOIA
15. Refusal to investigate and prosecute Bush era criminality
16. Geithner’s joke then DOA economic rescue programs: the PPIP and TALF
17. Joke help for homeowners (program and legislation) without cramdowns
18. Handling of the Chrysler, GM bankruptcies compared to bank “stress tests” (twofer)
19. TARP repayment kabuki by banks still dependent on government credit lines
20. Extra-Constitutional use of the Fed by the Executive for fiscal policy
21. Credit Card bill without usury caps and with 9 month delay for other reforms
22. Business friendly Mary Schapiro named to head SEC
23. Gary Gensler who helped deregulate derivatives to head CFTC
24. $787 billion stimulus: too little, too late, poorly structured
25. Use of financial crisis to attack Social Security and Medicare
26. Refusal to include single payer universal healthcare in healthcare “reform”
27. Continued use of state secrets argument in ongoing Bush era cases
28. Use of signing statements, one to punish whistleblowers (twofer)
29. Vetting process of nominees, especially their taxes
30. Not pushing nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head OLC
31. Eric Holder, failure to reform DOJ, not removing worst of Bush USAs (twofer)
32. Failure to move against new oil bubble
33. Retention of Bush Defense team: Gates, Patraeus, and Odierno (threefer)
34. Continued missile attacks inside Pakistan
35. Keeping Bush’s domestic spying programs and adding a new one, cybersecurity
36. Choice of Elena Kagan (favors expansive Presidential powers) as Solicitor General
37. Leaving EFCA (to help counter anti-union companies) to wither in Congress
38. Welcoming Arlen Specter who brings nothing to the Democrats into the party
39. Flaccid proposals for financial reform
40. Obama wanted John Brennan at CIA but settled for making him his counter-terrorism adviser
41. Chas Freeman with broader Mideast perspective done in by AIPAC
42. Dennis Blair made DNI; failed to act to stop atrocities in East Timor
43. Choice of torture general Stanley McChrystal to head Afghanistan effort
44. Obama threat to suspend intelligence cooperation with UK over Binyam Mohamed case
45. Efforts to keep Bush and Obama White House logs secret
46. Playing games with “Don’t ask, don’t tell”
47. Filing a brief to overturn Jackson (access to lawyer) in the Montejo case
48. Not withdrawing Bush brief in Osborne DNA case
49. Filing really nasty brief in challenge to Defense of Marriage Act
50. The Supplemental or making Iraq and Afghanistan Democratic wars
51. Choice of Rahm Emanuel as the President’s Chief of Staff
52. Choice of Dennis Ross as Iran envoy and then his move to the White House
53. Joke processes to fill Obama and Hillary Clinton’s Senate seats
54. Choice of Bill Richardson, then Judd Gregg to head Commerce
55. Reneging on pledge to re-negotiate NAFTA
56. Throwing his pastor Jeremiah Wright to the curb, then making up to Rick Warren
57. Fighting even the most well founded habeas corpus petitions to preserve indefinite detention, the Janko case
II. U.S. Senator Mark Begich has yet to unveil anything remotely resembling a position on the health care policy battle. He claims he will be looking more carefully at the issue in September. We will see.
His willingness to go along with a tragically flawed design for the Kensington Mine waste products disgusted me. Speaking with a former Begich mayoral staff member about this last week, I sensed other Begich stalwarts are also deeply disappointed. Another former Begich supporter noted to me that forcing Coeur Alaska to adopt to the alternative preferred by most environmentalists would have actually hired more Alaskans than will be needed to construct the containment system now being built.
Begich's long-touted trip to rural Alaska with cabinet members from the Obama administration bordered on farce, as they spent about five times as long traveling as they did on the ground. When the ceremonial aspects of their on-the-ground appearances are subtracted from what was left, their appearances weren't merely poorly planned, they were appallingly disrespectful of rural Alaskans, in an institutionalized racist sort of way.
A junction of Obama's and Begich's shortcomings in Alaska affairs came home to roost in Friday's aggravating Oceans Task Force hearing in Anchorage. Begich sits on the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation, and - more importantly for Friday's event - the Subcommittee on Oceans, Fisheries, and The Coast Guard. Both the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration chair and the Commandant of the Coast Guard were at the hearing. Sen. Begich had no events scheduled for last Friday, but didn't attend this important event.
The event itself was another example of poor planning. The establishment guardian speakers, and corrupt apparatchiks such as Bill Sheffield, Fran Ulmer and John Binkley rudely spoke way over their allotted time, so that common citizens, mostly Native Alaskans, had their time to speak truncated. Some of the latter group had spent hundreds of dollars to travel to Anchorage to speak, at a time when they need to be preparing for what promises to be the harshest year for them in memory.
After I gave my testimony and was walking back through the meeting room, UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer, one of my bosses, pointedly turned away from me. She has done that before.
III. The lack of appearance among the president's or the Alaska Senator's higher staff members of any critical awareness of how serious the ramifications of climate change and unsustainable growth paradigms are beginning to be, bothers me even more than the "politics-as-usual" aspects of typical cynical actions by these figures.
Can we, as progressives who helped get Obama and Begich elected, find any satisfaction in the self-serving turns to the right both these politicians have so visibly and consciously made?
Right now, if I were asked, I'd have to say, "No, we can't!"