The Speech Obama Should Have Given

My fellow Americans, I must begin by apologizing for failing to keep my promises to you. While I have no excuse, you should understand that my elitist education and recent political career have unfortunately isolated me from the realities plaguing the lives of ordinary Americans. My task this evening is to assure you that have gotten the message and that I will henceforth dedicate my life and my presidency to the task of restoring our democracy and the quality of life for everyone, not just for the privileged few.

This will not be easy. It is time for the American public to stop acting and thinking like frightened, angry children. We can only find our way out of this dilemma as adults. Adults understand that they are responsible for cleaning up their own messes; that risk is a part of life; that no government can guarantee they will always be protected from the determined efforts of suicidal enemies; and that freedom carries awesome responsibilities, including the need to be fully informed and rationally motivated. Liberty can never be license to do whatever one wishes without proper concern for the consequences of our behavior on others.

While working in community organizing, I learned that we are always trying to construct a type of social structure and that people with needs come in through the front door and people with values (primarily, economic and social justice) come in through the back door. I believe that a large majority of Americans can be counted in one or both of those two groups. There are, however, Americans who are not in either group. They have social values that would embarrass a hyena. If our beloved country, and the planet are to have any future worth contemplating, these people must be excluded from our discussion.

All of which begs the question: what should we be doing? If we can galvanize and organize this majority, what might we ask them to support? For openers, we need to understand that the economic models that got us into this condition will never get us out of it. As Einstein once noted, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.

So, the first thing we need is new economic models, which excludes old ideas such as Communism and Socialism. Big anything is bad news. Big government is as vulnerable to corruption and incompetence as big business.

Speaking of Big Government, the issue is not, and should never be the size of government. What we should be debating is the proper role of government, its function. Until 1980, government had been evolving toward its proper role — to protect the weak and helpless from the predations of the powerful — to promote and facilitate economic and social justice. Like any large, powerful institution, government must be transparent and responsive to the people. Not to money, or the economic elite, or to any “special interests,” but to the people. As I said earlier, this can only be accomplished by an intelligent, well-educated, well-informed, politically active electorate. If you look around you, the absence of such an electorate can only have disastrous results. We are living with those results.

There is plenty of room for a vigorous national discussion about what the new economic models might look like, but first we have to recognize that there will never be enough good jobs again. Never. Automation, outsourcing, and especially the need to cut back on consumption and environmental degradation — no amount of educational reform can create jobs where they don’t exist. Moreover, in a world of rising population and diminishing resources we should be rewarding those who are willing to lead a simpler lifestyle, not punishing them.

The time has come to join the civilized world and recognize basic economic rights. This is not “Socialism,” which was conceived as a means of providing universal access to basic necessities by transferring control of “the means of production” from private ownership to the government. Most of the “means of production” are no longer located in America, and much of what remains has been taken over by the government to prevent them from self-destructing.

Older readers may remember the “Silent Majority,” which was silent mostly because it was ashamed of its racism, homophobia and misogyny. Reagan and the Republican Party rode their resentment into office in 1980 and ushered in an era of Neo-Feudalism.

As to the potential majority of those with needs and those with values, it is time to galvanize and organize a “Decent Majority,” composed of those who know that a better world is possible if we are willing to work to create it. Will you join me?

Shorey Chapman
San Francisco, Calif.

Conflict of Interests

All of that weeping and wailing about the campaign promises that President Obama seems to be ignoring now is really not necessary. Trying to shame him into doing things he finds now not to be doable is childish and silly.

Our president inherited much more than no-win wars, tremendous national debt, banking corruption, a struggling economy and lobbying conflict of interest.

The gorilla in the room that was responsible for all of that is a force that few people have been allowed to notice. It has been growing and manipulating policy behind the scene for decades.

Political changes have been in name only. Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, describes a small group of very influential economists out of a Chicago University who were avid followers and students of Milton Friedman. They conceived a formula for infiltrating progressive countries rich in natural resources. After the deliberate overthrow of popular, successful governments, the big US corporations could then take over and exploit the people and the land.

It was relatively easy to encourage the formation of greedy, brutal dictatorships necessary for the corporate thievery (a.k.a overthrow of “socialism and communism.”)

This terrible process happened in Central and South America, Poland, Africa, China and many others, including our own United States — in operation since the early ’50s. Mr. Obama is the commander in chief of a permanently installed engine of corporate bondage with paid-in-full publicly elected slaves of rogue capitalism.

Conflict of interest used to be a criminal offense, but now it is an accepted mode of operation.

Most of the countries in South America have long since caught on to the Friedmanite exploitation and have returned to the progress they once had — so maybe there is hope for us sometime in the future.

Ms. Klein’s book should have remained on the bestseller lists instead of Miss Rogue Alaska’s self-centered bio and shallow tinhorn folksy jargon.

Helen McKinney
Divide, Colo.

Obama Fiddles

We must find a replacement for President Obama. All he has done this past year is fiddle around. Even Nero could have negotiated a better deal for Grandma’s drugs. What he did was ensure Grandma will pay more for drugs the next 10 years than the Duke of Windsor.

Ernie Petz
Chaska, Minn.

Need Third Party

Progressives all over the country are dismayed, disillusioned, angry, and feel betrayed. Isn’t it time for a progressive party? A robust progressive populist party?

Don Pilcher
Bellingham, Wash.


President Obama, in his State of the Union speech, emphasized that while some budgets of domestic discretionary programs (such as “air traffic control, farm subsidies, education, nutrition and and national parks”) would be frozen next year, the budgets for Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Pentagon would not be. I have a question about Obama sparing the Pentagon from considerations of its vast cost to the country because of further escalating deficits and debt. (See Glenn Greenwald, “The Sanctity of Military Spending,” CommonDreams.org, 1/26/10.) The Defense Department’s budget, for example, next year is a record $708 billion, a figure which is “over 50% of discretionary government spending.” I am concerned that the increasing militarization of our country is draining necessary resources from our basic domestic programs such as those listed above and may include health reform as well. I fear that our basic domestic programs, even Medicare, could be at risk in the apparent need of Obama for escalating the costly war in Afghanistan, in a never-ending surge for “victory.” We cannot afford as a nation to accept limitless costs for militarization and war at the expense of our human needs. We need to understand why we are asked to face this dire dilemma.

Sidney Moss
Elkins Park, Pa.

Not Democracy

Thanks to our Supreme Court’s five allegedly “conservative” justices, a company like EXXON/MOBIL can NOW buy up ALL of our nation’s television advertising slots for the three months leading up to the elections and then use those advertising slots to promote the election of candidates who have promised to do their bidding (e.g. among other things, using taxpayer dollars to reimburse them for those advertising expenses).

This is NOT democracy!

Christopher C. Currie
Pascoag, R.I.


President Obama’s recent consultations with our august military commanders have reached their foregone conclusion: Our technology (drones) and the idea that American soldiers are invincible. All that is needed is for the public to cheer the flag and for our priests to importune God.

All hypocrisy notwithstanding, our generals have read Mao’s treatise on guerrilla warfare and repeat ad nauseum his stricture on gaining “the hearts and mind” of the people. How they can possibly accomplish this feat of legerdemain brings into question their mental clarity. We Americans, with the pretense of the Wilsonian falsehood of spreading democracy to the peoples of the world, are suffering from dementia. Where once the Iraqis owned all their oil, now our oil giants own half the oil fields. Some years ago when the Taliban (not to be confused with Al Qaeda) controlled Afghanistan, Conoco attempted in one year of negotiations to persuade the Taliban to permit an oil pipeline through their country so that Southwestern Asian and Caspian oil could be transmitted south to the port of Karachi for transshipment to Far East markets. The Taliban refused. And this is why we are fighting in Afghanistan.

The surge in Iraq is deemed a success. Really? We bribed every sheik $100,000 to cease fighting us. Similarly, our government is paying the Afghan warlords not to destroy our convoys.

Vietnam did not teach us the lesson that imperialism is dead. All peoples are nationalistic today and will not tolerate the supercilious foreigner to be their overlord. Guerrilla warfare is the last recourse of the patriot and the only way to defeat it is to quote Tacitus: (“The Romans created a desert and called it peace”). Plainly put — one must kill almost all the people to extirpate guerrilla action permanently. Otherwise, defeated, it shall arise again and again until victory. And wars are very expensive.

Lincoln and his generals, LBJ and his, and now Obama’s latest heroes. The tiger of France, Georges Clemenceau, once said, “War is too important to be left to the generals.” How true!

Walter Tegnazian
Orlando, Fla.

What Is Progressive?

Your 2/1/10 issue showed me that not only is your publication not progressive, it is in fact simply the oldest thing around: a dreary whitewash and best-least-worst soft-pedaling of business very much as usual. Instead of portraying President Odubya as someone who would really like to do good but, you know, is helpless (unlike Bush), you could have told it like it is. Consider Roger Hodge’s words in “The Mendacity of Hope,” an article that appeared in the February issue of Harper’s magazine:

“Public morality requires public action, and all available public evidence points to a man with the character of a common politician, whose singular ambition in life was to attain power; nothing in Barack Obama’s political career suggests that he would ever willingly commit to a course of action that would cost him an election. His preposterously two-faced approach to Afghanistan, wherein he simultaneously escalates the war while promising to begin ‘the transition to Afghan responsibility’ just a year later, is a perfect illustration of his compulsion to split the difference on any given political question. (One could also point to the health-care boondoggle, or to his utter capitulation to Wall Street in economic matters.) He dilly-dailies, draws out both friends and opponents, dangles promises in front of everyone, gives a dramatic speech, and then pulls back to gauge the reaction. Since the policy itself is incoherent—and, as usual with Obama, salted with stipulations and provisos—he can always trim and readjust as necessary. Deadlines and definitions of “combat forces” are infinitely malleable. Since Obama is an intelligent man, surely he understands the meaning of the word mendacity. Odubya has retained torture (rendition), illegal spying, and a host of other Bush-era abominations. He is no helpless figure, but a calculating politician of the worst corporate type.”

My question to you, is: do you understand the meaning of the word progressive?

Daniel L. Raphael
Portland, Ore.

Whose God?

As I read Garrison Keillor’s “God Changes With Weather,” (2/1/10 TPP), I had to take my hat off to him.

In one short paragraph, he summarizes the Judeo-Christian religion: “God has revealed Himself to us and not to the barbarians. Our tribe is the one God chose, and so if we vanquish the other tribes and rain fire and destruction on them, we’re only carrying out God’s Will.”

European Imperialism, America’s Manifest Destiny, the dropping of bombs on Iraq and Afghanistan, and helping Israel oppress Palestinians, all bear witness to that doctrine.

David Quintero
Temple City, Calif.

Voting, Inc.

Now that our Supreme Court has decided that corporations are entitled to the same rights as every other US citizen we must come to the inevitable conclusion that corporations meeting all other requirements are eligible for election to public office.

Citibank for president?

Arthur Robbins
San Diego, Calif.

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2010


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