on May 15, 2012
From the right-wing military coup in Honduras to the U.S. bombing of Libya, the torture of Chelsea Manning to extraordinary renditions, the Obama administration has proven to be no different than the Bush administration. Indeed, despite Obama's campaign rhetoric about Hope and Change, it is business as usual in the Oval Office, the Pentagon, and Wall Street. If you're still clinging to the foolish belief that the neoliberal, war-mongering Democratic Party is in any way better than the neoliberal, war-mongering Republican Party, I urge you to read this book immediately. Written by some of the best political thinkers on the radical left, this important anthology proves yet again that the Democrats and Republicans represent two sides of the same coin. It is the classic law enforcement strategy of playing good cop/bad cop. As such, instead of wasting our resources on the Democratic Party, I believe that we should invest our time, energy, and money instead on building grassroots, nonhierarchical, participatory movements from below. So, after you read this incredible book, I encourage you to join the anti-war movement or the Occupy Wall Street movement, because as Emma Goldman once said, "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."
on May 8, 2012
This book consists of 55 essays from the best writers of the American Left (some writers made more than one contribution and many essays contain more than one subject so that there are considerably more than 55 topics covered.) The result is a scathing indictment of the Obama presidency and its betrayal of liberal principles.
There are no chapter headings in this book and its essays are not arranged in any particular order (that I could see) so that you can pretty much pick and choose where you want to begin. It's not a book that needs to be read from beginning to end.
In what is probably the most "psychological" essay in the book (Obama the Deregulationist) Andrew Levine tells us the reason for the betrayal of liberal principles: Obama is not a liberal and never has been; he is a libertarian. (Others have noted this, e.g. Paul Krugman -"More and more it's becoming clear that progressives who had their hearts set on Obama were engaged in a huge act of self-delusion. Once you got past the soaring rhetoric you noticed, if you actually paid attention to what he said, that he largely accepted the conservative storyline, a view of the world, including a mythological history, that bears little resemblance to the facts.) Realizing that Obama is a libertarian explains a great deal, why, for instance, in the debate over "Obamacare", the "public option" was dispensable window dressing, while the "private option" was never in question. It explains Obama's readiness to let Wall Street call the shots, and his attack on business regulations. It explains why Obama is so eager to get the most shameless corporate types into his administration, and why, on matters of war and trade and other issues of immediate concern to capitalists, he can't do enough for them - to the detriment of his core constituencies. These are not just political maneuvers or expressions of unrequited partisan yearning, and neither are they concessions to ineluctable constraints.The are misgjuided but principled positiions that actually make conventional liberalism look good. . . . Just as "a house divided against itself cannot stand," neither can a Reagan-besotted executive committee of the entire ruling class."
Bradley Manning (The Torture of Bradley Manning by Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis) is accused of humiliating the political establishment by revealing the complicity of top U.S. officials in carrying out and covering up war crimes. In return for his act of conscience, the US government is holding him in abusive solitary confinement, humiliating him and trying to keep him behind bars for the rest of his life. . . . The lesson is clear: You're better off committing a war crime than exposing one. There is one big difference between Obama, who has prosecuted more whistle-blowers than any president in history and Richard Nixon's treatment of Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers: Nixon never had the heroic whistle-blower of his day thrown in solitary confinement and tortured. (For another view of the Bradley Manning case, see Bill Quigley, "Obama's Assault on Civil Liberties: Twenty Examples.")
Sibel Edmonds looks upon the Obama presidency as a third term for George W. Bush as she discusses the State Secrets privilege; NSA Warrantless wiretapping; Accountability on Torture; the Revival of the Bush Era Military Commission; And "On War and Bodies Piling up."
The editors, Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank, provide us with the first and last essays in the book. In "Barrack Obama, Changeling," they tell us that Obama's worst political wounds were self-inflicted when, during the campaign, he rushed back to Washington to help in the Bush bailout. "This was perhaps the first real indication that the luminous campaign speeches about generational and systemic change masked the servile psyche of a man who was desparately yearning to be embraced by the nation's political and financial elites. Instead of meeting with the victims of Wall St. predators or their advocates like Elizabeth Warren and Ralph Nader, Obama fist-bumped with the brain trust of Goldman Sachs and schmoozed with the creme-de-le-creme of K Street corporate lobbyists. In the end, Obama helped salvage some of the most venal and corrupt enterprises on Wall St., agreed to shield their executives from prosecution for their financial crimes, and, predictable, later got repaid with their scorn."
In "Occupy the System" the editors assert that "Obama's first term revealed the utter vacuity of our political system and the prodigious level of corruption eating away at the sinews of the U. S. empire. Democracy itself is being degraded. From bank bailouts and war to indemnification of corporate criminals and assassination orders against American citizens, the most urgent matters of government are now hatched without public debate in the secret chambers of power.
I've only scratched the surface in this review. Read the book and you'll be overwhelmed.
on August 6, 2012
I, like so many, bought the rhetoric and bought the novelty of Obama 2008 --- tepidly, not enthusiastically...but nonetheless, naively. Others did not buy in. Hopeless is a compilation of dire warnings and assessments of results from such skeptically correct folks and is a must read for all who now know they were snookered AND for those who still haven't a clue and cling to what Bill Clinton called the Obama "fairy tale."
Here's a succinct batch of essays by a cast of great writers from the non-partisan left that show how we came to have a war-mongering, Wall Street-toadying, mixed-race, flim-flam man in the White House carrying out the Imperial agenda - an ideology carried out uninterrupted, if not enhanced, by someone we knew very little about back in 2008, yet "hoped" would be so much different.
Hopeless takes on pretty much every depredation that has occurred under the Obama regime - they were either predicted or are after-the-Inauguration-fact outed and analyzed...from turning over the Treasury to the crooks at Goldman Sachs; to a Foreign Policy of wars, coups, occupations, drone attacks...; to failure to carry out liberal-capturing hollow promises on torture, closing Gitmo, Universal Health Care and reining in the banksters; to increased pandering to the fossil fuel, nuclear and every Earth-raping resource-extraction industries; to the incarceration and torture of hero Bradley Manning...it's all here and more.
This compilation shows just how shamelessly the plutocrats will manipulate the Liberal Democrats - just as equal-opportunity shamelessly and just as successfully as they hoodwink the Tea Partiers. Hopeless should be required reading in Political Science classes nationwide...not to mention, every 2012 Democratic Party coffee klatch.
on May 15, 2012
You'd never know it from watching television, but there are many thousands of people in the United States who take peace, justice, environmental protection, and government of the people so seriously that they don't censor themselves whenever the president is a Democrat.
While many others are still debating whether it would be appropriate to criticize or protest President Obama after a mere three and a half years of disaster, the people I have in mind have been openly and honestly resisting the latest Wall Street war monger since before he was elected.
Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank have collected 56 essays from prior to, from early on in, and from quite recently during the Obama presidency. The collection, just published as Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, has a consistent approach to its topic. The authors, including Kevin Alexander Gray, Jeremy Scahill, Chris Floyd, Sibel Edmonds, Franklin Spinney, Kathy Kelly, Marjorie Cohn, Chase Madar, Michael Hudson, Medea Benjamin, Charles Davis, Ray McGovern, Dave Lindorff, Bill Quigley, Tariq Ali, Andy Worthington, Linn Washington, Jr., and many more, don't agree on everything. A few try to urge serious progressive plans on Obama that they would never have proposed that Bush champion, not even rhetorically, not even for laughs. The book is not organized by topic; it's a random, if chronological, ride through a catalog of catastrophes. But it's united by the theme of horrendously bad government in the age of Obama. It ignores the mythology and treats Obama based on his actual performance.
Reducing the charges against Obama developed in detail in this book to a Declaration of Independence-like list of grievances might look something like this:
Obama has taken massive funding from Wall Street, appointed Wall Streeters to top positions, and followed their lead, to the benefit of banksters and the detriment of the rest of us. Obama, despite promises the contrary, has put lobbyists in positions of power in his administration. Senator Obama's corporatist vote for the Class Action Fairness Act was in line with the rest of his performance as senator and later president.
Obama has taken massive funding from war profiteers and worked in their interest, empowering a collection of war hawks from the George W. Bush and Bill Clinton eras, and including no opponent of militarism in any high office.
Obama abandoned the people of Gaza to their fate beneath Israeli bombs.
Obama bailed out AIG, but not you or me.
Obama delayed de-escalation in Iraq and tried every way he could to avoid complete withdrawal.
Obama has expanded secrecy, sought retribution against whistleblowers, expanded warrentless spying, protected confessed torturers, revived military commissions, and expanded the military.
Obama has made anti-environmentalist corporate tools the heads of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture.
Obama's administration facilitated and accepted a military coup in Honduras.
Obama has continued and expanded upon aggressively inhumane immigration policies.
Obama championed corporate health coverage over Medicare for All.
Obama tripled the size of the war on Afghanistan.
Obama has championed nuclear power.
Obama has backed murderers in Colombia and put U.S. troops into that country in the interests of big oil.
Obama has dramatically escalated drone killings, developing a new type of war.
Obama has continued pointless killing in Afghanistan on the basis of false pretenses.
Obama has appointed a deeply flawed candidate to the Supreme Court.
Obama has expanded the weaponization and the use of nuclear power in space.
Obama facilitated the kind of drilling that created the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico, and then sought to cover up the extent of the damage.
Obama has kept tax breaks for billionaires in place, persuading his followers to continue calling them "the Bush Tax Cuts."
Obama has claimed the power to torture and to "rendition" prisoners and kidnap victims to other countries that torture.
Obama has promoted corporate culture and CEO heroes, while failing to promote nonprofit groups -- a fantasy that contributing author Ralph Nader proposes for Obama while never having proposed it for Bush.
Obama has pushed deregulation as a solution to the problems caused by deregulation.
Obama has served Israel at the expense of human rights, peace, and democracy.
Obama has gone around Congress and courts to approve of Monsanto's GMOs.
Obama has tortured Bradley Manning.
Obama has pushed U.S. weapons sales on foreign nations.
Obama has punished Iranians with sanctions while threatening war.
Obama has expanded nuclear weapons spending.
Obama has worked largely against the interests of organized labor.
Obama has sabotaged efforts to protect the earth's climate.
Obama has thrown Social Security and Medicare on the chopping block.
Obama has extended the worst parts of the PATRIOT Act, plus secret parts we haven't seen yet but which are somehow nonetheless "law."
Obama has militarized police forces, expanded wiretaps, prosecuted Muslims for speech, raided activists' homes, preemptively detained journalists, and supported the prison industrial complex and the widespread use of solitary confinement.
Obama has launched a fraudulent war on Libya as a "humanitarian" effort, while aiding human rights abuses in Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere.
Obama has abandoned his effort to close Guantanamo, which was only ever -- in reality -- an effort to move one of the United States' lawless concentration camps to Illinois from Cuba.
Obama chose to pursue an insufficient economic stimulus bill, not to mention increasing economically damaging military spending each year thus far.
Obama has continued the "war on drugs."
And Obama has shut down activism in this country by appearing to be what he is not and by virtue of the malady that causes millions of people to believe that self-governance consists of cheering for one team in a sporting competition.
St. Clair and Frank describe Obama as "so innately conflict-averse that even when pummeled with racist slurs he wouldn't punch back." But Obama does not appear to try to minimize conflict across the board. He avoids conflict with those on the right -- and often there is little basis for, or value in, supposing that his mental state is one of surrender as opposed to agreement.
There are two things that Obama is able to count on. First, no matter how seriously he attacks the interests of ordinary people, major liberal groups will support him. Second, no matter how much he supports the agenda of the right, major rightwing groups will attack him while demanding more. These two states of affairs feed each other. Attacks on Obama from the right are absolutely essential to generating his liberal support. Obama is the Not-Romney candidate. And that liberal support helps produce attacks from the right. Hopeless could help some to break out of this cycle of guilt or innocence by association.
I'll leave you with a slightly modified verse from Paul Simon:
Moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
We are hopeless, we are hopeless
The moonlight sleeping on a midnight lake
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody sing hello, hello, hello
Somebody say ih hih ih hih ih
Somebody cry why, why, why?
on June 8, 2012
The disappointment that is so much of the Obama presidency. Detailed in short essays written by a number of interested observers. An easy read about a constantly conservative administration that pays lip service to the left while moving continually right.
on April 30, 2012
Dave Marsh said it best in HIS Review of this book:
'Like all Presidents, Barack Obama lied his way into office and betrayed his constituency even before he took the oath. Like most presidents, he proceeded to tinker with the policies of his predecessor, and where he did meddle, he often moved toward even more reactionary, repressive positions. There has been no president in my lifetime less inclined to budge from the monstrous center of standard American policies, foreign and domestic, no president more callous in dismissing the needs of citizens or more eager in advancing the aims of corporate thugs and military bullies. This book is a fitting tombstone for whatever promise his election seemed to offer. Read it and then get back to work building the decent America and civilized world he's done his best to prevent."
on January 27, 2014
It can be hard to read for liberals who read into Obama's campaign rhetoric. Instead of rising to a "Roosevelt Moment," he and today's Dems fell to the occasion of the Crash of 2008. It would still be possible for a strong Dem candidate for 2016 to mount a small New Deal program with a new CCC, WPA like and HOLC mortgage modification program as a mop - up. Don't count on Clintoon, H. to do it. Count instead of a sexual politics Dem campaign to sell it's candidate on "Things will be much better, if only voters elect president a Democrat with lady parts instead of man parts." Meanwhile more middle and poor will suffer more insecurity.
on June 8, 2012
Candidate Obama Svengali-ed his way across the country, speaking and inspiring hope. A new generation of young voters and many older progressives believed the message. Now this hope has vaporized. St. Clair and Frank's eye-opening book reveals that President Obama is just another custodian of oligarchy and empire, a spokesperson for Wall Street, the gated community that controls US politics.
on June 27, 2014
Most of us who bought the book were Obama supporters until after his election, and then became angry
and disappointed voters. How can Mr. Obama call Mr. Snowden a traitor, when Obama has caused much
more injury and suffering to his voter base than Snowden ever could. It's the pot calling the kettle black.
on September 14, 2014
A very interesting look inside the thought processes of the liberal point of view. As a moderate conservative, I was pleasantly surprised to see how close we are in our evaluation of the workings of our government, and especially the deceit taking place in the White House, Makes you wonder where it will all end...