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The Change They Believe In

by ARGeezer Sat May 5th, 2012 at 01:22:56 AM EST

Speech for Harlem Tenants Association, November 14, 2008  By Robert Fitch

Michael Hudson apparently has a copy of Robert Fitche's speech which he provided to Yves Smith. This was the basis for an article in naked capitalism.

"What's President-elect Obama's prescription for urban pains?.... Obama himself is not easy to read. In my lifetime, we haven't had a politician with his gifts: his writing talent; his eloquence; his charisma; his mastery of public policy; his ability to run a national campaign against formidable rivals. Obama projects so brilliant an aura that it's almost blinding. He's become the bearer of pride for forty-five million African Americans who want to be judged by the content of their character. He's the prophet of hope; the apostle of change and the organizer of "Yes We Can."

All this makes Obama's actual politics very hard to put in any critical perspective. By actual politics I mean above all, the principal interests he represents; his authentic political philosophy. Where he fits on the on the Left-Right political spectrum. Obama resists being identified with either the Right or the Left. Even when he talks about his mom's liberalism, it's with a certain irony. "A lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for the New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism."

Obama is a partisan of the Third Way. In Europe, the Third Way means you're neither socialist nor capitalist. In the U.S. it means you're neither for liberalism nor conservatism.....Are traditional political vocations now obsolete? The Left stands for the interests of those who have to work for a living; for the tenants and the poor. For the victims of discrimination. The Right in America stands for the interests of the employers and the investing class. For those who own the land, the houses, the banks and the hedge funds.For Joe the plumber who was really Joe the plumbing contractor. And for those who see themselves as the victims of affirmative action.

In a way, though, the Left and the Right have more in common with each other than they do with the advocates of the Third Way. The Left and the Right argue that different interests matter. The Third Way says they don't. According to them, the oppressed and the oppressors, the lions and the lambs should set down together and celebrate their unity in one great post-partisan, multi-cultural 4th of July picnic. One of Obama's most repeated mantras resonates here: "a common good and a higher interest," he says. "That's the change I'm looking for."

  Update [2012-5-5 14:50:0 by ARGeezer]: added blockquotes, links and paragraph divisions.


"Where in the world most of us reside do we find that higher interest? I don't know except perhaps in the higher interest rates that kicked in with variable rate mortgages.

What is the common good that tenants and landlords share? Not a lot I can think of. Maybe that the building doesn't burn down? But some of you remember the '70s when landlords burned down their buildings in poor neighborhoods to cash in on the insurance.

The haves and the have-nots have different and opposing interests--landlords want to get rid of rent stabilization; tenants have an interest in keeping it. Workers want to save their jobs; bosses want to save their capital, which means cutting workers. In pursuing their opposing interests, the have-nots are forced take up the weapons of the weak--demonstrations, direct action; filling the jails with conscientious objectors; taking personal risks. Who benefits when one side gives up without a struggle? The Haves or the Have nots? Frederick Douglass reminds us: "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did. It never will."

When the Third Way advocates insist that we share a common good; when they refuse to recognize that the interests of the oppressed and the interests of the oppressors don't exist on the same moral plane; when they counsel us to stop being partisans of those interests--they're not being non or post partisan; they're siding with the powers that be.

In the same way, Obama's notion of change claims to transcend the politics of interest while it steers sharply to the right. What kind of change does America need? Above all, America needs a change of heart: her people need to give up selfishness; all Americans rich and poor, white and black; the hod carrier and the hedge fund operator must give up self-interest; stop always asking "what's in it for me?"

Display:
To me, this is a completely silly argument. Labeling is not analysis. Insistence on sectarian verbiage is not commitment to principles. And most of all, if you are going to critique someone's political program, you should bother to read and understand it, not just rely on what cable TV shows.
And that's something that's worth keeping in mind today. We've come through a difficult decade in which those values were all too often given short shrift. We've gone through a decade where wealth was valued over work, and greed was valued over responsibility. And the decks were too often stacked against ordinary folks in favor of the special interests. And everywhere I went while I was running for this office, I met folks who felt their economic security slipping away, men and women who were fighting harder and harder just to stay afloat. And that was even before the economic crisis hit, and that just made things even harder. So these are tough times for working Americans. They're even tougher for Americans who are looking for work -- and a lot of them have been looking for work for a long time. A lot of folks have been looking for work for a long time here in Detroit, and all across Michigan, and all across the Midwest, and all across the country. So we've got a lot more work to do to recover fully from this recession. But I'm not satisfied just to get back to where we were before the recession; we've got to fully restore the middle class in America. And America cannot have a strong, growing economy without a strong, growing middle class and without a strong labor movement. Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/president-barack-obamas-2011-labor-day-speech-transcript.html#ixzz1u0iJT OxY
by rootless2 on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 11:46:17 AM EST
rootless2
if you are going to critique someone's political program, you should bother to read and understand it, not just rely on what cable TV shows.

Perhaps you didn't notice the following part of what I quoted from Fitch in the body of the diary:
All this makes Obama's actual politics very hard to put in any critical perspective. By actual politics I mean above all, the principal interests he represents; his authentic political philosophy. Where he fits on the on the Left-Right political spectrum.

Fitch is just following Ed Meese's advice to watch what they do, not what they say. You respond to Fitch by quoting a campaign speech? I agree with Fitch that it is better to look at where he has been and what he has done.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 01:35:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fitch begins his argument by using Obama's 2004 speech to identify him as "3rd way" which he then states in America means neither liberal nor conservative. He goes on to state that Obama's rhetoric of common ground is an effort to disappear class interest although he does not use that wording. I cited Obama's labor day speech to show that Fitch was wrong: Obama has in fact been very consistent in setting the interests of the bulk of the population against the greedy 1%.  In fact, Obama's 2004 speech contains lines like

For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we're all connected as one people.

If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child.

If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription drugs, and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent.

If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.

It is that fundamental belief, it is that fundamental belief, I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams and yet still come together as one American family.

Sadly, this argument does not serve the purpose of Fitchs neat slotting of Obama into "3rd way" so it disappears from his account.

Fitch was a very smart guy - as a researcher. His book on NYC is full of very interesting information. But his political analysis is just more of the tired vanguardism of the sectarian left.

As for the real-estate stuff, it's interesting information but overblown and misinterpreted. The idea that someone needs rich friends to become President of the United States does not, however, shock me. If you think it is sinister that black businesspeople and ministers wanted to build up real-estate enterprises in their neighborhoods or you are shocked that sometimes such efforts are marred by self-interest, it might be more significant to you than it is to me.

Antioch Baptist church's real estate efforts in Chicago improved the housing of thousands of poor people. What should they have done? Waited for white sectarians to lead the revolution?

by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 08:34:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama is great at soaring but vague rhetoric, not so great at coming through with any effort to influence the legislative process so as to do something positive about the implications of that soaring rhetoric. He was roundly accused of surrendering all of his negotiating positions preemptively and let the lobbyists write large parts of critical bills. Fortunately for him he was never embarrassed by having all three houses controlled by Democrats and was always two or three votes short in the Senate.  Ignoring the desires of Republican and Democratic politicians in favor of the desires of the lobbyists - the monetary interests- is the definition of Third Way Politics. As to Fitch's specifics - more later.    

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 11:54:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Your understanding of how the US legislative process works is perhaps not so great. And "he was roundly accused" is a ridiculous line of attack. It's startling how many self-appointed experts on legislative negotiation are happy to make condescending remarks about the successful manager of the largest stimulus bill, the health reform that had stymied Democratic Presidents since Truman, and the bank reform that has caused finance sector to shrink.
by rootless2 on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 07:59:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The 'reform' that caused the banking sector to shrink was the change from an expanding bubble to a collapsing bubble that occurred during the 2008 election. The Obama Administration's response to that has been to provide massive aid to the banks via 'liquidity' and TARP along with more modest and temporary aid to the rest of the economy. All of the banking system 'reforms' were neutered to the satisfaction of the financial sector.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 09:50:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, but you have no idea.
by rootless2 on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 11:07:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just as a simple point: TARP was passed when George Bush was President. The fact that this simple matter of chronology is always misrepresented by both the right wing and the anti-Obama "liberal Republicans" or "progressives" or whatever, is quite significant.
by rootless2 on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 11:12:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I never got that one. But it's been a quite successful bit of misinformation.
Only a third of Americans (34%) correctly say the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was enacted by the Bush administration. Nearly half (47%) incorrectly believe TARP was passed under President Obama. Another 19% admit they do not know which president signed the bank bailout into law. Notably, there is no partisan divide on the question. Just 36% of Republicans, 35% of independents and 34% of Democrats know that the government bailout of banks and financial institutions was signed into law by former President Bush. And Democrats (46%) are just as likely as Republicans (50%) to say TARP was passed under Obama.
(Pew)

<facepalm>

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 11:16:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the major TARP expenditure under Obama and Geithner was the rescue of the auto industry and America's largest industrial union (including a serious haircut for the bondholders). Yet for 3 years, the supposed "left" in the United States has grossly distorted the chronology,ignored the auto rescue, and helped spread the rightwing version of events.
by rootless2 on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 11:27:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obama's handling of the auto industry 'bailout' is one of the highlights of his first term and probably will give him more capital than anything else he has done. But even there the process was set in motion in the waning days of the Bush Administration. Had Obama needed to start from scratch it would have likely taken longer.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 01:58:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, but the Bush portion of the rescue of the auto companies was a typical neocon "rescue" of bondholders. The flushed billions down the toilet to allow GM to meet debt repayment obligations. What Obama and Geithner and Ron Bloom did was very different. They wiped out the shareholders and unsecured, imposed severe haircuts on secured bondholders,and saved the union pension/health fund.  Giving Bush any credit for that is absurd.
by rootless2 on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 02:02:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, thinking about it there are a number of things that lead to associating TARP with Obama rather than Bush.

In the last months of his presidency Bush was suffering from a combination of crisis fatigue and good old lame duck syndrome. Then hit the Lehman Brothers crisis. Bush had no idea what to do so Paulson took all the initiative. But it was also in the last 2 months of the Presidential election campaign, so naturally Obama and McCain, both beins sitting senators on top of it, had to make pronoundements about TARP in the press, and they had to vote on TARP in the senate. So they had a hand in crafting it. And then Bush was a caretaker president for 2 months while the G20 summit was being prepared and TARP started to be disbursed. So Obama as President-elect and his transition team were also consulted all along as TARP was being implemented.

Then there's this on the eve of Obama's inauguration: Bush to Ask for TARP; Obama to 'Rebrand' It (ABC, 12 January 2009)

President-elect Barack Obama asked President Bush today to request the release of the second $350 billion in federal bailout funds so he would have "ammunition" if the country's fragile economy weakened further.

The White House said that Bush has agreed to request the money.

Obama, speaking after a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, said it would be "irresponsible" to enter the White House without having asked Bush to request the funds. He called the cash "potential ammunition" in case the economy worsened.

The incoming president also signaled that he intends to "fundamentally change some of the practices" in the bailout program. Referring to how the first $350 billion of bailout cash was allocated, Obama said, "Many of us have been disappointed with the absence of clarity, the failure to track how the money's been spent."



guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 04:40:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And that second release was what funded the auto rescue.
by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 07:45:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was aware of TARP being passed under Bush, but much of the implementation was done by Obama. My usual characterization is that Obama doubled down on Bush's policies. I should have been more careful in my statement.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 01:53:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's still not correct. TARP under Bush involved handing out about $300,000,000 mostly to Wall Street Banks. TARP under Obama/Geithner involved retrieving most of the Wall Street loans, plus interest and warrants that the banks hoped to void, distribution of many loans to small US banks including credit unions and labor union banks, and a huge investment in rescuing the auto industry - a massive stimulus of the economy. To call that a bailout of the banks or to claim that Obama "doubled down" on Bush's policy is to be deeply confused.
by rootless2 on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 01:59:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Implementation was better under Obama.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 03:27:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"You respond to Fitch by quoting a campaign speech?"

Yes. Because Fitch's argument starts with Obama's 2004 speech. And there is absolutely nothing in Fitch's analysis about what Obama did - just an argument about who he associates with.

by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 08:39:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...not just rely on what cable TV shows.
I almost never watch cable TV news programs, even those with viewpoints I find agreeable, such as Jon Stewart. When I do it is usually via youtube.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 09:56:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Whatever you rely on, it is clearly not enough. Here is Fitch denouncing Obama for calling on all to sacrifice equally in some 3rd way blahblah, and there online one can easily find Obama's actual speeches in which he strongly attacks trickle-down, champions unions, insists on public education, attacks tax unfairness that favors the rich etc. And when informed of this, you switch immediately from attacking the fantasized 3rd way rhetoric of Obama to a "just speeches" defense. If you, or Fitch, want to critique Obama's speeches then the content of the speeches matter.
by rootless2 on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 11:10:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And you conveniently ignore Fitch's deconstruction of 'The Higher Interest' to which Obama appealed and how it boils down to favoring the status quo economic incumbents.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 02:00:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not ignoring anything. Fitch made a claim about Obama's speeches that turns out to be without foundation. When I cite Obama's speeches to refute that claim, you cannot rescue Fitch by telling me about other, equally silly,claims made by Fitch.
by rootless2 on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 02:05:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
is to point out that Fitch's speech, made before Obama's election, gives an accurate analysis of Obama's modus operandi, and is pretty prophetic as to how his administration has played out. Obama has proved remarkably unconcerned about maximising progressive legislation. I had interpreted his role as that of a mediator between left and right; but I find the "third way" narrative pretty convincing. He works with the lobbies he's got, and governs in accordance with their interests.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 07:25:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In order to defend that claim, you'd need to have at least some analysis of what Obama has done, no?
by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 07:46:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought I had put this on Never Display, as it was a work in progress. That is why there are no blockquotes or links.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 02:11:01 PM EST
European Tribune - The Change They Believe In
In Europe, the Third Way means you're neither socialist nor capitalist.

er, not like i see it.

it means pretending to have a socialist bone in your body while really selling out to the moguls, cf blair with the saudi arms scandal, bernie ecclestone, clinton with nafta and glass stiegel.

its a parody of leftism, and a twisted one at that.

much more dangerous, imo, than a WYSIWYG tory/repub 'enemy'.

3rd way=5th column

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 02:19:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
3rd way=5th wheel?

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 08:44:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - The Change They Believe In
the hod carrier and the hedge fund operator must give up self-interest; stop always asking "what's in it for me?"

a selfish hod carrier does a lot less harm... does self-interest have to be 'given up' or aligned to common purpose. i believe the latter.

otherwise you're waiting for people to reach sainthood!

everyone should be asking (and they are, moralising aside) what's in it for them.

this false conflict costs a lot of energy, (religion creates reams of friction around this false duality) when a little consciousness reveals that what's best for the individual actually is what's best for the community at large, and vice versa.

it's the application of the first half only of the equation that causes all the trouble, ie, it's ok to cheat my neighbour because it feeds my kids.  

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 02:27:56 PM EST
From Yves Smith's post:

Exclusive: How Obama's Early Career Success Was Built on Fronting for Chicago Real Estate and Finance

Barack Obama remains an icon to many on what passes for the left in America despite incontrovertible evidence that he does not represent their interests. There are many contributing factors, including his considerable skills as a speaker and his programmatic effort to neuter liberal critics by getting their funding cut.

A central component of the seemingly impenetrable Obama mythology is his personal history: a black man, son of a broken home, who nevertheless got on the fast track to financial success by becoming editor of the Harvard Law Review, but turned instead to working with and later representing a particularly disadvantaged community, the South Side of Chicago.

Even so, this story does not quite add up. Why did Obama not follow the usual, well greased path of becoming a Supreme Court clerk, and seeking to exert influence through the Washington doors that would have opened up to him after that stint?

A remarkable speech by Robert Fitch puts Obama's early career in a new perspective that explains the man we see now in the Oval Office: one who pretends to befriend ordinary people but sells them out again and again to wealthy, powerful interests - the banks, big Pharma and health insurers, and lately, the fracking-industrial complex.

Fitch, who died last year, was an academic and journalist, well regarded for his forensic and archival work, as described by Doug Henwood in an obituary in the Nation. He is best known for his book Solidarity for Sale, which chronicled corruption in American unions, but his work that is germane to his analysis of Obama is Assassination of New York. In that, he documented the concerted efforts by powerful real estate and financial interests to drive manufacturing and low-income renters out of Manhattan so they could turn it over to office and residential space for high income professionals.



"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 02:38:36 PM EST
Do you know who Yves Smith is? Obama, after Harvard Law, went to work for one of the most successful labor law firms in the country. Smith, a Wall Street consultant, may find it suspicious that he chose to represent victims of police brutality and racial and sexual discrimination instead of following the more usual path of highly ambitious people, but that's a dim critique indeed.
by rootless2 on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 03:42:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're not saying anything about who Yves Smith is there, just insinuating that she (if he is a she) would rather be favourable to "police brutality and racial and sexual discrimination". What evidence do you have of that?

Can you not discuss on this site without stirring the shit?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 03:46:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not insinuating anything - I'm questioning your apparent willingness to (a) take Smith as an authority on leftwing orthodoxy and (b) just swallow her wacky insinuations about Obama. To claim that Obama's choice of a labor law firm as employer rather than ass kissing his way to a clerkship "doesn't add up" is just pathetic. Sadly, that's about the level of critique one finds from Smith. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naked_Capitalism Fitch, on the other hand, was very sharp. Assassination of New York is an excellent. His starting remarks on ideology in the quoted speech, however, are nonsense. And I think his real-estate argument is reductionistic in the extreme. But I'm politically suspect - I very much think that there is no hope without development of alternate economic centers and I under no delusion that all of those will be run by angels.
by rootless2 on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 04:08:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not my apparent willingness. I'm not a party in this. But you are insinuating, and it's your manner I'm complaining about.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 04:09:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry,but the insinuation is from Smith.  This is what is known as insinuation

Even so, this story does not quite add up. Why did Obama not follow the usual, well greased path of becoming a Supreme Court clerk, and seeking to exert influence through the Washington doors that would have opened up to him after that stint?

That's just a sleazeball rhetorical device. Why did Obama go to work for a labor  law firm instead of become a Supreme Court Clerk? WOOOO! SUSPICIOUS! Why was he representing victims of police brutality rather than helping write opinions for Steve Breyer? Come on. Pathetic - and it's an attack that I've seen before. It's based on ignoring the actual work Obama did for Minor-Barnhill in favor of an implication based on bullshit.

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2008/01/04/barack-obama-was-once-a-lowly-law-firm-associate/

by rootless2 on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 04:19:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rootless2:
Smith, a Wall Street consultant, may find it suspicious that he chose to represent victims of police brutality and racial and sexual discrimination

That's an insinuation based on the supposed nature of Wall Street consultants. It wouldn't be hard to throw one out about Harvard law graduates, either, would it?

It's so simple to make the point that Obama was in fact defending "victims of police brutality and racial and sexual discrimination" without creating more heat than light.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 04:30:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And then there is the rest of the Fitch speech. But we can trust you to find some string of pejoratives to hang on him also. They will probably be of a nature comparably compelling to your dismissal of Yves Smith based on her self description as a liberal Republican back in the '80s.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 04:41:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Fitch was wrong, but he was undoubtedly a quite perceptive writer and critic. Please don't put words in my mouth.
by rootless2 on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 04:43:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please don't put words in my mouth.

That is, apparently, a tactic you arrogate unto yourself.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 11:22:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if you have an example of me using that tactic, please provide a link. Otherwise I will put it down to your use of personal attack to defend an indefensible smear by someone you admire.
by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 08:14:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And, BTW, a self-described 'liberal Republican' who advocates imposition of rule of law on finance, comes with a long history as a financial insider and shows that she knows of what she speaks is someone I would be happy to welcome into any organization I am involved with. And my opinion is based on four years of reading her posts and her responses to comments at naked capitalism.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 04:48:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Liberal republican" is essentially libertarian in the current age. Which is why Smith's pages are filled with gibberish about the Despotic Federal Reserve Bank and silly conspiracy tales along with a kind of dewy faith in market prices that accompany this ideology.

The intellectual capture of "the left" by right wing economics is really an astounding development.

by rootless2 on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 05:01:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The intellectual capture of "the left" by right wing economics is really an astounding development.

Yes it is. That is why so many diaries and comments have been on those subjects. But you appear not to have noticed or understood what has been said.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 11:25:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You have misunderstood. Smith claims it is suspicious that Obama went to work for a Chicago law firm and implies that it was connected to all sorts of unsavory real-estate manipulation. However it's readily verifiable that Minor, Barnhill was a highly respected do-gooder law firm. I'm not suggesting anything about Smith's attitude towards police brutality, her ideas on that subject is a topic I have no opinion about, I am exposing her rhetorical sleight of hand.

So Smith waves "real-estate" around and then exclaims it is suspicious that Obama went to work for a law firm. But when we look at what he did for the law firm, we see that Smith is being dishonest.

My point about her career as a Wall Street consultant is to simply note how odd it is that she has come be be such an authoritative source of supposedly "left wing" financial criticism.

by rootless2 on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 04:41:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Fitch speech goes considerably further than just associating Obama with real estate. He argues rather convincingly that Obama sacrificed the interests of his black supporters to the profits of those real estate interests, that he trades on his ethnicity and than betrays those who support him on that basis. Those supporters need to see the 'higher interest' at stake, you see.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 04:53:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm responding here to Smith's rhetorical dishonesty in the "doesn't add up" line. Whatever the merits of Fitchs speech, they cannot excuse Smith.
by rootless2 on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 04:57:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm responding here to Smith's rhetorical dishonesty...

No. You are misrepresenting what she is doing. She is merely summarizing Fitch's conclusions and quoting some of his speech. So your argument is with Fitch. And I think you are too smart not to know what you are doing. Misdescribing Smith's summary of Fitch as Smith employing rhetorical dishonesty is, itself, and example of rhetorical dishonesty.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 11:31:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fitch did not make that argument, so "summarizing" is not what she was doing. Smith is the one who found it suspicious that Obama didn't go after the easy path and went to work for this suspect law firm.
by rootless2 on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 11:48:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fitch's argument was that Obama rode his ethnicity into a position of influence in Chicago and then sacrificed the interests of that ethnic to the interests of Pritzker Realty, J P Morgan Chase, etc. From Fitch:

In the 1950s, big swaths of urban renewal were ripped through the black belt,demolishing private housing on the south east side. The argument then was that the old low rise private housing was old and unsuitable. Black people needed to be housed in new, high-rise public housing which the city built just east of the Dan Ryan Expressway. The Administration of the Chicago Housing Authority was widely acclaimed as the mostcorrupt, racist and incompetent in America. Gradually only the poorest of the poor livedthere. And in the 1980s, the argument began to be made that the public housing needed tobe demolished and the people moved back into private housing.

For a while, the election of the city's first black Mayor, Harold Washington,blocked the demolition. But Washington died of a heart attack while in office, and after abrief interregnum, the Mayor's office was filled in 1989 by Richard M. Daley--whose father had carried out the first urban renewal. Daley was his father's son in many ways. By 1993, with subsidies from the Clinton Administration's HOPE VI program, the publichousing units began to be destroyed. And by 2000 he'd put in place something called The Plan for Transformation. It targeted tens of thousands of remaining units. With this proviso: That African Americans had to get 50% of the action--white developers had to have black partners; there had to be black contractors. And Daley chose African Americans--as his top administrators and planners for the clearances, demolition and re-settlement. African-Americans were prominent in developing and rehabbing the new housing for the refugees from the demolished projects--who were re-settled in communities to the south like Englewood, Roseland and Harvey. Altogether the Plan for Transformation involved the largest demolition of public housing in American history, affecting about 45,000 people--in neighborhoods where eight of the 20 poorest census tracts in the U.S. were located

But what does this all have to do with Obama? Just this: the area demolished included the communities that Obama represented as a state senator; and the top black administrators, developers and planners were people like Valerie Jarrett--who served as a member of the Chicago Planning Commission. And Martin Nesbitt who became head of the CHA. Nesbitt serves as Obama campaign finance treasurer; Jarrett as co-chair of the Transition Team. The other co-chair is William Daley, the Mayor's brother and the Midwest chair of JP Morgan Chase--an institution deeply involved in the transformation of inner-city neighborhoods thorough its support for--what financial institutions call"neighborhood revitalization" and neighborhood activists call gentrification.

But what does this all have to do with Obama? Just this: the area demolished included the communities that Obama represented as a state senator; and the top black administrators, developers and planners were people like Valerie Jarrett--who served as a member of the Chicago Planning Commission. And Martin Nesbitt who became head of the CHA. Nesbitt serves as Obama campaign finance treasurer; Jarrett as co-chair of the Transition Team. The other co-chair is William Daley, the Mayor's brother and the Midwest chair of JP Morgan Chase--an institution deeply involved in the transformation of inner-city neighborhoods thorough its support for--what financial institutions call "neighborhood revitalization" and neighborhood activists call gentrification.

If we examine more carefully the interests that Obama represents; if we look at his core financial supporters; as well as his inmost circle of advisors, we'll see that they represent the primary activists in the demolition movement and the primary real estate beneficiaries of this transformation of public housing projects into condos and townhouses: the profitable creep of the Central Business District and elite residential neighborhoods southward; and the shifting of the pile of human misery about three miles further into the South Side and the south suburbs.


Fitch then lists the Pritzker, Crown and Levin families, the foundations, the elite academic support and the non-profit community developers which he aggregates as the 'Friendly FIRE'.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 01:12:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then again, there's a big problem with this line of criticism.

1 - Poor people live in crappy neighborhoods, because that's all they can afford.
2 - Crappy neighborhoods are cheap because they are crappy, and that's why poor people can live there.
3 - Fighting effectively to improve the neighborhoods of poor people by dealing with environmental pollution and negligent landlords results in the neighborhood being less crappy.
4 - The less crappy neighborhood is now worth more, and is more appealing to richer people, who can move in and displace the poor people.

So, if it will inevitably result in displacement, should one never work for the improvement of poor neighborhoods?

by Zwackus on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 02:59:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is not unreasonable to be concerned with the poorest among those who are displaced. Fitch does treat that subject to some extent:

Valerie Jarrett is another black real estate executive. Described as "the other side of Barack's brain," she also served as finance chair during his successful 2004 U.S. Senatecampaign. Jarrett was Daley's deputy chief of staff - that was her job when she hiredMichelle Obama. Eventually Daley made her the head of city planning. But Jarrett doesn'twork for Daley anymore. She's CEO of David Levin's Habitat--one of the largest propertymanagers in Chicago--and the court-appointed overseer of CHA projects.6Habitat alsomanaged Grove Parc, the scandal-ridden project in Englewood that left Section 8 tenants,mostly refugees from demolished public housing projects, without heat in the winter butinundated with rats. Grove Parc was developed by Tony Rezko, who's white. And his long-time partner Allison Davis, who's black.

Let's look at Rezko and then Davis. It was Rezko's ability to exploit relationshipswith influential blacks--including Muhammad Ali--that enabled him to become one of Chicago's preeminent cockroach capitalists. Altogether, Rezko wound up developing over 1,000 apartments with state and city money. There was more to the Obama-Rezkorelationship than the empty lot in Kenwood. Rezko raised over $250,000 for Obama's state senate campaign. While Obama was a state senator he wrote letters in support of Rezko'sapplications for development funds. But Obama ignored the plight of Rezko's tenants whocomplained to Obama's office.

....

In 1994, the LA Times reports, Obama appeared in Cook County court on behalf of WoodlawnPreservation & Investment Corp., defending it against a suit by the city, which alleged that the company failed to provide heat for low-income tenants on the South Side during the winter. There were several cases of this type, but as the Times observes, Obama doesn'tmention them in
Dreams from My Father.


This may strike some as ticky-tac, but it does give at least some specifics for the accusation that Obama favored the interests of the well-to-do over the interests of the poor - in this case a question of profits for Woodlawn vs. heat for low-income tenants. And that says nothing about the large number of low-income former public housing tenants who left the area, most of whom are likely to be less well off than before. But we can take consolation from the fact that the dispossession of the poor by developers and city officials is much worse in China.

There is, of course more, but this is an election year and perhaps most don't want to hear this about the Democratic standard bearer. And, even knowing this, I still plan to vote for Obama, as I did in 2008, because I expect him to be the better choice over all. That is not a very high standard, but it is what it is. And, while I certainly do not expect it, I would be pleasantly surprised were the Obama Administration do something on the enforcement front in finance when the next big crash comes. This is a non-trivial problem, IMO, as we are unlikely to recover economically so long as the current financial system remains in control of the economy and politics of the country.
.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 03:16:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And further - because some people benefit from something, that something is bad?  

Either the projects needed to be demolished, or they didn't.  If relocation and demolition (the two go hand in hand, as construction does not happen overnight and the people living there need a place to live) was the right step, then poor people were going to be moved.  Yeah, some people got rich off the deal - short of a Soviet style command economy, it's hard to imagine a big real estate deal not being profitable for the people involved, given that the providers of all necessary services are for-profit enterprises.

But the argument

1 - Poor people were moved
2 - Developers made money developing
3 - Evil!

does not hold.  One has to compare the before and after situation - is the housing situation really and markedly worse?  Is it really worse, given that poor people will always live in crappy neighborhoods, because if their neighborhood wasn't crappy they couldn't afford to live there?

I just don't see the argument against Obama here.  He's not a communist.  I know that.  

by Zwackus on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 03:08:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fitch's argument was that Obama is a gifted politician who chose to employ his gifts representing a poor, black section of Chicago. In that capacity he worked with a 'notoriously corrupt' Chicago political machine and with wealthy families with interests in real estate development to demolish the housing that the poorest of his constituents inhabited, replacing it with more upscale developments and displacing the bulk of the former residents further from the city and leaving them less well off while participating in the co-opting of  black elites who made their careers, in no small part, by disappropriating poorer members of their own ethnicity of their housing and thereby forcing them further from the core of the city.

This was highly profitable to the Pritzker, Crown and Levin families and to the banks involved, profit based on the redevelopment of a former public good, but seems to me to leave the former residents of the public housing likely paying significantly more of their meager incomes for rent and transportation, displaced further from jobs and city amenities and, as they are now dispersed over several communities, deprived of the political influence they once had in the now gentrified district Obama had represented. The overall effect is similar to what happened to the poorer black residents of New Orleans post Katrina.

Obama came out of this with solid backing from the wealthy elites of Chicago and moved on to the US Senate and then the White House, accompanied by some of the black professionals and others who had participated and personally profited from this redevelopment. But how were the interests of the bulk of Obama's former poor black constituents served?

Fitch could say this to the Harlem Tenants Association days after Obama's election as POTUS because the members of that association had seen similar results from developments in Manhattan. The only element that fails to benefit is the majority of the constituents.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 10:04:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Every part of that argument is at best dubious starting with the first sentence. Obama represented a mixed district in Chicago that includes Hyde Park which is the home to the University of Chicago and a lot of middle class and rich people of multiple races. During the time he was in the State Senate, he was involved in such issues as the death penalty and payday loan regulation - not real-estate.  

Fitch has zero to say, and lots to imply, about the results of the redevelopment work in Chicago. 90% of what he discusses happened when Obama was in college or a junior attorney.

And in 2008 there were a lot of white "leftists" who wanted to wag their fingers at foolish black people who supposedly lacked objective analytical skills and had been led astray by their emotional attachment to a guy with black skin. Not impressed.

by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 10:43:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem is that Obama was only elected in 1997 to the state senate. This article seems to make him into Daley senior and junior combined.

"But what does this all have to do with Obama? "

That is indeed the question here. And the article doesn't answers it.

As far as your claim of riding his ethnicity into a position of influence in Chicago: We are talking about Chicago Illinois here. That is hardly a place were just being black gives you any advantages. If Daley jun. needed black allies, there was a already established black power structure there. Nobody needed especially Obama.

by IM on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 04:31:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This article seems to make him into Daley senior and junior combined.

What Fitch actually said is this:
In fact, as Obama knows very well, for most of the last two decades in Chicago there's been in place a very specific economic development plan. The plan was to make the South Side like the North Side. Which is the same kind of project as making the land north of Central Park like the land south of Central Park. The North Side is the area north of the Loop--Chicago's midtown central business district--where rich white people live; they root for the Cubs. They're neighborhood is called the Gold Coast.

We would hope that the State Senator representing that area would be aware of the existing development plan for the area he represents, especially given his prior involvement in that subject in that area.

Fitch then provides a summary of Chicago's demographic history:

For almost a hundred years in Chicago blacks have lived on the South Side close to Chicago's factories and slaughter houses. And Cellular Field, home of the White Sox. The area where they lived was called the Black Belt or Bronzeville--and it's the largest concentration of African American people in the U.S.--nearly 600,000 people--about twice the size of Harlem.

So Fitch is providing a history back to the early 20th century. Clearly he is not insinuating that Obama was involved in most of that history, including that of Richard Daily, Sr. Then in 1985, from wiki, ...
...Obama was hired in Chicago as director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a church-based community organization originally comprising eight Catholic parishes in Roseland, West Pullman and Riverdale on Chicago's South Side. He worked there as a community organizer from June 1985 to May 1988. He helped set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants' rights organization in Altgeld Gardens. Obama also worked as a consultant and instructor for the Gamaliel Foundation, a community organizing institute....

In late 1988, Obama entered Harvard Law School.... During his summers, he returned to Chicago, where he worked as an associate at the law firms of Sidley Austin in 1989 and Hopkins & Sutter in 1990. After graduating with a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991, he returned to Chicago.


So Obama had personal awareness of community development and community organizing at least since 1985 and Fitch is not trying to lay responsibility for the entire Chicago public housing debacle since the 1950s on him. You may take that from Fitch's speech, but it would have to involve assumptions you made, not just things Fitch said.


"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 09:56:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see what you are doing here: You try to turn this into a debate about urban renewal and the black community in general and in Chicago in particular. Arranging on one side Fitch, expert on the politics of urban renewal and on the other side poor me. Whose knowledge of present day Chicago is derived from reading V.i.warshawski novels.

I think that game is a bit unfair, even if arranging one-sided games is part of the Chicago tradition.

That said,  "The North Side is the area north of the Loop--Chicago's midtown central business district--where rich white people live; they root for the Cubs. They're neighborhood is called the Gold Coast."

that much even I know.(these crime novels) So I am aware of the situation too, just like Obama! Does that makes me responsible? I don't think so.

And that truism:

"For almost a hundred years in Chicago blacks have lived on the South Side close to Chicago's factories and slaughter houses. And Cellular Field, home of the White Sox. The area where they lived was called the Black Belt or Bronzeville--and it's the largest concentration of African American people in the U.S.--nearly 600,000 people--about twice the size of Harlem."

is a bit misleading. He makes it seem like the South Side isn't black today, thanks to Obama. But that is nonsense. Even the middle-class Hyde park is 35% or so black. And the rest of the South side, including parts of Obama's old senate district, are full of 97% black community areas.

So that is Fitch doing here? First he claims that Chicago is just like Manhattan, fitting Chicago, its history and its politics into his area of expertise. Then he makes very broad claims about the development plan in Chicago: turning the (entire?) South Side into Manhattan or the North Side. And then he blames State Senator Obama, because he did represent a part of the South Side.

But Obama wasn't the major or even an alderman. And a lot of the development was happening then Obama didn't have any office and was organizing tenants.

The actual state senator Obama was occupied with:

 "In January 2003, Obama became chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, after six years on the committee and four years as its minority spokesman. The new Democratic majority allowed Obama to write and help pass more legislation than in previous years. He sponsored successful efforts to expand children's health care, create a plan to provide equal health care access for all Illinois residents, and create a "Hospital Report Card" system, and worker's rights laws that protected whistleblowers, domestic violence victims, equal pay for women, and overtime pay.[28] His most public accomplishment was a bill requiring police to videotape interrogations and confessions in potential death penalty cases. Obama was willing to listen to Republicans and police organizations and negotiate compromises to get the law passed.[38] That helped him develop a reputation as a pragmatist able to work with various sides of an issue.[27] Obama also led the passage of a law to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they stopped."  

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illinois_Senate_career_of_Barack_Obama

I don't see anything about housing or urban development here. So Fitch, for all his expertise, is mostly doing guilt by association. "Some democrats in Chicago did this, Obama was was a democrat in Chicago too, so he is responsible."

I don't think that works; hang Obama for his own sins, not for those of the Daley machine.

 

by IM on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 03:33:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No. I was defending the integrity of Fitch and responding to this:
This article seems to make (Obama) into Daley senior and junior combined.

If Fitch is not credible then nothing he says is valid.

Fitch is arguing that Obama was furthering the interests of wealthy elites who made great profits out of community development - at the expense of his constituents - while ignoring the complaints of those constituents to his office - much as he now ignores the demands for investigation and prosecution of financial sector executives such as his major contributor and 'bundler' Jon Corzine of MF Global and the executives of Wall Street and the executives of the TBTFs.

Fitch noted that Obama has often left few tracks or fingerprints in the process. His public efforts were indeed concerned with interests of his constituents - the concerns that did not threaten the profits of his contributors - and he did indeed serve on the boards and was otherwise involved with organizations that pushed that redevelopment forward. Fitch is showing that Obama is clearly involved with and benefiting from people and organizations that were pursuing policies that were damaging to the interests of the poorest among his constituents. I have accused Obama of providing 'air cover' for looting by Wall Street and Fitch is showing that he learned that art in Chicago fronting for and protecting the interests of wealthy contributors at the expense of the poorest of his constituents.

Fitch's argument is much more robust than "Some democrats in Chicago did this, Obama was was a democrat in Chicago too, so he is responsible." He does what he set out to do which is to demonstrate that Obama favored the interests of large wealthy contributors at the expense of poor blacks by serving as the elected representative of those poor while  doing nothing about the complaints of constituents arising from the activities of his backers- all the while continuing to mouth soaring rhetoric and supporting his constituents in ways that did not impinge on the financial efforts of his backers. I think our UK contributors would easily recognize that behavior as they suffered from similar behavior from Tony Blair for over a decade.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 09:40:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I said nothing about the integrity of Fitch. How could I judge? I just pointed out that his judgment of Obama during political career in Chicago rests on a lot of general history reaching back to the fifties, a lot of guilt of association and almost nothing particular to Obama. That is disagreement, not judging integrity.

"Fitch is arguing that Obama was furthering the interests of wealthy elites who made great profits out of community development "

Let's rather say he is asserting it. I can see no supporting evidence.

"Fitch noted that Obama has often left few tracks or fingerprints in the process. His public efforts were indeed concerned with interests of his constituents - the concerns that did not threaten the profits of his contributors - and he did indeed serve on the boards and was otherwise involved with organizations that pushed that redevelopment forward. Fitch is showing that Obama is clearly involved with and benefiting from people and organizations that were pursuing policies that were damaging to the interests of the poorest among his constituents."

Yes, he turns his involvement with Ayers on education into a proof that Obama is a right winger; that is a new one. (The teachers union supported him in the senate primary ,by the way). And the rest is guilt by association. And inference from Obama not doing things like (Fitch):

<Is Obama a minion of Richie Daley? It's true that Obama has never denounced<br> Daley.>

You have to admit that is pretty weak.

Then there is some work - three years or so as a lawyer in a firm with a long civil rights tradition. That also works for non-profit developers. Making a lawyer responsible for his clients is pretty nonsensical, but I admit speaking pro domo here.

And on his actual political work Fitch just says:

>How has Obama earned the support and allegiance of friendly FIRE? Where does
he stand on the Plan for Transformation? Generally speaking, he's been careful not to leave
too many footprints. If you google Obama and public housing, nothing comes up.<

In other word, nothing. That veers into "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence territory."

Fitch in the end did not say much about Obama. He did just take his complaints about urban renewal and did fit Obama in, like a square peg into a round hole.

by IM on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 10:45:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The rabbis had a joke about arguments like Fitches. The question is whether Moses wore a kippa (those little caps the Orthodox Jews wear). The argument is, of course he did and we can prove it because in Exodus it says "and then he [Moses] went out" and who can imagine that Moses, the father of his people, went out without wearing his kippa?
by rootless2 on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 11:16:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The specific "doesn't add up" argument is Smith's own addition. Try to address that.

The exploited his own ethnicity argument, however, is too disgusting for me to address right now.

 

by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 08:04:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Smith's argument:
A central component of the seemingly impenetrable Obama mythology is his personal history: a black man, son of a broken home, who nevertheless got on the fast track to financial success by becoming editor of the Harvard Law Review, but turned instead to working with and later representing a particularly disadvantaged community, the South Side of Chicago.

Even so, this story does not quite add up. Why did Obama not follow the usual, well greased path of becoming a Supreme Court clerk, and seeking to exert influence through the Washington doors that would have opened up to him after that stint?

A remarkable speech by Robert Fitch puts Obama's early career in a new perspective that explains the man we see now in the Oval Office: one who pretends to befriend ordinary people but sells them out again and again to wealthy, powerful interests - the banks, big Pharma and health insurers, and lately, the fracking-industrial complex.


So Smith is claiming to deconstruct the personal story of Obama and claiming that Fitch's speech "explains the man", not that he or she is proving anything. This is political commentary, not Euclidean geometry or, even, a court of law. And what does Fitch have to say about Obama's choice of career path?
Rezko's Grove Parc partner, Allison Davis, was a witness in the Rezko trial, he's pretty radioactive too. But you could see why Rezko wanted to hook up with him. Davis was the senior partner in Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland, a small, black law firm, where Obama worked for nearly a decade. As the editor of the Harvard Law Review, Obama could have worked anywhere. Why did he choose the Davis firm?

Davis had been a noted civil rights attorney and a progressive critic of the first Daley machine. But in 1980 Davis got a call from the Ford Foundation's poorly known,but immensely influential, affiliate LISC--the Local Initiatives Support Corporation--that had just been founded. LISC, whose present chair is Citigroup's Robert Rubin, connects small, mainly minority community non-profits with big foundation grants and especially with bank loans and tax credit-driven equity. LISC wanted to co-opt Davis in their ghetto redevelopment program. He agreed and the Davis firm came to specialize in handling legal work for non-profit community development firms. Eventually Davis left the firm to go into partnership with Tony Rezko.Meanwhile, Obama did legal work for the Rezko-Davis partnership. And for Community Development Organizations like Woodlawn Organization.

In 1994, the LATimes reports, Obama appeared in Cook County court on behalf of WoodlawnPreservation & Investment Corp., defending it against a suit by the city, which alleged that the company failed to provide heat for low-income tenants on the South Side during the winter.


In both cases the emphasis is my addition to highlight the areas to be compared.

Smith's 'addition' consisted of offering a more readily recognizable, reasonable career path available to Obama rather than trying to provide the context that would make Fitch's treatment comprehensible in isolation. And all of your invective against Smith dissolves like a smoke screen in a breeze.

Again, neither Smith or Fitch are trying to 'prove' anything. Fitch is offering a deconstruction of some of Obama's rhetoric and putting the career path choices Obama made in their specific context. Obama supporters are free to denounce this a scurrilous and/or find nothing there. I found it interesting enough to paste some parts into an ET diary which I had not even decided to post, but apparently did by accident. C'est la vie. I hope some on ET at least found it interesting.

I could have posted the article without reference to naked capitalism, knowing your dislike of Yves Smith, but that would have been false to how I actually found Fitch's speech. Knowing that you were likely to fling a load of shit stirring invective Smith's way was not going to deter me, nor should it. But I do feel an obligation to defend her against what I consider unwarranted attacks that I may have occasioned.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 04:01:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's an old slander but calling Minor Barnhill "a small black law firm" is pretty disgusting. The kind of thing one might expect from the far right - and got.


    The firm of Miner Barnhill & Galland, many of whose members have Harvard and Yale law degrees, has a reputation that fits nicely into the resume of a future presidential candidate.

    "It's a real do-good firm," says Fay Clayton, lead counsel for the National Organization for Women in a landmark lawsuit aimed at stopping abortion clinic violence. "Barack and that firm were a perfect fit. He wasn't going to make as much money there as he would at a LaSalle Street firm or in New York, but money was never Barack's first priority anyway.
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/02/20/obama_got_start_in_civil_rights_practice/

So the interesting question is why we get racist right wing smears of Obama from the supposed "left".

by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 09:38:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just a moment, since we are almost back on topic:

"In 1993 he joined Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a 13-attorney law firm specializing in civil rights litigation and neighborhood economic development, where he was an associate for three years from 1993 to 1996, then of counsel from 1996 to 2004, with his law license becoming inactive in 2002."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obama

So wikipedia mentions neighbourhood economic development as a focus. And 13-attorney law firm is I think considered small in the US.

So the description Fitch uses is not to far off. (His interpretation is another matter)

by IM on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 09:48:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The issue here is whether Smith's "doesn't add up" or the similar argument we see above is a respectable critique or a smear. The  claim is that there is something suspicious about why a highly qualified attorney like Obama went to work for shady real-estate development law firm like Minor,Barnhill. That's not incidental to the argument above or to Smith's argument: they want to make the case that Obama was/is a shifty character who deserves their suspicion/disdain. But the reality is that Minor, Barnhill is an exceptionally prestigious, labor union affiliated, law firm that has won a number of the most prominent cases on sex and race discrimination. Why would an ambitious and highly sought after law school grad go to work for a small black law firm that was associated with all sorts of supposedly sleazy real-estate operators? And the answer is that that's a false story: if you want to do labor law on the side of workers in the USA, a job with Minor,Barnhill is a prize.
by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 10:06:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So your argument is, if Obama wanted to work in labour law or civil rights, Miner, Barnhill & Galland was a first class address.

I just asked the beast itself:

http://www.lawmbg.com/index.cfm/PageID/2763

Eleven practice areas, three labour law related. One other is civil rights/voting rights.

But also:

"Real Estate/Housing Development/Non-Profits

Transactional Practice

Miner, Barnhill & Galland, P.C. offers legal services in the areas of real estate, community development financing, corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies and related areas. Over the last 25 years, the firm has developed a wide and varied practice relating to community development. With its depth of experience, the firm's transactions group is able to offer high-quality, cost-effective service, tailored to the needs of each particular client. The transactional practice group currently includes partners Laura Tilly, William Miceli along with associate Tiffany Glanville ."

So three lawyers out of fourteen work in this area.

"Inner-City Development. The firm has represented a large number of developers, both for-profit and not-for-profit, focusing on work in the inner city. Development in low-income neighborhoods presents unique challenges, ranging from multiple-layered financing and equity structures, to deteriorated building conditions, to working with public agencies. The firm is very experienced in managing these issues with its clients. Lawyers at the firm have helped to provide thousands of units of housing and substantial commercial space in inner-city communities."

So non for profit developers is indeed their thing.

That said, we don't know what Obama was actually doing there in the three years that he was associate there. But I guess he joined a civil rights-labour law- development law firmbecause of its civil rights fame. Law firms dealing in property law are quite common after all. And he did go on teaching constitutional law, not real estate law.

by IM on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 11:29:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, we do know what he was doing there. If you go to the firms web page, though, and look at practice areas, you see some really impressive stuff. For example:

Miner, Barnhill and Galland is one of the nation's leading employment law firms. Partners Judson Miner, Charles Barnhill, Sarah Siskind,  Jeffrey Cummings , and George Galland, all devote a substantial percentage of their time to this practice group. The firm is known particularly for its representation of plaintiffs in large-scale, high-profile class actions or multi-plaintiff cases brought under the federal employment discrimination laws. Some of the matters handled by the firm over the years include:

    Evans v. Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America ( George Galland ). The firm represented the 27 private plaintiffs in this lawsuit, which was settled in 1997 and which was perhaps the largest and most widely publicized sexual harassment lawsuit in the nation's history.
    In re Burlington Northern, Inc. Employment Practices Litigation ( Charles Barnhill ). The firm was counsel for the plaintiff class in this nationwide class action, which was settled for approximately $60 million in damages and injunctive relief and remains one of the largest pre-trial settlements of any race discrimination case.
    Ridgeway v. Local 134, IBEW ( Judson Miner ). The firm has represented the plaintiff class in this race discrimination class action against the Electrical Workers' Union, which was settled through a decree that has opened the Chicago area electrical construction industry to blacks.
    Orlowski v. Dominick's Finer Foods Inc. ( Judson Miner , Jeffrey Cummings ). The firm is counsel for the plaintiff class in a sex discrimination lawsuit against one of the midwest's largest grocery store chains.
    Isaacs v. Caterpillar, Inc. ( George Galland ). The firm represented 69 plaintiffs in this "opt-in" class action under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act challenging a series of reductions in force. The case was settled in 1992.
    Hany v. General Electric Co. ( Charles Barnhill , George Galland ). The firm was counsel for ten plaintiffs who lost their jobs in a series of reductions in force. After a series of victorious jury trials and an appeal, the case was settled in 1993.
    Liberles v. Miller ( Charles Barnhill , George Galland ). The firm was counsel for the plaintiff class in this race discrimination case on behalf of African-American employees of the Illinois Department of Public Aid. The case resulted in what was at that time the highest race discrimination judgment in Illinois history.
    Mays v. Motorola ( Charles Barnhill , Judson Miner ). The firm represented the plaintiff class in this race discrimination class action challenging the hiring practices of the defendant. After plaintiffs won the liability trial, the case was settled during the appeal for approximately $15 million.
    Meiresonne v. Mariott Corp. ( Sarah Siskind , Charles Barnhill ). The firm represented the plaintiff class in this sex discrimination class action involving dsicrimination in the promotion of women, which was settled in 1991 for $3 million.
    Allen v. Marshall Field & Co. Inc. ( Charles Barnhill ). The firm was counsel to 64 plaintiffs in this case, which was one of the first age discrimination "opt-in" class actions settled in the midwest.
    Anderson v. Montgomery Ward & Co., Inc. ( Charles Barnhill ). The firm represented 39 plaintiffs in this opt-in class action brought under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which was settled in 1987.
    Chaffee v. A&P Tea Co.  The firm was counsel to the class in this race discrimination class action involving the improper segregation and layoff of black meat-cutters, which was settled after plaintiffs prevailed in a liability trail.

In addition to these large class action cases, the firm has handled hundreds of claims by smaller groups of plaintiffs or individual plaintiffs.

and


The firm is one of the best-known and most experienced firms in the country in large-scale voting rights cases. This practice, led by Judson Miner and which includes Jeffrey Cummings has achieved important victories in race discrimination lawsuits challenging redistricting of Chicago's aldermanic districts and Illinois congressional districts. These cases include:

    In re Congressional remap , 81 C 3915 (N.D.Ill. 1981).
    Ketchum v. Byrne , 740 F.2d 1398 (7th Cir. 1984) (Chicago ward remap).
    Prosser, et. al v Elections Board, et. al , 92-C-0078( U.S.D.C., W.D. Wis. )( Wisconsin legislative remap ).
    Hastert v. State Board of Elections , 777 F. Supp. 634 (N.D.Ill. 1991); 794 F. Supp. 254 (N.D.Ill. 1992), aff'd in part and rev'd in part , 28 F.3d 1430 (7th Cir. 1994) (Illinois congressional remap).
    Barnett, et. al., v. City of Chicago, et. al. , 835 F. Supp. 1063 (N.D.Ill. 1993), rev'd , 32 F.3d 1196 (7th Cir. 1994), on remand , 969 F.Supp. 1359 (N.D.Ill. 1997), vacated and remanded in relevant part , 141 F.3d 699 (7th Cir. 1998), cert. denied , 118 S. Ct. 2372, on remand , 17 F.Supp. 2d 753 (N.D.Ill. 1998).

The firm has also represented plaintiffs in a wide variety of other civil rights litigation, including police misconduct litigation and First Amendment cases. The firm is now involved in a highly publicized case, challenging strip-searches performed by Customs agents at O'Hare Airport.

And we know that Obama was involved in some of these voting rights cases.

by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 11:42:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And I agree that these are all worthwhile and laudable activities. The point Fitch made and I have tried to bring out is that these efforts did not conflict with the profits being made in the redevelopment efforts in which they were also involved. So it is a complex picture.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 12:06:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But we do have a serious issue underlying. Suppose you are unhappy with slum conditions in South Side Chicago and wish to do something. You can choose to engage with the property system, raise funds, get grants, lobby for government help, work with sympathetic managers of capital (like the south street bank) and so on to try to build housing. Such a course has 100% chance of involving grossly ugly compromises, and an enormous temptation to make self-rewarding decisions - a temptation that is hard to resist for most people and exceptionally easy to rationalize. However, you have also a chance to improve lives, build communities, "empower" your own community etc. Or you could choose to spend your time exposing the criminal behavior of the developers who will not at all be deterred or even inconvenienced by your expose. Many people "on the left" are more happy with the moral consequences of the second choice. I'm dubious and think of Zizek's analysis of the protests against the Iraq war.

What V.I. Warshawksi would say, is something I'd like to know.

by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 10:53:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The problem, as you know, that it is quite possible to remove slum conditions but at the same to remove the slum dwellers. Who will move to another slum. That is the paradox of gentrification: A quarter in bad condition is put into good condition, but most of its former inhabitants don't profit from this change.

Is a important discussion in Berlin right now.
But I have no solution to this problem as of yet. The usual solution is public housing, but that way was left in Daley administration and some of the old projects even torn down. (And it didn't seemed to work in the US earlier)

"Or you could choose to spend your time exposing the criminal behavior of the developers who will not at all be deterred or even inconvenienced by your expose."

You mean like Obama did as an community organizer?

"What V.I. Warshawksi would say, is something I'd like to know."

No Sara Paretsky fan?

Now, V. I. Warshawksi actually is a lawyer, but found out early on that the only way to fight for justice is of course being an P. I. She did took on unions (brotherhood of knifegrinders), insurance, medicine, the prison industry, I think also the media, but I never remember a explicit real estate angle angle. Rather surprising, now that I think about it. But than I haven't read everything.

by IM on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 11:53:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The track record of such redevelopment in chicago seems to be mixed. There are, however, a lot of low income people who live in much better housing than before.

Community organizers are not addressing the audience of The Nation readers.

I am a big Sarah Paretsky fan. I think her novels do a good job of illuminating some of the difficulties of working within a setting where corruption and injustice are so rife. But mostly I enjoy where she shoots or beats up some bad guy.

by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 12:08:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
IM:
The problem, as you know, that it is quite possible to remove slum conditions but at the same to remove the slum dwellers. Who will move to another slum. That is the paradox of gentrification: A quarter in bad condition is put into good condition, but most of its former inhabitants don't profit from this change.

I think the analysis looks simple here: It's not the neighbourhood, it's the poverty. Or well, it's the neighbourhood too, but mainly it is the poverty.

I am reminded of the city housing company in Malmoe that a decade or so ago struck a deal with the tenants association that improvements that can be postponed (change of wallpaper and such) will only be done when the tenant asks for it, but that will also be reflected in the rent. Now the city housing company feels there is a problem, because to many tenants choose not to have wallpaper and similar changed, preferring the low rent. It is quite easy to understand the city housing company not wanting to get slum on their hands, but it is also easy to understand tenants that choose low rent over improvemtns. I would guess that looking at incomes of the tenants who choose low rent you would find the real problem.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 02:29:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And the reputation of Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland as a boutique black civil rights law firm was based largely on the work of Davis in the 80s, before he was co-opted by LISC, not to say that some of that activity might not have continued, even in pro bono work. And, if you have a potential rising star, as Obama was, you might want to deploy him in career burnishing roles.

This is not to say that Barack and Michelle Obama were not personally concerned with the welfare of poor blacks, but they clearly did not identify with them and were prepared to impose sacrifices on them, such as the loss of public housing, perhaps in a 'higher interest' that also benefited their future career paths. Nor were they vigilant that the process did not damage the lives of the most vulnerable among these poor, as with Obama defending Woodlawn against charges of their not providing heat in winter to former public housing tenants who were now Woodlawn's tenants. Everyone wants to be able to have a good opinion of themselves and their activities. Often this involves selective blindness.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 12:00:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/06/nation/na-obamalegal6

So the sum evidence is that Smith's "does not add up" is a smarmy bit of mendacious smearing. One does not need to show that the Law Firm was angelic or that Mr. Obama worked their on only the most laudable cases to see that it's bullshit.

As for your psychoanalysis of the Obamas, I am not interested. How about this: try some concrete criticisms of actions - ones while in office would be good - instead of engaging in lurid speculation about who was friends with whom and what they really thought.

by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 12:14:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That seems to settle it. If these three minor cases make Obama a lawyer working for Big development, you could say the same about me.
by IM on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 01:01:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The point was less his work for the law firm than his activities and contributions from the development interests, coupled with a lack of any actions in any areas where the financial interests of the contributors were impacted.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 01:11:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the sum evidence is that Smith's "does not add up" is a smarmy bit of mendacious smearing.

So it does not impress you. But your quoted comment itself is an example of the pejorative labeling which I have noted before. I doubt that you would admit anything on this subject is convincing.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 01:21:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I just tried to google the firm, to get additional information. Apart from the website of the firm itself I did find page after page of right-wing conspiracy theory. Mostly quite racist. (And some Pumas).

Is that really a company you want to join?

by IM on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 12:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rootless2
That's just a sleazeball rhetorical device.

And that is just crude pejorative labeling.

Further, what makes you think that any of the participants on this blog value opinions you state without substantiation. You attack her credibility by assertion and pejorative labeling or pick out a sentence and claim it to be outrageous or silly. If you want any credibility you need to do better than that. I suspect that most on this blog find her vastly more credible and informative than they find you.

I know from following diaries and Salons that many on this site follow naked capitalism, amongst other financial blogs and have respect for Yves. I  I can not say the same for your contributions here. Credibility is earned over time - or not. As to liberal Republicans, Susan Eisenhower, who until recently self identified as a liberal Republican, came out in support of Barack Obama in 2008. People's opinions can and do evolve. I suspect the same is true for Yves Smith, again from having read her posts and her responses to comments.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 11:16:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's just accurate spotting of a rhetorical sleight of hand that you want to excuse for some reason.

The fact is that that particular line written by Smith attempts to create an impression of moral turpitude based on nothing at all.

Liberal Republicans are all very swell, but they are not in a position to explain why someone is a fake leftist.

by rootless2 on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 11:52:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you know who Yves Smith is?

There are people on this site who know her personally, but why focus on her? She is just the conduit, via Michael Hudson, for Robert Fitch.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 04:57:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So I'm supposed to ignore her remarks on her blog?
by rootless2 on Sat May 5th, 2012 at 05:02:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You might devote some attention to the article she is prefacing - unless your purpose is to distract from it. It showed a lot of integrity by Fitch for him to give this speech to the Harlem Tenants Association not two weeks after Obama's victory in 2008. And, to me, it is quite prescient.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 01:17:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You quoted Smith and I responded to what she wrote.

As for Fitch, sadly, the high percentage of white "leftists" who wanted to condescend to black people was kind of surprising to me at that time - although I've been informed that my surprise indicated naivete.

by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 08:06:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
My cursory reading of Obama's biography, dating from four years ago, led me to believe he went to Chicago to "pay his dues" : to become the African American that he was assumed to be because of his skin colour, and to build an unassailable political base with the black community.

But I realise now that his choice was more sophisticated than that : the Daley machine's urban renewal plans opened up great career opportunities for a talented black man, and wonderful opportunities to network with potential financial backers. The fact that this was judged compatible with progressive politics was a bonus.

Truly a Third Wayer from the beginning.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 07:55:02 AM EST
Actually the combined argument presented there is pretty much a version of the "empty suit/manchurian candidate" argument of the right wing.

Obama went to Chicago to work for the preeminent midwest pro-labor/civil-rights law firm - a law firm staffed by people who had worked with the legendary Harold Washington. While there he was involved in lawsuits on police brutality, racial discrimination, and other civil rights issues.  The effort to paint this period of his life as participation in real-estate swindles is indicative of the character of those making the effort.

by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 08:12:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You concede elsewhere in this thread that he used this period of his life to network with those who would finance his political career. I completely agree that this is par for the course in US politics, where no national political figure can exist without being bankrolled by someone.

Personally, I really believed in Obama when he was elected. But  when he abandoned his professed ambition to reform campaign finance, I realised that he was indeed the empty suit that more clear-sighted friends had described.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 12:58:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When did he pledge to reform campaign finance? The most significant event in campaign finance during the Obama administration has been the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision - one that was surely motivated by the success of the Obama campaign in raising money from the general public instead of being beholden to the usual interests. The Congress absolutely refused to contest the SC decision which was a very radical intrusion into governance overruling more than a century of settled law.
by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 04:46:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Part of Obama's genius lay in rarely making explicit promises and benefiting from people giving him the benefit of the doubt. I recall comments on blogs during the primaries discussing how the candidate should not have to make explicit statements that could be used against him in the general election. Most people thought he would be much more aggressive in many areas than he turned out to be. I don't think that was an accident.

I did not support him until he became the Democratic nominee, at which time I decided that he was better than McCain, and I decided to wait and give him some time to see if he would really do anything about the financial issues and rule of law issues that were and remain so vital to any possible recovery. I gave up hope on that front sometime in July or August of 2010.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 05:56:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What explicit promises do you have in mind? He ran, as I recall, as a moderate Democrat.
by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 06:03:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
seems to me to be an entirely bogus issue in which one fantasizes a "normality" that has never existed and then feels aggrieved that it does not appear. The history of the United States, like that of all nations, has always featured different laws for the powerful than for the weak.  Furthermore, in regard to the financial crisis, this issue seems to be raised by people who don't understand or don't want to understand that there is a difference between immoral/reckless actions and those which are legally or practically prosecutable.

Under US corporate law, as interpreted by Law and Economics judges for the last 20 years, it is legal for the management of a company to drown it in debt in order to pay "dividends" to shareholders -often with particular benefits to majority shareholders - while rewarding themselves with bonus money. It's manifestly clear that such actions are in violation of common sense understandings of fiduciary duty and constitute what is called fraudulent conveyance. However, that's not the state of the law. That's your "rule of law" for you - a shoddy excuse for looting.

by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 06:14:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Examining the record, I can indeed find no trace of explicit promises for serious reform of campaign finance. Yet I clearly remember my progressive American friends being absolutely convinced, and going into a great deal of detail, about what he was going to do in this respect -- and being bitterly disappointed when it turned out he would do virtuqlly nothing.

As you say, he had a remarkable propensity to be all things to all progressives. On lui donnait le bon Dieu sans confession.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 07:03:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is more of an indication of the political acuity of US "progressives" than of Obama's talents for misleading people. The US political system does not permit the executive to legislate and it was clear that the Congress was not particularly interested in reforming the system that made life so secure for incumbent.
by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 07:10:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually the combined argument presented there is pretty much a version of the "empty suit/manchurian candidate" argument of the right wing.

Exactly, that is what drove me to comment to begin with.

It's one thing to accuse Obama of being a moderate centrist from the beginning, except that it's not really an accusation but rather a statement of the obvious.

The whole Manchurian Candidate thing is foul, and completely unnecessary.  It adds absolutely nothing.

by Zwackus on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 04:47:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have been repeatedly appalled at the willingness of many members of the US left to adopt racially charged right wing critiques of the Obama administration. It's been a shameful period.
by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 04:51:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I see him and the tendency of Fitch's analysis as showing that he is someone of negotiable principles interested in his own career path above all. He is not some robot controlled by dark right wing forces. He sought out and cultivated the wealthy backers from the time he moved to Chicago, and they are right wing mostly with regard to money, not particularly on social issues except as it impacts their profits. His modus operandi is clearly Third Way.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 06:02:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Every politician who ever wins elected office has negotiable principles and a great deal of ambition. And every politician who rises to high office in the United States has wealthy backers. So if the nub of Fitchs argument is that Obama was a successful American politician, there will be no objection from me.
by rootless2 on Sun May 6th, 2012 at 06:06:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This looks like it's escalating into a flame war.

Part of the problem is that the issue raised is being argued largely in terms of what Fitch and Smith did or did not say, which is a largely pointless nature of argument.

Either we change the terms of the debate by doing additional research into the issues, or we give up.

I may do so after work, but not now.

by Zwackus on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 05:28:27 PM EST
What is the discussion actually about?

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 07:04:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
about 80 comments, so far.
by rootless2 on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 07:40:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nothing I am any longer interested in continuing.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 07:46:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To me it was largely about whether Fitch and Smith presented useful insights into Obama's character and motivation. But I seem to have spent more time responding to what I consider mischaracterizations and denigrations of what they wrote than to any discussion of what they said. rootless2 claimed Yves was making insinuations not based on Fitch which he labeled a "sleezeball rhetorical device". I quoted more of what Fitch had written.  I finally responded to that line here.  afew responded to rootless2. Rinse, repeat ad nauseam and the comment thread becomes annoying, unreadable and is derailed - regardless of what was intended.

This is not helped by the fact that I had never intended to post the diary in the form and at the time that it was posted. I thought I had put it on 'never display', as all I had was a title and two quotes, not even blockquotes or links, and there were two elections over the weekend. I had intended to let it wait in the diary list until I had time to work on it and add to it but was surprised and dismayed to find that it had been posted, recommended  and had received a comment, and thus I considered it inappropriate to hide the diary. Lesson learned. I will store works in progress in other locations henceforth.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Mon May 7th, 2012 at 08:40:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
To me it was a debate about what Obama actually did in Chicago. And an attempt to make Obama responsible for everything the Daley machine did post second world war.
by IM on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 02:56:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That was the surface. What is the disagreement really about?

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 04:34:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Obamas true motivations?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 05:42:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No, the debaters' core assumptions about politics. Obama is just incidental.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 05:44:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And what, pray, is my core assumption about politics?

I would prefer it if people engage with what other people actually say (or do), not claim hidden motives that seem mostly a figment of their own imagination.

by IM on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 06:00:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I'm saying is that this has been a debate with lots more heat than light, with shooting of messengers (Fitch, Smith, Hudson), and so on. I'm not ascribing any hidden motives to anyone specifically, I'm just suggesting that there are some unstated, possibly unconscious disagreements underlying the acrimony. And Obama, for some reason, catalizes this particular disagreement.

guaranteed to evoke a violent reaction from police is to challenge their right to "define the situation." --- David Graeber citing Marc Cooper
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 06:04:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That sounds about right, given my previous experiences with similar arguments on similar Obama-related topics.
by Zwackus on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 06:43:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It seems to me that the argument has been about belief, as the thread title indicates.

There are people who never "believed" in Obama. There are others, such has myself, who believed (or who suspended their disbelief), and were disappointed (or perhaps I'm the only one here?). Others still believe, apparently. Or still accord him the benefit of the doubt.

Change you can believe in? About fifteen cents in the dollar, I'd say.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 07:35:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I find this whole notion of "belief" to be mysterious. Most of us thought Obama was exactly who he presented himself to be, a moderate, cautious, reformer within the framework of the Democratic party - which is US version of social democrat - but without much baggage from the New Deal era. And that is exactly what we got - although I have been enormously encouraged by how tenacious and smart the Obama administration has been.  My expectations were also that the right would do all it could to sabotage this administration, that the right wing of the Democratic party would be totally unreliable, and that the "progressive" wing would fail to do much but complain. Again, no surprises.
by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 08:17:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What moderate, cautious reforms has the Obama administration promoted, exactly?

RomneyCare was always - well - RomneyCare.

And your other reforms are where?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 08:29:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Romney care is not bad - at the time Romney put it in place in MA, he was a pro-choice moderate, and the bill was mostly crafted by the Democratic legislature. Getting it through the Congress was a stunning success.
It is the most powerful attempt to deal with income inequality in 50 years.

I'm kind of happy with the largest stimulus ever
http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/12/putting_the_stimulus_bill_in_p.html
that saved the US and the world from immediate depression.

I'm thrilled the EPA is regulating mercury from coal - something that will help destroy the coal business.

The Obama administration saved the US wind industry, the auto industry and the largest industrial union, plus the credit unions.

The financial reform is damaging the fee for everything model of US banking.

The US is out of Iraq and not in Iran.

There is a functioning enforcement of civil rights laws from the Federal government after 8 years of encouragement of police violence.

Torture is banned

Two decent people on the Supreme Court instead of two more devotees of the Mussolini School of Jurisprudence.

Higher wages for the poorest farm workers.

Forcing Boeing to back down on plans to destroy the Machinists union.

... much more than I had hoped for.

by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 09:29:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Given Obama's involvement with the legislative process involved in the accomplishments that required legislation it is hard for me to say that the result is owing very much to his involvement. But the way he handled that process was favorable to the lobbyists and their clients getting satisfactory outcomes - the polity as a whole, not so much, IMO.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 09:34:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Undoubtedly you are correct. Reforms like health reform that eluded Truman on were probably passed due to, perhaps, the weather or the magnetic pulses emanating from Atlantis.
by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 10:20:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
They were passed because that was the legislative priority of a majority of the House, Senate and the White House and had been a stated aim during the campaign. Given the Senate was close to a two thirds majority they had a chance and if nothing were to come from such a rare alignment of the stars all would look like fools. They needed something to brag about. They got something. The lobbyists got just about everything they could have desired.

With Obama's leadership this is about as good as it could get. God help us. With all of the challenges which confront us the best we could do was to feed the FIRE parasites at least a third of what we spend on health care, giving us a health care system substantially more expensive than any other on earth that delivers performance below at least twenty other countries on a variety of measures. All of Congress gets their contributions and the Republicans get to claim that there is no money for anything else.

The USA is truly a rentier paradise, but this is an unstable paradise. The bloated FIRE sector is sucking the life out of the real economy and, through their effective  capture of the federal government they have come to have de facto impunity, which is undermining rule of law on which the economic system depends even as the rent extraction is destroying the economic base which supports the entire edifice. Obama will be fortunate if the entire edifice does not collapse during his second term. When people say that the USA is the greatest country on earth I do not try to dispute them. I just note that that is the problem.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 12:26:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You hit the key point above: what you have from Smith, Fitch and others is a narrative. It is a narrative that does not depend on facts, but has an emotional resonance.
by rootless2 on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 07:21:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fitch's narrative adds a few facts and observations to the standard Obama narrative. The additional complexity renders that narrative less of a hagiography and you respond with fury and invective directed at Yves Smith who characterized Fitch's speech as showing "How Obama's Early Career Success Was Built on Fronting for Chicago Real Estate and Finance".

Fitch was responding to a specific request from The Harlem Tenants Association: "to foretell what an Obama Administration is going to do for cities, housing and neighborhoods." Fitch looked at the parts of Obama's history where he was involved in housing and concluded that Obama was likely to continue to view housing issues in the context of the contributions he could get from others with financial interests there and be less concerned with negative impacts on residents. Fitch was not trying to 'prove' Obama was anything. This was a speech to a group with interests likely to be impacted by Obama Administration policy which likely included a number of Obama supporters, but they had asked him a question and he responded as he saw fit. The election was over. You claim Fitch failed to 'prove' anything, but he never set out to do that and a speech was not an appropriate vehicle in which to make such an attempt.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 11:36:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No those are not facts. What you have is factesque.

And Fitch's "analysis" works like this

  1. Chicago has the same sort of conspiracy to destroy black neighborhoods that we had in NYC (unproven)
  2. Some of Obama's supporters are involved in housing development in Chicago (zero analysis of how successful those were for poor people)
  3. Those people are rich scum who don't care about the poor (based on zero)
  4. Therefore, Obama is fronting for rich developers who don't care about the poor. QED.

that kind of drivel may serve as analysis for people who think Bob Avakian is deep or Yves Smith is an authority on "leftism", but I'm unimpressed.

And it's characteristic that instead of EVER making an effort to defend the indefensible crap from Smith, you attack me for supposedly insisting on hagiography. No. I know the difference between "we keep saying it over and over" and fact.

by rootless2 on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 11:59:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I would never think of Yves Smith as an authority on "leftism". That seems to be what you claim for yourself.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 12:59:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When you quote someone approvingly, either stand up for what they said or admit you were wrong

Barack Obama remains an icon to many on what passes for the left in America despite incontrovertible evidence that he does not represent their interests. There are many contributing factors, including his considerable skills as a speaker and his programmatic effort to neuter liberal critics by getting their funding cut.

Love that theory from a libertarian Wall Street consultant.

by rootless2 on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 01:12:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Others than professional authorities may have and even express opinions and I do agree with what you just quoted.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed May 9th, 2012 at 01:52:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So Citizen Obama and State Senator Obama is responsible for everything happening in Chicago during the eighties, nineties and 2000-2008.

President Obama on the other hand is just a innocent bystander to anything achieved during his presidency.

And he isn't even dead yet:

The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.

by IM on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 07:15:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So Citizen Obama and State Senator Obama is responsible for everything happening in Chicago during the eighties, nineties and 2000-2008.

No. The argument is that he was the public face of those wealthy families and large donors who were demolishing public housing in the interests of profits and gentrification and an occasional defender of those who were exploiting the refugees as well as personally profiting from his relationship with at least one of exploiters - Tony Rezko - while ignoring the complaints of his constituents about the harmful impacts on the poorest.

As president he has continued to display a similar pattern of ignoring the complaints of those harmed by Wall Street, occasionally defending them publicly, as with his 'sharp guys' comment about TBTF CEOs, and presiding over an administration that repeatedly settles potentially damaging law suits against the TBTFs for pennies on the dollar and extends to them instead regulatory forbearance.

His behavior is a continuation of the pattern that emerged in Chicago of putting the interests of wealthy donors first. The problem with that is that in the case of Wall Street he is failing to properly enforce the rule of law in the interests of preserving individuals and corporations that are both undermining the rule of law and undermining the foundations of the US economy and society.

 

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 10:50:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]

No. The argument is that he was the public face of those wealthy families and large donors who were demolishing public housing in the interests of profits and gentrification and an occasional defender of those who were exploiting the refugees as well as personally profiting from his relationship with at least one of exploiters - Tony Rezko - while ignoring the complaints of his constituents about the harmful impacts on the poorest.

If that's the argument, it is a lie - actually a compounded lie. You could rescue yourself by finding a link documenting a couple of cases where Obama acted as the "public face" of some interest demolishing public housing, but there is no such link. What you can find is that he appeared in court for a client of his law firm once or twice.

Here's the interesting question though. The guy has been President for 3+ years, he was Senator for 3 years before, and what you have to to do attack him is echo right wing slanders that have been twisted into a putatively left wing flavor. What exactly did Obama DO that you find so offensive?

by rootless2 on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 11:05:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have cited the case where Obama personally defended the interests of Woodlawn over tenants regarding failuer to provide heat in winter and he served on the boards of many of the non-profits who were pushing the agenda and accepting the process from which the wealthy profited and the poor suffered. It is obviously what he hasn't done that concerns me, both in Chicago, where it affected mostly the poorest among his constituents and as president where it has affected the entire economy and society at the expense of all but a tiny portion of the population. Other than that he is a nice guy and I much prefer him being the public face of the USA than, for instance, George W. Bush.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 11:18:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your assertion was "served as the public face" and your support is a single court appearance as an attorney, being on some boards and "accepting the process" which is a meaningless assertion about internal mental state.  Wow.

The rest is hand waving. You cannot support a case that Obama has been a President who damaged the interests of the majority from fluff about what he didn't say 20 years ago.

BTW: it's interesting that people who make a living from exploiting the poor really really really hate President Obama - even more than you do.

by rootless2 on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 11:33:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Fitch speech is itself a "link documenting a couple of cases". Perhaps you should have said 'another link'. And I don't hate Obama, I do hate his failure to uphold rule of law in the financial industry.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 12:58:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No it's not. There is not a single case of Obama "acting as the public face" of a real-estate developer in what Fitch writes.

Did I miss it? Give me the passage.

by rootless2 on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 01:11:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here.

Meanwhile, Obama did legal work for the Rezko-Davis partnership. And forCommunity Development Organizations like Woodlawn Organization.

In 1994, the LATimes reports, Obama appeared in Cook County court on behalf of Woodlawn Preservation & Investment Corp., defending it against a suit by the city, which alleged that the company failed to provide heat for low-income tenants on the South Side during the winter.


Now you will switch back from denying to denigrating. Had the Obama transition team had the foresight to send to Fitch's speech to the Harlem Tenants Association a couple of agents as vociferous in Obama's defense as are you Fitch might never have gotten to finish his speech - had most of the audience believed said agents and not Fitch. And Fitch would likely have been able to oblige requests for additional links.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 02:43:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So Obama, as a junior attorney apparently did some legal work for "the Rezko-Davis" partnership and for the Woodlawn Organization.

Even if we just accepted this it is a very long way from "acted as the public face". Do you understand how the legal profession works? Representing a client is not the same as being the client. One might as well argue that Clarence Darrow was a depraved murderer of children.

And "The WoodLawn Organization" to take one example, has a mixed track record. It was cofounded by the legendary Saul Alinsky. Can we say Alinsky was the public face of real-estate developers? It has built over a thousand units of section 8 housing in Bronzeville - section 8 housing is housing for poor people. TWO has defects, maybe big defects, but it is not a gentrification factory or the evil that Fitch pretends it to be.

Finally, the whole "public face" argument is at the bottom a variant of the Right wing claim that every prominent black man is a shallow front for a white string puller. It's a deeply racist argument with a despicable history. Instead of engaging in poorly researched and dishonestly presented claims about who Obama is supposedly "fronting for", how about making an actual argument on his political career?

by rootless2 on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 06:30:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How about we just drop the argument? Mostly what we are arguing over is how to characterize Fitch's argument and Yves Smith's presentation. Any who are interested can just read the article and the speech and decide for themselves. Most of those on ET do not require to be told what to think about much of anything while remaining open to the possibility that they might learn something. I was surprised that you responded with such vehemence to what was a rather minor criticism of Obama. There was no intent to accuse him of wrongdoing. Just that his relations and associations in Chicago gave some indication of what he would do as president and why.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 07:29:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rootless2:
a variant of the Right wing claim that every prominent black man is a shallow front for a white string puller

really?

it's seems more the other way round to me, coming from the left, directed against colon powell, clarence thomas, and herman cain, to name a few.

can you give examples of the direction you name?

this whole discussion describes the conflict between 'white' and 'AA', 'rich' and 'poor' values that obama embodies, the half white careerist who has known poverty, and is now a millionaire. just as he governs bipartisanly, just as he seems sometimes a Janus figure, talking up a vivid rhetoric that warms the cockles of those low on the totem pole, while taking more campaign money from rich white wall st fatcats than anyone else, campaigning on social justice, then letting the criminal architects of the biggest ever financial crisis walk free, gentrifying chicago and helping/hurting some black and white people in the process.

nothing wrong with resolving duality, per se, but when you keep going down the list, re making strides with global nuclear disarmament, while further decimating habeus corpus and increasing drone use on countries with whom no war has been declared, with significant civilian 'collateral' slaughter, strike one war, then surge in another...

are these an example of how widely we should be thinking, to stay abreast of the changing, ever-more pragmatic realities we are encountering, or is this man a 'human bridge' between two hitherto irreconcilable political poles, a bridge too difficult for ordinary people to conceive of, let alone follow him across?

he is an enigma. if he is a good man, then the presidency as real power is mostly illusion, and a mostly corporatist, corrupt congress and senate really determine the peoples' fate, or if not, as others on the right believe, he is a fraudulent, self-centred demagogue whose appeal to those on the left was just a good line in rhetoric and vapourware, and all this politicking is just a ploy to game a good post prez career in platinum paid speechifying to the converted, a la blair/clinton.

any centrist must accept being hated by the extreme left and right, it comes with the territory, and it seems he has made the choice so far to endlessly split the difference, neither trumpeting his achievements, letting them speak for themselves, nor apologising. a man of taste and distinction. rapidly greying hair, and an easy, assured smile. really disarming public figure. judged as a performer, his histrionic sense is orders of magnitude beyond anyone else on the political horizon, in a league of his own.

he's a triumph of political manoeuvrings, a changeling hybrid between noble statesman and manchurian candidate. a man of destiny, on whom historians will spend tomes dissecting his character and psychosocial underpinnings, the constituent formation of his persona's ~and personal~ journey through ideology to praxis.

can you imagine how gwb would have strutted if he had zapped osama? it would have made the flight suit braggadocio seemed mild.

fools rush in, and obama goes slow. where he's taking us remains to be seen, or even if he can do more than remain a voice of relative sanity as epochal change far beyond his power to influence, or do much to amend, simultaneously hits the whole world, revolutionising  societal systems as we know them. so far i still give him the benefit of the doubt that his acumen has been hobbled by unseen, opaque forces up till now, and his second term could unleash different sides to him, especially if european events continue to expose neolib economics as the corporate welfare clusterfuck it really is.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 08:48:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have not seen much claim that Powell, Thomas, or whatshisname are or were puppets.

One cannot really have this discussion until facts are established. For example

"while taking more campaign money from rich white wall st fatcats than anyone else"

is not a fact. In fact, it is trivially refuted, but continues to be an article of faith - which is an interesting phenomenon. Apparently people need to believe this.

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2012/05/super-pac-spending-teeters-at-100-million-mark.html

http://www.opensecrets.org/pres12/candidate.php?id=N00009638

http://www.opensecrets.org/pres12/sectorall.php?cycle=2012

"gentrifying chicago"

An accusation, not backed up by anything.

And then
"nothing wrong with resolving duality, per se, but when you keep going down the list, re making strides with global nuclear disarmament, while further decimating habeus corpus and increasing drone use on countries with whom no war has been declared, with significant civilian 'collateral' slaughter, strike one war, then surge in another... "

makes no sense at all. Such duality is the best one can expect in our world where the nature of power is brutality. E.g. LBJ "revolution in civil rights while atrocities in Vietnam". Is there a single office holder in world history who does better than mixed?

"he is an enigma"
Yes, that is the claim, but it's a statement of belief, not a fact.

"self-centred demagogue whose appeal to those on the left was just a good line in rhetoric and vapourware,"

He ran for office as an avowed moderate and centrist.

To me, all these celebrity character psychological arguments are gibberish that makes me miss the old vulgar class analysis of the communists. At least that had some content.

by rootless2 on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 09:08:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks for the reply.

rootless2:

I have not seen much claim

that implies you have seen some... i thought maybe you had your wires crossed!

do you have any examples of rightist claims obama is a stooge for white interests?

rootless2:

"while taking more campaign money from rich white wall st fatcats than anyone else"

is not a fact.

i was referring to the last election, excuse me if i am wrong.

rootless2:

"gentrifying chicago"

An accusation, not backed up by anything.

just riffing off the diary, so you think it's all smoke and no fire then, ok.

rootless2:

"nothing wrong with resolving duality, per se, but when you keep going down the list, re making strides with global nuclear disarmament, while further decimating habeus corpus and increasing drone use on countries with whom no war has been declared, with significant civilian 'collateral' slaughter, strike one war, then surge in another... "

makes no sense at all. (exactly my point, ed) Such duality is the best one can expect in our world where the nature of power is brutality. E.g. LBJ "revolution in civil rights while atrocities in Vietnam". Is there a single office holder in world history who does better than mixed?

Such duality is the best one can expect in our world where the nature of power is brutality.

one begs to differ, history is not the future, yet anyway! the whole mojo obama bottled and fed us was a new approach to politics, and that's what we got alright, not governance leadership with fire in the belly as in the campaign, but pandering to special interests, (BP?) and extending the draconian, unconstitutional over-reach of the previous madministration.

rootless2:

LBJ "revolution in civil rights while atrocities in Vietnam".

yes LBJ split his pants too trying to keep opposing sides from mutual assured political destruction, your point being?

Is there a single office holder in world history who does better than mixed?

did i say there was? has there ever been such a politician as promising as obama in living memory?

straw man anyway, i wasn't remarking on his similarity to anyone, rather the opposite. usually by the end of the first term it's pretty freaking obvious what you got, not with Obama.

rootless2:

"he is an enigma"
Yes, that is the claim, but it's a statement of belief, not a fact.

i claim the opinion, sure. enigmas resist factualisation by nature.

rootless2:

He ran for office as an avowed moderate and centrist.

yes and also a firebreathing radical, depends where you saw him from, or which speech he was giving, to whom.

if my comment was content-free gibberish, why bother dignifying it with a reply?

rootless2:

makes me miss the old vulgar class analysis of the communists.

de gustibus non disputandum, comrade!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 09:52:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd be fascinated to see a link to a speech from Obama where he came off as a fire breathing radical.

Certainly I don't know anyone who expected him to be the first political leader in human history to be without sin.

Last election numbers are often misstated.

1    Lawyers/Law Firms    $45,386,298
2    Retired    $42,859,404
3    Education    $24,533,794
4    Securities & Investment    $15,798,904
5    Misc Business    $15,170,193
6    Health Professionals    $12,661,821
7    Business Services    $11,947,978
8    Real Estate    $11,184,773
9    Computers/Internet    $9,262,922
10    TV/Movies/Music    $9,205,821
11    Civil Servants/Public Officials    $9,191,48

Securities and Investment is "contributions from people who worked at Securities and Investment Companies"- secretaries to top execs.  So my friend, the single mother clerk who gave $2000 is listed as coming from securities industry.

The whole reason the Supreme Court had to strike down campaign expenditure limits for corporations is that the Obama campaign managed to raise more money than the right from mostly small contributions.

And I didn't say your post was gibberish.

by rootless2 on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 10:41:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rootless2:

Certainly I don't know anyone who expected him to be the first political leader in human history to be without sin.

nor do i.

i don't expect pigs to fly much either.

but i do argue that the canyon between his gift of hope while stumping and the post-election reality is ginormous, and it mystifies me how the gentleman reconciles the contradictions. when i say he's no open book, i don't grudge him that. i respect his abiity to compartmentalise is some ways, though it leaves me feeling winded, and while somewhat bitter about the let down, as many are,, i don't feel i really know obama, whereas most pols are pretty transparent.

he has done enough good as a president, in the face of such recalcitrance, that he'd get my vote just to try and thwart the epidemic of crazy from the GOP. it's far from a case of 'they're all the same at heart' with him.

he has shown himself to have a voice which rings chimes of freedom in the dispossessed, and it takes great courage to be the first non-lilywhite president in a country seething still with racism. as historical figure the man defies easy analysis, as is seen from the intense defence he gets from you, (and half of me), as well as the raw hatred for him as smoothtalking warmonger and agent for the 1% from the likes of some on the extreme left, who sometimes seem to hate him as much as the foamers in the teabaggers do.

i reserve judgment.

rootless2:

And I didn't say your post was gibberish.

some will certainly see my contributions that way, i don't hold it against them, they may be right!

there is no shame in my book in scrutinising and discussing the psychology of anyone, especially a man whose actions have such a massive effect on the lives of millions, indeed it is a world citizen's right and duty to do so, imo. we certainly have a better map of human aberration available now than we did a few decades ago, when concepts such as boundaries were much less understood. human motivation is often inscrutable, but rarely is as cryptic as evinced by obama, who effortlessly seems to serve two masters...

if i were to play with a musical metaphor i'd say he's a 'four tops' type. 'reach out, i'll be there!'

on the campaign he sometimes sounded more marvin gaye, s'all.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri May 11th, 2012 at 06:27:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"ut i do argue that the canyon between his gift of hope while stumping and the post-election reality is ginormous,"


ANGELA DAVIS: Well, of course, initially, few people believed that a figure like Barack Obama could ever be elected to the presidency of the United States, and because there were those who persisted, and, you know, largely young people, who helped to build this movement to elect Barack Obama, making use of all of the new technologies of communication. And so, on that day, November 4th, 2008, when Obama was elected, this was a world historical event. People celebrated literally all over the world -- in Africa, in Europe, in Asia, in South America, in the Caribbean, in the US. I was in Oakland, and there was literally dancing in the street. I didn't -- I don't remember any other moment that can compare to that collective euphoria that gripped people all over the world.

Now, here we are two years later, and many people are treating this as if it were business as usual. As a matter of fact, many people are dissatisfied with the Obama administration, because they fail to fulfill all of our dreams. And, you know, one of the points that I frequently make is that we have to beware of our tendency here in this country to look for messiahs and to project our own possible potential power on to others. What really disturbs me is that we have failed. Well, of course, I'm dissatisfied with many of the things that Obama has done. The war in Afghanistan needs to end right now. The healthcare bill could have been much stronger than it turned out to be. There are many issues about which we can be critical of Obama, but at the same time, I think we need to be critical of ourselves for not generating the kind of mass pressure to compel the Obama administration to move in a more progressive direction, remembering that the election was, in large part, primarily the result of just such a mass movement that was created by ordinary people all over the country.

by rootless2 on Fri May 11th, 2012 at 11:41:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
rootless2:
primarily the result of just such a mass movement that was created by ordinary people all over the country.
 ...who voted for the stumping obama, and if they had had a crystal ball would possibly have stayed home.

now it's back to voting for him because the alternative seems so much worse.

rootless2:

I think we need to be critical of ourselves for not generating the kind of mass pressure to compel the Obama administration to move in a more progressive direction

thank kos for much of that pressure, but much more is needed.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri May 11th, 2012 at 12:57:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
" ...who voted for the stumping obama, and if they had had a crystal ball would possibly have stayed home."

And would have found themselves impoverished and wary of Blackwater guards in Sarah Palin's America - or, for many of them, in Iran patrolling the streets.

"Pressure" and "vituperative attacks on the morals and character of a reformist President" are not the same things. What Dr. Davis means by pressure is something else.

by rootless2 on Fri May 11th, 2012 at 01:00:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
 what is 'something else'? petitions, letters to congress, blogging, OWS, general strike?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri May 11th, 2012 at 04:05:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Strikes, marches, elections of lower officials, boycotts, propagandizing, ...

Here in my state, Tea Party has gone from marches to winning primaries. "Left" is writing letters to The Nation.

by rootless2 on Fri May 11th, 2012 at 04:07:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rootless2:
I find this whole notion of "belief" to be mysterious.

I do not. In order to convince yourself to spend time and money promoting a politician - that will personally be rewarded if elected, while you will not - and spend that time and money convincing others, many need to suspend their disbelief in the system.

rootless2:

Most of us thought Obama was exactly who he presented himself to be, a moderate, cautious, reformer within the framework of the Democratic party

Citation needed on "most". No, but seriously it would be interesting to see polls, in particular if any is done on Obama volonteers.

As you know, I think the Obama campaign did a great job promoting Hope&Change in such a way as to get people to project their own dreams upon the campaign. Not so great job dealing with the inevitable disappointment though.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 02:38:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There was a more "left" candidate - Dennis Kucinich. He never broke 10% (despite my vote). The vast majority of Democratic voters picked a "moderate".  So why one would expect such a selection to result in a left wing government puzzles me. It seems often to be a kind of assumption about one's own privilege.

The other weird thing about the disappointeds is that most of them are highly engaged, at least emotionally, in the political process, but they don't seem to understand the basics of how either the formal or informal power structure works. The US system give legislative power to Congress and Congress is elected via open primary and then general election - locally by state or district. Thus, Congress is not at all beholden to the President. There is no party list. For example, Mary Landrieu is a powerful senator from Louisiana who knows that Obama received 40% of the vote from her state - to be re-elected she must appeal to a conservative electorate (and to local powers in the oil industry). So a President has some leverage, but not the ability to force votes - especially a Democrat who does not have organized business groups to assist. In recent US history, neither Jimmy Carter nor Bill Clinton were too successful getting liberal legislation through the Congress. So that's the formal problem. Of course the informal problem is that no US president can simply defy the actual power elite- the corporates, the imperial military, the permanent government - he or she must try to form alliances, to split opponents etc.  What I have found most odd about the "disappointeds" is that many of them claim to be on the left, but have absolutely credulous theories about how the imperial system works - e.g. "the President is the commander in chief, he can just order the military to do so and so".

by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 03:03:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
just for myself, when Bush's helicopter left DC, it was enough for me to call the Obama administration a success.
by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 03:15:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Fitch characterizes Obama's speeches in a way that examination of the text shows to be false.

Smith uses a shoddy rhetorical trick to make it seem as if Obama's work with Minor,Barnhill was part of some shady real-estate scam.

Smith, a Wall Street "managerial consultant" who describes herself as a "liberal Republican" explains that Obama is a fake leftist - even though he has never described himself as a leftist at all.

Fitch makes that case that Obama's association with people involved in Chicago development means he is nothing more than the representative of a class of people who supposedly are depriving poor people of their homes in some grand conspiracy.

Fitch implies that black Americans are so stupid that they have supported someone who is inimical to their interests from racial identity alone.

Fitch who was a founding member of a ridiculous sectarian party (that once spent years championing the political ideology of Enver Hoxha )complains that Obama was not associated with ex-Weatherman Bill Ayers in the good days when Ayers advocated a political line critics correctly called "fight the people",but in the days when he had become a successful educator.

etc.

What's missing in all of this is any attempt to come to grips either with what Obama says or does. Instead we have an attempt to enforce a political line by sheer bullshitting.

by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 07:33:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fitch characterizes Obama's speeches in a way that examination of the text shows to be false.

Fitch deconstructs Obama's speeches in a way that examination of his activities shows to be hollow.
Smith uses a shoddy rhetorical trick to make it seem as if Obama's work with Minor,Barnhill was part of some shady real-estate scam.

Fitch provides a narrative to suggest that Obama's work with Davis Miner Barnhill & Galland was rather different from protection of the civil rights of poor blacks. DMBG came to specialize in providing legal representation for redevelopment groups, Davis went into partnership with Tony Rezko, who was convicted of fraud and extortion and failure to disclose a loan he recieved in connection with a South Side real estate project in June, 2008 and who had been one of the 'developers' of Grove Park, who was sued for failing to provide heat in the winter to tenants, many of whom were refugees from the demolished public housing projects. Obama personally defended Woodlawn, another 'community development' firm, from similar charges in 1994. So there was guilt and there was association.
Instead we have an attempt to enforce a political line...

Enforcement of 'political lines' reminds me of Gus Hall and the CPUSA and seems to be more what you are attempting with respect to how Obama is to be viewed.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 08:41:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that what "deconstructs" means?
by rootless2 on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 11:45:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes this debate rapidly devolved into the old and tired divide of the american center-left: realists vs. utopists, obots vs. emoprogs, liberals vs. moderates, naderites vs. liebermanites (Lieberman 2000). All the old and tested battle-grounds were visited: TARP, GM was saved, Obama is Bush, Obama is the biggest progressive since Johnson, Obamacare is the biggest progressive success since Medicare, Obamacare is Romneycare. And so on, and so on.

All debated over and over in all post and comment threads of the american (center-)left since 2008. If we hop over to Daily Kos, there will just such a debate in progress.

Rather boring.

I jumped in to because of the rhetoric of Obama, but because Fitch tried to connect urban renewal in Chicago and Obama. That was new and interesting and on that and only that I commented. I think Fitch didn't make his case and lowly state senator Obama was not to blame for the urban ills of Daley Chicago.

That isn't shooting the messenger that is debating the one new thing in a rather tired discussion.

by IM on Tue May 8th, 2012 at 08:55:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is boring, but it is not an argument between left and center. Yves Smith is a "liberal Republican", Bill Black is conservative, Matt Taibbi explains that capitalism has nothing to do with exploitation, ...  and all these come together with some odd remnants of the sectarian left, and the "progressives" to make a criticism of Obama that is not really one based on any left wing analysis at all.

The very notion of a critique based on "the rule of law" in Finance, which we see above has nothing to do with "left" as I understood it (and nothing to do with historical reality either).

Angela Davis has a left criticism of Obama. But it sounds nothing like this stuff.

by rootless2 on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 01:21:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh come on. Now everybody who dusagrees with you is no longer a part of the left? But just a republican in drag? What's your next argument "Did you know that Markos was a republican until he was 18"?

You can't just declare the large faction of the democratic party disagreeing with you republicans. That is just denial.

A pox on both your houses:

"Welcher Recht hat, weiß ich nicht -
 Doch es will mich schier bedünken,
 Daß der Rabbi und der Mönch,
 Daß sie alle beide stinken."

But now I must go - new case, a developer must be defended against his tenant.

by IM on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 01:35:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No - my claim was that "left/center" is irrelevant to this discussion. Despite what is claimed, one can reject the Fitch/Smith critique without advocating Rubinism or embrace it without advocating anything to the left of libertarianism. This is not a dispute about economics or social justice.
by rootless2 on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 01:40:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A pox on both your houses

Well, I do have a bit of a cold, but I won't blame you for that. I don't believe I really have a fundamental argument with you. I was just trying to bring back to what I saw as Fitch's points some diversions and what I saw as mischaracterizations which you found attractive. I really am not an expert on Chicago redevelopment and there would be no point to my trying to switch the argument to there.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu May 10th, 2012 at 05:10:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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