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Elend, Wut wachsen in Südeuropa (Misery, rage grow in Southern Europe)

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 15th November 2012

Debt kills.  Well, ruthless debt punishment kills:

As the head of Greece’s largest oncology department, Dr. Kostas Syrigos thought he had seen everything. But nothing prepared him for Elena, an unemployed woman whose breast cancer had been diagnosed a year before she came to him.  By that time, her cancer had grown to the size of an orange and broken through the skin, leaving a wound that she was draining with paper napkins. “When we saw her we were speechless,” said Dr. Syrigos, the chief of oncology at Sotiria General Hospital in central Athens. “Everyone was crying. Things like that are described in textbooks, but you never see them because until now, anybody who got sick in this country could always get help.

Elena’s still alive, no thanks to the Troika of course.  Dimitris Christoulas isn’t:

A picture of the man who has come to embody the inequities of Greece‘s financial crisis has begun to emerge, with friends and neighbours shedding light on the life of the elderly pensioner who killed himself in Athens on Wednesday.

Named as Dimitris Christoulas by the Greek media, the retired pharmacist was described as decent, law-abiding, meticulous and dignified.

The 77-year-old had written in his one-page, three-paragraph suicide note that it would be better to have a “decent end” than be forced to scavenge in the “rubbish to feed myself”.

Neither is this man, left anonymous in this account by Greek political economist Yanis Varoufakis:

The man had been missing since August. His last sighting was at the Social Security Offices (IKA) in a small town called Siatista, where he was told that his small monthly disability allowance of 280 euros was suspended, as a result of the latest austerity measures. Eyewitnesses said, according  to Athens daily ‘Ta Nea’, that they saw him leave upset and speechless. Soon after he placed a call to his family telling them that “he feels useless” and adding that he “has nothing to offer them anymore”. Naturally, they were alarmed, and soon after called the police. It was only the other day that the Police located his hanging body in a remote wooded area, suspended by the neck from the cliff which was to be his last resort.

These aren’t isolated cases, reports the Guardian’s Helena Smith:

Police data show a 20% increase in suicide rates in the two years since the outbreak of Europe‘s debt crisis in Greece in late 2009, although the health ministry estimated the figure was almost double that in the first five months of 2011 compared to the first five months of 2010. Suicide hotlines have been deluged with appeals for help.

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Armistice Day

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 11th November 2012


“Mahnmal,” (lit. “Warning monument,” usu. “Grieving Parents”) Kathe Kollwitz, 1932.
Photo by Tony Novosel

Today is Armistice Day, marking the end of combat in World War I. I’m seeing other remembrances of it on the Internet, and thought I’d add this one. It’s titled “Grieving Parents” or “Mourning Parents” in English, but the true name, in German, is simply “Mahnmal” —  “Warning Monument.”

Kathe Kollwitz’s younger son Peter volunteered for the German army when World War I began, and died in Belgium in 1914. Kollwitz — a socialist and eventual communist, as it happened — began work on this the next year; it was placed in the Roggevelde-Eesen German military cemetery in 1932.*

To me, this is one of greatest sculptures of all time, a Pieta of this world, not the next: the mother collapsing as if shot, the father grimly holding on to himself to keep from doing the same; eternal, unassuageable grief set in stone. Multiply this nine millionfold: World War I. Multiply it millions upon millionsfold again: the wars still fought after the war to supposedly end them all.

Each wartime grief has a particular story.  In this one, Kathe Kollwitz’s younger son Peter volunteered for the German army when World War I began.  Her diaries record the sequence of events:
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Poor Romney. Maybe.

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 9th November 2012

The Wall Street Journal’s Sara Murray and Patrick O’Connor propose a surprising, but well-reported theory why Romney lost the 2016 election. Despite 2012 being the most expensive election in American history at $6 billion (NYTimes), Romney’s campaign failed for lack of money! — lack of money at the right time, that is:

The GOP nominee emerged late last spring from a long and bruising Republican primary season more damaged than commonly realized. His image with voters had eroded as he endured heavy attacks from Republicans over his business record. He also felt compelled to take a hard line on immigration—one that was the subject of debate among his advisers—that hurt his standing with Hispanic voters.

The Romney campaign decided to prioritize fundraising, but…

… in the eyes of top aides in both campaigns, that early summer period when Mr. Romney was busy fundraising was perhaps the biggest single reason he lost the election.  The Obama campaign spent heavily while Mr. Romney couldn’t, launched a range of effective attacks on the Republican nominee and drove up voters’ negative perceptions of Mr. Romney.  The problem: Mr. Romney had burned through much of his money raised for the primaries, and by law, he couldn’t begin spending his general-election funds until he accepted the GOP nomination late in the summer.

Digby, at “Hullabaloo,” dismisses the theory (“the silliest rationalization for his loss yet”), wondering why Romney didn’t dip into his own millions, if he was in such dire straits in the early summer.  She’s one of my favorite pundits — she ought to be writing for the Post or the Times — and this is a good question that should have been answered in the article. (A possible answer is that even rich people prefer spending other people’s millions when possible, and their own only when necessary.) But Digby might also admit it’s pretty telling that what Romney actually did — whether because he was cheap, or because he had to — was to fundraise in the early summer, instead of campaigning in swing states or fighting back hard with ad buys of his own.

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GOP soul searching is something to see

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 9th November 2012

After Romney loss, GOP soul searching begins” (CBS); “Election aftermath: GOP soul-searching: ‘Too old, too white, too male’? “(Politico); “After stinging loss, GOP soul searching begins” (USA Today); etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  It’s tempting to suggest there’s an unproven premise in each of these headlines, but I’m not theologically qualified to go there.  Instead, I want to discuss just a few of the more archetypal, classic conservative responses I’ve run across to Obama’s workmanlike defeat of Romney on Tuesday.  I have no idea if any of them will feature as the Right’s deepest response to “What just happened to us? What now?”  It may be that Republican stalwarts will simply choose first one and then another from one occasion to the next, as needed, convenient, and/or comforting.

America was not worthy of us (Kevin Williamson, National Review):

“…offering Americans a check is a more fruitful political strategy than offering them the opportunity to take control of and responsibility for their own lives. This is what Oakeshott had in mind when he wrote that liberty was something that many people simply are not equipped to “enjoy as an opportunity rather than suffer as a burden.[…]

Though the article is ostensibly about “How Romney Lost,” this passage is clearly more about Mr. Williamson’s self-image and outraged sensibilities than it is an attempt to understand events around him.  In the “Easy to be Hard” chapter of his extremely interesting book “The Reactionary Mind,” Corey Robin summarizes this kind of thinking as one of the central features of conservatism (which, in his well-argued view, almost always boils down to a reactionary response to class insubordination).  Robin writes: “If the ruling class is to be vigorous and robust, the conservative has concluded, its members must be tested, exercised, and challenged” — the burden must be borne.  He also quotes ur-conservative Edmund Burke: “The subordinate turn on reliefs, gratifications, and indulgences; and are therefore more lovely, though inferior in dignity.  Those persons who creep into the hearts of most people, who are chosen as the companions of their softer hours, and their reliefs from care and anxiety, are never persons of shining qualities, nor strong virtues.” It’s as if Burke was there on the FOX News set with O’Reilly and Rove on Tuesday night, shaking his head as soft America scorned the virtues of shining, predatory capitalism.

They lie! they’re the ones who do the stuff they say we do (Karl Rove):

“The president, he succeeded by suppressing the vote. By saying to people, ‘you may not like who I am and I know you can bring yourself to vote for me, but I’m going to paint this other guy as simply a rich guy who only cares about himself.’ 53% in the exit polls said that on election that Mitt Romney’s policies only helped the rich and they voted for Obama by a 9-1 margin,” Karl Rove said on FOX News today.

As Joshua Green noticed back in 2004, Rove loves to attack an opponent on the very front that seems unassailable,” e.g., start a whisper campaign that an opponent known for caring about children’s issues is a pedophile.  This is a related tactic: take charges leveled against his side — e.g., vote suppression in this case — and simply recycle them as charges, however absurd, against his opponents.  It’s a neat verbal trick — simultaneously minimizing the meaning of the concept of vote suppression, and turning it to his own advantage.  But it’s a tactician’s reflex, not a leader’s answer.  Democrats should hope Rove — a now discredited wielder of SuperPAC millions — stays in the discussion with his empty rhetorical gimmicks and grifter’s mentality.

We didn’t lie enough (Tom Knapp, “Libertarian Republican”):

“This takes me back to January, when I asserted that Newt Gingrich was the only candidate who had both a shot at the GOP nomination and a chance of beating Obama. Gingrich will piss down your back and tell you it’s raining — and if you turn around and catch him with his pecker still out and dripping, he’ll get huffy and ask you if you believe him or your own lying eyes. The only time Romney showed that kind of backbone was with his “Jeep is getting ready to move to China” play, which failed not so much because it was a bald-faced lie as because it was a bald-faced lie aimed precisely at the only constituency in America who knew, beyond a shadow of doubt, that it was a bald-faced lie (voters in Ohio’s auto manufacturing areas).”

Nixon biographer (“Nixonland”) Rick Perlstein , writing for Baffler, tells of a conservative conference he attended as a speaker.  After listing example after example of conservative “exuberants” (Nixon’s term) blithely lying , cheating, and ratfucking their way to victory, the first prominent conservative rose to tell him during the question period, “I didn’t like Nixon until Watergate.”  Perlstein’s contention: “Lying is an initiation into the conservative elite. In this respect, as in so many others, it’s like multilayer marketing: the ones at the top reap the reward—and then they preen, pleased with themselves for mastering the game. Closing the sale, after all, is mainly a question of riding out the lie: showing that you have the skill and the stones to just brazen it out, and the savvy to ratchet up the stakes higher and higher.

—–

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Thoughts on Lawyers, Guns and Money at the End of an Election Cycle

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 6th November 2012

Dear sirs,

Sincerely,
Thomas Nephew

—–

As I’ve noted before, the level of disrespect and intolerance for alternative left viewpoints at the well-known “Lawyers, Guns & Money” blog and elsewhere bothers me.  So I’ve rewritten my comments here, and hope that a simple chart and reasoned discourse are better than the angry post I started off with.  Let us read  Robert Kuttner:

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Lessons from Katrina: Shock Doctrine… or Occupy Sandy?

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 3rd November 2012

Goldman Sachs Tower during Sandy blackout

Goldman Sachs Tower, New York City during Hurricane Sandy blackout, 10/29/2012

Hurricane Katrina was not the first large scale American natural disaster.  But whether because of the magnitude of the storm, the inadequate federal and state responses, or both, it was perhaps the first one to shake American confidence that our country was up to the task of taking care of its citizens after a disaster, or of helping communities recover from one.

Even natural disasters, it seemed — usually imagined to be a time of unity and shared commitment — could bring out both the best and the worst in people.  On the one hand, thousands of volunteers poured in to the disaster areas of Mississippi and Louisiana, and affected residents themselves rallied in many innovative ways to begin rebuilding their communities.

On the other hand, though, some people took strategic advantage of the crisis to push agendas they wouldn’t have been able to before — the phenomenon known as “Shock Doctrine” ever since Naomi Klein’s 2007 book of that name.

To give but one example, Education Secretary Arne Duncan once claimed Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.”  But teachers like Mike Klonsky thought otherwise; what really happened, he said, was “the firing of every teacher in the city, the driving out from the city’s schools more than 100,000 mostly African-American children, the busting of the teachers union, and the creation of a new two-tiered school system around a core of privately-managed charters …[with] mostly inexperienced and unqualified TFA teachers teaching poor kids “study and time management skills.” I can only imagine what would happen if this recipe was foisted upon white, middle-class parents. But don’t worry. It never will be.” *

In an essay marking Katrina’s second anniversary, New Orleans professor and activist Bill Quigley identified ten lessons from Katrina, including self-reliance, telling your own story,** and understanding that disasters will reveal the structural injustices in the communities involved.  But first and foremost, he wrote,

One. Build and rebuild community.

When disaster hits and life is wrecked, you immediately seem to be on your own. Isolation after a disaster is a recipe for powerlessness and depression. Family, community, church, work associations are all important –get them up and working as fast as possible. People will stand up and fight, but we need communities to do it. Prize women –they are the first line of community builders. Guys will talk and fight and often grab the spotlight, but women will help everyone and do whatever it takes to protect families and communities. Powerful forces mobilize immediately after a disaster. People and politicians and organizations have their own agendas and it helps them if our communities are fragmented. Setting one group against another, saying one group is more important than another is not helpful. Stress and distress is high for everyone, but community support will multiply the resources of individuals. Build bridges. People together are much stronger than people alone.

The aftermath of Superstorm Sandy seems to be shaping up similarly for the communities of the Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York seaboard as Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath did for the Gulf Coast: a monumental cleanup and repair job, a struggle for aid — and also sometimes a race between residents rebuilding community and outsiders exploiting opportunities for their own policy and/or business agendas.

Thus Yves Smith of “naked capitalism” notes, in” Shock Doctrine, American-Style: Hurricane Sandy Devastation Used to Push for Sale of Public Infrastructure to Investors,” the immediate pressure in Pennsylvania to deploy shiny new “P3” (public/private partnership) initiatives for the rebuilding process.  Philly.com’s Joseph DiStefano reports: “Rebuilding the shattered Shore and the swamped New York tunnels, along with badly needed updates to the Northeast’s exhausted roads and rails, will be an opportunity to implement streamlined construction laws backed by Republicans and pro-business Democrats in Congress and the states, says Frank Rapoport, Berwyn-based partner at New York law firm McKenna Long & Aldridge L.L.P., and counselor to contractors who support “public-private partnerships” (P3).”

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I voted for Jill Stein. Global warming is one reason why.

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 2nd November 2012

This Jill Stein ad only scratches the surface of the two-party pro-carbon consensus on display during the debates she was locked out of — and you know it:

  • “We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. We have seen increases in coal production and coal employment.” (Obama, Oct 16 debate)
  • “I’m going to make sure we can continue to burn clean coal.” (Romney, Oct 4 debate)
  • “…we made the largest investment in clean coal technology to make sure that even as we’re producing more coal, we’re producing it cleaner and smarter.” (Obama, Oct 16 debate)

Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  At one point, Obama even took Romney to task for closing a coal-fired power plant in Massachusetts.

And that may not be the only consensus you’re excluded from with Obama and Romney: they share the same regrettable outlook on austerity, on growing the military, on preserving a system of all-but-untrammeled financial predation, on pushbutton drone assassinations(-plus-bystanders)(-plus-rescuers), on wholesale warrantless surveillance, on pre-emptive prosecutions, on indefinite detentions.

I voted for Jill Stein yesterday. Global warming is one reason why. No matter where you live, but especially if you’re in a “safe” state — one where one of the two major party candidates is far ahead, e.g., CA, CT, DC, GA, MA, MD (like me), ME, MO, NJ, NY, PA, OR, RI, SC, TN, TX, or WA — I think you should strongly consider it.

Voting for a third party candidate in yet another “most important election ever” sends a message — to be sure, one it’s best to amplify with blog posts, letters to the editor, tweets, and whatever other means you have to hand.  But it also helps future Green Party candidates get on the ballot — both indirectly, by drawing attention to a party whose values you share, and directly, by helping them qualify for the ballot more easily. You’ll likely be glad to have that choice in the years ahead. Give that choice a chance with your vote.

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Emergency Management, Climate Denialist Parties tied; Disaster Prevention Party distant third

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 1st November 2012

So far, the Obama administration appears to be doing a good enough job with post-Sandy relief efforts that even Republican governor Chris Christie has been effusive in his appreciation.  Adding to the surreal atmosphere was the Return of Michael “Heckuva Job” Brown, criticizing the Obama administration for being  too quick with their federal response — and then doubled down the next day asserting that Obama hadn’t got enough political mileage out of the disaster.  With enemies like these, who needs friends?


Get ready for more like this.

As Democrats bask in the glow of being the Party of Better Emergency Management, though, some voters were on the lookout for a little more: a commitment to fighting the global warming that’s fueling ever more frequent and powerful weather disasters — heck, even just acknowledgement of the problem.

We sure haven’t seen it in the presidential debates;  after the second debate, Charles Pierce of Esquire noted,

On Tuesday night, we had two guys arguing about who’s a bigger friend to coal, about who will allow the most oil drilling on federal land, and about who will best extract the most carbon-based fuels out from under the country over the next four years.

With that kind of leadership as a backdrop, I’ve seen discussions literally comparing New Yorkers — and perhaps coastal dwellers everywhere — to the Jews in pre-Holocaust Germany: doomed unless they leave or unless they’re saved by a political miracle, and wondering what it is that is paralyzing all of us from taking sensible action.  The fear is not far-fetched; it turns out to be an engineering exercise.   According to a Nature Climate Change article (Lin et al, Jan 2012):

…the change of storm climatology will probably increase the surge risk for NYC; results based on two GCMs [global climate models] show the distribution of surge levels shifting to higher values by a magnitude comparable to the projected sea-level rise (SLR). The combined effects of storm climatology change and a 1m SLR may cause the present NYC 100-yr surge flooding to occur every 3–20yr and the present 500-yr flooding to occur every 25–240yr by the end of the century.

(Via Corey Robin; emphases added.) Realizations like this shouldn’t just result in support for higher seawalls, though; it should re-energize political support for addressing global warming itself.

It seems to me we have an obvious opportunity to do that: if you’re in a “safe” state where Obama leads Romney by a wide margin or vice versa — like New York —  voting Green next Tuesday ought to be a pretty simple, low-risk, high gain experiment.*  A lot of people are on the verge of really getting it about global warming — but others are on the verge of giving up about it. Let’s raise our hands, vote Green, and show them all — and Democratic apparatchiks besides — that there could be a “fight global warming” bandwagon to get on.

You should follow up your “vote” message with some “messages about your vote”: letters to the editor, Facebook posts, tweets, and/or musical productions explaining what you’ve done and why; there may well be other reasons, from the war on civil liberties and human rights to the war on the safety net to the possibility of war with Iran.  But I would stress Hurricane Sandy, because people get that pretty easily right now.

Sure, there’s no guarantee the message will be received, or that it will be acted on.  But if you’d like your message to be heard, you’ve got to send it.

=====
UPDATE, 11/1: Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going To Be A Thing That Happens From Now On (The Onion)
* If you’re in a swing state, vote Green too, *if* Stein really represents your views best — there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that, Obama never owned your vote, he can only earn it or lose it. I’d vote Stein in Ohio this year, because Obama lost my vote. And while I get why many would not, I think it should be because they, on balance, really *prefer* Obama over Stein when *all* is said and done — and not out of some misplaced sense of shame about otherwise helping Romney win.

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Greens: reject Ellsberg’s advice, or don’t – just don’t run away from it

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 30th October 2012


October 23 video of discussion between Daniel Ellsberg , Matt Stoller (Roosevelt Institute, “naked
capitalism”), Emily Hauser, (Daily Beast), and Ben Manski (campaign manager for Green Party
presidential candidate Jill Stein), moderated by Huffington Post’s Ahmed Shihab-Eldin.

An article by Daniel Ellsberg and a reply tweet by Matt Stoller set the stage for a very interesting online roundtable last Tuesday attended remotely by Ellsberg, Stoller,  Emily Hauser (a blogger for the Daily Beast ) — and the disappointing Ben Manski, campaign manager for Jill Stein’s presidential campaign.

Daniel Ellsberg’s October 18 article “Progressives: In Swing States, Vote for Obama” was probably not a hit at the White House; the recommendation was despite seeing Obama as “a tool of Wall Street, a man who’s decriminalized torture and is still complicit in it, a drone assassin, someone who’s launched an unconstitutional war, supports kidnapping and indefinite detention without trial, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers like myself than all previous presidents put together.” But Matt Stoller — a one time staffer for Representative Alan Grayson — caustically summarized the inherent contradiction: “Daniel Ellsberg argues for both the impeachment of and reelection of Barack Obama.”

My point here won’t be to review Stoller’s arguments — developed more fully a few days later in “The Progressive Case Against Obama” — though I think they’re well worth considering, and though I think replies have generally been of the familiar, bullying, spluttering “policing the left” quality I saw in responses to Conor Friedersdorf’s foreign policy/human rights Obama critique in September.

Instead, I want to take up Ellsberg’s arguments during the roundtable — because they went quite a bit beyond merely urging “tactical” voting by progressive voters in swing states.  Ellsberg *:

The two women who are running for the Green Party […] as I said, I’ll probably vote for her or for Rocky Anderson […]  On the other hand, I do object to the idea that he and Jill Stein and [Cheri Honkala] do, will, by their way of running, in the swing states, whether you regard them as 3 or 4 or as many as 12 or 13 […] are running in those and peeling off a net balance of Democratic voters.  They are increasing the chance of Roe v. Wade will be eliminated.  I think that is not a position that a progressive of any kind should be in, let alone a feminist one. I’m actually amazed, I think they’re acting very counterproductively for their own cause overall.  […]

Among progressives, there shouldn’t be disagreement on Roe v. Wade.  And I’m afraid that Stein is acting, by running not only in the 35 to 40 states where she would not be increasing the chance of Roe v. Wade being overturned, she’s also running in the states where she *is* helping Roe v. Wade be overturned.

So not only are voters counterproductive for contemplating a Stein vote in a swing state, Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala are bad for running in one.  Not only that, Ellsberg had earlier asserted that “urging other people, getting a leverage, [having] an influence on a large number or a small number” — i.e., Joe Birkenstock with his lawn sign — was similarly wrong.

Of course, advising against third party campaigns or advocacy when they allegedly increase the chances of an undesirable outcome (i.e., Romney in 2012, or Bush in 2000) is the logical consequence of advising against third party votes in such situations.  But it’s also an illustration of what’s wrong with Ellsberg’s position — at least if you value the actual exercise of free speech, freedom of association, or a vigorous contest of ideas in our country, as opposed to merely genuflecting in the general direction of those values.  Ellsberg would have a Stein or a Nader short-circuit their own campaigns and abandon their own supporters in states whenever it might benefit the worst alternative to their victory.  Since by Ellsberg’s logic that’s roughly “always,” third party campaigns are doomed to “Groundhog Day” like re-enactments of these arguments every four years, for ever and ever, amen.

Worse, I think, it’s not clear when that ought to begin, or where that logic ends.  It was relatively clear that Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, and North Carolina would be 2012 “swing states” — big enough to matter, close enough to be in doubt — ever since, oh, 2008, when they were exactly the same thing.  It was also relatively clear that Obama would face a tough re-election since at least 2010.  Taken to its logical conclusion, Ellsberg is saying Stein was wrong to even try to qualify for the ballot in those states.

So what did Manski have to say to all this?

Nothing.

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Change we can accomplish

Posted by Thomas Nephew on 27th October 2012

Via Facebook, I see that an old California friend, Melinda Welsh, has written an editorial — in her capacity as founding editor of the Sacramento News & Review — urging Barack Obama’s re-election: Past/president/future: This time, it’s about change we can accomplish. We’ve corresponded a little about this before; we disagreed, but amicably, I think.   So I hope it will be OK to disagree again, a (very) little more publicly this time.

I know she’s sincere.  I know there are many more who agree with her than will agree with me — and I recommend her article to them, it’s thoughtful and well written.  But I still think Ms. Welsh doesn’t make the case she sets out to make, whether about Obama’s skeptics and the reasons not to vote for him, or more broadly about the change she thinks we can — or rather can’t — accomplish.

Straw man skeptics
First, readers are given a straw man version of Obama skeptics, one that says we just want to “punish President Obama [for not achieving all that was hoped for].”

Not at all.  The NDAA’s indefinite detention provisions, for those deemed simply supportive of groups associated with terrorist organizations; the drone kill list/”disposition matrix”, up to and including extrajudicial assassinations of Americans; a radically expanded warrantless surveillance state; chilling, tragic, trumped-up persecutions and prosecutions of Muslim-Americans, activists, and whistle-blowers; a new war without Congressional approval: these aren’t worthwhile, unaccomplished to-do items, these are deplorable, accomplished to-do items.

Worse, they’re betrayals of what Obama professed to be and was understood by supporters to be in his first presidential campaign: one who used soaring language to reject “a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand,” one who affirmed that a president “does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack,” one who acknowledged that the president did not have “inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants.”

His administration, his supporters, or both?

Maybe these are secondary issues to many readers, or they are by now. OK, everyone is different, everyone has different priorities.  But maybe, too, all too many of us have given up on what we wanted and on what we thought we were getting.  My recollection of Obama’s 2008 campaign was that it was fueled by hope for change — hope for a real, fundamental repudiation of the Bush era.  Obama evoked that hope time and again in his 2008 stump speech every time he tied McCain to Bush, every time he promised voters could “finally put an end to the Bush-McCain philosophy.” 

Instead, “Yes We Can” was followed by “But We Won’t.” (And by now, they’re even giving themselves awards for that.)

Especially in California (where I understand Obama has a very comfortable lead), Americans on the left have an opportunity to …well, yes, I suppose it is to punish Obama for these betrayals. But that wouldn’t just be because he didn’t do enough (though there are very strong cases to be made there as well).  It’s also because he’s done the wrong things, things he said he wouldn’t do. That’s not self-centered or starry-eyed, that is what democracy looks like: you say you’ll do something I want, I vote for you; you do the opposite, I don’t vote for you again.  Break the contract — lose my vote.

As good as it gets?
Where I also part ways with Ms. Welsh on her underlying analysis of what is and is not intrinsically possible, summed up by her claim that “Obama is, in every way, as good as we’re ever going to get.”  Again, not at all.  For one thing, we didn’t even get Obama — not the guy we thought we were working so hard to elect, that is.  (Me, too.)  “Yes, We Can” was true if the question was “can the American left elect a promising candidate?”  “No, we didn’t” is just the answer to whether we got a candidate who lived up to that promise, and to our achievement: his election.

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