A few thoughts on the Tavis Smiley controversy

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I’ve seen some interesting commentary on Tavis Smiley deciding to bring back a black discussion forum on Obama’s. CPL over at Jack and Jill Politics and also Shanti over at WEE SEE YOU. Here is my take:

Given the remorseless hate, vitriolic racism and disingenuous histrionics that rain down on President Obama from the right, it is hard not to give in to the impulse to rally around the flag and reflexively defend his every action. Some on the left, especially the gay community, seem to think that projecting their hostility and frustration onto their Negro president, instead of fellow whites that have rejected every marriage referendum, will magically produce the civil rights they long for.

The same could be said of the “fauxgressives”—yawl’s word, frustrated by the health care stalemate. White fear, stoked by misinformation, is killing the progress that could be made in a progressive direction by this president. He has made some mistakes along the way. For example, he’s allowed himself to believe that he could work toward consensus with the insurance industry and bad actors on the right, but what really seems to be driving the debate about all things progressive are the ridiculous fears of some whitefolks that President Obama is somehow out to get them.

Support is collapsing for health care reform in some Democratic quarters on Capital Hill because some members of congress don’t have the intestinal fortitude to push back against the smears and are reluctant to confront the ignorance, racism and fear enveloping their constituents back home. They would rather cut and run or just plain cave in and validate the fear.

It is easy to be lulled into a sense of false security that an urbane, sophisticated, and intelligent President will come out on top no matter what happens, or that the compromises he inevitably makes will preserve the progressive change that people overwhelmingly voted for—that would be wrong. President Obama will only be as good as the pressure we apply. Holding the President accountable, as Tavis suggests, doesn’t mean that we don’t love and admire him and Michelle; it is that our love for them is not a substitute for progressive policy and will not sustain black and brown communities under siege by recession and centuries of racism and economic injustice.

While it is true that Barack Obama has done some great things, like the stimulus package, we need him to do some truly astounding things because times are so damn bad. In order for him to be the president we need him to be we can’t be afraid of criticizing him when it is warranted. Agreeing to a bailout of Wall Street with no strings attached was not the best move, lets be honest. Failing to stem the foreclosure crisis which is hitting black and brown communities particularly hard is yet another. Nobody has to like Tavis Smiley, you don’t even have to agree with him, but you should at least listen when he makes a valid point about a black agenda.

Let’s not mimic some whitefolks and project our anger and frustration over a lack of progressive progress onto those that don’t deserve it. We really ain’t mad at each other or Tavis Smiley for pointing out the lack of a black agenda. We’re mad at those on the right attempting to stymie what little progressive progress this president is willing to fight for. And, if we’re honest with ourselves, we are a little peeved with Obama for not fighting harder.

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President Obama: Dazed and Confused

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Embracing his inner Jimmy Carter, President Obama revealed a heretofore hidden personality yesterday: deficit hawk.   Green eyeshade firmly affixed, the president has the audacity to believe that his proposed $477 billion dollar spending freeze in the middle of the deepest recession in more than twenty-five years is something that will work.  It never has. He coulda asked President Carter.  Better yet he coulda looked in the mirror and asked himself.  Candidate Obama campaigned against John McCain’s spending freeze.

To the consternation of many, President Carter insisted on spending cuts to domestic discretionary programs as unemployment remained stubbornly high.  Like Obama, he had an electoral mandate that he squandered and Democratic majorities in both houses that he wasted.  He produced no lasting domestic policy accomplishments and presided over a large defense buildup that Reagan continued and took credit for. Ideologically, President Obama, like Jimmy Carter, has been all over the map and it’s hard to keep track.

Obama was against the war in Iraq and then took office and escalated the war in Afghanistan. He railed against the greed on Wall Street and proposed a targeted tax on the banks, but facilitated the bailout of the worst hedge fund speculators and the unconscionable greed of investment banker con artists.  He has done next to nothing to confiscate or put the breaks on record bonuses and payouts to the banksters as they tighten credit to small businesses and profess a let them eat cake attitude to the victims of their predatory loan schemes.

Both Presidents are decent men.  Both are gentlemen and scholars with a flair for the written word. They also have a moralistic predilection for making self-defeating statements or addresses like Carter’s Malaise speech or Obama’s statement that he’d rather be a good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.  We’ve seen this movie before and this is one celluloid disaster flick I’d rather not sit though. For the sake of the tender feelings of my dear Elie, I’m, not the only one that thinks so.

In his continually futile attempt to be all things to all people and to just simply be liked, Barack Obama has embraced the conservadem me-too approach that has helped many blue dog democrats blur the lines between Democrat and Republican and appeal to fickle independent voters unhappy about the sad state of the economy and the nation’s burgeoning debt.

That is a loosing proposition.  No matter what he does, the Republicans will scream bloody murder, call him a socialist, and blow dog whistles to the troglodyte right.  The Republicans are the enemy.  Period.  The President should stick to the somewhat progressive platform he campaigned on, get off his damn knees, stop kissing arses and tell the Republicans and their conservadem handmaidens to go straight to hell.  He does not have to submit to the hazing of the corporate media and the right-wing.  He controls the message. Its time the Obama White House acted like it.  I pray for all our sakes that they stop channeling a dazed and confused Carter Administration.

Bernie Sanders: progressive champion

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Yesterday’s Senate Debate on the Wall Street Bailout provided some stark contrasts.  On the one hand, you had progressive stalwarts like Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold.  On the other hand, you had John McCain and Barack Obama.  No matter how you slice it, Barack Obama’s capitulation on the Wall Street Bailout was a betrayal of progressive values and a betrayal of the working class, which is disproportionately composed of people of color.

Senator Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Socialist who caucuses with Senate Democrats, illuminated the class betrayal of Obama and the majority of his Democratic colleagues with a clarity that should have embarassed them all.

In our country today we have the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of any major country on Earth, with the top 1 percent earning more income than the bottom 50 percent, and the top 1 percent owning more wealth than the bottom 90 percent. We are living at a time when we have seen a massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to the very wealthiest people in this country; when, among others, CEO’s of Wall Street firms receive unbelievable amounts in bonuses, including $39 billion in bonuses in the year 2007 alone for just the five major investment houses.

 We have seen the incredible greed of the financial service industry manifested in the hundreds of millions of dollars they have spent on campaign contributions and lobbyists in order to deregulate their industry so hedge funds and other unregulated financial institutions could flourish. We have seen them play with trillions and trillions of dollars in esoteric financial instruments in unregulated industries which no more than a handful of people even understand.

We have seen the financial services industry charge 30 percent interest rates on credit card loans and tack on outrageous late fees and other costs to unsuspecting customers. We have seen them engaged in despicable predatory lending practices, taking advantage of the vulnerable and the uneducated. We have seen them send out billions of deceptive solicitations to almost every mailbox in America.

I used to think that my home was the only one that was receiving them. It turns out that billions of other solicitations went out to probably every home in America. What they hoped to do was to gain new customers for credit card companies and then, through the very small print on the back of the solicitation, have the opportunity, have the ability to monkey around with interest rates so when people thought they were getting zero interest or 2 percent, it turns out that a few months later they were paying very high interest rates.

Most important, of course, we have seen the financial services industry lure people into mortgages they could not afford to pay, which is one of the basic reasons we are tonight in the midst of all of this. We have a bailout package today which says to the middle class that you are being asked to place at risk $700 billion, which is $2,200 for every man, woman, and child in this country. You are being asked to do that in order to undo the damage caused by this excessive Wall Street greed. In other words, the “Masters of the Universe,” those brilliant Wall Street insiders who have made more money than the average American can even dream of, have brought our financial system to the brink of collapse, and now, as the American and world financial systems teeter on the edge of a meltdown, these multimillionaires are demanding that the middle class, which has already suffered under Bush’s disastrous economic policies, pick up the pieces they broke.

That is wrong and that is something I will not support. The major point I want to make this evening is, if we are going to bail out Wall Street, it should be those people who have caused the problem, those people who have benefited from Bush’s tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, those people who have taken advantage of deregulation–those people are the people who should pick up the tab and not ordinary working people.

Obama’s support of the bailout didn’t come cheap.  With more than $9.8 millon rasised from the securities and investment industry, nobody can question that he is morally compromised himself by accepting $691,900 from Goldman Sachs, $448,600 from Citigroup,  $442,919 JP Morgan,  $404,750 from UBS, $370,500 from Lehman Bros, and $318,00 from Morgan Stanley.   These six investment houses and brokerages kicked in $2,676,739 to the Obama coffers alone. 

I like what I’ve read on Obama’s website about his proposals regarding predatory lending and his legislative record, but this Wall Street Bailout vote negates most of that in my mind and I am not at all happy about it.  Also missing is any real commitment to reimposing the Glass Steagall act reforms of the New Deal Era that separated investment banking from commercial banking and insurance and protected American consumers from monopoly and speculation. Votes like this underscore the necessity of campaign finance reform.  

Senator Sanders offered an amendment to the Wall Street Bailout that would have raised taxes on those making $500,000 or more to pay for the bailout and it failed on a voice vote.   I would have loved to have seen whether Obama’s lips moved yea or nay or whether they were on the floor at all.

Congressional Black Caucus: Selling us out

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If any of the following Congressional Negroes belongs to you, y’all might wanna drop them a line and let them know that you don’t appreciate their voting to bail out crooked bankers and the largely white investor class that lost their shirts speculating in mortgage backed securities. 

Rep. Maxine Waters D-CA
Rep. Laura Richardson D-CA
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson D-TX
Rep. Artur Davis D-AL
Rep. Sanford Bishop D-GA
Rep. Corrine Brown D-FL
Rep. Alcee Hastings D-FL
Rep. Kendrick Meek D-FL
Rep. James Clyburn D-SC
Rep. Mel Watt D-NC
Rep. Chaka Fattah D-PA
Rep. Danny Davis D-IL
Rep. Keith Ellison  D-MN
Rep. Gwen Moore D-WI
Rep. Yvette Clarke D-NY
Rep. Greg Meeks D-NY
Rep. Charlie Rangel D-NY
Rep. Edolphus Towns D-NY

Bankers consciously conspired to disproportionately saddle people of color (mainly Blacks and Latinos) with predatory loans and other dangerous loan products which ruined their lives and destroyed their credit.  They sold the loans on the open market to the investor class at a profit until their colored victims started defaulting on their adjustable rate mortgages when the loans reset.

The Bailout package which failed the other day left the issue of predatory lending unaddressed.   Naomi Klein, author of the Shock Doctrine, which explains the phenomenon of Disaster Capitalism, is a primer for political activists wishing to understand the predatory habits of the right-wing and their enablers in the Democratic Party.   Miss Klein, a Canadian National, writes about how the right has used the crisis surrounding disasters both natural and manmade to unleash free market schemes on an unsuspecting public worldwide.   The credit crisis is just the latest scheme and its being used to bailout the very same people who pushed for the deregulation of the banking industry and caused the problems that threaten global economic collapse.

Dennis Kucinich, as always, hit the nail on the head.  He said on the floor:

Why aren’t we helping homeowners directly with their debt burden?  Why aren’t we helping American homeowners faced with bankruptcy? Why aren’t we reducing debt for Main Street instead of Wall Street? Isn’t it time for fundamental change in our debt based monetary system, so we can free ourselves from the manipulation of the Federal Reserve and the Banks? Is this the United States Congress or the Board of Directors of Goldman Sachs?  Wall Street is a place of Bears and Bulls.  It is not smart to force taxpayers to dance with Bears or follow to closely behind the Bulls.

None of the aforementioned Negroes is running for President and none needs the support of Wall Street to get re-elected.  What is most interesting about this list is the progressive names on it, along with those of the corporate whores, like Artur Davis and David Scott that have been identified by our friends at Black Agenda Report.   Yvette Clarke, Keith Ellison, Gwen Moore, Maxine Waters, and Mel Watt don’t belong on this list–their progressive voting records indicate that they know damn better.

I am particularly peeved by Sistah Waters and Brotha Watt.  As the senior African Americans serving on the House Financial Services Committee, Mr. Watt chairs the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations and Mrs. Waters chairs the Subcommittee on Housing & Community Opportunity.  They know full well how hard Banking institutions chafed under the Community Reinvestment Act that monitors how banks redline communites of color and deny them credit.  This predatory loan crisis has been an onging outrage and this bailout package does nothing to remedy the situation.

Unlike their chairman, the brilliant Barney Frank, neither Mrs. Waters or Mr. Watt is beholden to the financial services industry.   Barney Frank has taken in excess of $2,259 907 from the financial services, real estate, and insurance industries since 1989.   Moreover, Barney hasn’t had a competitive re-election bid in 26 years.   There isn’t any reason for their betrayal of the black community except for their alleigance to one woman: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.    I like Nancy. I admire Nancy, but this bailout bill is not what progressive Democrats sent the Democratic majority to Washington for.   For 18 of the 41 member Congressional Black Caucus to capitulate to this bailout betrayal gives new meaning to the epithet House Negro.

Bailout fails; GOP abandons Bush and McCain

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2008.05.15 - House Debate on Iraq Funding 6 by goppolicy.

Despite the House Republicans disingenuous efforts to pin the failure of the Bush Administration’s Wall Street bailout on Nancy Pelosi’s “partisan” speech castigating free market wingnuts for their anti-regulation philosophy, the blame lies squarely on their shoulders because Bush is their damn President.  Period.  

The House GOP is more concerned about saving themselves than they are about saving the country from economic collapse or salvaging Bush’s legacy or supporting John McCain.   They threw them both over the side and are preserving the option for themselves of blaming the impending economic catastrophe on Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.   

People must realize that there can be no bi-partisan cooperation with the Republican Party.  They are right-wing extremists determined to destroy this country before they hand it over to a black man.  To counteract that level of racist sabotage, Barack Obama needs the biggest Democratic majorities in twenty-five years to be able to enact his agenda. 

Hopefully the Democratic majority will be emboldened to fashion a bailout for Main Street instead of Wall Street.  I’m not hopeful.