Copenhagen Climate Accord Deadline Is Flexible, De Boer Says
By Alex Morales
Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) — The Jan. 31 deadline for countries to sign onto the Copenhagen Accord climate-change agreement that was brokered last month is flexible, United Nations climate chief Yvo De Boer said.
“I think you could describe it as a soft deadline,” de Boer said today on a Webcast from Bonn. “There’s nothing deadly about it. If you fail to meet it, you can still associate with the accord afterwards.”
The Copenhagen Accord was crafted by the U.S., China and two dozen other countries on the sidelines of a two-week UN climate summit in the Danish capital that was beset by walkouts and squabbles between developed and developing nations.
The accord called for countries to indicate their support by the end of this month. As of yesterday, nine of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 193 members had done so formally, a UN spokesman said. Most of the countries who agreed to the deal in Denmark have yet to do so, according to the UN.
Countries have been asked to “associate” themselves with the accord, which is “an important tool to advance the negotiations,” de Boer said. “Countries are not being asked to sign the accord, they’re not being asked to take on a legally binding target; they will not be bound to the action which they submit to the secretariat.”
De Boer said the deadline is to enable him to meet internal requirements to produce a report on the Copenhagen meeting and that countries can indicate whether they support the agreement and their own targets later.
“I very much see the accord as a living document that tracks actions that countries want to take,” de Boer said.
Under the deal, countries will aim to keep the global rise in temperatures since industrialization in the 1800s to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Industrialized nations can submit greenhouse-gas reduction targets for inclusion in an appendix and developing nations can spell out in a separate annex actions they intend to take to limit their own emissions.
Australia, Canada, France, Ghana, the Maldives, Papua New Guinea, Serbia, Singapore and Turkey have notified the UNFCCC that they want to be “associated” with the accord while Cuba has rejected it, the UN spokesman said yesterday.
De Boer said the document will be an “important tool” to advance the formal UN negotiations, which countries “want to reach a conclusion” at another meeting in Mexico at the end of the year.
“Copenhagen didn’t produce the final cake but it left countries with all the right ingredients to bake a new one in Mexico,” de Boer said. Even so, it isn’t clear whether the outcome in Mexico will be a legally binding treaty, he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Alex Morales in London at firstname.lastname@example.org
Amira Hass | Ha’aretz | 20 January 2010
The Interior Ministry has stopped granting work permits to foreign nationals working in most international nongovernmental organizations operating in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, Haaretz has learned.
In an apparent overhaul of regulations that have been in place since 1967, the ministry is now granting the NGO employees tourist visas only, which bar them from working.
Organizations affected by the apparent policy change include Oxfam, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Terre des Hommes, Handicap International and the Religious Society of Friends (a Quaker organization).
Until recently, the workers would register with the international relations department at the Social Affairs Ministry, which would recommend the Interior Ministry to issue them B1 work permits. Although the foreign nationals are still required to approach the Social Affairs Ministry to receive recommendations to obtain a tourist visa, the Interior Ministry is aiming to make the Ministry of Defense responsible for those international NGOs and also requiring them to register with the coordinator of government activities in the territories (COGAT), which is subordinate to the Ministry of Defense.
Foreign nationals working for NGOs had understood they would receive a stamp or handwritten note alongside their tourist visa, permitting them to work “in the Palestinian Authority.” Israel is refusing work visas to most foreign nationals who state that they wish to work within the Palestinian territories, such as foreign lecturers for Palestinian universities and businessmen.
Israel does not recognize Palestinian Authority rule in East Jerusalem or in Area C, which comprises some 60 percent of the West Bank. The NGO workers say they’ve come to believe that the new policy is intended to force them to close their Jerusalem offices and relocate to West Bank cities. This move would prevent them from working among the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem, defined by the international community as occupied territory.
The organizations fear the new policy will impede their ability to work in Area C, whether because Israel doesn’t see it as part of the Palestinian Authority or because they will eventually be subjected to the restrictions of movement imposed on the Palestinians. Such restrictions include the prohibition to enter East Jerusalem and Gaza via Israel, except with specific and rarely obtained permits; and prohibition to enter areas west of the separation fence, except for village residents who hold special residency permits and Israeli citizens.
One NGO worker told Haaretz that the policy was reminiscent of the travel constraints imposed by Burmese authorities on humanitarian organizations, albeit presented in a subtler manner.
NGO workers told Haaretz that they had been informed by the COGAT official that a policy change was forthcoming, as early as July 2009. When a number of them approached the Interior Ministry in August to renew their visas, they found that their applications had been submitted to a “special committee.” They were not told who constituted this committee, and had to make do with a “receipt” confirming that they had submitted the request. The workers said the tourist visas they received differed from each other in duration and travel limitations, and surmised from this that the policy has not been entirely fleshed out.
Latest in a series of steps
A number of NGO workers who spoke with Haaretz voiced deep apprehensions about having to submit to the authority of the Defense Ministry. The groups are committed to the Red Cross code of ethics, and therefore see being subjugated to the ministry directly in charge of the occupation as problematic and contradictory to the very essence of their work.
Between 140 and 150 NGOs operate among the Palestinian population. Haaretz could not obtain the exact number of foreign nationals they employ.
The new limitations do not apply to the 12 organizations that have been active in the West Bank prior to 1967. Those groups, which include the Red Cross and several Christian organizations, were registered with the Jordanian authorities.
The new move by the Interior Ministry is the latest in a series of steps taken in the last few years to constrain the movement of foreign nationals in the West Bank and Gaza, including Palestinians with family and property in the occupied territories. Most of those who have been effected are nationals of countries with which Israel has diplomatic relations, especially Western states. Israel does not apply any similar constraints on citizens of the same countries traveling within Israel and West Bank settlements.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that the only relevant authority empowered to approve the stay of foreign citizens in the Palestinian Authority is the coordinator of government activities in the territories. “The Interior Ministry is entrusted with granting visas and work permits within the State of Israel. Those staying within both the boundaries of Israel and the Palestinian Authority are required to secure their permits accordingly,” the ministry said.
“Recently, a question was raised on the issue of visas granted to those staying in the Palestinian Authority and in Israel, as it transpired that they spend most of their time in the PA despite having been provided with Israeli work permits,” the statement continued. “The matter is under intense discussions, with the active participation of the relevant military authorities, with a view to finding the right and appropriate solution as soon as possible.”
By Dean Baker | The Guardian | January 18, 2010
President Obama proposed a tax on the country’s largest banks to help recover the money lost under the Troubled Assets Relief Programme (Tarp). This tax is a positive step. However, it will not come close to recovering the losses incurred in the bailouts and it will do almost nothing to change the way that the banks do business. For this we will need a larger financial speculation tax.
First, it is necessary to be clear on the extent of the losses incurred in the bailouts of the financial system. The losses in the Tarp are currently pegged at close to $120bn, mostly due to the bailout of AIG, the giant US insurance company. This money was virtually a direct handout to several large banks, as the government’s money allowed AIG to make payments to Goldman Sachs and other large banks that would not have been possible if it had fallen into bankruptcy.
But these losses are far from the complete picture with the Tarp. On the night before Christmas, the Treasury department lifted the $200bn cap on the amount that both the mortgage agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can draw on the Treasury. They both now have unlimited lines of credit.
No one knows how much their bailouts will eventually cost taxpayers, but it is almost certain that their losses are not entirely attributable to the portfolio that the mortgage giants held on 7 September 2008 when they were put into government conservatorship. Many of the losses incurred by Fannie and Freddie are almost certainly due to losses on mortgages they purchased from banks after they went into conservatorship. In other words, Fannie and Freddie were paying too much for the mortgages they purchased from the banks. This is exactly what the Tarp was originally supposed to do.
In effect, the treasury department has run a version of Tarp through Fannie and Freddie. If we want to calculate the money taxpayers lost through from the Tarp programme we should certainly include the money lost bailing out these mortgage giants, which can now exceed $400bn if events turn out badly. This means that if the point is to recover the money lost in the Tarp, the bank tax is likely to fall short by a large margin.
The other key consideration in making the banks pay should be to structure a tax that changes the way the banks do business. This money lost in the Tarp programme is just a small fraction of what the banks’ greed cost the country. We will likely lose more than $4tn in output in this downturn, more than 40 times the projected revenue from the tax over the next decade.
The $9bn that is projected to be collected each year is equal to about 5% of their annual profits and bonuses. It is unlikely to have any noticeable impact on the way they do business. In other words, we can still expect them to be pursuing short-term profits and giving little consideration to long-term investments.
A tax on financial speculation more generally, which will also apply to hedge funds and other financial institutions, would be a far more effective mechanism in changing behaviour. It could also raise very substantial revenue. In the UK, a tax of 0.25% on the purchase and sale of shares of stock raises the equivalent of $30bn annually in the US relative to the size of its economy. A broadly based transactions tax – that would apply not only to stock, but also to options, futures, credit default swaps and other financial instruments – could raise more than $150bn a year in the US.
Such a tax would also make the financial sector more efficient by reducing the volume of short-term trading that serves no productive purpose. The share of the private sector that is devoted to investment banking and commodities trading has nearly quadrupled in the last three decades.
By reducing the volume of trading this tax would make the financial sector more efficient, freeing up resources for productive uses. This would be comparable to improving the trucking sector by reducing the number of trucks and drivers it takes to deliver goods to wholesalers and retailers. Industries are supposed to become more efficient as the economy develops. It is only finance that is becoming less efficient due to its ever-growing complexity.
In short, a tax on financial speculation is a win for just about everyone but the speculators. President Obama’s bank tax is a good start but we have to go much further.
By John V. Walsh | January 20, 2010
“Get off your butts,” implored Boston Democrat Mayor “Mumbles” Menino. Thus spake the inarticulate mayor at the desperate rally featuring Barack Obama last Sunday before the special Senate election in Massachusetts. Mumbles was savvy enough to recognize that the Democratic base in Massachusetts, the only state to vote for George McGovern, was deeply disappointed in Obama and the Democrats.
Why did I vote for Republican Scott Brown? It took some persuasion. In the end it was my Democratic Party friends and activists who convinced me. Let me explain. It was clear that the special Senate election in Massachusetts was a referendum on Obama and the Democrats who control the entire federal government – Congress and the Presidency.
I must admit that my first instinct was to vote for a third Party candidate, a Libertarian. (There was no Green or other independent in this race.) After all, the Libertarian, a guy named Kennedy, agreed with me on opposition to wars and empire and in support of civil liberties. In contrast I knew damned well that when push came to shove the Republicrat candidates would be on the other side on all these issues – no matter what they said now in the heat of the campaign and desperate for votes. And of course all three candidates were against single-payer health care, a passion of this writer for twenty some years. So my first instinct was to vote for the Libertarian and get someone who agreed with me 70 per cent of the time versus 0 per cent.
Would I not risk the failure of the Obama health care bill if the Democrat did not win? But I do not want the Obama health care bill to succeed. It is little other than a formula for permanently handing our entire health care system over to the sector of finance capital known as the insurance industry, for taxing decent health care plans and for putting off to the indefinite future comprehensive, egalitarian, universal health care. Dr. Marcia Angel, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and long-time crusader for single-payer, has taken the position that it would be far better to have no new law than the Obamanation known as the Democrat Party “health care reform.” I agree with her on that, and so do many of my colleagues in Physicians for a National Health Program, although that is not our official position. So on the issue of health care, it made little difference which candidate I would vote for.
But why then not stick with the Libertarian? Why vote Republican? This is where my Democrat Party friends came in. Whenever I went to vote for Nader or a Green, they would explain that I was wasting my vote on a third Party candidate. Was I not doing the same here by voting Libertarian? Suddenly I realized that the Democrats were right. If I wanted to protest the lies of the Obmacrats and “send a message” to the Democrat Party elite, I should not waste my vote on the Libertarian. And so they convinced me to vote Republican. And so Scott Brown, the Republican, won in Massachusetts with my vote and that of many others pissed off at the betrayal of the Democrats.
Of course the Democratic operatives are now blaming the disconsolate and bewildered loser, Democrat Attorney General Martha Coakley, for running a “poor campaign.” But in what did the poverty of her effort consist? She merely assumed that the Democratic voters and the independents here in Mass who are by and large a pretty progressive lot had nowhere else to go. They had to vote for her, and so she did not need to campaign very hard after the primary. The Democrats were mightily surprised on this score. She is not to blame, but the Democrat Party assumption that they can take progressives for granted is very much to blame for this humiliating defeat.
I began to understand that something was afoot in this campaign when I noticed many folks out in the traffic circles and on street corners in Central Massachusetts, in and about Worcester, holding signs for Brown, even in the snow and sleet. There was no such enthusiasm for Coakley – not a single sign holder did I see. Now let me explain the demographics a bit. Central Mass is blue collar country, suffering deeply from the unemployment of the current recession. It is not clueless about bailouts for the banksters but no job creation for the hoy polloi the policy of Bush/Obama. And it was Central Mass that delivered a very big margin for Republican Brown who posed as a populist and captured their vote.
I vote not in central Massachusetts but in overwhelmingly and conventionally liberal Cambridge, but even there little enthusiasm for Democrat Coakley was evident. She had only taken a position against the Obama wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan when forced to do so by a primary opponent. There were no signs for Coakley at my polling place very close to Harvard Square. The peace constituency of Cambridge, in the words of the venerable “Mumbles” Menino, was voting with its butt which remained quite inert.
After voting Republican with some satisfaction at having not wasted my protest vote, I told a young student coming out of the polling place with me that I was so angry with the Democrats and Obama that I had voted Republican, remaining a bit unsure whether I should have gone the Libertarian route. He said that he felt the same way but voted Democrat anyway. He confessed that he was now having voter’s remorse.
So Massachusetts has delivered a warning to the Democrat Party. Do not take the peace vote or the jobless vote for granted. We want peace and we want jobs and we want decent affordable health care. If you do not deliver, we will go elsewhere. We will not vote for you. We will vote the other Party in protest. Or we will stay home and vote with our butts.
John V. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com
Note – Independent pollster Scott Rasmussen reports that those who oppose Obama’s health insurance proposal voted overwhelmingly for Scott Brown; those in favor of it, voted for Coakley.
Ahmed Moor, The Electronic Intifada, 20 January 2010
In his new book Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism, M. Shahid Alam successfully argues that the moral force behind the Zionist movement is a sense of Jewish, and consequently Israeli, exceptionalism. This claim of exceptionalism underpins what he calls the “destabilizing logic of Zionism.” According to Alam, Zionism “could advance only by creating and promoting conflicts between the West and the Islamicate” (p. 3). He defines the “Islamicate” as consisting of the broader Muslim world, with the Middle East at its heart.
Alam, a professor of economics at Boston’s Northeastern University, begins his book by detailing the core problem that confronted the nascent Zionist movement: the creation of a Jewish nation from disparate and scattered Jewish communities. Zionists set out to solve this problem by creating a myth of exceptionalism that could be embraced by Jews around the globe. These myths were steeped in a combination of religious mythology and ethnic nationalist exclusivism that presented the Jews as the “chosen people” (p. 9) and Palestine as their sole and God-given birthright.
These claims were expanded upon during the British mandate of Palestine and after the founding of the State of Israel. Zionists asserted that the Jewish “liberation” movement was different from other liberation movements because “the long history of Jewish suffering, the Jewish ability to outlive their enemies, their signal contributions to human civilization, and their spectacular victories against Arab armies” demonstrated the purity of their cause and their exceptionalism (p. 5). Finally, they argued that Israel was a singular case because it was surrounded and threatened by hostile and murderous Arab states and masses. Through these arguments, Alam asserts, Zionists cultivated an environment that overlooks and in some cases endorses their movement’s human rights abuses and racist policies.
In the second segment of the book, Alam examines the history of the region, reviewing the violent history of the early Zionist colonists and describing it as a core, rather than incidental, program of Zionism. Violent, racist attitudes towards the Arabs generally and the Palestinians specifically had to be nurtured by those who would make Palestine the Jewish homeland. They acted as intermediaries between the “West” and the “Islamicate” insofar as they were of the former and claimed to understand the latter. To galvanize Western support for Israel, it was vital for Zionists to create a myth of Muslim-Christian antipathy. Alam paraphrases the perceptions caused by the myth: “[I]f the Islamists vent their anger at the United States, it is not because of its policies, but because it is Christian” (p. 42). Naturally then, a Jewish state in Palestine could act both as a buffer against Muslim masses, and a projection of Western power and interests. This is the argument presented by some Zionists.
It wasn’t enough to argue that the Arabs were uncivil to gain their land. Zionists also had to align themselves with anti-Semitic elements in Europe to advance their goals. Alam writes, “In the 1930s, the Nazis banned all Jewish organizations except those with Zionist aims; they even allowed the Zionists to fly their blue-and-white flag with the Star of David at its center. In violation of the Jewish boycott of the Nazi economy, the Zionists promised cash and trade concessions to Nazi Germany if they directed Jewish emigrants to Palestine” (p. 123). This was necessary to promote Jewish emigration to Palestine. The reality was, and continues to be today, that when Jewish people from Eastern Europe are given the choice, many will choose to emigrate to Western Europe and the US before Israel.
Through these means, Zionists gained the support of a variety of surrogate mother countries across the decades. Anti-Semitism, anti-Arabism and anti-Islamism, and Jewish influence all came together to persuade the Soviet Union, France, Great Britain and of course, the United States to support Zionism.
Israeli Exceptionalism also sheds light on British, and later, American evangelical support for Zionism. Evangelical Zionists, broadly termed Christian Zionists, came into being as a result of the Great Reformation. Catholics believe that God nullified his covenant with the Jews when they rejected Jesus Christ. But when Protestants overthrew the authority of the Catholic Church, they sought to differentiate themselves by reinstating God’s covenant with the Jews and recognizing “the Jews as God’s chosen people with eternal rights to Palestine” (p. 130). Although created by Jewish Americans, the American Palestine Committee (APC) was intended to marshal Christian support for the Jewish occupation of Palestine. By 1941, the APC’s membership included “70 US senators, 120 congressmen, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Interior, 21 state governors” and other prominent individuals (p. 134). Reinhold Niebuhr and other leading Christian Zionists later created the Christian Council on Palestine to influence fellow clergymen.
Alam argues convincingly that Zionism itself is destabilizing, and the force that sustains it — tension between the West and Islamic societies — is a deliberate, not incidental, feature of Zionism. Israeli Exceptionalism manages to provide a fresh view to a vast library of literature on Zionism by dispelling the myth of Jewish disempowerment and highlighting the role of anti-Semitism and anti-Islamic sentiment inherent in Israel’s establishment. His discussion of Reformation theology is also crucial to understanding the long-standing support for a “Jewish Palestine” in American civil life, even before the founding of Israel. Alam’s straightforward and accessible discussion of the world’s last “exclusive settler colony” makes Israeli Exceptionalism an important addition to the scholarship on Israel-Palestine.
Born in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Ahmed Moor graduated from university in Philadelphia, after which he spent three years working in finance in New York. He is currently based in Beirut, Lebanon.
Press TV – January 20, 2010
The former American military chief of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq reiterates the Israeli involvement in the US-run facility, where hundreds of Iraqi suspects were tortured and sexually abused by US soldiers and interrogators.
Shedding further light on the scandal that has served as a controversy-magnet for Washington ever since its emergence in 2004, the retired US army colonel Janis Karpinski says that Israeli agents were recruited by the US military at Abu Ghraib to interrogate the prisoners suspected of attacking US forces in Iraq.
The report by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar is set to fuel more debate on the matter as Karpinski had, until recently, refused to expound on the Israeli connection at Abu Ghraib despite admitting earlier to the presence of Israeli interrogators in the US-run compound.
The former high-ranking US military officer in Iraq told the British state broadcaster, the BBC, in 2004 that she had met an Israeli interrogator who was working at a secret facility in Baghdad.
The prominent American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh brought the issue out in the open on May 10, 2004, when he published the article, “Torture at Abu Ghraib,” in The New Yorker Magazine. The article served to ignite the outpouring of reports and evidences on the alleged “abuse, torture, sodomy and homicide” conducted at the facility by US military and intelligence officers.
In May of last year, more pictures of such abuses leaked out and hit the media networks showing the indiscriminate sexual orientation of American soldiers and operatives, who were shown carnally violating male and female Iraqis alike and assaulting them with nightsticks, wires and phosphorescent tubes.
Following his explosive account on the Abu Ghraib abuses, Hersh asserted that one of the Israeli pursuits in the US-run prison was to gain access to the detained members of the Iraqi secret intelligence unit that specialized in Israeli affairs.
Israel has been widely criticized by international human rights organizations for the torture and abuse of Palestinian prisoners, including women and children, during interrogations and in prison cells.
US President Barak Obama has ‘strongly’ opposed the release of more photos and imagery of the Abu Ghraib abuses by American soldiers, despite promises to the contrary when he was first elected. Obama later argued that releasing the scandalous photos, labeled classified by the Bush Administration, would inflame “the theaters of war,” jeopardize US forces, and make the life of troops based in Iraq and Afghanistan “more difficult.”
By Kevin Zeese | January 20, 2010
First Step – Re-make the White House to get on the right side of corporate elites vs. the people
Second – Make challenging corporate power the 2010 election year issue
The Democrats are on the wrong side of a battle between big business elites and voters. If they stay on the side of the elites Massachusetts will not be the final defeat they suffer.
President Obama needs a rapid and major first-year course correction. He needs to learn from the Massachusetts senate race and two gubernatorial defeats in New Jersey and Virginia last year. The lessons: stop taking progressive voters for granted and make challenging corporate cronyism a top priority.
Obama campaigned in all three states; the results three Democratic defeats. The magic has worn off Obama’s elegant eloquence. People are seeing his policies are not “change” but a continuation of corporate domination. Rather than challenging the corporate cronies who pay off politicians with campaign donations, the Democrats are rewarding them. Corporate power dominates every issue whether it is war and militarism, Wall Street bailouts and health care, housing and jobs – corporate power rules in Washington, DC.
The Democrats have turned off their voting base. In all three elections the reason for defeat was turnout. People who voted for Obama in 2008 stayed home in 2009 and 2010. Unlike Republicans, who work to excite their base with red meat, right wing issues, the Democrats take their base for granted assuming they have no where else to go. Now they are paying a price, but the price will get higher if they do not learn the obvious lessons from these three elections: excite your base, challenge big business and demonstrate the change in direction by re-making the White House.
Where should Obama start? He should start with his first appointment, the White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel. Emanuel embodies corporate power; the former head of the corporate Democratic Leadership Council has been a corporate, militarist Democrat throughout his career and his politics have cost the Democratic Party repeatedly. He was the architect of NAFTA in 1993, resulting in unions staying home in 1994 and the Democrats losing 54 House seats. As anti-war sentiment raged in 2006, Emanuel, then head of the DCCC, recruited pro-war Democrats. The result, only nine of his hand picked 22 candidates won almost costing the Democrats the majority in a year they should have won a landslide. His unimpressive track record has continued with the Dems going 0 for 3 since Obama took office. Keep Emanuel in the leadership and 2010 will be a Democratic Party disaster.
He is wrong on the issues because of his personal and corporate connections. Emanuel is the bankers lobby favorite. He was the top recipient of donations from hedge funds, private equity, investment and securities firms when he served in Congress. Personally, he earned $18 million in 2.5 years between government jobs at a hedge fund firm. He served on the board of Freddie Mac from 2000-2001 when its decision making helped bring on the housing crisis. It is no surprise that health care reform turned into an insurance company giveaway, while banking reform is giving Wall Street everything it wants and the foreclosure crisis continues unabated.
Emanuel is also a hawk. His father was an Irgun terrorist for Zionists. Emanuel volunteered for the Israeli Defense Forces during the first Gulf War while serving in Congress. He endorsed Obama after the candidate gave a hawkish, pro-Israel speech before the right-wing Israeli lobby, AIPAC, and then introduced Obama to their executive board of major donors. In 2006, when the Democrats won with a mandate to end the war Emanuel made sure ending the war was off the table. It is not surprising he is chief of staff of a White House that has broken all war spending records and has escalated militarism around the globe.
He gained notoriety during the health care debate when he essentially said – take liberal legislators for granted. Emanuel’s strategy to get 60 votes in the Senate was bring the left of center Democrats on early to generate enthusiasm, then turn on them to woo conservatives in the end game. Newly elected Scott Brown began to overtake Coakley when he said he would be the vote that stopped health care. Opposing the Insurance Enrichment Act, aka health care reform, began to turn the election around for Brown.
The White House took the most popular reform, single payer health care, Medicare for All, off the table and then proceeded to craft a bill that did more for insurance and pharmaceutical corporations then it did for reforming health care. In his book “The Plan,” Emanuel urges Democrats not to pursue universal health care or real reform. He is so out of touch with the needs of Americans that he merely urged the expansion of the S-CHIP program. With Emanuel representing the White House in health care negotiations, and Obama holding press conferences with corporate interests, real reform was off the table.
Removing Rahm would be a first step toward a much need re-making of the White House. The Obama national security and economic teams are filled with appointees who need to be replaced: General Petraeus, General Jones, General McChrystal, Robert Gates, Lawrence Summers and Timothy Geitner to name a few. It is time to clean house, re-start and set a new direction more consistent with Obama’s promise to change the way Washington, DC does business, i.e. stop caving in to the corporate power that dominates the Democratic and Republican parties. It is time for the Democrats to put the people’s necessities ahead of their donor’s profits.
Of course, the problem in the end is not Rahm Emanuel or the other Obama appointees, it is Obama himself. Obama has surrounded himself with corporatists so he needs to reach outside the White House to get a clear reading of the mood of the country. The White House became a corporate bubble in Obama’s first year. Now it needs to be popped. From his appointees he will hear the corporate message – work with Republicans, support corporate solutions, don’t rock the boat – the recipe that resulted in three Democratic losses, so far.
Last year President Obama told a meeting of Blue Dogs that he is a New Democrat – this is the language for the discredited DLC. (As Black Agenda Report has written, Obama was listed as a member of the DLC but his name was removed from the roster as he began to run for office.) He consistently puts pleasing recalcitrant right-wing Republicans ahead of exciting his left of center base. If he wants to really bring hope and change to Washington he needs to put his voting base, not his donor base, first. He needs to become a progressive populist.
Obama is going to have to make a decision to set a new direction for his presidency or be a weak and unsuccessful president. He needs to really challenge corporate power, rally the people and make real reform the 2010 election year issue. These three early elections should teach him that financial support from corporations is insufficient; indeed being tied to the dollars of corporate elites is a recipe for defeat.
Obama can change course to a successful presidency or continue on the failed path he is currently on. But to do so he needs to recognize the urgency of now within his own White House and get on the side of the people.