A brief observation on the Obama Presidency

In assessing the Obama Presidency from a progressive and left perspective, two questions I would argue loom large: First, what was the concrete relationship of political and social forces – the balance of power – in the capital and country during his presidency? Second, is a transformative presidency a realistic possibility without a movement that possesses transformative power and a Congress that is disposed to social change?

The answers to each question isn’t the end of any assessment of his presidency. But both have to figure into any judgement of the Obama years. Otherwise, hollow and abstract pronouncements become the result. And, generally speaking, they do little to expand our political understanding of the achievements and limits of Obma’s presidency, nor do they shine much light on our own insufficiencies and what needs to be done going forward.

Genocide, dispossession, and creating a human and sustainable community

Yesterday was the 125th anniversary of the slaughter of hundreds of defenseless Native People – men, women, and children – at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1890.

While this atrocity was the work of the Seventh U.S. Cavalry, its genesis lies in the policy of genocide and dispossession practiced by European colonial powers from the day of their arrival in the Americas four centuries earlier. Moreover, these practices were sanctioned by racist ideology and acquired extraordinary force and tempo as they evolved and maturated in the “whirlpool,” to use Marx’s word, of an emerging and expanding capitalist economy.

Shortchanging the American people

A recent article in The Nation, appearing not long after the horrible killings in San Bernardino, contained some interesting facts and observations about mass shootings and access to guns. But they were negated by its headline, “America Is Fine With Mass Shootings—as Long as They’re Not Perpetrated by Muslims,” which is then repeated almost word for word in the final paragraph.

But one has to ask, where’s the evidence for such a claim?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good: New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio reported that 68,000 children are now enrolled in the city’s pre-K program. No small thing for children and their families. And hats off to the Mayor who initiated the program following his election. Which all goes to prove: elections matter.

The Bad: Ted Cruz’s pledge, giving new life to the infamous words of segregationist George Wallace, to oppose legal status for immigrants, “today, tomorrow, forever.”

The Ugly: It’s a tie: Trump, Cruz, and Carson. In the recent Republican Party presidential debate, Trump said the families of terrorists should be killed; Cruz called for carpet bombing, and Carson came up with “boots the ground.” Is it that they have short memories? After all, what they advocate has been tried before with disastrous results. Or is it just pandering, knowing that recent terrorist attacks have caused a heightened sense of public insecurity and fear? Or do the Republican Party candidates believe that there are no limits to U.S. power, thanks to the U.S. military machine? My answer: They do have short memories; they are demagogues; and they are convinced that military power can preserve and expand U.S. global supremacy. What do you think?

Paris and beyond

Not surprisingly, the climate agreement signed by 195 countries in Paris last weekend triggered much commentary on its merit or lack thereof. But before I get to that, a few words about what the agreement says. First, the positives.

* The goal is to bring down the rise of global temperatures to zero by mid-century.

* A target temperature rise of no more than 2º C or 3.5º F was established.