Opinions

Opinion podcasts re the Obama Presidency and current American political issues.

PolitOpine Bidding Goodbye!

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PolitOpine is retiring ... all past shows will be available until further notice.

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Craig Barnes: Start Over

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Commentary by Craig Barnes:

 

On a Monday in early August, 2011, AIG (American International Group) filed claims in federal court against Bank of America alleging losses of $10 billion. The insurance giant claimed that the bank had intentionally disguised the risks of products to be insured. At the same time, Bank of America was already being sued for $82 billion in a multitude of other suits.  According to The New York Times, JP Morgan was also being sued for almost $40 billion, Wells Fargo was being sued for $35 billion, Citigroup for over $2 billion.  All were alleged to have marketed securities as solid investments when at the time of the sale they knew that these representations were untrue. In legal jargon, when a person makes a deal based upon a fact that he knows to be false and intentionally disguises the falsehood, that is fraud.  The giants of American capitalism were therefore this August in a hugely costly family quarrel, suing one another for throat-choking amounts of fraud.


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We Are People Here !

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Following is a transcript of Craig Barnes' opening remarks at the General Meeting of Democracy At The Crossroads in Santa Fe, NM on June 22, 2011.

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Welcome.  Welcome to you all.  Thank you for coming.

 

 

If the great corporate meat grinder has taken away your job, your home, your insurance or your vote, has ripped away from you your faith in democracy or drowned you with mind numbing aphorisms about the free market and insulted your intelligence, you are one of us.  We are all people here, and we are rising up to claim back our democratic story, our dignity, our right to work, our right to our homes, our ranches and our farms, our water and our air, and a government by the people.  These things are the birthright of every American, written indelibly on our foreheads, indivisible and inalienable.  Our right to jobs, homes and health are not for sale to China; they are not for sale to Saudi Arabia; they are not for sale to Canada, Burundi  or British Petroleum; they are a part of the American intellectual commons and belong to natural born, living persons and their grandchildren, for all time.

 

 

We are people here.  Our children are not subsidiaries; our labor is not a statistic, our future is not for sale on the great corporate commodities market.

 

 

If you are a person too, welcome; you are one of us.

 


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Craig on Hope in a Time of Sorrow

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Today's guest commentary is by Craig Barnes and is brought to you courtesy of KSFR, Santa Fe's Public Radio Station (@101.1FM). It was broadcasted on November 5, 2010. Click here for the full transcript of the talk. Craig's full bio is available at our Guest Bios page.

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Hope In A Time Of Sorrow

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Guest Commentary by Craig Barnes. It will be available a a podcast shortly.

There seems to be a constant series of examples in history that reflect what we are living through this week: from Psistratus in Athens to Caesar in Rome to the Duke of Lancaster in 15th-century England to Napoleon to Lenin and Hitler and now to Karl Rove, a multitude of fellows have harnessed populist outrage to their own carriage in order to seize power.  That outrage, changing the metaphor, flows into the furious stream into which Boehner and McConnell and Palin launched their boats last night.

But something there is that doesn't love a Caesar, that turns the current to upend its own children and that brings the passionate opportunist down. Something happens to Leninism which of a sudden drowns in its own lies. Or something happens that flips the boat of Dick Cheney on his way to take Teheran.

We might therefore want to speculate about what are the forces that bring about such collapse, and in my mind there are two dependable forces working in our favor. Both are built into the nature of life on earth and are not ephemeral. Both are immutable and therefore reliable. Only the timing of when these factors will come into play is unknown. Only the year of the collapse of the Soviet Union was unknown; its eventual failure was always a certainty. Only the collapse of the myths justifying the Iraq invasion or the delusion of collateralized mortgages were unknown; their ultimate failure was inevitable.

The first dependable poison for the demagogue is that compassion is built into the genetic code. It comes with the species package. Darwinism and the ideologues of competition and unbridled power have carried the day for the Tea Party rhetorically, but the rhetoric cannot wipe out the genetic predisposition to care for one another, the genetic program that makes us cry when we see others cry, the urge to rise in the night to hold the wailing child, the massive outpourings of millions of dollars of aid to strangers in Bande Acheh or Haiti. We see on TV the scene of a soldier coming home, running across the gray tarmac into the arms of his waiting wife, children hugging his uniformed legs, and we weep with them and experience joy with them and it has nothing to do with politics. It has nothing to do with policy, even though we hate the war and the falsehoods that have brought us to that war. Our response is not out of the depths of ideology; it is out of the depths of humanity deeper than any learning or any matter of the mind.

The networks of dissidents with whom I was acquainted in the Soviet Union in the years before its fall were not united by ideology, or even idealism. They were united, as they huddled in apartments comforting each other with Pushkin and Shakespeare and memories of common distress, by an inextinguishable magnetic connection that comes from mutual suffering, a wellspring beyond theory or even description.  Those were the waters of silent protest that ate away at the foundations of Soviet power like waves upon a sand castle, weakening the structure until it ultimately collapsed, and that is the wellspring that gave rise to the New Deal ending the Gilded Age, and that is the wellspring that gave rise to the War on Poverty, and that is the wellspring that gave rise, in a muted way, to health care reform.  The wellspring is always there. We just don’t know when it will bubble to the surface.

The other factor that ultimately brings down abusive power is truth.  Truth has its way with demagogues, leaches it way slowly through the fictions of the Catholic Church, or Marxist-Leninism, or Dick Cheney’s war. Truth does not sit well with illusion. After 2,000 years truth turns Jesus for more and more people into a remarkable human, but still human, and after 200 years we discover Jefferson’s Sally Hemmings, and after only about ten years we discover that Collateralized Debt Obligations are desperately unreliable.  The torrent of popular rage gathers slowly at first in the valleys and across the fields before it hits the main stream, but when it gathers and focuses, the flood hits the rocks of truth and all the smoothness is gone, and the certainty is gone; the time for reason returns. Emergencies don't just provoke fear. As often as not they provoke the steely eye of reason.

Those two givens of human existence might give us hope even in these days of despair. Compassion and truth, like the gentle kiss and the sharpest stone, may yet work their effects to bring round the cycles again.  We are headed into winter, maybe even a long and cold winter, but under the deepest snows lies the seed, as Bette Midler was wont to tell us, that in the springtime becomes the rose.

Craig Barnes
Author of Democracy At The Crossroads, Princes, Peasants, Poets and Presidents Struggle for (and against) the Rule of Law.

Santa Fe, NM
November 3, 2010

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Craig on Reversing History

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Today's guest commentary is by Craig Barnes and is brought to you courtesy of KSFR, Santa Fe's Public Radio Station (@101.1FM). It was broadcasted on October 29, 2010. Click here for the full transcript of the talk. Craig's full bio is available at our Guest Bios page.

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Reversing History

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This is a commentary by Craig Barnes. Click here to access it as a podcast.

As the flood of money flows into our political campaigns for governor, much of it from out of state, New Mexicans are caught up not just in a contest for the soul of the state but in a contest for the soul of the country. Many of those who are sending money and playing here are not primarily interested in New Mexico. They are interested in turning back US history and that means reversing all the gains that have been made in the past century on behalf of the elderly, the poor, miners and workers, women and disabled, children and small business, and yes, even for the environment. The whole of that progress is the stated target of some people with a great deal of money who are flooding dollars into campaigns all over the country.

Glenn Beck and Karl Rove and Swift-Boat financier Bob Perry who is sending hundreds of thousands to Susana Martinez, are not just trying to prevent New Mexico from, for example, participating in the new health care exchange that will bring competition for the first time into health insurance coverage. Their goal is not nearly so limited.  These men, Beck and Rove, and women like presidential contender Sarah Palin, and senate contender Christine O’Donnell in Delaware, are not about now. They are explicitly—they say so outloud—about reversing all the gains of the 1930s New Deal and even before. They want to forget the passion and suffering that brought about a century of liberal reform.


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This was a talk by Craig Barnes at Journeys in Santa Fe, NM on Oct 3, 2010. The talk is titled (click on it for the transcript): Oh Afghanistan, Staying In, Getting Out, or Doing Neither.”

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The complexities of Afghanistan do not allow a simple and clear solution due to its cultural and local socio-political history. Craig make his case by including the perspective of 60 young Afghans currently in America on Fulbright scholarships.

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This was a talk given by Craig Barnes, on Oct 3, 2010, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

***

Good morning friends and thank you for this invitation to be with you again. The seasons turn, the sun comes up later over the mountain, the cottonwoods along the arroyo are already losing their leaves and time, inexorable time, circles around again, not so much as a line but as a cycle of endless endings and beginnings. Nothing is ever certainly over. Nothing is ever entirely begun. The separation between seasons is blurry, crisp wind one day and dripping hot the next, and yet, between the defining words summer and autumn comes the sun moving down the Jemez with or without the hard edges of definition. Every year the sun turns around on December 21st at a certain telephone pole that I see in the distance across my horizon. And every year I speculate how it is that the telephone pole holds the sun fast in its orbit, bringing it back just before it drops off the southern end of the universe. I am grateful for the long slender pole that has some unknown gravitational pull and brings the golden globe trudging back up the horizon toward spring.


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This episode is a continuation of the theme in my July 23rd podcast titled Obama Accomplishments, Political Hypocrisy, and Social Denial.

Download Obscene Election Spending & Misunderstood Tax Cuts | Pop-up Viewer

Last week, Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for CA Governor, added another $13M into her campaign coffers so now her total personal investment is at $104M. For non-presidential campaigns this number is approaching the record, of $108M, set by Michael Bloomberg for his 3rd successful bid for the New York city Mayor.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling re Citizens United vs FEC, the election spending floodgates are now open and fully sanctioned by our legal system and society. Karl Rove and some other Republican groups are expected to pour in $300M into the 2010 midterm elections (see Update below the table).

Imagine what $400M can do for education ... or health care ... or  small business assistance?


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