Obama and the Chicago teachers’ strike – you reap what you sow

The President of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, is putting a brave face on the “strike” by Chicago teachers. Only a few weeks ago she was lauding the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Public School (CPS) system for having resolved their differences as it looked like a strike would be avoided.  Now she is gamely telling the PBS News Hour that this a “local” issue that has to be resolved locally, ignoring the fact that she was on national TV explaining this.

Behind the scenes she, and many other pro-Democratic Party labor leaders, are pulling their hair out.  There could not have been a worse time to pick a fight like this with the city of Obama just as he emerged from his highly successful Democratic party convention. That convention was a convention in name only, of course, as video of LA mayor Villaraigosa ignoring the clear vote of the delegates on key issues indicated.  It was political theater of the highest order, hitting its peak not with the speech of the President, but with the speech of the former President, Bill Clinton, who likely helped many voters ease their growing doubts about the Obama Administration.

Now a strike by the CTU over issues that are murky and confusing to the average citizen threatens to distract the electorate just as the Obama campaign picks up lost momentum.

How could this have happened?

The ironic answer is that President Obama himself deserves some of the blame. At the top of the CTU leadership is a group of political activists for whom the health and well being of students is not the top priority much less the bread and butter concerns of their fellow union teachers. Instead, they are the hard core of a highly ideological milieu that has over the last decade or more burrowed their way into the teachers’ union.

Now they have their hands on the levers of power of a large urban union and are doing what no sane union leader would do, namely striking at a point where they are least likely to gain allies among Democrats and others on the left whom they normally could, and should, count on in a battle of this magnitude.

Only a group with a different agenda than that of the genuine labor movement would take such a huge risk. Actually, from their standpoint – one which advocates “r-r-radical” change – it makes a peculiar kind of sense because it appears to demonstrate their intransigence. While stalwart militancy can be a valuable trait in a labor leader, mindless militancy of the sort on display among the top leaders of the CTU is dangerous. For too long the democratic left inside the AFT and elsewhere has ignored these risks.

What animates this “mindless militancy”? It is the so-called “social justice” ideology propagated by a sectarian element in American schools of education and among their teacher graduates by individuals like Linda Darling-Hammond, Bill Ayers, Mike Klonsky, Gloria Ladson-Billings, Peter MacLaren and others.

Thus, Karen Lewis, the new “fist in the air” fire brand president of the CTU in the words of her ally the Maoist education activist Mike Klonsky. Lewis recently traveled to Seattle not to discuss the tragedy of poor student outcomes in our nation’s schools but to rally the “Shock Doctrine” troops among the social justice crowd to take over the teachers’ union.

Lewis appears in fact to be more likely a “sheep in wolf’s clothing.” She signed off on legislation last year that severely restricted her own union’s collective bargaining rights. The bill was attacked as union-busting by one Illinois legislator. Worse, Lewis apparently did this behind the backs of her own union members who hit the roof when they learned of the move. In other words, any “militancy” being shown now by Lewis may be a dysfunctional form of compensation for her role in weakening her own union.

Keep in mind that I put quotes around “social justice” because this crowd’s “social justice” ideology has nothing to do with the social justice agenda of the genuine labor movement or the civil rights movement. This is, instead, an agenda about gaining political power, not for the students and teachers of our blighted urban schools, but for the advocates of “social justice” and its allied ideas such as multiculturalism and identity politics.

While proposed as something radical it is important to keep in mind how conservative and reactionary this ideology is, in fact. It represents a retreat from the genuinely progressive and radical agenda of the civil rights movement and the labor movement. And it is therefore not a surprise to realize that this new “social justice” agenda emerged in the wake of the defeat of those earlier democratic movements in the late 70s and early 80s.

The ideology actually leads the labor movement backwards into the divisive morass of politically correct identity politics. In the world of education, for example, it actually helped support the pro-corporate school “choice” movement by the formation of politically correct small schools like the “Social Justice” high school in Chicago. Not a surprise that figures like Ayers and Klonsky back the same idea as one supported by the Gates Foundation.

Thus, instead of creating democratic, transparent institutions that can lead us out of the crisis in our schools, this “social justice” crowd functions like a mirror image of the corporate education reform crowd they so loudly denounce. This faux radical milieu has, in fact, given up, sometimes explicitly, on wider social solutions, such as integration, to the problems of city schools. They promote absurd arguments that the schools are the moral equivalent of apartheid and promote a form of reparations for slavery in the name of repaying what they call the “education debt” that allegedly has accumulated over 400 years.

If some of this sounds vaguely familiar to followers of Presidential politics, it should. This is the very same agenda that Barack Obama promoted when he was an active leader in the “Chicago School Wars” of the late 80s and 1990s. Back then he joined forces with education professor Bill Ayers to lead the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC). Together Ayers and Obama pumped tens of millions of dollars into the Chicago school system with two goals: one, to promote explicitly the politically correct “social justice” agenda by financing curriculum that imposed their views on teachers and students; and two, the financial support of Local School Councils (LSCs) which were established in 1988 after a very unpopular teachers strike in Chicago.

The LSCs were very unpopular with teachers because they set up a new power base for community activists to monitor and control teachers. Ayers and Obama were well aware of this, of course, and fought within the CAC to make sure millions of dollars went to this institution precisely to help undermine the power of the CTU and its then traditional labor leadership, as well as the central power at CPS and the Chicago mayor’s office.  To do this, they had to overcome the opposition of then Mayor Daley who tried to get the Annenberg Challenge to give him the huge grant instead. And they battled with establishment figures like Arnold Weber, former President of Northwestern University and a very skilled and experienced labor economist, who fear precisely what happened: that the LSC’s and the Ayers/Obama “social justice” agenda would become a political weapon.

Of course, with this kind of ambitious political agenda it should not be a surprise to learn that that the CAC money had no impact at all on improving outcomes for students!  The CAC’s own research arm completed an exhaustive study to reach this conclusion once all the money was spent.

But the CAC was judged a huge success by Ayers, Obama and allies like Mike Klonsky (the 60s maoist who reinvented himself under Ayers’ tutelage as an “education expert”).  A new political front was now opened up by them inside the Chicago schools. This story was largely ignored during the 2008 campaign not least because the mainstream media had another agenda – electing Obama.

Thus, most prominently, the New York Times “debunked” the easy side of the Ayers/Obama relationship (that Obama had no connection to Ayers role in the Weather Underground and violent political tactics) while ignoring their very substantial work together during the Chicago School Wars and beyond, well into the period of Obama’s presidential campaign. See posts here, here, here and here. As I said at the time, the Times won the David Blaine magic award for making that issue disappear. They even ignored a report by their friends at the New Yorker magazine contradicting their reporting.

And the Ayers/Obama/Klonsky “social justice” milieu now had an institutionalized role in the CPS. That eventually led to the emergence of a layer within the CTU itself that challenged its traditional (and progressive and African American) leadership. Despite the many decades of achievement by that leadership, the CTU had proved incapable of dealing with the very severe challenges posed by dramatic socio-economic change in Chicago. This provided an opening for the “r-r-radicals” in the face of pressure from Chicago’s moneyed elite to shut down non-performing schools, lengthen the school day and reform the teacher evaluation process.

It would be one thing, of course, if this new milieu had a genuine agenda for reform of education that was linked to student capabilities. In other words, the test of their agenda is to ask, well, what will be the result for the students in a year, five years and ten years? But this group opposes measurement of the impact of reforms, despite the attempt of their own national leadership in the AFT to take this problem seriously. And it pushes for things like extended recess periods and art classes that likely are of value to students but hardly worth shutting down those same schools in a “strike” and leaving Chicago’s young children wandering the very dangerous streets of that gang-ridden city.

We are witnessing a train wreck in slow motion that cannot end well for Chicago teachers, their students or their union. Those same teachers will have to ask themselves some very important questions about how they ended up in this situation. But if President Obama is wringing his hands about how his own city and his own political allies could have created such a problem for him, then he should look in the mirror.

Behind the Ground Zero Mosque Imbroglio – Obama’s “Zebra Nation” worldview at work

zebraAnyone who listens to Obama’s Ramadan comments on the NYC Ground Zero mosque realizes he was certainly NOT making a legal argument about anyone’s rights.

After all, that argument is about whether the state would interfere with religious freedom and there is zero evidence that that was ever a risk to whomever is really behind this provocation.

So it follows that the proponents of the mosque hardly needed the intervention of the President of the United States to defend their constitutional freedoms.

The President in fact was making an argument FOR the mosque, for its political value in his eyes.  As he says to build the mosque is to assert (his idea of) our political values.

He is wrong about that but let’s at least get one thing clear: that speech was a calculated POLITICAL intervention, on the eve of the most important political period of his presidency. It seems he almost immediately realized the mistake he had made, stepping on yet another racial or ethnic land mine (recall there was first the Henry Louis Gates affair, then the Terror Trial in NYC idea and then Shirley Sherrod, and now the Mosque). That led to his attempt to draw an altogether too fine distinction between rights and common sense the next day.

But he said what he said and he clearly believed it. Watching the video makes clear his conviction and his welcoming of the applause it garnered from the White House Ramadan audience.

So what motivates this President to continually risk political capital in order to take provocative actions? There is a consistency to his efforts, it seems to me. His view is one shaped by the diversity politics of the last 25 years, an effort that represents in the US the larger form of stalinoid, third worldist and authoritarian politics as it exists in a post-Cold War era.

At the core is an attempt by a few to gain political leverage and power by exploiting actual ethnic or racial or class issues in a manner that does very little to resolve those issues but can do a lot to advance the cause of those few.  When the actual Communist Party was somewhat of a force in this country, for example, it used to profess to be concerned about the “black question.” And the party was able to attract many followers around the broad left from the 30s to the 70s because of its apparent commitment to racial equality. That is what explains the affiliation of figures like Paul Robeson or Frank Marshall Davis with the party if not actually in it.

Their line, however, was that racism was a permanent and enduring part of America because America was capitalist and once America was socialist it would then be possible to end racism. I actually heard that line used by CP trade unionists when I was a union activist in the 1980s. The reality, of course, was that the CP was only interested in its own bureaucratic survival and only if that was consistent with the political line of the Russian mother ship. The zig zag nature of the party drove as many thousands out of the party as into it over the years.

Unfortunately, some who were in its orbit adopted even harder and more authoritarian political views. And these began to infect the left as well, particularly in the late 60s and the 70s. This was the period in which people like Mike Klonsky, who was raised in a household that worshipped Joe Stalin, decided he would have to worship Chairman Mao after the Red Army crushed the Czech uprising of 1968. (It apparently never occurred to Klonsky to consider supporting the Czech people themselves! Certainly Mao was no more on their side than Deng’s crowd was on the side of the Tienanmen worker/student uprising.)

Klonsky and his comrades like Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn in the SDS movement that morphed into a terror cult known as the Weather Underground put race politics in the forefront of their worldview. They actually adopted an even harsher version of the old CP line that America would be racist as long as it was capitalist. For them, “fighting racism” in ever more absurd fashion was the only way to be on the left.

And it was the race-based nature of their politics that Ayers took with him when he surfaced from the Underground and rejoined his former SDS comrade, Klonsky, in a wing of the American world of education policy. There Ayers propagated a revised version of his race politics and recruited Barack Obama to help him carry it out through the $150 mn Chicago Annenberg Challenge. The core of their message was to use the despair of minority and poor parents to attempt to break the power of the teachers’ union and the Chicago school administration in favor of “local school councils.”

This reactionary idea of “local control” of schools by parents was first trotted out in 1968 by the black power movement and SDS in New York City where it led to a very difficult strike by mostly white teachers. When Ayers and Obama got involved in the late 80s they used the same idea to target a largely black teachers’ union relying on the support of hispanic community groups! No wonder they got praise from the Heritage Foundation and support from wings of the Chicago business elite.

Thus the heart and soul of Obama’s race politics, shaped by figures like Ayers and Valerie Jarrett during the Chicago School Wars, was to view America as an indelibly racist nation. Diversity politics fits this mold perfectly because it erases the notion of “e pluribus unum” and replaces it with what some around Obama apparently call “Zebra Politics” – the idea that we live in a “Zebra Nation” with its permanently divided black and white stripes. (As best as I can determine the idea was borrowed, inaptly, from South Africa, a nation which has suffered a very different form of racial division.)

In our “Zebra Nation,” resolution of racial and ethnic division in favor of a genuinely integrated and pluralist nation is impossible so provocative demands are used instead to gain leverage by “shouting fire in a crowded theater,” thus shocking any (white) people from responding or even better clearing the room entirely and allowing control of the space to shift.  Examples abound: calling for open borders with Mexico, waving Mexican flags en masse at immigrant rights’ marches, abandoning the goal of Brown v. Board of Education and integration in schools and housing and instead calling for a return to Plessy v. Ferguson and “separate but equal,” or, in an international context, the so-called Gaza “Freedom” Flotilla.

This same approach is what lies behind the provocation of proposing the mosque in the first place and Obama was clearly intent on riding that sentiment. And that is a way of understanding his use of the Henry Gates situation, the Sherrod affair and the Terror Trial in NYC.

Of course, many on the left fall for this phoney radicalism just as they did in the era of the CP. Then, the CP was really an arm of the Kremlin but posed as a radical anti-racist pro-worker organization. Yet it would not fail to betray its radicalism at the whim of its Moscow handlers. Those on the left today who fall for the apparent radicalism of a Bill Ayers or a Barack Obama or a Van Jones or a Valerie Jarrett should pay attention to what is happening with economic and foreign policy. The same bankers who nearly destroyed the economy remain in power, GM is back after shedding its unruly workers at plants like Fremont, California and the predator drones continue their illegal and deadly flights.

Obama kept oil spill video and information from public

In this clip from CBS News Coast Guard Commander Thad Allen admits (at min 1:46) the federal government had video of the oil spill from “day one” but decided, for some reason, not to release it to the public. The footage, Allen admitted, has been coming in to the Coast Guard “in real time” since the beginning of the spill.

Allen, of course, serves under President “I’m in charge” Obama, his Commander in Chief.

Apparently the President wanted to deny independent experts or local Gulf officials the information they needed to determine the scale and scope of the spill. Given the fact that all new information about the spill indicates the size was wildly underestimated that suggests the President was simply overwhelmed by what he knew was coming down the pipe (so to speak) and decided to cover up the damning video shots.

CBS Evening News: Oil Leak Footage Exposed.

More reporting here confirming Coast Guard had the footage. CBS reported they got the footage only after filing a FOIA request – which, of course, governs release of information by government agencies, not private corporations.

The Center for Public Integrity has learned that the Coast Guard had early estimates far higher than they admitted publicly. Presumably they shared their estimates with the White House.

Here is intriguing video from NOAA’s war room soon after the spill. The group seen here was reporting to the Coast Guard and its estimates on the impact of the spill were also being seen by the President, according to one uniformed participant. On the phone at 6:44 there is talk of an estimated 65,000 barrels a day leaking (at a point when the White House only admitted around 5,000) while on the white board is an estimate of between 64,000 and 110,000 barrels a day.

The Obama Paradox

I first wrote this in February in the wake of the Haitian disaster. It reads, sadly, as prescient today in the wake of our environmental disaster unfolding in the Gulf.

Obama vexedThere is an intriguing paradox at work inside the Obama Presidency. Initially, it looks hard to explain.

On the one hand, many critics and opponents of Obama claim that he represents some kind of radical ideology influenced by the authoritarian milieu that emerged in the late 1960s around figures like Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and Mike Klonsky in the Students for a Democratic Society and its violent offshoot, the Weather Underground.

Some on the left of the Obama campaign confirmed this, including Manning Marable of Columbia who noted, approvingly, that “a lot of the people working with [Obama] are, indeed, socialists with backgrounds in the Communist Party or as independent Marxists. There are a lot of people like that in Chicago who have worked with him for years.”  Marable is a long time presence in this same milieu and is certainly in a position to know what he is talking about.

Of course, readers of King Harvest and its predecessor Global Labor are well aware of the intimate ties between Obama and Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn going back more than two decades, including the alliance formed between Ayers and Obama at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge in midst of the Chicago School Wars of the 1990s.

So assuming that the critics, opponents, and left wing friends of Obama, not to mention me, are all correct about the significance of this melange of authoritarian “leftists” in Obama’s political development and success, how is it that his Administration appears, to say the least, disappointing to these same figures? On health care, the closing of Guantanamo, job creation, you name it, this Administration, far from appearing left wing, appears almost feckless and weak, unwilling to flex the power of the Presidency on any issue of importance to the left.

Some of Obama’s closest allies are now expressing consternation. Berkeley Law Dean Chris Edley, an aggressive promoter of racialist politics, was brought into the Obama campaign to whip white staffers into line at the home of Valerie Jarrett, the black confidante of the President. Now Edley has himself apparently turned on the Administration calling it “complacent.” (Edley reserves most of his bile for Obama’s white chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, while never even mentioning Jarrett.) Even Bill Ayers has publicly criticized the Administration, although not Obama personally, on the escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

Of even greater potential to damage the humanitarian credentials and long term legacy of Obama is his stubborn unwillingness to take any serious leadership role in confronting the Haitian disaster. As noted on King Harvest recently, the Haitians themselves want a much bigger role for the US military. Ironically, Obama took on board as a personal foreign policy advisor early in his Senate career the most stanch advocate of humanitarian intervention by the US military, Harvard’s Samantha Power. Now Power is a National Security Council staffer, yet the US delayed deployment of US troops to Haiti, did not even show up for a key UN vote on the crisis and seems content to let the country descend into a Katrina-like crisis in the unfolding recovery period.

So there we have it, Obama the radical has turned into Obama the feckless. That’s the paradox that requires explanation. Of course, one could dismiss as irrelevant, as some do, Obama’s lifelong radical affiliations and influences from his mother’s third worldism, to his mentorship by the noted stalinist poet and journalist Frank Marshall Davis, to his affinity for the black nationalist politics of Jeremiah Wright, to the identity politics now rampant in many quarters of the progressive movement and the Democratic party. But the evidence of his tendencies is pretty overwhelming, even if he carefully tailored certain comments in order to maintain his electability.

So what can explain the actual impact of the Administration? I would suggest two possibilities.

First, as I suggested during the campaign itself, the problem with the kind of mentorship that Obama got while on the way up, from figures like Ayers and Wright, has left him woefully unprepared for the job he actually was elected to carry out.

When I listen to the comments of people like Bill Ayers or Carl Davidson of Progressives for Obama (oops, now Progressive America Rising – such fair weather friends!) it seems to me they really think that their organizing activities within the Obama campaign were the equivalent to being an anti-war Bolshevik in 1917 Russia as millions of workers, peasants and soldiers abandoned the front and stormed the barricades. That’s a bit of hyperbole but the tendency is certainly felt in their comments and I would submit Obama himself may have thought he could, indeed, “fundamentally transform” this country, as Obama said just a few days before his Inauguration.

Of course, Obama was, in fact, mounting a campaign to become President of the United States, still, by far, the dominant military and capitalist power on the planet (and beyond).  There is a good reason for the normal range of ideologies among credible candidates for President to be relatively narrow – the requirements for the job are set in stone by the structure of power that the Presidency represents.  A true left wing movement would not delude itself as these people do into thinking that something like the Obama Hope campaign had any hope whatsoever of altering that power structure.

Nonetheless, here we are, with a small group of self described radicals in part responsible for placing in the Presidency our first “radical” President. Of course I use that term advisedly to mark the peculiar stalinoid and authoritarian nature of the politics that marked Obama’s rise to power. But those politics offer Obama no serious guidelines for the actual exercise of the immense power that he now, potentially, wields.

In fact, it gets worse. The problem facing Obama goes deeper. Not only does he not really know what to do with this power, to the extent that he would like to do more that is consistent with his “radical” values he finds himself trapped. To begin to carry out such policies in any serious way would open him up to attack from the right, even from the center. In fact, it is very likely that even rational measures that would not be off limits to a typically liberal Democratic President, such as more aggressive use of the United Nations, are off limits to Obama because they are viewed by his closest advisors as hot button items likely to raise, once again, the charge by the right of the specter of radicalism.

This dynamic may go a long way to explaining the confused and frightening incompetence surrounding events like Haiti or the Christmas underwear bomber interrogation as well as the continuing confusion about how to deal with the Wall Street financial crisis.

Thus it is that the enthusiasm and optimism that marked Obama’s ascension to the Presidency has within a year descended dangerously close to what can only be called a failed Presidency.

The New York Times Blames Bloggers For Their Headaches….

I sent the following letter to The New York Times‘ “Public Editor” Clark Hoyt yesterday:

Dear Mr. Hoyt,

I find it curious that you are concerned that it is the blogging side of the Times that may be the problem as you did recently in your column A Private Room with a Public View. In fact, I think the blogging world is keeping the Times more honest than it might otherwise be.

Let me give you a small, albeit personal example.

During the recent presidential campaign the Times ran a long story by Scott Shane who reported that Bill Ayers had no role in the appointment of Barack Obama to the board of directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, an important school reform non profit corporation established in Chicago in 1995 by Bill Ayers, among others.

I was interviewed several times by Mr. Shane as he was preparing the story and although he initially offered, for some odd reason, to allow me to talk to him off the record, I chose not to do so. I have been interviewed hundreds of times by the media over the years and that was the first time a reporter started an interview by suggesting I go off the record about material that I had already put in the public domain! I was also interviewed prior to this by two other Times reporters who were also working on stories related to Ayers and Obama, on the record.

I was interviewed because I had done extensive blogging throughout the campaign on the Ayers/Obama relationship with particular attention to the Annenberg Challenge.  (At the time I blogged at Global Labor and now blog at King Harvest.)

The Annenberg Challenge was important to the Obama/Ayers story because it was clear to anyone who paid attention to it that if Ayers had a role in naming Obama to the Challenge board it meant that the Ayers/Obama relationship was different than that described by Obama himself. It also meant the relationship was older than the Times had previously reported.

I explained to Mr. Shane that my research demonstrated that Ayers had indeed legal authority to appoint Mr. Obama and that he had exercised that authority. I provided Mr. Shane with the contemporary written documentation that backed up my conclusion, including letters to and from Brown University President Vartan Gregorian and Mr. Ayers. President Gregorian was tasked by Walter Annenberg to help establish the national Annenberg Challenge. Yet Mr. Shane did not mention the material in his story and relied instead on interviews with two other participants in the planning for the Challenge conducted thirteen years after the contemporary written documentation. Even those interviews were inconclusive as I explained to Mr. Shane and that one of the individuals he interviewed had made it clear to another journalist that Ayers had played a role in the appointment process consistent with my analysis.

(David Remnick of The New Yorker has now confirmed Ayers’ role in the appointment of Obama to the Challenge board in his recently published book The Bridge.  He relied on unnamed source(s) as he explained in a recent interview on the Milt Rosenberg show.)

Absurdly, after the Times’ story ran and I registered my objections, Mr. Shane had the temerity to suggest to me that “it must be nice” to be a blogger because you can just say anything you want. Yet it was he who quoted people saying “anything they wanted” without providing Times readers the written documentation that would allow them to see what actually happened.  I replied to the Shane piece, in a blog, that you can find here: http://stephen-diamond.com/?p=379

Perhaps the Times’ bloggers need to spend some time in the real blogging world, not tethered to a print outlet, where the bloggers I know work hard to get it right.


Stephen F. Diamond

BP Oil Spill: Landry is Out, Holder is In

Obama is finally rolling out some of the heavy artillery. Coast Guard’s Mary Landry is out. Eric Holder is off to the Gulf to consider possible prosecution of BP – hopefully DOJ will take this situation more seriously than that of torture architect John Yoo.

Obama administration moves to distance itself from BP on oil spill response.

Colin Powell on Oil Spill – we need “decisive force”

The Navy/CIA deep sea ship Glomar Explorer - now leased to TransOcean!Indeed. Arrest Tony Hayward and bring in the Navy’s deep sea teams to deal with this. We have had deep sea capacity since the days of nuclear subs and the Cold War. Why not use it to protect us for once?

Colin Powell on Oil Spill: Time for ‘Comprehensive, Total Attack’ – ABC News.

BP Oil Spill: Obama’s Katrina or Chernobyl?

chernobyl-disasterAs it becomes clear that BP is hiding the truth, that in fact they do not have the spill under control, the real question for Obama now is whether this is just Katrina or is it something much worse, Chernobyl?

Chernobyl, of course, was the disastrous meltdown of a Soviet nuclear plant that killed dozens immediately and poisoned at least thousands in Russia and beyond.  We are likely all to some extent suffering its effects even today.

But beyond the environmental and health disaster, the 1986 accident signaled the end of the Soviet era. Three years later the Berlin Wall fell and the collapse of eastern europe and Russia followed. That was a welcome event in many ways politically and socially but also ushered in an era of poverty and economic inequality that had not been seen in Russia since the days of the Czar. While no rational thinker would advocate a return to Stalinism, the crisis of legitimacy that has plagued Russian politics since is striking.

Here, we have had a series of failures in auto, coal, oil and natural gas and of course the financial, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector.

The remaining question is whether the feckless leadership of the Obama regime indicates a deeper problem, the genuine inability of government to act as a social governor at all.

Effort to Kill Oil Well Hangs in Balance – WSJ.com.

Obama, finally, visits oil spill area – UPDATE: Top Kill appears to have failed

ed-al603_noonan_d_20100527180850Obama looks and sounds more like a victim of the oil spill than the leader who will solve the problem.

As much as I hate to admit it, Peggy Noonan nailed his quandary in the Wall Street Journal:

The original sin in my view is that as soon as the oil rig accident happened the president tried to maintain distance between the gusher and his presidency. He wanted people to associate the disaster with BP and not him. When your most creative thoughts in the middle of a disaster revolve around protecting your position, you are summoning trouble. When you try to dodge ownership of a problem, when you try to hide from responsibility, life will give you ownership and responsibility the hard way. In any case, the strategy was always a little mad. Americans would never think an international petroleum company based in London would worry as much about American shores and wildlife as, say, Americans would. They were never going to blame only BP, or trust it.

One recalls the comment of psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan to one of his patients: “Where have you been all your life?” This President seems utterly unwilling to engage with problems himself. Is it the Chicago cabal that holds him back? Or is it the much maligned “lack of executive experience” finally coming through?

UPDATE: The New York Times is reporting that despite misleading statements earlier in the day by BP CEO Hayward and Adm. Thad Allen, the Top Kill effort has failed.

Barack Obama vows to take responsibility for BP oil spill – Telegraph.

BP Missteps Caused Spill – What Makes Obama Think They Can Stop It?

This Wall Street Journal report makes clear the kind of malfeasants the Obama Administration has put in charge of the oil spill disaster in the Gulf.

BP Decisions Made Well Vulnerable – WSJ.com.