By Matthew Rothschild on January 25, 2012

Excuse me for not yelling myself hoarse for Obama’s warmed over State of the Union address.

While I agree with his call for economic fairness, there was not much in his speech that was new or all that promising. And there were several troublesome passages for progressives.

First, mentioning John Boehner, Obama said he was still open to a grand compromise on Social Security and Medicare, which would make Americans have to work longer and get less benefits from Medicare and Medicaid. We don’t need a Democrat to hack away at these crucial social programs.

Second, he took a gratuitous swipe at universal single-payer health care. Sounding like Ronald Reagan, he said, “I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That Government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.” As an illustration, he said, “That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a Government program.” Huh? He used to say he was for single-payer universal health care. Then, when he was running for President the first time, he said, “If I were starting from scratch,” I’d be for single-payer universal health care. Now he disparages it to score cheap political points.

Third, he was belligerent on Iran, saying (to raucous applause) that he would take “no options off the table,” which is easily decipherable code for saying he’d threaten to blow Iran off the map if it got one nuclear weapon, even though the United States has thousands and Israel has hundreds.

Fourth, he said that America is a “Pacific power,” reiterating the theme of his new strategic doctrine, which is aimed recklessly at China.

And finally, sounding like a mix of Madeleine Albright and George W. Bush, he boasted that the United States is the “one indispensable nation in world affairs—and as long as I’m President, I intend to keep it that way.”

This was cheap jingoism that the American people, already suffering from a superiority complex, really could have lived without.

If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story “Pundits Slight Ron Paul after Strong NH Showing."

Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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