WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

10 09 2011

Here’s my response to that “Mid-Tennessee Progressive Strategy” group’s response to the Obama indictment.  I’ve added links, and changed it a little for greater clarity and because, when I took a little more time for fact-checking, I didn’t have all my details right–but this is substantially the same post.

As I was considering how to respond to the many comments my post elicited, I read the following quote from Susan Sontag in Yes!:

Acting on principle is, we’re told, a good in itself. But it is still a political act, in the sense that you’re not doing it for yourself. You don’t do it just to be in the right, or to appease your own conscience; much less because you are confident your action will achieve its aim. You resist as an act of solidarity. With communities of the principled and the disobedient: here, elsewhere. In the present. In the future…..

The likelihood that your acts of resistance cannot stop the injustice does not exempt you from acting.”

So, with that to set the tone, here is my response to the different objections that were raised to my bill of particulars against the strategy of aligning with Obama and the Democratic Party.

I cannot support him or the Democrat Party because they are war criminals. Obama has not only declined to prosecute any Cheney administration officials for war crimes, he has continued and actually expanded Cheney’s criminal policies. It should be obvious, at this point, that he went into the Presidential race knowing full well that he would be doing that, throwaway lines like “close Guantanamo” (which never happened) not withstanding. To vote for him, or anyone who, like Jim Cooper, continues to support war crimes and war criminals is to be complicit in those crimes, just like the “good Germans” of the last century. And, like Germany and Italy, America has become a fascist state, defined as one in which the government is run in collusion with, and for the benefit of, big business.

Of course, 21st century American fascism has learned a thing or two about how to be “kinder and gentler”–nobody’s getting sent to the gas chamber–but Gaza and Palestine, and the now-60-year old Palestinian refugee camps are the 21st century equivalent of concentration camps—and they are maintained with U.S. aid. And, likewise, this fascism is sure enough of its hold on power that it won’t send us to the camps just for making accusations like this. It’s much cheaper (and better PR) to simply ignore us, dismiss tax protests as “frivolous filings” to be dealt with administratively, and save the legal big guns for those who actually do things that throw a monkey wrench in the gears of power, like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, or Tim DeChristopher.

As for the charge that I am not “dealing with the realities of America politics,” those “realities” are insanely out of touch with real-deal reality. The real-deal reality is that our government’s willful ignor-ance of the seriousness of climate change is a serious threat to the ability of this planet to continue to support higher life forms such as ourselves. The grim difference between the late 20th century’s bane, “Mutual Assured Destruction,” and our current situation is that, while Mutual Assured Destruction turned out to be a threat that never materialized (except to the extent that military expenditures stole from our ability to make the planet a better place for everyone), every day that we continue to extract and burn fossil fuels sinks us deeper into the tar pit of runaway climate change, while our “leaders” babble about “growth” and “job creation.” This kind of unconscious commitment to the idea that the way it’s been is the way it’s going to be is a planetary suicide pact, and, weak old man that I am, it makes me want to kick and scream and raise hell to wake people from the sleepwalk of politics as usual in America.

“I” can’t do a whole lot about this, but “we” can. Vaclav Havel started out as a lonely dissident, and was ground under the heel of the Soviet empire—but he persisted, and eventually enough people came around to his point of view that the whole sorry reality of “Communist” totalitarianism crumbled–not through confrontation, but by decay from within, as an overwhelming majority withdrew their consent from the system. You can bet that he got plenty of well-intentioned advice along the way about how he needed to be more realistic and accept “Communist” domination! Something similar has to happen here. There are two ways the two-party duopoly could come undone: either an East-bloc-style revolution of belief, or the total collapse of America as we’ve known it. As a guy who would like to die peacefully of old age, I would much prefer the former, but, as it stands, I’m deeply concerned that we’re heading for the latter.

As it stands, “progressives” (a term whose definition is a whole other subject) in the Democratic Party are in the position of a woman who stays with her abusive husband, hoping she can change him. As with individual cases, that’s unlikely to happen, especially as long as he (the corporate-oriented Democratic Party, in this case) thinks he can take your support for granted, no matter what he does, because you view him as your only option. Here’s the reality: he’s too addicted to corporate money to ever listen to “progressives” again, and it’s been that way for at least 30 years. There have been some truly noble “progressive Democrats” like Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, and Cynthia McKinney, but they have been seriously mistreated by the mainstream of the Democratic Party.  Well, OK, Barbara Lee has not been harassed by her own party–she pulls 85% of the vote without even trying.  It’s pretty hard to harass somebody who’s that popular at home.

Cynthia McKinney had the good sense to jump to the Green Party, which could really take off if all the people who “hold their nose and vote for Democrats” screwed up their courage instead of holding their noses, and walked out on the Democrats instead of voting for the stinkers. One commenter said he thought the American electorate was trending rightward. I disagree. My understanding of the results of the 2010 election is not that a whole lot more people voted Republican, but that a whole lot fewer people voted Democrat, due to feeling burned by the party’s failure to deliver on their expectations of it. I am also aware of repeated polling that shows that Americans overall are much more “progressive” than the choices that are allowed in our corporate-run political system, and that the” Tea Party” is, when all is said and done, a minority voice. The fact that 50-60% of potential voters don’t vote in most of our elections means that the “Republican majority” is really only about 20-25% of the electorate, and tells me that there is enormous potential for a new political movement in this country that will actually listen to–and speak for–the real concerns of real people. The Green Party was created to do just that.  We do not take corporate money. Those of us who have been keeping it going in this state for the last ten years would love to be supplanted by “progressives” who got disgruntled with the major parties and came on over. In Canada, the New Democrats, who were a “third party” for years, have now supplanted the Liberals as the country’s main opposition party. Change can happen, but only if enough people are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Oh, and “scary Perry”? The blustering bully from Texas and the smooth-talking con-man from Chicago are working for the same masters. Choosing between them amounts to, do you want to be railroaded by the good cop (Obama) or by the bad cop (Perry, Bachman, etc.)? My response is, I haven’t done anything wrong. They have, and I’m not giving them my power. Obama’s a war criminal, Perry’s a murderer who aspires to be a war criminal. The proper response to people like them is to step away, not to try and reform them or work with their political supporters in hopes of creating substantive social change. It ain’t gonna happen, any more than the Mafia is going to become a model civic organization if we reach out to it and try to work to change it.

There are those who say that it’s too late for politics, that the only thing left to do is duck and cover and create our own community survival networks.  To me, that’s a worst-case scenario–not so far out as to be ignored, but not yet inevitable.  I believe it is still possible for the people of this country to wake up, shake off the whores who pass for politicians, and take this country back, and that’s what keeps me, as Susan Sontag put it, “acting on principle.”  Whether it has wider results or not, it’s the only way I can live with myself.

Music:  Richard Thompson, “Borrowed Time





LOSING INTEREST

10 09 2011

Texas Governor Rick Perry recently lead a three-day prayer marathon, asking for God to make it rain on Texas.  God’s answer?  Tropical Storm Lee skipped the state, and even more wildfires have broken out.  No reports yet of any brimstone, but a volcanic eruption in Texas would put quite a cap on the summer disaster season, wouldn’t it?  Where are all the Evangelicals who have framed other natural disasters as God’s wrathful judgment on the sinners of New Orleans, New York,  or wherever?  If God is all-powerful and on their side, how come he’s burning up the home state of his self-proclaimed most devoted servant?  Do I blaspheme?

Speaking of God’s wrath, today is the tenth anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center.  I’m starting to suspect we will never know the real story of what happened, despite the many obvious contradictions and peculiar decisions contained in the official version.  For instance:  cell phones didn’t work on airplanes in 2001–how was someone allegedly on one of the hijacked flights able to make cell phone calls?  How could an airliner hit a building at ground level (the Pentagon), and disintegrate so thoroughly that virtually no trace of the airliner was left?  How could somebody with virtually no experience flying an airliner do such a good job of flying it so close to the ground?  Why was no attempt made to shoot the plane down before it hit?  And if, as some claim, it was a missile and not an airplane that hit the Pentagon, thus explaining the lack of debris, what happened to the missing airplane?

And that’s just the Pentagon–moving to the main event, in New York, we don’t know how a kerosene (aka jet fuel) fire could get hot enough to melt structural steel–there are videos that seem to show molten metal pouring out of the stricken floors of the World Trade Center, and plenty of eyewitness reports of molten metal in the collapsed ruins.  Why were the remains of the buildings hastily recycled, rather than carefully examined for evidence of why they collapsed?  Why were traces of high explosives found in World Trade Center structure samples that were independently analyzed?  Why did Building 7, which was not hit by an airplane, and contained the security camera records for the towers, collapse and burn hours after the main event?

On the other hand, if it was, as many allege, a controlled demolition, how could the enormous amount of material needed have been spirited into the building and put in place without attracting notice?  Such a task would require so many hands that it is hard to believe that everyone’s lips would remain sealed after ten years.

I haven’t even touched on the larger questions–who knew what, and when.  Perhaps that is why our government took such great care to seal Mr. Bin Laden’s lips and confiscate his records.  We may never know if the attack occurred without the knowledge of our government, or whether it occurred with the collusion or outright participation of our government.  After all, the neoconservative “Project for a New American Century” had, only the year before, proclaimed a need for “a new Pearl Harbor” to galvanize Americans into supporting a war that, they believed, would result in American dominance of the Middle East and its oil.  And Pearl Harbor, let us not forget, was an attack that upper echelons of U.S. intelligence may have known  about, and allowed to happen, in order to…galvanize Americans into supporting a war.  Maybe that’s what happened.  As I said, there’s a lot we just don’t know.

But, in a way, it doesn’t matter whether Dick Cheney was in on the 9-11 plot or not.   It doesn’t even matter that the country, or at least the media, has largely lost interest in these questions. What the attack really succeeded in doing was provoking a massive increase in U.S. government spending–and borrowing.  Our national debt nearly doubled during the Cheney administration, largely due to increased war and “homeland security” spending.  This was all part of a mindset that saw no need to regulate or rein in government spending on big business , or in any way question the basic assumption on which our economy runs:  economic growth is the ultimate good thing.

And that is where this country has run into trouble, because our commitment to unrestrained economic growth at any cost was bound to create a crash, sooner or later, and increased government spending and borrowing–not to mention private sector spending and borrowing, as in the consumer credit boom–just brought the contradictions to a head that much faster.

Here’s the key:  a financial system based on loaning money at interest presumes that the economy can somehow grow indefinitely.  There is no way to pay off an interest-bearing loan other than to somehow create more wealth than the original loan represents.  But oops!  That presumes infinite growth on this small and extremely finite–not to mention fragile–planet.

In the prescient climactic scene from the 1983 Monty Python movie “The Meaning of Life,” the Chairman of the Very Big Corporation of America says

… which brings us once again to the urgent realisation of just how much there is still left to own.

In 1983, it seemed that there was still a lot left to own, but, just a few years later, the field had narrowed considerably.  By the early 90’s, the planet’s material resources were pretty much accounted for or tapped out, and bankers started resorting to what you could call ‘creative financing”–Collateralized Debt Obligations, Collateralized Bond Obligations, and so forth, even a second generation of essentially artificial financial instruments based on CDO’s, etc., which catapulted high finance into a realm of such huge amounts of–ultimately–imaginary money that the only “collateral” for these abstract investment opportunities was more  abstract money, because there just wasn’t enough actual stuff to do the job.  The world of finance had run out of things to own, and yet  banksters made billions in a market that resembled nothing so much as an off-track betting parlor for an imaginary horse race.  They made enough money to buy the U.S. government, with the result that, when their schemes blew up in their faces, they were able to manipulate that government into bailing them out instead of prosecuting them for theft and fraud.

The rest of us are not so well-connected.  Debt also became overwhelming at the family/individual level, resulting in a flood of bankruptcies and foreclosures that has decimated the American middle class and shoved the poor even farther down the storm drain.  Oh, and did I mention that part of the corporate Ponzi scheme involved moving as much manufacturing out of the US as possible, to places where they wouldn’t have to pay their workers as well, or observe expensive environmental safeguards?

Here’s some numbers:   real wages for the average person have declined by about 14% since the early 1970’s, while the cost of living,  as measured by the consumer price index,  has risen by a factor of five.  The cost of living increase is partly due to price increases, but also  involves using television to hypnotize people into believing they need things that they do not, in fact, need, thus inflating demand.

A more concrete example:  the average home price in 1972 was $27.000.  Adjusted for inflation to 2007 prices, that’s about $134,000.  But, in 2007, the average home price in the U.S. was  around $300,000, and the median was in the neighborhood of $250,000.  So, for the average American, income–down 14%,  while the price for keeping a roof over our head is up nearly 100%.  That has opened up a big hole between our expectations and our ability to fulfill them, a hole known as a “debt trap.”  The total amount of individual debt in the U.S. is about 2.4 trillion dollars, about a third of it credit card debt, the rest mostly home and college loans.  In 2009, the average household debt was only about $16K, but the average household debt of households with credit card debt was $54K.  The good news is, both these figures were about half of what they had been a year earlier.

The bad news is that a fair amount of this debt disappeared when banks gave up on collecting it, because the debtors went bankrupt.  Foreclosure, of course, technically transfers the asset to the bank, but unoccupied, unsaleable homes have a funny tendency to lose value rather rapidly.  Too bad for the banks.  My heart bleeds.

The other bad news is that, since our economy is based on credit, the fact that people are borrowing and spending less is ‘bad for the economy.”

But the good news is, our unsustainable, growth-dependent economy needs to wither and die, to keep the planet from withering and dying.  I’m not too hung up in the “either/or” of this, because it looks like the planet is going to wither and die enough to shake the cancer of our civilization, and possibly our entire species.  As one who appreciates what is valuable in humanity–our self-awareness, our ability to understand large concepts, and our ability to be compassionate with each other–I hope it doesn’t come to that.  But unless several million mostly rich, white, mostly Americans ( who are overall somewhat deficient in self-awareness, understanding, and compassion) don’t get a clue pretty quick, it could, indeed, be curtains for us.  These are interesting times, indeed.

music:  Eliza Gilkyson, “2153





THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES

7 08 2010

President Obama gets our truth in strange places award this month for his comment on Wikileaks’ release of tens of thousands of “secret” documents relating to the US war on Afghanistan:  “these documents don’t reveal any issues that haven’t already informed our public debate on Afghanistan.”

Unfortunately, that’s where his truth train left the track.   Well, not exactly…he also said the document release  “could potentially jeopardize individuals or operations,” and it could, but not because it released inside knowledge to the Taliban.  The information released by Wikileaks “jeopardizes” the war effort by revealing its rickety nature, and by  showing the American empire’s naked ass flapping in the Afghan breeze.  The emperor has no clothes.

One of the most embarrassing facts to be confirmed by the Wikileaks release is the level of co-operation between Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, and the Taliban.  This makes perfect sense, from the Pakistani point of view:  the US is just passing through, but the Taliban are going to be Pakistan’s neighbors for a long time to come.  Other embarrassments validated by the Wiki release are the total corruption of the Afghan “government” the US is trying to install, and the way US money keeps ending up in Taliban hands.

What the leak reveals is often evidence of war crimes:  civilian deaths,whether  by “accident” or by deliberate assassination of selected civilians, or, as with the Iraq helicopter video that prefaced the full release, the random, intentional slaughter of obviously unarmed civilians.

Considering the exposure of such tactics, it is hypocritical, if not downright schizophrenic, for various US government spokespeople and conservative talking heads to say that Wikileaks “has blood on its hands.”  Wikileaks did not set up the Taliban–America’s CIA and Pakistan’s ISI did that, to defeat the Soviets when they attempted to occupy Afghanistan.  Wikileaks does not conduct assassinations of reputed resistance leaders.  It has no drones, no jet fighters, no tanks, no artillery.  Wikileaks is not the source of hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In fact, Wikileaks has been careful to censor the documents it is releasing so that they do not give away the identities of any Afghans who might be put further in harm’s way by disclosure of their collaboration with US forces.

But the government spin machine, like the right-wing spin machine that hopes to replace it in the next couple of elections, has never let facts stand in the way of putting its point across, and the parrots are squawking “Arwak–blood on his hands–blood on his hands.”  The precedent has long been set in this administration, like the Bush administration before it:  whistle blowers will be punished, but the crimes they blow the whistle on will be ignored, or even rewarded.  You know, Tim Geithner….

Meanwhile, the right-wing spin machine is doing its best to out-spin the government with its storm of indignation.  GOP Congressman Mike Rogers, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, has called for execution of the alleged leaker, Bradley Manning, for “treason during time of war.”  One problem, Congressman:  the US never declared war on Afghanistan, and “The Global War on Terror” has no legal standing as a “declared war.”  Not that that will necessarily stop anybody.

Marc Thiessen, a former speech writer for George W. Bush, claimed recently in the Washington Post that Wikileaks is “a criminal enterprise” and said, further

the government has a wide range of options for dealing with him. It can employ not only law enforcement but also intelligence and military assets to bring Assange to justice and put his criminal syndicate out of business.

The first step is for the Justice Department to indict Assange. Such an indictment could be sealed to prevent him from knowing that the United States is seeking his arrest. The United States should then work with its international law enforcement partners to apprehend and extradite him.

In other words, “shoot the messenger.”

Talk about hypocrisy and schizophrenia…conservatives were not nearly so concerned when Dick Cheney and Karl Rove outed Valerie Plame, an “act of treason” that didn’t just confirm what everybody knew already, but destroyed the US’s clandestine efforts to keep tabs on nuclear weapons proliferation–how’s that for “treason,” Congressman Rogers and Mr. Thiessen?  Are you ready to hang Dick Cheney?

I didn’t think so.  Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, eh?

As our President said, Wikileaks publication of the US government’s “top-secret” Afghan war log didn’t really tell us anything we hadn’t suspected, but it certainly does confirm our worst suspicions.  The leak does make one thing very clear:   Afghanistan is just as much a “quagmire” as Vietnam ever was.  Attempts to “surge” and “win” will just kill more people, create more animosity, and waste more money and other resources that would be better spent fixing real problems like climate change, hunger, and the destruction of the natural world.  Bradley Manning deserves a medal, not a trial.  It’s time to grow up as a country, drop our fantasies of world domination,  and re-direct our national attention to what’s really important.

music:  Richard Thompson, “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me”





McCHRYSTAL FOR PRESIDENT?

11 07 2010

By now, Rolling Stone’s article about General McChrystal, and his consequent sacking, is old news.  Michael Hastings has been excoriated by the mainstream media for doing honest reporting, the military has announced that they will be a whole lot more careful about interviews, and the general mood seems to be that “we’re not going to let anything like this happen again–all puff pieces, all the time!”

In a similar vein, the government (or BP–it’s hard to tell them apart) has further restricted public and media access to the Gulf of Mexico, making it a federal crime to come close enough to the cleanup effort to report on what’s really going on unless you’ve got an official minder.  But that’s not what I’m going to talk about now.  There are important pieces of the McChrystal story that have been largely ignored, and another story that intersects with it in a surprising and radical way, and I want to bring those together for you.

One aspect of Michael Hasting’s profile of General McChrystal that has been widely overlooked is that  he actually paints a very positive picture of the General–who, by Hastings’ account, was well-liked by his subordinates, deeply concerned for the well-being of the troops in his command, personally courageous, and even tolerant of his own son’s decision to dye his hair blue and get a Mohawk.  For a hired killer in the service of an exploitive empire, he is not a bad guy.

Another aspect of the whole flap that I have not seen much mention of is that an awful lot of people in this country agree very strongly with McChrystal’s dismissive opinions of his Commander-in Chief and the other civilians who are technically his bosses.  My own view is that the US has no business in Afghanistan, but I can see that, if you accept the premise that it’s OK for us to be there, the Obama administration (following the precedent set by  the Bush administration) has bungled the situation just about every way it could, and those who are hung up on the concept of “victory” are understandably feeling very frustrated and wishing they/we were free to turn the military loose to “kill them all and let God sort ’em out,” as the old bumper sticker said.

So, McChrystal is out of a job, and a lot of people feel like he got a bum deal.  That’s where the next element enters.

A few months back, there was a brief flap when New York Congressman Eric Massa was forced to resign amid allegations of sexual harassment, which he claimed was really retaliation for his opposition to the health insurance industry bailout.   But, in Esquire Magazine, of all places,  Massa had another, stranger tale to tell.

According to Massa, General David Petraeus  met with Dick Cheney, who urged him to resign from the military and become the Republican candidate for President in 2012.  Petraeus’ problem, as Massa sees it, is that in order  to run successfully against his own commander, he would have to make sure the war in Afghanistan did not go well.  A military commander  plotting with the opposition party to throw a war so that he can replace the civilian commander as President is, in Massa’s view (and mine), essentially the opening move in a de facto military coup.

The tricky part of this scenario is “throwing” the war, although it has not been going well and probably won’t, no matter what strategy the US pursues, short of immediate and complete withdrawal. That, like most sensible solutions to the problems our culture faces, is “off the table.”  But now General McChrystal has “just happened” to make some–apparently–unguarded, highly critical remarks about the conduct of the war to a reporter from Rolling Stone, and they were printed. No matter what the job, who the employer or the employee, badmouthing your boss in print is reasonable grounds for dismissal.

To digress for a moment, it’s similar to the situation in which the Pentagon decided that they would really like to shut down Julian Assange’s Wikileaks site, and then somebody “just happened” to release “top-secret” diplomatic cables and a video of US troops gleefully killing innocent Iraqi civilians.  Now, the only reason such a video would be considered “top secret” is to conceal evidence of a shameful war crime, but that doesn’t matter–acquisition of these items hotted up Assange and he’s had to watch his back ever since.  The point of this digression is to raise the possibility that everything is not as simple as  it seems.  Now for another aside.

The US government recently announced the discovery of vast stores of minerals in Afghanistan–gold, iron, copper, cobalt, copper, lithium, and other  substances more important to highly industrialized societies than to Afghan peasants.  Actually, the existence of these deposits has been known for thirty years, but there was a need for good news, so “discovery of Afghan mineral wealth” was trumpeted.

Mining and extraction are water-intensive, ecologically destructive processes.   Traditonally, they produce wealth for a few and misery for many. There is little water in Afghanistan, most of it is claimed, and the ecosystem is fragile.  The Chinese, not noted for their sensitivity to either ecology or local needs, are moving in to exploit these resources.  Will we end up trying to kick the Chinese as well as the Taliban out of Afghanistan, so we can further destroy the ecology and what’s left of the local way of life in our own rush to suck up raw materials?  Stay tuned….

So, there are serious stakes to be gained by securing Afghanistan as a mining colony,there is a disgruntled, charismatic former General looking for a job, and there are a lot of  insecure people in this country psychologically inclined to accept a military man who will provide strong, disciplined leadership in a time of crisis, and the possibility that Dick Cheney is pulling strings from his undisclosed location.

“McChrystal for President?”  Don’t say you weren’t warned….

music:  Dr. Hook:  “The Cover of Rolling Stone





THE AUDACITY OF BALONEY

8 08 2009

I was going to write a scathing article on how little difference there is, really, between the current and former occupants of the White House, but first Bill Maher and then  David Michael Green beat me to the punch. Here is a quote from Green’s scathing essay, which appears on the website Commondreams:

(Did you know that the Bush administration)…steered hundreds of billions of bail-out dollars to the very people who drove the country into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, required nothing of these sharks in return, and did almost nothing for ordinary Americans struggling to survive this disaster?

…opposed congressional legislation limiting financial institution incentive pay packages that put the whole global economy at risk?

…opposed legislation allowing shareholders the right to have even a non-binding say on salaries, even though executives took home billions in bonuses last year while their companies were hemorrhaging money so badly they required a trillion bucks in taxpayer bail-out?

…actually threatened Britain, America’s closest ally in the world, with withdrawal of intelligence data that could prevent terrorist attacks unless the British government blocked one of its courts from accepting documented evidence of torture at Guantánamo?

from there, Green runs through a long list of infringements of civil liberties, unreasonable extensions of executive privilege, and various flavors of bigoted behavior before ending with

..dramatically increased the influence of religion in government, directly violating the First Amendment, by lavishly spending federal dollars on “faith-based” programs, and giving religious groups massively increased power and access within the White House to shape policy questions?

…stood by silently, allowing climate legislation to be watered down to nothing, to include generous pollution allowances to coal utilities, and to undermine the EPA’s authority to control carbon emissions?

…backed health care legislation that did little for the public and actually increased wasteful federal expenditures, while continuing to enrich insurance, medical, hospital and pharmaceutical corporation vampires?

…and lots and lots more.

At this point, Green reveals that everything on his list, which he credibly attributes to the Bush junta, has in fact been done by Obama.  Talk about “kinder, gentler conservatism”…Papa Doc Bush must be laughing from his grave, or wherever it is he seeks shelter when the sun is out….

Green didn’t even mention one of the Obushma administration’s more bizarre gaffes, which occurred when Gil Kerlikowske, our new “drug czar,” proclaimed

“‘Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit.”

Uhh…didn’t Obushma’s promise that he would base decisions on science, not politics?  Promises, promises.  Made to be broken, especially if you’re a politician and the subject is marijuana….but I digress….

OK, I have to admit I no longer have that persecuted feeling that got to be second nature during the years of the Bush junta.  Obushma and Biden are not a sociopath-and-his-bitch team like Cheney and Dubya.  They are smooth operators, and in some ways that makes them more dangerous.  Obama can be cast as the triumph of Martin Luther King’s vision, even though the record reveals that he is an Uncle Tom of the first order, a slavering lap dog of Wall Street, and in general a consumate, polished defender of  the privileged classes.   Obama is almost completely unlike Martin Luther King.  If he were alive today, I believe Rev. King would be lighting a fire under President Obama, not anointing him.  Sorry, folks, Obushma is more like Colin Powell or Conoleeza Rice than MLK.  You been had.

“Well, OK, Mr. Smarty Pants…what else is there?”

Another document that crossed my desk  recently came from the Green Party, and is entitled, “The First 100 Days:  What Would A Green Administration Look Like?”  It’s actually not a single document; in typical Green fashion, there are nearly a dozen essays on the subject from Greens all over the country, advancing proposals like these:

1: Initiate a one trillion dollar community-based grant-in-aid program from the national government to local communities. These funds will be channeled though collaborative arrangements between state and local governments. They will require maximum feasible participation in governance by all parts of each local community receiving these grants. A five percent matching grant from each participating local community is also required. The purposes of the grants are for sustainable community development and community empowerment. The grants include funds for renewable energy, conservation, workforce housing, small business development coupled with apprenticeship programs to hire the unskilled, open space,P extra support for teachers and for ecologically informed education, college scholarships, food and water security, public works, public transportation, regional cooperative pro­jects, support for neighborhood policing programs, and support for the arts. This replaces the 750 billion dollar “bailout from the top” scheme initiated in late 2008 called the Troubled Asset Relief Pro­gram (TARP).

2: Direct the national Treasury Depart­­ment to shift the measurement of economic progress away from reliance on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to reliance on Gen­uine Pro­gress Indicators (GPI). This will assist government officials, business executives, and university economists to provide, and be provided with, a critical tool to measure sustainable economic activity. We can no longer deceive ourselves that 50,000 deaths a year on our highways contributes to our well being—which by present measurements seems to be the case because all the work connected with these deaths adds to the GDP. Other sources included in the GDP include: building more prisons, piling up waste, buying more oil because our buildings leak tons of energy, waging wars for oil (adding enormously to the GDP!) instead of shifting to renewable energy. We need to measure well being, not commodity transactions of goods and services.

3: Substantially lower the income tax and combine this with a carbon tax of $250 per ton to be phased in at the rate of $25 per year from 2009 to 2020. The carbon tax would be offset with a matching reduction in income tax. This is advocated by Lester Brown of “State of the World” fame and is designed to discourage fossil fuel use and to stimulate investment (in) renewable sources of energy.

4: Extend Medicare to the entire population; in other words, a single-payer health care program for all.

Another essayist proposed

The President will instruct the EPA to place a moratorium on new permits for coal fired-power plants, and will instruct the NRC that there will be no new nuclear power plants in the future. Existing nuclear plants will be decommissioned as expeditiously as possible, starting with the oldest plants, or plants with the most consistent violations first.

The President will instruct the EPA to enact rules which will:

  1. Quickly, reduce by 90% the mercury emissions of coal-fired power plants by 2012.
  2. Make rules reducing CO2 and SO2 emissions by 80% by the year 2020.
  3. Regulate the disposal of coal-fired power plant wastes in a manner that will protect human health and the environment.

EPA will be instructed to impose a moratorium on new permits for mountain top coal removal, while the Administration works to ban the process. EPA, through rule making, will ban the dumping of mountain top removal wastes in stream beds and valleys.

In the realm of foreign policy, we find ideas like these:

If we wish to undercut support for al-Qaeda, it is imperative that we work for a just resolution in the Middle East. This requires engaging with Hamas and supporting human rights and international law in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It also requires that the U.S. negotiates with Iran, and for the U.S. to obey the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Under this treaty, Iran has the right to develop nuclear energy while the U.S. is supposed to make a good faith effort for nuclear disarmament. The U.S. must also end its occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and work with the U.N., the surrounding nations including Iran, and the indigenous populations on plans to stabilize these two nations. The U.S. must also pay huge reparations to both Iraq and Afghanistan for the devastation it has caused.

It is essential for world stability that we improve relations with Russia. Instead of provoking crises with Russia through acts that do little to enhance our security, the U.S. should work to reduce tensions. Among other things, this means that the U.S. should push for the disbanding of NATO and also cancel plans for establishing tracking radars in the Czech Republic and placing missiles in Poland.

OK, so the Green Party mouse has wonderful plans for the American elephant…but the thing about this little Green Party mouse is, it can grow.  We can spread virally through the grass roots of America, start winning local, then state, then national elections, and turn this country and this world back from the brink that those who pursue privilege are pushing us over.  It is not too late, but it is almost too late.  It will take all of us doing all we can, but what else can we do?  Long ago, Joe Hill, on the eve of his state-sponsored murder, counseled his fellow IWW union members, “Don’t mourn, organize.”

We had better get organized, or there will be no one left to mourn.

music:  Paul Robeson, “Joe Hill





A KICK IN THE BALLS

13 09 2008

On June 16, 2001, in the palmy days before 9/11, George Bush famously said of Vladimir Putin,

“I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialog. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.”

On August 8, 2008, the man George Bush said he trusted gave George Bush, and the entire US government, a straightforward and much-deserved kick in the balls, as he sent his army rolling into Georgia, on the pretext of “protecting the rights” of the inhabitants of the tiny country of South Ossetia, most of whom would rather be Russian than Georgian.  Oh, and this move also placed Russian troops close to two of the three pipelines that cross Georgia.  That’s what the kick in the balls was about.

Well, Bush got it right about Putin’s commitment to the best interests of Russia, anyway.  Russia under Putin has repeatedly flexed its muscles and moved to return to a place on the world stage similar to the role played by the Soviet Union–a counterbalance to US hegemony.  One of the techniques they have used has been to manipulate other countries with Russian oil and gas, which largely supply Western Europe.  To work around this, the US and a number of other countries and oil companies (some oil companies are about the size of a country, y’know?) have built three oil pipelines across Azerbaijan and Georgia, to move fuel from central Asia to the west without passing through Russian territory.  Putin, by his moves into Georgia, gave notice that they were not far enough from Russia to make any difference.

In discussions prior to the conflict, Putin told Georgian prime minister Saakashvili that he could take NATO’s promises of support and stick them up his ass.  His assessment was correct; when push came to shove, the US and the EU were impotent to stop the Russians. Georgia’s entrance into NATO, which the US has been urging on the reluctant Europeans, is on hold for now, because NATO is a mutual defense pact, among other things, and NATO members were treated to the sobering realization that bringing Georgia into the fold could result in going to war with Russia, something nobody except maybe Dick Cheney is willing to countenance.

Now, obviously, I don’t think the Russians are the good guys in this high-stakes poker game.  There are no good guys in this game.  Based on the kind of saber-rattling he’s been doing, and the fact that Zbigniew Brezinski is one of  his chief foreign policy advisers, Obama’s election will not introduce a good guy into the game, nor will John McCain.  Both are pandering to the worst instincts of the US public by trying to out tough-guy each other.

Obama is being just as disingenuous as Bush and McCain, talking about the need to support the Georgians without mentioning supporting the people of South Ossetia or Abkazia, without mentioning that the Georgians were the aggressors–and certainly not mentioning oil pipelines or Kazakhstan, the source of the oil and gas that the west wants to siphon out without involving Russia.  Kazakhstan is a brutal one-party state.  The last opposition candidate for prime minister was murdered, and nobody has gone to trial for it.  But, because of the country’s vast petroleum and uranium reserves, and because of our societal addiction to these substances, western leaders from Bill Clinton to Angela Merkel to both Bushes have gritted their teeth and praised Kazakhstan’s “democracy,” honoring its president with awards and audiences, when in fact he is every bit as brutal a tyrant as Saddam Hussein. If Saddam deserved the treatment he got, then Nursultan Nazarbayev should have been hanging right beside him…but Nazarbyev, unlike Saddam and small-time players like Panama’s Noriega, has not yet committed the capital sin of opposing US hegemony.  (Just in case you forgot, Saddam was about to start asking for Euros instead of dollars when he sold oil, and Noriega was hooking up with Fidel.)  Nazarbayev is, however,  playing up the possibility of deals with his neighbor Russia in order to gain bargaining leverage with western governments and oil companies–but, again, nobody in their right mind wants to go to war with Russia over Kazakhstan–or anything else, for that matter. We can threaten smaller countries like Iran and Libya and North Korea, but we gonna be very diplomatic with the Russians, yes, sir.

Not that we won’t try and screw the Russians, in our very diplomatic way.  The big oil companies have been wary of Russia since they nationalized their oil industry, and the US government has shaped its mideast and central Asian policies to help these private corporations.   The invasion of Iraq (and consequent cancellation of Saddam’s oil contracts with Russia), our chummy relationship with the despotic governments of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, construction of the pipelines that circumvent Russia, and arming and training the Georgian military, all have been done for the benefit of big oil.

But Putin’s kick in the balls showed the world what an illusion US power really is.  Our country accounts for over half of the world’s military spending, and it gets us–zilch.  It takes us six years to begin to pin down one little country like Iraq, meanwhile chewing up a major portion of our troops and military hardware, and when Putin kicks us in the balls, we blink and sputter and do nothing, because there’s nothing we can do.  What, are we going to go to war with Russia?  Hey, if Afghanistan is the “graveyard of empires,” Russia is their black hole.  Napoleon, Hitler…you get the picture.  Only Dick Cheney–or maybe John McCain–is crazy enough to issue those kind of orders, but it was crazy to undertake a strategy based on brinksmanship in the first place.

What would a saner policy look like?

A saner policy would recognize the ultimate impotence of military power, and the ultimate futility of trying to secure oil supplies in faraway countries.  It would dismantle the US military, and redirect all that misused energy into building real global security by helping everyone get involved with their neighbors in regional mutual support networks of farms, local manufacturing, and energy production, promoting sustainability and interdependence, and recognizing the validity of small, local cultures such as Abkahzia, Ossetia, Georgia, and, yes Mr. Putin, Chechnya, too.  That’s the real route to global security.  Along with greater security, we need to spread education about birth control and population reduction, because, while it is barely possible to graciously support the number of people currently alive on the planet, it will become impossible if the number grows, and easier if the number of humans actually starts to shrink.

Meanwhile, the US has sent a naval squadron to Georgia, and the Russians have responded by conducting joint military exercises with the Venezuelan navy in the Caribbean.  Both of these moves are inexcusable wastes of fuel, material, and manpower.  We have only a limited amount of time left in which we will be able to maneuver, and every move needs to defuse tension and increase sustainability.  Neither Russian nor American policy in the Caucasus reflects this awareness, and if this ignorance continues, everybody will lose.

music:  James McMurtry, “God Bless America”





GEE, CHENEY DIDN’T HAVE TO RESIGN…..

16 03 2008

This story from the OPed News archives:

Consider this: WMR (Wayne Madsen Report) is now reporting specifically who at ABC News’ 20/20 became fully aware of not only Cheney’s use of the escort service, but dozens more “high profile” names – culled from the phone records only since 2002 (the escort services full records go back to 1994). ABC’s crack team was reportedly gagged by their bosses after concerned calls from the White House. This would be amazing if true, yet no White House denial has been forthcoming as of this writing…

WMR also reports that the DC Madam first came under DOJ scrutiny after US Attorney Thomas DiBiagio got a crooked cop Ed Norris (a pal of NYC Police Commish Bernard Kerik) to squeal on the escort service in May 2004, admitting the service had received illicit payouts from official police funds. Less then a year after Norris was hired as State Superintendent by Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, another US Attorney, Johnathan Luna, who had also investigated Norris and Kerik back in NY turned up murdered in December of 2003. Luna at the time was working under DiBagio on the DC Madam case, finding Ehrlich and lobbyist Jack Abramoff were DC Madam clients. Then, DiBiagio became the first U.S. Attorney fired by the Justice Department after Bush’s re-election in 2004. Vastly underreported, DiBagio’s probe had linked Republican governor Ehrlich to Bob Ney, Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham and others but the investigation died when he was fired.

a bit of an update here:

In fact, when the news broke, Bush’s “AIDS Czar” Randall Tobias, a former Eli Lilly top exec, resigned in shame. He should have stalled a bit like Louisiana Senator David Vitter did – the story was going to be killed, according to Wayne Madsen who named the ABC employee that pulled the plug after White House pressure. (note: the WMR is a subscription-only service)

Madsen expanded on the story after ABC dropped it, to allege that convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff was a client, as well as a lawyer in Rudy Giuliani’s firm.










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