October 20, 2010
Be patient with our president
To the editor:
What has happened to our national character? We could take lessons from our Chilean neighbors. We, too, got stuck in a deep hole that was long in the making. They, however, showed supreme patience during days of darkness and again when the tiniest improvements were made. Rescue efforts were slow but steady with laser-like focus on bringing every last man up alive and well.
Patience, endurance, and focus on the common good is in short supply now in America. Rather than support those leaders trying to dig us out of a hole after the bubble we created, we nitpick, whine, blame, fabricate and obstruct. Then we heap on abuse for not fixing things already. Forgetting how we got into this mess, we even act as though our helpers created our problem in the first place.
In children, we call this behavior “childish.” That some call it “patriotic” is alarming. Taking our “hurting” out on our leaders as though they could “fix” a recession if they wanted to is naive at best, and manipulative at worst. It makes matters worse by chipping away at the hope and confidence we need to recover.
While I don't disagree that "Patience, endurance, and focus on the common good is in short supply now in America", I think the writer entirely misses the point, which is that it is also the President too who has failed to focus on "patience, endurance, . . . [and] the common good." [It should also be noted that it wasn't just the Bush administration who got us into this fix--the Clinton administration contributed heartily as well.]
Obama failed to capitalize on the "Yes we can," "hope and change" sentiments of the Americans who propelled him into office. Through his actions and appointments, it is clear that even he seemed to forget "how we got into this mess."[eg. Summers, Rubin, and Geithner] In stating that "we even act as though our helpers created our problem in the first place," the writer ignores that Obama, while taking huge amounts of money from the people who created the problem, has not really helped the victims of that problem very much. In assessing the "national character," we need to address the reality of our two bankrupt political parties and the power that they use to ignore that "national character."
The Democrats, in their failure to seize the momentum that was evident in Obama's victory, and in the vacuousness of their business as usual approach to rebellious stirrings in the electorate, have created, or at least encouraged, the frustration that is evident in the backlash that is now upon us, in the form of destructive reaction from some independents, and ill-informed Tea Party folks, financed largely by the Republicans and corporate money. My take is that ignoring the reality of the Obama administration's behavior in favor of wishful belief is more "childish" than pointing out the credible faults.
I pointed out the problems inherent in the Obama appointments even before the election to the dismay of some, but I too was taken in by the fear of a McCain victory. This is of course the old ploy of the Democrats, to bring in the progressives and leftists by raising the specter of a victory by even more reactionary "right wing" candidates.
The first article below articulates the damage done by Obama's policies and the Democratic leadership to any "hope and change" agenda that many Obama supporters may have envisioned prior to his election. Articles following simply punctuate the points made. The possible coming disaster for progressive ideals is not the fault of "childish" behavior by conservatives, progressives or leftists, although the latter two groups may have been remarkably passive, but is the fault of the Obama administration, particularly his close political advisors, who did not pursue the ideas of "hope and change" that were held by those who elected a President who allegedly espoused those ideals.
[None of the above rant implies that I will be voting Republican or Tea Party (I'll vote for Kitzhaber for sure), it is just that I'll vote independently, as we all should.]
The Real Reason Obama Has Let Us All Down
On the night he won, I too shed a little tear; but the people weeping today are those having their homes repossessed
By Johann Hari
October 26, 2010 "The Independent" - Is Barack Obama a politician whose actions should be judged soberly, or a figure from a feel-good fairytale to be revered from afar?
For two years now, most of the good and honorable people who desperately wanted him to beat John McCain – as I did –have watched his actions through a distorting haze of hoping for the best. So when Obama set us all up for another global crash by refusing to reregulate the banks or stop even their riskiest practices, we looked away. When Obama set us all up for more terror attacks by trebling the troops in Afghanistan and launching a vicious air war on Pakistan that is swelling the ranks of jihadis, we didn’t want to hear it. When Obama set us all up for environmental disaster by refusing to put the brakes on his country’s unprecedented and unmatched emissions of climate-destabilizing gases, we switched over to watch will.i.am’s YouTube rejig of the President’s “yes, we can” speech. And when a week from now he is beaten at the mid-term elections – after having so little to show the American people – by a group of even more irrational Republicans, we will weep for him.
As Rober D. Hodge writes in his excellent new book ‘The Mendacity of Hope’, “Obama is judged not as a man but as a fable, a tale of moral uplift that redeems the sins of America’s shameful past.” Our longing for him to be Martin Luther King reborn has meant good people have not pushed and pressured and opposed him, even as he endangered us.
But if you choose to see this as another fairytale – of how one man who seemed like a Good Prince turned out to be a Traitor – you will miss the point, and the real need for change. This is not primarily a question of individual failings, but of the endemic corruption at the core of American politics. The facts are not hidden. If you want to run for national office in the US, you have to raise huge sums of money from corporations and very rich people to pay for the adverts and the mailings that get you on the ballot and into office. These corporations will only give you money if you persuade them that you will serve their interests once you are in power. If you say instead that you want to prevent anything destructive they are doing to ordinary people, or tax and regulate them, you will get no money, and can’t run.
As the Wisconsin politician Ed Garvey puts it: “Even candidates who get into politics with the best of intentions start thinking they can’t get re-elected without money. Senators get so reliant on the money that they reflect it; they stop thinking for themselves, stop thinking like the people who elected them. They just worry about getting the money.”
Barack Obama knows this. In 2006, he said that taking money from the rich is “the original sin of anyone who’s ever run for office” in the US, and it ensures that “Washington is only open to those with the most cash.” There’s a term for this: legalized bribery. It is so naked that corporations routinely give to both sides in an election: Goldman Sachs, to name just one, gave to both Obama and McCain to ensure whoever became President was indebted to them.
In the Land of the Fee, Obama was brought to power by the “donations” – actually investments – of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, IBM, Morgan Stanley, General Electric, and others. So it is unsurprising that his Presidency has largely served their interests, which are very different from our interests. His first act after the election was to appoint an economics team headed by the people who caused the crash: the Clinton-era deregulators and the former heads of Goldman. They proceeded to ensure that any reregulation to prevent another crash was gutted, while the bankers’ bonuses continued to flow. In his official report to Congress, Treasury Department Inspector General Neil Barofsky warned this year: “It is hard to see how any of the fundamental problems in the system have been addressed to date? We are still driving on the same winding mountain road, but this time in a faster car.”
The corporations are getting massive returns on their investment in Obama. Two-thirds of them pay no federal tax on their income. These corporations get to veto any law that would eat into their short-term profits, like a freeze on kicking Americans out of their homes while the banks’ dodgy and probably illegal boom-time mortgages contracts are clarified, or a transition away from climate-destabilising oil and coal. And they rake in a fortune from the reality that 44 percent of the entire federal budget is spent on a largely unnecessary war machine – a figure that is growing rapidly on Obama’s watch.
The fact that corporations have this power over what the US government can do means Obama – or any other President – is unable to approach a problem by asking: how do I fix this? Instead he has to ask: how can we get corporations to consent to a small cosmetic gesture that will, for a while, appease public anxiety and anger about this problem?
The healthcare “reform” trumpeted as Obama’s greatest achievement illustrates how this works. The biggest problem with US healthcare is that squatting between a doctor and his patient are the bloated insurance companies whose job is to turn down any claim from a sick person they possibly can, in order to maximize their profits. Some 45,000 Americans die every year as a result. Obama had within his grasp a way of taming these corporations and saving the lives of all these people. It was called the public option: a government-run healthcare insurance programme that would guarantee affordable care to all American citizens. It was supported by 61 percent of Americans. But it would cut into corporate profits – so Obama’s outgoing chief of staff, Rahm Emmanuel, said its defenders were “fucking retards,” and the administration killed it.
Instead, Obama pursued the polar opposite approach. He guaranteed the healthcare companies that he would never use the bargaining power of the government to force their prices down. His “reform” has been simply to force millions more Americans to buy from the insurance companies – without any mechanism for making that care more affordable. There were a few brilliant tweaks, like making it illegal for the corporations to refuse insurance to people with “pre-existing conditions” – but their share-prices jumped after the package was announced for a reason: Obama overwhelmingly served their interests, not the patients’. At the end of this, millions will be still left uncovered, and others financially broken, so a tiny number of corporations can profit. If Obama can’t stand up to corporations in a situation where Americans are demonstrably being killed in huge numbers and a majority is behind him, isn’t his subservience almost complete?
All this corruption means Obama has very few achievements to show the American people. He is left presenting pitiful corporate-fattening tweaks as the best he could do. They aren’t nothing – but they aren’t much. His inadequate stimulus was slightly bigger than McCain’s would have been, so unemployment is about 2 percent lower. He has restored federal funding for stem cell research, and for abortions abroad. He hasn’t bombed Iran. These make a real difference: they’re reason enough to vote Democratic over Republican. But we have to be honest: the continuities with Bush are far more pronounced than the differences.
There are Democrats who refuse to be corporate shills – and they deserve to be defended with every ounce of your energy. If you’re an American and you have time over the next week, phone bank or donate to Representative Alan Grayson, or Senator Russ Feingold, to name two of the best who do it the hard way, run their campaigns by collecting small donations, and actually defend the American people. But they are, alas, a minority in the Democratic Party.
Contrary to the glib stereotype, Americans aren’t stupid, and they can see what is happening: a recent CNN poll found 60 percent of Americans said Obama “has paid more attention to the problems faced by banks and other financial institutions than to the problems faced by middle class Americans.” They’re right. It’s not that they want him to be “more liberal” or “more conservative”: few think in these terms. No. They are asking – is my job more secure? Is my home more secure? Is my healthcare more affordable? And the answer is no, not really. They know the people who caused the crash are fatter than ever, while the people who had nothing to do with it take the pain, and Obama is left calling this farce progress. In the absence of a liberal populism that would have actually fixed these problems, all the oxygen goes to the fake populism of the Tea Party. US politics has ended up as a battle between the mostly corrupt and the entirely corrupt.
I’m sure Obama believes he is doing the best he can in a corrupt system – but it’s not true. There is another way. Imagine if, when he came to office, he had articulated the real solutions – and, when he was blocked, named the corrupt corporations and the corrupt Senators stopping him getting healthcare for sick children or preventing another crash. Explain that it is time to drive the money-lenders out of the temple of American democracy. Tell the American people they will always be screwed over until they end this corruption and pay for the democratic process themselves, and propose serious measures to achieve it. Call for a mass movement to back him, just as Franklin Roosevelt did – and succeeded. At least then there would be a possibility of real progress. Would the outcome conceivably have been worse than this – being beaten by the foaming Tea Party Republicans with almost nothing to show for it?
At moments, there have been flickers of what this alternative Obama Presidency would have looked like. His huge government bailout of the auto industry kept millions of people in work, was hugely popular – and is already making a profit for the government. In the final days of this election campaign, he is railing against the massive corporate donations to the Republicans – a hypocrisy, for sure, but a popular one, pointing to a better path he might have chosen, and still could, if enough sane Americans shake themselves awake and pressure him hard.
Yes, on the night Obama won, I too felt that great global ripple of hope, and shed a little tear – but the people weeping today are those having their homes repossessed in the Rust Belt and their homes blown to pieces in the SWAT Valley as a direct result of Obama’s decisions. They are the ones who deserve our empathy now, not the most powerful man in the world, who has chosen to settle into and defend a profoundly corrupt system, rather than challenge and change it. It’s long past time to put away your Obama t-shirt that and take out your protest banner.
Copyright 2010 Independent Print Limited
October 1st, 2010 10:07 AM
Five Ways the Democrats Can Avoid a Catastrophe and Pull Off the Mother of All Upsets
By Michael Moore
The election is one month from tomorrow and, yes, it looks hopeless. November 2nd -- the day the Dems are expected to crash and burn.
Sadly, it's a situation the Democrats have brought upon themselves -- even though the majority of them didn't create the mess we're in. But they've had over a year and a half to start getting the job done to fix it. Instead, they've run scared ever since they took power. To many, the shellacking they're about to receive is one they deserve.
But if you're of a mindset that believes a return to 2001-2008 would be sheer insanity, then you probably agree we've got no choice but to save the Democrats from themselves.
Memo To: President Obama and the Democratic Party Leadership
From: Michael Moore
Subject: 5 Things Dems Can Do to Turn It Around by November 2nd
1. Immediate Wall-to-Wall TV Ads, Internet Videos, and Appearances Hammering Who the Hell Put Us in the Misery We're In.
We Americans have very short attention spans (Quick: Who Won the Oscar for Best Picture last year? The World Series? Exactly.). People need to be reminded over and over that it was the REPUBLICANS who concocted and led the unnecessary invasion of two countries, putting us in our longest war ever, wars that will eventually cost us over $3 trillion. Bush and Co. also caused the biggest collapse of our economy since the Great Depression. I don't know a single person in Hollywood who wouldn't shoot and produce those spots for you for FREE. Dems: Do not pull a single punch on this. Quit being a bunch of wusses and let the bastards have it! The public will be astonished that you've found your courage and your spine. We expect you to be Muhammad Ali, not Ally McBeal.
2. Indict the Criminals.
Announce that the Justice Department will seek indictments against both those who caused the economic collapse and those who became war profiteers. Call it for what it is: organized crime. Use the RICO statutes. Use the basic laws that make fraud of any kind a crime. Get in the face of those who stole the billions, make them pay for it -- and the people will love you. We want Dirty Harry, not Dirty Dancing.
3. Announce a Moratorium on All Family Home Foreclosures.
Last month (August) there were more home foreclosures than in any month in U.S. history. Worse than any month in the worst year ever, 2009. The bleeding hasn't stopped -- it's only gotten worse. And now, this week, two of the largest crime organizations who are throwing hundreds of thousands of people out of their homes (GMAC and JPMorgan Chase) have been forced to momentarily stop doing this. It turns out, they don't really have the paperwork to prove they actually own these houses! It's madness. So if you do one thing for the middle class this week, do this. It will take an hour of your time to draw up the decree and issue it. We'd rather watch "It's a Wonderful Life" than "Poltergeist."
4. Announce a New 21st Century WPA.
"Who's hiring? THE GOVERNMENT IS HIRING!" Put together a simple plan to hire enough people to repair our roads, fix up our aging schools, and rebuild our infrastructure. Fund this by taxing the richest 1% who have more financial wealth than 95% of Americans combined! Unemployment will drop to 5%. Can you pass it? Well, you sure can't unless you try! And as you're trying, announce that you will force the Republican senators (who until now simply have had to say they "intended" to filibuster in order to kill a bill) to have to actually filibuster! Make them stand on the floor of the Senate and read from the phone book 24/7. They won't last a day. And America will see them for who they really are.
5. Declare That No Democrat Will Accept ANY Wall Street Money in the Next Election Cycle.
Pick a day in the coming week. Have all your fellow Democrats in Congress stand in front of the Capitol (with President Obama) and pledge that if America allows you to retain control of Congress, none of you will take a penny from Wall Street for the 2012 election. Instead, promise to accept donations of only $2, $5 and $10. You will also pledge not to take a job as a lobbyist or lawyer for ANY corporation for ten years after you leave Congress. The message will be a powerful one to the average American fed up with corrupt political hacks. Act like Honest Abe, not Fast Freddie -- and see what happens.
And here are two bonus suggestions: Use what sense of humor you have and go after these candidates and their agenda with all the hilarious ridicule they deserve. And quit complaining about "the base" not doing enough to help you. You want help? Do something this week to earn it. I've offered five suggestions. I'm sure the rest of "the base" has a few more.
UPDATE [Friday, October 1st, 8:52 PM]: The crime syndicate continues to crumble. Today we learned that Bank of America is joining JPMorgan Chase and GMAC in suspending foreclosures in 23 states after a BoA executive admitted she signed up to 8,000 documents -- in one month -- without even reading them. And on top of that, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal has halted ALL foreclosures by ALL banks for 60 days in what the Washington Post calls "the most radical action taken by a state on issue of document irregularities." As Rep. Marcy Kaptur said in 'Capitalism: A Love Story,' "Don't leave your home. Because you know what? When those companies say they have your mortgage, unless you have a lawyer that can put his or her finger on that mortgage, you don't have that mortgage, and you are going to find they can't find the paper up there on Wall Street. So I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes. Don't you leave." President Obama: Now do what Blumenthal has done.
Six Reasons behind the Debacle
Obama’s first mistake was to take responsibility for the economic crisis. In his quixotic quest for a bipartisan solution, he made George W. Bush’s problem his own. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan never made this mistake. They took no responsibility for the economic problems of the 1970s, heaping the blame entirely on their liberal predecessors and eschewing any bipartisan alliance with those they considered their ideological enemies. Roosevelt, too, slammed – and slammed hard –his ideological foes, those he termed “economic royalists.”
Insofar as Obama and his lieutenants identified villains, this was Wall Street. Yet saying the financial elite brought on the crisis, while bailing out key Wall Street financial institutions such as Citigroup and AIG on the grounds that they were “too big to fail,” involved Obama in a terrible contradiction. The least that he could have done was to remove the existing boards and top managers of these organizations as a condition for government funds. Instead, unlike the case of General Motors, the top dogs stayed on board and continued to collect sky-high bonuses to boot.
The strong sense of disconnect between word and deed was exacerbated rather than alleviated by the Democrats’ financial reform. The measure did not have the minimum conditions for a reform with real teeth: the banning of derivatives, a Glass-Steagall provision preventing commercial banks from doubling as investment banks; the imposition of a financial transactions tax or Tobin tax; and a strong lid on executive pay, bonuses, and stock options.
Third, Obama had a tremendous opportunity to educate and mobilize people against the neoliberal or market fundamentalist approach that deregulated the financial sector and caused the crisis. Although Obama did allude to unregulated financial markets as the key problem during the campaign, he refrained from demonizing neoliberalism after he took office, thus presenting an ideological vacuum that the resurgent neoliberals did not hesitate to fill. No doubt he failed to launch a full-scale ideological offensive because his key lieutenants for economic policy, National Economic Council head Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, had not broken with neoliberal thinking.
Fourth, the stimulus package of $787 billion was simply too small to bring down or hold the line on unemployment. Here, Obama cannot say he lacked good advice. Paul Krugman, the Nobel laureate, and a whole host of Keynesian economists were telling him this from the very start. For comparison, the Chinese stimulus package of $580 billion was much bigger relative to the size of the economy than the Obama package. For the White House now to say that the employment situation would now be worse had it not been for the stimulus is, to say the least, politically naïve. People operate not with wishful counterfactual scenarios but with the facts on the ground, and the facts have been rising unemployment with no relief in sight.
Politics in a time of crisis is not for the fainthearted. The middle-of-the road approach represented by the size of the stimulus was the wrong response to a crisis that called for a political gamble: the deployment of the massive fiscal firepower of the government against the predictable howls of anger from the right.
Fifth, Obama and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke deployed mainly Keynesian technocratic tools—deficit spending and monetary easing—to deal with the consequences of the massive failure of market fundamentalism. During a normal downturn these countercyclical tools may suffice to reverse the downturn. But standard Keynesianism could address such a serious collapse only in a very limited way. Besides, people were looking not only for relief in the short term but for a new direction that would enable them to master their fears and insecurities and give them reason to hope.
In other words, Obama failed to locate his Keynesian technocratic initiatives within a larger political and economic agenda that could have fired up a fairly large section of American society. Such a larger agenda could have had three pillars: the democratization of economic decision-making, from the enterprise level to the heights of macro-policymaking; an income and asset redistribution strategy that went beyond increasing taxes on the top two percent of the population; and the promotion of a more cooperative rather than competitive approach to production, distribution, and the management of resources. This agenda of social transformation, which was not too left, could have been accommodated within a classical social democratic framework. People were simply looking for an alternative to the Brave New Dog-Eat-Dog World that neo-liberalism had bequeathed them. Instead, Obama offered a bloodless technocratic approach to cure a political and ideological debacle.
Related to this absence of a program of transformation was the sixth reason for the Obama debacle: his failure to mobilize the grassroots base that brought him to power. This base was diverse in terms of class, generation, and ethnicity. But it was united by palpable enthusiasm, which was so evident in Washington, DC, and the rest of the country on Inauguration Day in 2009. With his preference for a technocratic approach and a bipartisan solution to the crisis, Obama allowed this base to wither away instead of exploiting the explosive momentum it possessed in the aftermath of the elections.
At the eleventh hour, Obama and the Democrats are talking about firing up and resurrecting this base. But the dispirited and skeptical troops that have long been disbanded and left by the wayside rightfully ask: around what?
The Right Makes the Right Moves
In contrast to Obama, the right wing understood the demands and dynamics of politics at a time of crisis, as opposed to politics in normal times. While Obama persisted in his quest for bipartisanship, the Republicans adopted a posture of hard-line opposition to practically all of his initiatives.
Unlike Obama and the Democrats, the right posed the conflict in stark political and ideological terms: between left and right, between “socialism” and “freedom,” between the oppressive state and the liberating market. The Republican opposition used all the catchwords and mantras they could dredge up from bourgeois U.S. ideology.
Finally, in contrast to Obama’s neglect of the Democratic base, the right eschewed Republican interest-group politics. Fox News, Sarah Palin, and the tea party movement stirred up the right-wing base to challenge the Republican Party elite and drive a no-compromise, take-no-prisoners politics. To understand what has happened to the Republican Party in the last few weeks with the string of tea party successes in the primaries, historian Arno Mayer’s distinction among conservatives, reactionaries, and counterrevolutionaries is useful. In Mayer’s terms, the counterrevolutionaries, with their populist, anti-insider, and grassroots-driven politics are displacing the conservative elites that have long held sway in the Republican Party.
With their anti-spending platform, the Republicans and tea partiers that might capture the House and the Senate in November will probably bring about a worse situation than today. As such, Obama and the Democrats might repeat Bill Clinton’s political trajectory when he scored a victory at the polls in 1996 because the Republicans led by Newt Gingrich overreached politically after their triumph in the midterm elections of 1994. But this is a desperate illusion. The current counterrevolutionaries and their backers are skilled in the politics of blame, and they will likely be successful in painting the worsening situation as a result of Obama’s “socialist policies,” not of drastic cuts in government spending.
Lessons for the Left
The problem lies not so much in our lack of a strategic alternative as in our failure to translate our strategic vision or paradigm into a credible and viable political program. Politics in a period of crisis is different from politics in a period of normality, being more fluid and marked by the volatility of class, political, and intellectual attachments. We should remember that politics is the art of creating and sustaining a political movement from diverse class and social forces through a flexible but principled political program that can adapt to changing circumstances.
Finally, there is no such thing as an objectively determined situation. The art of politics is using the contradictions, spaces, and ambiguities of the current moment to shape structures and institutions and create a critical mass for change. Class, economic, and political structures may condition political outcomes; they do not determine them. Who will ultimately emerge the victor from this period of prolonged capitalist crisis will depend on smart and skilled political leadership.
News Dissector Danny Schechter: Saturday’s "One Nation" March on Washington Was "More Movie than Movement"
"Sadly, the One Nation that came together in Washington was not there to be organized into an ongoing force," writes longtime media analyst Danny Schechter. "No follow-up program was announced, no emails collected, no vision on how to turn all that energy on the Mall into a powerful progressive alternative to the tea party was offered. No longer march strategy was announced. It was a moment in itself not for anything more." [includes rush transcript]
Danny Schechter, investigative journalist, filmmaker and author. He is the director of the film Plunder and author of the book The Crime of Our Time: Why Wall Street Is Not Too Big to Jail.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by investigative journalist, filmmaker, author, Danny Schechter, director of the film Plunder and author of the book The Crime of Our Time: Why Wall Street Is Not Too Big to Jail.
Danny, you attended Saturday’s rally, wrote a very interesting piece on your blog. Talk about the effectiveness of it, and talk about it in the context of labor protests around the world.
DANNY SCHECHTER: You know, but personally, it was sort of a déjà vu all over for me. I was there in 1963 at the March on Washington with Dr. King. And the spirit of it, you know, was still present. It was very invigorating. There was a lot of inspirational speakers. There was a lot of appeals for people to get out the vote, and all the rest of it.
But, what was missing, it seemed to me, were one of two things: first, trying to educate the audience. Here they had a big television audience. They were speaking not just to themselves, but to America. And in doing that, instead of speaking to the base, they missed an opportunity, I believe, to offer their analysis to the American people, who don’t get it in the media, specifically, what Wall Street has been doing to our country and what actually has happened so that 14 million families face foreclosure. This was the week that all the big banks stopped foreclosing in twenty-three states because they had been illegally taking people’s homes with phony signatures and the like. And that wasn’t even referenced. It wasn’t even mentioned. There was no, really, appeal to all these homeowners. There was very little appeal to unemployed people and young people who have been unable to get jobs, which is really a core constituency.
And there was very little offered about what to do about all of this, except voting in November. And we all know that voting in November to return to Congress even people who are supposedly, you know, trying to do the right thing is very probematic, because we know that—how badly they’ve done. You know, even the Democrats are saying, you know, "Even if you don’t like us, vote for us, because we’re better than the other guys." That’s not much of an appeal.
So, where was the strategy? Where was the plan for the future? Where was the organizational vision for how to bring these people to stay together to work together to move for change? That was sort of missing, and I think it became, in a way, more of an event, more of a movie than a movement. And that was bad, I think, you know, and disappointing at the end, when you really thought about it. What did we accomplish? And I’m not sure.
AMY GOODMAN: You know, as I stood talking to people out on the Mall, I had a very different sense from the people on the grass—I guess you could say the "grassroots"—and the people up by the Lincoln Memorial who were speaking. And it was about how careful they were not to criticize the administration, and that might go to your point about, you know, it was the Obama stimulus package that bailed out the big banks and didn’t stop the foreclosures of people on the ground. People, I think, on the Mall, who bused in from all over—and we’re talking about more than 100,000 people—were more critical than the message from the stage.
DANNY SCHECHTER: I don’t know why somebody couldn’t get up, even if they love President Obama, and say, "We love you, but what about this? Why Larry Summers? Why an economic program that’s failed? Why not help for homeowners? Why not real help for unemployed people? Why did you, you know, go halfway with the stimulus when so much more was needed? Why these wars in Afghanistan and Iran—and Iraq, rather, that are—and the threat of war with Iran, you know, that are costing us trillions of dollars that should be available to invest in our economy?" None of those questions were being raised. It’s almost as if, you know, there was a radar, an internal radar, in every speaker. You know, go so far, but no further.
That’s why Harry Belafonte’s speech that you played earlier was so significant. He sort of flipped the script a little bit and spoke from his heart and from his lifetime experience. Other speakers, while good, while invigorating, while inspirational, didn’t really cut very deep. And I think that’s part of the problem. So when people who were listening at home were watching this, what were they learning? What were they coming away with? And this is, you know, my frustration. My film Plunder: The Crime of Our Time, I offered it to the organizers. I said, "Let’s screen this. Let’s educate people to come to the march to support this." Michael Moore has issued a call to indict Wall Street criminals and to have a—
AMY GOODMAN: But this is where the money comes from for both parties in the midterm elections. They’re hardly—the Democrats—going to take this on. And this rally was not about opposing the administration or the Democrats.
DANNY SCHECHTER: Right, but you don’t have to oppose them. You can try to sort of kick them in the butt a little bit, and that’s what was missing. In other words, if there’s pressure on the right and no pressure on the left, the left is not going to be taken seriously, as it has not been, because the administration feels they can take people like us, at large, for granted. You know, they don’t have to be responsive and accountable to the people who worked for them so hard to get Obama elected. And so, it’s not a question of just being in opposition to Obama. He’s under terrible attack from, you know, various corners. There’s nothing he can do to please any of them. He’s a terrorist. He’s a Socialist. He’s a Communist. He’s a Martian. It doesn’t seem to matter what they call him; the facts are immaterial. But the people who want to see this administration really push forward a progressive agenda have to do more than just rally on the Mall. They have to organize. They have to try to build support for a program for change. And that, so far, has been missing.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, there wasn’t a criticism of Wall Street in that way, and there wasn’t much discussion of the war in Afghanistan.
DANNY SCHECHTER: No, not at all. In other words, the challenges, the contradictions of this administration—
AMY GOODMAN: Though Harry Belafonte did talk about peace.
DANNY SCHECHTER: Yeah, he did.
AMY GOODMAN: And he did say—he was the only one, really, who talked about $33 billion—
DANNY SCHECHTER: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —going to the war that could pay for 600,000 green jobs in this country.
DANNY SCHECHTER: Yeah, yeah. I mean, Jesse mentioned the military budget, but he didn’t really explain it. And the assumption is, rhetoric—you know, just the kind of our language, you know, we often assume that when we use a buzzword, people know what it is. Not necessarily. I think you have to really explain this. You can’t assume knowledge. The media is not covering these issues thoroughly, and we have to. And we have to try to educate the base, as well as motivate the base.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us, Danny Schechter—
DANNY SCHECHTER: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: —author of The Crime of Our Time. The book is—that’s his book. Plunder is the name of his film. He blogs at newsdissector.com.
Obama Signalled His Complete Surrender To Zionism
Obama Signalled His Complete Surrender To Zionism
By Alan Hart
September 07, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- - -He did it with seven words. “Ultimately the U.S. cannot impose a solution.”
He was speaking at the White House the day before the start of the new round of direct talks between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, after he had met with them and Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan’s King Abdullah II. (In my last post I anticipated Obama saying at the point of his complete surrender that “America can’t want peace more than the parties.” He also said that - ahead of schedule!)
Today there is a growing number of seriously well informed people of all faiths and none (including me) who believe there will only be peace if it is imposed.
Today there is a growing number of seriously well informed people of all faiths and none (including me) who believe there will only be peace if it is imposed.
Among those who have dared to say so in public is one of the most eminent Jewish gentlemen of our time, Henry Siegman. A former national director of the American Jewish Congress, he is president of the U.S./Middle East Project, which was part of the Council on Foreign Relations from 1994 until 2006 when it was established as an independent policy institute. He is also a research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Programme of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. During his more than 30 years of involvement in the Middle East peace process, he has published extensively on the subject and has been consulted by governments, international agencies and non-governmental organizations involved in the peace process. In a comment piece for the Financial Times on 23 February 2010, (quoted in Conflict Without End? the Epilogue to Volume 3 of the American edition of my book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews), he wrote this:
“The Middle East peace process and its quest for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict that got under way nearly 20 years ago with the Oslo accords has undergone two fundamental transformations. It is now on the brink of a third.
“The first was the crossing of a threshold by Israel’s settlement project in the West Bank; there is no longer any prospect of its removal by this or any future Israeli government, which was the precise goal of the settlements’ relentless expansion all along. The previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who declared that a peace accord requires Israel to withdraw ‘from most, if not all’ of the occupied territories, ‘including East Jerusalem,’ was unable even to remove any of the 20 hilltop outposts Israel had solemnly promised to dismantle.
“A two-state solution could therefore come about only if Israel were compelled to withdraw to the pre-1967 border by an outside power whose wishes an Israeli government could not defy – the US. The assumption has always been that at the point where Israel’s colonial ambitions collide with critical US national interests, an American president would draw on the massive credit the US has accumulated with Israel to insist it dismantle its illegal settlements, which successive US administrations held to be the main obstacle to a peace accord.
“The second transformation resulted from the shattering of that assumption when President Barack Obama – who took a more forceful stand against Israel’s settlements than any of his predecessors, and did so at a time when the damage this unending conflict was causing American interests could not have been more obvious – backed off ignominiously in the face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of his demand. This left prospects for a two-state accord dead in the water.”
On 16 August in a piece for the Huffington Post which was originally published by Ha’aretz in Hebrew, Siegman added this:
“Most Israelis, particularly the present government, have been blithely indifferent to repeated international condemnations of Israel’s systematic theft of Palestinian territory on which it has been settling its own Jewish population in blatant violation of international law. Yet their reaction to what they see as an attack on the “legitimacy” of the State of Israel, a concept foreign to international law, seems to bring them to the edge of hysteria.
“In fact, Israel’s legitimacy within its 1967 borders has never been challenged by the international community. It is its behavior on territory beyond its own borders to which the international community – including every U.S. administration – has objected. To construe the condemnation of violations of international law as anti-Semitism is absurd.
“It was not an anti-Semite seeking to delegitimize the Jewish state, but Theodore Meron, an internationally respected jurist and the legal advisor to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, who following the war of 1967 conveyed the following legal opinion to Israel’s Foreign Minister Abba Eban: ‘Civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention,’ to which Israel is a signatory. That Convention’s ban on population transfer is ‘categorical and not conditional upon the motives for the transfer or its objectives. The Convention’s purpose is to prevent settlement in occupied territory of citizens of the occupying state.’”
So yes, Israel’s leaders knew that settlements on Arab land occupied in 1967 are illegal. They simply didn’t give (and still today don’t give) a damn about international law. But this attitude, a mixture of extreme arrogance and insufferable self-righteousness, does not make them the main villains in the story of what happened after June 1967. The main villains were (and still are) the governments of the major powers and the one in Washington DC above all.
What they should have said to Israel in the immediate aftermarth of the 1967 war is: “You are not to build any settlements on occupied Arab land. If you do, you’ll be demonstrating your contempt for international law. In this event the international community will declare Israel to be an outlaw state and subject it to sanctions.”
If something like that riot act had been read to Israel there would have been peace many, many years ago. The pragmatic Arafat was reluctantly reconciled to the reality of Israel’s existence inside its pre-1967 borders as far back as 1968. In his gun and olive branch address to the UN General Assembly on 13 November 1974 he said so by obvious implication. Thereafter he put his credibility with his leadership colleagues and his people, and his life, on the line to get a mandate for unthinkable compromise with Israel. He got it at the end of 1979 when the Palestine National Council voted by 296 votes to 4 to endorse his two-state policy. What he needed thereafter was an Israeli partner for peace. He eventually got a probable one, Yitzhak Rabin, but he was assassinated by a Zionist fanatic. The more it became clear that Israel’s leaders were not interested in a genuine two-state solution for which Arafat had prepared the ground on his side, the more his credibility with his own people suffered.
It is in the context briefly sketched above that Obama’s seven words have their real meaning.
At the time of writing it seems reasonably clear that Obama is hoping that Abbas and his equally discredited Fatah leadership colleagues can be bribed and bullied into accepting what Netanyahu will eventually offer – crumbs from Zionism’s table. (My guess is that Abbas at a point will resign rather than trigger a Palestinian civil war). THE question is what will Obama do when Israel refuses to give enough to satisfy the demands and needs of the Palestinian people for a just about acceptable measure of justice?
We already know the answer. “Ultimately the U.S. cannot impose a solution.”
Effectively those seven words tell Israel’s leaders that they can go on imposing their will on the occupied and oppressed Palestinians with the comfort of knowing that Obama is not going to use the leverage he has, and every American president has had, to cause them, or try to cause them, to be serious about peace on terms virtually all Palestinians and most other Arabs and Muslims everywhere could accept, and which a rational Israeli government and people would accept with relief.
Put another way, those seven words are effectively a green light for Zionism alone to determine the future of the Palestinians, a future which at some point will most likely see the final ethnic cleansing of Palestine, followed by another great turning against the Jews (provoked by the Zionist state’s behaviour) and a Clash of Civilizations, Judeo-Christian v Islamic.
In his analysis on the day Obama delivered his seven words, Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s admirable Middle East Editor, offered this thought. “There might not be room for many more failures. The conflict is changing. A religious war is now being grafted on what used to be fundamentally a competition for territory between two national movements. You can make deals with nationalists. It’s much harder with people who believe they’re doing God’s work.”
The next question asks itself. Why won’t Obama be the president to call and hold the Zionist state to account for its crimes, even when doing so is necessary for the best protection of America’s own interests?
Part of the answer is, of course, that he is no more willing than any of his predecessors to have a showdown with the Zionist lobby and its stooges in Congress and the mainstream media.
But there might be more to it.
In the privacy of his own mind Obama probably understands better than any of his predecessors how the conflict was created and what has sustained it. If that is the case, he will also know there’s no guarantee that real American-led pressure on Israel to be serious about peace would work and that it could be counter-productive.
I am a supporter in principle of the case and the need for the Zionist state of Israel to be totally isolated, boycotted and sanctioned as Apartheid South Africa was, eventually. But… The danger is that even the credible threat of a real boycott and sanctions could play into the hands of those Israeli leaders – Netanyahu has long been their standard bearer – who have brainwashed Israelis, most if not quite all, into believing that the world hates Jews, always has and always will, and that Israeli Jews have no choice but to tell the world to go to hell. In this context (and as I note in the Epilogue of the American edition of my book), I think it could and should be said that Zionism succeeded, probably beyond its own best expectations, in transforming the obscenity of the Nazi holocaust from a lesson against racism and fascism and all the evils associated with them into an ideology that seeks to justify anything and everything the Zionist state does. War crimes and all.
So it could be that in the privacy of his own mind, Obama knows it is already too late (not to mention too dangerous) to try to push Israel’s leaders much further than they are willing to go.
What, I wonder, will honest historians of the future make of what is happening right now? My guess is that they will conclude that when Obama launched his push for peace, the Zionist state was already a monster beyond control.
Alan Hart has been engaged with events in the Middle East and their global consequences and terrifying implications – the possibility of a Clash of Civilisations, Judeo-Christian v Islamic, and, along the way, another great turning against the Jews – for nearly 40 years.
A Note From John Walker Lindh
The Ballad Of The Fleas
By John Walker Lindh
September 24, 2010 "Information Clearing House" --
It’s said that black death spread by fleas
On backs of rats they rode
One fateful autumn thus they came
With vengeance as their code
Like blight they spread from crags to plains
To hilly dusty turf
To rocky lunar landscapes ‘neath
The rooftop of the earth
They hid behind the highest clouds
To fly as swift as sound
With daisy cutters cluster bombs
And spies upon the ground
Their leader stepped out swaggering
Declaring a crusade
He called the world to follow him
And most of them obeyed
For wolves may foam and bark and bite
And gnash and gnaw and hiss
But if a sheep should dare bite back
He’d be a terrorist
The knights of Malta raised their spears
The knights Templars came next
The rabble cheered them in the streets
Priests quoted Bible texts
Their quislings all crawled out to them
Each kneeled to give his oath
They squealed and cried “Islam is peace”
But disbelieved in both
They ushered ashen donkeys forth
Jackasses bearing scrolls
They brayed in fervent fever pitch
For dollar bills in rolls
The words they spoke those days were such
That had he known their name
Old Abdullah Ibnu Ubayy
Would cringe and blush in shame
They send their drones to level homes
And blow up wedding feasts
They heap more arms in warlords’ hands
To spread democracy
They roam at night to break down doors
To search and strip and rape
To bind and kidnap anyone
To shoot those who escape
With muzzles full of lofty talk
Free speech and human rights
They drive out millions from their land
And say it’s worth the price
An aid worker clerk or farmer
Sold like a modern slave
Gets beaten by their boots and guns
And thrown into a cage
He’s sat upon and spat upon
Broke by the brave and free
By brave crusaders brave and bold
As brave as brave can be
If they but knew that with each act
Of torture and abuse
Around the neck of Uncle Sam
They tighten up the noose
Mirages in the distance glow
Lads line up in the queue
As one more body bag comes back
Hid from the public view
A blistered bloated jarhead face
Deep purple findernails
A smell seeps out that’s foul enough
To cleanse a man’s entrails
Their rulers lurch and boast and strut
But keep far from the fray
They swoon and quake from fear to tread
Where lurking lions lay
As tawheed’s caravan moves on
And marches in the dusk
The crimson wound of one of them
Emits the scent of musk
To rule God’s earth by God’s own law
They sacrifice their lives
They spill their lifeblood willingly
Until God’s help arrives
Although victory entices them
What soothes them even more
Is hope to enter gardens lush
With honey milk and hur
Where stars and stripes and Union Jacks
And NATO flags once flew
Black banners rise in Khurasan
In hands of every hue
Just as how warsteeds’ coats are cleaned
And purged of lice and fleas
The cavalcade of martyrs fights
An empire to its knees
All praise and thanks are due to God
To Him alone they bowed
And peace be on His messenger
Whose face beams in his shroud
Abu Sulayman al-Irlandi
This item was first posted at http://www.cageprisoners.com