Friday, June 28, 2013

Baker City's Contribution to Democracy, Citizens On Patrol, Land Use Planning--Transportation Plan

I comment to Baker City government when I can and I ask for information routinely. Sometime my comments are treated with respect and responded to, usually by City staff, as opposed to Councilors. Often, certainly in the past, my comments to Council go down the memory hole, somewhere near the bottom of the digital trash can. Currently, at least prior to the last week or so, they are just ignored and never see the light of day, even in the local papers.

Just recently, Baker City has improved their ability to take comments from citizens.  I for one, have great difficulty speaking in public--especially to powerful people who I believe do not understand or  respect me--thats why I write a lot.  Others also do not feel comfortable expressing their opinions to Council at a Council meeting for various reasons, perhaps similar to mine, or, perhaps related to the class they find themselves in.  Now, anybody can post their concerns to the city on their website.  Just go to the "Latest News" link on the website and scroll down through the news to a subject that interests you. The website is currently very slow on my Mac, but maybe you will have a different experience.  They had a Google virus alert a few weeks ago during the transportation plan process when people were trying to access the necessary documents, but it seems to have been taken care of. It might take some patience. When your subject of interest shows up, read the info and at the bottom you may find a comment or two and an opportunity to comment yourself.

For example, for the "Citizen On Patrol Volunteer--Community Information Meeting" that occurred on June 20, 2013, they have:

The Baker City Police Department is seeking volunteers who want to make a difference in our community.

What Is The Citizen On Patrol Program (C.O.P.)? The Citizen on Patrol Program is a volunteer program that works hand-in-hand with the Baker City Police Department for the overall safety, health and vitality of the Baker City community.

What Do Citizen On Patrol Volunteers Do? Administrative Office Assistance; Emergency Evacuations; Elderly Checks; Vacation Property Checks; Ordinance Compliance Checks; Foot Patrol; Community Events; Evidence Room Assistance; Speed Monitoring.

Is There Training Available? YES! We offer regular and ongoing training opportunities! There is a new Training Program starting in July for qualified applicants! Don't delay!

To learn more about the Citizen on Patrol Volunteer Program (C.O.P), don't miss the community information meeting on June 20, 2013 at 6:00 p.m. at the Baker City Police Department , 1768 Auburn Avenue.

Everyone is welcome to attend.

For more information, please contact Lori McNeil, C.O.P Coordinator, or 524-2014 ext. 105.
My comments there are:
refugee2000 • Mike and City Council, I think "Ordinance Compliance Checks" should not be one of the duties of Citizens on Patrol. That sort of enforcement should be left to a hopefully professional police officer on the force, or better yet, to neighbors familiar with the situation. There is too much room for abuse due to political, personal, religious, and other agendas, or due to over-zealous volunteers.
More today:
My recollection is that when the Council passed the property maintenance ordinance, they said enforcement would target only the most egregious cases. I believe that was the word they used. It appears to me that those cases have been, or are in the process of being taken care of. Egregious cases are also easily spotted by the current code enforcement officer. Having a troop of volunteers snooping around the neighborhoods looking for violations seems to ratchet code enforcement up to a whole new level that was not intended by the Council that passed the property maintenance ordinance. Poor people might get the impression that they are living in the old Soviet Union or with the East German Stasi.
Yesterday I photographed a property on Dewey that Officer Davidson had requested a property maintenance case number for [the day earlier]. It seemed to me that they were in compliance because they had obviously kept their property up and the lawn looked like it had been mowed in the last week or two. They had a garden on the parkway that had some weeds like sweet clover in it, but some people don't consider them weeds, and those kind of gardens grow higher that the 10 inch requirement in the property maintenance ordinance in any event. If the City is going to target them for a violation, then they might as well target half the city. Is that where this is going???
I might mention that someone I know who had a husband In Iraq was given a citation, but it never turned up in the Press Log and was later dropped.
One person I talked to suggested that the City drop the punitive approach, and have the volunteers help these people with the volunteer's concerns, rather than turn them in for a suspected "violation" of the ordinance.
Christopher Christie
Propert recently cited for PM Violation

Thinking about "property maintenance," it was interesting to see Bill Uttenreuther, 1410 Dewey, Baker City, in the city video at the Council meeting on June 11, 2013. Mr. Uttenreuther is a retired city firefighter (Family PERS income 38,000+/yr according to the Oregonian website) with a lot of time on his hands apparently, so he went before the Council to report on properties that, in his estimation, didn't pass muster. I'm surprised that he had the time, because I was under the impression that he spent a lot of it on our heavily subsidized golf course.  You know the one, it's the City golf course that Councilor Button and Kata Bulinski's back yard backs up to. Why Kata rarely, if ever, identifies herself as Clair's significant other when she's ranting to the Council, that her significant other sits on, about burn barrels and etc., is something I'll never quite understand. But then I've never understood either why Councilor Clair Button doesn't declare a potential or actual conflict of interest when he advances ever more taxpayer money to the golf course, which in my estimation, props up his property value, as it sits on the back nine holes. It's not like we need the money for all our ongoing and looming basic infrastructure expenses--we can always stick it to the ratepayers and we gotta keep that back nine green and gorgeous!

In response to the City Council's non-response about my concerns with the new transportation plan, I wrote:
May 29, 2013
RE: Public Hearing Testimony: Draft Update to the Transportation System Plan (TSP) 05/29/13

Dear Mr. Chairman and Members of the Commission:

While I believe the Draft TPS is a very good effort, I am here tonight speaking against it, as it is currently written. I speak for myself although I am aware of the opinions of a dozen neighbors who share my sentiments. My home has been on 15th Street since the summer of 2004, and during my time here I have experienced several detrimental changes in the way ordinances affecting private property and its use are written, interpreted, or implemented. Some of these ordinances have been imposed by people who know doubt meant well, but who do not share the economic, social or other values and interests related to land and land use that are shared by myself and most of my neighbors. Overly burdensome property maintenance and burning ordinances are two that come easily to mind, as well as a bombshell or two contained in the new Development Code.

I have two problems with this otherwise decent plan:

1) I did not know about the plan or that sidewalks were planned for 15th Street until I followed up on a recent notice that did not mention the sidewalks, and my neighbors did not know that sidewalks were planned for 15th Street until I mentioned it to them. That is
because Baker City does not really comply with Goal one for statewide planning, which is good communication of planning issues through a functional citizen involvement program.
2) My neighbors and I do not want sidewalks because they are not needed and some of us simply can’t afford them. The burden for sidewalks should fall on all citizens because all properties and the pedestrians served by them benefit somewhat equally from a sidewalk system. In some cases, including mine, there is no perceived benefit to the property owner because they are getting along fine as things currently are.
In more detail, I oppose the plan for the following reasons:
It is not consistent with Statewide Planning Goal 1 CITIZEN INVOLVEMENT, i.e., OAR 660-015-0000(1) which is “To develop a citizen involvement program that insures the opportunity for citizens to be involved in all phases of the planning process.” The goal, as well as ORS 197.160 (b) includes a requirement for “an officially recognized committee for citizen involvement (CCI) broadly representative of geographic areas and interests related to land use and land-use decisions.” Goal 1 also requires, that the CCI "involve a cross-section of affected citizens in all phases of the planning process." There are many other requirements to ensure public involvement and understanding as well, including the establishment of “Mechanisms . . . which provide for effective communication between citizens and elected and appointed officials,” with effective being the key word. The Goal also requires the establishment of an actual citizen involvement program. I believe that Baker City has clearly not complied with many of the requirements of Goal 1.
Baker City chose to assign the responsibility for the committee for citizen involvement to the Planning Commission, and to also use a Technical Advisory Committee and group of so-called “Stakeholders” to fulfill the citizen involvement requirements.
Both Goal 1 and the Oregon Revised Statute require that committees flowing from a "program for citizen involvement,” including the CCI, be "broadly representative of geographic areas and of interests relating to land uses and land use decisions." None of the committees, including the Planning Commission itself, comply with that requirement.

The Planning Commission, which is also the CCI, essentially comes from two geographic areas out of at least five or six in the city. One group of three Commissioners all live up on the hill in the high rent district of the South West area which looks down on the city. Two of those members are actually neighbors. They can not be said to share the economic, social and land use interests of a majority of the people in the areas near 15th Street or much of the rest of the city, and in fact, the low areas on the West side are not represented on the Planning Commission at all.

Three of the other four Commissioners live within a few blocks of each other in South Central Baker City, and the other lives about a mile to the North East in a very nice home worth many times that of his neighbors.
The Planning Commission, which is assigned the responsibility of the committee for citizen involvement, cannot be said to be “representative of geographic areas and interests related to land use and land-use decisions” in the City of Baker City.
The same can be said to the “Stakeolder” group and the Technical Advisory Committee if they are if fact included as an attempt to provide committee involvement that is “broadly representative of geographic areas and interests related to land use and land-use decisions” for the Citizens of Baker City.
I was told by the Planning Department that the PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT AND PROCEDURES FOR PLANNING section of the Comprehensive plan is supposed to be Baker City’s citizen involvement program. The fact is that there really isn’t any serious and effective citizen involvement program. That is why almost no one I spoke with on 15th Street knew that the plan called for sidewalks on their street.
The public involvement portion of the Baker City Comprehensive plan simply states:
1. The City will make all reasonable efforts to publicize planning issues and meetings where these issues will be discussed and decided upon.

Page 4 of the Baker City Comprehensive plan also states:
9 b) The City will attempt to gain media coverage of the issues and public notice of the proposed change will be advertised.
While the citizen involvement Goal requires involvement to include "a cross-section of affected citizens in all phases of the planning process" and asks that “Newsletters, mailings, posters, mail-back questionnaires, and other available media . . . be used in the citizen involvement program” to help establish “effective” communication, we get “reasonable efforts to publicize . . . issues and meetings” and “The City will attempt to gain media coverage. . . .”
I believe the efforts to communicate the specifics of the plan that are relevant to each affected homeowner have failed. The only written communication from the Planning Department to individual property owners, during what apparently has been a months long process, went out a few weeks ago, and it did not specify how the owner was going to be affected or how they might be financially threatened by the plan. Everyone I’ve spoken with did not realize they were facing potential financial risk. The Herald delivers to around 1900 homes and businesses. This would be about 41% coverage if all of the deliveries were to homes but less if one included the approximately 1,197 businesses. Of course, a percentage of these deliveries are going to renters, and etc, so actual coverage of property owners is difficult to gauge. In any event it is not likely over 50%. Many of these subscribers do not always read the paper or a particular article, as was the case for a neighbor in the next block. The radio ads are similar as many don’t listen to the station that the city uses. About the only nearly sure-fire way to get someone’s attention is a notice with a specific attention notice on the outside and specific information showing the nature of the potential threat to the homeowner. The suggested questionnaire with a map showing where particular projects were being planned would have shown a true desire to communicate the potential affects of the draft plan.
Of the twelve people in my neighborhood I spoke with in the last few days, only two had the slightest notion that a new TSP revision was in the works, and none, I repeat, none, knew that sidewalks were planned for 15th Street. In addition, none of them thought sidewalks were necessary. Several thought it was a foolish use of money because there are few pedestrians on 15th Street, and that the needs, if any, are on 16th and 14th Streets. Those I spoke with think our limited funds should go to the many other expensive higher priority infrastructure projects facing Baker City.
The existence of Head Start Baker school and the old Churchill School building in the 1900 block of 16th, and Blue Mountain Community College at the corner of 14th and Baker Streets were also discussed by neighbors and we wondered why the streets adjacent to these destinations were not slated for sidewalk development or ADA compliance.
It is puzzling that the plan chose 15th Street instead of 14th and 16th with their schools and institutional buildings, given that Table 7, on p. 40 of Volume 2, which lists “Potential Improvement to Bicycle and Pedestrian Conditions” states that the plan should “Prioritize sidewalk improvements along a network of routes that provide access to schools….” Hmmm, sounds like 16th or 14th might need [sidewalks] for schools if the path on 17th isn’t judged adequate.
It doesn’t appear that the planners have any objective data in the form of actual pedestrian counts for 15th Street. I can testify as one who spends a lot of time in front of a computer looking out the front window that it is usually between 3 and 10, with 6 being the most frequently observed number. More people walk up 15th to Court, then over to 14th, and up to Broadway. ODOT may have traffic counts, but they too are low, especially compared to 17th or 16th near the Head Start program.
The plan also states in Volume 2, that “On roadways with low traffic volumes (i.e., less than 3,000 vehicles per day), roadway shoulders can be adequate for pedestrian travel. These roadways . . . should have shoulders wide enough so that both pedestrians and bicyclists can use them, usually six feet or greater. ( p. 24, Baker City Transportation System Plan Volume II – Appendices)
The draft states “…many roadways in the outer portions of Baker City lack sidewalks. Many of these streets are wide and have light traffic, making them comfortable for walking and bicycling.” ( p. 28, Baker City Transportation System Plan Volume II – Appendices)
The Baker City Comprehensive Plan also says on p. 26:
Transportation Goal Finding 10
10. Sidewalks are now found in nearly all areas of town with streets developed to primary standard. In other areas, existence of sidewalks is spotty, but less critical due to the nature of the development and, in general, the volume of foot traffic.
The above three statements from the two different planning documents are good descriptions of 15th Street. The shoulders are adequate for the few pedestrians to get off the road if they choose and the traffic is light. There is no need for unaffordable sidewalks on 15th Street, and the paths planned along Auburn and up 17th would serve as adequate neighborhood connectors. Removing some of these unnecessary sidewalk plans would put fewer people at financial risk and make it more likely that funds can be found to complete the projects that are actually needed. The prevailing attitude in my neighborhood is that if it ain’t broke, don’t spend large sums of money or saddle people with unnecessary debt to “fix it.”
I hope the Commission will both reconsider the plan and comply with the intent of Statewide Planning Goal1, for true communication and citizen involvement.
Thanks for listening,
Christopher Christie
OK, so they cut me off and all those comments were pretty much ignored by the Planning Commission--that's Baker. There was certainly no rational response, and my comments seemed to be completely ignored by the Council too, as they too didn't respond. (I guess the message is, "Hey, that's Baker, get used to it poor boy. Too bad you don't have the $400.00 it takes to start an appeal.")

The Planning Department has continued to send relevant information, after the local  transportation plan process is over, and which I had asked for some time ago. At least they are belatedly trying! Turns out that Mr. Tim Collins, a current member of the Planning Commission and PERS retiree (annual family benefit $85,106) who lives up on the hill above the golf course, was involved as a City Attorney back in 1981, at which time he and the Council had the duties of the Committee for Citizen Involvement turned over to the Planning Commission. The Planning Department and I are currently trying to find evidence of whether Mr. Collins ever received a letter from the state with recommendations, and which also approved the change.

I.E. The Statewide Planning Goal 1 requires that: 

a letter shall be submitted to the Land Conservation and Development Commission for the state Citizen Involvement Advisory Committee's review and recommendation stating the rationale for selecting this option, as well as indicating the mechanism to be used for an evaluation of the citizen involvement program.
There is, as of now, no evidence produced that indicates a review by the state that would justify the Planning Commission serving as the Committee for Citizen Involvement, and in any event, the current Planning Commission is not "broadly representative of geographic areas and interests related to land use and land-use decisions” and does not "involve a cross-section of affected citizens in all phases of the planning process," so could not in any rational mind be construed to comply with the requirements of Statewide Planning Goal 1 for the Committee for Citizen Involvement.

In response to a note from the City on the matter, I responded:

Thank you . . . .,

I do realize that most residents are not yet aware of the opportunity to comment on the City website, just as they were not aware of the specific changes being recommended by the transportation plan. I think what you and the city administration have done to facilitate this communication is great progress for Baker City democracy if and when people become aware of it. The more Baker City enables people to become involved through the communication advances provided by the internet and etc., the better off we will be in understanding what Baker City citizens would like to see happening in their city and in their neighborhoods. One problem, of course, is that many of our older or lower income citizens may not possess a computer, or may not be computer literate.

I gave my comments to the Planning Commission at their meeting on May 29th, and I was told that the comments were included in the packets for the Council at the June 11th meeting. I also sent my comments to the Council prior to the June 11, 2013 meeting using the email addresses available on the city website at None of them have responded to date.

I have received additional information today from the Planning Department, but they have yet to find a response on the the final recommendation from the CIAC concerning their assigning the Committee for Citizens Involvement to the Planning Commission, which is, as I read it, required by law. As the Planning Commission membership changes from year to year, one might hope that the City would seek the CIAC's approval to make sure that the Commission is in compliance with Statewide Planning Goal 1, which is that the CCI "involve a cross-section of affected citizens in all phases of the planning process." Additionally, both Goal 1 and the Oregon Revised Statute require that committees flowing from a "program for citizen involvement,” including the CCI, be "broadly representative of geographic areas and of interests relating to land uses and land use decisions." None of the committees, including the Planning Commission itself, comply with that requirement. As I note in my comments from May 29 above, the current Planning Commission is not "broadly representative" of the citizens of Baker City, and most certainly is not representative of those of us who live west of the tracks and south of the railroad overpass on Dewey/Hwy 7.

I would recommend that the City arrange for a Committee for Citizens Involvement that "involve[s] a cross-section of affected citizens in all phases of the planning process." and that is "broadly representative of geographic areas and of interests relating to land uses and land use decisions." Some neighborhoods do not share the land use values of those who choose to live downtown or in the newer neighborhoods, and we still cherish our rural, not so spic and span, rural atmosphere. Sometimes the City has to personally ask people from the various neighborhoods to be involved, or otherwise they might not take announcements of calls for committee membership seriously--that is as actually include them. There are those who have opinions but who are reticent to give them for various reasons. That is why questionnaires sent to citizens, as recommended by the State's discussion on Planning Goal 1, should be used early in the process. I would also recommend that the City inform citizens not just about a process that is occurring, but that the City inform citizen property owners by mail of the specific changes being suggested for their neighborhood as soon as those changes are floated by the connected folks involved on the committees creating the plan.

I appreciate you for your response and would thank you for fair consideration of my comments,

Christopher Christie
1985 15th Street,
Baker City
OK, enough of the opportunities for comment--you really should use the City's comment facility if you have concerns.  They do require an email address, which may be a problem for some that are afraid of retribution, like City employees or. . . .

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Iraq War Vet with PTSD and brain injury takes own life, blaming government

Thirty year old Daniel Somers, a veteran who served as a machine gunner and intelligence analyst in "Operation Iraqi Freedom," took his own life on June 10th, 2013, after a long very painful battle with PTSD and brain injury. In the note he left, he cited the problems caused by being "made to participate in . . . . War Crimes, crimes against humanity. . . . . things [that] go far beyond what most are even aware of," as well as problems related to the DEA being unwilling to allow effective treatment of his torturous pain.

He also expressed serious frustration with a government that seemed to ignore the needs of veterans caught up in an epidemic of suicide:
Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.

It leaves us to where all we have to look forward to is constant pain, misery, poverty, and dishonor. 
A longer excerpt from the note he left that was subsequently published by Gawker:
The simple truth is this: During my first deployment, I was made to participate in things, the enormity of which is hard to describe. War crimes, crimes against humanity. Though I did not participate willingly, and made what I thought was my best effort to stop these events, there are some things that a person simply can not come back from. I take some pride in that, actually, as to move on in life after being part of such a thing would be the mark of a sociopath in my mind. These things go far beyond what most are even aware of.

To force me to do these things and then participate in the ensuing coverup is more than any government has the right to demand. Then, the same government has turned around and abandoned me. They offer no help, and actively block the pursuit of gaining outside help via their corrupt agents at the DEA. Any blame rests with them.

Beyond that, there are the host of physical illnesses that have struck me down again and again, for which they also offer no help. There might be some progress by now if they had not spent nearly twenty years denying the illness that I and so many others were exposed to. Further complicating matters is the repeated and severe brain injuries to which I was subjected, which they also seem to be expending no effort into understanding. What is known is that each of these should have been cause enough for immediate medical attention, which was not rendered.

Lastly, the DEA enters the picture again as they have now managed to create such a culture of fear in the medical community that doctors are too scared to even take the necessary steps to control the symptoms. All under the guise of a completely manufactured “overprescribing epidemic,” which stands in stark relief to all of the legitimate research, which shows the opposite to be true. Perhaps, with the right medication at the right doses, I could have bought a couple of decent years, but even that is too much to ask from a regime built upon the idea that suffering is noble and relief is just for the weak.

However, when the challenges facing a person are already so great that all but the weakest would give up, these extra factors are enough to push a person over the edge.

Is it any wonder then that the latest figures show 22 veterans killing themselves each day? That is more veterans than children killed at Sandy Hook, every single day. Where are the huge policy initiatives? Why isn’t the president standing with those families at the state of the union? Perhaps because we were not killed by a single lunatic, but rather by his own system of dehumanization, neglect, and indifference.

It leaves us to where all we have to look forward to is constant pain, misery, poverty, and dishonor. I assure you that, when the numbers do finally drop, it will merely be because those who were pushed the farthest are all already dead.

And for what? Bush’s religious lunacy? Cheney’s ever growing fortune and that of his corporate friends? Is this what we destroy lives for?

See Also:

“These things go far beyond what most are even aware of”
Paul Joseph Watson
June 24, 2013


Suicide Letter from Iraq War Veteran Says He Was Made to Commit War Crimes

By:  Saturday June 22, 2013 6:51 pm


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Empire's Presidential Con-men, from Carter to Obama

Professor James Petras has doggedly told his truths for some fifty years while the main-stream corporate media has just as doggedly ignored his writings and prevented his ideas from entering the popular consciousness. Below, find the essential history of the most recent 30+ years of American Empire, and the con-men Presidents from the two major, and utterly corrupt, political parties who have guided that empire, while they did little to promote the real hopes and dreams of most of the American population. You may notice immediately that the article is long because it is full of substance--not the same as posting some inane an ego-ridden photo of yourself to Facebook or riding around town with an American flag flapping in the breeze from your antenna.

Unmasking the con-man is a first step requiring that we expose the tricks of the con-game. The politics of deception and demagogy thrives by directing popular attention to style and rhetoric, not substance. The solemn and pious cant of ‘Jimmy’ Carter, distracted from his launch of the rabid Jihadists against the secular administration of Afghanistan . Uncle Ronald Reagan’s geniality and populist TV patter covered-up his blood baths in Central America and mass firing of the unionized air controllers and jailing of union leaders. ‘Bill’ Clinton’s show of empathy for the poor and embrace of ‘feel-good’ politics neutralized opposition as he bombed Yugoslavia into a pre-industrial age while his domestic policies kicked vulnerable single mothers from welfare programs. They all paled before the grand con-master Obama, billed as the ‘first black’ President, a community organizer (who disowned his sponsor into the black communities of Chicago, Rev. Wright, for his anti-war, anti-imperial stand) has capitalized on his racial credentials to garner the vote of guilty-ridden, soft-headed liberals and marginalized blacks in order to serve the interests of Wall Street and Israel.

Presidential Rule by Deception: Obama, the Master Con-man

By Prof. James Petras

June 25, 2013 "Information Clearing House - In an electoral system, run by and for a corporate oligarchy, deception and demagoguery are essential elements – entertaining the people while working for the wealthy.

Every US President has engaged, in one fashion or another, in ‘play acting’ to secure popular approval, neutralize hostility and distract voters from the reactionary substance of their foreign and domestic policies.

Every substantive policy is accompanied by a ‘down home’ folksy message to win public approval. This happened with President ‘Jimmy’ Carter’s revival of large-scale proxy wars in Afghanistan in the post-Viet Nam War period; Ronald Reagan’s genocidal wars in Central America, George Bush Sr.’s savaging of Iraq in the First Gulf War; ‘Bill’ Clinton’s decimation of social welfare in the US while bombing civilians in Yugoslavia and deregulating Wall Street; George Bush Jr.’s invasion and partition of Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempted coup in Venezuela and massive tax cuts for the rich; and Barack Obama’s staggering bailout of the biggest Wall Street speculators, unprecedented launching of five consecutive wars, and arrest and deportation of millions of immigrant workers. Each President has elaborated a style in order to ingratiate himself with the public while pursuing his reactionary agenda.

In rhetoric, appearance and in public persona, it is ‘de rigueur’ for US Presidents to present themselves as an ‘everyman’ while committing political actions – including war crimes worthy of prosecution.

Each President, in his ‘play acting’, develops a style suitable to the times. They constantly strive to overcome the public’s suspicion and potential hostility to their overt and covert policies designed to build empire as domestic conditions deteriorate. However, not all play acting is the same: each President’s ‘populist’ style in defense of oligarchic interests has its characteristic nuances.

 The Carter Feint: ‘Human Rights’ Wars in the Post-Viet Nam War Era
‘Jimmy’ Carter was elected President at a time of the greatest mass anti-war upheaval in US history. His campaign projected a soft-spoken, conciliatory President from humble roots reaching out to the anti-war electorate and solemnly pledging to uphold human rights against domestic militarists and their overseas despotic allies. To that end, he appointed a liberal human rights advocate Pat Derian to the State Department and a veteran Cold Warrior, Zbigniew (Zbig) Brzezinski, as National Security Advisor and foreign policy strategist.

Duplicity reared its head immediately: Carter openly criticized the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua – while privately telling the dictator to ignore the public criticisms and assuring him of continuing US support.[1] As the Sandinista revolution advanced toward victory, Carter convoked a meeting of Latin American leaders urging them to join in a joint military intervention with the US to ‘save lives’ and to prevent the popular Nicaraguan revolution from taking power and dismantling the dictator’s army. It soon became clear to the leaders of Latin America that Carter’s mission was a thinly- veiled ‘humanitarian’ version of ‘gunboat diplomacy’ and they declined. When Carter realized that, without the fig leaf of Latin American participation, a US-led invasion would arouse universal opposition, he abandoned the project. The political climate would not support a unilateral US invasion so soon after the end of the war in Indochina .

However, Carter soon re-launched the Cold War, reviving military spending and pouring billions of dollars into funding, arming and training tens of thousands of fundamentalist Jihadists from around the world to invade Afghanistan and overthrow its leftist, secular government.
Carter’s policy of re-militarization and launching of large-scale and long-term secret CIA operations in alliance with the most brutal dictators and monarchs of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan was accompanied by sanctimonious speeches about human rights and token appeals to protect ‘civilians’. In this regard, Carter became our founding father of the double discourse: a con man that publically condemned the jailing and torture by Pinochet of political opponents in Chile while orchestrating what would become a decade-long blood bath in Afghanistan with millions of victims.

 Reagan: Geniality with Genocide

Up until the ascendancy of Barack Obama, the avuncular President, Ronald Reagan, was acknowledged as the ‘master con-man’, by virtue of his Hollywood acting experience. Reagan was and remained a disciplined and hardened backer of policies designed to concentrate wealth while smashing unions, even as he entertained the flag-waving hard hat construction workers with his jokes about ‘limousine liberals’ and Cadillac welfare queens. The knowing wink and clever two-liners were matched by an adaptation of morality tales from his cowboy films. Reagan, in his role as ‘the righteous sheriff’, backed the mercenary contras as they invaded Nicaragua and destroyed schools and clinics and the genocidal military dictators in El Salvador and Guatemala who murdered hundreds of thousands of Indians and peasants.

Uncle Reagan’s friendly chats would describe how he had stopped the communist ‘outlaws’ (peasants, workers and Indians) of Central America from flooding across the Rio Grande and invading California and Texas. His tales resonated with mass audiences familiar with the racist Hollywood cowboy film version of unshaven Mexican bandits crossing the ‘ US ’ border. The clean-shaven, straight-talking, ‘stand-up for America’ President Ronald Reagan was elected and re-elected by a resounding majority in the midst of CIA-backed mujahedeen victories over the government and secular civil structure of Afghanistan, Pentagon- supported Israeli slaughter of Palestinian refugees in their camps in Lebanon and the mass genocide of scores of thousands of indigenous villagers in Guatemala.

When news reports seeped out about the mass graves of poor villagers in Guatemala , Reagan resorted to colloquial language right out of a Hollywood film to defend General Rios Mont : “He’s getting a bum rap”. In defending the brutal dictator of Guatemala , Reagan replaced Carter’s sanctimonious phrasing in favor of down-to-earth macho talk of a no-nonsense sheriff.
In substance, both Carter and Reagan were rebuilding the US war machine after the debacle of Viet Nam ; they were setting up a global network of client dictators, Muslim fundamentalists and hypocritical Anglo-American humanitarians interventionists.

Bush Senior: Uni-Polarity and the Ticket to Uncontested Imperial Conquests

Following the break-up of the Soviet Union, the US and Western Europe re-conquered, pillaged and neo-colonized Eastern Europe . West Germany annexed East Germany . And a predator-gangster oligarchy in Russia seized over a trillion dollars of public assets, impoverishing millions and laundered the illicit funds via elaborate banking operations on Wall Street and in London and Tel Aviv.

President George Bush Sr. embraced the doctrine of a unipolar world – free from rival super-power constraints and independent Third World resistance. ‘Poppy’ Bush believed the US could impose its will by force anywhere and at any time without fear of retaliation. He believed he was heir to a new imperial order of free markets, free elections and unrestrained plunder. The first war he would launch would be in the Middle East – the invasion, massive bombing and destruction of Iraq . It was followed by an unprecedented expansion of NATO bases in the countries of Eastern Europe . The spread of neo-liberalism led to the naked pillage of public assets throughout Latin American and Eastern Europe . The Empire ruled the Muslim world through an arc of client dictators from Tunisia , Egypt , and Saudi Arabia to Pakistan.

Bush adopted the persona of the ‘happy warrior’ – the invincible American President who had triumphed over the Evil Empire. Meanwhile, the domestic economy deteriorated under the enormous costs of the massive military build-up and gave rise to a crisis that hurt the electorate. Bush’s personal rigidity and lack of theatricality prevented him from playing the con-man – unlike his predecessor, the actor Reagan. Even as he extolled the prowess of the US military, his career as an ‘insider’ corporate operative and CIA director did not provide him with the demagogic skills necessary for a successful re-election.

While Bush celebrated his overseas victories, he failed to attract a popular following: His pinched face and wooden upper-crust smile was no match for ‘Cowboy’ Reagan’s street corner geniality or even ‘Jimmy’ Carter’s pious intonations of human rights and Christian values … Deception and demagoguery are crucial elements in a re-election campaign – and so Bush, Sr. gave way for the next Presidential con-man-in-chief, Bill Clinton.

The Clinton-Con: Black Churches , Welfare Cuts and the Wall Street Warrior

Bill Clinton, like Ronald Reagan, turned out to be a Wall Street populist .With his folksy Arkansas intonations he preached messages of hope in black churches while diligently applying the free-market lessons he had learned from his Wall Street mentors. Tooting the saxophone and oozing compassion, Clinton told the poor that he could ‘feel their pain’, while inflicting misery on single mothers forced to leave their children and take minimum-wage jobs in order to retain any public assistance. He joined hands with labor union bosses at Labor Day festivities, while fast-tracking job-killing free-trade treaties (like NAFTA) that devastated the American working class. Bill Clinton enthusiastically sent bombers over Belgrade and other Yugoslav cities for several weeks, destroying its factories, hospitals, schools, power plants, radio and TV stations and bridges, as well as the Chinese Embassy, in support of the terrorist Kosovo Liberation Army and its separatist war against Belgrade . Clinton bombed civilians and their vital infrastructure, a war crime in the name of ‘humanitarian intervention’, to the ecstatic cheers of many Western liberals, progressives, social democrats and not a few Marxists as well as many Jihadists. On the home front, this self-proclaimed ‘people’s candidate’ ripped to shreds all restraints on banking speculation by repealing the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, New Deal legislation enacted to protect against massive banking swindles. This opened the floodgates to massive financial manipulation, which destroyed the pensions of many millions of workers.[2]
Clinton’s policies laid the groundwork for the information technology and Stock Market crash of 2000-01. His appointee, Alan Greenspan, created the conditions leading to speculative financial frenzy and subsequent economic crash of 2008. Bill Clinton’s stand-up comic performances in black churches, his back slapping encounters with labor bureaucrats and his embrace of feminists and others just raised the rhetorical bar for future aspiring Wall Street warlords in the White House. It would take eight years and the election of Barack Hussein Obama to finally surpass Bill Clinton as Con-Man-In Chief.

Bush Junior: A Yale Man with a Texas Drawl

President George Bush, Junior’s regime launched two major wars and backed two Israeli assaults on Palestinian civilians trapped in Gaza – the world’s largest open-air prison. He virtually eliminated taxes on billionaires while overseeing the geometrical growth of the domestic police state apparatus; and he unleashed the biggest speculative bubble and crash since the Great Depression. He lowered the living standards for all Americans except the top 10% of the population – and despite these disasters and despite his lack-luster performance as a con-man, he was re-elected.

His handlers and backers did their best to market their boy: his Ivy League credentials and New England background was replaced by a transparently phony Texas accent; tinny, whiney sound bites, reminiscent of his father’s, were replaced by a Texas ‘ranchers’ homely drawl. His ‘just-folks’ grammatical mistakes may have been mocked by the liberals but they resonated deeply with fundamentalist Christians – who would never have recognized the Phillips Exeter Academy-Yale Skull and Bones boy in their Commander-in Chief.

President Bush, Jr. was decked out in the uniform of a ‘Top Gun’ fighter pilot to polish his military credentials tarnished by revelations that the millionaire-playboy had gone AWOL during his service in the National Guard. His silly ‘Mission Accomplished’ claim that the Iraq war had been won in the first months after the invasion was rudely corrected by the huge outbreak of Iraqi resistance against the occupier. Bush handed over foreign policymaking, especially pertaining to the Middle East , to a small army of Jewish Zionists, aided and abetted by notorious militarists, like Cheney and Rumsfeld. Most major political events were handled by his Cabinet thugs – Secretary of State Colin Powell shamelessly fabricated the ‘evidence’ of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction in his performance before the United Nations. Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz invented Afghanistan ’s ties to the planners of 9/11.

Cheney and his Zionist troika of Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and ‘Scooter’ Libby trumpeted the ‘global war on terror’ while Michael Chertoff, Michael Mukasey and Stuart Levey conducted a domestic war against the Bill of Rights and US Constitutional freedoms, defending torture, jailing thousands of Muslims, punishing businesses trading with Iran and labeling US opponents of Israel’s war crimes as ‘security threats’. Bush, Jr. just nodded his approval, letting the “big fellas have a piece of the action”. With Junior, there was no peace demagoguery just plain talk to plain folks and- “Let the bombs fall and the Capital flow”. Bush did not have to go preaching to black churches (he had a black Secretary of State and National Security Adviser to do his dirty work without the cant); Bush never claimed that Israel got the ‘bum rap’ when it was charged with genocidal crimes. Under Bush, Jr., war criminals did not have to ‘sugar-coat’ their crimes. While occupying the White House, Bush signed off on the multi-trillion-dollar bailout for Wall Street and then just went off to tend his cows and chop wood at the Texas ranch.

Bush’s ‘style’ was a combination of ‘laid back’ and ‘straight forward’: he simply committed war crimes, protected Wall Street swindles and expanded the police state, without claiming otherwise. As the endless wars dragged on, as the stock market flopped under its own fraud and manipulation and the increasingly repressive legislation provoked debate, Bush just shrugged his shoulders and finished out his term in office without flourish or fanfare: “Y’all can’t win ‘em all. Let the next guy try his hand”.
Barack Obama: The Master of Deceit

From the beginning of his Presidential campaign, Obama demonstrated his proficiency as the master of all cons. He spoke passionately against torture while consulting with the torturers; he condemned Wall Street speculators while appointing key Street operatives as economic advisers. He promised a new deal in the Middle East , especially for Palestinians and then appointed a dual citizen, Israeli-US, Rahm Emmanuel (son of an Israeli Irgun terrorist) to be his most intimate Presidential advisor. Honolulu born and bred, Barack modulated his voice according to the audience, adopting a Baptist minister’s cadence for the black audiences while assuming the professorial tone of an Ivy League lawyer for his Wall Street contributors.

He hob-knobbed with Hollywood celebrities and Silicon billionaires, who bankrolled the fairy tale of his ‘historic breakthrough’ – the First Afro-American President who would speak for all Americans – nay for the entire world! Millions of giddy camp followers, white, black, old and young, the trade unionists and community activists alike were willingly deceived. They had chosen to disregard the fact that Barack Obama’s key advisers were rabid militarists, big bankers, corporate CEO’s, die-hard Zionists and Wall Street manipulators.

Indeed Obama’s supporters were enchanted by the phony rhetoric, the demagogy, the ‘populist style’, and the fake ‘authenticities’. Here was the man who promised to end the wars, close the torture concentration camp in Guantanamo , bring Wall Street to heel, repeal the Patriot Act and restore the Bill of Rights. And he was ‘their guy’ – shooting hoops in an urban playground – something Bush had never done! In truth, Barack Hussein Obama did a lot that Bush never dared to do – he surpassed Bush by far in committing war crimes against humanity – pushing for more military adventures abroad and police state repression at home. He exceeded by far any President in US history in assuming dictatorial police powers, in waging multiple wars while directing the massive transfer of state revenues to Wall Street bankers. President Obama, hands down, will be regarded as the greatest con-man President in American history. The Carters, Reagans and Clintons all pale in comparison: the enormous gap between style and substance, promise and performance, peace and war, capital and labor has never been greater.

It is President Obama’s hollow eloquence that raised the hopes of millions at home and abroad only to condemn them to an inferno of endless wars. It is the perversity of his rhetoric which attracts the Latino vote with promises of immigrant citizenship while his policy has been fill detention centers with hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers and their families. His soaring rhetoric promising justice for Muslims in Cairo was followed by the bloody bombing of Tripoli, the torture and slaughter of the Libyan patriot President Gadhafi; the broken promises to the Palestinians contrasts with the embrace of the bloody Israeli warlords.

Obama far out-paced President Bush’s drone attacks in Pakistan , Yemen and Afghanistan , bombings which targeted farmers, whole families and famished orphans in their schools. Soaring moral and ethical pronouncements accompany Obama’s arming and praising the 40,000 Muslim fundamentalist mercenaries sent to degrade and shatter the secular Syrian state. The pretexts for mass killing fall from his lips like maggots on a rotten corpse: his blatant lies about the use of poison gas in Syria as the government in Damascus confronts a foreign mercenary invasion; the lurid tales of fabricated massacres in Benghazi ( Libya ) and the false claims of stolen elections in Venezuela . Obama’s rhetoric converts executioners into victims and victims into executioners.

President Barack Obama promised a comprehensive health care overhaul for America and then presented the electorate with a confusing series of obligatory payments for plans designed by for-profit private health insurance companies. Obama ‘defended social security’ by raising the age of retirement, ensuring that hundreds of thousands of workers in hazardous occupations would die before ever receiving any benefits after a lifetime of obligatory contributions. Obama solemnly promised to defend Medicare and then proposed to reduce its budget by a trillion dollars over a decade.

Obama claims a presidential prerogative of ‘defending American interests’ by ordering the assassination of whomever his million-member secret police state apparatus designates as a security threat – including American citizens – without trial, without recourse to habeas corpus.

In the White House Rose Garden President Barack Obama strolls arm-in-arm with his wife and children, a family man, true to his promises… While in Aleppo a young teen, a street vendor, is beheaded before his parents and neighbors by fanatical ‘freedom-fighters’ praised and supported by the President. The boy’s alleged crime was blasphemy. The murdered teen has joined the scores of thousands of Syrians killed and the hundreds of thousands who will join them, as Obama has decided to openly arm the mercenaries.

Casual, open collar, President Obama jokes as he walks and talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the sumptuous estate of a California billionaire, offering friendship and peace – shaking hands for the cameras with a scorpion in his palm. The smiling Obama has ceaselessly dispatched his envoys to Asia, Latin America, Oceana and Africa to incite claims and conflicts against Beijing . Obama believes that his own ‘personal magic’ will blind the Chinese to the fact that China is being encircled by US air and maritime bases. He seems to believe that the Chinese will ignore his efforts to forge US-centered trade pacts which specifically exclude China .

The master ‘confidence-man’ sincerely believes in his power to move and mystify the public, pick the pockets of his adversaries and make his victims believe they have been in the presence of a world-class statesman. In fact, Obama has been playing the role of a street hustler living off the earnings and lives of his people while handing them over to his corporate bosses and pimps for Israel.

Obama fills internment camps with hundreds of thousands of Latino immigrant workers while promising a ‘roadmap to citizenship’ to the cheers of Mexican-American Democratic Party vote hustlers!
Obama received 95% of the Afro-American votes, while the income gap between blacks and whites widens and unemployment and poverty figures soar. Obama, the first ‘Afro-American President’, has bombed and intervened in more African countries, backing mercenary armies in Libya and Somalia and establishing more military bases throughout the black continent than the last five ‘white’ Presidents … So much for the self-proclaimed “historic breakthrough of a Black President ending centuries of racism”.

It’s enough for Obama to appoint other black police state thugs and foreign interventionists, like Eric Holder and Susan Rice, to win the cheers of liberals even as their own security files grow in the data warehouses of the world’s biggest spying agencies.

One cynic, commenting on the long-standing love affair between Obama and white liberals, observed that ‘the more he screws them the better they like him … Even as he marches them off to jail, they would take care to note on his behalf, that the barred windows have curtains – something Bush would never have allowed.’


For sheer span of broken promises, of systematic lies in pursuit of wars and financial manipulation in the name of peace and social justice , of consistent and bold aggrandizement of executive power over the life and death of US citizens in the name of security, Obama has set the standard of political deception and demagogy far beyond past and probable future US Presidents.

The political context of his ascent to power and his deep links to the military-financial-Zionist networks insured his success as a premier confidence man.
President George Bush, Jr., the cringing, fading war-monger engaged in prolonged, costly wars and facing the collapse of the entire banking and financial sector, provided Candidate Obama with an easy target. Obama exploited the mass revulsion of the American people, longing for change. His soaring rhetoric and vacuous promise of ‘change’ attracted millions of young activists … The problem is that in their enthusiasm and blind adherence to ‘identity politics’ with its claims that all ‘blacks’ and ‘women’ are oppressed and therefore guaranteed to promote peace and justice — facilitated Obama’s con-game and political hustle.

Obama, once in office, not only deepened and widened the scope of President Bush, Jr’s wars, massive spy apparatus and corporate profiteering; he bamboozled the vast majority of his liberal-labor supporters in the Democratic Party! Barack Obama conned the Democratic Party Congressional liberals and they, in turn, conned their constituents into supporting this fraud.

The costs of President Obama’s two-faced policies are enormous: democracy has given way to a police state openly defended by the President and Congressional leaders; Wall Street’s recovery and corporate profiteering is fast destroying public health and social security. Barack Obama’s multiple endless wars and interventions are destroying vast cities, infrastructure, entire cultures while killing and impoverishing millions of people from Libya to Palestine, from Syria to Iran. The economic sanctions against Iran, the provocative encirclement and isolation of China, and the campaign to destabilize Venezuela are the centerpieces of Obama’s ‘pivot to empire’. These policies portend even greater world-shattering catastrophes.

Unmasking the con-man is a first step requiring that we expose the tricks of the con-game. The politics of deception and demagogy thrives by directing popular attention to style and rhetoric, not substance. The solemn and pious cant of ‘Jimmy’ Carter distracted from his launch of the rabid Jihadists against the secular administration of Afghanistan . Uncle Ronald Reagan’s geniality and populist TV patter covered-up his blood baths in Central America and mass firing of the unionized air controllers and jailing of union leaders. ‘Bill’ Clinton’s show of empathy for the poor and embrace of ‘feel-good’ politics neutralized opposition as he bombed Yugoslavia into a pre-industrial age while his domestic policies kicked vulnerable single mothers from welfare programs. They all paled before the grand con-master Obama, billed as the ‘first black’ President, a community organizer (who disowned his sponsor into the black communities of Chicago, Rev. Wright, for his anti-war, anti-imperial stand) has capitalized on his racial credentials to garner the vote of guilty-ridden, soft-headed liberals and marginalized blacks in order to serve the interests of Wall Street and Israel.

Disarming these con-men and women requires exposing the nature of their demagogic populist styles and focusing on substantive politics. The decisive criteria need to be class politics that are defined by fundamental class alignments, between capital and labor regarding budgets, income, taxes, social spending, financing and property rights. ‘Shooting hoops’ in ghetto playgrounds is a con-man’s distraction while his budget cuts close hospitals and schools in black and poor neighborhoods.

The extravaganzas, featuring sports and entertainment celebrities to promote imperial wars, are the ‘con’ to undermine international solidarity for war victims and the unemployed. President Obama, the confidence man, is still performing while sowing destruction.

It’s time for the deceived, the disillusioned and the deprived to stand-up and shout! “We are deceived no more. Its time you were put on trial for Crimes against Humanity!”

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books).