December 5, 2008Change is Manifest -- A friend of mine has been telling me emphatically for months that Obama is a fraud, mocking his claim to be an agent of change, and now says that Obama's choices for his appointments are proof that it is true. Obama is appointing ex-Clinton people, even ex-Bush people like Robert Gates, the former head of the Federal Reserve, Wall Street titans, various establishment figures. Obama is just a young, black face on an old establishment. This has some validity. The change Obama offers is very limited. Those who expected Obama to usher in a new age of peace and love and prosperity may be disappointed, though I don't think I've run into anyone who has such extravagant expectations of him. He is not going to create something totally new. He's not going to pull down the international capitalist system. He is not starting with a clean slate. He's starting from the status quo and has to begin by dealing with the massive mechanisms of government as they are.
He's shown himself to be quite sophisticated about how those things work. I'm not trying to second guess him about what he is doing right now. He has to bear the responsibility for a collapsing financial system. I don't. As I see his program unfold, I'm not sure I think the way he is proceeding is such a bad strategy, even though I don't like the idea of someone from the Bush league being retained to head the Department of Defense. Many of Obama's actions have disappointed me. But if he is able to create a strong base, in which he has consolidated people from within the establishment representing a range of opinions within it, he may be more effective than if he brings in a bunch of hip, young dudes with stars in their eyes and tries to rebuild it from scratch.
Effective at what? you may ask. What good is effective if he's just extending the status quo that so badly needs to be changed? I would say effective at dealing with the very broadly based consensual issues, like derailing the utter collapse of the global financial system, and withdrawing from Iraq. This must all be assessed within the framework of how broken down the country is that the Bush-Cheney administration has left us. If Obama is able to achieve some success on some of these major fronts, having brought much of the establishment and opposition into his tent, he will be in a powerful position to move forward. I don't have illusions that he will follow an agenda that's tailored to my wishes. But I do disagree with people who say there is no change. I believe that change is already manifest. I think it's easier to see this point by turning attention away from Obama the individual personality and looking at the cultural and political movement that lifted him to where he is.
Obama is as much a product of change as he is an agent of it. Focusing on the cult of personality can distort things in either a favorable or unfavorable direction. It's easy to focus resentment on Obama because of what he is not. He is a product of the political system and has reached his present position as a result of his deft manuevering within that system. It's unrealistic to expect him to be totally apart from that system.
One could make the case that the global capitalist system is such an utter failure that it should be torn down, or left to die. It never supported vast numbers of people. It allowed a relative few to prosper by institutionalizing predatory actions towards the rest of the population and the natural world. Now it can't even function to support the rich.
In the '80s free market fundamentalism became so extreme that it set up expectations for profit that could often only be met by dismantling companies piece by piece and selling them off. Later when there was little left to dismantle, the big corporations began meeting their growth projections by cooking the books. Now that practice has bled the country dry. The system is bankrupt. It has devoured itself.
But while a part of of me may say, "Good! They got what they deserved! Let capitalism collapse!" we must remember that we are the system. We are its organic structure. If the capitalist system is going to collapse, we need to find a soft landing in some alternative or we may lose our means for survival. We need a transition from the failed capitalism of the present to some workable alternative. Probably the best we can hope for in the near future is something like Franklin Roosevelt enacted: a modified capitalism.
Howard Zinn calls Roosevelt his favorite president because of the sensitivity and effectiveness with which Roosevelt handled the crises of the Depression, but Zinn thinks Roosevelt didn't go far enough. Many will no doubt think Obama is not going far enough in many ways, but right now the stakes are high. Survival and stability are the first orders of business. Assembling heavy hitters from the establishment does not seem like a bad way to proceed right now. Getting caught up in oppositional stasis, and knee-jerk political tussling at a time like this could be fatal.
To make the point that change is already manifest we have to take measure of where we are, and of what we have left behind. It is important for "we the people" to take credit and responsibility for that change. If you think of change in terms of what the politicians and rulers grant to the people, it is easy to be resentful of the political class for having granted so little in terms of fundamental change. But positive change for the people has never been granted, it has always been seized. And if we look at this last wave of change in terms of what the population has done for itself, it is easier to find something to appreciate.
Indicative of the contrast between where we are and where we were -- we now have an elected president for the first time in this century. Flawed as our electoral system may be, he played it and he got more votes than his opponent. Bush, in contrast, did not achieve a majority of the votes and only succeeded in shoving his way into power by crudely manipulating the system through disenfranchising voters and getting help from low members of the high court. The population sat still and let it happen. Once in office he revealed his true character. After campaigning as a "Compassionate Conservative" he launched an aggressive far right agenda. And after squeaking in with a minority of voters behind him, he governed as if he had a huge mandate for an extreme agenda. He claimed dictatorial powers, even joked that "it would be easier if this were a dictatorship." He claimed the power to imprison anyone he wanted without charges, to hold prisoners as long as he wanted and to torture them. He claimed the authority to launch an unprovoked attack on any country his boys deemed a potential threat by virtue of the possession of military power. Again, the population and the political and media classes let him get away with it. In many countries with more vital political cultures, the population would not have stood for it. But Americans did. This was a very bad precedent and as long as it stood, and they remained in power -- committing one outrage after another -- it was a very bad thing for America. It was the responsibility of the American people to stop it. And we finally did.
Bush tore down the country, tore down the economy, broke the treasury, destroyed America's respect and credibility in the world. He claimed the Geneva conventions were not relevant anymore. He launched a war of choice against a defenseless country and killed hundreds of thousands of people. The damage he wrought is incalculable. We don't have to review every outrage again at the moment. What happened now is that the American people redeemed themselves. They finally had had enough. They remembered that democracy and human rights must be fought for and they got up and fought. In 2004, they came out in sufficient numbers to cast a majority of votes against Bush, even though the alternative was uninspiring and too much like Bush to present a clear alternative. But the numbers were not great enough to overcome the voting machine manipulations in Ohio and the public was once again stuck with Bush.
Having not been elected a second time, Bush went into his second term with barely 50 percent approval ratings, and it was all downhill from there. Finally in 2008, enough of the two-thirds of the public who were opposed to Bush and to his war came out and worked to end the tyrannical regime. This is the change that is manifest. We the people succeeded in throwing off the Bush addministration, in spite of its vast and ruthless power and its willingness to use anything as a political weapon. This milestone is not the completion of the cycle of change that is desperately needed now. It is only a start. But it is in itself a huge change. We have created a new atmosphere in which new things are possible.
Collectively the people of America and the rest of the earth have succeeded in pushing off the Bush-Cheney infection, a rogue regime that seized power and ruled through secrecy and fear. We have earned ourselves a new start. Now it is up to us collectively, through each of our actions, to determine the characteristics of this new world.
December 5, 2008A Glimpse of Hidden History -- In newly released audio tapes, LBJ accused Nixon of treason for his successful efforts to derail the Vietnam Paris peace talks by going directly to South Vietnam puppet dictator and telling him to hold out because he'd get a better deal with Nixon. But, According to Robert Parry at consortiumnews.com, the mainstream media is missing the point on the story. This was, perhaps, the first "October Surprise," perfected later when the Reagan campaign pulled a similar manueuver with the Iranians holding hostages before the 1980 election. According to Parry, "the AP article ignores the substantial body of evidence that Nixon and his presidential campaign did sabotage the peace talks, out of concern that a last-minute agreement would hurt Nixon and help his rival, Vice President Hubert Humphrey." This is a fascinating story, one of those moments when the veil tears and you can see the dark underside of American politics.
December 8, 2008Words -- This is the 28th anniversary of the murder of John Lennon and coincidentally I heard a couple of quotes in the film The American Experience: RFK, that apply to Lennon's death as they do to the deaths that Robert Kennedy referred to when he repeated them.
and when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.
-- William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Sc. 2
(Quoted by Robert Kennedy in reference to his brother.)
He who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.
(Quoted by Robert Kennedy at the death of Martin Luther King)
December 9, 2008More on Nixon's Treason -- Robert Parry explains the significance of the Johnson comment that Nixon was guilty of treason for sabotaging the Paris Peace Talks during the Vietnam war. See more below and at consortiumnews.com.
December 10, 2008What Change Is This? David Corn, writing in the Washington Post, lists the Obama appointments and summarizes the concerns with his leaning so far to the right.
Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson -- The truth will set you free. Lies will enslave you. The story of two airplanes bringing down the World Trade Center towers is a classic example of an enslaving lie. Two and two are five. None of you believe that 9/11 was what it was presented to be. Truth is at stake.
December 14, 2008Attack of the Lone Shoeman -- George Bush, the commander in chief, snuck into Iraq on one of his little surprise visits, and while he and the Iraqi prime minister held a press conference an Egyptian news correspondent hurled both his shoes at Bush's head, one at a time. See the historic moment on AOL.
December 16, 2008Slapstick Hero -- The Bush shoe-throwing incident is destined to go down among so many incidents in the Bush presidency as a comic moment in a tragic presidency. There was the choking on a pretzel story, the pictures of him walking into awall after a press conference in China. There are many incidents where Bush ends up playing the fool and one wonders if that is not ultimately his historical meaning. The dunce prince who took out the family car once too often, and then got handed the keys to the White House.
Bush's big point of pride throughout his young years was how he could get away with anything. His name or family influence always got him off of any offense. He knew no limits. He was a prince. No one dared mess with the Bush family. He behaved in the White House the same way. Dense and insensitive enough to not even realize the extent of the damage he has caused, he lives in a bubble. He dragged the U.S. into a war for bogus reasons, did the whole thing with a smirk on his face, hundreds of thousands of people were killed, untold damage to a civilization -- what do you expect? What does he expect? The loathing for him around the world -- but especially in Baghdad, Ground Zero of his aggressiveness -- has built up to uncontainable levels.
This was destiny, a room full of men who loathe Bush in a country that loathes Bush, who snickers at them while he destroys their country, and slips in and out of town like an escaped child molester. This guy just didn't want to see him get away with it, and knew millions the world over would cheer him for the gesture. "This is a farewell kiss, you dog!" This man is a hero to much of the world. Even in the polite western countries, who like to put up appearances with the president of the United States, there is little love for Bush.
And no way you could call it an attack or an attempt on his life. It was just a gesture, an emphatic one, no doubt. Very little damage could be caused by a flying shoe. It's like a pie in the face. It's a gesture of contempt and ridicule. It's very civilized compared to the states, where we just blow people away. In the scale of the suffering and damage Bush has unleashed upon the world, it's hard to feel to bad about a shoe flying close to George Bush's head, causing him to have to duck a little, momentarily almost wiping that smirk off his face.
December 18, 2008The Spread of Questions -- There is an interesting report at Op-Ed News about international speculation about 9/11 and concern with the holes in the official story. Notably, "In January 2008 Yukihisa Fujita, a member of the Democratic Party of Japan, asked the Japanese Parliament and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda to explain gaping holes in the official 9/11 story that various groups claim to have exposed." See also Fujita in Berlin and Former Senator Mike Gravel advocating an independent commission on 9/11.
Winter SolsticeSuspicious Circumstances -- Whenever a person who is a key figure in political events is killed, there is a great hush, a blanket of discouragement upon any speculation or attempt to find a political significance in the circumstances of the death. All such deaths in plane crashes of significant politicial figures whose existence was a threat to certain interests, are just assumed to be random happenings. But this death of Mike Connell, the Rove-Bush computer handyman, only a month and a half after he testified in Ohio about allegations of voting maching rigging, and before he was to testify again, is certainly very worthy of close scrutiny.
December 21, 2008
The early report in the Akron Beacon Journal doesn't even name him in the headline. It just calls him "pilot". Mike Connell is not a household name. But in fact, he is a person whose elimination the Rove-Bush-Cheney-etc. chain of shame would certainly find convenient. The Akron paper describes him as "a prominent Republican political consultant. He founded New Media Communications in Richfield, which developed campaign Web sites for Republican presidential candidate John McCain and President George W. Bush." This is no big stretch -- there was some very hot stuff going on here. AW come on, you say, American presidents don't carry on like gangsters! In the realm where the highest stake power plays in the world take place, is it unreasonable to assume the most extreme measures may some times be taken?
Connell was the guy who testified the day before the Nov. 4 election on allegations of vote fraud in Ohio, a man who might have been the link to incriminating Rove, and no doubt beyond him, in the vote fraud scheme that awarded Bush more votes than there were people in some districts of Ohio. Check out bradblog.com for more background. A July 24 story in Brad Blog story said that Connell's lawyer sent a letter to Attorney General Mukasey requesting protection for Connell because Rove was threatening him if he did not take the fall for the vote fraud case in Ohio. This is very serious, very hot stuff and very close to Rove, which means close to Bush, and you don't mess with these guys unless you are very well protected. Even the Libby prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald stopped short when his investigation reached Cheney. There is so much hanging on this case that it looks like if Connell had not died in a plane crash they would have had to murder him or risk the collapse of the Bush crime empire. Can't have that. The most remarkable thing is that he surived as long as he did.
Larisa Alexandrovna, writing at atlargely.com, says, Connell was "getting ready to talk. He was frightened." This is indeed very creepy and needs to be thoroughly investigated.
911 Cheney Connection -- A well-constructed summary. For non-Americans only. Americans forbidden to speculate! YouTube A Close One -- "The Bullet We Dodged," by Michael I. Niman at artvoice.com is a fascinating reiteration of things that were in place on election night, which show how things could have been very different. And having dodged the bullet, it would be well not to ignore the threat for the next time around. Freudian Slip? Dick Cheney told Tony Snow in 2006 that "we've never made the case or argued the case that somehow Osama bin Laden was directly involved in 9/11. That evidence has never been forthcoming." Was his guilty conscience giving him away? YouTube Transformative Figures -- Lawrence Lessig, a former colleague of Obama, discusses him on The Charlie Rose Show.
December 22, 2008Further Reporting the Connell Story -- There is an excellent article at BradBlog that furthers the inquiry about the death of Mike Connell, the Republican IT consultant who had testified in a vote fraud case in Ohio, was going to be deposed again and was said by his attorney to be under threat by Karl Rove and now on Dec. 19 died in a plane crash. As BradBlog points out, "Despite Connell's elite status as a top-rung Republican consultant for years --- he reportedly received some $800,000 from the Bush/Cheney campaign in 2004 alone --- the NYTimes, the nation's paper of record, has yet to run anything else on the death of the man who, Arnebeck notes, he had intended to both further depose, as well as call to testify as a key trial witness in the federal conspiracy case." Why is the Times so reluctant to ask the necessary question in any case where an important witness in a big case dies a violent death? Is it because this case involves high-profile political figures and not ordinary gangsters? They don't have to draw conclusions, but there are questions that must be asked in any such case. Fortunately there is global access to international press, and Americans can turn to the UK Telegraph for reporting on the case. Meanwhile, the Times tries to figure out how to mortgage its building to make ends meet. Wake up, NY Times! You are placing yourself outside of the news environment people live in now. All this "Mr. Bush" stuff. No one in real life calls him Mr. Bush. The New York Times is still reluctant to consider that the Warren Report is not an accurate portrayal of that particular murder. For more on the Connell case, see Scott Horton in Harper's.
Mark Crispin Miller discusses the Connell case on Democracy Now. Many Deaths in Election Business -- A high frequency of early, unexpected deaths among people in the voting machine tabulating business. See opednews.com The Entitled Ones -- Bank executives in the failed institutions that took a government bailout pocketed $1.6 billion of the bailout money for themselves as a reward for totally screwing things up. Merry Christmas, Suckas! Associated Press The Worst Ever -- A CNN poll showed 23 percent saying Cheney was the worst vice president ever. Another 41 percent just said he was a "poor" vice president.
December 23, 2008Disturbing Questions on Connell -- Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman, the lead investigators on the Ohio vote fraud case have written a definitive account of where things stand in the Ohio vote fraud case now after "The suspicious, disturbing death of election rigger Michael Connell" at freepress.org
Christmas EveThe Military State -- Not to disrupt the holiday mood, but here is a very sobering assessment of where we now stand, an article called "Obama, the military and the threat of dictatorship" at WSWS. Warning: Don't read before bedtime! Keep the brandy handy.
December 24, 2008
Closing In -- A career army specialist has sued Rumsfeld, Cheney and former US Air Force General Richard Myers, who was acting chairman of the joint chiefs on 9/11, alleging they engaged in conspiracy to facilitate the terrorist attacks and purposefully failed to warn those inside the Pentagon, contributing to injuries she and her two-month old son incurred. Raw Story
December 28, 2008Unacceptable -- How cynically convenient that the Israeli government chose Christmas weekend, when millions give themselves a break from the oppressiveness of world news, to launch a savage wave of mass murder on Gaza. Two hundred civilians dead last I heard from missile strikes on Gaza launched by the Israeli government. Why does the world not equate this behavior with the terrorism that was launched in Mumbai a month ago? This is simply not acceptable behavior in today's world, should not be accepted by the world community. I see no reason why this behavior is any more acceptable than apartheid in South Africa, which caused a boycott by practically the whole civilized world, or the attacks of 9/11, which were used to justify two wars. Terrorism is terrorism whether it is launched by Arab groups or the Israeli government or the U.S. government. It is not acceptable, and that should be the first premise in dealing with it. Devising an appropriate response is the second step. But the first principle of dealing with this situation is that terrorism, violent attacks on civilians is not an acceptable tool of power in the 21st century. If there is ever to be a "war on terror" that has any legitimacy or even any meaning, it must treat the terrorism committed by big states like the U.S., Israel or Russia equally to how it treats terrorism committed by Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah or any other group. The world community must recognize first -- before applying sanctions or anything else -- that this kind of violent action -- murder and terrorism -- is not acceptable no matter who commits it. It's not acceptable when the U.S. commits it. It's not acceptable when Russia commits it in Chechnya. And it's not acceptable when the Israelis commit it in Gaza.
December 29, 2008Killer Karl -- In the wake of the suspicious death of Mike Connell, a man whom Karl Rove needed eliminated, Mark Crispin Miller reviews the suspicious incidences of death in the wake of Karl Rove. opednews.com.
Legal Flames Lick Rumsfeld and Ashcroft -- Jonathan Tepperman, writes in Newsweek that there are legal processes in motion that could tie up Ashcroft and Rumsfeld over their responsibility for prisoner abuse. According to the article: "The United States, like many countries, has a bad habit of committing wartime excesses and an even worse record of accounting for them afterward. But a remarkable string of recent events suggests that may finally be changing -- and that top Bush administration officials could soon face legal jeopardy for prisoner abuse committed under their watch in the war on terror." opednews.com Barack and the Pack -- John Dean writes about James David Barber's study on predicting presidential behavior, which analyzes presidents in terms of types it calls active/positive, active/negative, passive/positive and passive/negative. Dean is optimistic about Obama. findlaw.com. Barack Goo Goo -- Paul Krugman makes some similar observations and historical parallels coming from a different direction. NY Times
December 30, 2008Truth Rising -- Dan Rather's lawsuit against CBS is beginning to set the record straight about Baby Bush's pathetic service record. Back when the Swift Boaters were slamming Kerry with false assertions that his military hero status was somehow not legitimate, Rather did a story shining a light on Bush's going AWOL when he was in the service and getting away with it, as he always did everything. The story was accurate, and the Bush people didn't deny it. But because it referred to one piece of evidence that was not authentic -- though its contents were accurate -- the story was squelcheded and Rather was fired. But Rather was not to be shut up for all time. He is now actively working to clear his name and reputation and stick CBS for $70 million for breach of contract. guardian.co, NPR.
400 Eyes for an Eye -- Norman Soloman writes, "Israel's airstrikes 'have killed at least 270 people so far, injured more than 1,000, many of them seriously, and many remain buried under the rubble so the death toll will likely rise,' Phyllis Bennis, of the Institute for Policy Studies, pointed out on Sunday, two days into Israel's attack. 'This catastrophic impact was known and inevitable, and far outweighs any claim of self-defense or protection of Israeli civilians.' She mentioned 'the one Israeli killed by a Palestinian rocket attack on Saturday after the Israeli assault began was the first such casualty in more than a year.'" truthout.org How They Think -- The El Paso Times reports that "a U.S. Army War College report warns [that] an economic crisis in the United States could lead to massive civil unrest and the need to call on the military to restore order." The Dr. Strangeloves of the military establishment now envision a scenario in which the economic calamity, brought on in part by the economic rape of the country by the defense industries, will lead to so much social unrest that the military will be called in to restore orders "reorient priorities" and jettison the constitution in favor of martial law, one of their favorite themes. The report says, "Widespread civil violence inside the United States would force the defense establishment to reorient priorities ... to defend basic domestic order and human security," the report said, in case of "unforeseen economic collapse," "pervasive public health emergencies," and "catastrophic natural and human disasters," among other possible crises. Bush's Destruction of the Legal System -- By Scott Horton in Harper's Magazine poses the legal questions facing the U.S. as Bush leaves office with a legacy of war crimes. "This administration did more than commit crimes. It waged war against the law itself. It transformed the Justice Department into a vehicle for voter suppression, and it also summarily dismissed the U.S. attorneys who attempted to investigate its wrongdoing. It issued wartime contracts to substandard vendors with inside connections, and it also defunded efforts to police their performance. It spied on church groups and political protesters, and it also introduced a sweeping surveillance program that was so clearly illegal that virtually the entire senior echelon of the Justice Department threatened to (but did not in fact) tender their resignations over it. It waged an illegal and disastrous war, and it did so by falsely representing to Congress and to the American public nearly every piece of intelligence it had on Iraq. And through it all, as if to underscore its contempt for any authority but its own, the administration issued more than a hundred carefully crafted "signing statements" that raised pervasive doubt about whether the president would even accede to bills that he himself had signed into law." This excellent article makes the case that the Bush administration's crimes cannot be simply swept under the rug. " Open criminality is a cancer on democracy. It implicates all who know of the conduct and fail to act," writes Horton. This is also a good time to review a piece by Jonathan Schell called "Healing the Law". commondreams.org. ThoughtTwist -- Robert Parry points out "Two Dangerous Bush-Cheney Myths" at consortiumnews.com. "As George W. Bush and Dick Cheney make their case for some positive legacy from the past eight years, two arguments are playing key roles: the notion that torturing terror suspects saved American lives and the belief that Bush's Iraq troop 'surge' transformed a disaster into something close to 'victory.'"
December 31, 2008Double Standard -- Demonstrators gathered near Obama's vacation retreat in Hawaii to complain that he is not making a statement against the attacks in Gaza though he did make a statement condemning attacks in Mumbai. yahoo
-- David Cogswell