The Madness Continues --
March 1, 2009Speak to me of Fiscal Responsibility -- George Stephanopoulos had Karl Rove on as one of his Roundtable pundits. I'm constantly amazed at how often the corporate media elevates criminals, like Gordon Liddy and Oliver North, to the role of pundits, analysts. Now we have Rove, who is a fugitive dodging a handful of subpoenas from Congress, and credibly a suspect in a number of crimes. There was the colossally arrogant Rove, speaking as if he still ran the world, as though his role in the Bush administration gave him the authority to espouse the theories of sound economics. His set now has its jaws locked on the pantleg of Obama and everyone trying to undo the disastrous Bush legacy, and have taken on the holy mantle of fiscal conservatism, which Republicans love to preach when they are out of power, but never observe when they are in power. The phony Iraq war, launched on false pretenses justified with false information, still drains billions from the U.S. economic system every week, nearly six years after it started.
According to Raw Story, "The costs of maintaining a US presence in Iraq now runs a tab of about $435 million a day -- $3 billion a week, or $12 billion a month. The US has siphoned some $500 billion taxpayer dollars into Iraq, for a war that was supposed to be 'sharp' and brief. Interest payments add another $615 billion, and the price tag of repairing a depleted military is projected at $280 billion."
Now after blowing the Clinton surplus and digging deeply into deficits, financing a war while giving tax breaks and no-bid contracts and other handouts to their corporate buddies, the Republican dodos are suddenly preaching fiscal conservatism. Did they think no one would notice the contradiction?
But as nauseating as it was to see Rove's smug, pudgy face, it turned into a gratifying experience when Rove went up against The Nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel and Stan Greenburg, who proved more than up to the task of putting Rove in his place. You can see the encounter here and some background on the shoot here.
In the offstage footage Greenberg says he found it funny that Bobby Jindall used the handling of Katrina as an example of how governments can't solve problems. As Greenberg pointed out, it was essentially saying that since the Republicans proved themselves completely incompetent to handle a national emergency, that government itself is unworkable.
And in other news...
GOP Commandoes -- Consortium News has a number of intriguing articles this week. Including the one in which Iran Contra reporter Robert Parry talks about the Republican hit squad that is gathering to destroy the Obama agenda, or any agent of the change demanded by the citizenry in the last election. Investigations and Commissions -- According to Jason Leopold, "In one week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy says he will begin establishing a 'commission of inquiry' to investigate the Bush administration's use of torture and other abuses of power, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is objecting to his plan of granting immunity to some witnesses. In an interview with Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC program Wednesday, Pelosi called Leahy's investigative plan 'a good idea,' but objected to immunity that could prevent prosecutors from holding Bush administration officials accountable for crimes in a court of law."
The Real Government -- Lisa Pease discusses the story Seven Days in May, the book by Fletcher Knebel, John F. Kennedy's comments on the book, the attempted coup against Franklin D. Roosevelt driven by some of the most prominent families of America. The underlying principle is that each president must learn at some point that there are powers greater than that of the office of president.
March 8, 2009Slamming Doors in the Republican Mind -- Funny how these Republicans are. They are creating some drama saying that the stimulus bill spends too much. They say that Roosevelt's New Deal didn't end the Depression, it was World War II that ended the Depression. Their logic is that the domestic spending of the New Deal was not what ended the depression, it was World War II. War is good, domestic spending is bad. But what was it about World War II that ended the Depression? Was it the killing? The butchery? No, it was the spending. It was the fact that when it came to war, there was no longer any limit on spending, so it was finally possible to crank enough cash into the system to charge it enough to pull out of the Depression. What was wrong with the New Deal was that it didn't spend enough. But the Republican mind is a fundamentalist mind. It thinks in terms of clinging to dogma, not thinking things through. So it will go far enough to say it was WWII that ended the Depression to the extent that it supports the fundamentalist dogma that domestic spending is bad and war is the only thing that has ever worked, and that government should get out of the way and let free markets do whatever they do, even when they collapse and rob millions of their life savings. But they won't take that next step and say why WWII ended the Depression, because that would shatter their premise. They would rather be right than survive. So what if their position on global warming leads to human extinction? Right is right. So what if their economic fundamentalism leads to collapse of the global financial system. We can't spend money on all those losers. It's okay to give money to the rich. They aren't losers. They are just having a bad day.
Obama Administration Extends Bush Policies on Secrecy -- The Obama administration is following the Bush administration in its conduct in regard to a lawsuit brought by the Oregon chapter of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a Saudi Arabian charity that was shut down in 2004 on evidence that it was financing al Qaeda. Al-Haramain sued the Bush Administration in 2005, claiming it had been illegally wiretapped. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The Obama Justice Department has adopted a legal stance identical to, if not more aggressive than, the Bush version. It argues that the court-forced disclosure of the surveillance programs would cause 'exceptional harm to national security' by exposing intelligence sources and methods. Last Friday the Ninth Circuit denied the latest emergency motion to dismiss, again kicking matters back to Judge Walker." Of course the Journal delights in this and has the Obama administration either way. If they opposed the Bush position, they would be simpering liberals giving an open door to terrorists. If they take the hard line they are taking in defending "national security" interests, the Journal says, "Then again, we are relearning that the "Imperial Presidency" is only imperial when the President is a Republican. Democrats who spent years denouncing George Bush for "spying on Americans" and "illegal wiretaps" are now conspicuously silent. Yet these same liberals are going ballistic about the Bush-era legal memos released this week." It all depends on your point of view. There is such a rich tapestry of legal issues to draw upon, it's always possible for a clever rhetorician like Rush Limbaugh to pick out some things that support its point of view. How Do Yoo Do? The Obama administration is also following the Bush administration in its attempts to get a judge to throw out a lawsuit against Bush's lawyer John Yoo, who came up with Bush's legal justifications for torture. According to the New York Times, the lawsuit by "Mr. Padilla" (the Times doesn't give us his first name) claims the Yoo memos were used to justify his own imprisonment and torture. Shine a Light -- Chomsky sorts through the confusion of the economic mess. Helpful. "Robin Hahnel had a couple of very good articles about this recently in economics journals," he says. "But this is first year economics course stuff — markets are inefficient; these are some of their inefficiencies; there are many others. They can be controlled by some degree of regulation, but that was dismantled under religious fanaticism about efficient markets, which lacked empirical support and theoretical basis; it was just based on religious fanaticism. So now it's collapsing." Chomsky says he believes the breakdown of the Bretton Woods regulatory system in the 1970s is "the major economic event since 1945," of more importance than the fall of the Soviet Union. From 1950 to 1970 the U.S. had strong and egalitarian economic growth, and the regulatory system helped to keep it on track. Since the regulations were repealed in the '70s we've had more booms and crashes, it's more volatile, and the growth has all been received by the top of the economic scale. In adjusted dollars middle class Americans are back to about 1960, he says. "There's a lot of wailing now about 'socializing' the economy by bailing out financial institutions. Yeah, in a way we are, but that's icing on the cake. The whole economy's been socialized since — well actually forever, but certainly since the Second World War. This mythology that the economy is based on entrepreneurial initiative and consumer choice, well ok, to an extent it is. For example at the marketing end, you can choose one electronic device and not another. But the core of the economy relies very heavily on the state sector, and transparently so. So for example to take the last economic boom which was based on information technology — where did that come from? Computers and the Internet. Computers and the Internet were almost entirely within the state system for about 30 years — research, development, procurement, other devices — before they were finally handed over to private enterprise for profit-making." Z mag.
March 4, 2009Worthwhile Links -- Lost Republicans -- Bleating as they stride off deeper into the the wilderness the Republicans are preferring Palin as their presidential candidate for 2012. politicalwire.com.
Obama Challenges Corporate Lobbies: "The system we have now might work for the powerful and well-connected interests that have run Washington for far too long," he said, "but I don't. I work for the American people... I know these steps won't sit well with the special interests and lobbyists who are invested in the old way of doing business, and I know they're gearing up for a fight. My message to them is this: So am I." He went on to say that insurance companies won't like having "to bid competitively to continue offering Medicare coverage, but that's how we'll help preserve and protect Medicare and lower health care costs. I know that banks and big student lenders won't like the idea that we're ending their huge taxpayer subsidies, but that's how we'll save taxpayers nearly $50 billion and make college more affordable. I know that oil and gas companies won't like us ending nearly $30 billion in tax breaks, but that's how we'll help fund a renewable energy economy."Associated Press. State Secrets Defense Doesn't Wash -- An Islamic charity won a ruling in the Ninth Circuit Court in a case against the government for illegal surveillance. The Obama administration has been continuing along the lines of the Bush administration, arguing that national security would be compromised if a lawsuit brought by Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation was allowed to proceed. A judge has denied the administration's request for a stay in the case, so now it will go forward. What will happen? oregonlive.com. And the battle rages on. According to The Washington Independent, "Late on Friday, the Justice Department's lawyers filed a brief with a federal district court in California challenging the court's power to carry out its own order. The government lawyers insisted that the court has no right to make available to the opposing lawyers in the case a classified document regarding the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program, even though the document is critical to the lawsuit, the lawyers can obtain the necessary top-secret security clearances, and the document would not be released publicly." They are fighting to suppress a document the Bush administration already released to the plaintiffs, "inadvertently," it said. Then called for it back. The lawyers have already seen it. All Together, Say 'Socialism!' (With feeling!) The Right has settled on its bad word to scare the public away from reform. "Socialism". New York Times. A Floridian told me the other day, "My Cuban friends in Florida tell me they are seeing a lot of signs of socialism." I said, "You mean 'socialism' as per Fidel Castro? There are many kinds of socialism. Social Security and Medicare are forms of socialism that I don't hear people complaining about too much these days. If you want Stalinism, like secret detentions, the ability of a unitary executive to throw anyone he wants into jail without charging them with anything, to hold them for years and torture them, to keep the entire public under surveillance, you got that under George Bush." Recovery Based on What? "How Can U.S. Recover Without Manufacturing Capacity?" asks an article in blackagendareport.com. "You can't put people to work in American factories that don't exist. A true national recovery effort would mean re-industrialization, on a grand scale and a green model, through massive direct federal creation of state-owned industries independent of the finance capitalists who murdered American manufacturing and then blew up their own businesses on Wall Street. But this is already nearly impossible, since President Obama is committed to saving the banking class through unlimited infusions of public money, and then allowing these reborn zombies to resume their roles as lords of development. The bankster parasites have neither the capacity nor the intention to build anything other than mountains of debt for the rest of us. Therefore, Obama's partnership with them spells doom for national recovery. Like Billy Preston said, 'Nothin' from noth in' leaves nothin''. The U.S. cannot create the conditions for economic health without rebuilding a manufacturing capacity. And the remnants of Wall Street have nothing to contribute to an economic recovery, but an infinite capacity to steal." Afghans: Send Scholars Not Soldiers -- According to the Christian Science Monitor, "Parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai says she has an innovative amendment to Washington's planned injection of up to 30,000 new troops here. 'Send us 30,000 scholars instead. Or 30,000 engineers. But don't send more troops - it will just bring more violence.'" Time for Reason -- Bush-Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Iran is not close to having a nuclear weapon. Therefore there is time to negotiate. Reuters Pray for Peace -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in the Middle East to begin working on making peace. "The United States is expected to pledge more than $900 million at Monday's one-day conference in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The funds are aimed at post-conflict recovery in Gaza after Israel's military offensive in December." Reuters Another World is Possible -- Jan Lundberg at culturechange.org envisions an alternative progression to that which industrial society is now on. "In 1991 I wrote in the Spring 1992 edition of Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, that the U.S. socioeconomic failure would be worse than the Soviet Union's collapse, because we were so petroleum-dependent compared to the Russians who on the household level were growing their own potatoes," writes Lundberg. "Through the 1990s I predicted collapse of the U.S. economy due to the coming global peak of oil extraction, in our Auto-Free Times magazine which became Culture Change. I have also predicted an eventual Ecotopian outcome, even in the U.S. that I've jokingly called the United Paved Precincts of Amerika. I have learned that the kind of economy and social structure we have been living under is lacking in any sound foundation for long-term continuity. In fact, our survival is threatened by our present system. The political solutions that have been allowed to circulate are really economic band-aids that do not threaten the power structure. This is a prime reason it is so hard to predict where we are going to end up as a people. Our culture and Western Civilization are so threatened from within -- the system's own contradictions and failures -- that collapse prevents us from imagining in much detail what kind of new (or traditional, close-to-nature) culture or society can be around the corner. Likewise, technology worship and clinging to material things hold us back." Tainted Messages -- Robert Parry on Obama's battle with the right wing and the place of a conservatively biased media in the struggle. consortiumnews.com. The Fuhrer in His Mind -- According to Jason Leopold at Consortium News, "Lawyers for George W. Bush's Justice Department asserted that the President had unlimited powers to prosecute the "war on terror" on American soil and could ignore constitutional rights, including First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press and Fourth Amendment requirements for search warrants, according to nine secret memos just released." Bush could suspend free speech, lock up anyone he wanted, even launch military strikes in U.S. cities if he, in his great wisdom, judged that his targets were terrorists.
March 6, 2009
Bush's Dictatorship -- According to Harper's columnist and international human rights lawyer Scott Horton, "We may not have realized it at that time, but in the period from late 2001 to January 19th, 2009, this country was a dictatorship." (See Countdown with Keith Olbermann) Although the newly revealed Bush Justice Department memos shed new light on Bush's attempt to give himself absolute power, it was not a secret. It was in the Patriot Act. Bush gave himself power to put anyone in jail he wanted, not to have to bother to charge them or give them access to the judicial system. He was the final arbiter. If he decided someone was a terrorist, he could put them away and leave them as long as he wanted. And he did it. He put many people in jail and let them just stay there. The Bush administration finally disavowed the memos just before Bush left office, and some have said that the elements of one-man rule that technically made the U.S. a dictatorship were not used much. But they were used, and for the people who gave up years of their lives and their physical and mental well being to go to jail without recourse to legal defense, the dictatorship was real enough.
March 10, 2009In their sties with all their backing they don't care what goes on around,
in their eyes there's something lacking, what they need's a damn good whacking
--George Harrison, "Piggies"
In the Ruins -- I went out to Target today to buy some dog food for my cats -- what a kaleidoscope of of color and motion! There were endless aisles of merchandise, consumer goods you never imagined, people running hither and thither clutching treasures, handling things, studying things, women preening in mirrors, a great multicultural festival. We're talking Jersey City, this is the heart of the northeastern megalopolis. Not exactly boomtown. But it sure didn't look like much of a Depression going on there.
Far be it from me to underestimate the global financial collapse that is taking place at this moment. On the contrary. If anything, I think it is probably going to be much more profound than the TV news pundits are telling us, than even the brainy Barack Obama is able to elucidate at the moment. We have no model for that which awaits us. It is a collapse of a vast scale. But just what will remain when the present system collapses? It is the question in everyone's mind. I don't think even the financial masters of the world know exactly where this is going.
But no matter what the impossible numbers of the financial system do, it will have to be translated to a human scale. The numbers have all been stretched to accommodate a fantasy economic system. It was fake. How far will the effort go to prop up the old, failed system, to put the corrupt, ineffective controlling institutions back into power? It's inconceivable that the public is collectively bailing out a private banking system that used every advantage to tip the playing field in its favor, that rigged the system so the house always wins, and still couldn't hold itself together. Its own greed and fantastically distorted notion of expanding profit is what decimated it. It robbed us on the way up and now that it's back down on the ground it is going to rob us again in order to put itself back into position as our master. It is indeed inconceivable, but it is happening. Will it stand? Will the public lie servile while it happens?
We all hope for as smooth a transition as possible, but the status quo, or that of a year ago, is not on the table. It has been proven unsustainable. Markets must be managed, regulated. The free market fundamentalism was founded on dogma, not knowledge. It was not scientific and in fact was not borne out by events. Businesses will all work to maximize profit, each for its own interest. There must be a civic entity that watches out for the public interest. Quite simple and fundamental to the most primitive societies, but blasted into the realm of forbidden speech in an environment with the free market ideology was a fervent religion. So how does our society make the transition. So far it's applying band aids to arterial bleeding of a system that has been running on fraudulent principles since the '80s. Much more radical steps have to be taken in the meantime, and Obama seems to understand that he has limited time to act to begin to create a new economy as the old one falls to dust, just like the metaphor of this whole period, the WTC collapse.
What is likely to maintain some continuity, I guess, will be the basics. The people, the essential resources of the nation in the people and the land, the atmosphere, the traditions and history of America. Most of the actual productivity of the country actually still exists, theoretically, if you wipe away the economic and political system of the world. The world will have an economic system one way or another, but it doesn't have to be a continuation of the old with a few bandaids. In fact, it can't be. That one is dead. The Republicans who are rolling out the same rhetoric of the Gingrichics in the '90s are out of it. They are living in a pretend world.
The banks have devoured themselves in greed. But what will replace the old? Certainly the principles of the free market will continue to be a strong influence in the next world, but the religious adherence to laissez faire capitalism is done. The great creative and productive capacity of the people is not diminished. The shifting of contexts when things get shaken up spurs creativity. It is our culture that is strong, our people. Now we are in the ruins of the old world. Now we'll see what takes its place. We will build its successor.
March 12, 2009Cheney Assassination Ring -- Ace journalist Seymour Hersh let slip some information on a project he is working on about an ongoing covert military operation that he called an "executive assassination ring.". (Minnesota Post) According to Hersh, "After 9/11, I haven't written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven't been called on it yet. That does happen. Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command -- JSOC it's called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. ...Congress has no oversight of it. It's an executive assassination ring essentially, and it's been going on and on and on. Just today in the Times there was a story that its leaders, a three star admiral named [William H.] McRaven, ordered a stop to it because there were so many collateral deaths. Under President Bush's authority, they've been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That's been going on, in the name of all of us. It's complicated because the guys doing it are not murderers, and yet they are committing what we would normally call murder. It's a very complicated issue. Because they are young men that went into the Special Forces. The Delta Forces you've heard about. Navy Seal teams. Highly specialized. In many cases, they were the best and the brightest. Really, no exaggerations. Really fine guys that went in to do the kind of necessary jobs that they think you need to do to protect America. And then they find themselves torturing people. I've had people say to me -- five years ago, I had one say: ‘What do you call it when you interrogate somebody and you leave them bleeding and they don't get any medical committee and two days later he dies. Is that murder?"
March 14, 2009The Monstrous Machine of the Future -- I was reading Boris Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago recently, for whatever random reasons one is drawn to a particular book at a given moment, and I came upon descriptions of a feeling that reminded me of the present in some ways. It was the feeling of being at a point in history when huge changes are taking place, beyond the control of anyone. In the part I was reading, Zhivago has just returned from the World War I front, where he worked as a medic. The war is finally fizzling out and from its ashes rises the revolution. Russia is at the end of one calamity and the beginning of another. It's a strange interim, full of anticipation of a future about which little can be known. At a social event among friends the doctor makes a speech. "Unprecedented, extraordinary events are approaching," he says. "Before they burst upon us, here is what I wish for you: May God grant that we don't lose each other and we don't lose our souls. In this third year of the war the people have become convinced that the difference between those on the front lines and those at the rear will soon vanish. The sea of blood will rise until is reaches every one of us and submerge all who stayed out of the war. The revolution is this flood. During the revolution it will seem to you, as it seems to us at the front, that life has stopped, that there is nothing personal left, that there is nothing going on in this world except killing and dying." In this uncanny moment of false calm before the onset of a vicious storm, Zhivago, "realize that he was a pygmy before the monstrous machine of the future; he was anxious about this future and loved it and was secretly proud of it, and as though for the last time, as if in farewell, he avidly looked at the trees and clouds and the people walking in the streets, the great Russian city Struggling through misfortune -- and was ready to sacrifice himself for the general good, and could do nothing."
I often think of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the symbolic finality of the collapse of the Soviet Empire, when I think of big changes that can happen even though people are so habituated to things the way they are that they can't believe things can change. I had a conversation one morning a few years ago with someone who recited the story about Reagan winning the Cold War because he spent so much money on arms that the Soviets tried to match him and couldn't so it broke their bank and brought down the whole thing. I always thought that was a convenient little myth that would support the fraud of "defense spending", as well as the idea that the U.S. with its free market system was inherently more productive than the Soviet system. The latter proposition may be true in a relative sense, but it is not a clear-cut black-and-white distinction. The command economy of the Soviets may have been ultimately a failure, but unfettered free markets are not perfect either, as we have seen.
I told my friend who had told the Reagan Cold War story that I didn't believe it. He asked me what I thought it was that did bring down the Soviet Union. I said I thought it was history. It was the anti-historical efforts of the Soviet bosses to control information and isolate its people from the West in the information age. I gave people like the Beatles as much credit for bringing down the Soviet Union as Reagan. I think those battles are won with ideas, not guns. "They were trying to run an empire in the information age," I said. "And these guys in our government are making some of the same mistakes, trying to run an empire."
Even though for years I could talk about the self destructiveness of the behavior of the Bush-Cheney mob, it's still startling to see the degree to which they did tear this country down, and the state they left us in. We still don't know how the chain reactions of these failures are going to play out all together. The idiot Republican message is to blame Obama for everything from even before he took office, not even bothering to create a credible argument, rather opting for the strength of the technique of incessantly repeating the Big Lie.
The point is, that it looks like Reagan's arms race first broke the Soviet Union and now it has practically broken the U.S. They became what they beheld.
What Kind of World? In any case, no one -- no one -- knows where this is headed. Billionaires are losing fortunes. We are definitely in a new frontier. What kind of a world are we in when the biggest news story of the day on the major news stations is a report of an interview on Comedy Central's Daily Show. CNN and MSNBC were playing clips from Jon Stewart's interview with Jim Cramer, the financial analyst/clown of CNBC.
A few nights before, Stewart had deconstructed Cramer with a few rapid-fire video clips of Cramer urging people to buy stocks of companies on the verge of collapse, as well of shots of Cramer yelling abuses about bailing out "losers" who lost their homes, while never questioning the bailing out of failed banks. Cramer, the story goes, complained about Stewart's skewering of him and in the exchange that followed agreed to go on Stewart's show to be interviewed. Which has to be one of the stupidest things he could have done.
I get the picture of a guy who wants attention so desperately he doesn't care if it's a public flogging, as long as people are looking. Earlier in the day he appeared with Stewart, he appeared on the Martha Stewart show and participated in a bread-making project. He had a few strikes against him going on the Stewart show, enough that would have made nearly any mildly intelligent human being avoid the public confrontation. One disadvantage for him was that it's Stewart's show. He controls the format. He can can snap his fingers and the audience will see whatever video clip he has queued up. Just the clips of Cramer on Martha Stewart were enough to make him a laughing stock, without even turning to thousands of extremely embarrassing clips from Cramer's own shows.
Besides the fact that it was Stewart in control of the show, Stewart is much smarter, better informed, quicker, a better debater, and most important of all -- right. Cramer has no defense. He has nothing to say in his own defense. He did a lot of shrugging, the actual physical gesture, throwing up his hands, widening his eyes and pursing his lips in a lame gesture of helplessness. Yeah, we coulda done better, we shoulda done better, I wish we'da done better...
Stewart was saying, you led those people to slaughter, you told your audience to buy and if they took your word they lost their shirts. He showed footage of Cramer offstage admitting that he knew how much of the Wall Street scams are conducted, but he still maintained his show as if the abuses did not exist. In effect, Stewart said, you and your type of Wall Street hustler used the innocent, mainstream investor to finance your casino-style markets. The financial network CNBC led people to invest, did not responsibly report on the abuses that they knew about. "The CEO lied to me..." Cramer said. There was a time, Stewart said, when a journalist would have checked up on the answer, not just assumed the CEO was telling the truth.
Stewart dropped the usual format of show, and just brought Cramer out at almost the beginning of the show. Even more important than changing the format of the show, it was not a comedy show. It wasn't that funny. It was congenial, but it was deadly serious. So what kind of world are we living in when the host of a comedy show is the toughest interviewer and is featured on most of the news shows because it was more serious than any of their own reporting. It reminds me of a talk I saw by Robert Anton Wilson. A very trippy guy, Wilson was talking about chaos theory and fractals. He showed a graph of a curve of the growth of information over the centuries, and made the case that the amount of information in our world is growing at a mind-numbing, accelerating rate. The more information in the system, he said, the more chance of it generating fractals, which he defined as unpredictable unpredictable events. These he distinguished from predictable unpredictable events. It's sort of like there is what you know you don't know and then there is what you don't know that you don't know. There are unpredictable events within a known context. We know the stock market will not be predictable day to day, nor will the weather. But then there are events that lie outside of our expectations, outside the known paradigms. Wilson (who may have been stoned) said we should be expecting to see more and more completely whacky things happening that fall outside of previous expectations. As an example, he described the Pope standing up some day out of the blue and saying, "I don't know why I'm wearing this hat and all this garb. I'm really just an ordinary person. I don't know any more than anyone else. I'm a celibate, for Christ's sake, what the hell am I talking to you about marriage for?"
Killer Dick's Murder Incorporated -- But you have stories like the one about the Cheney assassination squad, and no one bats an eye. How evil could Cheney really be. If someone had suggested this a few years ago, he would have been attacked as a lunatic. Of course Seymour Hersh, who mentioned the assassination team, is pretty much beyond reproach. But the story hasn't been picked up by any major media yet. There are so many bizarre events people have become immune.
Stalinist Left Wing Democrats -- Jon Stewart's dismembering of Jim Cramer was even featured on CNN's Lou Dobbs Show in between rants about "Stalinist left wing Democrats" and such. Dobbs sounds ludicrous when he talks of left-wing Democrats, some extinct species. Either he doesn't know or doesn't want to admit, there is no left wing in the U.S. There's the right wing and there's the other 90 percent of the people. What he portrays as left wing is the mainstream. Who even knows what the left wing is anymore, if there is such a thing? It's such a long way out of sight. Last summer Dobbs blamed the financial crisis on "left wing groups like ACORN." (see crooksandliars.com)
Meanwhile, some good reading on the Internet...
Trickle Up -- Jim Hightower at creators.com, writes about the right wing spin on class war, which they allege is being perpetrated by Obama, not Bush or Reagan. Says Hightower: "Brooks and his political brethren are now bemoaning the plight of the plutocrats, assailing the 'redistributionists' who talk of spreading America's wealth. In his column, Brooks cried out for a conservative vision of 'a nation in which we're all in it together — in which burdens are shared broadly, rather than simply inflicted on a small minority.' Do we look like we have suckerwrappers around our heads? Where were these tender-hearted champions of sharing throughout the last 30 years, when that same 'small minority' was absolutely giddy with redistributionist fervor — redistributing upward, that is?"
March 17, 2009What a Trillion Looks Like -- globalresearch.ca
America's Weimar Moment -- Don't count the right wing out just yet. commondreams.org
March 22, 2009Evil Dick Cheney -- The malevolent, paranoid former vice president stuck his head out recently to be interviewed and to slam Obama and say he is "making us less safe" by changing Bush policies such as torture or holding people without trial. Oh you can see in his eyes that nothing would thrill him more than to see another 9/11 style attack. "See? Didn't I tell you? I was right?" He's a sick creature. He set records for low approval ratings. He's despised. The American people have his number. They know he is evil. Even if they don't think Bush is evil, they known Cheney is. RRRRRRR, he growls, they are destroying what we built! As Jon Stewart pointed out, Cheney is more visible now than when he was vice president. Breaking precedent by being a former vice president who immediately comes out great guns against a successor when the new administration has barely had time to even put its mark on the office. It's still the world Bush and Cheney created. It's still hurtling downward. God knows how long it will be before the descent can even be arrested, let alone its direction reversed. But the right wing is busy with its usual all-out war to bring down its opposition with any deadly force available.
When I used to see how many of the old Nazi techniques the Bush administration put into effect, it would bring to mind a comparison with the Germany of the 1930s. But I found it amazing that the Bush administration was able to subvert so much of the democratic process during a relatively prosperous period. The Nazis used the chaos of economic collapse to help them seize power. Bush used 9/11. But though Bush took power in a time of relative prosperity, he created the circumstances that mirror those of the 1930s when the Nazis took power. Now we have Obama in office, who shows much more liberal tendencies than Bush. But the circumstances are leading toward social chaos that can be used by tyrants to clamp down on a population.
Robert Freeman discusses this historical parallel in "The US Is Facing a Weimar Moment" (see commondreams.org). These are not pleasant propositions to contemplate. Nevertheless, it is good to have one's eyes open. Freeman has followed it up now with a second installment: "Does America Face the Risk of a Fascist Backlash?" (alternet.org) "Thanks to Republican policies of massive debt and shipping jobs abroad, the U.S. has technically become a colony of China," writes Freeman. "It exports raw materials and imports finished goods, together with the capital to make up the difference. Should the Chinese decide not to lend the trillions of dollars the U.S. is begging for, the U.S. economy will implode, plummeting onto itself in a World Trade Center-like collapse that will leave dust clouds circling the planet for decades. Notwithstanding the destruction inflicted on the economy by Republican policies, the most devastating breakdown is in the intellectual foundation on which right wing economic ideology itself is premised. Free market doctrine, the secular religion of right-wing America, is in utter, irretrievable shambles. One of the most lofty tenets on which free markets are premised is their claim for themselves that they are 'efficient,' that is, that market prices always reflect 'fundamental values' of assets. But if that's true, how could the world's largest insurance company, AIG, have lost 99.5% of its market value in only 18 months? How could the world's largest bank, Citibank, have lost 98% of its value over the same period?"
Pants Down -- According to The Guardian, "A former diplomat at the centre of events in the run-up to the Iraq war revealed yesterday that the government has a 'paper trail' that could reveal new information about the legality of the invasion. Carne Ross, who was a first secretary at the United Nations in New York for the Foreign Office until 2004, told MPs: 'A lot of facts about the run-up to this war have yet to come to light which should come to light and which the public deserves to know.' There were also assessments by the joint intelligence committee which had not been disclosed, Ross told the Commons public administration select committee. He told the inquiry that the intelligence made it 'very clear' that Saddam Hussein did not pose a significant threat to the UK, as was being claimed at the time by ministers, and that tougher enforcement of sanctions could have brought his regime down." More Scary Reports -- According to TomDispatch, "That building was completed as 2007 ended and yet, were you to peer through a window into the gloom beyond, you would make out only a cavernous space of concrete, pillars, and pipes. All those 'square feet' and not the slightest evidence that any business is moving in any time soon. Across Broadway, the same thing is true of the other tower. That once hopeful paean to an 'expanding' and 'affluent' neighborhood now seems like a notice from a lost era. Those signs, already oddly forlorn only months after our world began its full-scale economic meltdown, now seem like messages in a bottle floating in from BC: Before the Collapse. And it's not just new buildings having problems either, judging by the increasing number of metal grills and shutters over storefronts in mid-day, all that brown butcher paper covering the insides of windows, or those omnipresent 'for rent' and 'for lease' signs hawking 'retail space' with the names, phone numbers, and websites of real estate agents."
March 25, 2009Real Life Horror Show -- Check it out. Judge for yourself. Alex Jones on Obama and the state of things. The Obama Deception.
March 26, 2009Feeling perplexed? Thank you. Anyone have any idea what is going on? Check out Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone: "The Big Takeover". This is good stuff.
March 28, 2009Break Up the Banks -- If they are too big to fail without forcing economic collapse and making taxpayers bail them out, they are too big. Sign a petition at democrats.com.
March 30, 2009It was wonderful to get rid of Bush and Cheney, and to stop the charge of mad McCain and Palin, but the new agenda increasingly resembles the old and it brings to mind the painful reality that there are much more powerful forces behind the politicians who occupy the stage and the real power has not changed hands. How to make sense of this mad state of confusion when the population of the world seems to have a dagger pointed at its throat, and who exactly is wielding the weapon? It's very hard to sort through it. Meanwhile, events are moving quickly. The Alex Jones film "The Obama Deception" raises some very troubling questions. Is Obama really a figurehead for an oligarchy of financial interests? Or is he really the hero he appears to be? What is really happening? Sometimes a shift in paradigm is needed, and suddenly all the facts arrange themselves in a new way. What if it's not really about Republicans versus Democrats? What if it's not really about what a great guy, what a brilliant, talented and humane person Obama is? While you try to figure it out, here are some links to some good reading material to help get a bead on madly careening events. Some points to consider.
Mob and Movement -- "That's No Angry Mob, It's a Movement" by Michael Winship at truthout.org. Winship writes, "You'd think there would be a modicum of contrition but mostly it has been deny, deny, deny combined with shivers of revulsion as an angry citizenry freely expresses its opinion. Former Clinton SEC chairman Arthur Levitt sniffed to The Wall Street Journal this week, 'It has reached extremes of incivility that are intolerable,' and on Friday the Journal editorially wrung its hands over 'political Torquemadas' who would dare to prosecute Wall Street executives. See here, you people, the seemingly dumfounded elite ask, why all this hollering? Later Winship refers to William Greider, who wrote the definitive book on the Federal Reserve, Secrets of the Temple. " "We're at a break point in our history," says Greider. "And it's not just the financial system, although that's front and center. It's the deteriorated economy, it's militarism looking out in the world, trying to find the next war. It's a lot of things coming at us, all at once. I believe, on the other side of all of these adversities, we can become a better country." To facilitate that outcome, Greider says, "People at large, I don't care whether they're middle class or upper class or working poor or union, non-union, have to find ways to come together themselves, perhaps in very small groups at first, and talk about their own stuff. Their experiences, their ideas their convictions, their aspirations for the country, themselves, their families, and then broaden out a bit, laterally. And have more people in the discussion. They don't have to become a giant organization, but they have to convince themselves that they're citizens…" More from William Greider in "Obama's Economic Plan: A Version of the Monopoly Game, But No One Loses" writing in The Nation (see at alternet.org). "President Obama has invented a new board game for Wall Street money guys to play that promises to be a lot of fun. It's very much like the regular Monopoly game that kids play -- only better -- because this one uses real money, provided courtesy of the taxpayers. The best thing about Obama's game is nobody loses. Usually, the winner in Monopoly is the one who winds up with the most money. In the Obama version, the losers get any losses back from the government at the end of the game." Greider on youtube.comYouTube, and Moyers on Greider. It Keeps Coming Back -- Amy Goodman of Democacy Now interviews Nobel prizewinning economist Paul Krugman on the "cash for trash" program of both Bush and Obama. "A zombie idea is an idea that you keep on killing, because it's a bad idea, but it just keeps on coming back. And what this is is we've had this idea since Henry Paulson came out with his plan six months ago, the Bush administration, that the real problem is that the market is undervaluing all of these toxic assets, and what we need to do is have taxpayers go in and buy them at a fair price, and that will solve all of our financial problems. And that's what happened. The Geithner plan is a complicated, disguised variant on the same idea. It's the zombie that you keep killing, and it just keeps coming back." See alternet.org. Krugman on Bad Money -- More from Krugman in The New York Times. Reich Weighs In -- Robert Reich says the bailout is a failure."None of this would be nearly as awful if the Wall Street bailout were working. But here we are six months after it began and it's still the case that almost no loans are being made to Main Street." salon.com Cheney's Iraq Mission -- Cheney said after six years at war in Iraq, "we've accomplished nearly everything we set out to do.... Juan Cole sums up that accomplishment. Just what has been done to Iraq? C'est La Meme Chose -- Melvin A. Goodman writes that "President Barack Obama's CIA director, Leon Panetta, needed only one month to establish that he lacks the courage, contrariness, judgment, and political and intellectual independence to reform the Central Intelligence Agency." It's Big -- James K. Galbraith writes in washingtonmonthly.com that there will be no return to normal. "The economic crisis, and its solution, are bigger than you think." Perilous Moments -- Frank Rich: is this Barack's Katrina Moment? New York Times Rove's Political Prosecutions -- See YouTube On Torture -- Michael Ratner, the director of the staid and respectable Center for Constitutional Rights, says Bush torture memos are "treason". Bail Out the People -- bailoutpeople.org What is with Afghanistan? truthout.org Spanish Judge Looks into U.S. War Crimes Charges -- "Criminal proceedings have begun in Spain against six senior officials in the Bush administration for the use of torture against detainees in Guantánamo Bay. Baltasar Garzón, the counter-terrorism judge whose prosecution of General Augusto Pinochet led to his arrest in Britain in 1998, has referred the case to the chief prosecutor before deciding whether to proceed." Guardian
March 31, 2009Is Barack Real? I submit that no one knows. I like Barack. I am glad to see him as president rather than any of the others who were in the running, instead of the detestable Bush-Cheney mob. I liked his memoir. I liked many of the things he stood for, many of the things he said. Whether he is co-opted or manages to shake loose of the big power and become a great leader is yet to be seen. We know he has compromised a lot to become president. He has backed off on many positions he formerly took, his condemnation of federal wiretapping without restraint as one example. He spoke against going to war in Iraq on the basis of it being a "dumb war," and yet he seems pretty enthusiastic about escalating another dumb war in Afghanistan. It is, as William Greider recently put it, militarism reaching out for the next war. The military industrial complex has a mind of its own and it is voracious. Can Barack Obama stand up to it? Why did he change these positions? Did someone take him into a back room and say, If you want to be president, this is what you have to do. You can push this, this and this, but you can't touch that.
Now, if he is a product of big sponsorship, can he ever escape that grip? It seems a bit like the mob. Once you are beholden to them, you can never escape. Could he preside over a wave of change that becomes so strong it forces us into a new era, even against the will of the shadowy powers who run the country, against Obama himself? Can he then emerge as a real hero of the people? Can he fulfill the promise he embodies potentially, the promise that Americans see in him and that got him elected? The answer to these questions will emerge through action, the collective action of millions of people. Barack is not going to give people fundamental change from the systems that are broken and tearing the country down. He represents and is beholden to the power players of that status quo. It is possible that he could still rise to the occasion and become a legitimately great leader of the people and not just a front man for a powerful oligarchy. The inertia of his career at the moment is toward being a respectful servant of the real powers, an agent of the developing New World Order. But the momentum of the people now is outrage against the Wall Street status quo that is Obama's patron and freedom, restoration of the law. Which will prevail? The fate of Obama and of the country is in the making.
He's a pretty conservative guy. At a town meeting recently they took a vote on the Web over what questions to ask and one that came up high on the list was about legalizing marijuana. Obama was careful to position himself in a very conservative position against this idea, which is not really so radical in a time when the government is doing the unprecedentd things it's doing. He made a joke of it. (see youtube.com) He said, "I don't know what that says about the online audience..." Ha ha. What a joke that people would want to legalize marijuana, even though it's a more benign drug than alcohol, than Zoloft. No, of course we're not going to actually stop the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, even though they are stupid, have no purpose, were launched with lies and only profit a few people. No of course we're not going to let the excesses of the financial giants bring them down. We'll make the public prop them up. He's holding close to Bush policies on things like government secrecy, being able to detain people without charge, spying on people. His chief of staff Rahm Emanuel recently said that people on the "no-fly" list should not have the right to own guns, "they are not part of the American family." (see youtube.com) Certainly some gun control is healthy for a society, but how do people get on the no-fly list anyway? Is there any due process? Were they just chosen by the President? Convicted criminals, perhaps, but people on the no-fly list who may be "suspected" of some connection to terrorism, or maybe have the same name as someone who is suspected. And what is this about a civilian national security force? (YouTube) These things need to be watched very carefully.
These policies have to be watched. It is not about how cool Barack is, what a great guy he is. That may well be true. But when he supports a bad policy, the policy must be opposed. When an archcriminal like Henry Kissinger talks about how Obama's great reception around the world creates an opportunity to create a new world order, it must give freedom-loving people pause. (see youtube.com)
The "online audience" he jokes about, as if they were a bunch of stoned out deadheads, are the people who put him into power, who responded to his message of change. They are interested in doing away with laws and conventions that no longer serve any purpose.
Bank Holdup -- This idea of a takeover of the U.S. by the financial industry, which used to be a sort of fringey idea, has been cropping up all over the place in mainstream forums lately. In the May issue of Atlantic, Simon Johnson talks about the capture of the government by the finance industry and the IMF's typical warning to third world countries in which that has happened: "recovery will fail unless we break the financial oligarchy that is blocking essential reform." What He Says, What He Omits -- Chomsky on Obama, Israel and Palestine. zmag.org Self-Dug Graves -- Newspapers conforming to corporatized nu-think have failed to provide the public what it needs for a long time: the unbiased truth, the facts that are important to their existence not filtered through the corporatist propaganda screen. Case in point, the New York Times letting Judith Miller lead the cheer for the beginning of the war in Iraq using false or tainted information. The Times should have been on the forefront of challenging that information. Now that their business model is under seige and big papers are flolding and laying off staff, they blame it on the Internet. But if they had been doing their jobs they couldn't have been so easily co-opted by the Internet. They had access to the Internet and they should have been able to turn it more to their advantage than anyone else. They had the market. They had the brands, the reputations, the established readership. But the Internet started showing them up, started showing their biases, their limits, started telling the stories that the big media would not touch. David Sirota writes in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Most newspaper post-mortems insist that decreased ad revenues brought on by the Internet and the recession caused journalism's problems, not self-inflicted wounds. While technological and economic forces certainly battered newspapers, journalism also delivered a one-two punch to its own jaw."
-- David Cogswell