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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

CONFRONTING THE GATEKEEPERS-MY CONVERSATION WITH BIG EDDIE




I talked to Ed Schultz today. Those who know me likely find that surprising. They might ask why someone who constantly beats his head against the wall trying to get people to quit listening to the corporate media would waste his time with someone who many regard as the ultimate gatekeeper of the left.  After all, they could point out, how else does someone get the privilege of hosting both a national call in radio show and a nationally televised show on the “liberal” MSNBC channel? Most people who understand how the corporate media defines the terms of political debate in the US have concluded that all such shows do is reinforce phony narratives that obscure the real problems and their solutions. Why bother trying to influence these talking heads?

Try as it may to appear otherwise, MSNBC does not challenge its corporate sponsors any more than FOX. Both are little more than echo chambers for what the corporate media defines as the “left” and “right. “Anyone who discusses the issues in terms of how they reflect on corporate power in the US is labeled “far left” at best, and “radical” if they lay the facts out too plainly. When someone like Schultz is the most popular voice for “the left” in the mainstream media, you might conclude that it is time to turn off the radio.  I have to disagree. While I don't spend a lot of time listening to the nonsense that passes for progressive talk radio most of the time, I do think there is a value in joining a conversation listened to by millions.

I caught Schultz’s radio show on my way to the store, while changing CD discs of a book on tape. I listen to them when I am driving to escape the nattering of radio pundits on both sides of the corporate media-created left-right divide. He was talking about an issue that is a pet peeve of mine: health care reform. Or rather, he was talking about Obamacare instead of health care reform. Okay, I’ll admit that is a slight exaggeration. Obamacare does insure millions of people. However, it does so at an enormous expense to taxpayers and policy holders, as will soon become too obvious to deny. If partisan Democrats like Schultz don’t start acknowledging that Obamacare is only a short term compromise, they are going to set back the cause of universal health care even more than they did when they fell in lockstep behind the Public Option, despite its being revealed as a bait-and-switch by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in 2009.

Even Harry Reid has admitted that ACA is at best a small step in direction of the only real solution, a single payer system. I pointed this out to Schultz, but he ignored it. Apparently, it didn’t fit with the narrative he has bought into to explain why he is still supporting a plan that bears no resemblance to what he advocated for so strongly in 2009. Failure to quit defending Obamacare before it collapses will cost the Democratic Party dearly in the long run.  When health care inevitably becomes more expensive than tax payers will tolerate, voters who know nothing about health care economics will conclude that the Democrats lied to them. At that point, they will almost certainly conclude that the Republicans were right all along in saying that the US can’t afford to provide universal health care, as they do in the rest of the world. That is what happens when the “liberals” on talk radio let politicians and other pundits in the corporate media frame political debate. They just reinforce the fantasy that of the two parties that constitute the Duopoly, one puts the interests of average Americans over those of its corporate backers. When they accept that, they have lost all credibility.

Obamacare is in essence a bailout of a failing insurance industry that was on the brink of pricing its product out of existence due to uncontrolled costs. The typical plans now available to those who have to pay premiums on their own have high deductibles, making them too expensive for many people to use. Even the best plans provide little protection against medical bankruptcy, which is unheard of in countries with single payer.  Under the “Affordable” Healthcare Act, the quality of health care coverage is eroding. This temporary measure to hold the line on premium rates is the only thing concealing the fact that Obamacare does almost nothing to control the costs of a private medical system that now consumes nearly 20% of US GDP. It would be more honest to call it the UNaffordable Healthcare Act. That is the main point I wanted to make, but Schultz was having nothing to do with it.

Like all apologists for the Democrats, he trotted out the following arguments: “Obamacare is the only politically possible thing;” “There are some corporate Democrats, but we have to stand behind the party because the Republicans are so dangerous” and “Obamacare is a step in the right direction.” He ignored my argument that it is debatable whether it brings us closer to single payer, even though his good pal Harry Reid said the same thing. He dismissed out of hand the idea that Democrats will pay dearly when its true costs become apparent.  His argument for doing so was astounding, even by the standards of corporate media pundits: He claimed that the cost was irrelevant!  Apparently, he missed the whole debate about the debt “crisis,” the idea of which Democratic politicians have swallowed as wholly as Republicans. So have the voters. Why does he think Tea Party types keep getting elected?

I am not going to try to go into all the details of the arguments I made, or Big Eddie’s inane responses. I am not writing this to sell the idea of single payer. Anyone who wants to look at the facts will conclude that we cannot afford any plan that allows the medical-industrial complex to keep sucking up 30% of every health care dollar while the total bill keeps rising. Insurance is the cause of the inefficiencies that are the main drivers of health care cost inflation, as Shultz has said many times. The only justification he can give for the idea that voters will accept the costs of Obamacare even while the corporate media and Democrats and Republicans in Congress insist that the nation is going broke is that sees short term partisan gain in defending the program. That is the problem with going along with the "politics of the possible." As long as we ignore the corruption in Congress that led Democrats to arrest single payer advocates instead of inviting them to the health care reform debate, what is possible will never be anywhere near what is necessary.

In promoting the nonsense that all we need to do to solve our problems is vote Democratic, Schultz and other so-called progressive talk show hosts fail their audiences. If they really think Democrats can do the job, they have a platform they can use to push party leadership, just as Rush Limbaugh pushed Republicans to the hard right. Like Rush, they might even affect the outcome of a few elections if they were to be honest about the cost of basing voting decisions only on whether there is a D or an R after a candidates name.  If they do not choose to use this power, we have a responsibility to not just tune out or to become progressive versions of ditto-heads (what you might call d-Ed heads). We must speak up and challenge the gatekeepers of the left at every opportunity. It’s not like you have to listen to them for very long to find an opening to make the point. When you hear them abandoning principle and letting the rest of the corporate media define the debate, call them and call them out.

They probably won’t listen, but some of their listeners will. They are the ones we most need to come to the light.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

WAR AND DEMOCKRACY





It should be obvious that the only reason war is possible at this point in history is the widespread acceptance of the idea that it is inevitable. With this idea so firmly entrenched in the minds of millions, few bother to question it. After all, there is no sense in trying to understand the reasons for war if it will not lead to any change.  If the real causes of war were generally understood, Americans might ask whether they should allow them to be fought in their name. In a real democracy, the People would be responsible for the actions of their government.

War has always been about controlling other people's resources. It is inherently inconsistent with the basis of democracy, which is recognition of the inalienable rights of all and the responsibility of governments to ensure them. A truly democratic government is one of, by and for the People. Not some, but all the people. If the rights purportedly guaranteed by the constitution are universal, then they are also the rights of the Peoples of all nations. The US has no right to deny them. As long as Americans allow their government to violate the rights of others, they mock the idea of liberty and justice for all. In doing so, they are enabling corporate powers that control the US government to deny these basic rights to themselves.

It is Mankind’s oldest and greatest dream to rid the world of the scourge of war, yet at a time when the US military unquestionably dominates the rest of the world Americans continue to accept the obvious lie that they must waste their resources on the destruction of other nations. In a 2013 poll, over half opposed cutting the military budget even while funds to care for the poor are slashed. Are Americans such cowards that they would accept seemingly random US state-sponsored terror in the name of “freedom” and “security" forever if they knew wars were really fought for corporate profit? After NDAA and the revelations of NSA spying, would they still accept the loss of their constitutional rights in the name of "American interests" if they saw that these have been defined as the interests of transnational corporations with no loyalty to the US, its citizens, or humanity itself? If so, is there any price they will not pay?

European citizens, despite having experienced war directly within living memory, are not much better at recognizing that their self-interest is served by opposing war. In the modern era, it has been argued that warfare is justified to fight threats to freedom. For decades, communism was seen as such a menace, when in fact it was merely a threat to the profits of global elites cooperating to carve up the resources of the planet. Now stateless terrorism is claimed to a threat and warfare the only answer. The Global War on Terror has provided cover for the global war on democracy and national self-determination. If those who are profiting from it succeed in creating a worldwide corporate Empire, no nation will be spared. Somehow, we have to make citizens of the US and other NATO countries understand that war is always about competition for resources and that this one is to secure all the resources of the planet for the benefit of war profiteers. Only then can they make a conscious decision about whether it is worth sacrificing the lives of their children and those of targeted nations.

The fact that wars are conducted for the sole purpose of expanding the power of the ruling elite was well understood prior to the revival of the archaic notion of “democracy,” the idea that people can rule themselves. The ruling class never really relinquished its power. When the concept of divine rights of kings was questioned, the economic elite dusted off the ancient idea of democracy and systematically encouraged the masses to delude themselves into believing that they controlled their own national destiny and through their governments, protected their rights from foreign tyrants. The allure of the idea of democracy was so powerful that Americans failed to see the rise of tyranny within their own government. Somewhere along the way, the delusion of democracy became so ingrained that a majority seemed to accept the insane notion that the root of terrorism was that perpetrators were “jealous of our freedom.”  What could be more ironic?

In the generations since the American Revolution that real cause of war has been forgotten by the People. A mythical version of American history has been created that clouds the minds of those indoctrinated by the American educational system. The outrage over Vietnam led to a glimmer of awareness of the connection between corporate power and war in the minds of that generation, but with the end of the war and then the end of the draft the lesson has been largely forgotten. That is how we came to be faced with the prospect of what the corporatocracy expects to become a permanent corporate-dominated New World Order. Only a revival of awareness that all just authority arises from the People can citizens of the United States use their collective power to help ensure that the last, best hope for Mankind does not perish from the Earth. For that, they will need the support of other NATO nations and the Peoples of the world, with whose fate theirs is intertwined.



It is said that no two democracies have ever fought a war against each other. To the extent that is true, it is not by chance. “Democracy” has come to be defined by the ruling class as any form of government that submits to the will of the Anglo-American Empire and thereby concede sovereignty to the international corporations that dictate its foreign policy. If national interests are defined as synonymous with defending and expanding the wealth and power of the global elite that control these corporations, any nation that submits to the Empire is defined as "democratic." While citizens of NATO nations have come to equate democracy with the power of the vote in the absence of any other evidence of its presence, the majority fail to realize that their governments do not even apply the same minimal standard to others that they label “democratic” or “despotic,” friend or foe.

The simple rule is that the enemies of any nation that is a threat to corporate power are friends of the corporatocracy, regardless of how such governments treat their own people. Under the guise of protecting citizens from their own governments, the US selectively targets nations that refuse to fall into line with the globalist agenda. The doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect" is nothing more than a noble sounding version of preemptive warfare. Condemned when adopted by the Nazis and outlawed by the agreements that established the UN, it has become official US policy, with the nearly universal support of the governments of NATO nations if not their peoples. The world is full of such potential enemies, of course. Any nation that does not submit to the dictates of the global elite and in particular the international bankers who are the real Puppet Masters of the show is by definition an enemy. Anyone who doubts this likely fails to realize that all of the recently targeted countries from Iraq to Syria had central banks that operated independently of the Bank of International Settlements, where global financial warfare is plotted.

When the symbolic enemy of the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its economic inefficiency and the need to maintain an enormous military, it was not hard to find a substitute. Former allies became the enemy, as has become an ever more obvious pattern. It used to take years or decades for a former foe to become an ally. The process accelerated after WWII, when the US government made common cause with former Nazis where it served the purposes of the national security state and the economic interests whose interests it exists to protect. Today, yesterday’s enemy is today’s ally.

The Mujahudin were recruited to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. It leaders were listed in a CIA data base that became known for its Arabic name: al Qaeda.  These useful idiots were later put to use in Bosnia, the southern tier of the former Soviet empire, the Mideast, Africa and even the US. The Empire has abandoned any pretense of forming alliances based on defense of “democracy.” It is openly using the same fighters it claimed it sacrificed thousands of Americans to defeat to wage war on weaker nations whose resources it covets. Millions of innocents who are killed, maimed or displaced are dismissed as collateral damage. Its naked aggression has become apparent to all but the most casual observer.

That is why it is our duty to draw attention to the real reasons for war. If we believe that democracy is possible, then we must believe that humans are essentially good. Good people do not knowingly allow atrocities to be committed while they stand by. While willful ignorance helps explain inaction, so does the sense of helplessness that comes from blindly accepting the self-fulfilling prophecy that war is inevitable. We must help those blinded by a culture of self-interest to see the connection between war and the failure of democracy.  Citizens of NATO countries are so distracted by their economic problems that they fail to see that those who have undermined their standard of living are the same economic elite who are expanding their Empire through economic coercion, bribery, murder and war in even less fortunate nations. They must be made to understand that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Democracy cannot exist in a society that tolerates injustice because it requires the acceptance of inequality that is antithetical to self-governance.

Time is running out for humanity to decide. Will we stand by as the last, greatest hope for Mankind vanishes from an Earth dying from the ravages of exploitation, of which war is the most glaring example? Or will we fight for real liberty and justice, using the tools of nonviolent resistance while it is still possible?  Democracy will only become real if we can see ourselves as basically good and capable of ruling ourselves in the best interests of all. This will not happen naturally. It will take our best efforts. Each of us has something to contribute and together, we can end war. It starts when we abandon the self-imposed distinctions that divide us, and work together to free the 99% forever from that which has always been the greatest ambition of the global elite: the enslavement of the human race.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

TRUST BUT VERIFY




Dear President Obama:

I feel a little guilty that it took me so long to write this. I have been pretty quick to write letters, sign petitions and make phone calls criticizing your actions in the past. When you get something important right, it’s only fair that I take the time to express my support.  Besides, I imagine that if all you hear from certain people is negativity, questioning of your motives and cynicism about your actions you might be disinclined to listen to them.  I wouldn’t blame you, either. 

You deserve credit for avoiding a direct attack on Syria and opening up dialogue with Iran. Cynics claimed that you bumbled your way into the situation, but that doesn’t add up.  It seems to me that you have masterfully handled pressure from a Congress in the pockets of the military-industrial complex and blindly obedient to the wishes of the right wing Israeli government of Bibi Netanyahu. Your actions in response to the false flag attack in Syria not only allowed but encouraged a debate in which Americans finally spoke against further American imperialist overreach. Some even entertained the heretical notion that Israel’s interests are not identical to their own. This is a healthy skepticism that I am sure will only become more widespread as Israel’s aim of destabilizing Syria and attacking Iran at any cost becomes ever  more nakedly apparent.

Holding our elected officials responsible for their actions may be everyone’s duty, but it’s obvious to me that without the support of the People, a President cannot change a nation that has gone so badly off course.  Lincoln didn’t free the slaves until he believed that slavery proponents would not be able to use it to defeat the cause of preserving the Union.  When citizens who had doubted him rallied to the cause after a Union Army victory, he took a calculated risk in challenging the property rights of slaveholders with the Emancipation Proclamation.  He could not have done the same thing and won the war without political capital.  That only comes when the People support the President for doing the right thing.

The way I see it, we are in a similar situation but this time the People must rally around your efforts at waging peace, not war.  Just as Lincoln forced a confrontation by challenging the economic interests of slave holders by seeking to limit slavery, your recent actions threaten the enormous investments of corporate war profiteers who would enslave the world in endless war if they could. If you can expect no support from those who would like to believe you mean what you say, it is hard to imagine how you could prevail against a Congress so deeply committed to serving the interests of those whose profits are threatened by the prospect of peace, when half the country will oppose whatever action you take.


I hope that I have been right in calling for patience from people who have demonized you for widening the war in Afghanistan, failing to close Guantanamo, exponentially expanding drone warfare, helping build a domestic spying apparatus so massive it could be the backbone of your jobs plan and insisting that Americans be subject to the same violations of constitutional rights as foreigners have suffered since the outbreak of the War of Terror.  While I share their concerns about these and other decisions that threaten freedom in the US and the world, I try never to forget that I am not the one in the office that Kennedy held when he was murdered by the national security state for trying to end the Cold War. As a student of Presidential history, I am sure that you are fully aware of that fact and the implications it has for what you can accomplish without risking the same fate. I don’t feel that I have any right to judge you for what you have or haven’t done.  I understand what you meant when, according to former senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern, you told disappointed friends who wanted you to explain your record “Don’t you remember what happened to Martin Luther King, Jr?”

With all this in mind, the world will be watching while you determine whether the cynics or the optimists will be vindicated by your conduct of the negotiations in Geneva. It seems to be a good sign that the long-delayed negotiations on Syria are finally scheduled, despite the opposition of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the terrorist groups they are hoping will topple the Assad government.  Since the delay was due to a refusal of the Syrian insurgents to take part, this appears to be tacit recognition that the al Qaeda-led “rebels” are not going to prevail in turning Syria into a failed state, Libya-style.  If the negotiations lead to substantive agreement, they will have to take what they can get.

At the same time, I cannot ignore the possibility that both negotiations may be a sham, like the Israeli “peace” negotiations with the illegitimate PA government. Just as there can be no negotiating for peace with a nation that continues to commit international crimes in expanding its colonization of an occupied country, so too can the US government talk peace while doing everything in its power to undermine it. Removing Assad from power as a precondition to peace in Syria is a nonstarter. The government is regularly defeating the terrorists in the field, but pundits and politicians are expressing hope that Iran can be convinced to “help” with negotiations around Syria. If you press Iran to convince Assad to step down, we will know that the negotiations in Tehran are just for show.

If you are serious about wanting peace, you will do everything possible to present an acceptable deal to the Iranians, taking into account that they have hardliners who benefit from politics of confrontation just as right wing hawks in both parties do in the US. It is a delicate balancing act, and anyone with an ounce of understanding of the situation will know why your tough rhetoric and hyperbole is necessary for domestic consumption even if you truly want to bargain fairly. After all, if that is what it takes to get support for a treaty in the Senate, the peoples of both nations will benefit. At the same time, you will have finally declared American independence from the right wing of the Knesset.

I really want to see you do the right thing. I am willing to trust you until I see proof that this move toward peace is insincere, if it is. Some people would rather be right in their cynical assumptions than be embarrassed should you prove them dead wrong, though they will never admit it. I am not one of them. I am not afraid of being embarrassed by having the audacity to still hope that we can be the change that will make you do what is right. If we fail to support you when you need us the most, I am not sure that we could handle democracy if we had one.

Sincerely,

Rick Staggenborg, MD
Founder, Soldiers For Peace International

Monday, October 21, 2013

SETTING GOALS FOR REAL GLOBAL REVOLUTION







This is the second essay in a series exploring a strategy for building a united international front against fascism and war. The first outlined a possible strategy and how to develop it around an overall goal of ending the corruption of governments as a means of establishing representative democracy. As strategic planning starts with establishing intermediate term objectives, that is the main topic of this essay.




For all the hopeful talk about the possibility of global revolution, little has been accomplished that will lead to one unless the threads of change can be woven into a pattern discernable to average people. Real change requires strategy based on common goals that have yet to be agreed upon. When there is general agreement on many of the things that must be changed, a way must be found to articulate these aims in such a way that a substantial majority understands and agrees with them. This means making the arguments in a non-ideological manner to the extent possible. Only then can a strategy be designed to reach these goals that will have broad enough support to succeed in overthrowing the existing order.


While we want to change the world, we have to start by realizing that the critical battles will be fought in the US. It is the center of global economic and military power. As the radical right plays out the strategy it began developing when Goldwater was humiliated in 1964, liberals have increasingly asked why they cannot seem to create a similarly united progressive movement. While a number of theories have been offered to explain the problem, they offer few practical suggestions about how it might be overcome. No progress can be made until liberals and conservatives can agree on the goals of such a revolution. That is not as hard as it sounds.

Occupy brought together a wide range of activists from those with mainstream political backgrounds to young Libertarian and Socialist anarchists at opposite extremes of the political spectrum. Together, they had amazing success at bringing media attention to the fact that people around the world are being systematically oppressed by a global elite often referred to as the “corporatocracy.” In the end, however, its effect was a mere ripple in the collective consciousness. The central message was lost in the babble of voices of people who were more often focused on the symptoms of the disease rather than the sickness, which is corruption of the political process by the economic elite.


As a result, most Americans are back to talking about Duopoly politics. The details of the shutdown and the upcoming debt ceiling showdown are all-consuming topics, even though they are merely manifestations of the larger problem.  The critical fact that is largely ignored by both the corporate and “alternative” media is that the debate has been framed in such a way as to justify the same austerity measures on the United States and other western nations that the international banks through the IMF have been imposing on less developed nations for decades.


The recent government shutdown epitomizes the corruption that is at the heart of everything that is wrong with American politics, which has become an existential threat to civilization as we know it. In this grotesque bit of theater, one side of the Duopoly allegedly threatened the US and world economies to prevent the implementation of Obamacare. That is a preposterous bluff, since the program is a bailout of a bankster-owned insurance industry that was pricing itself out of existence and thus welcome by corporatists with very deep pockets. The insurance industry might want more than it got, but they are not going to start over after winning millions of new customers and taxpayer subsidies that will keep profits rolling in for years before the real costs become apparent. The only possible rationale for this game of chicken is that Republicans wanted to use the threat to give Democrats an excuse to bargain away even more of the social safety net.  How else will Congress continue to provide corporate welfare to the economic elite who support both parties? Democrats stood firm for the moment, but if history is any guide they will capitulate when the question of raising the debt ceiling comes up again soon.  

If corruption is the problem, then any strategy for revolution has to provide a means of striking at the power of the economic elite over the US government. This was clear to the editors of Adbusters when they called for an Occupy movement. They suggested that protestors organize around the issues of Wall Street criminality and the need for a constitutional amendment to reform campaign finance, cutting off a vital source of their control. Their advice was ignored.  Instead, local Occupy leaders were so paranoid about co-option that they refused to work with any established organizations, to give a platform to truly sympathetic politicians or even to make a serious effort to prioritize issues. This guaranteed that the overall message would be lost and that the movement, built more on hope than strategy, would stumble.

It is not possible to change society by cacophonous protest. There has to be a unified message simple enough for the average distracted American to instantly recognize. The most universal and fundamental message that we can have is that America is not a democracy.  For those who fear rule by popular will, it is not even a Republic, because it is not representative democracy.  The systemic corruption by Wall Street of our “representatives” has put the “mock” in democracy. That is the root problem we must attack by consistently pointing out both the role of Wall Street in virtually all of the problems Occupy protested. A constitutional amendment is the first giant step to solving them.

Whether individuals choose to focus their efforts on ending war, dealing with climate change and other environmental issues, establishing universal health care, working for a just economy or any of the myriad other problems Congress refuses to address, they must become part of the effort to tie these issues into the root problem of corporate control of the US government. Until this problem is addressed, all other efforts serve no purpose other than to assure that advocacy groups will always have causes to fight, since they will never make meaningful progress with a government so thoroughly corrupted by corporate influence. All advocates for justice must help make clear that large international banks ultimately dictate its economic and military policies. Only when major organizations learn to coordinate the message with this overarching theme can a truly unified progressive movement emerge.



After the end of the Vietnam War, most of those who had committed themselves to working for social change declared victory and went on with their lives.  Many of them went on to become part of the Establishment they had loathed for putting them or those they loved at risk of having to fight and die in a war for corporate Empire. Once unified by the overall theme of social justice and overturning a social order that systematically oppressed the poor, women and minorities, the progressive movement soon lost its collective identity. The Kennedys, King and Malcolm X were all dead, martyrs to a cause that too few remembered when the immediacy of the threat seemed to fade. Despite gains in civil rights for African-Americans and women, the essential corruption was largely unchanged. Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace and some of the CIA and FBI abuses of power against protestors were revealed. Many of us were under the impression the system was working.

Just as we have learned from the successes and failures of Occupy, so we must look to the 60s for lessons that will help us win the revolution that was left unfinished in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. One key lesson from that struggle was the realization that the power of the People could only be realized when those struggling for justice for various groups of individuals joined forces to fight for liberty and justice for all. Another was that the movement was most successful when it appealed to the universal desire to see America be the beacon of hope for this ideal, contrasting it to the reality of the actions of its government.  Inspiring hope created growing support, while merely inflaming anger at the established order led to resistance by the large segment of Americans who are fearful of change.  As we educate the public about the need for change, we must make them understand that they can make those changes by taking control of their government using a practical strategy, not a nebulous fantasy of creating a new society or form of government by rational persuasion alone.

Without going into detail here, the basic idea behind such a strategy is that the only way to create real change is through the power of the vote. We must find a way for Americans to use it to seize control and establish a government of, by and for the People rather than the economic elite. Many people have reacted to corruption in politics by giving up on electoral politics. Rejecting the only means we have of exercising political power reduces the idea of revolution to a dangerous fantasy, since the only alternative in the end would be violent resistance. Fortunately, it is possible to use the electoral process to pass a constitutional amendment that will effectively reform campaign finance. All it will take is to make support for such an amendment a litmus test for candidates for Congress in 2014 and beyond until we elect a legislature that will pass the amendment.  Since the reasoning behind this claim is not self-evident, a more complete analysis of this idea will be elaborated on in the final essay in this series.

We cannot wait for a movement to arise spontaneously as the result of ever-worsening economic conditions and infringements on civil liberties. If we do, by the time Americans realize a democratic revolution is necessary. It will be too late to challenge a corrupt government that has granted itself enormous power to repress dissent. The least informed will then to resort to violence. This can only result in the deployment of a police state apparatus that is already in place. We need a strategy based on ideas that are widely accepted if we want to achieve a real majority. Occupy should have proved conclusively that with the mainstream media almost completely controlled by corporate interests, it will take more than slogans to create a shift in the collective consciousness of Americans that challenges nearly universally accepted ideas. If we want to lead them to the truth, we have to start from where they are.

To challenge the lies about “free” markets, the notion that democracy equates to the right to vote and the fallacy that there are two parties with competing interests, we have to tie the lessons to ideas that are even more fundamental.  The goal is to make people realize that these ideas are used to keep us from seeing the systemic manipulation of the 99% by the 1%. Because they are so deeply ingrained, it is very difficult to challenge them directly. That means that we have to create cognitive dissonance by highlighting how accepting them conflicts with even more deeply held beliefs.  No ideas are more basic to the American psychology than freedom and representative democracy.  Starting from there, it is possible to create a groundswell of support for a plan that could unite the vast majority of Americans from across the political spectrum in a common goal. How to do that will be the subject of the next two essays in this series.
Next:  Changing the World: The Psychology of Belief

Thursday, October 3, 2013

IS OBAMA A STEALTH PEACENIK?



Today's blog is by Karl Eysenbach, who posts as Old New Lefty in Open Salon. The opinions expressed are those of the author. This blog may be reproduced, unedited and with attribution, without prior permission.



Conservatives rightly sneered when Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. After all, it was pretty much equivalent to a freshman college football player winning the Heisman Trophy for suiting up for his first game. And as we all know, there've been plenty of reasons during the Obama administration where it was pretty obvious that he might not have been as worthy a recipient as Mother Theresa.

Failure to close Guantanamo, drones, the surge in Afghanistan and Iraq...

No need to list them all.

But now it's time to play the game of "Let's Pretend."

First, let's think of Barack Obama who's actually just a regular human being. If you were in the position that he's in (winning the Nobel Prize) -- wouldn't you feel just a teeny bit guilty about the crap that you've had to ladle because of the demands that the American Empire has put on you? We can get into psychoanalyzing the man in the Oval Office, but believe me. 99.9% of the time when you're Prez -- you better jump when the Defense Department tells you what to do.

 We can get all liberal and whiny about Obama's lack of leadership and everything, but let me tell you. A stronger, better person than Barack Obama as POTUS would have only a 5% chance to do anything different than what Obama has done. And sure, I wish that he'd never appointed Timmy Geithner or Eric Holder, but a lot of crap is baked into the cake in DC. And there's nothing that anybody can do about it.

 Needless to say, President Obama was and is no doubt trying to figure out how to justify winning the Nobel Peace Prize for himself, but he is in many respects just a creature of circumstance. But once, in a great while (a real blue moon), opportunity reveals itself. And in this case, opportunity came from Syria.

I have no secret knowledge of the inner workings of the Obama White House. However, I do know that power does have its privilege. And princes do talk only to princes. So let's just pretend that we have 100% access to all of Barack Obama's phone calls.

First, let's go back in time to the middle of 2012 or thereabouts. The Syrian conflict had been boiling over for a couple of years, and the Defense Intelligence Agency has a better handle on the day to day situation on the ground in Syria than the CIA. Monitoring military developments is the exclusive job of the DIA. The CIA, unfortunately, is sometimes capable of allowing ideological zealots to color its analyses.

Most people pay more attention to what the CIA says. During the fall campaign, I had a brief conversation with Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, and I expressed serious concerns about the way DC appeared to be handling Syria. I told Wyden that the Russians should definitely be the lead sled dogs with regards to Syria, and Wyden's first impulse was to spout off some 'Merkan BS about how we'll show those Russkies because 'Merka is exceptional. Yadda yadda yadda, or something like that.

Checkmate to ONL? No, my last words to him were, "Please get a briefing from the DIA."

Wyden (self-satisfied) said, "They're under my committee!" End of conversation, but I put odds that the Senator actually did what I told him to do.

 I make this point not for self-aggrandizement about my psychic powers in foreign policy. But I want to make a point that anyone with even a modicum of understanding about the situation on the ground knew that a real path to peace in Syria might actually start with Russian intervention. Unfortunately, this common sense proposal couldn't possibly fly in Washington, DC!

Imagine Barack Obama going on television and saying, "My friends -- the only way to solve the problem of peace in Syria is to allow the Russians to be the lead sled dog. We will follow." Can you IMAGINE the shit storm that would set loose, not only from the Republicans, but from the lame stream media? Politically, as they say, this approach by Obama would be a non-starter, and I think that is a severe understatement.

So what's a Prez to do? The first rule for any elected is to do nothing when you're bollixed. Obama mouthed words about freedom fighters, evil Assad, etc. etc. for a year. And oh yeah, there was that "red line" remark somewhere. So fast forward to what I still think was a false flag operation on the part of rogue elements of the Syrian Army that had gone over to the other side from the chemical weapons corps.

And here, the president was put into a major dilemna. The way policy works in any White House is that the President's words are sacred, and that any development that goes counter to the President's words must be retaliated against. In the case of Syria, there was the ever present lobbying power of the Saudis, Big Oil, and the Israelis. And any president's administration is larded with clowns who pretend to advocate for the national interest. But in fact, they're captured national security advisors whose hearts are with Bandar Bush or AIPAC. That's just the cost of doing business to get into the Oval Office.

What's an Obama to do????

As I explained too briefly in an extended remark in my previous blog, it was necessary to appear to be an idiot to get the job done. And it was necessary to pick up the telephone and talk with other world leaders. For our purposes, Barack Obama only had to talk to two. #1 was of course, Vladimir Putin. I'm thinking Obama and Putin had many a heart to heart chats about the Syrian situation. And no doubt, Obama mentioned more than once in different ways how important it was for Russia to be the lead sled dog, but there were political problems at home getting in the way of implementing this very sensible strategy.

Here's where phone call #2 comes in. That was the call to London. Someone, somewhere (I don't know who) said that George Osborne, Prime Minister of Great Britain could do the trick. So Barack picks up and dials. And the fix is in.

 Washington has been going around all over the world looking for the usual suspects to be a coalition of the willing to bomb the shit out of Syria, but no action is to be found. George Osborne is more than willing to be thrown into the tank for Barack. There is a remarkable vote in the House of Parliament where the majority of back benchers express a vote of no confidence in the proposed policies of the British government and there's no cabinet shake-up, dissolution of Parliament, or call for an election? And you think Worldwide Wrestling is a put up job?????

This little action gives Obama all the excuse he needs to go to Congress to ask for an authorization of the War Powers Act. Mind you, this was never a problem for Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq, not to mention those hundreds of little military incursions to places like Grenada, Panama, etc. etc. But surprise, surprise! It turns out to be a problem for Barack Obama! Now how could that just happen?

Of course, the chattering classes go all nuclear. That Barack Obama is so inept and foolish! What's wrong with that boy? Yadda yadda yadda. And we can see the results. John Kerry's supposed off the cuff remarks lead to a remarkable chain reaction where peace appears to be breaking out all over the Middle East.

Not only does Basher Assad have no problems in giving up his stockpile of chemical weapons, but elements of the Free Syrian Army are now attempting to negotiate with the Assad government to guarantee the safety of Syrian government employees in contested territory if the more liberal elements of the FSA can work with Assad's forces to fight the Islamists who've been bought and paid for by our freedom-loving allies, the Saudis.

We haven't heard the end of the Syrian peace process by a long shot. But you will note that a surgical American air strike against Syria is now totally unthinkable.

Meanwhile, we have the developments in Iran. The election of Hassan Rouhani to be the President of Iran in August is a "BFD," to paraphrase Joe Biden. I will not spend too much time on the horrible, twisted relations between the USA and that country. However, it's worth noting that Rouhani is closely related not only to the Ayatollah Rasfanjani (and more importantly) President Khatami, both very much good guys in comparson to Nutjob Ahmadinejad.

Khatami, in case you didn't know was a true liberal, serving from 1997 up to 2005. President Khatami went so far as to offer the United States assistance in hunting down the terrorists who were responsible for 9/11. And of course, what did George Bush do? "Iran is part of the axis of evil...."

Say no more.... No need to talk about the non-existant Iranian atomic bomb. But that alligator in the sewer has been the Great White Whale of Captain Netanyahu & Co. for a long time, and it's been driving our foreign policy machinery. I mix my metaphors, but you get the drift.

And so, Rouhani and Obama can't shake hands in public because both are afraid of their domestic reprecussions. But John Kerry can meet privately with Hassan Rouhani for a half hour and come out with both guys grinning and basically saying, "We can do business!" And Barack Obama can call Rouhani on the telephone and wish him well in Persian, while Rouhani thanks him in English.

It's a long way from now to Point Z in the case of both Syria and Iran. But I think that President Obama is close to actually deserving that Nobel Peace Prize.



Regular readers of this blog will recall that I also argued that there is good evidence that the President has shown a pattern of deliberately undermining his own arguments for war in Syria that is consistent with his resistance to hawks who have been pushing for war with Iraq since before his election.

Former senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern recently wrote a column which gave evidence to back up the belief that Obama, a Presidential history buff, is fully aware of why and how Kennedy was killed and wants to avoid the same fate.

To those who would call him a coward for not more directly challenging the power of the military-industrial complex: consider whether you would be willing to give your life and leave your daughters fatherless in a futile symbol of resistance. That is all it would mean if he were to die for a country whose people are so focused on their hatred for one another that they cannot come together to save the nation and the world. To quote President Obama himself, we "have to be the change that will make (him) do the right thing."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

TOWARD A STRATEGY FOR DISMANTLING THE NEW WORLD ORDER




This is the first of a series of articles that will lay out the outline of a strategy for creating a just world economy, ending war in the process. Basically, it identifies the central problem as corruption of governments, particularly that of the US. The general strategy is to attack the problem by taking away the power of the global economic elite to dictate who we can choose among to represent those of us in “democratic” countries. This will fundamentally undermine their ability to dictate domestic and foreign policy in the nation with the most power behind both, as well as the partners and client nations of the US.

The next several essays in this series will elaborate on goal setting, specific elements of the strategy and tactics for implementing it, with emphasis on strategic messaging
.


When you mention the developing “New World Order” to people who still think there is a two-party system in the United States, eyes roll.  Anything you have to say afterward is dismissed before it is out of your mouth. Many Republicans are closer to understanding what it is than are partisan Democrats. They recognize that there has been a fundamental change in the way the federal government operates, starting with the first banking bailout. They acknowledge the effects of financial manipulation of the economy, but mistake it for a socialist takeover by "liberals" rather than the fascist coup that it is. Partisan Democrats believe that the only problem is Republican politicians and the solution merely to elect more Democrats, who they equate with “champions of the People.”  Any debate framed by partisan politics is therefore a distraction from the real issues.

The obvious truth is that both parties have been systematically corrupted by powerful financial elites who put their interests over those of the rest of us. Therefore, one of the objectives of any strategy must be to find a way to get partisans to understand that neither party represents them. Liberals and conservatives are already beginning to work together on selected issues. If we can connect these issues to a larger agenda and convince partisans that the issues are more important than whether a candidate is a Republican or a Democrat, it is possible to develop a strategy to take back America for the People.  Congress already ignores the clear will of the People on many critical issues. The only way we can change that is to work together.  We must agree that our overarching goal is representative democracy.  If we can put aside ideological differences, it is possible to pressure our elected representatives to act according to the common will. Americans have proven capable of putting the candidate over the party when given a reasonable choice. They will do it again if they understand that it is the only way to make their votes count. We can worry about consensus on other issues after we get the attention of Congress by taking out a few entrenched corporate puppets.

With election campaigns having become largely a matter of who can generate the most funding and corporations and the wealthy free to spend unlimited sums to influence elections, it is delusional to think that voters can influence decisions in Washington before strong campaign finance reform is instituted. We must find a way to guarantee that members of Congress know their jobs depend on supporting a constitutional amendment to effectively ban corporate expenditures to influence elections while limiting the amount individuals can spend to buy the candidates of their choice. The only way to do this is to make support for such an amendment the litmus test in every Congressional campaign where a candidate of any party can be found who will pledge to amend the constitution.

The first goal for assuming popular control of the United States government and restoring national sovereignty to all nations is to define the fundamental problem in a way that most people agree on. We then have to educate average Americans and citizens around the world about the danger of allowing control of the US government by the economic elite. This common understanding is necessary to find a solution, since Americans must speak with one voice to merit the claim of representing the will of the People. Citizens of other nations must stand with them against the same global financiers who control their governments, directly or indirectly.  It is critical that those with the biggest audiences outside the corporate media understand and communicate the urgency of putting aside partisan, national, cultural and religious differences to save humanity from perpetual economic slavery.

Ultimately, the survival of human civilization as we know it may depend on it. Failure to check the power of corporations with trillions of dollars in assets in the fossil fuel industry will doom millions as the result of global climate instability.

For those who question the existence of a relatively small group of individuals so powerful that they can manipulate the global economy, consider this:

1) 147 of the largest international corporations hold 40% of the assets of over 43,000 transnational corporations. The great majority of these are financial institutions. The most influential individuals in each are also members of the Boards of Directors of others. They are at the top of the pyramid of the global economic elite whose power we must attack.

2) Through this means of interlocking directorships and financial resources that dwarf those of even the United States, banks have come to control key economic sectors including energy, telecommunications, insurance and health care in addition to a financial industry that generates 40% of US GDP, wealth that the common citizen never sees.

3)  Six corporations control virtually all of American mainstream media: Disney, Time Warner, Viacom, Newscorp, CBS and NBC. Corporate donors heavily influence the content of "public" TV and radio in the US.

4)  It is estimated that there is far more than enough money held offshore by wealthy citizens to pay off the US debt.

Most Americans have almost no knowledge of how the economy really works, having been brainwashed into buying the myth of the free market. This is the essential assumption of the Washington consensus. The other demonstrably false tenets of this neoliberal model are that global free trade is inevitable, that endless growth is possible and that national economies struggle in it only if they do not adhere to financial and monetary policies that allow the rich to accumulate enough wealth that it magically tricles down to those who are willing to work hard enough.

This is an economic strategy that in the final analysis is nothing but a scheme cooked up by international financiers to consolidate their control until they essentially run everything through their proxies in governments and corporate intermediaries they own.  As taxpayers around the world accumulate massive debt to the very individuals who crashed the global economy, the global economic elite counsels austerity. This leads to slashing of government services, job loss in nations with no industrial base or excess capacity in the face of reduced demand and finally, the selloff of government assets to pay the interest on the accumulated debt.  As job losses mount and wages and salaries decline, the tax base is undermined. This is magnified by corporate and individual tax breaks for the rich in an ultimately self-defeating cycle since the worker is the only source of real wealth. Paper money is only a promise of payment by a government so deeply indebted to those who control the printing press that most politicians must serve the interests of Wall Street if they value their jobs.

Americans are starting to grasp the enormity of the fraud perpetrated on them, but are far from organizing effectively to do anything about it. It was considered a major victory that Larry Summers, one of the chief architects of the global Ponzi scheme in derivatives, was not selected as Chairman of the Fed, replacing his co-conspirator Tim Geithner as he exits through the revolving door between Wall Street and government. A real victory would be to see the two of them in prison, yet none of  the principle criminals responsible for the global economic meltdown has been prosecuted. Meanwhile, “too big to fail” banks used bailout money to buy failed financial institutions for pennies on the dollar, making them even more powerful.

Here is the difference between most "socialist" nations and those which by definition are fascist:  In a centralized socialist system, the political class generally controls the economic elite and they work in tandem to promote the interests of both.  Venezuela and some other Latin American countries are notable exceptions to this rule.  In fascist countries, it is the other way around.  In banana Republics like the US, corporations control the political elite. Note that this definition of fascism does not require a dictator, the only thing lacking in the US. There is no dictator, but a small oligarchy of powerful individuals who have no concern for the good of the nation,  its people or that of any other nation. There is no need for a dictator in a fascist nation whose people have willingly given control of their government to the economic elite in exchange for promises of endless wealth. The “shining city on the hill” promised by Reagan was built on sand. It was a mirage, becoming more distant the nearer Americans were told it was. The collapse was inevitable, as the whole system was based on credit backed only by worthless derivatives. Since the total value of the derivatives market is several times the global GDP as a result of failure to impose real reforms, the next crash will be much more catastrophic.

If fascism is defined as corporatism, then all the elements are present in the United States. A police state apparatus is in place. People have been brainwashed into accepting an extreme version of nationalism known as “American Exceptionalism.” The government has imposed the most intrusive surveillance methods ever devised.  War, always regarded by most as inevitable, has become endless. Until recently, these have been accepted as the price for a false sense of security. What most activists aware of these problems have missed is how they are related to each other. They must understand these relationships so that they can connect the dots for the population at large. That is the basis for developing a strategy for the progressive movement as a whole. Fortunately, recent events have made that much easier.

To reach our goal of establishing representative democracy, our strategy must build on the partnerships we are forming across ideological divides on critical issues such as domestic surveillance, the NDAA and the pursuit of world domination by endless war.  All of these are related to the global war of terror, which is in reality a global war on national sovereignty and democracy. Its economic counterparts are the Trans Pacific Partnership and the proposed Trans Atlantic Partnership with Europe. While general recognition of the danger of these massive free trade agreements has been slow to build, the phony outrage of European governments over US corporate spying revealed by Snowden has put the brakes on the latter. That gives us a chance to make Americans realize that the ultimate goal of these agreements is to make national governments subject to the demands of transnational corporations, regardless of the interests of the people of any of the subject nations. That should alarm both liberals and conservatives who hold national sovereignty as an unshakable principle of peaceful coexistence on the one hand and economic self-determination on the other.


Neoliberalism and neoconservatism are two sides of the same coin, best described as neofascism. The first seeks to establish global corporate dominance by economic coercion, while the other is a policy of militarily destroying any nation that stands in the way. On these issues, there is no gridlock and no partisan divide. The majority of Democratic and Republican politicians support both. While Americans continue to divide themselves into liberals and conservatives and argue nonsense with each other about who is responsible for destroying the American dream, the corporate criminals responsible remain at large, laughing all the way to their respective banks. 

If there are an “us” and “them,” they are the 99% versus the 1%. No one can claim to represent the 99% if we cannot persuade those who fail to understand the problem of our common interests.  We have to abandon the model of politics as civil war and build alliances based on mutual interests if we are going to use the power of our numbers to assure that our children will know the real freedom that comes from the absence of economic coercion. That is the nation Americans were promised and that the rest of the world aspired to emulate. Another world is possible, but it will require forging a united international front against fascism and war.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

IS OBAMA’S CALL FOR A VOTE ON SYRIA KOSHER?







I made the case in a recent article that President Obama may be very craftily offering resistance to the pressure he is getting from powerful forces to attack Syria. That push toward war continues despite widespread opposition among Americans.  Powerful and dangerous individuals who helped put him in office would regard retreat as a betrayal.  Obama nevertheless took the chance of asking Congress to debate the issue, giving antiwar activists time to mobilize to put pressure on Congress to consider the possible consequences of thwarting the clear will of the People.  In an earlier article, I argued that the growing anger at the willingness of the President to fight wars not supported by Americans and the failure of Congress to challenge this abuse of Executive power is spurring a rapid growth in awareness and action not only by traditional antiwar activists but the general public. There are indications that Obama may be working in other ways to keep public opinion against intervention even while making the case for war.

The growing antiwar sentiment provides a unique opportunity to educate the American public about the implications of the War of Terror for them.  It is in reality a war on democracy, benefiting only transnational corporations that dictate foreign policy and that profit from wars for corporate Empire, leaving the taxpayer with the bill. Whether by design or incomprehensible blindness, Obama has given us a chance to tie the phenomenon of endless war to the failure of the democratic process, the abridgment of constitutional rights and the growing economic pain of average Americans.  The last is the ultimate source of anger of those who do not normally give a thought to the fact that the US has become a war-based economy.  If we succeed at making war an issue on these grounds, the antiwar momentum over Syria has the potential to become a larger movement against fascism and war itself.

There is another issue that this fight can bring to the fore. It is one that some very dedicated people have been working on for decades. Increasing awareness of the issue has been hard because of a corporate media blockade, strong resistance in both parties to discussing it and prevailing attitudes of Americans.  That issue is the role that Israel has had in promoting war throughout the Mideast. The problem isn't that Israel is the tail wagging the dog, as some claim. The view that Israel dictates US foreign policy is na├»ve but understandable. AIPAC and other unregistered Israeli lobbying groups have tremendous influence over members of Congress whose foreign policy decisions are based on what position is most likely to help or at least not hurt their chances for re-election.  That was shown by the numerous standing ovations that Netanyahu got from both sides of the aisle when he spoke before a rare joint session of Congress. This was an unprecedented chance to influence American opinion just a few months before the 2012 election. It occurred after a very public quarrel with Obama regarding "acceptable" conditions for taking part in what, had they been agreed on,  would have led to sham negotiations much like those that have recently taken place.

The support of the illegal attack by Democratic and Republican leaders Pelosi and Boehner is not entirely due to pressure from AIPAC of course, but it does show that these poodles of the imperialists fear their real political masters more than voters.  Although lobbying efforts by the Israeli government were mostly behind closed doors, AIPC and other unregistered Israeli lobbyist groups have loudly and publicly called for an attack on Syria. Interestingly, these demands came only after Obama launched a media blitz that highlighted how an attack on Syria would serve Israel's perceived strategic interests.  That is to say, the interests of the right wingers in Israel who are determined to create a Jewish state "from the Nile to the Euphrates," encompassing parts of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Turkey, most of Syria and all of Lebanon and Jordan. This is described in the now-infamous Oded Yinon Plan, a right wing nightmare vision of Israeli conquest that can only be realized by brutal war and occupation far beyond the largely hidden areas where Palestinians who remain in Occupied territory are already struggling for personal and national survival.

I am sure it would be a bit hard for American supporters of Zionism to accept that a nation that they believe to be the only hope for the long-term survival of the Jewish people is in fact seriously debating whether or not to take by force lands whose seizure they can only justify by claiming it is "God's will." That is not the only reason given for their policies of expansion in historic Palestine, but "national security" cannot justify permanently militarizing not only Palestine, the Golan Heights of Syria and parts of the UN-recognized territory of Jordan but if the Yinon Plan is realized, much of the rest of the region. It is not hard to imagine the chaos that would result from the attempt, since it is happening right now. Destabilizing Syria is a major part of the plan. If Americans do not resist the policy of their government blindly supporting a nation that is using its military to accomplish their objectives, we may all soon find ourselves involved in WWIII. That could result in the use of Israel's undeclared arsenal of hundreds of atomic weapons.

Ironically, the next objective in the Yinon Plan, which not coincidentally benefits US energy interests at the expense of Russia, is ending the threat of Iranian influence in the region. One has to wonder if that was not the real reason Netanyahu appeared before Congress at the height of the debate about whether the US should attack Iran at Israel's urging. We should recall that Romney essentially promised to do whatever Israel told him to do, as the US Senate did in passing legislation pledging US military support should Israel decide to attack unilaterally.

Iran, for all the faults of its theocratic government, has served to provide a basis of support for resistance to both Israeli and US imperial ambitions by aligning itself with Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Little noticed by Americans who pay little attention to Mideast affairs until their government claims it needs to fight another war, Lebanon is being prepared for destabilization next.  That is why the European Union, after years of resistance, recently declared Hezbollah a terrorist organization, submitting at last to the demands of the American and Israeli governments. As with Syria, it was based on flimsy evidence of terrorism which was rejected initially by all responsible parties for months.

Since promoting sectarian violence is at the heart of the Yinon Plan, Lebanon is an obvious target. There has been an ongoing struggle for decades between right wing Western-supported Christians, Sunnis with shifting alliances and a Shia minority which the political and military arms of Hezbollah have given strength and influence. While the military wing (which is legal under the Lebanese constitution) did engage in Iranian-supported violence in the past, they have largely eschewed that as their political party has gained influence. However, the US and Israel continue to demonize it and appear to be staging false flag terrorist attacks through Sunni mercenaries (as in Syria, Iraq and Libya) to turn Sunni against Shia in Lebanon.

There is of course much more to the story, but this is enough background to understand the significance of the decision by the Obama administration to emphasize the fact that Israel is the prime direct state beneficiary of an attack on Syria, assuming that it is not destroyed in the melee that would certainly follow.  It was clearly not the intent of the Israeli government to be seen as urging the US to attack a neighbor that had not threatened either nation. It was also not the desire of the Israeli lobbying groups that sent out press releases only the next day calling for a strike. Obama clearly forced their hand.

This may have been the result of advice from military and intelligence officials who began to be much more vocal about the dangers of aligning our interests with those of Israel around the time that Netanyahu showed the unmitigated chutzpah to try and interfere with a US presidential election.  That would explain why Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Michael Dempsey told Obama that there is no reason to rush to a decision on an attack, because the same objectives could be achieved a month from now, if the American people do not succeed in stopping it. Given Obama's appearance of eagerness to rush to war, it is remarkable that he chose to publicly share this view, initially expressed privately.

We cannot know for sure what Obama's intent was, but we do know that he has given us a golden opportunity to educate Americans about the differences between the goals of the current right wing government in Israel and those of the US and its interest in being regarded as a force for democracy and justice rather than merely the latest Empire that is about to destroy itself through hubris.

Monday, September 2, 2013

IN DEFENSE OF OBAMA





It is fashionable for the radical left to describe President Obama as some kind of evil Bush clone. The consensus seems to be that he is personally dedicated to making sure that Sasha and Malia grow up in a world totally dominated by the kind of people who have always subjugated African-Americans and now treat all average Americans like second-class citizens. This simplistic way of looking at a man in a unique historical position should embarrass anyone who calls himself liberal. It resembles the black-and-white thinking style of Tea Party supporters.

Conservatives are having a more rational discussion of the flaws of the Obama administration than radical leftists, at least if you turn Fox off and tune into more respectable sources of conservative viewpoints. No, not Jonah Goldberg or Charles Krauthammer. Not pseudo-intellectual hack writers but genuine, thinking conservatives. The kind that pointy-headed liberals claim don’t exist. You know, Americans who don’t happen to agree with their basic philosophical assumptions. How do they expect to have a national discussion when they assume all conservatives are morons? They must think that even as a minority they will somehow force their views on people for whom they show contempt. The fact is, no one is going to hold the President and Congress responsible if we dismiss anyone who disagrees with us. We need to do it together, conservatives and liberals sending the same message about what we want and holding government to it. This could start with a broad-based opposition to attacking Syria.

Left-wing critics cite the fact of Obama’s economic advisers being among those most responsible for the financial crisis, his promises to step up the Afghanistan War and drone bombings and his taking single payer off the table as evidence that he is totally “sold out” to corporate interests, especially the banksters. It is true that they contributed lavishly to his campaign, eventually dwarfing the amazing amount he raised from small donors. Do they think anyone could have gotten elected in 2008 without that money, let alone the post-Citizens United 2012 election? They also seem to have no idea what it takes to get anything done when you are President.

In fairness, the same criticism could be made of his unquestioning supporters. It is not enough to say that Republicans block every good thing he tried to do, so he needs to work on what is “politically possible.” Nothing is possible if you don’t try! He has ignored many critical issues or at best paid them lip service. A leader is supposed to persuade the People of what needs to be done to, such as addressing global climate change and establishing a rational foreign policy, two issues that are intimately related.  Of course, making this point is taboo in a political system dominated by neocons and neoliberals whose basic policies on these issues differ only in details. Republicans and Democrats do argue about whether it is good for the economy to use tax money to create jobs and whether the social safety net should be only damaged or destroyed, but these differences won’t save a fundamentally flawed economy that is only going to get worse if banksters aren’t brought to justice and the Trans Pacific Partnership becomes a reality.

If you aren’t too angry to read on, please bear with me. I am on your side.

Representative democracy depends on citizens having a respectful conversation. Only when we can demonstrate consensus can we legitimately talk about “the will of the People,” let alone “the 99%.”  If we continue to divide ourselves and blame “the other side” for all the problems, Congress and the White House will continue to do as they please, regardless of poll data showing that a great majority of Americans agree on critically important issues that Congress and the President ignore for fear they will lose favor with those to whom they feel they owe their offices. They tell themselves they have no choice: they must compromise so that they can “serve the People” the best they can in a system completely corrupted by special interest money.

Today, Americans should look at President Obama’s record in a whole new light. Not as all good or all bad, but judged by the standard of what may be the only viable way for the President to get in a position to “be the change that Americans need.”  On Saturday, he reversed himself (okay, with equivocation) and insisted that Congress weigh in on the decision to intervene directly in Syria. That was not in the plan that Obama’s handlers had. Judging from the recommendations of his national security advisers, that plan hasn’t changed. They are clearly still calling for an action that would have made Bush blush. Indirect support of the al Qaeda-dominated “Free Syrian Army” will fail to topple the dictator-du-jour.

The insane rush to war at the risk of sparking WW III may have been too much for the normally compliant President known for “leading from behind.” He might have real doubts. He might have had them even before escalating the war in Afghanistan and agreeing to take part in the illegal assault of Libya. How can anyone know what is in a man's heart? Those who assume he always lies about his intent do not seem to consider that he feels compelled to act as he does because he cannot do otherwise without the people behind him, unless he wants to risk the fate of JFK.

Obama has never admitted that Assad was carefully selected based on the fact that his country is inconveniently situated between Iran and its European market, but he didn’t write the script he was following. It was based on a plan developed over the years in think tanks funded by corporations that stood to benefit from control of oil and gas supplies in the Mideast and from the wars that would be essential to securing that control. The object of the plan is to assure that US-based energy interests will dominate the Mideast supply by cutting off a proposed pipeline from gas-rich fields in Iran and off the Syrian coast to Europe in a deal that would benefit Russia. And people say that Putin is just a hardass with a jones to give the US a hard time!

I guess that might be true, if you assume that American interests are synonymous with the profits of transnational oil companies, weapons manufacturers, private Armies, connected firms like Halliburton and Bechtel and God knows how many companies with extensive Pentagon and CIA connections. That’s why they call it the military-industrial complex, after all. Their interests are not consistent with those of us who foot the bills for these wars, subsidies to oil companies and massive corporate welfare to all the other war pigs with their snouts in the government trough.  We have to start pointing that out every time we hear the phrase “American interests” used that way.

When I was a little kid, people were convinced the commies were gonna kill us if we didn’t let the CIA do whatever it wanted without telling us. Kennedy became a threat to the Security State that served the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned us about. In secretly negotiating with Khrushchev, ordering a withdrawal from Vietnam and announcing he intended to work toward ending the Cold War, he signed his own death warrant. Don’t believe it?  In 1977, the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded that he was killed as a result of a conspiracy, one that remains uninvestigated.

The cover up included the classification of thousands of key documents that were never released to the Warren Commission and that remained classified after 50 years. Obama refused to declassify them this year, as called for by an act of Congress after the murder.  Who can blame him? Who knows what his handlers would do if he let the public know that the people who killed Kennedy for trying to make peace still have influence to this day. Why else would Kissinger, the architect of the war Kennedy tried to stop, be chosen to head the 9/11 Commission? Thank goodness Special K was reluctant to reveal the clients who “consulted,” with him, or there might have been another whitewash, right?

Everyone has a theory about why Obama amazed the world by asking Congress to do its duty and determine whether or not we should commit a premeditated act of war on a country that had not attacked us.  All of them seem to assume the worst of Obama’s intentions. None acknowledge the very real danger of straying too far from the script. They fail to account for the fact that a hostage cannot simply announce he is ready to join in an attack on his captors when they have a gun pointed at his head.

Why don’t we assume for the sake of hope for our future that the President may be simply waiting for the American people to make him “be the change” we need? After all, he told us in 2008 that we would have to be the change we want. Obama’s willingness to encourage discussion of reversing the US policy of preemptive war at the whim of the President might just make this possible. The protests against the latest illegal war may have provided him cover. The corporatocracy does not fear the power of Presidents. It fears the power of a People united.

Now that the question will go before Congress, Americans must stand together to demand an end to neocon plans for world domination, with which neoliberals have conspired. The people of the UK have spoken through their Parliament. Now it is our turn. We need to build on the momentum of the anti-intervention movement to get people to realize that the "War on Terror" is really a war on democracy and national self-determination. We have all the ammunition that we need. The truth is even out in the mainstream press. It is easily extracted from the lies once we abandon the assumption that our government will not blatantly lie to us. Only a fool can still believe that, and most of them appear to be in Congress. It’s our job to remind them of the wise saying “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…..uh, we can’t get fooled again.”



Thursday, August 29, 2013

A CIRCLE HAS NO LEFT OR RIGHT








It’s great to see more Americans abandoning the false left-right dichotomy all the time. It is nothing but a construction of the corporate media to serve the interests of the wealthy power brokers who fund right-wing think tanks. They control the way Americans think about politics by controlling how it is discussed in the mainstream media and as a result, by most politicians. It is not a contradiction to refer to a “right wing” when arguing to abandon the artificial divide between Americans who consider themselves either liberal or conservative. I am using the term as it was understood by everyone when I was growing up: “Right-wing” at that time was generally recognized to refer to the economic and political elite of nations other than the US.  It is a term that used to be reserved for the ruling class of banana Republics who maintained power by terror alone.  Back then, no American politician would have wanted to claim membership in such a group.

It is useful to think of the spectrum of American political opinions as a circle rather than a line with two ends separated by a shifting middle.  In contrast, a circle is a symbol of continuity. It is a line curved upon itself, with no beginning and no end.  If America ever becomes a democracy, we certainly want it to stay one forever, after all who have died believing they were giving their lives to defend it.  A circle is also a symbol of universality.  In Venn diagrams, it represents the universe of all objects in a given class, such as all Americans or all humans.  That is a fitting symbol of a democratic society, where decisions are made by consensus and every citizen who wants to have a voice is included in the discussion. A circle is also symmetric. The two halves are complementary, like yin and yang.  Both are necessary to form the whole, and neither is entire of itself.  Without appreciating both, one cannot fully conceive of either.  Similarly, in a true democracy all views are considered and openly discussed in order to visualize all possible solutions in the process of achieving consensus on how to move forward together.

As the costs of allowing corporate interests to control the US government continue to multiply and to affect average Americans, the list of issues on which Americans can find common cause continues to grow. It is only a matter of time before pundits still arguing about political ideologies that are nothing more than convenient rhetorical devices realize that no one is listening. Instead, we will be having a real dialogue about practical solutions to issues affecting us. Members of Congress cannot continue to ignore this trend. If they don’t start facing critical issues of common concern to people who regard themselves as being at various points along the political spectrum, they will pay a price. Americans can decide for themselves who will represent them once they recognize and accept that both major parties are in the employ of the corporate interests that fund their campaigns, When they do, they will abandon the myth of the two-Party system and realize that solving the problems threatening the viability of the American experiment in democracy is more important than ideology.  How one wants to describe the system of government will be unimportant if we hand complete control of it to a police state that operates exclusively in the interest of the economic elite.

It was clear from the number of Ron Paul supporters who joined with Green Party partisans in Occupy encampments around the nation that people are seeing through the lies that are used to divide us and thereby keep us incapable of establishing a government of, by and for the People. The biggest issues then were outrage at government inaction against the banksters who destroyed the economy, the unchecked power of the Federal Reserve and the outrageous abuse of American military power to wage wars for corporate Empire that benefitted the rich at the cost of the lives of the poor and the wealth of the nation. While Occupy managed to avoid being coopted by any particular view point, it failed to address the fundamental ideological divide that separated the Libertarians from the socialists, although the progressive anarchists tried. It is time now to move beyond amorphous demands for redress of the problems we all agree exist and to the difficult work of having the national dialogue about what we can do to end them together.

Events are conspiring that seem to be leading inevitably to the kind of awakening among average Americans that we have been working for since it became obvious that the Anglo-American Empire is no longer afraid of public opinion in the US or anywhere else. Just as the power of the banks was revealed by the immunity for the crimes they committed that crashed the US and world economy, the threatened assault on Syria is leading to outrage throughout a broad swath of the American public. The lies are so transparent that even the Washington Post began to refer to the "alleged" use of chemical weapons by the Syrian military in a story about the decisive defeat in Parliament of a vote to support an illegal, non-UN sanctioned US attack. The same article describes members of Congress on both sides of the aisle asking questions no one asked Bush in 2001 or 2003.

The fact that members of both parties were involved in the attempt to ram through a war no sane American wants to see makes it obvious that the Iraq lies were not a partisan problem solved by putting a Democrat in the White House. The rot of corruption goes much deeper, and people are starting to see that.  Articles on conservative blogs are attacking the President and his party less often and the issues more, while blogs that often serve as a forum for Democratic apologists are publishing criticism of policies that more often than not come out of the same playbook as his Republican predecessor, such as a blog in the Daily Kos detailing the Congressional demands for consultation and an article in the Huffington Post that points out how deeply unpopular the proposed attack on Syria is.

It is becoming easier to help newly alert citizens to connect the dots that have been obvious to some of us for some time. The furious reaction to the revelations of NSA spying have interrupted the ongoing partisan nonsense of pundits representing the two sides of the corporate Duopoly long enough for them to agree that the abridgement of civil liberties has gone on long enough, prompting even Congress to act. The furor resulted in the near-passage on a bipartisan vote of the Amash amendment that would have restricted NSA spying . Such resistance to Presidential overreach of authority to strip Americans of basic constitutional rights would have been unthinkable even six months ago. It is only a matter of time before Americans collectively grasp the idea that war abroad, economic disaster and suspension of civil liberties at home are all symptoms of the same problem: corporate control of the US government. When they do, they will be ready for the solution.

There is no doubt that corruption of the US government by corporations and wealthy individuals is at the root of the problem. There are many proposals to do something about it, but the one with legs is the movement to pass a constitutional amendment to effectively reform campaign finance and abolish corporate personhood. When America has the discussion about why we need such an amendment and what form it should take, we will be ready to elect representatives who are willing to cosponsor and vote for it. If we make our votes conditional on such support irrespective of party, we can make our votes count by electing a Congress that will pass it. This is not going to end corruption in and of itself, but in electing a Congress willing to cut off the corrupting special interest money in elections we will have taken the first step to address the other sources by which they corrupt government.

It is not hard to see that the mood of the country is shifting away from helpless acceptance at the theft of what they have assumed is our democracy. Surely a politician as brilliant as Obama can see it. That raises the interesting question. Is it possible that he knows that we will not “be the change” he told us we have to be in 2008 unless things get so bad that we finally have no choice but to act? Is that why he seems to be doing nothing to counter the trend toward fascism in America? We can always hope that those we have accused of blind faith might have been right in claiming that Obama is playing three-dimensional chess with a bunch of checker players. Only time will tell, and only if the movement to take back America for the People continues to grow.
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