This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013


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 system of interlocking directorships, with financial resources that dwarf those of even the United States, financial institutions have come to control key economic sectors including energy, telecommunications, insurance and corporate health care in addition to a financial industry that at the time of the 2008 crisis generated about 40% of US GDP, wealth that the common citizen never sees.

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

4)  It is estimated that there is far more than enough money heldoffshore 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. 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 trickles 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


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


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.”