Monthly Archives: June 2011

Aid for Gaza?

Israel’s blockade of Gaza has caused much hardship among the Gazans who live in what can only be called a vast prison. Even though some of the restrictions have been lifted recently by both Israel and Egypt, there continues be widespread suffering. This little boy will probably die:

In all the whirl of other events both in the US and the Middle East, does anyone remember or care about the Palestinians locked up in Gaza? It's illegal, I believe, in international law to deny life sustaining food and medicine to people under occupation. Where is Hillary's humanitarian urge in this case? We really can't expect Arab Muslims to respect us if there are such wide gaps between our words and our actions (or inactions). We say we are protecting civilians in Libya, but we utter not a word about the civilians of Gaza or Palestine.

Turmoil in Greece

Is Greece heading for a breakdown in government that could lead to a new dictatorship/ Are the IMF and the EU pushing it that way with their insistence on draconian austerity measures as the price for financial aid? Do they really want to do that?

Greece has been a dictatorship before if my memory serves (“regime of the colonels” back in the 60’s), though I’ll have to check. Do we really want to see more authoritarian governments in Europe just as Middle Eastern countries are trying to get rid of theirs.

Strict austerity, deep cuts in government programs produce less income for the State which can cause more cuts and less income with each cycle producing fewer jobs for ordinary people and the resulting unhappiness, restiveness, and an even lesser ability to pay off debt. Extremists and revolutionaries tend to grow in such periods, and I fail to see how it makes economic sense or even common sense. Punishing a people for getting in debt by making less likely for them to be able to pay off debt is just a non-solution. Doesn’t anyone remember what the IMF did to Argentina? Collective punishment just abuses the people least able to withstand its rigors. Those who evade taxes and have wealth will not be hurt. What do the Germans and the IMF gain from such actions? Anything?

It’s beginning to feel a bit like the chaos of the late 20’s and early 30’s and the rise of Hitler and Mussolini. Since the push for deep spending cuts occurs here at home as well as in Europe, are we all headed for more authoritarianism than we have already? How many more of our rights are we going to lose? Will the military ultimately take over everything? If the Republicans are determined to be blinded by their hatred of Obama as President of the US, and insist on causing a debt crisis here for purely ideological reasons that make no sense, they will be responsible for causing the misery of millions. How, then, do they think they will be elected? Just by exercising their noise machine?

It’s past time for progressives to stand up for values they believe in. I refuse to believe that those who make the most more have anything approaching a majority in the country.

Where are we going?

I’ve been reading some commentaries from other parts of the globe, mainly Robert Fisk of Britain’s Independent, Jim Lobe and Pepe Escobar at the Asia Times Online, to Paul Rosenberg and Joseph Massad at Al Jazeera English.  It’s been quite a breath of fresh air and painful criticism, but gets away from the what someone has called the Idiocracy that is presently American government, politics and media.

Paul Rosenberg’s “Looking beyond Obama to the ‘The Golden Age'” is about the harshest criticism of Obama that I have seen, except for Robert Fisk’s “Who cares in the Middle East what Obama says?”.

Painful or not, I begin to think the criticism is well earned and deserved.  So many of us had such great hopes that this President would finally stand up for something approaching human rights and “real democratic values” (an expression I have come to hate).  Instead what we got was a man who traded away all his perceived advantages of the bully Presidential pulpit for compromises with those determined to defeat his every initiative and to business interests intent on maintaining the Bush era status quo of easy profits, financial manipulation, and the cheapest possible labor.  Everything that George W. began has been continued and extended from pre-emptive war to strip searches of children and the elderly at our national airports to abuses of prisoners (hidden by document classification) to FBI entrapment of possible terrorists and targeted assassination. We are ceding our own rights as citizens of a democratic nation to the Security State for the sake of fantasy fears.  We extend our mafia-like capitalist empire back into the countries we conquered, maiming and impoverishing the peoples of other nations for the benefit of our and their elites and those same fantasy fears while grasping at profits for the few that will surely keep all ordinary people at home and abroad in poverty or near poverty for decades to come as well as spreading a layer of corruption seldom seen before.

Obama can’t seem to even stand up for his own Health Care Reform or the need to raise the Debt Ceiling.  He retreats from the unreasonable demands of Republicans in Congress with only a murmur about “compromise”, and allows himself to be persuaded into military surges and new conflicts without visible ends  Why?  It’s as if someone or some group has really leaned on him from the beginning, threatening that if you dare change anything we’ll get you.

One of the commentators, maybe Massad, called Obama the most passive president since Grover Cleveland who had fought corruption and fiscal irresponsibility, who, while personally incorruptible, allowed the profligacy that led to the Panic of 1893 – a bit unfair perhaps, though we do seem to be headed for a double dip recession, and Obama does seem to be passive indeed now that he has assumed his office.  Somehow, though, I remember calling Bush the boy in the bubble as the government machinery manipulated by Cheney and Rumsfeld pulled the levers of the bureaucracy to their own disastrous advantage.

Obama does not appear to have such strategically placed lieutenants, yet there are many retained Republicans and war hawk Democrats who do not necessarily agree with his world view – or the one he outlined in his early speeches.  He could have kept on railing publicly about greedy bankers, financiers, ceos and wealthy elites.  He could have insisted on withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, and brought Osama bin Laden to trial.  He could have spoken out over and over about the damage the drone war and night raids were doing to civilians and the so-called battle for hearts and minds as well as our reputation among Muslims that our wars were not a new Crusade against their religion.  Instead, some of those have been mentioned once and then never again.  With so many of the Bush era bureaucrats still in place, the machinery has gone on pretty much as before and allowing the Republican to consolidate their rigid 19th century policies in the House and Senate’s refusal to cooperate on anything at all, proposing to take apart much of our safety net in the middle of a jobless rate of 9.1%.

One of the phrases that Obama repeats is “my team” in reference to any decision that needs to be made.  He consults with this “team” prior to making decisions like sending the Seals to “get” bin Laden in Pakistan leaving himself open to the dangers of accepting the “Group Think” syndrome that afflicted the Bush administration with bad bad decisions. Another guy in a bubble.  What a waste of talent and Intelligence!  Apparently he’s not leading the team but following.  What happened to the certainty expressed in 2008?  Why haven’t all the bankers and financiers who caused the Great Recession been called to account?  Why haven’t those who broke the law by beginning an illegal war and abused everyone’s civil rights by proposing the Patriot Act in the first place been prosecuted?  Why are we still prancing around the world like Roman Centurions sure that we are the most powerful and invulnerable nation in the world with the right to tell all others how to conduct their affairs?

We out here in the ordinary workaday world are looking for spine and ideas for getting ourselves out of our mess, but all we’re getting is mush.

Who will speak for fairness in the US?

Republicans, who seem determined to give us a double dip recession and a possible financial disaster following on their refusal to raise the debt limit have sold Americans a bill of goods. Their mantra, “only the private sector can create jobs” is a myth, but they want to make it a reality by depriving unions of their rights to bargain with their employers and rob them of their pensions while they are at it. What they are really selling is poverty for everyone but themselves and their rich friends. They should look around and take in what’s happening in other parts of the world where people who have been deprived of dignity and livelihoods for years by dictators out to enrich themselves, are rising up in anger and demanding a say in their own governance. It could happen here, since keeping the majority of ordinary people down tends to lead to authoritarian government, brutal crack downs, police states, and ultimately revolt or revolution.

Their theme of out of control government spending is another myth, and it denies the reality that Republican administrations are the ones who have gotten us in this mess by deregulating financial institutions that then went on a bender, giving away tax breaks to their rich friends and industrialists, and fighting unfunded wars. Pay as you go sounds wonderful and responsible, but who is doing the paying? It certainly isn’t those who have the funds and the profits to make it possible.

Krugman details how we got here:

By the beginning of 2010, it was already obvious that these concerns had been justified. Yet somehow an overwhelming consensus emerged among policy makers and pundits that nothing more should be done to create jobs, that, on the contrary, there should be a turn toward fiscal austerity.
This consensus was fed by scare stories about an imminent loss of market confidence in U.S. debt. Every uptick in interest rates was interpreted as a sign that the “bond vigilantes” were on the attack, and this interpretation was often reported as a fact, not as a dubious hypothesis.
For example, in March 2010, The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “Debt Fears Send Rates Up,” reporting that long-term U.S. interest rates had risen and asserting — without offering any evidence — that this rise, to about 3.9 percent, reflected concerns about the budget deficit. In reality, it probably reflected several months of decent jobs numbers, which temporarily raised optimism about recovery.

Why do people believe this stuff? Are we really all that much a bunch of fools following the conventional wisdoms like lemmings to our inevitable end? In our ignorance of basic economics, we’ve gone nuts. This makes us prey to those selling simple-sounding solutions in order to gain power.

Here’s this from William Rivers Pitt at Truthout:

To wit: every available scrap of poll data indicates that a large majority of Americans are stoutly opposed to the Ryan plan that seeks to end Medicare…and every scrap of poll data also indicates that a majority of Americans are dead-set against raising the debt-limit ceiling.

Who the what the where the when the why the hell is that?

Simple answer: the GOP pulled a bait-and-switch on America’s most vulnerable voters by claiming that Obama and the Democrats wanted to destroy Medicare, and with this gambit clawed their way into majority control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections. Once they were in, they turned on a dime and started laying the groundwork to annihilate the very Medicare program they had been sounding the alarm over.

It’s a great article. Go read and enjoy.

Henry Giroux:

A casino capitalist zombie politics views competition as a form of social combat, celebrates war as an extension of politics, and legitimates a ruthless Social Darwinism in which particular individuals and groups are considered simply redundant, disposable—nothing more than human waste left to stew in their own misfortune—easy prey for the zombies who have a ravenous appetite for chaos and revel in apocalyptic visions filled with destruction, decay, abandoned houses, burned-out cars, gutted landscapes, and trashed gas stations.

Describes the Republicans and some Democrats perfectly.

Last, but hardly least is this from TomDispatch’s article describing in detail our loss of the rule of law:

“Think of the National Security Complex as the King George of the present moment. In the areas that matter to that complex, Congress has ever less power and, as in the case of the war in Libya or the Patriot Act, is ever more ready to cede what power it has left.
So democracy? The people’s representatives? How quaint in a world in which our real rulers are unelected, shielded by secrecy, and supported by a carefully nurtured, almost religious attitude toward security and the U.S. military.”

Supposing it’s too late to recover from our national madness. What then? Have we already gone to far on the road to authoritarian dictatorship of the few? Does anyone care about what’s fair or legal anymore aside from those of us who keep pointing out what’s happening?

The Saudi factor

I was looking at the Asia Times today. There is a fascinating piece by Brian M. Downing on Saudi Arabia’s meddling in the affairs of Bahrain, Yemen and Pakistan, and what they might expect to gain from the money being spent on various terrorist groups, madrassas, and other groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I never see this sort of thing in US news, and its information Americans ought to have – those besides the government officials directly involved.

Pair it with Pepe Escobar’s latest and you have a recipe for something that is very unsettling to anyone interested in democracy. There has been something really appealing about the struggles of the Muslim young for dignity and greater freedom that we in the west feel impelled to support. Unfortunately, the Saudis do not seem to see it that way. They instead see it as a threat their royal existences, which of course, it is. The fact that they are using Pakistani and other fighter-terrorists to inforce their vew of the world in Bahrain and elsewhere does nothing but suppress those very hopes.

We have little or no influence  left, if we ever had any with the Saudi royal family.  There is not a lot that we can do even though they and we are working at cross purposes.  Their fear of Iran and our fear of terrorism are making even more unstable places of Pakistan and Afghanistan.  We all say we want stability in the region, but what do we mean, exactly and what is the price to be paid and by whom?  Right now, it looks as though the young of Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan will be paying with their hopes and dreams and in many cases their lives.  No one knows when or how it will all end.  What looked hopeful for Egypt and Tunisia may be only an illusion as those now in power begin to concentrate their grips on the State.  The history of their region is not in their favor.

Labor

I have begun the laborious process of moving posts from my old site to the new one. It begins to look a little more like my familiar place on the web, but there is a long way to go. Reading over the old posts is an education all by itself as I am reminded of all the emotions I have been through since 2002 – especially since 2003. There is much to do, and I do not have an unlimited amount of time to work on it. Work (my job) intrudes.

What’s a human being?

What happens to human beings that makes them maim, torture, dismember, and otherwise brutalize their fellow human beings?  What turns normal people into brutes ?  Reading a story in today’s NYT about a 13-year old protester in Syria who was horribly tortured and murdered by Syrian “authorities” for taking part.  What makes human beings do such things to each other? I think of the grizzly attacks in various parts of Africa like Liberia, the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and elsewhere.  I think of our own brutality to prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, Bagram and who knows where else.  It’s disquieting to think that the veneer of “civilization” runs just skin deep, and that we all have the potential to turn into monsters under the right conditions.  It’s not me thinking “Why can’t we all get along?” because I know better.  It’s more why do we always have to resort to violence against one another?

There was a time within my old memory when there was hope that we could put structures in place that would prevent the kind of brutality we have been witnessing for some 20 years.  We built the United Nations and the International Court, and hoped for the rule of law to become universal.  Exceptionalism seems to have cancelled those efforts out, our own among them.  Yet we do not hang our heads in shame.  We often do not even prosecute those who commit horrors in the name of our government.  There are no consequences for those who are highly placed who violate laws.  At least, not yet.  The Bushes and the Cheneys of our country get off scott free, while we violate Pakistan’s sovereignty to “get” Ben Laden and make terrible messes in the Middle East.

Instead of adapting our own behavior to be less offensive to those of other cultures, we demonize the ones we do not like or understand and go to war.  I’d like to know how this sort of behavior helps anyone.