The Jaded Prole

A Progressive Worker's Perspective on the political and cultural events of our time.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Fix Is In

The economic fraud and cover-ups continue under the Obama administration. The fraudulent basis of the present economic disaster and the continuing criminality are flushed out by William C. Black, a Wall Street Regulator on this Bill Moyers Segment. The obvious question is why Obama would choose Gaithner and others who are part of the scam to "fix" the problem instead of an honest operative without conflicts of interest like William Black or Joseph Stiglitz unless Obama himself is part of the cabal or made a deal with it upfront to insure his ascendancy to power. Meanwhile, we the taxpayers (those of us who still have jobs) will continue to bail out a sinking ship built on lies because no solution based on BS is viable.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Impending Change in US Cuba Relations

The relationship between the US and Cuba seems to be warming as the obsolescence of the embargo becomes increasing apparent and costly to the US. Here is an insightful and informative look inside the process from the recent reflections of Fidel Castro:

It is not known how many people in the United States write to Obama and how many different issues they put to him. Obviously, he cannot read all the letters and tackle every issue, because neither the 24 hours of the day and the 365 days of the year would be enough. What is a fact is that advisors, backed up by computers, electronic equipment and cell phones, reply to all the letters. Their content is recorded and the replies, supported by many statements made by the new president during his nomination and election campaign, exist beforehand.
In any event, letters have their influence and weight in U.S. policy given that, in this case, it does not concern a corrupt, lying and ignorant politician like his predecessor, who despised the social advances of the New Deal.
That is why my attention was caught by a dispatch from Washington, published yesterday, April 14, by the DPA news agency.
"A group of retired high-ranking U.S. officers have urged President Barack Obama to support and sign a Congressional initiative to end the ban on travel to Cuba for all Americans, arguing that the embargo of the island does not serve Washington’s political and security aims.
"’The embargo has inspired a significant diplomatic movement against U.S. policy,’ note the 12 high-ranking retired officers, who include Barry McCaffrey, the ‘drug tsar’ during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and Colin Powell’s former chief of staff Lawrence B. Wilkerson, in a letter made public in Washington today.
"’As military professionals, we understand that America's interests are best served when the United States is able to attract the support of other nations to our cause,’ the officers state in the letter, sent to Obama on Monday, the day that the U.S. president announced the end of restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuban Americans, but not for all of the country’s citizens, as progressive sectors are demanding.
"In the view of these officers, the bill called the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, submitted to the House of Representatives by Democrat Bill Delahunt, is an important first step toward lifting the embargo.
"A type of policy, they add, ‘more likely to bring change to Cuba’ and also to change Washington’s international image.
"’Around the world, leaders are calling for a real policy shift that delivers on the hope you inspired in your campaign,’ the officers sustain.
"’Cuba offers the lowest-hanging fruit for such a shift and would be a move that would register deeply in the minds of our partners and competitors around the world,’ they add.
The news, located among 315 pages of cables seemed to be somewhat insignificant. However, it approaches the crux of the problem that promoted four Reflections in less than 24 hours related to the Americas Summit, which begins in 48 hours.
In the United States, politicians launch wars and the military has to make them.
Kennedy, inexperienced and young, decreed the blockade and the Bay of Pigs invasion, organized by Eisenhower and Nixon, who knew less about wars than he did. The unexpected setback led him to new and misguided decisions which culminated in the October Missile Crisis, from which, however, he emerged gracefully but traumatized by the risk of a thermonuclear war, which was very close, as the French journalist Jean Daniel told me. "He’s a thinking machine," he added, in praise of the president, who had deeply impressed him.
Later on, enthused with the Green Berets, he sent them to Vietnam, where the United States was supporting the restoration of the French colonial empire. Another politician, Lyndon Johnson, took that war to its final consequences. In that inglorious adventure, more than 50,000 soldiers lost their lives, the Union squandered no less than $500 billion when their value in gold fell 20 times, killed millions of Vietnamese and multiplied solidarity with that poor Third World country. Military service had to be replaced by professional soldiers, distancing the public from military training, which debilitated that nation.
A third politician, George W. Bush, protected by his father, executed the genocidal Iraq war that accelerated the economic crisis, making it more acute and profound. Its cost in economic figures rises to trillions of trillions of dollars, a public debt that will fall on new generations of U.S. citizens in a convulsed world full of risks.
Are those affirming that the embargo affects the security interests of the United States right or not?
The officers who wrote the letter are not appealing for the use of arms, but to the battle of ideas, something diametrically opposed to what the politicians have done.
In general, U.S. military personnel who defend the economic, political and social system of the United States, have privileges and are very well remunerated, but they are concerned at not becoming involved in the theft of public funds, which would result in discredit and a total lack of authority in terms of their military undertakings.
They do not believe that Cuba constitutes a threat to U.S. security, as others have attempted to portray us to U.S. public opinion. It was the governors of that country who converted Guantánamo base into a refuge of counterrevolutionaries or émigrés. Worse than that, they converted it into a torture center which they made famous as a symbol of the most brutal negation of human rights.
The military is also well aware that our country is a model in the war on drug trafficking and that no act of terrorism against the United States has ever been permitted from our territory.
As the Congressional Black Caucus was able to confirm, including Cuba on the list of terrorist countries is the most dishonest act ever made.
As well as Senators Lugar, Delahunt, the Caucus and other influential members of Congress, we thank those who wrote the letter to Obama.
We do not fear dialogue; we do not need to invent enemies; we do not fear a debate of ideas; we believe in our convictions and with them, we have learned to defend and will continue to defend our homeland.
With the fabulous advances in technology, war has turned into one of the most complex sciences.
That is something that U.S. soldiers understand. They know that it is not a matter of order and command in the style of the old wars. Today the adversaries quite probably never see each other’s faces; they can find each other at thousands of kilometers of distance; the most lethal weapons are fired by programs. Man barely participates. Decisions are calculated beforehand and lacking in emotion.
I have met a number of them, now retired, who have dedicated themselves to the study of military science and wars.
They do not express hatred or antipathy toward the little country that has fought and resisted confronting such a powerful enemy.
There currently exists in the United States a World Security Institute with which our country has contacts and academic exchanges. The one that existed 15 years ago was the Center for Defense Information (CDI). A CDI delegation made its first visit to Cuba at the end of June 1993. From that date to November 19, 2004, there have been nine visits to Cuba.
Up until 1999 the delegations were, in the main, made up of retired military officers.
In the October 1999 visit the composition of the delegations began to vary, reducing the presence of military personnel. From visit No. 5, all the delegations were led by the eminent researcher Bruce Blair, a security policy expert, specialized in control and command nuclear forces. A consultant professor at Yale and Princeton Universities. He has published countless books and hundreds of articles on the subject.
In that way, I came to know officers who assumed important roles in the U.S. armed forces. We didn’t always agree with their points of view, but they were always amiable. We had wide-ranging exchanges on historical events in which they had participated as soldiers.
The visits continued in 2006, but I had had the accident in Santa Clara and later fell gravely ill.
Of the 12 retired officers who signed the letter to Obama, one of them took part in those meetings.
I knew that in the last meeting that took place they said, in all frankness, that the military had no intention of attacking Cuba militarily; that there was a new political situation in the United States, derived from the weakness of the administration given its failure in Iraq.
It was clear to the compañeros who met with the U.S. delegation that they felt badly led and were ashamed at what was happening, although nobody could offer any guarantees on the political adventurism of the president of the United States, which he maintained up until the last day of his administration. That meeting took place at the beginning of March 2007, 14 months ago.
Bruce Blair must know much more than me on the thorny issue. His brave and transparent conduct always impressed me.
I did not want these data to remain in the archives awaiting the time when they would be of no interest to anybody.

Friday, April 17, 2009

From increasing military actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan to refusing to prosecute those who tortured and ordered such crimes to not considering single payer health care, Obama has in many ways been a disappointment. This is not to say that he is all bad but that he falls far short of expectations and proimises. No surprise for those of us who realize that only a candidate with whom the corporate oligarchy was comfortable would have a chance at the Presidency. Still, for those less jaded, Naomic Klein writes:

Whatever the last straw, a growing number of Obama enthusiasts are starting to entertain the possibility that their man is not, in fact, going to save the world if we all just hope really hard.

This is a good thing. If the superfan culture that brought Obama to power is going to transform itself into an independent political movement, one fierce enough to produce programs capable of meeting the current crises, we are all going to have to stop hoping and start demanding.

The first stage, however, is to understand fully the awkward in-between space in which many US progressive movements find themselves. To do that, we need a new language, one specific to the Obama moment. Here is a start.

Hopeover. Like a hangover, a hopeover comes from having overindulged in something that felt good at the time but wasn't really all that healthy, leading to feelings of remorse, even shame. It's the political equivalent of the crash after a sugar high. Sample sentence: "When I listened to Obama's economic speech my heart soared. But then, when I tried to tell a friend about his plans for the millions of layoffs and foreclosures, I found myself saying nothing at all. I've got a serious hopeover."

Hoper coaster. Like a roller coaster, the hoper coaster describes the intense emotional peaks and valleys of the Obama era, the veering between joy at having a president who supports safe-sex education and despondency that single-payer healthcare is off the table at the very moment when it could actually become a reality. Sample sentence: "I was so psyched when Obama said he is closing Guantánamo. But now they are fighting like mad to make sure the prisoners in Bagram have no legal rights at all. Stop this hoper coaster-I want to get off!"

Hopesick. Like the homesick, hopesick individuals are intensely nostalgic. They miss the rush of optimism from the campaign trail and are forever trying to recapture that warm, hopey feeling-usually by exaggerating the significance of relatively minor acts of Obama decency. Sample sentences: "I was feeling really hopesick about the escalation in Afghanistan, but then I watched a YouTube video of Michelle in her organic garden and it felt like inauguration day all over again. A few hours later, when I heard that the Obama administration was boycotting a major UN racism conference, the hopesickness came back hard. So I watched slideshows of Michelle wearing clothes made by ethnically diverse independent fashion designers, and that sort of helped."

Hope fiend. With hope receding, the hope fiend, like the dope fiend, goes into serious withdrawal, willing to do anything to chase the buzz. (Closely related to hopesickness but more severe, usually affecting middle-aged males.) Sample sentence: "Joe told me he actually believes Obama deliberately brought in Summers so that he would blow the bailout, and then Obama would have the excuse he needs to do what he really wants: nationalize the banks and turn them into credit unions. What a hope fiend!"

Hopebreak. Like the heartbroken lover, the hopebroken Obama-ite is not mad but terribly sad. She projected messianic powers on to Obama and is now inconsolable in her disappointment. Sample sentence: "I really believed Obama would finally force us to confront the legacy of slavery in this country and start a serious national conversation about race. But now whenever he seems to mention race, he's using twisted legal arguments to keep us from even confronting the crimes of the Bush years. Every time I hear him say ‘move forward,' I'm hopebroken all over again."

Hopelash. Like a backlash, hopelash is a 180-degree reversal of everything Obama-related. Sufferers were once Obama's most passionate evangelists. Now they are his angriest critics. Sample sentence: "At least with Bush everyone knew he was an asshole. Now we've got the same wars, the same lawless prisons, the same Washington corruption, but everyone is cheering like Stepford wives. It's time for a full-on hopelash."

In trying to name these various hope-related ailments, I found myself wondering what the late Studs Terkel would have said about our collective hopeover. He surely would have urged us not to give in to despair. I reached for one of his last books, Hope Dies Last. I didn't have to read long. The book opens with the words: "Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up."

And that pretty much says it all. Hope was a fine slogan when rooting for a long-shot presidential candidate. But as a posture toward the president of the most powerful nation on earth, it is dangerously deferential. The task as we move forward (as Obama likes to say) is not to abandon hope but to find more appropriate homes for it-in the factories, neighborhoods and schools where tactics like sit-ins, squats and occupations are seeing a resurgence.

Political scientist Sam Gindin wrote recently that the labor movement can do more than protect the status quo. It can demand, for instance, that shuttered auto plants be converted into green-future factories, capable of producing mass-transit vehicles and technology for a renewable energy system. "Being realistic means taking hope out of speeches," he wrote, "and putting it in the hands of workers."

Which brings me to the final entry in the lexicon.

Hoperoots. Sample sentence: "It's time to stop waiting for hope to be handed down, and start pushing it up, from the hoperoots."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Teabagged at the Gates?

Many cities, including my own, saw these large rallys yesterday. Angry folks "wanting their country back," decrying government spending and "socialism." Where did this army of uninformed stooges come from? We know the Libertarians aren't that organized. It seems the organization behind it is freedomworks a group founded by republican Dick Armey and funded by by tobacco, pharmaceutical and banking interests.

Joe Conason writes:
If conservative leaders no longer even try to offer serious solutions to national problems, nobody should underestimate their capacity or their will to mobilize angry Americans. Behind the April 15 “tea parties” rallying against President Barack Obama’s economic program—promoted as a new phenomenon by Fox News Channel and right-wing bloggers—stands a phalanx of Republicans whose ideology is all too familiar.

At the apex of the tea party movement, aside from such Fox revolutionaries as Rupert Murdoch, there is a well-funded organization known as FreedomWorks, headed by a former politician named Dick Armey. His past career should be instructive to any starry-eyed citizens who believe that they have at last found the true right-wing revolutionary path.

Back when the Republicans first gained control of Congress more than a decade ago, Armey, a former economics professor at a small Texas college, was hailed as the author of the Contract With America and led the Republicans as House majority leader until his retirement. He rose to power on the strength of a “tax revolt” against President Bill Clinton’s first budget, which raised rates on the wealthiest Americans to trim the enormous deficit he had inherited from the first Bush administration. That summer, Armey warned of an economic apocalypse—and his party won the midterm election before his predictions could be proved embarrassingly wrong.

As anyone with a functioning memory should know, the Republicans under the leadership of Armey and his cronies Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay proceeded to rack up excesses in spending and boodling that made the old Democratic congressional leaders look quite stingy. When he was asked once why he and his GOP comrades were chomping so much more federal pork than the Democrats ever did, he replied bluntly: “To the victors go the spoils.”

Like so many self-styled populists of both parties in Washington, Armey packed his own golden parachute when he left Congress. At the same time that he took over the leadership of the “grass-roots” group that eventually became FreedomWorks, he also joined a major corporate lobbying firm. The Web site of DLA Piper, one of the capital’s biggest bipartisan law and lobbying outfits, boasts of Armey’s influence among his colleagues. As it happens, he specializes in homeland security, a major growth industry with billions wasted annually on corporate boondoggles. After all, his final legislative masterwork was to chair the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, and he was the prime sponsor of the legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security. Of course, he isn’t listed as a lobbyist, but instead is called a “senior policy advisor.”

As for FreedomWorks, which has claimed a national membership of some 700,000 conservative activists, its operations have long smelled of Astroturf, or artificial grass roots. Most of the money that funded Armey’s activism in the past was provided by tobacco, pharmaceutical and banking interests—and there is no reason to think that has changed.

Nor is the ideological bent of the tea party’s host in any sense new. When last heard from in 2005, Armey was busily conjuring phony grass-roots support for Social Security privatization. That effort led to a notorious episode involving a FreedomWorks employee who showed up at the Bush White House, where she was introduced as a “single mom from Iowa” endorsing the president’s private-accounts scheme.

Buzzing beneath the furious rants of the tea party protests, it is not hard to hear the same old right-wing rhetoric about taxes and deficits and the same old schemes to cut the taxes for the wealthiest citizens, deregulate the economy and despoil the environment. The difference between the heyday of Armey and now is that we have suffered the results of those policies in practice and reject them. The Republican Party’s appeal and conservatism as a movement are lower than ever.

Months of furious propaganda on talk radio and Fox News has achieved nothing so far, according to nearly every survey. Barack Obama’s approval ratings remain close to 66 percent, with most Americans trusting him and believing that the country is on the path to renewal. This president has long benefited from ineffectual and discredited adversaries—and Armey is no exception.

The danger is that these easily manipulated, knownothings of today may be the precursor for more dangerous armed mobs down the road. History shows that power concedes nothing without a fight and that the most ignorant sectors of the population can be rallied with nationalism and religion against progress.