Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Obama's High-Wire Act: The U.S., Haiti, Cuba

I seem to recall that a popular definition of an idiot is someone who continues to do the same wrong thing over and over and is surprised to get the same result. I’m hoping that President Obama’s superior intelligence is secretly at work toward the change he promised.

We’re being told this morning that the theme of tonight’s State of the Union speech will be bi-partisanship: that has to mean more cooperation from Republicans. Does the president really believe the Republicans are suddenly going to play nice (whether or not they captured the Massachusetts Senate seat)?

More worringly, if President Obama sincerely believes that he can obtain the cooperation of his adversaries, he is admitting that Democrats and Republicans are more alike than most Obama voters would like to think. It’s obviously good for a country to be led by a bunch of people who basically agree. But if that bunch represents a minority of the whole, what we have is not democracy but oligarchy.

Moving on momentarily to Haiti, for all their bad reputa-tion, the Haitian people have been admirably patient after an earthquake all but destroyed their country. Are they likely to renew their confidence in a government that only exists because the United States wants it to? (Jean Ber-trand Aristide, whom the people voted in twice, was twice deposed by American presidents for opposing the kind of economic system that left Haiti without hospitals - or even Tylenol - when the earthquake struck.)

Now let’s move on to Haiti’s neighbor, Cuba. Food is still rationed after fifty years of trying to achieve equality in the face of a powerful neighbor who disapproves. But Cuba takes care of its people when cyclones hit, trains Haitian doctors free of charge and sends 400 Cuban doctors to work permanently in Haiti. I wonder how many Haitians wish they were on the other side of the Wayward Passage that separates them from Cuba.

Returning now to the United States, the “change” Obama promised when we enthusiastically elected him, can only come about if he denounces the distortion of the term “bi-partisan”: originally the term meant that opposing camps are both able to support a given legislation. In Washington, Republicans only support legislation once its Democratic flavor has been neutralized.

Sooner or later, an American president who cares about the American people is going to have to bite the bullet and encourage the creation of a Social Democratic alternative to “bi-partisan” oligarchy.

And some day, if we let them, the Haitian people will stand up for the kind of government they want.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Another Battle of the 2nd American Revolution has begun . . .

Dear Readers,
I'm not copping out, plenty to write about, but I think this should be widely disseminated, so I'm doing my bit. I received this from Seniors United 4 Victory:


"We the Corporations of a New Global Imperialism,
in Order to form a more perfect Profit,
establish Dominion over all lands of the Earth,
insure international Wealth superiority,
provide for our common defense, promote Corporate Welfare,
and secure the Blessings of Wealth to ourselves
and our limited Posterity, do ordain and establish this Plan
for subjugation of the citizens of the United States of America."
------ United States Supreme Court, 21 January 2010


Corporations are legal fictions, not living breathing human beings.
Corporations have no life, no soul.
Corporations have no rights under the United States Constitution.
Corporations are ownable by international cartels.
Corporations are NOT citizens of any Nation.
Corporations cannot vote in any election in the United States.
Corporations cannot be elected to any Office anywhere in America.
Corporations have no right to influence any Election, anywhere, ever.

On 21 January 201o, the first shot of another Battle in the 2nd
American Revolution was fired. Five of nine inJustices who have never
been elected to any Office, who were placed on the US Supreme Court by World Order NeoConservatives, declared themselves Champions of
MultiNational Corporate Fascism, and Enemies of the American People.
May God have Mercy upon their worthless, traitorous souls.
'Free at Last,' Business Says as Court Opens Campaign Spending --High
court's 5-4 ruling struck down restrictions on independent political
spending by corporations, unions 21 Jan 2010 Business groups
celebrated the potential for greater political influence as labor
unions and shareholder activists began looking for ways to counter a
U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited corporate campaign
spending. "Free at last, free at last!" said Cleta Mitchell, a
campaign lawyer at Foley & Lardner LLP in Washington who represents
companies and trade groups before the Federal Election Commission.
"Business has been gagged for decades."

US Supreme Court lifts campaign finance limits 22 Jan 2010 In a
sweeping decision that will change the face of the 2010 US mid-term
election and beyond, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision on
Thursday to lift limits on corporate spending in campaigns. The long-
awaited decision is expected to open the floodgates on corporate money in elections, reversing restrictions that have been in place since the 1940s that prohibited corporations from buying campaign ads from their own treasuries. It also reversed rules that prevented corporations from explicitly supporting candidates in campaign ads.

U.S. government for sale --With no limits on campaign financing,
corporations will take over the government By Keith Olbermann 21 Jan
2010 And be prepared, then, for the bank reforms that President Obama has just this day vowed to enable, to be rolled back by his successor purchased by the banks, with the money President [sic] Bush gave them his successor, presumably President Palin, because if you need a friendly face of fascism, you might as well get one that can wink, and if you need a tool of whichever large industries buy her first, you might as well get somebody who lives up to that word "tool." ...The Internet? ...Kiss net neutrality goodbye. Kiss whatever right to privacy you think you currently have, goodbye. And anyway, what are you going to complain about, if you don't even know it happened? In the new world unveiled this morning by John Roberts, who stops Rupert Murdoch from buying the Associated Press?

"We the corporations" (Move to Amend) 21 Jan 2010 On January 21, 2010, with its ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are persons, entitled by the U.S. Constitution to buy elections and run our government. Human beings are people; corporations are legal fictions. The Supreme Court is misguided in principle, and wrong on the law. In a democracy, the people rule. We Move to Amend. We, the People of the United States of America, reject the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, and move to amend our Constitution. [We need to move to amend, and *a whole lot more.*]

To subscribe to Citizens for Legitimate Government:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Of Pitbulls and Pretty Boys

Today’s “crucial” election in Massachusetts allows me to catch up with Sunday’s sensation on a Tuesday.

The Sunday morning talk shows were all about the presidential campaign tell-all, Game Change, by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.   The revelation that Barack Obama was in fact the establishment’s candidate, Hillary being encumbered with a past and a husband with a past, should be a relief to those of us who wondered why things seem to be going so wrong now that the candidate who promised Progressive change is in office.  It frees us to think about the institutional changes that are necessary for creating a new establishment.

The other nugget, was the “revelation” of just how in unqualified Sarah Palin was to be Vice-President.  Juicy bits about her not knowing 20th century history - let alone anything about the Constitution - there again, could make Progressives feel good. (As Tom Hartmann said yesterday on his radio show, broadcast on Free Speech TV, their crazies are worse than our crazies.)  But alas, alack, Sarah Palin’s admirers are the same people who will likely vote for the pretty boy Republican who apparently ran a workmanlike campaign, to fill Edward Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat today.

You just have to take one look at the candidate’s pictures to see that Rahm Emanuel (revealed in the above book as declaring that Progressives don’t matter, that they have nowhere to go) blew it.  People who shriek and swoon over Sarah  Palin, and who’ve already elected a Republican governor (Mitt Romney), are more likely to vote for a handsome fellow than a female who is the opposite of Sarah Palin.  Martha Coakley is an Attorney General, an office that seems eminently suited to her appearance - or which is perhaps reflected in her appearance. Brown also has going for him that he is a state senator, and thus more suited to elective office.

Appropriately, the current issue of The Atlantic , marking Obama’s first year in office, is devoted to soothing the American people and convincing that a) China is not going to rule the world, and b) our two hundred year old system is the best we can hope for, even if it prevents super-intelligent, charismatic leaders like Obama from ever bringing about meaningful change.

That must be why the beltway money, in the likely event of a Democratic loss in the Massachusetts race, is on Obama bullying the House into accepting as is the Senate health bill, rather than risking losing it through negotiations.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti, January 15, 2010: Is this for Real?

While assuring Haitians that they will not be abandoned, President Obama has named former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton as special envoys to the devastated island. Both of them in turn removed the democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who sits in exile in South Africa and would once again like to come home, where most Haitians want him to be.

Try to hear Democracy Now this evening if you missed it in the morning or at noon, for an excellent primer on why Haiti is the poorest country in the hemisphere.  It is provided by the African-American lawyer, writer and political activist Randall Robinson. His latest book is An Unbroken Agony: Haiti, From Revolution to the Kidnapping of a President, Perseus Books Group, 2007. See his unusual bio on Wikipedia.

When you see the pictures of Haiti’s lush countryside on television, you wonder why the country can’t feed itself.  Then you follow a few links on-line and learn that even though it has been an independent country for most of the last century, the United States in effect has dominated its economy, in particular destroying its agriculture and forcing Haiti to buy U.S. food.

When you are told by CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta,sent to practice a little medicine as he tells the story of Haiti’s disaster, you wonder why “there are no doctors, the hospitals lack even the basic medications such as Tylenol.” The sight of a hospital in Haiti’s capital, Port au Prince, looks strikingly similar to hospitals in Gaza and other destitute places around the world that Americans are given to contemplate in passing on the occasion of some tragedy.

The Dominican Republic, which shares a Caribbean Island with Haiti, has sent no aid.  There is a history of discrimination on the part of its “lighter” inhabitants.

From a little more than 50 miles across the Windward Passage of the Caribbean, Cuba has trained 500 doctors who are working in rural areas of Haiti, and is training 500 more, with government scholarships.

Venezuela sent the first plane the day after the quake.  It carried 19 doctors, 10 firemen and rescue specialists, 17 civil protection experts and three members of the Simon Bolivar International Brigade that is visiting affected areas and evaluating damages.

P.S. Philadelphia 76ers Haitian-born player Samuel Dalembert is raising funds for relief efforts in Haiti. He is the founder of the Samuel Dalembert Foundation, which has teamed with UNICEF, the Red Cross and Feed the Children to support humanitarian aid to his home country, and has pledged to match the total of donations collected at tonight’s game.

Here is a link to a Haitian organization trying to build democracy in Haiti  You can donate on their website.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Today Haiti - Tomorrow Where?

How many countries will have to suffer natural disasters before the world realizes that it needs a permanent corps of relief doctors, workers, and equipment?

The scramble to appear ready and willing is unseemly.  rescue operations cannot wait for governments to make phone calls, decide who will do what, fuel up planes, detour ships, all the while putting our messages of pain and support.

Just today, a member of the American negotiating team at the December Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen stated that it was the fault of the ALBA nations of Latin America, citing Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia, the four left most nations of the alliance) if the negotia-tions had failed.  He said they weren’t interested in saving the planet, but only in “equalizing wealth around the world”, or words to that effect.

Coming amidst the cries of the Haitian victims, that vitu-perative declaration was particularly cynical.  The alternative news sites gave full play to U.S. involvement in Haiti’s disastrous 20th century history, which continues to this day, and has prevented the island nation from acquiring an infrastructure that serves the people rather than the multi-national corporations.  Shantytowns built on deforested hillsides were wiped out while concrete bypasses suitable for the vehicles of the elite could be seen still standing on the newsreels.

Nature and morality agree on the need to share the wealth  and spare the planet.  The rulers think they can get by with piecemeal measures that illustrate Al Qaeda’s rants.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reverse Whackamole

Reverse Whackamole

Finally, a talk show host, Chris Matthews, is asking his guests whether Al Qaeda has become a diffuse threat.  The thought that comes to mind is that we are playing reverse whackamole with Muslim extremists.  Instead of us beating them down in one place, only to have them pop up somewhere else, what is happening is that they are not getting beaten down, and are luring us ever onward. We send more troops to a place with a heavy Al Qaeda or Taliban presence, and while we’re fighting there, cousins beckon us from another place.  This is not the usual whackamole, in which similar situations that each other.  We are faced with an ever-expanding situation which is controlled by the other side.

Right now, we’re officially involved in Iraq and Afghanistan, semi-officially involved in Pakistan, and half-involved in Somalia.  But we’re being lured into Yemen, the Palestinian problem is far from resolved, and the other “stans”, where pipe lines are involved, are in turmoil.  The struggle with Islam confronts Russia, China and India on their home turfs, while the United States worries about border security.

We’re used to thinking in terms of the situation that existed during the Cold War  The two halves of Europe, one under Russian control, the other being at risk, and two small countries in Asia (Korea and Vietnam) that were described as dominos, the loss of one imperiling an endless series of others. Now we’re playing a game with no boundaries, as countries unravel across the globe.

The lure of terror to fix problems as disparate as hunger and control of oil touches not just the Asiatic stans but the Muslim countries of Africa.  Latin America is about the only part of the world where Islam is not an issue, yet we prolong the Cold War there with Venezuela and Cuba.

Instead of allowing ourselves to be drawn first into one crisis then another, we should think about how we could remain secure in a world divided by two conflicting views of life: One believes that God wants a modicum of equality between men, and between humans and the environment.  The other believes that men should compete for wealth locally and for the world’s resources across the globe.  Although presented as an ideological problem, it involves two dif-ferent views of ethics.

As presented by Alastair Crooke in Resistance: The Essence of the Islamic Struggle , the two ways of viewing the world can be traced to the Enlightenment. According to a Shi’a cleric quoted at length by Crooke, the Protestant reformation involved nothing less than a deliberate move away from communally-oriented Catholicism, toward a personal relationship with God that encouraged indivi-dualism and the desire for goods, to be met by the nascent industrial revolution.

The outstanding feature of Islam is that it is about community, known as the umma . It abhors a society based on ever more individual satisfactions, to the detriment of community. The rift began before the wars for oil, but military actions undertaken in pursuit of the raw material that keeps our over-consuming societies running could only exacerbate that cultural conflict.

As the most powerful country in the world throws ever more money, arms and men at the problem, groups of determined individuals use technology to thwart our materialist aims.

The thousands of Muslims across the globe who do not appreciate our way of life from an ethical standpoint are not likely to turn on their brethren who take up arms to oppose its encroachments. We could end up having to dispatch troops or special ops to every Muslim-majority country, for as long as the crusades. Bin Laden’s scheme to weaken us by forcing us to fight first in Iraq then in Afghanistan, has taken on a life of its own: we are being sucked dry by small groups of determined men.

Aside from the need for oil, we consider it barbaric that Muslim women are forced to wear the veil or the hijab, or worse, the burka. We do not send our sons to die for them, but the existence of customs so at odds with modernity give us what can be taken as a moral cover. Our TV hosts do not bring on their shows liberated, secular Western women who agree that even in a modern society, it is repugnant to see sex turned into a vulgar commercial display. Muslim men may be allowed to have several wives, but too many Western women, perhaps, have accepted as proof of their liberation the transformation of lascivious belly dancing dancing into raunchy clowning.

Alas, husbands of women who enjoy watching other women in vulgar representations of their sexuality are increasingly joining right-wing militias for the purpose of pursuing the few American Muslims who support the worldwide struggle for community in which all women would be treated as objects in a different way, one which, while not creating commercial wealth, enshrines far and wide what we call machismo.

If the pundits would only bring the discussion down from military and intelligence heights, we could explore the issues that drive educated men from good families to want to destroy us.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Time for Students to Teach Master?

I’m putting aside an almost ready blog called Reverse Whackamole, to react to something I’m hearing on Democracy Now right now.

Amy Goodman’s star investigative reporter,Jeremy Scahill, who is also a Puffin Nation Fellow, is discussing the role of the private security company Blackwater in undercover assassinations in foreign countries, on behalf of the American government.

Readers will remember that some months ago Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisor Square, bagdad, unprovoked and in full daylight. According to Scahill, the State Department not only got the Blackwater guards out of the country that night, but it granted them immunity.  That explains why, when they were charged with murder and brought to court, the judge had to dismiss the case, because he was barred from using any evidence from State in the trial.  Further, it turns out that the military was on the scene immediately, carrying out a complete investigation and concluding the Blackwater guards were guilty of unprovoked fire and should be turned over to the Iraqis, as per the Status of Forces Agreement.

Ultimately, Blackwater paid the victims $100,000 per death, and about 30,000 per injured person. But since these are paltry sums, one victim suing in North Carolina.

Scahill also wonders why two Blackwater guards were among the dead at the recent shooting of CIA operatives at a U.S. base.

Amy Goodman reported that the German government is questioning the presence of Blackwater guards in the shooting of a German citizen of Middle Eastern descent.   This is the first time I’ve heard of an ally publicly objecting to a questionable practice by the U.S. govern-ment on their territory. In my book “Une autre Europe, un autre Monde, published in 1989 in France, I suggested that in order to Europe to be reunified, the Western part needed to become more independent of the United States.  Now I’m hoping America’s ever-expanding war on terror will be the beginning of a coordinated European brake on American practices abroad, in particular those involving mercenary armies.

After World War II we helped Europe to its feet, and in the case of Germany and Italy, taught them the democratic ropes. Now it may be the turn of the pupils to teach the master.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Troika

For those of my readers who may be too young to remember ancient Soviet history, in the fifties, after Stalin died, the country was ruled by what was known in Russian as the Troika, the equivalent of the Latin word Triumvirate. The apparatchiks Vyachesclav Molotiv, Lavrenty Beria and Georgy Malenkov ruled until NIkita Khruschev won the power struggle.

There isn’t a personal power struggle going on right now at a world level, but I think there is a Troika in the making.  It would be composed of Barack Obama, Hu Jintao and a man who is much less known in the Western world, but is very well known among those who make up almost half of the world’s population. His name is Lumumba Stanislas Di-Aping.  He’s a Sudanese diplomat who is described as a “McKinsey and Oxford-trained economist”, and was the chief negotiator for the Group of 77 at the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change.  If you followed the conference you can’t have missed Di Aping’s emphatic, slow speech, as if he wanted to make sure even reporters writing in long hand wouldn’t miss a word - or the implications of his words.

Most talk of future influences on the issue of climate change center on the U.S. and the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China.  These are the crucial polluters.  Di-Aping’s message is that they should not plan on solving the climate crisis on the backs of Africans and other under-developed nations.

Together, India and China comprise almost half the world’s population, but of the two, only China is a major interlocutor of the United States.  Yet India and Brazil are also major players.  They belong to the Group of 77, which now includes about 130 countries representing almost the entire other half of the world’s population.

At time of the founding of the Group of 77, in 1964, the only important players in the world were the “Big Two”, The US and the Soviet Union.  The Group of 77 was almost irrelevant on the world stage. Fifty years later, that is not likely to be the case:  Notwithstanding the desire to maintain or improve their people’s lifestyle, Jintao and Obama will have to deal with Di Aping - or whoever in future will be in his shoes, on the matter of avoiding a global meltdown that would cause massive starvation in Africa and the submersion of low-lying island states.

It has taken almost fifty years for the poorest half of humanity to be represent-ed by a spokesman of the power of Di Aping. I don’t know whether Di-Aping will be their official voice beyond Copenhagen, but I think it’s safe to say that Patrice Lumumba’s namesake promises to be someone Obama and Jintao will have to reckon with.