Progressive Calendar 06.06.10
From: David Shove (
Date: Sun, 6 Jun 2010 11:32:41 -0700 (PDT)
              P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R  06.06.10

1. Stillwater vigil 6.06 1pm
2. Korea/war?       6.06 2pm

3. Ellen Goodman    6.07 11am
4. Organic farm     6.07 6pm
5. Peace walk       6.06 6pm RiverFalls WI
6. Social media     6.07 6:30pm
7. GAMC cuts/clinic 6.07 7:15pm

8. Laura Flanders  - Where are the lifeboats? Being poor in a sinking US
9. Sheldon Richman - Sanctifying war/ serving the empire, killing for lies
10. Neve Gordon    - "No citizenship without loyalty!" Israel's 2 spaces
11. Mark Morford   - Behold our dark, magnificent horror
12. Alexander Cockburn - Pariah nation
13. James Bovard   - Blind trust: how democracy breeds political idiocy

--------1 of 13---------

From: scot b <earthmannow [at]>
Subject: Stillwater vigil 6.06 1pm

A weekly Vigil for Peace Every Sunday, at the Stillwater bridge from 1- 2
p.m.  Come after Church or after brunch ! All are invited to join in song
and witness to the human desire for peace in our world. Signs need to be
positive.  Sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Peacemakers.

If you have a United Nations flag or a United States flag please bring it.
Be sure to dress for the weather . For more information go to

For more information you could call 651 275 0247 or 651 999 - 9560

--------2 of 13---------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Korea/war? 6.06 2pm

Forum: New War Crisis in Korea?
Sunday, June 6, 2:00 p.m. Mayday Books, 301 Cedar Avenue South,

In recent weeks the world has watched as the U.S. and South Korea make
accusations against North Korea and stir up a new war threat on the Korean
peninsula. The June 6th Anti-War Briefing will be a chance to hear what is
behind the current crisis. Speakers include: Mick Kelly, Editor of Fight
Back newspaper and Twin Cities anti-war activist; and Meredith Aby, member
of the Anti-War Committee. Sponsored by: Mayday Books and the Anti-War
Committee. Endorsed by: WAMM.  FFI: Call 612 333-4719.

--------3 of 13--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: Ellen Goodman 6.07 11am

June 7: womenwinning 28th Annual Event. "Share the Torch: Generations of
Women Winning" with Ellen Goodman, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist,
author, speaker, and commentator. 11 AM - 1:30 PM at the Historic
Milwaukee Depot, 300 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis. RSVP.

--------4 of 13--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: Organic farm 6.07 6pm

June 7: Women's Environmental Institute Organic Farm School. First of ten
classes. "Hmong Family Farming and Sustainable Agriculture in Minnesota"
with Mhonpaj Lee, Mhonpaj's Garden, organic Hmong-owned CSA. Full class
registration is $120, drop-in class is $20, drop in field day is $10.
Registration includes three Saturday Field Days-Hands-On Workshops and
Tours. Mondays, 6 PM at Midtown Global Market, 920 E Lake St.,
Minneapolis. Register.

--------5 of 13--------

From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at]>
Subject: Peace walk 6.06 6pm RiverFalls WI

River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on
the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from
"Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact:
d.n.holden [at] Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls,
Wisconsin 54022

--------6 of 13--------

From: Ann Alquist <aalquist [at]>
Subject: Social media 6.07 6:30pm

Don't Hate the Media! Be the Media!
The Twin Cities Daily Planet has a roster of classes designed to help you
develop the skills to be a part of the media landscape. A sample:

Social Media Best Practices (June 7)

Classes are free and held at Rondo Community Library on University and
Dale, always starting at 6:30pm. More details at

--------7 of 13--------

From: Joel Albers <joel [at]>
Subject: GAMC cuts/clinic 6.07 7:15pm

June 7,Monday: is our first monday UHCAN-MN organizing mtg, Walker Church,
7:15PM, 3104, 16th ave s,mpls, 55406 (1 block from bloomington and Lake
street).Dorothy Allen will be calling the phone tree.

-Main item is planning for the setup of a Free Clinic at Pawlenty's office
at the capitol on tues,June 15, 10am to protest the GAMC cuts that will
exacerbate the conditions of people who are already very sick and poor. We
will promote the MN Health Plan to say this is what health care democracy
looks like.

-other opportunities for tabling at festivals this summer ?
-other items ?

--------8 of 13--------

Where are the Lifeboats?
Being Poor in a Sinking America
June 4 - 6, 2010

Last week in New York authorities announced that at Harlem Hospital
Center, the largest health facility in that historic neighborhood, doctors
had failed to read 4,000 heart tests -- for three years -- and that 200 of
these patients died. These were not simply routine tests, but
echocardiograms, ordered when patients showed severe symptoms. That does
not happen in affluent neighborhoods.

Among other reasons, heart sickness is elsewhere an enormous profit
opportunity -- heart valve and bypass surgeries are a go-go business. But
not for sick, poor people. Their Medicaid coverage fails to fully
incentivize America's insatiable medical industrial appetite.

According to a cardiologist brought in on an emergency basis to start
reading the long backlog of tests in Harlem, approximately half were
abnormal and 20 to 30 percent needed immediate medical care.   "This is
very, very appalling," he told the New York Times.

And it's not just in Harlem.

Across the US, poor communities are grossly under-served: education,
nutrition, housing and  health care.  To a large extent, this explains the
chasm in life expectancy between white people and so-called minorities.

How much worse does it get? A Brandeis University study recently
underscored the growing wealth divide. According to the Federal Reserve,
for every dollar of wealth owned by a white family, a black or Latino
family owns just 16 cents.

And as this -- the great marginalization of America marches on --
Democrats, including the president, wrestle with Republicans for smidgeon
of reform. Is it anywhere close to enough?

For all the talk of Wall Street reform, and new consumer protections, and
talk of alternative energy policy, the fact remains that for most people,
America is a sinking ship.  And minority communities are the first to be
thrown over the side.

Where are the lifeboats?

Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv, which broadcasts weekdays on
satellite TV on cable, public television and online at and Follow GRITtv or GritLaura on

--------9 of 13--------

Sanctifying War
Serving the Empire, Killing for Lies
June 4 - 6, 2010

We made it through another Memorial Day. Thankfully, most people think of
it as just the start of summer. They don't seem to use it as America's
political leaders have long wanted: as a day of reverence for America's
world domination.

In his radio address this past Saturday President Obama urged all
Americans to "serve" the members of the armed forces "as well as they
served us". He called on us to remember the 5,400 Americans "who laid down
their lives in defense of their fellow citizens" in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He assured us that "the men and women serving this country around the
world have the support they need to achieve their missions and come home
safely" (emphasis added). He also praised every war in American history as
a hallowed effort to protect the nation.

Once again an American president lies to sanctify war.

Some questions should be obvious: how exactly are the armed forces today
serving us or the country? And what are those men and women of the
military doing "around the world"? Why didn't Obama mention the hundreds
of thousands of Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis killed by American forces
in the latest operations?

Don't say that American forces are protecting us. Those troops may be
serving the government and the "private" component of the
military-industrial complex, but that has nothing to do with average
Americans, who would be far safer - not to mention richer - if the
trillion dollars spent every year on military-related matters were simply
left in the taxpayers' pockets.

It is way past time that the American people started seeing through the
nonsense. That isn't rocket science. Consider recent events:

Fact 1: The U.S. government is using robot Predator planes to shoot
Hellfire missiles into Pakistan (and Afghanistan). Innocent men, women,
and children are being killed or maimed regularly.

Fact 2: A Pakistani-American tries to blow up a car in Times Square.

How much effort does it take to connect those two dots? Can we really
comfort ourselves by thinking that Faisal Shahzad was just a fanatical
Muslim - counseled and trained by bad guys "over there" - bent on killing
innocent Americans because he hates our way of life?

You have to be a damned fool to keep believing such balderdash.

Presidents and secretaries of State want us to believe that the U.S.
government (which they conflate with "the country") did nothing to provoke
the crimes known as "terrorism," which they then use to excuse all manner
of violence and violations of liberty. (Strangely, Predator attacks don't
meet the official definition of "terrorism".) But the facts refuting that
ridiculous claim are readily available. Any curious American - an
oxymoron? - can easily find out just how much U.S. regimes have done to
create hostility and a desire for revenge in the hearts of Muslims. Start
with the CIA operation in Iran in 1953.

The apologists for U.S. policy will say it was all done for peace,
democracy, and prosperity. Then why does it always bring war, death,
broken bodies, torture, misery, starvation, and disease? The war planners
are not stupid. They see the results. They know what they are doing. Then
they dupe others - too willing to be duped - into following orders and
rationalizing their acts as necessary to national security.

Maybe this deadly con will never cease, but if it does it will be because
we finally refused to pay respect to those who lead and fight the wars. We
will have stopped believing that dying and killing for the empire is
noble. In the movie The Americanization of Emily, screenwriter Paddy
Chayefsky has his protagonist say, "We shall never end wars ... by blaming
it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other
banal bogies. It's the rest of us who build statues to those generals and
name boulevards after those ministers, the rest of us who make heroes of
our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows' weeds like
nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices.... May be ministers
and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do
is to resist honoring the institution".

Remember that next Memorial Day.

Sheldon Richman is senior fellow at The Future of Freedom Foundation
( and editor of The Freeman magazine.

--------10 of 13--------

"No Citizenship Without Loyalty!"
Israel's Two Spaces
June 4 - 6, 2010

In Israel, almost all of the protests against the navy's assault on the
relief flotilla took place in Palestinian space. Palestinian citizens in
almost every major town and city, from Nazareth to Sachnin and from Arabe
to Shfaram, demonstrated against the assault that left nine people dead
and many more wounded. The one-day general strike called for by the
Palestinian leadership within Israel was, for the most part, adhered to
only by Arab citizens.

In Jewish space, by contrast, business continued as usual. Except for a
demonstration in front of the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, which
brought together a few hundred activists, the only site where there was
some sign of a grassroots protest against the raid was on Israeli
university campuses. While numerically these protests were also
insignificant - there were fewer than 2000 demonstrators from all the
different campuses, out of a student body of more than 200,000 - they were
extremely important both because they took place within Jewish space and
because the protestors were Jews and Palestinians standing side by side.

Perhaps because of the widespread international condemnation of the attack
on the flotilla, the Israeli police were relatively careful when handling
these protests. Their caution is particularly striking when compared with
the police reaction during the war on Gaza. Twelve students from the
Technion and Haifa University were nonetheless arrested, and one at
Ben-Gurion University was detained by undercover agents.

There was a visceral response to these campus protests, however, from
pro-government students. Counter-demonstrations were immediately
organised, bringing together much larger crowds that rallied around the
flag. While demonstrations and counter-demonstrations are usually a sign
of a healthy politics, in this case the pro-government demos revealed an
extremely disturbing trend in Israeli society.

A group of opposition students from Ben-Gurion University prepared a big
banner on the street near their off-campus apartment: "15 Dead" The
Israeli government, as usual, has its reasons, and the Zionist majority,
as usual, extends its support.. Their neighbours spat on them and called
them "cunts", "whores" and "traitors who love Arabs" until the students

The following morning these students and their friends rolled the same
banner down from the administration building, initiating a third wave of
protests on campus. Both those opposing and those supporting the Israeli
government use Facebook to tell their friends about these spontaneous
demonstrations, and so within minutes a couple of hundred students from
both sides of the fray had gathered and were shouting chants in the middle
of campus.

A Palestinian student with a Palestinian flag was shoved and had his flag
torn from him by some of the pro-government protesters, who were chanting:
"No citizenship without loyalty!" In response, the Jewish and Palestinian
oppositionists shouted: "No, no, it will not come, fascism will not come!"
and "Peace is not achieved on the bodies of those killed!"

At one point a Jewish provocateur, who is not a member of any group (and
could even be a police agent), raised his hand in the air: "Heil
Lieberman!" The response of the pro-government students was immediate:
"Death to the Arabs!" Luckily the university security managed to create a
wedge between the protesters, and in this way prevented the incident from
becoming even more violent.

Pro-government students interviewed in the press said they were "shocked
to see faculty members, together with students from the left and Arab
students shouting slogans against Israel". Their classmates posted
pictures of the protests on Facebook, asking likeminded students to
"identify their classroom 'friends'".

A Facebook group was created to call for my resignation: by the end of the
day more than 1000 people had joined. As well as hoping that I die and
demanding that my family be stripped of our citizenship and exiled from
Israel, members of this Facebook group offer more pragmatic suggestions,
such as the need to concentrate efforts on getting rid of teaching
assistants who are critical of the government, since it is more difficult
to have me - as a tenured professor - fired.

What is troubling about these pro-government students is not that they are
pro-government, but the way they attack anyone who thinks differently from
them, along with their total lack of self-criticism or restraint. If this
is how students at Israel's best universities respond, what can we expect
from the rest of the population?

Neve Gordon is an Israeli activist and the author of and author of
Israel's Occupation (University of California Press, 2008).

--------11 of 13--------

Behold Our Dark, Magnificent Horror
by Mark Morford
Friday, June 4, 2010
San Francisco Chronicle
Common Dreams

There is, you have to admit, a sort of savage grace, a tragic and terrible
beauty, to the BP oil spill.

Like any good apocalyptic vision of self-wrought hell, the greatest
environmental disaster in U.S. history has its inherent poetry. You see
that creeping ooze of black, that ungodly wall of unstoppable darkness as
it slowly, inexorably invades the relatively healthy, pristine waters
adjacent, and you can't help but appreciate the brutal majesty, the
fantastic, reeking horror of this new manifestation of black death we have
brought upon ourselves, as it spreads like a fast cancer into the liquid
womb of Mother Nature herself.

Really, it's not just the incredible photographs of the spill that are, in
turns, heartbreaking, stunning, otherworldly and downright Satanic in
their abject revulsion. It's not just the statistics that tell us how many
millions of gallons might ultimately be spilled, or the stunned scientists
who can only hypothesize how this unprecedented catastrophe might affect
the fragile food chain and distress the ocean's ecosystems at the very
root level.

It's not even the endless, heartrending tales of livelihoods lost,
industries destroyed, coastlines ravaged or wildlife killed. The fact is,
any one of these aspects alone is enough to poison your soul for as long
as you wish to wallow in that murky state of fatalism and doom. It is
nothing but bleak.

I think the most disturbingly satisfying thrill of this entire event --
and it is, in a way, a perverse thrill -- comes from understanding, at a
very core level, our shared responsibility, our co-creation of the foul
demon currently unleashed.

What a thing we have created. What an extraordinary horror our rapacious
need for cheap, endless energy hath unleashed; it's a monster of a scale
and proportion we can barely even fathom.

Because if you're honest, no matter where you stand, no matter your
politics, religion, income or mode of transport, you see this beast of
creeping death and you understand: That is us. The spill may be many
things, but more than anything else it is a giant, horrifying mirror.

Do you wish to try and deflect it? Lay responsibility elsewhere? Really?
We can't quite blame an "act of God," as we would for some sort of
hurricane or tsunami inflicted upon meager humankind by an angry deity,
punishing us all for being too war-like, violent or perhaps nave enough to
want to enjoy the sunshine for five goddamn minutes before He decided He'd
better kill some people lest we forget who's in charge.

We cannot blame evil terrorists, some cluster of swarthy foreigners who
hate our shopping malls and secretly envy our Porsche Cayenne's. Nor can
we blame the spill on some sort of nefarious conspiracy, a secret act
wrought by devious agents in black helicopters designed to destabilize the
U.N. and induce universal mind control -- unless, of course, you're
getting a little desperate and don't get outside much, in which case, you
absolutely can.

Finally (and a bit shockingly), I'm not hearing Pat Robertson or any of
his cretinous cult of apocalypticans blame the gays, or voodoo, or anal
sex, or reality TV for what's happening in the Gulf. Oil is, after all,
completely non-denominational. It mocks all religions equally -- except,
of course, the only one that really matters: capitalism.

This is how you know this is one of the more universally damning disasters
of our time: No one really seems to know how to process it, much less
react. The GOP is backtracking like terrified hyenas from Sarah "Queen of
Duh" Palin's "drill baby, drill" mantra/ass tattoo, as suddenly the
incessant Republican wail for more oil exploration, more drilling, more
tax cuts for oil conglomerates don't just reek of the usual inbred
cronyism; they reek of death and destruction the likes of which the
country has never seen.

On the other hand, hardcore lefties are going mad with desire that the
disaster will lead to the immediate imprisonment of every BP employee
worldwide, as if BP is somehow any different than any other oil titan
raping the planet right now (hi, Alberta's oilsands). Hardcore lefties
would also appreciate it if Obama would use the disaster as a surefire
excuse to instantly change the entire course of energy history by
immediately shutting down all 48,000 oil wells in the Gulf and hand every
American a bicycle and a solar panel. See? All better.

Sure. As if oil wasn't woven like oxygen into every single aspect of
American life, as if fully 30 percent of domestic transportation fuel
didn't come from the gulf, as if shutting down a fraction of those wells
wouldn't re-devastate the economy, as if petroleum and coal weren't
powering the very energy plants that deliver the electricity that charges
the iPhones that allows everyone to Tweet their angry complaints through
all the various energy-sucking server farms the size of a small country.

Truly, BP is behaving no better or worse than any other corporate spawn of
Satan would in a similar situation. What's more, if you don't think every
oil company on earth is right now kneeling before Beelzebub in gratitude
that it wasn't one of their own wells that exploded, you haven't been
paying attention.

That said, after all is said and done, it's gloomily nice to think our
darkest disaster in a generation could somehow ultimately improve our
attitudes, change our behavior, lighten our violent treatment of the
planet. As someone recently noted, the BP spill isn't Obama's Katrina,
it's actually Big Oil's Chernobyl. Meaning: a disaster so appalling and
devastating it might very well alter the industry and change the course of
our energy policy forever.

Is it possible? Or, more accurately, are we even capable of such a shift?
Is there any silver lining to be found in that black and greasy gloom?
This is, perhaps, the most imperative question of all: If we can produce a
demon of such extraordinary scale and devastation, can we not also somehow
create its exact opposite? Let us pray.

 2010 Hearst Communications Inc.
Thoughts for the author? E-mail him. Mark Morford's Notes & Errata column
appears every Wednesday and Friday on SFGate and in the Datebook section
of the San Francisco Chronicle.

--------12 of 13--------

Pariah Nation
June 4 - 6, 2010

As the tv networks here give unlimited airtime to its apologists, the
message rolls out that Israel is permitted every illegal act in the
lexicon of international law, from acts of violence against a civilian
population (the people of Gaza, starved under permanent blockade) to
piracy on the high seas and the lethal attacks by Israeli commandos on the
relief flotilla. The guiding purpose in this tsunami of drivel is that the
viewers should be brainwashed into thinking Israel somehow has the right
and the duty to act at will as the mad-dog of the planet.

Israel regrets. But no! Israel doesn't regret. It preens and boasts and
demands approval - which it duly gets from its prime sponsor, the United
States government, and most of the press.  As former US senator Jim
Abourezk remarked on this site last week  "It's very much like the bully
who, after punching someone smaller in the jaw, requires the victim to
apologize for getting his face in the way of the bully's fist."

Two points need stressing. Some of the critical commentary suggests that
Israel's murderous onslaught on the Mavi Marmara represents a qualitative
escalation in that nation's brazen criminality. Scarcely. Brazen
criminality coincided with the establishment of the state in 1948. Only
last week I reminded CounterPunchers of the lethal onslaught on the USS
Liberty in 1967 which killed 34 and wounded 173.

The attack on the Mavi Marmara was carefully planned. As Max Blumenthal
reports on his website,

Tel Aviv-Israel Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin [Nasty Bastard -ed]
Netanyahu and his senior ministers have attempted to blame army commanders
for "the bungled raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla" - according to the UK's
Daily Telegraph.

But was the raid really bungled? Did the Israeli military command and
Netanyahu government have no clear strategy going in? Or was the violence
they meted out against the flotilla activists deliberate and methodically

Statements by senior Israeli military commanders made in the Hebrew media
days before the massacre revealed that the raid was planned over a week in
advance by the Israeli military and was personally approved by Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. Details
of the plan show that the use of deadly force was authorized and

The massacre of activists should not have been unexpected.

On May 28, three days before the raid, top Israeli military officials
revealed details of their strategy to Maariv, Israel's most widely
circulated paper. The caption of the Maariv article reflected the military
command's plan to use force: "On the way to violence; one of the boats is
on its way".

In the opinion of much of the world, Israel is descending to the status of
South Africa in the final years of apartheid (in which period, it has just
emerged, Israel was trying to sell South Africa nuclear weapons)  - a
pariah nation.

In February the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute presented a big report to
the Israeli cabinet, long in the making, called "The Delegitimization
Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall". It has sinister recommendations
for a strategy of "offense". Israel's government is embarking on a
methodical assault on human rights groups and kindred NGOs seen as
delegitimizers. It's not paranoid to expect COINTELPRO-type black-bag jobs
sponsored by Israel on solidarity groups here and around the world.

Israel is plunging into deeper darkness. As the Israeli journalist Gideon
Levy recently told one interviewer: "In the last year there have been real
cracks in the democratic system of Israel.. It's systematic - it's not
here and there. Things are becoming much harder". And Levy also wrote in
Ha'aretz, "When Israel closes its gates to anyone who doesn't fall in line
with our official positions, we are quickly becoming similar to North
Korea. When right-wing parties increase their number of anti-democratic
bills, and from all sides there are calls to make certain groups illegal,
we must worry, of course. But when all this is engulfed in silence, and
when even academia is increasingly falling in line with dangerous and dark
views - the situation is apparently far beyond desperate". [But Israel and
most Israelis will do it in order to get free land by stealing it. No
crime or price is too high for free land; no culture or tradition or
religion can withstand men changing into ravening beasts for "free" land.
We must boycott and end Zionist Israel. -ed]

Who's In Charge Here?

Americans don't care to have a wimp in the White House. They'll take
almost any outlandish vulgarity from their commander in chief and give him
a positive job-rating. But wimpishness? No. Until Obama, the last
president to earn wimp ranking was Jimmy Carter whose chances of
reelection thirty years ago expired when he gave wimpish speeches about
America's "malaise" and was photographed beating off a rabbit that swam up
to his canoe and tried to board it.

Obama isn't in that sort of trouble yet, but he''s drifting close.

The fates soon sniff out wimps and deal them bad cards. Obama was all set
to make a big speech in Chicago on Memorial Day. Not only was the speech
rained out but he started quavering to the crowd about the danger of
lightning before scuttling off with his Secret Service guards and getting
bogged down in a traffic jam.

One of America's greatest heroes is Ben Franklin - featured on that symbol
of optimism, the hundred dollar bill -- who made a sporting effort to fry
himself, courting a lightening bolt with his kite.

Wimps can't emote convincingly because they're worried about going too

The White House press corps - until recently without a presidential press
conference for ten months - quizzes Obama's press secretary about Obama's
evident inability to project anger about BP's oil spill, now bidding to be
the greatest environmental disaster in the nation's history. Obama's flack
claimed his boss was "enraged" at BP. "Can you describe it?" asked Chip
Reid of CBS. "Does he yell and scream? What does he do?" The best Gibbs
could offer was evocation of Obama's  "clenched jaw".

At least half of any US president's job is play-acting, pretending to be
in charge, on behalf of We the People. Most of what actually happens in
America is beyond any president's ability or political inclination to

The banks run the finances. The oil companies and Israel vie for control
of US foreign policy. The arms companies arrange the wars. The insurance
companies figure out who should live or die.

Bill Clinton was so servile to big business that he took  a phone call
from a Florida sugar baron, even though Monica Lewinsky was giving him a
blow-job when the call came in. He surely shocked the feisty intern  with
his obsequious manner as the baron issued a crisp command to kill off Al
Gore's impertinent talk about environmental clean-up of the Everglades.
But Clinton could still scream and throw his weight around in the manner
expected of a president.

The all-time presidential champ at bullying was Lyndon Johnson who once
lifted up the Greek ambassador by his lapels and snarled at him, "Fuck
your Parliament and your Constitution. America is an elephant. Cyprus is a
flea. Greece is a flea. If those two fleas continue itching the elephant
they may just get whacked by the elephant.s trunk. Whacked good....".

But Johnson was as servile to the Texas oil kings - most notably the
Murchisons - as Clinton was to the sugar baron Alfonso Fanjul. LBJ would
delightedly unwrap the bundles of cash Murchison regularly sent up to him.
Obama isn't into lifting anyone up by the lapels. It's the other way
round. Week after week he's being hoist off the floor of the Oval Office
and thrown against the wall, by everyone from Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan to
Benjamin Netanyahu. When Obama tries to bark, it comes out as a yip, like
a Chihuahua aping a pit bull.

A year ago Obama gave his famous speech in Cairo, addressing the Muslim
World in a constructive manner. He vowed "to seek a new beginning between
the United States and Muslims around the world", declaring, "Islam is a
part of America "and "is an important part of promoting peace".

It was a great act, but one utterly disconnected from the realities of
American politics. Wimps love to be crowd-pleasers. But a year later the
crowd - world opinion, in this instance - is remembering the speech as one
betrayed commitment after another.

It's clear enough the White House knew of the impending Israeli attack on
the relief flotilla and contented itself with a private, purely pro forma
call for restraint. In other words, a green light.  It may even encouraged
the lethal violence, as its own signal to Turkey that its initiative with
Brazil to defuse the Iran crisis had not found favor with the US

The public White House response to Israel's international piracy was
comical in its wimpishness. "The United States deeply regrets the loss of
life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the
circumstances surrounding this tragedy," deputy White House press
secretary Bill Burton demurely declared in Chicago.

A friend of mine gave a good parody of the  servile posture of the US
government and press: "I think," he wrote to me, "that matters are close
to the point where if Hillary Clinton and a group of senior American
officials were meeting the Israeli leaders for negotiations, and Netanyahu
expressed his displeasure at the American positions by pulling out a gun
and shooting her dead, then having the entire American delegation beaten
to death by his security guards, there would probably be a small item
buried in the next days' American newspapers that due to conflict with the
Israelis, Obama had decided to nominate a new Secrwetary of State".

There's a political price to be paid for manifest wimpery. Obama is
running up a hefty bill.

Alexander Cockburn can be reached at alexandercockburn [at]

--------13 of 13--------

Blind Trust
How Democracy Breeds Political Idiocy
June 4 - 6, 2010

Democracy breeds gullibility. Lord Bryce observed in 1921, "State action
became less distrusted the more the State itself was seen to be passing
under popular control". The rise of democracy made it much easier for
politicians to convince people that government posed no threat, because
they automatically controlled its actions. The result is that the brakes
on government power become weakest at the exact time that politicians are
most dangerous.

Blind trust becomes a substitute for informed consent. But mass trust in
government compounds the political damage brought about by pervasive

The bias in favor of trusting government brings out democracy's worst
tendencies. The normal defenses that people would have against alien
authority are undermined by a chorus of politicians and government
officials continually reminding people that government is themselves, and
they cannot distrust the government without distrusting themselves.

How should people think about their rulers? This is a question that is
rarely asked. Instead, it is preemptively squelched by myths pummeled into
people's heads from a very early age.

Since it has not been possible to neuter political power, citizens'
thinking on government has been neutered instead. Fear of government is
portrayed as a relic of less civilized, unrefined times. There is a
concerted effort to make distrusting the government intellectually
unacceptable, a sign of bad taste or perhaps ill breeding, if not
downright ignoble.

The central mystery of modern political life is: Why are people obliged to
presume that politicians and government are more trustworthy than they
seem? The question is not, Why do people distrust government? The question
is, Why do people follow and applaud politicians who they recognize are
lying to them? The mystery is not that politicians lie, but that citizens
believe. It is not a question of giving rulers one benefit of the doubt -
but of giving such benefits day after day, year after year, ruler after

America is perhaps the first nation founded on distrust of government.
Checks and balances were included in the Constitution because of the
danger of vesting too much power in any one man or one branch of
government. The Bill of Rights was erected as a permanent leash on the
political class. As Rexford Tugwell, one of Franklin Roosevelt's Brain
Trusters and an open admirer of Stalin's Soviet system, groused, "The
Constitution was a negative document, meant mostly to protect citizens
from their government".

The Founding Fathers issued warning after warning of the inherent danger
of government power. John Adams wrote in 1772, "There is danger from all
men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man
living with power to endanger the public liberty". Thomas Jefferson wrote
in 1799, "Free government is founded in jealousy, not confidence.... In
questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind
him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution". The term
"politician" was in disrepute from 1776 onward (thanks to the antics of
Congress during the Revolutionary War and the conniving of some of the
state legislators after 1783).

Many of the initial curbs on federal power were maintained for most of the
first century of this nation's history in part because Americans often had
a derisive attitude toward government - especially the federal government.
Wariness toward government was one of the most important bulwarks of
American freedom. Representative government worked fairly well at times
partly because people were skeptical of congressmen, presidents, and
government officials across the board. However, beginning in the early
1900s and accelerating in the New Deal, government was placed on a

Trust After Failure

Trust in government is sometimes demanded most vociferously after some
horrendous government blunder or abuse. Such was the case in the aftermath
of a deadly no-knock raid by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
Firearms and an FBI tank-and-toxic-gas assault on the home of the Branch
Davidians in Waco, Texas, in 1993, which ended with 80 dead men, women,
and children. The Washington establishment almost instantly closed ranks
around the federal government, canonizing Attorney General Janet Reno -
the person who had approved an FBI plan to destroy the Davidians' home to
bring the siege to an end - as a hero.

The precedents established by one political party are routinely exploited
for totally different ends by their opponents. During the 1990s, liberals
were in the vanguard, preaching the need to trust government. After 9/11,
it was George W. Bush who exploited boundless trust to expand government
power in ways that mortified many liberals. The Bush administration could
exploit 9/11 because Americans were predisposed to see credulity and
obedience as paramount virtues.

The number of Americans who trusted the federal government to do the right
thing more than doubled in the weeks after the attack. By the end of
September 2001, almost two-thirds of Americans said they "trust the
government in Washington to do what is right" either "just about always"
or "most of the time".

The foreign-policy response to 9/11 would have been far more targeted if
scores of millions of Americans had not written George Bush a blank check
in the form of automatic trust. The adulation and deference that he
received in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 encouraged federal officials
to believe that they could do practically whatever they pleased. Top
administration officials were laying plans to attack Iraq within days
after the Twin Towers collapsed, though there was no evidence linking Iraq
to the attacks. Less than two weeks after 9/11, senior Bush administration
officials were already claiming that the attacks gave the U.S. government
carte blanche to attack anywhere in the world. Deputy Assistant Attorney
General John Yoo sent White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales a memo on
September 25, 2001, suggesting that "an American attack in South America
or Southeast Asia might be a surprise to the terrorists," since they were
expecting the United States to target Afghanistan.

The most costly entitlement

Blind trust in government is often portrayed as a harmless error - as if
it were of no more account than saying prayers to a pagan deity. However,
the notion that rulers are entitled to trust is the most expensive
entitlement program of them all. "Follow the leader" has often been a
recipe for national suicide. Throughout history, people have tended to
trust most governments more than rulers deserved.

Blind trust in government has resulted in far more carnage than distrust
of government. The more trust, the less resistance. It was people who
believed and who followed orders who carried out the Nazi Holocaust, the
Ukrainian terror-famine, the Khmer Rouge blood bath, and the war crimes
that characterize conflicts around the globe. It is not just a question of
acquiescence but of breeding a docile attitude toward political events and
government actions.

Docility is a far greater danger than blind fanaticism, at least in
Western societies. It is mass docility that permits fanatics to seize
power and wreak havoc. The more people there are who unconditionally trust
the government, the more atrocities there are that the government can
commit. All that the government needs to do afterward is to label and
blame the victim.

Excessive trust in government breeds attention deficits. People assume
they do not need to keep an eye on government and politicians because
government is no threat to them - because their government tells them so.
Ignorance combined with blind trust produces citizens pliable for
practically any purpose the ruler decrees.

When people blindly assume that their leaders are trustworthy, the biggest
liars win. To believe their lies almost guarantees submission. To accept a
false statement from one's rulers is to submit to a lie - to
intellectually submit. And submission is habit-forming. Politicians do not
need to promulgate a duty to submit because as long as people believe,
most will submit to almost anything. After people lower their mental
defenses, political perfidy is halfway home. If people are trained not to
doubt - politicians need only to continue lying and denying until all
barricades that guard individual rights have been smashed, one by one.

Any politician who violates his oath to uphold the Constitution has proven
himself unworthy of trust. What is the case for trusting someone who has
proven himself untrustworthy? Should people be proud to trust politicians
in a way that they would consider foolish regarding any other profession?

Much of the American public appears to separate the issues of trust and
power - as if a person's character is irrelevant to how much additional
power he should be permitted to capture. For instance, regardless of the
number of people who believed that Bill Clinton was a liar, his proposals
to expand federal power to protect people or to give them specific new
benefits generally had high levels of popular approval (excepting his
1993-94 health-care plan). Public support for vesting more power in an
untrustworthy ruler is a sign of how few Americans still understand the
nature of government.

In the same way that power corrupts, blind trust corrupts. To say that
people should not blindly trust the government is not to call for anarchy
or for violence in the streets or the torching of city halls across the
land. It is not a choice between trusting the government and refusing to
drive on the right side of the road. Instead, it is a call for people to
cease deluding themselves about those who seek to control them.

Trust in a dishonest government is true escapism - an evasion of
responsibility for one's own life and liberties. Deference to lying rulers
is self-betrayal.

James Bovard serves as a policy advisor for The Future of Freedom
Foundation and is the author of Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush
Betrayal, Terrorism and Tyranny, and other books.


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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