|Progressive Calendar 06.19.10||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2010 15:03:39 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 06.19.10 1. Peace walk 6.19 9am Cambridge MN 2. Work justice 6.19 10am 3. Guatemala 6.19 10am 4. CUAPB 6.19 1:30pm 5. Northtown vigil 6.19 2pm 6. Intermedia BBQ 6.19 4pm 7. Honduras/coup 6.19 9pm 8. Stillwater vigil 6.20 1pm 9. AI cancelled 6.20 10. James Petras - 22 reasons why American working people hate the state 11. David Macaray - Is lip service dead? Honey, I shrank the labor lobby 12. Moti Nissani - Confessions of a conspiracy theorist - part 1 13. Alex Cockburn - Obama should have kept his mouth shut 14. David M Green - The oil hemorrhage: empty presidential platitudes 15. ed - The first day of the rest (haiku) --------1 of 15-------- From: Ken Reine <reine008 [at] umn.edu> Subject: Peace walk 6.19 9am Cambridge MN every Saturday 9AM to 9:35AM Peace walk in Cambridge - start at Hwy 95 and Fern Street --------2 of 15-------- From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org> Subject: Work justice 6.19 10am June 19: Workplace Justice Support/Networking Meeting. 10 AM - Noon at the Minnesota Women's Building, 550 Rice Street, St. Paul. More information: 952-996-9291. --------3 of 15-------- From: Sarah Humpage <sarah.humpage [at] gmail.com> Subject: Guatemala 6.19 10am Coffeehour at the Resource Center of the Americas: Social Conflict in Guatemala Saturday, June 19 10:00am - 11:45am 3019 Minnehaha Ave So, lower level Mpls, MN Description: Social Conflict in Guatemala: Labor, Land and Indigenous Rights in the Verapaces Region. Edgar Alvarez Gomez will present on the complexity of proposals for rural development and food security in Guatemala. Edgar will speak specifically about the efforts of the Union of Farmworker Organizations in the Verapaces (Union Verapacense de Organizaciones Campesinas - UVOC), which works in the region of Alta Verapaz and Baja Verapaz. The region faces historic land conflicts, unemployment stemming from the fall in coffee prices, and plans for large-scale development projects like mines, dams, bio-fuel plantations and oil drilling. In this context, the UVOC maintains a focus on the defense of indigenous territories and the sustainability of rural communities, taking part in legislative proposals and land negotiations, as well as other projects. For instance, the UVOC supported the community San Jose la Mocca in recuperating the historic indigenous lands where community members had worked on a coffee plantation. Within the movement, the UVOC has also embarked on an internal process to ensure the empowerment of women and youth. Speaker: Edgar Alvarez Gomez is an organizer working within the youth and campesino (farmworker) movements in Guatemala. Contact Information: Edgar Alvarez Email: edgaralvarez6 [at] yahoo.com.ar Phone: 612.721.9083 (as of June 12) --------4 of 15------- From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at] visi.com> Subject: CUAPB 6.19 1:30pm Meetings: Every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Walker Church, 3104 16th Avenue South http://www.CUAPB.org Communities United Against Police Brutality 3100 16th Avenue S Minneapolis, MN 55407 Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867) --------5 of 15-------- From: Vanka485 [at] aol.com Subject: Northtown vigil 6.19 2pm Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday 2-3pm --------6 of 15-------- From: Intermedia Arts <info [at] intermediaarts.org> Subject: Intermedia BBQ 6.19 4pm Intermedia Arts Summer Kickoff: Let's Get Summer Started! You are invited to a BBQ Feast / DJ-Dance Party / Art-Making / Community Celebration Saturday, June 19, 2010 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM at Intermedia Arts Check out our fantastic new community spaces, see the latest art-on-our-walls, meet our new staff members, and be the first to find out about the amazing new programs and events we have planned for you this year! Hands on activities for families include button-making and screen-printing, as well as the interactive gallery installation exhibit, the Storefront of Ideas. --------7 of 15-------- From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net> Subject: Honduras/coup 6.19 9pm Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) viewers: "Our World In Depth" cablecasts on MTN Channel 17 on Saturdays at 9pm and Tuesdays at 8am, after DemocracyNow! Households with basic cable may watch. Sat, 6/19, 9pm and Tues, 6/22, 8am "Honduras After the Coup: the Resistance Continues" June 28 is the 1st anniversary of the 2009 Honduran coup d'état which ousted elected President Manuel Zelaya and led to Pepe Lobo rising to power in Honduras. The coup seems to be a fait accompli, and Honduras is off the radar of many news watchers. Yet, average Hondurans still desire a return to democracy. We talk with Minnesota Hands Off Honduras Coalition organizers about the history of the original "banana republic", the context of the coup, and what people are doing locally to act in solidarity with the pro-democracy movement in Honduras. --------8 of 15-------- From: scot b <earthmannow [at] comcast.net> Subject: Stillwater vigil 6.20 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 <http://www.stcroixvalleypeacemakers.com/>http://www.stcroixvalleypeacemakers.com/ For more information you could call 651 275 0247 or 651 999 - 9560 --------9 of 15-------- From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at] bitstream.net> Subject: AI cancelled 6.20 Due to several scheduling conflicts and expected low attendance, we have decided to cancel the Amnesty International USA Group 37 meeting originally scheduled for Sunday, June 20th. Our meetings will resume with our next regular meeting on July 18th. --------10 of 15-------- Twenty-Two Reasons Why American Working People Hate the State by James Petras June 18th, 2010 Dissident Voice Why does the right wing attack on "Big Government" increasingly resonates with working people? Liberals claim wage and salaried workers are acting against their "self-interest", citing government welfare programs like social security and unemployment payments. Progressives argue that workers hostile to the state are "racists", "fundamentalists" and/or irrational, blinded by misplaced fears of threats to individual freedoms. I will argue there are many sound, rational, material reasons for working people to be in revolt against the state. Twenty-Two Reasons Why Working People Hate the State 1. Most wage and salaried workers pay disportionately higher taxes than the corporate rich, and therefore millions of Americans work in the "underground economy" to make ends meet; thus subjecting themselves to arrest, and prosecution by the state for trying to make a living by avoiding onerous taxes. 2. The state provides generous multi-year tax exemptions for corporations thus raising the tax rate for wage and salaried workers or eliminating vital services. The state's inequitable tax revenue policies provoke resentment. 3. High taxes combined with fewer and more expensive public services, include growing costs of public higher education and higher health charges, feed popular antagonism and frustration that they and their children are being denied opportunities to get ahead and stay healthy. 4. Many working people resent the fact that their tax money is being spent by the state on endless distant wars and to finance bailouts of Wall Street instead of investing it in reindustrializing America to create well paying jobs or to aid unemployed or underemployed workers unable to meet mortgage payments and facing eviction or homelessness. Most workers reject the inequitable budget expenditures that privilege the rich and deny the working people. 5. Working people are appalled by the state's hypocrisy and double standards in prosecuting "welfare cheats" for taking hundreds but overlooking corporate and banking swindlers, and Pentagon military cost overruns of hundreds of billions. Few working people believe there is equality before the law, implicitly rejecting its claims of legitimacy. 6. Many working class families resent the fact that the state recruits their sons and daughters for wars, leading to death and crippling injuries instead of public service jobs, while the children of the rich and affluent pursue civilian careers. 7. The state subsidizes and upgrades public infrastructure - roads, parks and utilities in upper end neighborhoods while ignoring the demands for improvements of low income communities. Moreover the state locates contaminants - incinerators, high polluting industries etc. - in close proximity to workers' housing and schools. 8. The state holds the minimum wage below increases in the cost of living but encourages and promotes excess profits. 9. Law enforcement is strict in high end neighborhoods and lax in low income communities resulting in higher rates of homicides and robberies. 10. State imposes constraints on labor organizations struggling to secure wages and benefits and ignores corporate intimidation and arbitrary firings of workers. The state encourages corporate mergers and acquisitions leading to monopolies but discourages collective action from below. 11. State economic institutions recruit policy makers from banks and financial houses who make decisions favoring their former employers, while wage and salaried workers are excluded and have no representation in economic policy positions. 12. The state increasingly infringes on individual freedoms of social activists via the Patriot Act, arbitrary arrests, and grants impunity to police violence and punishes whistle blowers, rejecting citizen reviews with punitive powers. 13. The state is highly responsive to, and increases funding for, the military-industrial complex, the relocation of MNC overseas and the high income Israel lobby while cutting funding for public investment in productive activity, applied technology and high tech job training for US workers and salaried employees and their children. 14. State policies have increased inequalities between the top 10% and the bottom 50% for decades, turning the US into the industrial country with the greatest inequalities. 15. State policies have led to declining living standards as wage and salary earners work longer hours with less job security,for a greater number of years before receiving pensions and social security and under greater environmental hazards. 16. Elected state officials break most campaign promises to working people while fulfilling promises for the upper class/corporate banking elite. 17. State officials pay greater attention and are more responsive to a few big financial contributors than to millions of voters. 18. State officials are more responsive to payoffs from corporate lobbies protecting corporate profits than to the health, educational and income needs of the electorate. 19. State-corporate links lead to deregulation, which results in contamination of the environment leading to the bankruptcy of small businesses and loss of many jobs, as well as the loss of recreational areas, spoiling rest and recreation for working people. 20. The state increases the retirement age rather than increase the social security payments by the rich, with the result that workers in unhealthy work environments will enjoy fewer years of retirement in good health. 21. The state judicial system is more likely to render favorable decisions to wealthy plaintiffs with high paid, politically connected lawyers against workers defended by inexperienced public defenders. 22. State tax collectors are more likely to pursue wage and salary tax payers than upper class corporate executives employing accountants with expert knowledge in tax loopholes and tax free shelters. Conclusion The state in its multiple activities, whether in law enforcement, military recruitment, tax and expenditure polices, environmental, pension and retirement legislation and administration, systematically favors the upper class and corporate elite against wage, salaried and small business people. The state is permissive with the rich and repressive of the working and salaried employees, defending the privileges of the corporations and the impunity of the police state while infringing on the individual freedoms of the working people. State policies increasingly extract more from the workers in terms of tax revenues and provide less in social payments, while lessening tax payments from Wall Street and inflating state transfers. Popular perceptions of a hostile and exploitative state correspond to their everyday practical experiences; their anti-state behavior is selective and rational; most wage and salaried workers support social security and unemployment benefits and oppose higher taxes because they know, or intuit, that they are unfair. Liberal academics and experts who claim workers are "irrational" are, themselves, practioners of highly selective criticisms - pointing to (shrinking) state social benefits while ignoring the unjust, inequitable tax system and the biased behavior of the judicial, law enforcement, legislative and regulatory system. State personnel, policy makers and enforcement officials are attentive to, and responsive and deferential to, the rich and hostile and indifferent or arrogant toward workers. In summary, the real issue is not that people are anti-state, but that the state is anti the majority of the people. In the face of the economic crises and prolonged imperial wars, the state becomes more brazenly aggressive in slashing living standards in order to channel record levels of public funds toward Wall Street speculators and the military industrial complex. While liberal-progressives remain embedded in "neo-keynsian" statest ideology, outmoded in the face of a state thoroughly embedded in corporate networks, the New Right's "anti-statest" rhetoric resonates with the feelings, experiences and reasoning of important sectors of wage and salaried workers and small business people. The attempt by liberals and progressives to discredit this popular revolt against the state, by pointing to the corporate financing and right wing manipulation behind the anti-statist movement is doomed to failure, because it fails to deal with the profound injustices experienced by working people today in their daily dealings with a state, largely administered by liberal corporate-militarists. The absence of an anti-statist left has opened the door for the rise of a mass based "New Right". A "new left" will emerge from civil society when it recognizes the pernicious exploitative role of the state, and is capable of dealing with the powerful ties between liberalism-militarism-corporate "welfarism". The revival and expansion of the debilitated public welfare programs for working people can only take place by dismantling the current state apparatus, and that depends on a complete break with both corporate parties and an agenda that "revolutionizes" the way in which politics works in America. James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). Petras. most recent book is Zionism, Militarism and the Decline of US Power (Clarity Press, 2008). He can be reached at: jpetras [at] binghamton.edu. --------11 of 15-------- Is Lip Service Dead? Honey, I Shrank the Labor Lobby By DAVID MACARAY CounterPunch June 18 - 20, 2010 Because he expected Nixon to beat Kennedy in the 1960 presidential election, comedian Mort Sahl prepared several appropriate jokes, one of which had JFK's father, the wealthy and powerful Joe Kennedy, going on television and lamenting sadly, "What's happened to our values..does money mean nothing?" Labor must be asking a similar question regarding the Democrats: "What's happened to our political rhetoric..is sanctimonious lip-service dead?" While the Democrats have always been squeamish and unreliable when it came to important votes, their high-minded, proletarian bullshit always managed to raise labor's morale. Apparently, that's all changed. Not only are the Democrats no longer finessing organized labor, they're insulting it publicly. On June 9, a White House staffer mocked labor for "flushing $10 million..down the toilet" in its support of progressive Bill Halter against Blanche Lincoln in the Arkansas Senate primary. Following the rebuke, pundits instantly piled on, depicting the smackdown as further evidence of labor's decline. One reason the Democrats feel they can freely ridicule labor is because the relationship has always flowed in one direction. Organized labor clings to the Democrats for the same reason frustrated citizens cling to a corrupt or grossly inefficient police force - viewing inferior cops as better than no cops at all. Clearly, America's post-industrial unions are suffering. You don't lose a critical mass of automobile manufacturing, along with the steel, toy, paper, plastics, rubber, chemical, heavy equipment, furniture, textile, appliance, building materials, and mining industries - most of which offered good wages and benefits - without feeling the pain. Still, even though union membership has dropped significantly (only 12.4-percent of the workforce belongs to a union, down from a high of 35-percent in the 1950s), organized labor has no reason to panic or sulk, and certainly no reason to apologize. It does, however, have reason to recalibrate. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 16 million union members in this country. Sixteen million of anything is impressive. The Chinese Army has 2.5 million active troops. The population of Israel is 7.5 million. Sixteen million union members is a tremendous resource. To get the recognition it deserves, labor needs to circumvent disloyal Democrats - factor them out of the equation - and appeal directly to the American people. One way of doing that is by adopting a catchy advertising slogan and hiring celebrities (singers, actors, athletes) to go on television and repeat it. Catchphrases work. "Things go better with Coke" worked. Nike's "Just do it" worked. Volkswagen's "Think small" worked. The Energizer bunny works. The appeal to "death panels" worked. Even labeling Barack Obama a "socialist" sort of worked (although "Rockefeller Republican" would have been more accurate). Here's a slogan: "Working people have never had a better friend". The message is clear, concise and - unlike "Things go better with Coke" demonstrably true. Organized labor needs Americans to recognize it as the best friend working people ever had, and to recognize it in the same way and to the same extent that they recognize "Got milk?" Anyone who denies the accuracy of the slogan must be required to name a better friend. Of course, they won't be able to do that because there's never been one; and those nave enough to suggest the U.S. Congress have to be reminded that the only reason Congress passed any pro-labor legislation was due to the labor lobby. The beauty of the slogan is that, unlike typical advertising copy, it's neither a lie nor an exaggeration. It's an irrefutable fact. Organized labor is the working man and woman's best friend. It always has been..and always will be. Simple as that. David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright, is the author of .It.s Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor.. He served 9 terms as president of AWPPW Local 672. He can be reached at dmacaray [at] earthlink.net --------12 of 15-------- Confessions of a Conspiracy Theorist - Part 1 American Machiavellianism: How and Why it Works and How it Can be Made to Stop Working by Moti Nissani June 18th, 2010 Dissident Voice In a five-part series in Dissident Voice, I hope to throw light on the real workings of American plutocracy. Because conspiracies are central to any understanding of how and why this plutocracy works, the first article joins the camp of those who argue that America's real rulers often resort to secret criminal plots and undertakings. The second article exploits the manufactured Obama's birthplace controversy in an effort to gain insights into the inner workings of the American political system. A third article provides conclusive evidence that America's real rulers routinely utilize intimidations and assassinations of people, foreign or domestic, who pose meaningful threats to their power. A fourth article examines the constellation of factors which enables these rulers to retain and enhance their wealth and power. These four articles set the groundwork for the fifth and most important article, which explores strategies for replacing the current system with a more free, just, and sustainable one. Conspiracy Theories "If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles" -Sun Tzu (6th century B.C.?) One basic contention of this series is that conspiracies play a key role in history. This contention, I shall argue, is not a conjecture, or a premise, or a possibility. It is, rather, a fact, of the same general type as the assertion: "No woman has ever been a president of the USA". Suppose you owned Goldman Sachs or J. P. Morgan, that you conspired daily with others of your kind to enrich and empower yourself at the expense of many unsuspecting souls, and that you were sick and tired of having to fend off your victims. Actual events taught you long ago that it could be irksome, risky, and counterproductive to deny your scams and wrongdoings one at a time: A trusted fellow plotter might turn against you, as the one-of-a-kind General Smedley Butler did with your fellow-bankers Prescott Bush and J. P. Morgan, thus forcing them to abort their fascist coup d'etat and placing them in a rather tight spot. One of your underlings might betray you on his deathbed, as CIA Operator E. Howard Hunt did, clearly and unequivocally implicating another underling, Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, in the murder of President Kennedy. An investigation of one of your conspiracies might, despite the odds, reach a jury trial in which the victim's family and brothers-in-arms win (as happened after you killed Dr. Martin Luther King), thus forcing you and accomplices to suppress a verdict of conspiracy by the American judicial system itself (see below for more details). Your defense against such untoward occurrences has been truly ingenious. Instead of dismissing a constant stream of rational analyses and empirical data of your machinations, you schemed to use your government, media, and virtual textbook monopoly to convince us that conspiracies fall into the same category as a green-cheesed moon - they do not exist. Hence, it is not merely factually incorrect but also illogical to accuse you of clandestinely plotting in early June 2010 to keep the Dow Jones Industrial Average above 10,000 and the price of an ounce of silver below $20. One result: well-researched, often incontestable charges of enormous crimes can be summarily dismissed by invoking the all-inclusive "it's just another crazy conspiracy theory". A second result: confusion, helplessness, and divisiveness among your enemies. With a bit of reflection, open-minded people should be able to escape this mind trap. Such people merely need to read just one honest historical treatise, chosen at random, to convince themselves that conspiracies are the very stuff of history. Alternatively, they can verify any of these examples: The two recognized founders of western historical scholarship, Herodotus and Thucydides, whose books often exceed contemporary standards of scholarship, truthfulness, and elegance, took conspiracies for granted and described any number of them. Are the events they describe pure inventions? Many of us had the pleasure of reading Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in high school. Think about it: Didn't Brutus, Cassius, and their fellow oligarchs secretly plot to kill Caesar? Does Shakespeare and the historians whose writings informed his play strike you as silly "conspiracy theorists?" Didn't a few filthy rich Romans conspire to kill the Gracchi Brothers, because said brothers were hell-bent on agrarian reforms? What about America's founding fathers: Weren't the events leading to the Declaration of Independence a large-scale conspiracy of well-to-do British citizens against their king? Didn't the Anaconda Copper Company and ITT direct their minions Nixon, Kissinger, and Pinochet to plot against President Allende of Chile? If not a conspiracy, what else removed Allende from office and helped maximize the profits margins of Anaconda? Wasn't one likely outcome of this coup an elevation in the price of Anaconda's stocks? Isn't it probable that some participants bought those stocks before the murder? Should we dismiss such views because they invoke secret cabals? And how about Mossadeq of Iran? The CIA operator in that oil-cursed land tells us the full details of that particular conspiracy, including its exact cost (real cheap, considering the prize: $100,000). If we exclude Jesus Christ and, in some states, George Washington, the United States calendar celebrates the single lives of just two other individuals - Christopher Columbus and Martin Luther King. Our schools and media portray King as a mere champion of civil rights and non-violence, and he is so remembered by the vast majority of Americans (according to a survey of hundreds of American college students I personally carried out). But MLK stepped outside his proscribed role as a civil rights leader. Do you think the bankers and generals would have welcomed his planned "Poor People's Campaign" or his view that the "United States is the worst purveyor of violence in the world?" The book Act of State: The Execution of Martin Luther King, written by a close associate, makes the threat King posed clear: "Martin Luther King Jr was the most powerful and eloquent champion of the poor and oppressed in US history, and at the height of his fame in the mid-sixties seemed to offer the real possibility of a new and radical beginning for liberal politics in the USA. In 1968, he was assassinated; the movement for social and economic change has never recovered." But the story gets even more outlandish: "At a civil trial in 1999, supported by the King family, seventy witnesses under oath set out the details of the conspiracy - the jury took just one hour to find that Ray was not responsible for the assassination, that a wide-ranging conspiracy existed, and that government agents were involved". So, there you have it: not only legal proof that elements within our government murder, but that they conspire to commit murder. (It goes without saying that they also conspired to give the silent treatment to this truly sensational verdict.) How can anyone familiar with this trial dismiss assertions of other heinous government misdeeds merely because conspiracies are impossible? Under normal circumstances, government conspiracies are kept well-hidden from the world's people. But now and then the truth comes up for air. Thus, official investigators of J. F. Kennedy's death were forced to reveal specific details of an earlier conspiratorial plan. According to Wikipedia: "Operation Northwoods was a false-flag plan that originated within the United States government in 1962. The plan called for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or other operatives to commit genuine acts of terrorism in U.S. cities and elsewhere. These acts of terrorism were to be blamed on Cuba in order to create public support for a war against that nation, which had recently become communist under Fidel Castro". The proposal, originating from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was forwarded by the Chairman of that august body to the Defense Department, which approved it and sent it to the State Department, which approved it and forwarded it to President Kennedy, who rejected it, fired the chair of the Joint Chiefs, and was murdered a short time later. Specifically, the operation "included proposals for hijackings and bombings followed by the introduction of phony evidence that would implicate the Cuban government". Here are some juicy quotations from the Joint Chiefs (ah, what a lost goldmine for late satirist George Carlin): .We [the generals and the CIA] could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba.. .We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. The terror campaign could be pointed at refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized. Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement, also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.. .It is possible to create an incident which will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner en route from the United States to Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama or Venezuela. The destination would be chosen only to cause the flight plan route to cross Cuba. The passengers could be a group of college students off on a holiday.. Let me conclude this short list with a quote from Adam Smith, one of the bankers' favorite scholars: "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices". The success of the plutocrats in convincing us to jeer at Adam Smith's commonsense observation does not speak well for our rationality or for our ability to think for ourselves. Nor does this success speak well for progressive scholars and websites that uncritically accept the plutocrats. absurd wholesale rejection of conspiracies. That such a pronounced feature of humanity's historical record must be defended at all is yet another striking testimony to the power of our real rulers over our minds and to our own breathtaking indoctrinability. One does not know whether to laugh or cry when one is mocked for being a "conspiracy theorist," even in cases where there is overwhelming evidence of a secret, sinister, plotting by a powerful cabal. Conspiracy is a constant, recurrent, feature of human behavior, as common in history as bankers are on Wall Street. Sometimes we conspire for the general good and sometimes against it, but conspire we do. Look at your own private life: Haven't you conspired on occasion? So, without further ado, I shall take the reality of conspiracies for granted. There are no shortcuts to the truth: Only a laborious rational analysis of facts and circumstances can cast light on the probability of any given conspiratorial claim. Moti Nissani is a professor emeritus, Department of Biology, Wayne State University. --------13 of 15-------- He Should Have Kept His Mouth Shut By ALEXANDER COCKBURN CounterPunch June 18 - 20, 2010 The French have a phrase, "He missed an excellent opportunity to keep his mouth shut". That's certainly true of Obama last Tuesday when he rolled out a big gun from the arsenal of White House crisis management, an Oval Office address. Excluding FDR's radio chats of the 1930s, there's scant evidence across the past forty years that as a venue for rallying the nation, the presidential sanctum did Obama's predecessors as president much good. In Obama's case many of his stoutest supporters in the press could say little in its favor. Obama would have been advised to say nothing and leave the nation to the evening's main business, the NBA playoffs. It was certainly the worst rally-the-nation speech by a US president I've ever watched, and that includes Nixon's cornered-rat addresses of the early 1970s and - an ominous parallel -- Jimmy Carter's fireside chat on April1977, four months into his presidency, in the Oval Office promoting his plan for Energy Independence. To dramatize the need for conservation Carter wore a cardigan. He said the crusade for energy reduction was "the moral equivalent of war". As he said these words he clenched his fist. America was not impressed, but more than they were on Tuesday. Asked a couple of weeks ago about the president's apparent inability to project anger, his pr man, Robert Gibbs said the president had been clenching his jaw. Better that he had continued clenching, and thus been unable to open it to unleash that windy homily, ripe with cliche, bare of specifics and without even the pummeling of BP that everyone had been looking forward to. Of course Obama said that there will be a set-aside clean-up and compensation fund financed by BP. He tossed the word "recklessness" in BP's direction. But these were timid little puff-ball punches. There was no mailed fist within the glove, just wadded tissue paper. Unlike wars and slumps, where a president can invoke inside knowledge proving victory or recovery are imminent, the singularity of this crisis is that there's no inside story, no disputing the central disastrous facts except to suggest and then have confirmed that they are even worse that BP or the US government admits. The minimum quantity of crude oil spurting out of the broken riser pipe now up around 60,000 bbd, heading towards the estimate by the Perdue scientists of around 90,000bbd, which is apparently what an internal BP memo suggested back in the immediate aftermath of the explosion on April 20. There is absolutely no imminent prospect of this situation improving over the immediate future and a distinct possibility it could last the rest of the year and conceivably the rest of Obama's first term - which in this eventuality will also be his last. Since there are no immediate solutions to what Obama is now calling the worst environmental crisis in America's history, and 71 per cent of Americans polled by Gallup over last weekend think Obama has not shown enough toughness towards BP, you would have thought that Obama would have waited to report on what in fact did happen the very next day - the announcement of BP's $20 billion escrow fund managed by an independent administrator, plus the withholding of BP's quarterly dividend. But no. Apparently Rahm Emanuel and the others thought it better to give vapid words a day's lead over substantive news. The speech left no banality unturned, from the ritual blue ribbon commission to investigate why the April 20 disaster took place, to the pledge of a shake-up in federal agencies that had previously been gofers for the oil industry, to the final empty personal guarantee that cleanup efforts will restore the Gulf not just to where it was before this accident happened but to where it was years ago. Every president since Nixon has tried to sell an energy plan. Carter wore his cardigan and America laughed and turned up the heaters in their SUVs. The only one to yield any tangible results was Reagan's consummated pledge to rip the Carter-installed solar system off the roof of the White House. Obama mumbled about windmills and solar panels and renewable energy and ending America's dependence on fossil fuels. He barely touched on his energy bill, becalmed in the Congress because Senate leader Harry Reid has told him it will never pass. He didn't even allude to his actual energy plan which is to accelerate deep-sea drilling (on hold till the blue ribbon commission gives the green light, which it will), issue federal insurance guarantees for a new generation of nuclear plants, sponsor "clean coal" and bail out the ethanol industry. Nuclear power could make the BP catastrophe look like chickenfeed. So-called "clean, low-sulfur coal", mined by mountain-top removal, is an environmental disaster. The ethanol industry has long been a big financial backer of Obama and is now in crisis because of over-production of corn, from which the ethanol is distilled. At the moment the federal government limits the amount of ethanol than can be sold at the pump to 10 per cent of every gallon. Obama may raise the percentage to 15 per cent. The US now has about 250 million motor vehicles. As Robert Bryce has pointed out on this site, of that number, "only about 7.5 million are designed to burn gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol" And there is evidence that even that much ethanol may be too much. Last year, Toyota recalled more than 200,00 Lexus vehicles due to internal component corrosion that was caused by ethanol-blended fuel." Obama could not only lose the important Lexus-owner vote, but also earn the undying hatred of every American with a mowing machine, a snowblower, or a leafblower. 15 per cent ethanol in the gas means they may not be able to fire up these devices. That's a hefty chunk of the electorate. You lose the lawn-mower vote, you lose the suburbs. Obama's terrible speech showed that even now the White House hasn't managed to get any productive hold on the disaster turning the Gulf of Mexico into a sludge pond. Obama doesn't get it. Rahm Emanuel doesn't get it. The speech writers don't get it. At the end of his speech Obama turned to God and told Americans to pray. Here's a meeting of minds with BP, since the oil company says the blowout was an act of God. Even God won't be able to bail out Obama if he goes on like this. --------14 of 15-------- Obama and the Oil Hemorrhage Empty Presidential Platitudes By DAVID MICHAEL GREEN CounterPunch June 18 - 20, 2010 I really didn't want to write another rant this week on the now yawn-inducing fact of Barack Obama's irrelevance and presidential impotence (when, that is, it isn't something far worse), but watching his first Oval Office address to the country the other night, I'm just amazed at the deterioration of this presidency and the new heights of abysmalosity (to coin a term) the guy has managed to scale. Next to the state of the union address, such speeches are about the most powerful arrow that presidents have in their quiver, used for doing the most important thing associated with the modern presidency - namely, persuading. The speech was absolutely pathetic, to the point where even those of us sick and tired of being sick and tired with disappointment at this president still need to pay attention. First of all, it was ridiculously late. Why has it taken this guy two months to directly address the country on what he is himself calling the worst environmental disaster in our history? Unfortunately, this is part of a pattern with him. Paul Begala, one of the folks who gave us Bill Clinton, absolutely slobbers over Obama and his speech, seeing in its tardiness the wonder of The Great All-Seeing One (With A Plan) in action: "Thus began what is now a familiar play. He hangs back, holds back, resists fully engaging. His supporters get nervous, then edgy, then panicky. And then he swoops in to save the day. It happened in the campaign, on health care, and now, can we dare to hope it's happening on the BP disaster?" Whoa, babe. Be still my heart. There's just one problem (well, really, more like six, but we don't have all day here) with this dribble that is being passed off as analysis: This behavioral pattern that gets Begala a little, ahem, too excited, is actually a total disaster. Both for the country and for the president. Begala looks on the healthcare initiative, for example, as some great victory. To my mind, it was an utter fiasco. The legislation produced is anemic at best, and at its core exacerbates the medicine-for-profit destructive system that we are currently foolish enough to employ. By stupidly negotiating with his antagonists, who then shockingly unanimously failed to vote for his legislation, Obama was rightly seen to have lost control of the process. By failing to articulate a moral vision, by declining to specify enemies to the well-being of the American public, and by deferring to the cesspool that is Congress to fill in the details, Obama also succeeded in winning a legislative "victory" that has produced no political benefit for him or his party, and probably considerable baggage instead. If this is what Begala means by "saving the day", then I'll go ahead and stick with having my days unsaved, thanks just the same. He's right that this is Obama's style, he's just wrong about its implications. Obama did the same thing with his stimulus bill and his Afghan war policy, as well as less prominent issues like (not) pushing Israel towards peace or advocating for the unemployed. In every case, the substantive product is pathetic, and the president and his party are further damaged in the process. Poll ratings for both have gone down precipitously in the last year and a half, twenty points lower for the president, who came to office on inauguration day with enough goodwill to launch a minor new religion. His hang back, frosty-cool aloof, style of governing accounts for a considerable chunk of this dissipated support. Call me crazy, but that is not a modus operandi to be emulated, as Democrats will surely learn in November. It is, however, one that has also been applied to the oil hemorrhage in the Gulf. Here, I think someone like Begala must have a truly excellent drug dealer in order to obtain the amazing hallucinogens he's obviously been imbibing. Even if Obama donned his superman briefs and cape tomorrow, swam to the bottom of the Gulf, and tied the pipe into a knot, in what sense would this constitute saving the day? Eleven people are dead, untold numbers of birds, fish and other critters are suffering and dying, fishing and tourism industries have been hammered in four states, and the economy is likely to plunge in a region still suffering from the effects of the last president who couldn't be bothered. Even assuming he could shut the thing off right now, how out of it would you have to be to consider that a victory? A second problem with Obama's speech is that he just flat-out lies. When he tells us to "make no mistake, that were fighting this spill with everything we've got", he neglects to mention that his administration has been assisting BP in covering up the magnitude of the crisis, in blocking press coverage, and in handling it whatever way the company wants. The United States federal government under Obama didn't even bother to prevent BP from using highly toxic dispersant that is banned in BP's home country. The administration just sort of asked them not to do it, whereupon BP reminded them of who was really in charge, and then went out spewed the damn poison. Obama also lies about his own complicity in turning the Minerals Management Service, the Interior Department, and the federal government into agents of corporate plunder. They knew what was going on in MMS, and they didn't fix it. Indeed, you don't appoint a guy like Ken Salazar to the cabinet if you remotely intend for that garbage to be fixed. Obama also repeated his lie about the drilling moratorium in his big speech this week, just as he lied about the known dangers of offshore drilling a few months ago when he announced his new "Drill, baby, drill" policy. We know that, since the moratorium has been in place, his administration has already issued at least seven new permits and dished out at least five environmental waivers for more projects like the Deepwater Horizon. Moratorium? Not even close. Moribund? Yeah, that's more like it. In his speech, Obama was brazen enough to say, "A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe - that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions would be taken. That obviously was not the case in the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why". It's hard to even know where to start with that construction, so packed is it with dishonesty. Apart from the most significant lie - the fiction that he was duped - he doesn't tell us who lied to him or why. He doesn't tell us why he didn't do sufficient due diligence as president to know better, before risking our lives and livelihoods on private oil profits taken from national resources. He doesn't explain why, two months after Deepwater Horizon blew up, he supposedly still hasn't by now obtained an answer to his own question of why it happened. He doesn't tell us why he didn't clean up the government agencies charged with making offshore drilling "absolutely safe" (don't even get me started on that one), why he has been allowing drilling permits without required environmental impact reports, and why he continues to issue new permits even under his faux moratorium, and even though he doesn't yet know what went wrong. This is pathetic. Like many a president before him, Obama has been reduced to stacking lies upon lies to justify his policies and hide his crimes and those of his sponsors. And then he lectures us in this speech for our "lack of political courage and candor"?!?! Is that supposed to be funny? This is a speech, third, that was just dripping in empty platitudes and filled with Obama's recent and pathetic attempt to cowboy up and demonstrate presidential machismo. How is it possible that a presidential speech in 2010 could still make use of the most shop-worn of rhetorical devices in existence, the hoary "we-landed-a-man-on-the-moon- so-we-can-do-this-too" assertion? Man, was sick of hearaing that one And just when you thought no president could look more idiotic than George W. Bush trying to convince us (and especially himself) that he possessed a courage that was instead so manifestly lacking, here comes Barack Obama to "kick some ass". Are there actually political strategists in the White House - people who draw a salary paid by you and me - who believe that this pathetic speech will rally the country to adopt a new energy policy and change personal behaviors? If so, I say give that money to charity instead of paying for decision-making of this quality. As with the healthcare legislation or the stimulus bill, the president failed to specify one particular policy that he demands Congress adopt, or one particular behavior he expects members of the public to change. He gave us nothing to rally around, and did not ask us to rally around anything. Nobody even knows what he would do if it were entirely up to him to do what he wanted. But what we do know, remarkably, is that President Deference will be delighted to chat with anybody to consider their policy prescriptions, a fourth set absurdities that emerge from the speech. Somehow, Barack Obama still believes that it's a good idea to negotiate with people who are flat-out enemies of the public interest, and even announced enemies of his presidency, including all forms of corporate marauders and a political party that has overtly indicated its intention to oppose everything Obama does, regardless. So we have to listen to more mealy-mouthed, knock-kneed, do-nothing, embarrassing tripe, like this blather from the speech: "So I am happy to look at other ideas and approaches from either party - as long they seriously tackle our addiction to fossil fuels. Some have suggested raising efficiency standards in our buildings like we did in our cars and trucks. Some believe we should set standards to ensure that more of our electricity comes from wind and solar power. Others wonder why the energy industry only spends a fraction of what the high-tech industry does on research and development - and want to rapidly boost our investments in such research and development. All of these approaches have merit, and deserve a fear hearing in the months ahead". Oh, please. Is there any possibility you could just shut up and govern? Any chance you could take your mandate and put it to work protecting the public, while permitting the Republicans to fulfill the mandate they got to go sit in Siberia for a while? Any chance that you could for once not bring predators to the negotiating table while leaving those who fight for the public interest standing at the White House gate? Any chance you could do away with negotiating tables altogether, and just take some serious actions to benefit the country - you know, like actually using the powers of your office? After all, it was you yourself who said: "But the one approach I will not accept is inaction. The one answer I will not settle for is the idea that this challenge is too big and too difficult to meet. You see, the same thing was said about our ability to produce enough planes and tanks in World War II. The same thing was said about our ability to harness the science and technology to land a man safely on the surface of the moon". And thus we see that in addition to his fifth problem - that a once great orator has now been reduced, in his only Oval Office speech to date, to the most tired of analogies - the truth is that great things happen in America in significant measure because of gutsy leadership by presidents. Neither of those words seems remotely in his vocabulary, however. He might want to try them out, though. If it's not too late for him by now, that is, having spent his political capital on ardently maintaining the status quo. Obama's speech the other night was abysmal for all of the five reasons catalogued above, but it wasn't until he got to the end that I truly wanted to hurl. His sixth crime was unbelievably obnoxious. It wasn't enough to end his speech, as they all do, calling for god to bless America. Instead, Obama spent the last major chunk of his speech riffing on the wonders of religious faith. This included the bizarre concept (but then, hey, it's religion) regarding even the limited nature of what we expect from the magic deity: "The blessing is not that God has promised to remove all obstacles and dangers. The blessing is that He is with us always". So, do I have this straight? We're not asking god to make the bad things go away, but instead just to experience them with us together? Silently? And invisibly? Obama ends his great turn to the spiritual with these words: "Tonight, we pray for that courage. We pray for the people of the Gulf. And we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day". So this is what it has come to now, huh? A Democratic president, with all the power of the presidency at his disposal, refusing to act, refusing to be bold, refusing to lead, and now praying for the courage that he lacks, and calling on us to pray to some unseen fantasy in the sky for a solution to turn off this oily catastrophe in the Gulf? (Why the deity turned it on in the first place is, of course, not discussed.) If I had to draw a portrait of the absolute depth of presidential impotence, that would be it. Hammered by adversaries, never punching back, afraid to seek real solutions to major problems, slow to even speak, and reliant upon the lamest of historical analogies to make a case before a tuned-out nation. And now, for the coup de grce, kneeling on the train tracks, asking for Zeus or Ba'al or Jesus or some other mythical dude in the clouds to come rescue us from our drought or pestilence or famine. Christ, if we're down now to begging our deities for solutions to our problems, what's the point of having a president anyhow? We can be stupid and frightened pagans on our own. We're actually quite good at it. David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (dmg [at] regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net. --------15 of 15-------- This is the first day of the rest of the Barack living disaster. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress for governor now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 Research almost any topic raised here at: CounterPunch http://counterpunch.org Dissident Voice http://dissidentvoice.org Common Dreams http://commondreams.org Once you're there, do a search on your topic, eg obama drones
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