Progressive Calendar 09.12.13 /3
From: David Shove (
Date: Thu, 12 Sep 2013 13:04:58 -0700 (PDT)
P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   09.12.13

1. Midstream/poetry 9.12  7:30pm

2. Jacob Chamberlain - US Wealthy Have Biggest Piece of Pie Ever
3.Norman Pollack      - Obama, Power, War - Precedent for Dictatorship
4. Cohen et al            - Ain’t Gonna Fight Obama’s War No More

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Midstream Reading Series
When: Thursday September 12, 7:30–8:30pm.
Where: Blue Moon building,  corner of 39th and (3820) East Lake.
Air-conditioned. Upstairs.  Entrance just west of the Blue Moon coffee
house; up the stairs and to the left. Not wheel-chair accessible. Plentiful
street parking.
  Best to arrive 10-20 minutes early to get coffee and food/dessert from
the Blue Moon, and to be seated by 7:30 so we can begin on time. And, the
venue will easily hold about 30; after that, standing or floor-sitting room
only. The early bird gets the seat. Please occupy the up-front seats first.

Original poems and stories read/performed by their creators:
Kari Fisher
Matt Rasmussen
Melanie Richards
William Waltz

Kari Fisher has taught adults for more than 20 years and currently teaches
English at Normandale Community College.  She has a MA in English (fiction
writing) from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and is completing
a MFA in Creative Writing at the Rainer Writing Workshop (Pacific Lutheran
University).  Having been known to shepherd meandering turtles across the
road, she lives with her family in the Twin Cities area.

Matt Rasmussen’s poetry has been recently published in Gulf Coast,
Water~Stone Review, H_NGM_N, and at He’s the recipient of a 2014
Pushcart Prize and teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College and Minneapolis
College of Art and Design. His first book of poems, Black Aperture, won the
2012 Walt Whitman Award and he’s a founding editor of Birds, LLC, a small,
independent poetry press.

Melanie Richards has an M.F.A. in poetry from the original Goddard program,
where she won an A.W.P. Intro Award.  She also studied prose in the U. of
M. writing program, where she won two Gesell Awards in Poetry and one
Gesell Award in Prose.  Her poem "White Tigers" won Kalliope's Sue Saniel
Elkind Prize, judged by Joy Harjo. Her writing has appeared in Harvard
Review, Shenandoah, Yankee,  26 Minnesota Writers, Blink Again, 33
Minnesota Poets and elsewhere.

William D Waltz is the author of Zoo Music, which won Slope Editions’ First
Book Prize and Adventures in the Lost Interiors of America, which won the
Cleveland State University  Poetry Center Open Competition and was
published in March 2013.  His chapbook Confluence of Mysterious Origins
was published by Factory Hollow Press in 2012. He lives in Saint Paul, and
is the founder and editor of the magazine Conduit.

Before and after: The Blue Moon, downstairs, has coffee, sandwiches,
desserts. Merlin’s Rest, a bar/restaurant 3 blocks west, has a full bar,
good food, a late hours kitchen, some outside seating

For further information:
David Shove shove001 [at]     651-636-5672

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US Wealthy Have Biggest Piece of Pie Ever Recorded: Report
Since 2008 crash 1% have thrived far above the rest
- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
Published on Wednesday, September 11, 2013 by Common Dreams

inequality is at a record high, a new analysis shows.

The income gap between the wealthy 1% (families with incomes above $394,000
in 2012) and everyone else is the widest it's been since 1927, the new
study from UC Berkeley, Striking it Richer: The Evolution of Top Incomes in
the United States, shows.

Breaking another record, the top 10% of earners took in "a level higher
than any other year since 1917 and even surpasses 1928, the peak of stock
market bubble in the 'roaring' 1920s," according to the analysis.

As the economy moved slowly away from the crash, incomes of the top 1% have
grown more than 31%, while the incomes of the 99% grew 0.4%.

"The top 1% incomes captured just over two-thirds of the overall economic
growth of real incomes per family over the period 1993-2012," the authors
of the report, Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, write.

“In sum, top 1% incomes are close to full recovery while bottom 99% incomes
have hardly started to recover,” states Saez.

According to their research, the continued increase in inequality can be
attributed to a lack of progressive tax policies, weakened labor unions,
and ongoing cuts to employee health and other benefits:

The labor market has been creating much more inequality over the last
thirty years, with the very top earners capturing a large fraction of
macroeconomic productivity gains. A number of factors may help explain this
increase in inequality, not only underlying technological changes but also
the retreat of institutions developed during the New Deal and World War II
- such as progressive tax policies, powerful unions, corporate provision of
health and retirement benefits, and changing social norms regarding pay
inequality. We need to decide as a society whether this increase in income
inequality is efficient and acceptable and, if not, what mix of
institutional and tax reforms should be developed to counter it.

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Obama, Executive Power, War
Precedent for Dictatorship
September 10, 2013

Preliminaries: US Geopolitics, Capitalism, Syria

Obama’s movement toward war, simultaneously making a pitch to Congress, as
though going through the motions for the sake of legitimacy, in domestic
affairs (i.e., supposedly satisfying Constitutional requirements and
principles), while, except for the lame arguments of humanitarian
intervention and a threat to America’s national interest, is vulgarizing
the interpretation of international law. Obama appears to be doing so in
order to gain exemption from the valid charge of war crimes and outright
contemptuously repudiating the status and power of the United Nations, in
particular, by-passing the need for Security Council approval for war is,
“cute,” sinister, sadistic, and usurping by far, far more dangerous in the
precedent he is creating for arbitrary (domestic) and unilateral
(international) actions than anything that had been done by Reagan,
Clinton, and Bush I and II.

Obama drank the poisons of hegemony, liberating a gut-militarism and
psychopathic self-glorification in both cases capable not only of
subverting the Constitution through the rearrangement of government powers
but also of bringing the world crashing down. He has become, in the context
of a seemingly localized police action which has unlimited possibilities
for expansion itself, and as a geostrategic foot-in-the-door for
confrontation via a strong presence in the Middle East with both China and
Russia, a menace. Period.

One cannot help but believe that Team Obama (with John Kerry taking a
surprisingly prominent role, and Susan Rice, as the Madam Chiang-Kai-shek
of our time), frustrated in Iraq and Afghanistan, have actually welcomed
Syria as the new venue for the display of American power! The thirst for
hegemony is too great for these Kissinger-Strangelove wannabes to resist
manufacturing a crisis which, despite the internal problems and
dislocations of American capitalism, or perhaps because of them, places the
US military in a position of world supremacy. What capitalism lacks,
militarism rounds out the cluster of attributes for global power.

It is evident that Obama is on a rampage, itself a sure sign of
desperation, militarily finding consummation for a personal arrogance
resting on insecurity, and for that reason, as well as ideological
conviction, throwing his full weight on the side of a consolidated
financial structure as the forward edge of American capitalism. Attack
Assad, appoint Summers, inseparable elements of an unbalanced mindset
seeking, through the financialization and militarization of American
capitalism, the ego-satisfaction of one clutching for tangible expressions
of strength. Obama is the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time,
a manifestly unqualified POTUS (but aren’t they all?), who, unlike FDR,
cannot, and appears not to want to, bring America out of economic crisis
through policies of increasing employment, achieving basic human needs, and
addressing problems of conservation and infrastructure (comparison with FDR
and the New Deal not out of place precisely because even government
innovation and judicial activism did not, as now, wrench the Constitution
out of its moorings).

It is no coincidence that counterterrorism, surveillance on a massive
scale, targeted assassination, and a Pacific-first strategy to isolate and
contain China are, as it were, joined at the hip under Obama, because
together they define a unified pattern which helps to make the military
attack on Syria explicable. It is America against the rest of the world, a
broadly conceived counterrevolutionary ideology, geopolitical strategy, and
military posture, nominally in the name, for now, of opposing terrorism,
but integral to the long-term course of American capitalist development
fearing the dangers and weakness of senescence, and fending them off
through more aggressive international conduct.

If it turns out that rebel forces in Syria were responsible for the
chemical attack, Obama and the US would find a face-saving device still to
proceed under some other pretext, or quickly open a new front of military
activity. The Strangelovian juices are flowing; any obstruction to their
flow would imperil “credibility” as the sine qua non of US Exceptionalism,
greatness, and the self-justifying mantra, humanitarian intervention. When
the latter is raised, Watch out world.

That’s Not Who We Are: A Genocidal Rhapsody

I can still remember, as a child, a cartoon in the early 1940s, in which
Hitler, arms in swirl, screams out, “If what I say isn’t true, may
God…”—and people running away every direction. Similarly when Obama says,
as recently as September 6, departing from St. Petersburg, about Assad’s
putative use of chemical weapons, and America’s own resolute moral
opposition, “That’s not who we are as a people,” one does the same, run for
cover, lest one get struck by lightning bolts from Heaven as a sign of
God’s displeasure because of the manifest lie. Obama is good at them.
Fortunately, napalm is classified as a defoliant, not as a chemical weapon,
as tons of this inflammable chemical poured down on the Vietnamese people
in the US scorched earth policy of murderous execution.

Today, we have the “surgical strike” that replaces carpet bombing, only
somehow large numbers of civilians are killed indiscriminately, anyway,
with the armed drone for targeted assassination unctuously pronounced not
in violation of international law or moral decency—and, at this moment, B52
and Stealth bombers, along with the carrier Nimitz and its battle group,
and a battleship delicately parked in the Red Sea, all poised for a, what,
surgical strike? A bunch of cut-throats like this, dressed in proper
Washington legalese, we haven’t seen, even under Bush II, where
gut-Reaction is now being replaced by an antisepticising fascism which
wipes away all traces of moral scruple, in the name of humanitarian

Obama is truly a study. He turns to Congress for approval, thinking this
pro forma maneuver cleanses his bloody hands (thank you Medea Benjamin and
CodePink for raising those red hands signifying blood in the congressional
hearings!), which approval, at present writing, may not work, as Members
receive an earful from home—and yet for Obama it doesn’t matter because he
plans to go ahead with military action anyway, whatever Congress says or
does. Cynicism, arrogance, growing Executive Power, they together make for
a heady brew. More disturbing, however, is America’s public announcement
that it will reign down death on the Syrian people, hour-by-hour
intensification of agony for them, as Obama plays his war game, each
postponement, such as votes in Congress, adding to his own sense of
arbitrary power—and I suspect, pleasure.

Too harsh? How explain a POTUS who on Terror Tuesdays, surrounded before by
Brennan, now Rice, and national-security advisers who, to a person, are
committed to a policy of regularized assassination, not only along with
Obama, but at his personal authorization, in which the very whirring sound
of the drones overhead is seen as turning the screws in the campaign of
terrorizing the civilian population, each fearful of the missile strike
crashing down on their homes in the middle of the night (we know this from
the Stanford-NYU law faculties’ study, based on on-site interviews), and
Obama, at the same time, bleating, “that’s not who we are as a people”? Too
harsh? Does sadism get a free pass? Apparently so, in light of the absence
of criticism, especially in the most respectable voices of the mass media.
Perhaps, for once, Obama has crossed an imaginary red line of another kind
and of his own making in which the American public is beginning to wake up
to the barbarism practiced in its name and with its previous approval.

This march to war, a self-advertisement of American hegemony, has to do
with everything but chemical weapons. As I’ve noted in a previous CP
article, Syria is a pawn on the chessboard of power politics, yet, to put a
finer point on the analysis, it is America’s stepladder for getting back up
to a unilateral position of world supremacy as, in fact, the global
geopolitical structure is rapidly moving away from American
political-economic-military dominance through evolving into a multipolar
system of power based on the simultaneous weakening of US capitalism and
the rising industrial-financial potential of China and Russia and emerging
contenders like Brazil. Straws in the wind, just this past week: Obama’s
failure to receive the approval of the Group of 20 for America’s war plans,
his failure to get the UK on board, and Putin’s direct, no-nonsense
statements about the violation of international law.

Things are happening fast in world politics, as though there was already
widening receptive ground for what might otherwise have seemed an
adventitious factor (but what was bound to come about when a government, in
the excesses of secrecy, was committing illegal acts): the revelations of
Manning and Snowden, political dynamite in blowing the lid on America’s
“democratic” practices. The world was invited to see the commission of war
crimes, nations—and particularly their leaders, from Germany to
Brazil—eavesdropping on their plans and policies, and, perhaps most
shattering, the massive surveillance on Americans themselves, suggesting
the government’s contempt for its own citizenry. If USG steamrollers over
the civil liberties of its people, how can others take its word about
anything? Not surprisingly, we hear a hue and cry over credibility, as
though making up for lost ground.

Obama’s red line, though political savagery of the first water, becomes
twisted into the moral rectitude of keeping our word—even though that word
signifies the death and destruction of others. The false oath of a bully
here ascends to the heights of democratic principle—with the new puppet on
the block, John Kerry, slinging hash to the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee on America’s moral-humanitarian obligation to serve the world.

The Manning-Snowden revelations achieved more for the hoped-for rescuing of
American democracy than perhaps anything since the civil-rights struggle
and the Vietnam antiwar protests, because there is now no longer any excuse
for passivity as America eases into a posture of militarized capitalism
borne of desperation at finding itself compelled to share the sought-after
objectives of the international system, markets, investments, raw
materials, particularly oil, with major industrial nations which themselves
are showing greater flexibility with, and in some cases advancing the
interests of, Third World countries, in addition to experiencing
sustainable rates of growth of their own the envy of the US.

Unilateralism has made America too sure of itself, to the point of
hubristic self-indulgence, if not a downright messianic complex of
universal faith-giver, either way, backed by military prowess, the “faith”
being unrestrained capitalism under American guidance and leadership. Why
Manning-Snowden importance? Primarily because, on behalf of presumably
normalizing globalization, the US will go to any lengths to maintain
military superiority in the world and the destruction of critical thinking
and analysis that could lead to societal democratization at home. To have
the prevailing framework of widening class-differentials of income, wealth,
and power, matched by the diminution of scope and benefits of the social
safety net, all coupled with deregulation of banking, now-endemic
unemployment, the erosion of the manufacturing base, failure to address
climate change, and a gnawing increase of poverty over and beyond
differences of class and status, requires a concerted dumbing down of the

Welcome, surveillance, a clear first step in the conversion from monopoly
capital to fascism. Perhaps the horrendous revelations come too late.
Whether the Left is a slumbering giant or a concubine in the corporatist
harem, coming events in the premeditated Obama-inspired attack on Syria may
tell. It is now wake-up time for the world.

Presidential War Powers

Charlie Savage, in a New York Times article, “Obama Tests Limits of Power
in Syria Conflict” (Sept. 9), has an excellent discussion of the dangers
raised by Obama’s claims to Executive Authority, as in making war with or
without Congressional authorization, and the grounds offered for exercising
this power, wholly problematic, arbitrary, convenient on his part (although
Savage does not quite go this far). The Obama strategy is to give the
intervention a limited character a la Kosovo and Libya (neither of which
bears out his own characterization), and thus allay concerns of a
protracted conflict and the possible embroilment of the whole region,
including Israel, in sectarian violence, territorial disputes, and
worse—the “worse” being confrontation of the Great Powers, first, through
proxy wars, and then, directly, risking the use of nuclear weapons.

Tinderbox, for the Middle East, is too mild a description—although Obama
appears bent on gambling with the world’s future, credibility, in this
case, signifying, who blinks first. Yet, this is, as Savage points out, the
immediate level, gaining congressional authorization on the domestic front.
He continues, in an encompassing sentence: “On another level, the proposed
strike is unlike anything that has come before—an attack inside the
territory of a sovereign country, without its consent, without a
self-defense rationale and without the authorization of the United Nations
Security Council or even the participation of a multilateral treaty
alliance like NATO, and for the purpose of punishing an alleged war crime
that has already occurred rather than preventing an imminent disaster.”
(Italics, mine)

I have italicized words in the statement to point up the obvious—together,
a precedent is being set, one which ignores or violates international law
and/or established practices at every turn: abridgement and rejection of
another nation’s sovereignty, disregard for the UN and even NATO, as a
primal unilateralism signaling to the world claims of pre-eminence and
arrogating to America, indeed, America alone, a right to define the rules
of international politics and conduct as it sees fit, including, finally,
designating as war crimes what and when—here timing is important—are viewed
to be inimical to US interests.

The two may appear as “contrasting moves” (Savage), “a political role for
Congress domestically while expanding national war powers on the
international stage,” but only if Obama actually sought Congress’s
approval, rather than what those around him readily admit, full speed ahead
on spurious grounds, although to him and them, not spurious because in his
infinite wisdom, and the rubber-stamping of the DOJ’s White House Office of
Legal Counsel, its function under Bush (John Yoo), and now Obama (Kathryn
Ruemmler), being to provide memos sanctioning what in the first place has
already been decided, POTUS will have the leeway to act with impunity. This
is exactly what is now happening, with Ruemmler—a name new to most of
us—sanctioning presidential military action practically as inhering in the
office, and by definition as lawful, whether in domestic or international
law, whatever Congress and the Security Council might say.

The “by definition” is a way of saying, departures of policy and practice,
as in the preparatory work of Obama and Brennan in seeking not simply legal
justification (national-security presumed necessity for one, just-war
doctrine, for the other) about the program of armed drones for targeted
assassination, but more important, how to bind future administrations to
its operations can be, and here are, intentionally sought precisely for
establishing precedent, i.e., Obama’s dramatic extension of Executive
Power, in which military intervention and domestic surveillance form a
happy marriage on which to build national power.

Of course, Obama in 2008 either misled the public by coming out in
opposition to a presidential authorization of military force unless the
nation faced an actual or imminent threat, or, what is doubtful, had a
sea-change of constitutional interpretation and understanding of the nature
of leadership, both of which belie his tendency from that campaign on
self-righteously to betray those announced principles. As Savage notes, by
2011 and with Libya all caution about limited presidential war powers were
thrown to the wind, his Office of Legal Counsel arguing that “it was lawful
for him to unilaterally order American forces to bomb Libya because of
national interests in preserving regional stability and in supporting the
‘credibility and effectiveness’ of the Security Council.” True, there was a
Council approval of the NATO intervention, but not the authorization of
Congress, yet acting for the credibility and effectiveness of the former is
chutzpah to the nth degree, while by-passing Congress makes the present
exercise of the same character.

In the present case, we see Ruemmler to the rescue, the legalization of
military attacks because regional instability and the use of chemical
weapons affect “important national interests”—never mind, how the attacks
might very well foster regional instability, and how concern over chemical
weapons seems false in light of their use by American forces in Vietnam.

Obama, however, does not need legal memos from OLC because he increasingly
employs humanitarian intervention as the catch-all answer to all objections
to US interventions. (Between Rice and Samantha Power at the UN, who was
abrupt and defiant in her recent speech there on the murder of children, he
does not need a Greek chorus to sound the charge, although the
administration’s propaganda blitz over the weekend should itself arouse
suspicions that a Goebbels-like approach is meant to substitute for
meaningful discussion and debate.) And with each of his insinuating remarks
on the effeteness of the Security Council in not “enforcing international
norms and international law,” he is also provocatively taking on Russia as,
with its veto, the “barrier” to this goal. Let’s give the last word to Ms.
Ruemmler: While attacking Syria “may not fit under a traditionally
recognized legal basis under international law,” still it is ”justified and
legitimate,” and not prohibited, due to the novel factors involved.

Yes, novel factor, an invocation we may hear in the future, each time
presidential power becomes its own source of legitimation.

This article is dedicated to Gabriel Kolko, to whom the world Left owes so
much for his research, writings, and social activism.

Norman Pollack is the author of “The Populist Response to Industrial
America” (Harvard) and “The Just Polity” (Illinois), Guggenheim Fellow, and
professor of history emeritus, Michigan State University. His new book,
Eichmann on the Potomac, will be published by CounterPunch in the fall of

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I Ain’t Gonna Fight Obama’s War No More
(Lyrics to the tune of "Maggie's Farm")
September 11, 2013

I ain’t gonna fight Obama’s war no more
No I ain’t gonna fight Obama’s war no more
He hands me a nickel
He’s lookin’ kinda strange
Then he asks me with a grin
How I like that kind of “change”
The NSA kicks down my door
No I ain’t gonna fight Obama’s war no more

I ain’t gonna pay Obama’s debt no more
No, I ain’t gonna pay Obama’s debt no more
Can’t afford to pay for college
So I joined the brave and few
Went from New York University
To Depleted U.
Then they took my home and foreclosed on the store
I ain’t gonna pay Obama’s debt no more.

I ain’t gonna fire Obama’s drones no more
No I ain’t gonna fire Obama’s drones no more
His Secretary of State
Who was once against the war
Now says “let’s bomb Syria”
>From submarines off shore
Kerry’s a clone of Colin Powell — been down this road before
No I ain’t gonna fire Obama’s drones no more

I ain’t gonna fight Obama’s war no more
No, I ain’t gonna fight Obama’s war no more
Overseas they loved him
Now they open up their eyes
And wonder if it’s too late
To take back the Nobel Prize
Be careful of world leaders you adore
No, I ain’t gonna fight Obama’s war no more


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