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Archive for the ‘Obama’ Category

President Obama: Hypocrite and Hater on Single Payer Health Care

Posted by kelliasworld on March 26, 2009

Original Article

by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon
“…the Obama Administration’s emerging health care plan is expected to be based upon a model that has failed multiple times, most recently in Massachusetts”

Obama likes to say that the insurance industry employs tens or hundreds of thousands, and we cannot just displace them. That’s hating. But his advisers know perfectly well that single payer health care insurance would create 2.6 million new jobs, after allowing for the 440,000 insurance company jobs it would do away with a fact detailed in the groundbreaking report issued earlier this year by the National Nurses Organizing Committee. Instead, in the spirit of a dishonest hater, Obama has tried to ban from public forums any discussion of the single payer health care option, despite the fact that it has massive support among the people who voted for him. That is hypocrisy.

When the Obama campaign asked for house meetings across the nation on health care, the option suggested most often was indeed single payer. So you didn’t hear much of anything about the outcomes of those meetings. If that’s not dishonest hating on single payer health care it’s hard to imagine what is.

Instead, the Obama Administration’s emerging health care plan is expected to be based upon a model that has failed multiple times, most recently in Massachusetts, which includes “individual mandates” requiring people above a certain income level to purchase private insurance or face a fine, and provides some kind of care at subsidized rates to those with the lowest incomes. A recent study by physicians at Harvard Medical School meticulously exposes the predictable failure of the Massachusetts Plan live up to any of its promises, and explains succinctly why no “individual mandate” which subsidizes private insurance companies should be a model for any national health care plan.

It’s called “Massachusetts’ Plan” A Failed Model for Health Care Reform”, and you can find it online here. In it, Drs. Rachel Narden, David Himmelstein and Steffie Woolhandler, all of Harvard Medical School deliver a withering assessment of the plan’s failure, and explain why it must not be a model for any national health care plan worthy of the name.

These are the key features of the Massachusetts Plan upon which Obama’s health care plan is modeled.

1. Subsidized private insurance is made available for the poorest at reduced or no cost through a state agency.
2. Unsubsidized private insurance at controlled costs was to be made available for those who made a little more.
3. As with automobile insurance, those not qualifying for subsidized insurance would be fined ($912 a year in 2008, $1,068 in 2009, collected with your state income tax) for failing to purchase insurance.
4. Employers were required to pay $295 a year for each employee they didn’t give health insurance to.
5. To control costs, funds to pay for the program were taken from the existing pool that previously financed “safety net” care for the poor and uninsured, leaving many with fewer options and less care than was available before the “reform.”

But the subsidized health insurance policies available to the poor in Massachusetts often covered fewer services than they were already receiving under previously existing conditions, and the greater the “income” of these poor people, the lower the subsidy and higher the deductibles. Under the Massachusetts Plan, the subsidies vanish altogether when one makes 300% of the ridiculously low Federal Poverty Level — about $31,000 per year.

Despite the fines for persons who fail to buy health insurance under the so-called “individual mandate” plans, many remain uninsured because coverage is simply not affordable.
“…the reform law specifically exempts uninsured families from fines if no affordable private plan is available. About 79,000 Massachusetts uninsured residents received this exemption in 2007, which excused them from fines, but left them uninsured.

“The private insurance plans available through the Commonwealth Choice program can be extremely expensive. According to the Connector website (accessed December 29, 2008 at the cheapest plan available to a middle-income 56-year-old now costs $4,872 annually in premiums alone. However, if the policy holder becomes sick, (s)he must pay an additional $2,000 deductible before insurance kicks in. Thereafter the policy holder pays 20% co-insurance (i.e. 20% of all medical bills) up to a maximum of $3,000 annually ($9,872 in total annual costs including premium, deductible and co-insurance). A need for uncovered services (e.g. physical therapy visits beyond the number covered) would drive out-of pocket costs even higher. It is not surprising that many of the state’s uninsured have declined such coverage.”

How can someone making $31,000 a year pay $90 a week in premiums alone, plus $20% of all medical bills up to $3,000 if they get sick? Is calling this “reform” even the least bit honest? Or is it hypocrisy?
The study makes the point again and again that access to health insurance is not the same as access to health care. A full third of every health care dollar is already diverted to private insurance companies. The Massachusetts Plan, and the emerging Obama Plan seem intended to preserve this cut for private insurers, even at the expense of needed care. “…(T)he new inssurance policies that replced the (previous) free care system require co-payments for office visits and prescriptions, which are difficult for many low income patients to pay…” says the study, hence patients suffering from HIV-AIDS and other chronic conditions have had to reduce doctor visits or skip their meds due to the high co-payments that the “reform” required.

The report outlines how the advocates of these private insurance industry endorsed versions of health care reform have lied in state after state where this has been tried — in Oregon, Maine, Vermont, Tennessee and elsewhere. We encourage our readers to download and read it, at only 18 pages, as an antidote to whatever form of “individual mandate” health plan is finally proposed by the Obama Administration.

Plans of this type have not lowered overall health care costs, either. They provide no incentive to tone down the over-reliance on expensive techniques and specialists, and produce more primary care physicians, the doctors who provide day to day, person to person coverage. Obama’s offer to “let’s computerize medical records” as a cost-saving procedure sounds nice, but falls flat. Most of the unnecessary paperwork is between care givers, hospitals and insurers with a vested interest in saying no to this or that treatment, test, or medicine.

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama declared we should judge his first term by whether, under his leadership, the nation finally enacted national health care system that takes care of everybody and lowers the cost of health care. Now we are in the middle of a completely foreseeable economic crisis caused in part by many of the people who are advising the president. Single payer health care has come to the fore as a viable means to create 2.6 million new jobs, a proposal that Obama’s advisors neither address nor discuss.

Sixty days into his presidency, the clock is ticking. Lofty rhetoric and lawyerly evasions are giving way to actual policies, many of them deeply disappointing to the people who campaigned and voted for this president. It looks like national health care for everybody is a dream, that if left up to this president and his advisers, will be deferred again. The question is, should we leave it up to them at all?

Bruce Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report. He is based in Atlanta GA and can be reached at bruce.dixon(at)
We can’t displace all the people who work in the health insurance industry? Sure we can. If businesses weren’t burdened with health insurance costs, maybe they could afford to hire the displaced workers. If not, let those workers RETRAIN, like so many other workers in other industries have been told to do. What is so sacred about the jobs in the health insurance industry? Nothing. Because it’s not the secretaries, data entry clerks and other day-to-day workers Obama really cares about. It’s the fat cat executives with hefty salaries whom he is trying to protect.

As for the argument that people have to buy auto insurance so they should also have to buy health insurance, I say that there are alternatives to driving. If you cannot afford auto insurance, you can take the bus, or train, or bike, or walk, or get a ride from another driver. The alternative to unaffordable health insurance is uninsurance, possibly a fine if you live in Massachusetts, and no care, or lack of timely care, if you are trying to not incur the bills. If an emergency occurs and you are forced to incur the bills, you then face a year or more of financial stress, harassment, collections and ruined credit. — K.R.


Posted in America, Economics, Health Insurance, Obama | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Americans in Appalachia Are Living in a State of Terror

Posted by kelliasworld on February 27, 2009

By Bo Webb , AlterNet
Posted on February 19, 2009, Printed on February 27, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

As I write this letter, I brace myself for another round of nerve-wracking explosives being detonated above my home in the mountains of West Virginia. Outside my door, pulverized rock dust, laden with diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate explosives hovers in the air, along with the residual of heavy metals that once lay dormant underground.

The mountain above me, once a thriving forest, has been blasted into a pile of rock and mud rubble. Two years ago, it was covered with rich black topsoil and abounded with hardwood trees, rhododendrons, ferns and flowers. The understory thrived with herbs such as ginseng, black cohosh, yellow root and many other medicinal plants. Black bears, deer, wild turkey, hawks, owls and thousands of [other] birds lived here. The mountain contained sparkling streams teeming with aquatic life and fish.

Now it is all gone. It is all dead. I live at the bottom of a mountain-top-removal coal-mining operation in the Peachtree community.

Mr. President Obama, I am writing you because we have simply run out of options. Last week, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court in Richmond, Va., overturned a federal court ruling for greater environmental restrictions on mountaintop-removal permits. Dozens of permits now stand to be rushed through. As you know, in December, the EPA under George W. Bush allowed an 11th-hour change to the stream buffer zone rule, further unleashing the coal companies to do as they please.

During your presidential campaign, you declared: “We have to find more environmentally sound ways of mining coal than simply blowing the tops off mountains.”

That time is now. Or never.

Every day, more than 3 million pounds of explosives are detonated in our state to remove our mountains and expose the thin seams of coal. Over 470 mountains in Appalachia have been destroyed in this process, the coal scooped up and hauled away to be burned at coal-fired power plants across our country and abroad. This includes the Potomac River Plant, which generates the electricity for the White House.

Mountaintop removal is the dirty secret in our nation’s energy supply. If coal can’t be mined clean, it can’t be called clean. Here, at the point of extraction, coal passes through a preparation plant that manages to remove some, but not all, of the metals and toxins. Those separated impurities are stored in mammoth toxic sludge dams above our communities throughout Appalachia.

There are three sludge dams within 10 miles of my home. Coal companies are now blasting directly above and next to a dam above my home that contains over 2 billion gallons of toxic waste. That is the same seeping dam that hovers just 400 yards above the Marsh Fork Elementary School. As you know, coal sludge dams have failed before, and lives have been lost.

My family and I, like many American citizens in Appalachia, are living in a state of terror. Like sitting ducks waiting to be buried in an avalanche of mountain waste, or crushed by a falling boulder, we are trapped in a war zone within our own country.

In 1968, I served my country in Vietnam as part of the 1st Battalion 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division. As you know, Appalachians have never failed to serve our country; our mountain riflemen stood with George Washington at the surrender of the British in Yorktown. West Virginia provided more per capita soldiers for the Union during the Civil War than any other state; we have given our blood for every war since.

We have also given our blood for the burden of coal in these mountains. My uncle died in the underground mines at the age of 17; another uncle was paralyzed from an accident. My dad worked in an underground mine. Many in my family have suffered from black-lung disease.

These mountains are our home. My family roots are deep in these mountains. We homesteaded this area in the 1820s. This is where I was born. This is where I will die.

On Jan. 15, 1972, U.S. Sen. John D. Rockefeller made a speech at Morris Harvey College. He declared: “The government has turned its back on the many West Virginians who have borne out of their property and out of their pocketbook the destructive impact of strip-mining. We hear that the governor once claimed to have wept as he flew over the strip mine devastation of our state. Now it’s the people who weep.”

Our state government has turned its back on us in 2009.

Peachtree is but one of hundreds of Appalachian communities that are being bombed. Our property has been devalued to worthlessness. Our neighbors put their kids to bed at night with the fear of being crushed or swept away in toxic sludge. And the outside coal industries continue their criminal activity through misleading and false ads.

Mr. President, when I heard you talk during your campaign stops, it made me feel like there was hope for Peachtree and the Coal River Valley of West Virginia. Hope for me and my family.

Abraham Lincoln wrote that we cannot escape history: “The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation.”

I beg you to re-light our flame of hope and honor and immediately stop the coal companies from blasting so near our homes and endangering our lives. As you have said, we must find another way than blowing off the tops of our mountains. We must end mountaintop removal.

I also ask you to please put an end to these dangerous toxic-sludge dams.

With utmost respect, yours truly,

Bo Webb
Naoma, W.V.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:
Clean Coal is an oxymoron. And people who blow the tops off mountains are just morons. K.R.

Posted in Air pollution, America, Economics, Obama, Sludge, water pollution | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Jindal’s response shows GOP still doesn’t get it

Posted by kelliasworld on February 26, 2009


Original Content at–we-barely-knew-ye-by-Ed-Tubbs-090225-741.html

February 26, 2009

Bobby – we barely knew ye.

By Ed Tubbs

Bobby — we barely knew ye.

In a spirit of genuine nonpartisan comity, I did listen intently, and with an open mind, to what Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal offered as the Republican response to President Obama’s February 24 speech to a joint meeting of Congress and to the American public.

First off, after the previous eight years, it was refreshing to know that a Republican leader can deliver complete sentences without making up words. However, almost as immediately as that epiphany raised my spirits, it became manifest that that was the highlight of his near 15-minute oratory. Rather, it seemed a spiraling surrealistic déjà vu theme park roller coaster ride through Alice’s looking glass.

Governor Jindal told the nation that a handful of Louisiana fishermen, in their 15-foot outboards, were — and would be — more effective than the “heckova job” Bush/Republican federal government led agencies, when it came to apocalyptic natural disasters. Over and over the governor told us that was because “Americans can do anything.” I could barely restrain myself from adding “better than Republicans.”

He then went directly to the current economic crisis, condemning the Democratic president and congress for rejecting the present GOP plans that were, by the way, the very same schemes that got us and the world into the mess.

As evidence of the terrible waste within the $797 billion rescue package, Jindal cited the proposal to purchase $300 million worth of new cars for the federal government. I haven’t done the math: $300 million divided by $797 BILLION, but I’ve no doubt that Jindal is probably correct, that the percentage is stunning.

The governor’s cited evidence did prompt me to ponder a few possibly relevant questions. Like, were the vehicles to be purchased replacing older, less fuel efficient, less polluting than those they’d replace? Were those they were replacing going to be replaced in the near future anyway? And, were these new vehicles going to be manufactured and assembled in American plants, by Americans, and wasn’t that the point of the whole thing — putting Americans to work?

Also included in the presentation of evidence was the cited planned appropriation of $8 billion on high-speed rail projects. A few points: First, the way he jammed it together, in a single sentence, “. . . including” — which I kinda think no one was supposed to actually hear, sort of akin to super fine print warnings — “a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas” (OHHHH, the SIN!!!) to Disneyland” (OHHHH, it’s all such a “small” [silly] “world after all.”).

It’s here that I feel impelled to bring some perhaps perspective-changing facts to the discussion. It seems that Governor Jindal wanted his audience to slide right past them, the way state troopers hidden in the median brush want speeding motorists to do.

1.) The United States lags sorely behind the majority of industrialized countries when it comes to non- or low-polluting, energy efficient, high-speed transportation. As every motorist must by now be frustratingly aware, we spend endless hours every day, sitting in parking lots that are misnamed freeways, watching untold dollars spew in fumes out our tailpipes. Cough, cough, cough.

2.) The route noted is among the most heavily traveled. Regardless how the governor sought to insert notions of bawdry sin and frivolousness with “Las Vegas” and “Disneyland,” the route between LA and Las Vegas will not be made less congested thereby.

3.) Whether it’s via I-210 to I-15, or I-10 to I-15, motorists still have to pass through one of the deadliest in the country west and north of San Bernardino. That it is one of the deadliest is not attributable to either the design of the road nor necessarily the carelessness of motorists. The problem owes to the need to get from the LA basin to the high desert. That transition, from one climate zone to another, makes the route perhaps the most dramatically scenic of all metropolitan cores in the United States. You climb, and climb, and climb, and climb around broad sweeping curves that are subject to wind gusts that can exceed 50 miles per hour and sudden blinding fog and sudden blinding dust.

4.) The project has been “shovel ready” for years.

5.) The project, as with all others contained in the package, will put AMERICANS to work, which most agree, is the point.

Without the parenthesis, a parenthetical observation is in order. I’ve traveled I-10, from Florida to California a number of times. I swear, or affirm, to all that the very most miserable section of that 3,000 mile Interstate is in Governor Jindal’s state of Louisiana. It’s horrible, mind wrenching, fatiguing mile after mile after mile after god-forsaken, unending miles of bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump, bumpity-bump as the car passes over the elevated sections of concrete that cross through the bayous. Then, heaping additional misery to the trek, motoring the route from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm over the two very narrow lanes each direction. . . Road-kill moves more rapidly. Governor, I have an idea: How about an elevated, magnetic levitation line between the Big Easy and Baton Rouge and Lafayette?

Included in Governor Jindal’s presentation of evidence, supporting his assertion the package was loaded with unnecessary, useless pork, was the $140 million allocated to monitor volcanoes. (Actually, it’s for volcanoes and other seismic phenomena.) Why did Mt. St. Helens spring to mind, when you raised the issue? And what about Hawaii? I mean, if I were a resident of those areas, or a visitor, I’d be interested in forecasts that might forewarn me of the possible risk of being killed by volcanic eruptions. Really, I would.

But, and this is a real kicker, how many can name what is potentially the very most lethal natural disaster confronting the US?

As one of only eight, Yellowstone National Park is the largest super-volcano on the planet. Six hundred thousand years ago, the park erupted, burying the geography easterly all the way to Des Moines in deadly ash. The geologic record notes that it blows its deadly top on the average of once every 600,000 years. (Pop Quiz for the governor: How many years has it been since Yellowstone erupted?) Additionally, and I really don’t like piling on, the average number of detectable earthquakes striking Yellowstone are 1,000 to 2,000. In 1985 there were 3,000. Furthermore, the upward push cause by magma buildup raised the floor eight inches between the summer of 2004 to 2008. By his comments, I know Governor Jindal doesn’t care about those sorts of calamities, and that he doesn’t think the government should either.

I was standing in the middle of a parade field at Fort Lewis when the 1964 quake devastated Alaska. That far away, I saw barracks sway like Hula dancers’ skirts, and I felt the tremors. In 1989, I was living in San José, getting ready to have dinner and watch a World Series game. Maybe the governor wasn’t watching television that evening, but I saw what that quake did to the Bay area . . . after the heaving earth quieted and I’d returned inside. So, while some folks don’t think monitoring seismic activity, keeping track of topography-altering volcanoes, is a worthy use of federal dollars, I bet that many others do. (And once again, what’s the percentage, $140 million divided by $797 BILLION?)

Jindal also scolded the Democrats and President Obama for a package that would add to the national debt. He said that borrowing from future generations was “wrong.” That was when he took us out of Alice in Wonderland, and rocketed all the way into The Twilight Zone, well beyond anything Stephen Spielberg and ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) could have managed. Ronald Reagan TRIPLED the national debt. While composing a budget in 1993 that secured not a single Republican vote, Bill Clinton added 22 million jobs and set the country on a course that would have paid off the debt entirely! And then we got George Bush and a Republican Senate and House, and the GOP DOUBLED again what Reagan had tripled, all the while adding not a single net job through the entire eight years. By the way . . . I seem to recall it was Dick Cheney who gleefully claimed how “Reagan proved — Deficits don’t matter!” Tell me once more, was Richard B. Cheney a Republican, or was he one of those godless, free-spending Democrats?

Jindal’s last point was to education, and touted Louisiana’s. Just a show of hands, please. However poorly you may judge the system where you live, how many would voluntarily swap it, would rather have your kids going to school in Louisiana?

Yeah, thought so: a handful in Alabama, and a few in West Virginia.

Oh Bobby — we barely knew ye. But we do now. Thanks for the introduction. And for reminding the country, as if any reminding was at all necessary, why the GOP was kicked out of the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office. But tell you what, I think we’re pretty well satisfied, and won’t be needing anything more from you, at least in the foreseeable future.

— Ed Tubbs

Author’s Bio: An “Old Army Vet” and liberal, qua liberal, with a passion for open inquiry in a neverending quest for truth unpoisoned by religious superstitions. Per Voltaire: “He who can lead you to believe an absurdity can lead you to commit an atrocity.”


Posted in America, Congress, Economics, Obama, Republicans | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The Destructive Center

Posted by kelliasworld on February 10, 2009

February 9, 2009 Op-Ed Columnist New York Times


What do you call someone who eliminates hundreds of thousands of American jobs, deprives millions of adequate health care and nutrition, undermines schools, but offers a $15,000 bonus to affluent people who flip their houses? A proud centrist.

For that is what the senators who ended up calling the tune on the stimulus bill just accomplished. Even if the original Obama plan — around $800 billion in stimulus, with a substantial fraction of that total given over to ineffective tax cuts — had been enacted, it wouldn’t have been enough to fill the looming hole in the U.S. economy, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will amount to $2.9 trillion over the next three years.

Yet the centrists did their best to make the plan weaker and worse. One of the best features of the original plan was aid to cash-strapped state governments, which would have provided a quick boost to the economy while preserving essential services. But the centrists insisted on a $40 billion cut in that spending. The original plan also included badly needed spending on school construction; $16 billion of that spending was cut. It included aid to the unemployed, especially help in maintaining health care — cut. Food stamps — cut. All in all, more than $80 billion was cut from the plan, with the great bulk of those cuts falling on precisely the measures that would do the most to reduce the depth and pain of this slump.

On the other hand, the centrists were apparently just fine with one of the worst provisions in the Senate bill, a tax credit for home buyers. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research calls this the “flip your house to your brother” provision: it will cost a lot of money while doing nothing to help the economy. All in all, the centrists’ insistence on comforting the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted will, if reflected in the final bill, lead to substantially lower employment and substantially more suffering.

But how did this happen? I blame President Obama’s belief that he can transcend the partisan divide — a belief that warped his economic strategy. After all, many people expected Mr. Obama to come out with a really strong stimulus plan, reflecting both the economy’s dire straits and his own electoral mandate. Instead, however, he offered a plan that was clearly both too small and too heavily reliant on tax cuts. Why? Because he wanted the plan to have broad bipartisan support, and believed that it would. Not long ago administration strategists were talking about getting 80 or more votes in the Senate.

Mr. Obama’s postpartisan yearnings may also explain why he didn’t do something crucially important: speak forcefully about how government spending can help support the economy. Instead, he let conservatives define the debate, waiting until late last week before finally saying what needed to be said — that increasing spending is the whole point of the plan.

And Mr. Obama got nothing in return for his bipartisan outreach. Not one Republican voted for the House version of the stimulus plan, which was, by the way, better focused than the original administration proposal. In the Senate, Republicans inveighed against “pork” — although the wasteful spending they claimed to have identified (much of it was fully justified) was a trivial share of the bill’s total. And they decried the bill’s cost — even as 36 out of 41 Republican senators voted to replace the Obama plan with $3 trillion, that’s right, $3 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years.

So Mr. Obama was reduced to bargaining for the votes of those centrists. And the centrists, predictably, extracted a pound of flesh — not, as far as anyone can tell, based on any coherent economic argument, but simply to demonstrate their centrist mojo. They probably would have demanded that $100 billion or so be cut from anything Mr. Obama proposed; by coming in with such a low initial bid, the president guaranteed that the final deal would be much too small.

Such are the perils of negotiating with yourself. Now, House and Senate negotiators have to reconcile their versions of the stimulus, and it’s possible that the final bill will undo the centrists’ worst. And Mr. Obama may be able to come back for a second round. But this was his best chance to get decisive action, and it fell short.

So has Mr. Obama learned from this experience? Early indications aren’t good. For rather than acknowledge the failure of his political strategy and the damage to his economic strategy, the president tried to put a postpartisan happy face on the whole thing. “Democrats and Republicans came together in the Senate and responded appropriately to the urgency this moment demands,” he declared on Saturday, and “the scale and scope of this plan is right.”

No, they didn’t, and no, it isn’t.


Mr. Obama is getting off on the wrong foot at a time when the nation cannot afford to have the President misstep, especially in favor of a politeness philosophy, like “bipartisanship.” The opposition should be listened to, because, as we say in journalism, “everybody needs an editor.” But there is a difference between taking a good suggestion or two, if the opposition has any good suggestions, and making it feel like they are full partners in the process. It is not.

Why? Because the voters finally came down on the other side in numbers that were too unequivocal to steal. They told the supply-siders, tax cutters and other failed neo-cons and neolibs, mostly but not all, Republicans, “You had eight years. And you brought us to the brink of destruction. Shut up and sit down!” Mr. Obama would do well to listen, too.


Posted in America, Congress, Obama | 2 Comments »

Cynthia McKinney: Pres. Obama – Don’t be complicit in their crimes!

Posted by kelliasworld on January 30, 2009

On Thursday, January 29th, I sent President Obama this message:

“Mr. President: The Bush Administration lied to the people in pursuit of war. As a result, at least one million Iraqis and thousands of U.S. soldiers are dead. Thousands more are maimed. The stature of the U.S. is severely damaged. The U.S. Constitution is in shreds after signing statements, wiretaps, and torture. Your obligation is to investigate and bring to justice those who violated U.S. and international law, such as the torture treaty. Failure to do so makes you complicit in their crimes.”

On Wednesday, January 28th, I sat in front of the television and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  Exactly what I’ve been saying, myself.  But it was coming from an unexpected source:  the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak.  I wrote down every word.  He said that the United Nations has proof that former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld knowingly approved of torture as a policy for the United States.  He said that President Barack Obama has a responsibility to investigate and prosecute those who condoned, conducted, or approved of torture.

Further, Jonathan Turley, in an MSNBC interview stated that if Obama fails to investigate or prosecute that he would be an “accessory.”

This is significant.  It means that all of us, sadly, were right to pursue impeachment of the key figures in the Bush Administration.  Impeachment was the Constitutional imperative; but the Constitution didn’t mean anything to either the Republican or Democratic national leadership.

And to think, on this day filled with impeachment news, Nancy Pelosi took impeachment “off the table” for this cast of villainous characters.  I never will forget watching Rocky Anderson, former Mayor of Salt Lake City, say on national television that Nancy Pelosi should be impeached for impeding impeachment.  But Nancy Pelosi isn’t the only one who obstructed justice.

In fact, how could Dick Durbin and Harry Reid, so voluble in standing up to Roland Burris because he was Governor Blagojevich’s pick for Obama’s vacated Senate seat, sit as quiet as church mice in the face of repeated calls for impeachment because of the reckless criminality of the Bush Administration?

And now, we have the United Nations tell us the equivalent of “Houston, we have a problem.”

Some of us knew all along, from the very beginning, that the Bush Administration was the quintessence of election theft, graft, corruption, and war criminality.  Some of us recognized early on that our struggle was “against principalities, against powers, . . . against spiritual wickedness in high places.”  It is impossible to “go along and get along” with illegal and immoral acts.  But that is exactly what the national leadership of this country asked us all to do, and that is exactly what they did.

Dr. King was confronted with the expediency of staying on the civil rights track, remaining with his friends in the civil rights movement, or doing what his conscience impelled him to do.  That’s when he made his famous statement, that popular chroniclers of Dr. King seem to have forgotten:

“When I first decided to take a firm stand against the war in Vietnam, I was subjected to the most bitter criticism, by the press, by individuals, and even by some fellow civil rights leaders. There were those who said that I should stay in my place, that these two issues did not mix and I should stick with civil rights. Well I had only one answer for that and it was simply the fact that I have struggled too long and too hard now to get rid of segregation in public accommodations to end up at this point in my life segregating my moral concerns.”

Dr. King had to leave behind some of his best friends in the movement when he decided to speak out against the Vietnam War.  Dr. King could have bowed to the pressure and stayed in his “civil rights” lane.  But he knew that the war was wrong and he had to use every fiber in his being to stop it.  Even his life, itself.

One of the first underreported acts of President Obama was to sign an order continuing the drone airstrikes, resulting in at least 22 killed so far.  For the dead children of Afghanistan or Pakistan or Gaza, it doesn’t matter to their parents if the bomb was dropped by Bush or Obama or the client state they support.  And President Obama has made it clear that the bombs will continue to drop; it is up to us–the people of the United States–to stop them.  That’s why it was on my birthday, in front of the Pentagon in 2007, that I declared my independence from every bomb dropped, every child killed, every veteran maimed in the name of U.S. wars.  I said it, and I meant it, and I knew I was going to have to do something I’d never done before if I was ever going to have something I’d never had before.  So I left the Democratic Party.

I don’t regret my decision one minute.  I draw my strength from Dr. King, who in his own way, did the same thing when he refused to segregate his moral concerns.

My neighborhood in Los Angeles, Watts and South Central, is already a police state.  Tonight, 25 to 30 young black men, standing handcuffed, outside the barber shop.  Every night, routine dehumanization is carried out in black and brown neighborhoods by LAPD.  I see it.  I never miss it.  It’s all around me.

Oscar Grant murdered in cold blood by law enforcement.  Robert Tolan, murdered in cold blood by law enforcement, for driving his father’s car, mistaken for stolen.

Filiberto Ojeda Rios assassinated by the U.S. government; I met his wife and heard the entire story of what happened as he was shot by the FBI and then bled to death.

Innocent black and brown and poor white men on death row.  How many Troy Davises and Mumia Abu Jamals will we allow to exist in our country?

Native Americans trying to survive despite genocide and ethnic cleansing, struggle against drug and alcohol abuse and poverty, and try to keep their culture alive.

And yet the likes of Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Nancy Pelosi, and now Barack Obama say nothing about the pain I see on the mean streets and reservations across our country, and the miscarriages of justice that are its regular feature, but they allow Bush and company to get away with the highest of crimes, involving millions of deaths.

In each of these writings, I ask you, too, to write to the White House and let them know that you exist.  We didn’t recruit President Obama to run, so I am clear on the limitations of a White House letter writing campaign.  But trust me, our collective efforts will congeal into the movement for dignity, real peace, and true justice that we so desperately need for ourselves and the rest of the world.


Posted in Cynthia McKinney, Obama | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

In America, Speaking the Truth Is a Career-ending Event

Posted by kelliasworld on January 26, 2009

By Paul Craig RobertsJanuary 26, 2009 “Information Clearinghouse— – “The evidence is sitting on the table.  There is no avoiding the fact that this was torture.”

These are the words of Manfred Nowak, the UN official appointed by the Commission on Human Rights to examine cases of torture.  Nowak has concluded that President Obama is legally obligated to prosecute former President George W. Bush and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

If President Obama’s bankster economic team finishes off what remains of the US economy, Obama, to deflect the public’s attention from his own failures and Americans’ growing hardships, might fulfill his responsibility to prosecute Bush and Rumsfeld.  But for now the interesting question is why did the US military succumb to illegal orders?

In the December 2008 issue of CounterPunch, Alexander Cockburn, in his report on an inglorious chapter in the history of the Harvard Law School, provides the answer. Two brothers, Jonathan and David Lubell, both Harvard law students, were politically active against the Korean War.  It was the McCarthy era, and the brothers were subpoenaed. They refused to cooperate on the grounds that the subpoena was a violation of the First Amendment.

Harvard Law School immediately began pressuring the students to cooperate with Congress.  The other students ostracized them.  Pressures from the Dean and faculty turned into threats. Although the Lubells graduated magna cum laude, they were kept off the Harvard Law Review. Their scholarships were terminated. A majority of the Harvard Law faculty voted for their expulsion (expulsion required a two-thirds vote).

Why did Harvard Law School betray two honor students who stood up for the US Constitution?  Cockburn concludes that the Harvard law faculty sacrificed constitutional principle in order not to jeopardize their own self-advancement by displeasing the government (and no doubt donors).

We see such acts of personal cowardice every day.  Recently we had the case of Jewish scholar and Israel critic Norman Finkelstein, whose tenure was blocked by the cowardly president of DePaul University, a man afraid to stand up for his own faculty against the Israel Lobby, which successfully imposed on a Catholic university the principle that no critic of Israel can gain academic tenure.

The same calculation of self-interest causes American journalists to serve as shills for Israeli and US government propaganda and the US Congress to endorse Israeli war crimes that the rest of the world condemns.

When US military officers saw that torture was a policy coming down from the top, they knew that doing the right thing would cost them their careers.  They trimmed their sails.  One who did not was Major General Antonio Taguba.  Instead of covering up the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal, General Taguba wrote an honest report that terminated his career.

Despite legislation that protects whistleblowers, it is always the whistleblower, not the wrongdoer, who suffers.  When it finally became public that the Bush regime was committing felonies under US law by using the NSA to spy on Americans, the Justice (sic) Department went after the whistleblower.  Nothing was done about the felonies.

Yet Bush and the Justice (sic) Department continued to assert that “we are a nation of law.”

The Bush regime was a lawless regime.  This makes it difficult for the Obama regime to be a lawful one. A torture inquiry would lead naturally into a war crimes inquiry.  General Taguba said that the Bush regime committed war crimes.  President Obama was a war criminal by his third day in office when he ordered illegal cross-border drone attacks on Pakistan that murdered 20 people, including 3 children.  The bombing and strafing of homes and villages in Afghanistan by US forces and America’s NATO puppets are also war crimes.  Obama cannot enforce the law, because he himself has already violated it.

For decades the US government has taken the position that Israel’s territorial expansion is not constrained by any international law.  The US government is complicit in Israel’s war crimes in Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank.

The entire world knows that Israel is guilty of war crimes and that the US government made the crimes possible by providing the weapons and diplomatic support.  What Israel and the US did in Lebanon and Gaza is no different from crimes for which Nazis were tried at Nuremberg.  Israel understands this, and the Israeli government is currently preparing its defense, which will be led by Israeli Justice (sic) Minister Daniel Friedman.  UN war crimes official Richard Falk has compared Israel’s massacre of Gazans to the Nazi starvation and massacre of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto. Amnesty International and the Red Cross have demanded Israel be held accountable for war crimes.  Even eight Israeli human rights groups have called for an investigation into Israel’s war crimes.

Obama’s order to close Guantanamo Prison means very little. Essentially, Obama’s order is a public relations event.  The tribunal process had already been shut down by US courts and by military lawyers, who refused to prosecute the fabricated cases.  The vast majority of the prisoners were hapless individuals captured by Afghan warlords and sold for money to the stupid Americans as “terrorists.”  Most of the prisoners, people the Bush regime told us were “the most dangerous people alive,” have already been released.
Obama’s order said nothing about closing the CIA’s secret prisons or halting the illegal practice of rendition in which the CIA kidnaps people and sends them to third world countries, such as Egypt, to be tortured.

Obama would have to take risks that opportunistic politicians never take in order for the US to become a nation of law instead of a nation in which the agendas of special interests override the law.

Truth cannot be spoken in America.  It cannot be spoken in universities.  It cannot be spoken in the media.  It cannot be spoken in courts, which is why defendants and defense attorneys have given up on trials and cop pleas to lesser offenses that never occurred.

Truth is never spoken by government.  As Jonathan Turley said recently, Washington “is where principles go to die.”

Posted in America, George W. Bush, Obama | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Obama’s Work Ethic or the Slave’s Disdain for Leisure

Posted by kelliasworld on January 23, 2009


(originally published on

It wasn’t a very good speech. Even his brother-in-law yawned.

The oration’s first problem was accidental: how he must have regretted opening with a reference to all the men who have said the Oath of Office, given that (ouch) his own oath had just got mangled — but he passed on the opportunity to ad-lib a joke about that. From that point on its larger problems were fundamental to Barack Obama’s politics: CounterPunch readers won’t have been surprised at his dull technocratic insistence that there’s no more room for argument about the path forward; we know the code when he talks of “hard choices” and “unpleasant decisions”; and we’ve seen enough of Washington’s idea of ‘change’ to know that 98 per cent of the speech would have fit comfortably in John McCain’s mouth.

But there was one largely overlooked passage that was so stupid, and so disturbing, that I may have to withdraw my standard concessionary, “Well, sure, I admit he’s obviously a smart guy with some decent instincts.”

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

Okay, partly this passage is standard, put-on inverted snobbery from a man whose own CV is short on making things. The right-wingers who claim Obama is a closet Marxist might find the labor theory of value lurking dangerously in it. But for me its most striking phrase is the denigration, alongside the despised “faint-hearted” and fame-seekers, of “those who prefer leisure over work.”

It gets worse, a lot worse, if you follow the rest of the passage logically in terms of the contrast he has set up. The productive good guys of the next sentence, the doers and makers who brought not just prosperity but freedom – those folks clearly must have preferred work over leisure, or maybe they scored them even. And the final sentence tells us explicitly who he is talking about: farmers and settlers, sweatshop-workers and … slaves.

The idea that slaves helped build American greatness because (among other things) they preferred work to leisure is so offensively stupid that it clearly wandered into Obama’s speech via sloppiness rather than by design. (This is in itself undermines his reputation for wordcraft and attention to detail: the only reference to slavery in the inaugural speech of the first African-American president was permitted to carry this crazed logic.) Maybe we can just write it off as the sort of thing that happens when you’re absent-mindedly knitting together clichés and you drop a stitch. Nobody seems to have noticed it or taken offence anyway.

All the same, I say, in the light of that striking phrase: leisure-lovers of the world unite, and watch out for this guy’s moralizing work ethic. No one would wish to deny the pleasures of a job well done; but so much of the work of the industrial era has been short of such satisfactions, and so many of the great struggles of that era have focused on having the time and money to enjoy the time away from the job. Remember “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what you will”? Those sweatshop workers weren’t preferring work over leisure, they were earning a crust and fighting to get out of there with enough energy left in their bones to enjoy life.

Meanwhile, while American capitalist prosperity was built on the blood and sweat of slaves, it was at least partly their leisure-time and that of their laboring descendents that gave us the greatest musical culture we have known.

“Those who prefer leisure over work”? You’d want to have some great job (President?) not to be one of “those”. Me, I think I’ve got something approaching the world’s best gig, as a college teacher in a public institution, paid well to talk and think and read and write about stuff that interests me, encouraged to have an active involvement in public affairs, in the company of open-minded young people, never lugging anything heavier than a bundle of student newspapers or an overhead projector. Here’s a partial list of things I like even better: going to the movies; reading John Le Carré; pretending to be a cat with my three-year-old; shopping for pretty things with my 16-year-old; a few pints with pals; a morning in bed with my beloved; a walk on the beach; cooking a needlessly complicated meal; reclining on the sofa with a glass of wine and Wayne Shorter on the stereo…. You get the idea: your basic personal-ads stuff. (As personal ads reveal, we see ourselves as we wish to be seen in our leisure loves, not in our job titles.) I can do all those things because forbears, especially in the trade-union movement, fought for my wages and my leisure.

Leisure should be a crucial political priority, especially in recession. There’s not enough work for everyone to do? Sure there is, if everyone worked less. Our preference for leisure, frankly confessed and proclaimed, can serve the common good, and point the way toward a more equitable distribution of hard-work, soft-work and no-work in our societies. A leisure rebellion in the US would also help to break the world’s most enduring stereotype of Americans: that they ‘live to work.’

Meanwhile, in Washington, at the end of his big day, Obama couldn’t be bothered to party. His visits to inaugural balls were supposed to finish at 2:55am, but he rushed through and wrapped up more than two hours early, before 12.45. One hopes he eschewed a late night of pleasantries, and messed with his supporters’ and donors’ timetables, because he and his wife longed for some intimate leisure after their long, extraordinary public day. But I’m worried he just wanted to be well-rested for work.

Harry Browne lectures in the School of Media at Dublin Institute of Technology and is author of CounterPunch’s Hammered by the Irish. Contact


I think Mr. Browne makes a good point. Does the American mythos overglorify work? Make your comments below.


Posted in America, Obama | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

And so we begin

Posted by kelliasworld on January 21, 2009

A column I read stated that the swearing in of Barack Obama was the most anticipated inauguration since that of John F. Kennedy. I was only 5-1/2 when JFK took the oath and I have no memory of seeing it. But I have noticed that, everywhere I’ve gone in Oakland, spirits have been high and unprecedented celebrations were planned for Inauguration Day.

For weeks, local buses bore signs telling people which routes to take to the Oracle Arena,  (where the NBA Golden State Warriors play their home games), to view the Inauguration Ceremonies. Tickets were $5.00 a piece, a small price to pay for purchasing a lot of company if you did not want to watch for free on your computer or television by yourself or with an intimate group of family, friends and neighbors. The Oracle event turned out to be one of the largest Inaugural gatherings, if not the largest, outside Washington D.C. itself.

The espresso machine at my corner coffee shop was so heavily used it ran out of steam Inauguration morning. The local trattoria had an all day happy hour.

The festive mood wasn’t just in Oakland and Washington D.C., both majority black cities. And it wasn’t restricted to black people celebrating the inauguration of the country’s first black President. There is a sense that a great weight has been lifted from the shoulders of the nation. Away, with the oath of office botched by the Bush-appointed Supreme Court justice, and away, with the limo and the helicopter than took Cheney and Bush out of the capital, went the burden of acute embarrassment over a regime that stole two elections, lied to get us into war, destroyed our reputation in the international community by engaging in torture, let a major American city drown, expounded theories of government that do as much violence to our democracy as could any terrorists’ bombs or bullets,  and handed over our treasure to financiers and war profiteers like children sneaking to their friends the ill-gotten gains of a raid on mama’s cookie jar.

In a permitted protest in front of the FBI building, people waved placards that said “Arrest Bush.” And as Bush’s chopper flew over the National Mall, people sang





During that flyover, I recalled the words of Gerald Ford when he addressed the people after taking the oath with far less ceremony but just as much urgency as today: “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.  Our Constitution works ; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men.”

Today’s national nightmare is far from over. But after speculation in some quarters  that we would not even have a Presidential election in 2008, that the Bush-Cheney cabal would find a way to precipitate a crisis necessitating the declaration of martial law, we saw, on January 20, the peaceful transition of power that has marked our Republic’s history in uninterrupted fashion since George Washington handed over the reins to John Adams.

So now we begin to set aright a nation devastated by a political force no less powerful as the hurricane that devastated New Orleans. Our new President has much to do; he can’t do it overnight and he can’t do it alone.

But, despite the rhetoric of responsibility, the proclamation that we all must do our part to rebuild the country, the fact remains that much damage was done behind our backs or otherwise without our consent, and by means that were beyond our control as ordinary citizens. And repair of that damage is equally out of our hands. The fact remains that Obama is the leader and the question remains as to what he is willing and able to do.

I take a skeptical view of him because I do not see how a young, black, first-term Senator gets to be President of the United States without the consent and help of  “The Powers That Be,” those “Malefactors of Great Wealth”, as Theodore Roosevelt called them, who caused the problems in the first place.  For example, the financial interests (Wall St.) were the largest donors, by sector of the economy, to the inaugural festivities. What will Obama do to rein in their influence, to set up an economy where finance is the servant of real productivity, not its master?

Will the man who, as Senator, voted for Telecom Immunity, dismantle the machinery of fascism left to him by the neo-cons, or will he prove right a colleague of mine who recently said that government never gives up a power it has acquired?

What does it mean for the prospects of true and lasting peace in the Middle East that Obama’s inaugural address contained a message to the Muslim world, but none to Israel?

I celebrate our new President’s intelligence and articulateness. Yet I think Jon Stewart of The Daily Show made an interesting point Inauguration Night in comparing the  rhetoric of  Obama’s inaugural address to various of Bush’s speeches. The similarities were discomfiting. Are certain themes  expected in a presidential address or are the leaders of both heads of our one corporate party fundamentally the same? Time alone will tell.

This is not to say that we won’t get anything refreshingly new from Obama, if he meant what he said in his inaugural address.  He said three things that really struck me as signaling his intention to steer a new course. One was the comment that “we will restore science to its rightful place…” This was  a direct rebuke of Bush’s politicization of science, especially as it relates to climate change.  NASA scientist and noted climate-change expert James Hansen recently said, “We cannot afford to put off change any longer. We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead.” If that’s the case, Obama’s inaugural words about science were encouraging indeed.

The second was, “[a]s for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers … our found fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.” This suggests that Obama wishes to restore respect for our Constitution and treaties, such as the Geneva Conventions, that the Bush Administration disparaged, treaties that our Constitution makes part of the supreme law of the land.

Obama can start that process by asserting what he, as a former professor of constitutional law, should know: that no statute, including the Patriot Act, can defeat rights granted by the Constitution. Our  Constitution, unlike constitutions of some other nations, has no provision for its suspension, and is supreme over any statute, no matter what trying circumstance inspired the passing of that statute. That he voted for the reauthorization of the Patriot Act makes me doubt that he will make such an assertion.

The third was “[r]ecall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.” I hope this means that the era of pre-emptive war and willingness to use nuclear weapons as a first strike against non-nuclear nations is at its ignominious end.

What Obama will accomplish, assuming he is willing to try, is circumscribed by the people around him, not only those pulling strings (his?) behind the scenes, but the people in the Congress with whom he must work. Let us not kid ourselves by thinking he can accomplish a lot  just because the Democrats control both houses of Congress. The Democrats were behind the Wall St. bailouts (as was Obama himself). Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D.-CA) took impeachment off the table and Rep. John Conyers (D.-MI) head of the House Judiciary Committee quietly went along with that.

We need to look into our past, as the South Africans did post-apartheid, to get at the truth of why we do the things we do and who benefits from our actions. We need another investigation into 9/11. A thorough exposition and destruction of the government’s lies with regard to that terrible day would destroy the legitimacy of the Bush regime and everything it did against peace and civil liberties in the name of 9/11 and our security.

We also need an investigation into the war crimes of the Bush regime.  A special prosecutor is a must. And we must also remember that Bush was not the first, just the worst. Bill Clinton was the table setter for the Bush Administration disasters at home and abroad. He signed telecom deregulation in ’96 and financial industry deregulation in ’99. He called for government backdoors into our personal computers (something Joe Biden championed in the Senate). And when the Taleban expressed willingness to turn Osama bin-Laden over to the US in the late 90’s, Clinton rebuffed them. With Hillary Clinton and so many other Clintonites in the Obama Administration, we are not likely to get a full accounting of the Clinton Adminstration’s role in getting us into the mess we are in today.

I think that while Obama will do some good things, we will not get the “change you can believe in” unless we punish the criminals, restore and rehabilitate the victims, and tell the people who committed unethical but not criminal deeds, or for whom the statute of limitations has run, that the game is over and they should take their marbles and go home. Anything less  will only serve, to borrow a phrase from this summer’s campaign, “to put lipstick on a pig.”

As to what we the people do to hold Obama’s feet to the fire, I am frankly at a loss. That millions throughout the world demonstrated against the invasion of Iraq but it happened anyway, tells me we the people don’t have much influence over foreign policy.

At home, we can vote with  our wallets to a certain extent, but only if we have alternatives. For example, I have my bank account at WAMU/CHASE. In my neighborhood they, Bank of America, and Wachovia dominate the landscape. There is not a credit union I can join.

Politically, we can join third parties, but that is a strategy for the very long haul, not for those who want major change now.

The Internet has broadened the media. Gone are the days when a writer could wallpaper her room with rejection slips. Ideas about alternative political philosophies or economic systems can now be published readily. But they can also be lost in the din as millions of people worldwide publish billions of ideas but the major media dominates the Internet and people seldom look past the first two pages of any search.  Writing and journalism have become more and more the careers of an elite few as the rest of us are forced to publish for free, or worse yet, to pay for the privilege.

Alternative healers, farmers’ markets and such exist. They are of some help to some people, but they are of no help to people who need an operation they can’t afford, or who reside in an inner city with no access to a standard grocery store, let alone a farmers’ market. We still look to the large corporate systems to meet most of our needs and will do so for a long time yet, even as we develop different ways of doing things. That’s their power and they know it, as do the politicians who know on which side their bread is buttered.

The first thing we need to do it to imagine the world we want. Then we have to work toward it in any non-violent way we can.  We have inaugurated a President who, at the very least, does not seem to want to obstruct the development of different ways of doing things as much as his predecessor did, at least where science and technology (especially energy use) are concerned.

How far he will take us, or we will take him, is still an unknown.

And so we begin…


Posted in 9/11, America, Congress, George W. Bush, Internet, Israel, Obama | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Political limbo: when lame duck meets reluctant transition

Posted by kelliasworld on January 5, 2009

Ah, this is the winter of our political discontent, caught in the limbo between the ending of an 8 year presidency and the inauguration of another which could last for another 8. There is a terrible disconnect between the continuity of our national problems, both domestic and the foreign, and the possible or probable alteration of the policies by means of which we have dealt (or failed to deal) with those problems. The retiring or lame duck administration is reluctant to undertake any policies (except perhaps for matters like presidential pardons or the alteration of administrative environmental regulations) that may be abandoned as soon as the incoming administration takes over. For their part, the administration-to-be is unlikely to propose policy changes before they have taken the reins of power by means of which they can hopefully secure adoption of those proposals. As Barack Obama said in refusing to comment on the current Israeli assault on Gaza: “there’s only one President at a time.” I would argue, to contrary, that in this as every political transition period in U.S. history there is NO President, no one with the power and the motive to assume definitive leadership in dealing with our problems, both domestic and foreign.

This political limbo is of course most acutely expressed in the area of foreign policy, in which there seems to be a conventional understanding that, in such matters, the United States must stand united in support of a singular version of U.S. foreign policy. If a U.S. leader like Jesse Jackson or (more currently) Cynthia McKinney makes a public foray into a version du jour of the endless conflict in the Middle East, that act will be treated as a violation of that understanding of public unanimity despite differences in viewpoint or intention of different persons and parties. The Gaza situation demonstrates the deadly effect of the transition limbo: an effect of which, I have no doubt, Israeli leaders were quite aware and of which they were quite prepared to take advantage, based on the timing of an invasion that could have come almost anytime since Gaza exercised its sovereign right to choose a government controlled by Hamas three years ago. The Bush administration, engaged in the proverbial “rush for the bus” in which sports teams out of title contention at the end of the season play out their schedule with minimal interest or involvement, is hardly likely to interrupt its bogus victory lap in the Middle East by getting involved in anything beyond moral sputterings about how this stuff has got to stop.

Well, that’s the lame duck part of the limbo; the reluctant transition is a little harder to explain. Obama, his chosen cabinet and staff and most of his supporters seem to be continuing their agenda of muting any criticism or even positive suggestion for the new administration on the apparent assumption that, like “nothing was the same” (supposedly but wrongly believed) after 9/11/01, nothing will be the same after 1/20/09 as morning comes (again) to America and we get a “fresh start” on our problems,. both domestic and foreign.

Where domestic policy is concerned, there is actually little pretense that the economic “crisis” into which we have entered will be much different before and after 1/20, and Obama

has made it abundantly clear that he will not act on a chaste “one President at a time” assumption as his administration has moved forward with bailout and economic stimulus in recognition, perhaps, of the fact that there will be only a cosmetic change as the neo-conservatives of the Bush administration are replaced by the Clinton-era Chicago school economists of the Obama one.

In foreign policy the Obama administration could and urgently should take the same kind of activist role that they have adopted in the area of domestic economic policy. True, Obama cannot and perhaps should not advocate specific U.S. military actions like (what needs to be done) the denial to Israel of the military hardware used in the assault on Gaza. But he definitely could and should articulate a principle of foreign policy with regard to the Middle East that looks like something more than the “lopsided” support of Israel which some Arab leaders are accusing Condoleezza Rice of displaying. The Israeli/Palestinian conflict can never be settled by acknowledging an unquestioning right of Israel to commit whatever acts it chooses against what it deems as existential threats by Palestinians. Yet this is exactly what Bush and Obama, Rice and Hillary Clinton, almost with one voice, have pronounced as the sole basis of U.S. Middle East “policy.”

Please don’t tell me that it will be “soon enough” after Obama takes office for him to articulate and practice a less lop-sided “doctrine.” In its dealing with Jewish settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank, Israel has perfected the fine art of creating “facts on the ground” (i.e, settlers located in Arab land) with which governments will have to deal after the fact. As Obama will “inherit” the consequences of ongoing foreign policy decisions (or non-decisions) of the Bush administration (remember how JFK “inherited” the already-planned Bay of Pigs operation from Eisenhower?), he has every motive and civic responsibility to begin to exercise leadership in articulating a post-imperialist policy that will embrace conflict resolution not only in the Middle East but wherever the tentacles of U.S. imperialism are spread. People throughout the Arab world, many of whom were treated by Al Jazeera with juxtaposed images of the “pecs and abs” displayed by Obama at his Hawaiian vacation idyll with images of Gaza under siege and attack are looking exactly for that leadership. The Americans who elected him to the presidency should expect no less.

Jerry D. Rose – Editor, The Sun State Activist


Posted in Israel, Jerry D. Rose, Obama, Palestine, Principled Progressive | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Kucinich: “Is this the US Congress or the board of directors of Goldman Sachs?”

Posted by kelliasworld on December 20, 2008

By Jeremy Frombach

[Originally published on, Dec. 19, 2008. Jeremy has hit the nail on the head–KR].

‘Is this the U.S. Congress or the board of directors at Goldman Sachs??” asks Dennis Kucinich, the one Democrat probably in all of Congress even worth listening to.

Although Congress received hundreds of thousands of phone calls and e-mails telling them to oppose the bailout of Wall St., Democrats overwhelmingly voted yes, while reluctant Republicans at first defeated the measure, but subsequently caved on the second vote, passing one of the most god awful pieces of legislation in our country’s history, handing over nearly 1/4 of the entire U.S. budget to the financial industry. Here is some information you may find interesting.

http:../../..www. opens..ecret..s. org/..overv..iew/..topco..ntrib..s. php?..cycle..=2008

-Goldman Sachs was the second highest campaign contributor of the entire 2008 election. They gave away $6,006,266. How much of it was used to buy off Democrats you ask? 75%

– JPMorgan Chase & Co was right behind them in the number 3 slot, giving away $4,884,509; 59% of it to Democrats.

– Citigroup is number four with $4,776,231; guess which party received 65%

– Morgan Stanley is 7th, giving $3,871,414. Surprise- Democrats win again with 54%

– and then there’s Merrill Lynch, coming in at 9th overall giving $3,081,190; the only Wall Street firm on the list to give the majority to Republicans, 56%-44%

Still think Obama and the ‘crats are on our side? Really? Do you honestly believe Wall Street firms just love to give money away to politicians who are going to work against them? Can anyone possibly be that dumb?

$22.3 million in campaign contributions in exchange for a $700 billion bailout. That works out to an investment made back 313 times over. You still think the markets imploded because without regulations these gosh’durn Wall Streeters just didn’t know how to do their job? This one “purchase” alone made them a 31,300% return. There is no better investment than buying off a government that controls a $3.2 Trillion budget.

So where does that money come from? Well, you. Sitting for hours behind that desk or waiting tables, or whatever it is that you do, working tirelessly for what little money you can so your government can hand it over to irresponsible banks. And then they can throw extravagant parties with it, like AIG. It was stolen from working people like my mother, who is 56, a college graduate with no retirement savings (because she has no money left after paying for her modest 1 bedroom house) has not bought a new car in 10 years, and spends 50+ hours a week in a cubicle. The working class of this country is facing the highest foreclosure rate in our nation’s history and literally being thrown in the street while they are being asked to charitably donate their tiny earnings back to these banks. Wait, not asked- told. Pay the IRS or go to jail. Surely our new president will not allow such a thing to happen! Wrong again, not only does he not stop it, he is actually a driving force behind it. He goes to the Senate floor to “urge” his colleagues to approve a plan that sends the bill for all of those losses onto people like my mother. Which is fine, she only has to keep the thermostat down to 55 in the winter to make ends meet, Wisconsin is plenty warm in December. Up next she gets to bail out the auto manufacturers who spent billions building cars no one apparently wanted to buy. This is the change everyone has been clamoring for?

This is why even with your college degree you still drive an old car that is falling apart. Why you are still not only renting an apartment rather than buying, but  forced to share it with multiple roommates. Why you have no savings, no assets, no property, why you can’t afford to set any money aside and why you have to live off of your credit cards in case of emergency. It is why you can’t pay your bills on time, why you can’t afford to buy anything without borrowing for it and paying it back for years to come with interest (guess who that benefits) and why it feels like none of us can just get caught up. A huge portion of our money is being siphoned off by the absurd amount of taxation we are forced to live under and it is shipped off to ungrateful and undeserving cogs in the machine like Citigroup, and it is because of the enablers of this system in our government-Barack Obama and others like him.

All I am saying is be objective. Obama and the Democrats are not the saviors the media has made them out to be. If you look at who gave the Republicans their campaign money 8 years ago, it’s the exact same people. Congress with it’s Democratic majority is nothing more than a new cast with the same writers. It’s like that 50th infomercial you’ve seen that says “FINALLY- THE WAY TO SOLID ABS!” Please. The problem is not Republicans, folks. It’s the entire 2 party system being so insanely simple for Wall Street to buy off, and our inability to look past worthless nonsense like a politician’s charisma and his accompanying empty rhetoric that makes us feel “moved”. Don’t be surprised when nothing changes and this next president severely disappoints you.
Maybe we’ll all get it in 2012.
I will leave you with an amazing quote from someone who epitomizes the Democratic Party’s agenda, California Senator Diane Feinstein, speaking on the bailout vote-

‘Mr. President I have received 91,000 phone calls and emails from California; 85,000 of them opposed to this measure… I think if we really do care about the livelihood of our constituents, there is only one vote- and it is yes.’


Our country is burning and our leaders are fighting over the hose; the republicans want to wash the car and the democrats want to water the grass.


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