Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
... AMY GOODMAN: Would you say Mexico City is where Subcomandante Marcos came from?
JOHN ROSS: Subcomandante Marcos, we haven’t seen for a long time, is actually from Tampico in the north, in the state of Tamaulipas. He went to the Autonomous University, to the UNAM.
AMY GOODMAN: In Mexico City.
JOHN ROSS: In Mexico City—and then was—
AMY GOODMAN: What’s his name?
JOHN ROSS: What was—
AMY GOODMAN: His name.JOHN ROSS: Well, Marcos has never told us what his name is. The government has said it repeatedly, Rafael Sebastián Guillén Vicente. We haven’t seen him for a long time. He’s been absent from the public stage for the last fourteen months, although there have been periods of time when he’s been absent longer. But at this point, he didn’t show up at the annual January 1st fiestas that occur as a result to mark the sixteenth year of the rebellion. And I have a feeling that Marcos is just the persona, he’s just the mask. And I have a feeling that that persona no longer fits the needs of the Zapatista movement, and we may not see Subcomandante Marcos again. ... El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City - by John Ross
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
Recession drives more Americans to libraries in search of employment resources; but funding lags demand
April 12, 2010
CHICAGO – When jobs go away, Americans turn to their libraries to find information about future employment or educational opportunities. This library usage trend and others are detailed in the 2010 State of America’s Libraries report, released today by the American Library Association. The report shows that Americans have turned to their libraries in larger numbers in recent years.
Since the recession took hold in December 2007, the local library, a traditional source of free access to books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs, has become a lifeline, offering technology training and workshops on topics that ranged from résumé-writing to job-interview skills.
The report shows the value of libraries in helping Americans combat the recession. It includes data from a January 2010 Harris Interactive poll that provides compelling evidence that a decade-long trend of increasing library use is continuing—and even accelerating during economic hard times. This national survey indicates that some 219 million Americans feel the public library improves the quality of life in their community. More than 223 million Americans feel that because it provides free access to materials and resources, the public library plays an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed.
And with more businesses and government agencies requiring applicants to apply on line, job-seeking resources are among the most critical and most in demand among the technology resources available in U.S. public libraries. Two-thirds of public libraries help patrons complete online job applications; provide access to job databases and other online resources (88 percent) and civil service exam materials (75 percent); and offer software or other resources (69 percent) to help patrons create résumés and other employment materials.
However, the report also shows that increased library use did not lead to an increase in funding for libraries. Research by the ALA and the Center for Library and Information Innovation at the University of Maryland suggests a “perfect storm” of growing community demand for library services and shrinking resources to meet that demand. While library use soars, a majority of states are reporting cuts in funding to public libraries and to the state library agencies that support them.
Other key trends detailed in the 2010 State of America’s Libraries Report:
- Internet use continues to expand at public libraries, which have seen double-digit growth since 2007 in the on-line services they make available to their patrons. More than 71 percent of public libraries provide their community’s only free public access to computers and the Internet, according to an article in the November 2009 issue of American Libraries. Wireless access also continues to grow and is now offered at more than 80 percent of public libraries.
- Ninety-six percent of Americans feel that school libraries are an essential part of the education experience because they provide resources to students and teachers and because they give every child the opportunity to read and learn. School librarians play a crucial role in “keeping the digital doors open to help young people think about learning beyond the classroom,” according to one authority on online social networking sites. However, funding for school libraries also lags.
- America’s academic libraries are experiencing increased use, both physical and virtual. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports academic libraries have more than 20.3 million visits per week (1.5 million more than two years earlier), answered more than 1.1 million reference questions, and made more than 498,000 presentations to groups. Almost 95 percent of students use their academic library’s website at least once a week, according to one study of students and technology, and nine out of 10 college students surveyed in another study said they turned to libraries “for online scholarly research databases . . . for conducting course-related research, valuing the resources for credible content, in-depth information, and the ability to meet instructors’ expectations.”
- America’s libraries continue their efforts to support minorities and other underserved or disadvantaged populations. The ALA’s Spectrum Scholarship Program, for example, awarded 48 scholarships in 2009 to members of underrepresented groups to help them pursue master’s degrees; and the library community remained committed to sustained efforts on behalf of people with visual and other disabilities and adult English-language learners.
- The library community continues to defend a core value embodied in the First Amendment and the corollary right to receive and consider ideas, information, and images. Librarians nationwide encountered new challenges as a range of individuals and groups sought to have books or other materials removed from public access, and as the federal government debated extending the life of intrusive legislation such as the USA PATRIOT Act.
- Library construction fared better in 2009 than many expected during the recession, especially given the unreliability of funding for programming, materials, and hours. The answer may be that money earmarked years ago was seeing construction through to conclusion. Many of the new libraries and renovations show a timely concern for the environment.
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
U.S. Soldier Who Felt Bad About Slaughter of Civilians in Iraq: “I was told that I needed to get the sand out of my vagina”
In July 2007, McCord, a 33-year-old Army specialist, was engaged in a firefight with insurgents in an Iraqi suburb when his platoon, part of Bravo Company, 2-16 Infantry, got orders to investigate a nearby street. When they arrived, they found a scene of fresh carnage – the scattered remains of a group of men, believed to be armed, who had just been gunned down by Apache attack helicopters. They also found 10-year-old Sajad Mutashar and his five-year-old sister Doaha covered in blood in a van. Their 43-year-old father, Saleh, had been driving them to a class when he spotted one of the wounded men moving in the street and drove over to help him, only to become a victim of the Apache guns.
McCord was captured in a video shot from one helicopter as he ran frantically to a military vehicle with Sajad in his arms seeking medical care. That classified video created its own firestorm when the whistleblower site Wikileaks posted it April 5 on a website titled “Collateral Murder” and asserted that the attack was unprovoked. More than a dozen people were killed in three attacks captured in the video, including two Reuters journalists, one carrying a camera that was apparently mistaken for a weapon.
McCord, who served seven years in the military before leaving in the summer of 2009 due to injuries, recently posted an apologetic letter online with fellow soldier Josh Steiber supporting the release of the video and asking the family’s forgiveness. McCord is the father of three children.
Wired’s Kim Zetter reached McCord at his home in Kansas. This is his account of what he saw.
Wired.com: At the time you arrived on the scene, you didn’t know what had happened, is that right?
Ethan McCord: Right. We were engaged in our own conflict roughly about three or four blocks away. We heard the gunships open up. [Then] we were just told … to move to this [other] location. It was pretty much a shock when we got there to see what had happened, the carnage and everything else.
Wired.com: But you had been in combat before. It shouldn’t have surprised you what you saw.
McCord: I have never seen anybody being shot by a 30-millimeter round before. It didn’t seem real, in the sense that it didn’t look like human beings. They were destroyed.
Wired.com: Was anyone moving when you got there other than the two children?
McCord: There were approximately two to three other people who were moving who were still somewhat alive, and the medics were attending to them.
Wired.com: The first thing you saw was the little girl in the van. She had a stomach wound?
McCord: She had a stomach wound and she had glass in her eyes and in her hair. She was crying. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I went to the van immediately, because I could hear her crying. It wasn’t like a cry of pain really. It was more of a child who was frightened out of her mind. And the next thing I saw was the boy…. He was kind of sitting on the floorboard of the van, but with his head laying on the bench seat in the front. And then the father, who I’m assuming was the father, in the driver’s seat slumped over on his side. Just from looking into the van, and the amount of blood that was on the boy and the father, I immediately figured they were dead.
So, the first thing I did was grab the girl. I grabbed the medic and we went into the back. There’s houses behind where the van was. We took her in there and we’re checking to see if there were any other wounds. You can hear the medic saying on the video, “There’s nothing I can do here, she needs to be evac’d.” He runs the girl to the Bradley. I went back outside to the van, and that’s when the boy took, like, a labored, breath. That’s when I started screaming, “The boy’s alive! The boy’s alive!” And I picked him up and started running with him over to the Bradley. He opened his eyes when I was carrying him. I just kept telling him, “Don’t die; don’t die.” He looked at me, then his eyes rolled back into this head.
Then I got yelled at by my platoon leader that I needed to stop trying to save these mf’n kids and go pull security…. I was told to go pull security on a rooftop. When we were on that roof, we were still taking fire. There were some people taking pot shots, sniper shots, at us on the rooftop. We were probably there on the roof for another four to five hours.
Wired.com: How much sniper fire were you getting?
McCord: It was random sporadic spurts. I did see a guy … moving from a rooftop from one position to another with an AK-47, who was firing at us. He was shot and killed.
After the incident, we went back to the FOB [forward operating base] and that’s when I was in my room. I had blood all down the front of me from the children. I was trying to wash it off in my room. I was pretty distraught over the whole situation with the children. So I went to a sergeant and asked to see [the mental health person], because I was having a hard time dealing with it. I was called a pussy and that I needed to suck it up and a lot of other horrible things. I was also told that there would be repercussions if I was to go to mental health.
Wired.com: What did you understand that to mean?
McCord: I would be smoked. Smoked is basically like you’re doing pushups a lot, you’re doing sit-ups … crunches and flutter kicks. They’re smoking you, they’re making you tired. I was told that I needed to get the sand out of my vagina…. So I just sucked it up and tried to move on with everything.
I’ve lived with seeing the children that way since the incident happened. I’ve had nightmares. I was diagnosed with chronic, severe PTSD. [But] I was actually starting to get kind of better. … I wasn’t thinking about it as much. [Then I] took my children to school one day and I came home and sat down on the couch and turned on the TV with my coffee, and on the news I’m running across the screen with a child. The flood of emotions came back. I know the scene by heart; it’s burned into my head. I know the van, I know the faces of everybody that was there that day.
Wired.com: Did you try to get information about the two children after the shooting?
McCord: My platoon sergeant knew that I was having a hard time with it and that same night … he came into the room and he told me, hey, just so you know, both of the children survived, so you can suck it up now. I didn’t know if he was telling me that just to get me to shut up and to do my job or if he really found something out. I always questioned it in the back of my mind.
I did see a video on YouTube after the Wikileaks [video] came out, of the children being interviewed. … When I saw their faces, I was relieved, but I was just heartbroken. I have a huge place in my heart for children, having some of my own. Knowing that I was part of the system that took their father away from them and made them lose their house … it’s heartbreaking. And that in turn is what helped me and Josh write the letter, hoping that it would find its way to them to let them know that we’re sorry. We’re sorry for the system that we were involved in that took their father’s life and injured them. If there’s anything I can to do help, I would be more than happy to.
Wired.com: Wikileaks presented the incident as though there was no engagement from insurgents. But you guys did have a firefight a couple of blocks away. Was it reasonable for the Apache soldiers to think that maybe the people they attacked were part of that insurgent firefight?
McCord: I doubt that they were a part of that firefight. However, when I did come up on the scene, there was an RPG as well as AK-47s there…. You just don’t walk around with an RPG in Iraq, especially three blocks away from a firefight…. Personally, I believe the first attack on the group standing by the wall was appropriate, was warranted by the rules of engagement. They did have weapons there. However, I don’t feel that the attack on the [rescue] van was necessary.
Now, as far as rules of engagement, [Iraqis] are not supposed to pick up the wounded. But they could have been easily deterred from doing what they were doing by just firing simply a few warning shots in the direction…. Instead, the Apaches decided to completely obliterate everybody in the van. That’s the hard part to swallow.
And where the soldier said [in the video], “Well, you shouldn’t take your kids to battle.” Well in all actuality, we brought the battle to your kids. There’s no front lines here. This is urban combat and we’re taking the war to children and women and innocents.
There were plenty of times in the past where other insurgents would come by and pick up the bodies, and then we’d have no evidence or anything to what happened, so in looking at it from the Apache’s point of view, they were thinking that [someone was] picking up the weapons and bodies; when, in hindsight, clearly they were picking up the wounded man. But you’re not supposed to do that in Iraq.
Wired.com: Civilians are supposed to know that they’re not supposed to pick up a wounded person crawling in the road?
McCord: Yeah. This is the problem that we’re speaking out on as far as the rules of engagement. How is this guy supposed to [decide] should I stop and pick them up, or is the military going to shoot me? If you or I saw someone wounded on the ground what is your first inkling? I’m going to help that person.
Wired.com: There was another attack depicted in the video that has received little attention, involving a Hellfire and a building that was fired on.
McCord: I wasn’t around that building when it happened. I was up on a rooftop at that time. However, I do know some soldiers went in to clear that building afterwards and there were some people with weapons in there, but there was also a family of four that was killed.
I think that a Hellfire missile is a little much to put into a building…. They’re trained as soldiers to go into a building and clear a building. I do know that there was a teenage girl [in there], just because I saw the pictures when I was there, that one of the soldiers took.
Wired.com: Have you heard from any other soldiers since the video came out?
McCord: I’ve spoken with one of the medics who was there. He’s no longer in the Army. When this video first came out, there was a lot of outrage by the soldiers, just because it depicted us as being callous, cruel, heartless people, and we’re not that way. The majority of us aren’t. And so he was pretty upset about the whole thing…. He kept saying, we were there, we know the truth, they’re saying there was no weapons, there was.
I’ve spoken with other soldiers who were there. Some of them [say] I don’t care what anybody says … they’re not there. … There’s also some soldiers who joke about it [as a] coping mechanism. They’re like, oh yeah, we’re the “collateral murder” company. I don’t think that [the] big picture is whether or not [the Iraqis who were killed] had weapons. I think that the bigger picture is what are we doing there? We’ve been there for so long now and it seems like nothing is being accomplished whatsoever, except for we’re making more people hate us.
Wired.com: Do you support Wikileaks in releasing this video?
McCord: When it was first released I don’t think it was done in the best manner that it could have been. They were stating that these people had no weapons whatsoever, that they were just carrying cameras. In the video, you can clearly see that they did have weapons … to the trained eye. You can make out in the video [someone] carrying an AK-47, swinging it down by his legs….
And as far as the way that the soldiers are speaking in the video, which is pretty callous and joking about what’s happened … that’s a coping mechanism. I’m guilty of it, too, myself. You joke about the situations and what’s happened to push away your true feelings of the matter.
There’s no easy way to kill somebody. You don’t just take somebody’s life and then go on about your business for the rest of the day. That stays with you. And cracking jokes is a way of pushing that stuff down.
That’s why so many soldiers come back home and they’re no longer in the situations where they have other things to think about or other people to joke about what happened … and they explode.
I don’t say that Wikileaks did a bad thing, because they didn’t…. I think it is good that they’re putting this stuff out there. I don’t think that people really want to see this, though, because this is war…. It’s very disturbing.
Image: U.S. Central Command
The strike will shutter hospital and schools and also affect ministries and government offices, according to an e- mailed statement from Athens-based ADEDY, the umbrella group for more than 500,000 state workers. It will hold a rally in central Athens at 11 a.m. local time.
Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is under fire from voters who say his austerity measures have gone too far and from investors who argue that further action is needed to cut the EU’s largest budget deficit. As Greece meets EU and International Monetary Fund officials to agree on the conditions tied to any loan, the extra yield investors demand to hold Greek debt over German bonds has surged to a record 522 basis points.
“Papandreou is caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Jacques Cailloux, chief European Economist at Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc. “The market has zero confidence in what the Greeks are saying, and any further austerity measures pushed for by the IMF could be the ones that break the camel’s back if they are deemed unfair by the population. He doesn’t have any option though.”
Today’s strike isn’t expected to affect public transport or air traffic, after air-traffic controllers postponed a planned walkout to clear a backlog of flights caused by the spread of volcanic ash from Iceland across Europe.
PAME Hellas, a union affiliated with the Greek Communist Party, called its own labor action. Members of the group blockaded entry to the port of Piraeus yesterday, preventing ferries from sailing. Others picketed luxury hotels in the city center, including at least one where IMF negotiators are staying.
“We must dare, otherwise we will be led like lambs to the slaughter,” said Aleka Papariga, head of the Communist Party of Greece, the third-largest parliamentary party. “The working people aren’t about to be used to allow passage of policies that will bring the worst barbarity we’ve seen in the past 35 years.”
Nader Asks D.C. Court Not to Permit 2004 Pennsylvania Challenger to Take Money out of his Bank Account
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
By DAVID W. DUNLAP
Journalists are often at their worst when trying to predict the future. But it seems safe to say that many hundreds — if not thousands — of shutters will be released simultaneously on Sunday, May 2, as photographers around the world help Lens create “A Moment in Time”; one single moment in the life of the planet.
That moment will be 15:00 hours in Coordinated Universal Time or U.T.C., the contemporary equivalent of Greenwich Mean Time. In the United States, under daylight time, this would be 11 a.m. on the East Coast, 10 a.m. in the Midwest, 9 a.m. in the West and 8 a.m. on the West Coast. For local times around the world, you can consult this converter from timeanddate.com.
Lisa Gottlieb Berkowitz said she may be in labor at that moment and promised that she’d “be very careful” about any picture she takes. Brenda Sinclair Dutton expects to be flying to Indianapolis and plans to take a photo in the plane. In Alaska, Sarah Kennedy noted, it will be 7 o’clock. “I’ll sure to try to take a photo of the pretty sunrise,” she said. “If I’m awake.”
Rob Kunkle was less optimistic about the scene in San Francisco. “Sunday at 8 a.m.?” he asked. “I don’t think anyone is awake then in S.F.” But Dick Halstead, of Palymyra, N.Y., is confident that his day will be well under way. “I hope to include the United Church Choir,” he said. “We will just be concluding our Sunday Service.”
These were among the responses to our initial invitation, “A Timely Global Mosaic, Created by All of Us,” in which we asked everyone, everywhere, to join in making this worldwide photographic mosaic, with each photographer submitting their one best picture. As guidance, we suggested a few broad topics like arts and entertainment, community, family, money and the economy, nature and the environment, play, religion, social issues and work. And we also suggested that you might find the experience even more rewarding if you do some planning in advance, taking into account how best to represent yourself, and your community, with a single image.
You asked how long you’d have to submit your picture. | The answer: up to five days from the time you took it. The submission form will be live and usable from 15:00 (U.T.C.) on Sunday, May 2, until 15:00 (U.T.C.) on Friday, May 7.
You asked how large your file ought to be. | Because the pictures will be published up to 1000 pixels wide on the Web (that’s big), the larger your file, the better — up to a point. But please don’t send anything larger than 5 MB. If you’re using an adjustable camera phone, be sure to set it for the largest file size possible.
You asked whether we were aware that “A Moment in Time” was scarcely an original concept. | Yes, we certainly knew we weren’t the first. We’d love to be able to say we remembered that May 2 was also the date chosen in 1986 by David Elliot Cohen and Rick Smolan for “A Day in the Life of America.” But our memories aren’t that good. It’s merely a happy coincidence.
You asked how it could possibly be midnight in Beijing when it’s 15:00 (U.T.C.). | It can’t. Our calculations were off. It will be 11 p.m.
As the moment nears, you can follow the project on Facebook and on Twitter.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.
– Patrick Henry: delivered to the Virginia Convention in 1775
There can be no absolution for the Obaminable Democrats; they can be no more forgiven for supporting Obama than they can be forgiven for supporting John Kerry or William Clinton. Clinton, you will recall, was the president who killed a million innocent Iraqi men, women and children with bombs and sanctions while domestically destroying the women’s movement with “welfare reform” and American jobs with “free trade agreements.
These are the people who followed the inane philosophy of ABB (“Anyone is Better than Bush”)! Imagine believing that Kerry would be better than Bush even though he promised that he would out-Bush Bush by sending 40,000 more troops to Iraq and declaring that, if he had been in charge, he would have burned Falluja to the ground. A few days later Bush granted his wish killing mostly women and children! Even the ever hawkish William Safire (d. 2009), columnist for the New York Times, was positively gloating after the September, 2004 Kerry-Bush presidential debate: “As the Democratic Whoopee Brigade hailed Senator John Kerry’s edge in debating technique, nobody noticed his foreign policy sea change. On both military tactics and grand strategy, the newest neoconservative announced doctrines more hawkish than President George W. Bush.”
Meantime, during this ABB farce, Michael Moore and Bill Maher assumed the typical Democrat position: kneeling and begging. No, they were not begging for the scraps from the corporate table, the traditional Democrat plea. This time they even more grievously disgraced themselves by begging the antiwar candidate, Ralph Nader, not to interfere with John Kerry’s plans to slaughter, more efficiently and effectively, the people in Iraq while continuing to outsource American jobs with so-called “free trade” agreements. These are the very same kind of bottom feeder who would have begged the Liberty Party to stop its opposition to slavery and let the lesser of two pro-slavery parties make things a little better for the slaves. These latter-day court jesters demonstrated that they lack even the dim flicker of sentience needed to qualify them as imbeciles. The Democrats are beyond redemption; they are to be condemned not forgiven. Their priority was to elect Kerry, not oppose the war.
The Democrats did not get a chance to whine about a Kerry presidency as they do about the Obama presidency. They did not even get a chance to continue maligning Ralph Nader for Kerry’s defeat. Now, since Barack Obama, the mocha messiah of the Democrats, has assumed the imperial mantle of George Bush, that dreadful sound can be heard once again rising up from the Democrats. Oh, the mind numbing din of whining Democrats!
Whether they thought Obama would end the wars instead of escalating them or stop the torture instead of outsourcing it to Jordan and Saudi Arabia or prosecute the torturers instead of giving them a pass or encourage the Congress to pass single-payer healthcare instead of cutting backroom deals with big Pharma and providing corporate welfare for the insurance companies or bail out homeowners instead of bankers, Democrats from Dave Lindorff to David Swanson can be heard wailing about the betrayal of Barack Obama who now gives every indication that he is more monstrous than George Bush.
To be sure, Bush was a war criminal who invaded Iraq to fulfill the mission of the Project for New American Century (PNAC) which was to secure a US-Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. That strategy was identical to the Democratic Party’s think tank the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI). Bush also invaded Afghanistan to secure a land area for a liquid natural gas pipeline. Obama plans to continue the occupation of Iraq, has escalated the war on Afghanistan (reinforcing the lies of the Bush administration) and rained down three times as many unmanned drones on Pakistan in one year than Bush did in his last three. Obama has also opened military hostilities against Yemen, Somalia and the Philippines. Obama recently proclaimed that he has the right to murder American citizens on the mere suspicion that they might be terrorists. This leaves us all vulnerable to murder at Obama’s whim. Those of us on the “watch list” must now say an extra prayer each night that our spouses and children are not slaughtered when Obama’s drone hits home. No wonder the Teabaggers are afraid of government and Obama in particular!
It must not be overlooked that Obama also plans to use Colombian insurgents to commit “false positive” border incidents blaming Venezuela as a pretext for a retaliatory attack, supported, of course, by Washington as a way to target and perhaps remove Hugo Chavez.
He continues destabilization tactics for regime change in Iran and may, preemptively without cause, attack that nation’s nuclear facilities. He supports the worst of Israeli war crimes and oppression against Palestinians and keeps alive the long dead “terrorist organization” called Al Qaeda in order to suppress civil liberties at home, maintain the pretense of a flourishing economy through defense spending and ultimately secure corporate money for his re-election.
Democrat Talking Heads
In case anyone is wondering about the “change” promised by Obama, fear not. Democrat talking head Rachel Maddow explained to us earlier this week that Obama’s nuclear summit was the promised change! As it turned out, “change did not mean that everybody suddenly had a job or that the banking crisis was suddenly fixed or that our wars magically ended. But change, in part, has meant a return to diplomacy”. Of course, Israel, the greatest threat to world peace next to the United States, refused to participate and Iran was not even invited. Like all of the Democratic Party talking heads Maddow fails to mention the ever present threat from the Obama administration’s “diplomacy” when dealing with other nations: “all options remain on the table”. This is not a very diplomatic way to tell the world “you will do it our way or you will face the possibility of a US invasion or at the very least a carpeting of cluster bombs, white phosphorus and unmanned drone missiles”. This bogus nuclear summit is simply more advertising hype and does not represent any significant change from the second Bush administration.
The Incompetent Machiavellian
Every time Ralph Nader tried to get Democrats to stand on their hind legs, party leaders quickly reminded them that they must be “practical” that they must be “realistic”. Like Machiavelli, the Democratic Party is not concerned with right and wrong or good and evil. It has rejected all moral philosophy by accepting the Machiavellian concept that “the ends justify the means”.
How many times have the ideas and positions of Ralph Nader been demeaned as foolish idealism impractical in a world where one must “win elections”?
Realism is seductive because once it has been accepted as a reasonable notion that actions should be based on “practical” reality people are too often led to accept, without questioning, someone else’s vision of what reality is. It is a crucial fact of independent thinking, typical of Ralph Nader, to be skeptical of someone else’s description of reality. Democrats never question the “reality” presented to them by the Democratic Party. For this reason the Democrats present an even more dangerous and violent threat than the tea party movement which it has engendered and which it continues to empower by its own lack of moral clarity.
The Democratic Party’s talking heads from the most articulate and erudite to the more brutish philistine serve the same purpose as the Republican Party talking heads. Their job is to secure the election of Democrats not to present an objective evaluation of their performance and recommend the appropriate action. Far from playing the role of chess master, Obama is an incompetent Machiavellian. Virtually nothing Obama and his representatives in the liberal media (the talk show hosts previously mentioned) have told us about this health care reform bill is true. The entire thrust of the legislation was to prevent campaign contributions from big Pharma and healthcare insurance companies from flowing into Republican coffers. By euphemistically calling this piece of corporate welfare “health care reform” Obama has sacrificed the needs of the American public in order to achieve his re-election and that of the Democratic Congress. For Obama, the ends justified the means. No moral philosopher in Eastern or Western civilization condones such a philosophy. Only Niccolo Machiavelli advanced such a thesis.
Usually, those who try to get away with “the ends justifying the means” at least have some noble end in mind. The re-election of the Democrats is anything but noble and the means was a purely cynical act on the part of the Democratic Party. Even a Machiavellian, however, would be embarrassed at the incompetent execution of Obama’s loutish strategy.
A good Machiavellian would certainly have planned for the possible unintended consequences of such a strategy and hence have prevented their occurrence. A competent Machiavellian would have started his administration by ensuring that the Senate changed the filibuster rule from 41 to 49 votes. This rule only requires a simple majority vote in order to be changed. It is a Senate rule, not a law. Moreover, the incompetent Obama administration, while achieving its ends created such blowback from the ridiculous right that the United States is now as close to collapsing into a fascist regime as it has ever been in its history.
The attitudes of the people in the tea party movement are completely justified. Not only has there not been any increase in the standard of living over the last 30 years while productivity has increased by over 78%, real incomes of working Americans have actually declined. While Reagan, the Bushes and Clinton are to blame for the adoption of “neoliberal economics” the Obama administration with its continuing support of the banking industry was the straw that broke the political camel’s back.
Obama, more than any Republican, is linked to the bankers. They supported him over McCain. When Obama started to criticize the bankers, in true Machiavellian fashion, he did an about-face proclaiming: “I, like most of the American people, don’t begrudge people success or wealth. That is part of the free market system.” Of course, Obama is completely in error. Americans actually do begrudge the $17 million bonus awarded to Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase and the $9 million issued to Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs. No one should be surprised that Goldman Sachs contributed $1 million to Obama’s presidential campaign.
Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans like to talk about class warfare but that is precisely what the incompetent, Machiavellian, cynical Obama administration has engendered. Unemployment is reaching near depression levels while Obama’s banking buddies bathe in bonuses beyond imagination and people are not happy about it. The job growth statistics quoted by the Democrat talking heads are mostly in non-tradable services area such as janitors, retail sales persons, waiters and waitresses, orderlies and attendants.
These minimum wage paying jobs were created by corporations which have outsourced good paying American jobs in engineering, manufacturing and information technology.1 Such outsourcing continues under the “free trade” supporting Obama administration. Ironically, the highly trained workers in those well compensated fields are now used to account for the “new jobs” being created by the Obama administration. Such a clever way has the Obama administration devised for job creation; turning well paid information technology specialists into low paid retail clerks!
The working class has been marginalized as the costs of our economic collapse are socialized and profits are privatized. Frustration and outright rage is the natural and expected response to the callous Obama administration. Instead of getting answers from the left, however, they receive political placebos along with the puerile pabulum fed to them by Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.
Chris Hedges warns us of “the Weimarization of the American working class”.2 Just as demagogues in post-World War I Germany were able to play upon the despair of the working class, the same type of forces are now in place in the United States. He suggests that even though the tea party movement, itself, may be tiny, it is a well-funded and well-organized group. Properly managed, Hedges suggests “this tiny group can count on the sympathy and support of perhaps as many as 100 million evangelicals”. It would only take a crisis to catapult the leaders of this movement into power.
Naomi Klein in her work The Shock Doctrine3 spells out precisely how such a crisis could produce a disastrous political, social and economic revolution. Another terrorist attack would be all that is necessary. Such an attack is not just probable but inevitable. The resulting fascist order would face no resistance. At a time when violent resistance from the left might be required, the left has been disorganized and distracted by the Democratic Party. As the left smokes Obama’s wacky tobacci and sings “Kum By Ya”, the forces which would destroy civil society as we know it are singing “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”.
There is good reason to be afraid. We must not, however, confuse fear with cowardice. In the final analysis we either stand up for our convictions or we stand for nothing. The continued voting for the lesser evil has not, nor cannot, save this country; it can only hasten a total collapse. Those who are too afraid to voice their conscience and make it felt politically, by any means, are already slaves; they simply have not yet heard the rattling of their chains.
- Paul Craig Roberts, How the Economy Was Lost; (California: AK Press, 2010), 20-21. [↩]
- Chris Hedges, American Fascists (The Christian Right and the War on America) (New York: Free Press, 2006): 266. [↩]
- Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism; (New York: Metropolitan Books; Henry Holt & Co. 2007): 309. [↩]
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