America’s legitimation deficit

It's morning in America

Once again Chris Hedges addresses a theme to which he often returns:

The ability of the corporate state to pacify the country by extending credit and providing cheap manufactured goods to the masses is gone. The pernicious idea that democracy lies in the choice between competing brands and the freedom to accumulate vast sums of personal wealth at the expense of others has collapsed. The conflation of freedom with the free market has been exposed as a sham. The travails of the poor are rapidly becoming the travails of the middle class, especially as unemployment insurance runs out and people get a taste of Bill Clinton's draconian welfare reform. And class warfare, once buried under the happy illusion that we were all going to enter an age of prosperity with unfettered capitalism, is returning with a vengeance.
While it is not at all certain that America's newly déclassé citizens will act in their interests with respect to the economic and political crisis of the moment, the situation now emerging surely promises to provide novel experiences for many Americans and will trouble the country as a whole for an indefinite length of time. We are Americans — poor, starving, homeless.
The uncertainty about a popular response to America's faltering economy reflects the fact that injustice on the ground only generates a motive for but does not directly cause substantively rational political action. Injustice may instead prompt the emergence of a reactionary political movement looking for scapegoats to torment, groups that can include immigrants (legal and illegal), the homeless, the jobless, the criminal, the insane and the African-American. The Sarah Palin followers who made themselves conspicuous during the summer of 2008 were a forewarning of such a reactionary movement in the United States. Their ranks could grow as the crisis intensifies. They can also swell the ranks of those staffing America's security-surveillance state, along with its vast prison system, its hidden gulags and its desiccated legal system. This police state has long waited for its moment to shine. Indeed it began to prepare for this moment since Nixon announced his barbaric War on Drugs.

Nico Pitney vs. Dana Milbank


Art Spiegelman

The original can be found here.


Wall Street has hired a Kool-Aid maker…

PR campaign intends to patch a hole by applying a coat of whitewash

According to a Bloomberg report (the link comes via Zero Hedge):

Wall Street's largest trade group has started a campaign to counter the "populist" backlash against bankers, enlisting two former aides to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to spearhead the effort.
In memos of confidential meetings with top financial executives, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association said it began this month the "execution phase" of the operation, which pledges to "embrace change" and accountability. The plan targets policy makers and the media in New York, London, Washington and Brussels and calls for a "city-by-city, grass roots" approach.
The securities industry "must be perceived as part of the solution, which will allow it to better defend against populist overreaction," the documents, prepared for a June 17 meeting of SIFMA's board, said.
One obvious question: Why would SIFMA and its clients believe a grass roots approach might work when the popular backlash it wishes to counter can be considered the manifestation of a popular consensus that reflects a widespread type of experience?

On the other hand, everyone involved is not so gullible as to believe that image management will work:

The [SIFMA] group's polling "indicated that there is a lot of anger out there and feelings that the industry is not focused," the minutes said. While "Wall Street and CEOs" received low scores, local banks and brokers got better marks.
The outside consultants join SIFMA staff for a daily 10:00 a.m. conference call, "given the importance, complexity and real-time nature of the campaign style-implementation," according to one of the memos.
Still, that kind of approach may not be enough for Wall Street to lift its reputation, said Bill Brown, a visiting professor at Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina.
"It's right for them to try to come back from this, but they have to realize that they are not going to be reborn into what they were," said Brown, who was global co-head of listed derivatives at Morgan Stanley. "The best P.R. comes from doing good, not from having to manage your image."


The DoD: Freedom’s ally

Dennis Loo recently learned that the Department of Defense now considers protest to be a low level form of terrorism!

The American Civil Liberties Union has already protested the DoD's infringement on an American citizen's basic rights. The ACLU's response can be read here.

The coming neo-feudalism

Blogger Benign Brodwicz predicts here this very outcome for the United States.

Political society vs. civil society in Iran

Robert Fisk's most recent assessment of Iran's conflict: "Symbols are not enough." They are insufficient because:

…it is indeed an intifada that has broken out in Iran, however hopeless its aims. Millions of Iranians simply no longer accept the rule of law because they believe that the law has been corrupted by a fraudulent election. The dangerous decision by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to throw his entire prestige behind Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has erased any chance that he could emerge above the battle as a neutral arbiter.
Juan Cole's also pointedly judges the situation:

By stealing the election for Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has effectively made a coup on behalf of the clerical sphere in alliance with lay hard liners, which threatens to virtually abolish the sphere of popular sovereignty. That is what Mousavi and Karroubi and their followers are objecting to so vehemently. From the outside, Iran was often depicted as a totalitarian state. But from the inside it seemed to have wriggle room. The reformers are saying that the regime has just moved toward really being a totalitarian state and is now removing any space for dissent.

Iran’s Guardian Council refuses to annul the election

AKI reports (from Juan Cole and Informed Consent):

Iran's top legislative body or Guardian Council has said it would not annul the results of the 12 June election as demanded by two reformist candidates, Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi.
"If a major breach occurs in an election, the Guardian Council may annul the votes that come out of a particular affected ballot box, polling station, district, or city, like how it was done in the parliamentary elections," said the council's spokesman Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei late on Monday, quoted by Iran's state English-language broadcaster, Press TV.
"Fortunately, in the recent presidential election we found no witness of major fraud or breach in the election. Therefore, there is no possibility of an annulment taking place," he added.


Barack Obama — Republicanism with a human face

Michael Hudson suggests as much when he states:

Confronting the wreckage of a debt crisis worse than any since the Great Depression, Mr. Obama has achieved what no Republican could have: rescuing the Bush Administration's pro-creditor policies that fostered the Bubble Economy in the first place. "Most of the financial sector lobby community is happy with what has emerged," the Financial Times summarized. A spokesman for the Financial Services Forum, a major Wall Street lobbying organization, called the proposals "careful and balanced." With such endorsements, victims of predatory lending have good reason to worry. The Obama plan is just the opposite from reforming the financial system along lines that progressive Democrats and other critics have urged.
Hudson adopts this tone simply because, as he has argued before, that "Mr. Obama's financial 'reform' aims at sustaining casino capitalism by rolling back a century's worth of progressive tax and financial legislation."

The righteous besieged

Krugman calls out America’s ‘democratic centralists’

The primary issue is health care and the secondary issue is the politicking which surrounds health care reform. Krugman asserts that:

…the fundamental fact is that we can afford universal health insurance — even those high estimates were less than the $1.8 trillion cost of the Bush tax cuts. Furthermore, Democratic leaders know that they have to pass a health care bill for the sake of their own survival. One way or another, the numbers will be brought in line.
The real risk is that health care reform will be undermined by "centrist" Democratic senators who either prevent the passage of a bill or insist on watering down key elements of reform. I use scare quotes around "centrist," by the way, because if the center means the position held by most Americans, the self-proclaimed centrists are in fact way out in right field.
We are fortunate that America has a representative democratic system and that those individuals and parties representing America's citizens can be held accountable for their actions — they can, in principle, be held accountable. As a matter of fact, the American system takes great care to safeguard the political autonomy of those individuals and parties that represent its citizens. And it is thanks to this protection that we can read sensible assessments such as this one from Krugman: "What the balking Democrats seem most determined to do is to kill the public option, either by eliminating it or by carrying out a bait-and-switch, replacing a true public option with something meaningless."

Why would America's "bought and paid for" Democrats represent the views and interests of most Americans when they really do not have to provide this service? They will not if they are rational. They will represent instead the groups that bought their care and concern.

Will it be debtor’s prison for California?

Perhaps, but it now seems as though California will escape this sad fate because, well, because the state can no longer afford to use incarceration as a technique of social and political control. I believe no sensible person would lament this reversal. Nor would they lament the fact that California's fate may also be an omen of those measures additional states will be forced to take in order to manage their budget crises. As Sasha Abramsky reminds us, "As California goes, so goes the nation." She continues by noting that:

If that old adage still holds true, then the nation may soon see a gradual backpedaling from the criminal justice policies that have led to wholesale incarceration in recent decades. For the most populous state in the union is on the verge of insolvency — partly because it didn't set aside a rainy-day fund during the boom years; partly because its voters recently rejected a series of initiatives that would have allowed a combination of tax increases, spending cuts and borrowing to help stabilize the state's finances during the downturn; partly because it has spent the past quarter-century funneling tens of billions of dollars into an out-of-control correctional system. Now, as California's politicians contemplate emergency cuts to deal with a $24 billion hole in the state budget, old certainties are crumbling.
The appalling War on Drugs may become one casualty of this fiscal reckoning. Punitive sentencing laws may be another. Given the significance of the current situation, one might hope that Americans would "just say no" to the carceral system (Foucault) and the pacification techniques it employs.

Americans going without

But there's trillions for Wall Street and war….
Jane Sarasohn-Kahn reports that "55% of Americans have taken at least one action to delay medical care because of cost in the past year, according to the June 2009 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll." Sarasohn-Kahn also states that "The economy is driving consensus among American health citizens, a majority of whom want to see health reform. The fact that over one-half of Americans have done 'something' to manage their household health costs bolsters the public's pro-health reform position."


And yet another birthday

The philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was born on this day in 1905.

The battle is on

Mousavi attacks Khamenei

In the midst of the street fighting between a popular movement contesting the legitimacy of the current and of some possible future Iranian governments and that government's loyal security forces, Mir-Hossein Mousavi rejected the Ayatollah Khamenei's assertion that the Iranian people had fairly selected Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the recent election (see this, this and this). The significance of this event is rather clear, even to an outsider like me. As Juan Cole put it:

Mousavi has thrown down a gauntlet before the Supreme Leader and a battle has been joined. By the rules of the Khomeinist regime, only one of them can now survive. And perhaps neither will.

Khamenei surely would not have missed the import of Mousavi's rejoinder, for, as Robert Fisk stated:

What we are now seeing is a regime which is far more worried than the Supreme Leader suggested when he threatened the opposition so baldly on Friday. Having refused any serious political dialogue with Mousavi and his opposition comrades — a few district recounts will produce no real change in the result — the Iranian regime, led by a Supreme Leader who is frightened and a president who speaks like a child, is now involved in the battle for control of the streets of Iran. It is a conflict which will need the kind of miracle in which Khamenei and Ahmadinejad both believe to avoid violence.

But political violence has already come to Iran, and in Iran it will likely remain as long as both the regime and "the people" wish to select the seventh President of the Iranian republic. Violence is likely because a political system cannot long stand a situation in which there are two sovereigns, and it is just this dualism which is coming into being in Iran. When considered with this rule of thumb in mind, it appears that Khamenei's Friday prayer sermon offered the opposition within civil society and among the elite a stark and untenable choice: Make a revolution or accept a mortifying defeat. Revolutions are rarely peaceful. When they are peaceful, this is a byproduct of the negotiations and compromises achieved by the groups contending for power. They are violent whenever the old regime wishes to hold on to political power and has the means and the will to pursue this end.

As an outsider and an American to boot, I can only wish the Iranian people good luck in the difficult times ahead.


Opponents clash in Tehran

The security forces and Iran's defiant protesters fought in the street today, according to reports. While the two sides confronted one another, a suicide bomber detonated his weapon near the Tehran mausoleum of Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. See:

Agence France-Presse


Associated Press

The Guardian

The New York Times

The Washington Post

The food crisis is man-made

A billion will soon confront food insecurity

The World Food Programme of the United Nations claims that:

World hunger is projected to reach a historic high in 2009 with 1,020 million people going hungry every day, according to new estimates published by FAO today.

The most recent increase in hunger is not the consequence of poor global harvests but is caused by the world economic crisis that has resulted in lower incomes and increased unemployment. This has reduced access to food by the poor, the UN agency said.

"A dangerous mix of the global economic slowdown combined with stubbornly high food prices in many countries has pushed some 100 million more people than last year into chronic hunger and poverty," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. "The silent hunger crisis — affecting one sixth of all of humanity — poses a serious risk for world peace and security. We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world and to take the necessary actions."

Robert Fisk and Juan Cole on the Ayatollah Khamenei’s speech

Iran's palace intrigues

Although much of the world is surely watching while the popular opposition in Iran presses its and Mir-Hossein Mousavi's cause with the Iranian government, Robert Fisk holds the opinion that the decisive political struggle in Iran can be found only among those members of the elite vying for power.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was Thomas Cromwell yesterday, praising those he loathed with just enough directness for the recipient to know that a Supreme Leader's anger will embrace a senior cleric or two. When he expressed his admiration for Ali Akbar Rafsanjani's revolutionary credentials and added that "nobody has accused this gentleman of corruption" — who said they had? — you knew exactly what he meant. Think profits from pistachio nuts and the Tehran Metro. And when Khamenei said that "those who voted for these four candidates will have their rewards from God Almighty", you knew that most would not be rewarded with the president of their choice.

Thus Khamenei's threats were meant not only to persuade the mobilized common folk to return to their homes, lest they become cannon fodder when the government chooses to restore order to the country. They were, Fisk suggests, indicative of the fact that Khamenei also feels personally threatened by these events and the opposition leaders who stand to profit from them:

So why did he [Khamenei] glue himself to Ahmadinejad? Could it be he is worried about another very powerful clergyman who lives in the golden-domed city of Qom, a certain Ayatollah Yazdi who has long feted and praised the aforesaid Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? And is it possible — it is, by the way — that Ayatollah Yazdi would very much like to be the next Supreme Leader?

Good reason then for Khamenei to stand by the President who insisted a halo shone around his head when he addressed the UN.

Juan Cole shares Fisk's concerns:

It now seems only a matter of time until there are high-level arrests and then an intervention against the protesters by the security forces of a quite brutal sort. Only if Mousavi backs down (and thus possibly demoralizes the crowds) can this outcome now be averted.

The real question is whether this is 1963, when the shah managed to put down a rebellion led by Ruhollah Khomeini, or whether it is 1978-79, when he failed to do so. The answer lies in the depth of support for the protests among the population, and in the stance of the various armed forces toward the latter. In 1963 the military was willing to crack down hard on the protesters. In 1978, they started refusing to fire on them. The air force officers actually went over to Khomeini, which was decisive. Precisely because the opposition is from within the ruling circle, we cannot know what the Revolutionary Guards and the regular armed forces are thinking. Mousavi helped get Iran's military act together during the Iran-Iraq War. Rezaie is a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards, Iran's national guard. If the armed forces hesitate or split, Khamenei could be in real trouble. If not, the protesters could end up being crushed.

So, the stakes are large. And did Khamenei's threats work? Have the popular and elite opponents of the election retreated? No, according to an Agence France-Presse report: "Iran's opposition will go ahead with a planned rally in Tehran despite a government warning against new protests, an aide to defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi told AFP."


The security apparatus doesn’t have the thugs needed to beat a million people

Juan Cole's latest take on the Iranian election crisis:

The regime, surely fearing a popular revolution of the sort that toppled the shah in 1978-79, is using carrots and sticks to try to deal with an unpredictable situation. So far, however, both inducements and crackdowns have been a pittance. Several hundred protest leaders have been arrested, but when you've got hundreds of thousands out in the streets every day, a few hundred arrests don't mean much and clearly aren't intimidating anyone. In fact, they backfire by angering the protesters and ensuring they return the next day. The arrest of ailing former foreign minister Ibrahim Yazdi at his hospital was particularly cruel. Some rumors have it that the regime was forced to release him back to the hospital, so poor is his health.

Babak Rahimi, in Tehran, sees the situation as being as unpredictable as that of fall 1978 when it was not apparent whether the shah would survive or the regime would fall.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…

Obama threatens the vulnerable sitting on his left flank

Given the 'successful results' of the recent Congressional votes for new funding for America's current wars, funding intended to keep the machine going until the end of the fiscal year, it follows that the President and his Party took ownership of these wars from the Republicans who initiated them, as Joshua Frank rightly points out here:

No longer can the blame for the turmoil in Iraq and Afghanistan rest at the feet of George W. Bush alone. This is now Obama's War on Terror, fully funded and operated by the Democratic Party.

With great power comes great responsibility, according to Peter Parker. But the Democratic Party's assumption of full future responsibility for Bush's wars was not the only partisan war-related issue which made the news this past week. As Norman Solomon writes (see also this and this):

Days ago, a warning shot from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue landed with a thud on Capitol Hill, near some recent arrivals in the House. The political salvo was carefully aimed and expertly fired. But in the long run it could boomerang.

As a close vote neared on a supplemental funding bill for more war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that "the White House has threatened to pull support from Democratic freshmen who vote no." In effect, it was so important to President Obama to get the war funds that he was willing to paint a political target on the backs of some of the gutsiest new progressives in Congress.

But why would a president choose to single out fellow Democrats in their first congressional term? Because, according to conventional wisdom, they're the most politically vulnerable and the easiest to intimidate.

Well, a number of House Democrats in their first full terms were not intimidated. Despite the presidential threat, they stuck to principle. Donna Edwards of Maryland voted no on the war funding when it really counted. So did Alan Grayson of Florida, Eric Massa of New York, Chellie Pingree of Maine, Jared Polis of Colorado and Jackie Speier of California.

To be sure, Obama selling out those sitting to his left no longer counts as news. But his actions in this matter have put the center-left Democrats in an untenable place. 'Their' candidate clearly does not believe he must justify his actions to them. Rather they must justify their actions in his eyes — or suffer the consequences for failing to accomplish this to his satisfaction. Obama does not, therefore, represent the center-left Democrats in a full and meaningful sense of that term. Solomon provides a remedy to the problems generated by this situation: Defeat the pro-war Democrats when they stand for reelection.

This is a crucial time for anti-war activists and other progressive advocates to get more serious about congressional politics. It's not enough to lobby for or against specific bills — and it's not enough to just get involved at election time. Officeholders must learn that there will be campaign consequences.

In other words, the center-left Democrats must struggle to make the Party leaders accountable to them. They must seek to lead the Democratic Party. This strategy also generates problems in the short-term. But Solomon remains undeterred by them:

When progressives challenge a Democratic incumbent in a primary race, some party loyalists claim that such an intra-party contest is too divisive. But desperately needed change won't come to this country until a lot of progressive candidates replace mainline Democrats in office.

On behalf of his war agenda, the president has signaled that he's willing to undermine the political futures of some anti-war Democrats in Congress. We should do all we can to support those Democrats — and defeat pro-war incumbents on behalf of an anti-war agenda.

To conclude, I find it interesting, to put it mildly, that Obama would rather risk splitting his party and, moreover, risk alienating the many Americans who oppose what were Bush's wars in order to fund the neocon's crazy adventures. Besides placating the insatiable ghosts of triangulation which necessarily torment any Democratic administration that follows the Clinton presidency, one can only wonder what Obama expects to achieve by associating his name and thus prestige with these failed, despised and irrational wars? What might his payoff be that it would equal the risks he is taking? Who or what is effectively holding him accountable for his actions in this matter? What does he expect to gain from keeping his Party on the right?

That settles that….

According to a New York Times report:

In his first public response to days of protests, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sternly warned opponents Friday to stay off the streets and denied opposition claims that last week's disputed election was rigged, praising the ballot as an "epic moment that became a historic moment."

In a somber and lengthy sermon at Friday prayers in Tehran, he called directly for an end to the protests by hundreds of thousands of Iranians demanding for a new election.

"Street challenge is not acceptable," Ayatollah Khamenei said. "This is challenging democracy after the elections." He said opposition leaders would be "held responsible for chaos" if they did not end the protests.

His remarks seemed to deepen the confrontation between Iran's rulers and supporters of the main opposition candidate, Mir Hussein Moussavi, who have accused the authorities of rigging the vote.

Another birthday

The philosopher Herbert Marcuse was born on this day in 1898.


A birthday

The philosopher Jürgen Habermas was born on this day in 1929. Today marks his eightieth birthday.


Well, shit…..

William Pesek of Bloomberg tells us that:

Two Japanese men are detained in Italy after allegedly attempting to take $134 billion worth of U.S. bonds over the border into Switzerland. Details are maddeningly sketchy, so naturally the global rumor mill is kicking into high gear.
The implications of the securities being legitimate would be bigger than investors may realize. At a minimum, it would suggest that the U.S. risks losing control over its monetary supply on a massive scale.

(The original news report may be read here. Additional coverage by the same source can be read here.)

Indeed. On the other hand, they may be forgeries. And who, after all, would want hundreds of billions of dollars of worthless bonds?

The trillions of dollars of debt the U.S. will issue in the next couple of years needs buyers. Attracting them will require making sure that existing ones aren't losing faith in the U.S.'s ability to control the dollar.

The dollar is, for better or worse, the core of our world economy and it's best to keep it stable. News that's more fitting for international spy novels than the financial pages won't help that effort. It is incumbent upon the U.S. Treasury to get to the bottom of this tale and keep markets informed.

Assuming the bonds are legitimate, the next question hones in on who could or would have this kind of largess to dump? The list is short:

Other than the U.S., China or Japan, no other nation could theoretically move those amounts. In the absence of clear explanations coming from the Treasury, conspiracy theories are filling the void.

Given the lack of hard and sure answers, I suppose the conjectures flooding the void where the truth ought to reside could be considered as nothing better than conspiracy theories. Yet are they "conspiracy theories" as that term is normally understood when they refer to actual conspiracies in action?

Update (6.19.2009):

Yesterday, the US Treasury declared the bonds fakes (see this, this and this).

On the road to soup kitchen America

Christine White of Food First reports:
The numbers are in, and the reality is harsh. According to a recent USDA report, one in nine Americans are using federal food stamps. This bleak statistic reflects the intensifying food crisis that plagues our nation. In March 2009, enrollment jumped 2 percent to 33.2 million people. And in the wake of a deep recession and high unemployment, the numbers will continue to grow. In a privileged nation of plenty, threatened by a chronic obesity epidemic, how is it that millions are going without? [emphasis added]

The Democratic Party opts for war

Jeremy Scahill reports:
In a vote that should go down in recent histories as a day of shame for the Democrats, on Tuesday the House voted to approve another $106 billion dollars for the bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and increasingly Pakistan). To put a fine point on the interconnection of the iron fist of U.S. militarism and the hidden hand of free market neoliberal economics, the bill included a massive initiative to give the International Monetary Fund billions more in U.S. taxpayer funds.
What once Democrats could argue was "Bush's war," they now officially own. In fact, only five Republicans voted for the supplemental (though overwhelmingly not on the issue of the war funding). Ron Paul, who made clear he was voting against the war, was a notable exception.
This vote has revealed a sobering statistic for the anti-war movement in this country and brought to the surface a broader issue that should give die-hard partisan Democrats who purport to be anti-war reason for serious pause about the actual state of their party. Only 30 Democrats voted against the war funding when it mattered. And these 30 did so in the face of significant threats to their political future from the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That means that only 30 out of 256 Democrats are willing to stand up to the war and the current president presiding over it.
Where can the Democrats go now that there is no place left to hide?


Pittsburgh, PA — where everyone is welcome

The City of Pittsburgh and the County of Allegheny developed a website dedicated to recruiting volunteers for and soliciting ideas about the G-20 Summit in September. According to this website:
As Pittsburghers, we're well known for our generous hospitality and the willingness to go the extra mile to make people feel welcome. This September, we will welcome the world and we hope that we can count on your assistance to help us get ready for this tremendous opportunity!
Although the authors of the website neglected to mention this point, I am sure that they (County Executive Onorato and Mayor Ravenstahl) intend to show the same hospitality to the protesters who will also participate in the Summit as, well, protesters!

Why read Glenn Greenwald?

Well, it is simple, really. Greenwald definitely possesses a boatload of good sense and is intellectually scrupulous, as this passage makes clear:

I'm going to leave the debate about whether Iran's election was "stolen" and the domestic implications within Iran to people who actually know what they're talking about (which is a very small subset of the class purporting to possess such knowledge). But there is one point I want to make about the vocal and dramatic expressions of solidarity with Iranians issuing from some quarters in the U.S.

Much of the same faction now claiming such concern for the welfare of The Iranian People are the same people who have long been advocating a military attack on Iran and the dropping of large numbers of bombs on their country — actions which would result in the slaughter of many of those very same Iranian People. During the presidential campaign, John McCain infamously sang about Bomb, Bomb, Bombing Iran. The Wall St. Journal
published a war screed from Commentary's Norman Podhoretz entitled "The Case for Bombing Iran," and following that, Podhoretz said in an interview that he "hopes and prays" that the U.S. "bombs the Iranians." John Bolton and Joe Lieberman advocated the same bombing campaign, while Bill Kristol — with typical prescience — hopefully suggested that Bush might bomb Iran if Obama were elected. Rudy Giuliani actually said he would be open to a first-strike nuclear attack on Iran in order to stop their nuclear program.

Imagine how many of the people protesting this week would be dead if any of these bombing advocates had their way — just as those who paraded around (and still parade around) under the banner of Liberating the Iraqi People caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of them, at least. Hopefully, one of the principal benefits of the turmoil in Iran is that it humanizes whoever the latest Enemy is. Advocating a so-called "attack on Iran" or "bombing Iran" in fact means slaughtering huge numbers of the very same people who are on the streets of Tehran inspiring so many — obliterating their homes and workplaces, destroying their communities, shattering the infrastructure of their society and their lives. The same is true every time we start mulling the prospect of attacking and bombing another country as though it's some abstract decision in a video game.

And, to be sure, Greenwald pummels the right sort of folks by holding them accountable for what they say, write and do. He is indispensible.

Something to celebrate

It's Bloomsday!

One reason to avoid hospitals if you can

But for the want of a can of Lysol….

As reported by Jane Sarasohn-Kahn of Health Populi:

U.S. hospital finances are so stretched in the current recession, infection prevention efforts have begun to be curtailed.

32% of health facilities say that reductions in staffing and infection prevention (IP) departments have reduced their capacity to deal with IP in their institutions.


A tolling bell that only the reckless would ignore

The zero-option global economy collapses before our eyes

By using the term "zero-option global economy" I wish to refer to the fact that the states of the world have had little or eventually no recourse but to accept the world economic system as it has been known since the Second World War. I say they had little recourse because making a successful peasant-based revolution and then gaining membership in the Second World was once a possible alternative path to economic development for many Third World countries. This path remained in play, more or less, up to the moment when Mikhail Gorbachev's hands off policy with respect to Poland initiated the dismantling of the Soviet empire in 1989. But a revolution would typically draw Washington's attention and, in some instances, its arms to what supposedly was a local matter. Washington found revolution unacceptable. For its part the non-aligned movement wanted to break with bloc politics altogether. By achieving this break it hoped to create another option for those states belonging to neither the First nor Second Worlds. Unfortunately this movement could never extricate itself from the bloc politics which marked the Cold War and it certainly could not overcome the economic power residing in Washington and New York. In the end, globalization is just a word that refers to the kind of inclusive system integration Washington sought to and did eventually achieve in the world. The unipolar moment that emerged after the Soviet Union collapsed may be considered the apotheosis of this historical path.

As for the current situation, which revolves around the United States and the precarious hold it now has over the global system it fashioned, Michael Hudson reports that:

The city of Yekaterinburg, Russia's largest east of the Urals, may become known not only as the end of the road for the tsars but of American hegemony too; as the place not only where US U-2 pilot Gary Powers was shot down in 1960, but where the US-centered international financial order was brought to ground.

Challenging America is the prime focus of extended meetings in Yekaterinburg, Russia (formerly Sverdlovsk) today and tomorrow (June 15-16) for Chinese President Hu Jintao, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and other top officials of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The alliance is comprised of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrghyzstan and Uzbekistan, with observer status for Iran, India, Pakistan and Mongolia. It will be joined on Tuesday by Brazil for trade discussions among the so-called BRIC nations — Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The attendees have assured American diplomats that it is not their aim to dismantle the financial and military empire of the United States. They simply want to discuss mutual aid — but in a way that has no role for the United States, for NATO or for the US dollar as a vehicle for trade. US diplomats may well ask what this really means, if not a move to make US hegemony obsolete. After all, that is what a multipolar world means. For starters, in 2005 the SCO asked Washington to set a timeline to withdraw from its military bases in Central Asia. Two years later the SCO countries formally aligned themselves with the former CIS republics belonging to the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), established in 2002 as a counterweight to NATO.

Is it not ironic that this endgame would commence with some non-European countries forming an anti-American, anti-imperialist, pro-capitalist bloc? In fact, some of these countries (Russia and China) were core states in the Socialist bloc and others were leading members (India and China) of the non-aligned movement!

Hudson continues:

What may prove to be the last rites of American hegemony began already in April at the G-20 conference, and became even more explicit at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on June 5, when Mr. Medvedev called for China, Russia and India to "build an increasingly multipolar world order." What this means in plain English is: We have reached our limit in subsidizing the United States' military encirclement of Eurasia while also allowing the US to appropriate our exports, companies, stocks and real estate in exchange for paper money of questionable worth.

Chris Hedges concurs with Hudson's assessment:

This week marks the end of the dollar's reign as the world's reserve currency. It marks the start of a terrible period of economic and political decline in the United States. And it signals the last gasp of the American imperium. That's over. It is not coming back. And what is to come will be very, very painful.

Barack Obama, and the criminal class on Wall Street, aided by a corporate media that continues to peddle fatuous gossip and trash talk as news while we endure the greatest economic crisis in our history, may have fooled us, but the rest of the world knows we are bankrupt. And these nations are damned if they are going to continue to prop up an inflated dollar and sustain the massive federal budget deficits, swollen to over $2 trillion, which fund America's imperial expansion in Eurasia and our system of casino capitalism. They have us by the throat. They are about to squeeze.

Hedges identifies one source of this crisis:

To fund our permanent war economy, we have been flooding the world with dollars. The foreign recipients turn the dollars over to their central banks for local currency. The central banks then have a problem. If a central bank does not spend the money in the United States then the exchange rate against the dollar will go up. This will penalize exporters. This has allowed America to print money without restraint to buy imports and foreign companies, fund our military expansion and ensure that foreign nations like China continue to buy our treasury bonds. This cycle appears now to be over. Once the dollar cannot flood central banks and no one buys our treasury bonds, our empire collapses. The profligate spending on the military, some $1 trillion when everything is counted, will be unsustainable.

History can teach us that no empire lasts forever…. Next stop: America's Weimar:

The cost of daily living, from buying food to getting medical care, will become difficult for all but a few as the dollar plunges. States and cities will see their pension funds drained and finally shut down. The government will be forced to sell off infrastructure, including roads and transport, to private corporations. We will be increasingly charged by privatized utilities — think Enron — for what was once regulated and subsidized. Commercial and private real estate will be worth less than half its current value. The negative equity that already plagues 25 percent of American homes will expand to include nearly all property owners. It will be difficult to borrow and impossible to sell real estate unless we accept massive losses. There will be block after block of empty stores and boarded-up houses. Foreclosures will be epidemic. There will be long lines at soup kitchens and many, many homeless. Our corporate-controlled media, already banal and trivial, will work overtime to anesthetize us with useless gossip, spectacles, sex, gratuitous violence, fear and tawdry junk politics. America will be composed of a large dispossessed underclass and a tiny empowered oligarchy that will run a ruthless and brutal system of neo-feudalism from secure compounds. Those who resist will be silenced, many by force. We will pay a terrible price, and we will pay this price soon, for the gross malfeasance of our power elite.

Soup kitchen America awaits….

Did someone mention an economic recovery

If so, the he or she did not rely upon the work of Barry Eichengreen and Kevin O'Rourke to make this claim. These two economists recently concluded that the world economy is:

…tracking or doing even worse than the Great Depression, whether the metric is industrial production, exports or equity valuations. Focusing on the US causes one to minimise this alarming fact. The "Great Recession" label may turn out to be too optimistic. This is a Depression-sized event.
That said, we are only one year into the current crisis, whereas after 1929 the world economy continued to shrink for three successive years. What matters now is that policy makers arrest the decline.

Sara’s epistle

Sarah Robinson asks:

Dear Conservatives:

Your fellow Americans demand an answer — and we want it now. Just one simple question:

Are you deliberately trying to start a civil war?

Just answer the question. Yes or no. Don't insult us with elisions, evasions, dithering, qualifications, or conditional answers. We need to know what your intentions are — and we need to know NOW. People are being shot dead in the streets of America at the rate of several per month now. You may not want responsibility for this — but the whackadoodles pulling the triggers make no bones about who put them up to this.

You did.

My wild guess: Yes, it is clear that far too many of America's right-wingers want to start a civil war. I would even suspect some of them of wishing to rectify the lost cause of the 1860s and to take the revenge for having endured the Reconstruction and Civil Rights eras. I would imagine their present-day Yankee equivalents would prefer to move to an authoritarian liberal regime, that is, a system which is socially and politically authoritarian but economically liberal.


Is this good or bad news?

The days of cheap oil wane

Michael Klare reports that:

…the recent release of the 2009 IEO has provided energy watchers with a feast of significant revelations. By far the most significant disclosure: the IEO predicts a sharp drop in projected future world oil output (compared to previous expectations) and a corresponding increase in reliance on what are called "unconventional fuels" — oil sands, ultra-deep oil, shale oil, and biofuels.

So here's the headline for you: For the first time, the well-respected Energy Information Administration appears to be joining with those experts who have long argued that the era of cheap and plentiful oil is drawing to a close. Almost as notable, when it comes to news, the 2009 report highlights Asia's insatiable demand for energy and suggests that China is moving ever closer to the point at which it will overtake the United States as the world's number one energy consumer. Clearly, a new era of cutthroat energy competition is upon us [links added].

Oil's growing scarcity should undoubtedly prove inconvenient, messy and bloody for those who must endure the passing of the oil age. "Big or small," as Klare asserts elsewhere (p. 27), "conflicts over oil will constitute a significant feature of the global security environment in the decades to come." Bloodshed is likely.

Yet, despite the catastrophe that may be awaiting humanity, the anticipated lack of oil could become good news if the destructive and wasteful human species can make a quick transition to environmentally sustainable and politically rational forms of life. That is, the news would be good but only if the growing scarcity of oil proves to be "a" — if not "the" — motivating condition which compels human beings to learn to live within the limits set by first nature and, more importantly, with each other. Thus considered, resource depletion is above all a socio-political problem, and it must be addressed as such if humanity wishes to use effectively its considerable technical know-how to master the loss of this vital resource. Still, given current circumstances and given what we ought to know about the human capacity to generate globally cooperative and inclusive solutions to what are global problems, it would be silly to indulge in a naïve optimism that rising above this specific problem will be easy, for there are no obvious reasons at hand which would prompt a prudent person to expect this happy result to come to pass any time soon.


I am a middle class American…

…I own once owned a house and a car

Mark Ames characterizes the gullible American thusly:

If I was an oligarch and I wanted to buy my spoiled little shit of a son a toy that would make him laugh and laugh for hours, I'd buy him a middle-class American. Because Americans are funny the way all dupes and chumps are funny. You can trick today's Americans time and again, and they always fall for it. And when you trick them, they stomp around dramatically and make a lot of blustery noise about "the people" who allegedly "aren't going to stand much more of this" because "our founding forefathers bla bla bla" and of course the ol' "you can fool some of the people some of the time, buttcha can't fool bla bla bla..." Basically, if you've seen your Elmer Fudd, then you've seen your American sucker in all of his cartoon comic-foil glory: a sentimental buffoon, a harmless chump whose guns don't fool anyone but himself.

Every day, Americans play the role of Elmer Fudd to the oligarchy's Bugs Bunny — if you look at it from the oligarchy's point of view, at least.

Exhibit A: Multigazllionaire scumbag Angelo Mozilo v. American Suckers.

Tuesday it was reported that Mozilo, the guy who destroyed millions of Americans' lives and now faces fraud charges, is making American taxpayers — his victims — pay for his legal defense. Yup, Bank of America, which only exists thanks to tens of billions of taxpayer dollars, is using YOUR MONEY to defend Angelo Mozilo against YOU, the victim.

Ah, this may be one of those prison camps that don’t exist

As per Paul Craig Roberts:

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Change we can believe in….

The anti-Obama moment

This is the moment for radical reform, for reform that cuts to the quick, that alters a society or one of its parts. Reform of this kind has become timely because the powerful, productive and secure America which emerged directly after the Second World War no longer exits and resurrecting this "golden age" entity must be counted as an unrealistic project. I say this because the "real economy" is now in crisis; Wall Street and the Fed continue to debauch the dollar; numerous individual states must manage severe fiscal crises and these undoubtedly will damage their capacity to govern effectively and legitimately; many Americans and their families have been forced by circumstances to watch while their life savings dwindle away and their children struggle to make a place for themselves in a country in economic and social decline; the federal government is bankrupt but gives the security-surveillance apparatus an enormous amount of money which the spook apparatchiks then waste by undermining the country's democratic institutions and culture along with its international standing and its economic capabilities. The upshot: The American dream has finished its run and Americans must now face a difficult world with their fantasies exposed for what they are.

To be sure, reform could mean the restoration of past practice, which is to say, a return to constitutional and economic fundamentals. These reforms allegedly were part of what the Reagan Revolution was all about. Radical reform today, on the other hand, can only take the form of a "new beginning" for the country. As a moment marked by the novelty of the reforms which mark it, these reforms must include a rejection of the conservatism inherent within the American political culture and its political institutions. They would thus entail a principled rejection of America's historical record since 1968 and beyond.

Chris Bowers of Open Left addresses the need for reform, doing so in light of the nature of party politics in the United States. His topic: Health care reform and the obstructionist Democrats! Bowers writes:

Here is a message that progressive organizations and media outlets need to start sending to all Democratic party committees and members of Congress:

We are done attacking Republicans until you pass a public option for health care.

Until a public option is passed, I don't want to hear about the latest hate and idiocy spewing from Limbaugh, or Tancredo, or Palin, or Gingrich, or whoever. And to tell you the truth, I don't want to attack them for it, either. Because, right now, Republicans are not the obstacle to progressive governance. Instead, Democrats who refuse to support a public option are the obstacle [emphasis in the original].

Why would the Democratic Party refuse to meet this sensible and popular demand? Why would the Party of the People undermine this popular reform? Why would it embrace an increasingly impossible reality? William Greider provides an answer:

The Democratic Party ignores its left-liberal-progressive base with some regularity because it knows it can. Politicians understand they will suffer no consequences afterward. The galaxy of mediating organizations, including organized labor, that surrounds and supports the party may stomp and holler, but they do not attempt any retribution that might alter their relationship with power. Reform organizations will not withdraw their support, either money or rank-and-file voters. Nor will they seek to punish any of the wayward Democrats who regularly vote against them with opposition at the next election. The "white hat" reformers are Washington insiders themselves, with a seat at the table and influence on the substance of the party's agenda. They do not want to put their status at risk. Politicians know this from long experience. So do the reformers.

For the outsider who would be an insider — that is, for the reformers who want to become effective in the here and now, who want have more than a tiny bit of influence over the government in power, who wish to have direct access to that government, to instituted political power — access seemingly comes attached to a stringent and unavoidable quid pro quo: The reform-minded liberal can have and even enjoy their seat at the big table but he or she will occupy this seat only so long as he or she does not pose a practical threat to the Washington-Wall Street way of governing the world. Once these reformers become insiders, once they "make it big" and turn into recognized 'players' and thus members of the elite, these arrivistes will have thereby gained a stake in the system they wanted to reform. Having this stake in their hand means they will confront circumstances and pressures that will compel them to reproduce the system such as it is. It means, in other words, rejecting reforms which would disturb the already-powerful, the entrenched interests and institutions that are enduring features of the polity.

For the moment, therefore, party politics must be considered a dead end sensible reformers would wisely avoid. Radical reform must spring from civil society itself. Common Americans must want to reform their government and society, for these needed reforms will not be gifted to them by the elite.


Rightwing obstructionists doing what they do best

The Detroit Bureau and TPM report that a GM boycott is gaining steam and has already accumulated support from Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt.

This well-considered and humane campaign should please the remaining Reagan Democrats in the Rustbelt!

America is a democracy…Right?

It is. Really.

American may learn this fact by considering the good work their representatives do for them every day. Robert Parry has noticed. He recently wrote:

As the health insurance industry and its defenders in Congress lay out their case against permitting a public option in a reform bill, perhaps their most curious argument is that some 119 million Americans are ready to dump their private plans and jump to something more like Medicare — and that's why the choice can't be permitted [emphasis added].
But would that outcome not ruin the for-profit insurance industry? It would if the government and its program were able to defeat the private insurers in a fair competition. In fact:

…the industry and its backers are acknowledging that more than one-third of the American people are so dissatisfied with their private health insurance that they trust the U.S. government to give them a fairer shake on health care. The industry says its allies in Congress must prevent that.
Their exodus would create a situation in which the federal government would likely become the primary provider of health care insurance coverage for the country as a whole.

Naturally, and as Parry indicates, many Congressional Republicans and some Democrats oppose including the government provision option in any reform bill Congress may care to discuss in the near future. This sad fact generates the following question: These Congressmen and –women represent whom?


Stewart on Cheney

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Sotomayor and Obama threatened with assassination

According to Newsday:

John Zaubler, 48, was charged Friday with a count of making terroristic threats [against judge Sotomayor]. According to a criminal complaint, Zaubler also said "he wanted to kill President Obama by blowing him up."

Judge James Gibbons arraigned Zaubler in Manhattan Criminal Court via videoconference from the courtroom at Bellevue Hospital Center, where he was being held.


Olbermann on Fox News, O’Reilly and the Tiller assassination

Have the “culture wars” taken a violent turn?

Eyal Press, writing for The Nation, worries that a horrific version of this confrontation is emerging now that the Bush juggernaut has collapsed. He has good reason to worry, I would say. The signs of a reactionary backlash started to appear as soon as Barack Hussein Obama became a viable contender for the Presidency. Indeed, it was little over a year back that Hillary Clinton, currently Obama's Secretary of State, publicly mentioned that she would contest the remaining Democratic primaries even though she was unlikely to win the nomination because someone might assassinate Obama! The McCain-Palin ticket became infamous for taking the lower road.

Naturally the Tiller assassination that has recently marred the news provided Press with the occasion for his ruminations. The danger as he and others see it originates in something besides the atavistic beliefs typically held by America's reactionaries; the source of this danger must include the hopelessness some of America's reactionaries may now feel as they watch while their time in the national spotlight passes into oblivion. Their despair may be compounded by the features of their authoritarian temperament, a disposition which compels them to overestimate the power and thus the importance of political leaders like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. As it turns out, and much to the reactionaries' chagrin, the United States was and remains a far more moderate country on cultural and social issues than they. As a matter of fact, a strong majority of Americans prefer that abortion remains legal. Moreover, America's institutions are notoriously resistant to radical reform. For the reactionaries and their programs, and this includes their antiabortion project, neither fact augers well for the future. Thus their turn towards violent action, to terrorism and murder, to insurrection and succession, to an antipolitics that removes the space needed for compromises to emerge. A turn to violent action is a turn to the political dark side, one that would imitate the bloodshed seen during Clinton's terms in office if it comes to pass.

Why violence? Briefly put, America's reactionaries these days necessarily confront a world they cannot master or accept. Destruction of the other, of the despised, a hatred for the 'enemy' — these are just one way available to the defeated to compensate for the powerlessness they are now rediscovering. It goes without saying that a politics of this kind has little to do with democracy and reasonable deliberation save for the potential it has for destroying America's minimally democratic institutions. It is, rather, another instance when nihilism appears on the horizon as an active possibility, for, as Nietzsche points out (p. 35):

Extreme positions are not succeeded by moderate ones but by extreme positions of the opposite kind. Thus the belief in the absolute immorality of nature, in aim- and meaningless, is the psychologically necessary affect once the belief in God and an essentially moral order becomes untenable. Nihilism appears at that point, not that the displeasure at existence has become greater than before but because one has come to mistrust any "meaning" in suffering, indeed in existence. One interpretation has collapsed; but because it was considered the interpretation it now seems as if there were no meaning at all in existence, as if everything were in vain.

A history of terror in the United States

The National Abortion Federation provides here a brief history of the violent acts anti-abortionists committed against abortion providers (the original link can be found at TPM).


Randall Terry on the Tiller assassination

Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue and the spokesman for "…the Schindler family in the Terri Schiavo case," feels neither guilt, remorse nor humility with regards to the Tiller assassination, as the video demonstrates:


The original may be viewed on truthdig.

More background on the Tiller assassination

John Nichols wrote:

Fifteen years ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered a "hit list" circulating among militant anti-abortion activists.

The top target for assassination on the list was Dr. George Tiller, a Kansas physician whose Women's Health Care Services clinic in Witchita has been one of only three clinics in the United States that performs late-term abortions in order to end the pregnancies of women who doctors determine would suffer irreparable harm by giving birth.


But the National Abortion Federation identified Dr. Tiller as the eighth US abortion provider to have been murdered since 1977. According to the group, seventeen others have been targeted with attempted murder.

The National Abortion Federation can be found here.

AlterNet reports:

Dr. George Tiller, 67, one of the few OB-GYNs in the country who performed late-term abortions despite ongoing threats to his safety, was fatally shot yesterday while attending a church service in Wichita, Kan. Scott Roeder, 51, has been detained for questioning.

Roeder — a registered Republican previously arrested for having bomb materials in his car — posted this chilling message on an Operation Rescue Web site called Charge Tiller in 2007 (via the Daily Kos):

"It seems as though what is happening in Kansas could be compared to the 'lawlessness' which is spoken of in the Bible. Tiller is the concentration camp 'Mengele' of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgement upon our nation."

According to an AP report:

Roeder, 51, was returned to Wichita and was being held without bail on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault. Formal charges were expected to be filed Monday.

And, more ominously:

A man with the same name as the suspect has a criminal record and a background of anti-abortion postings on sympathetic Web sites. In one post written in 2007 on the Web site for Operation Rescue, a group that closely followed Tiller's work and legal troubles in recent years, a man identifying himself as Scott Roeder asked if anyone had thought of attending Tiller's church to ask the doctor and other worshippers about his work.

But police said Sunday that all early indications showed the shooter acted alone. Operation Rescue condemned the killing as vigilantism and "a cowardly act." The president of the group told The New York Times that Roeder was "not a friend, not a contributor, not a volunteer."

In 1996, a 38-year-old man named Scott Roeder was charged in Topeka with criminal use of explosives for having bomb components in his car trunk and sentenced to 24 months of probation. However, his conviction was overturned on appeal the next year after a higher court said evidence against Roeder was seized by law enforcement officers during an illegal search of his car.

At the time, police said the FBI had identified Roeder as a member of the anti-government Freemen group, an organization that kept the FBI at bay in Jordan, Mont., for almost three months in 1995-96. Authorities on Sunday night would not immediately confirm if their suspect was the same man.

Morris Wilson, a commander of the Kansas Unorganized Citizens Militia in the mid-1990s, told The Kansas City Star he knew Roeder fairly well.

"I'd say he's a good ol' boy, except he was just so fanatic about abortion," Wilson said. "He was always talking about how awful abortion was. But there's a lot of people who think abortion is awful."