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Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

Happy Black History Month, reader!  No doubt you noticed the quotation marks above, indicating my skepticism about America’s alleged post-racial status.  I should clarify that I realize that such skepticism hardly makes me an outlier or some marvel of progressive insight; if American bigots have proven anything in the Obama era, it is that they are utterly unrepentant and unreformed.  But I’m not just talking about the dittoheads and Glenn Beck’s army of addlepated homunculi demanding that we “Take OUR country back” — or secede from the union now that the scary black man has been swept back into office.  I’m referring to the nation as a whole, hoping to introduce a conversation about our national soul, our institutions, and the REAL state of racial progress in the “Land of the Free” (ironically, the jailer of 25% of the world’s prisoners despite having just 5% of the world’s population; even more relevant to today’s topic is the fact that nearly 60% of America’s incarcerated individuals are either black or Hispanic). 

In this blog, I will offer several facts supporting my contention that an African-American in the Oval Office does not signify a positive seismic shift in race relations in the United States (I would posit, rather, that Obama’s presidency can more accurately be attributed to his extraordinary gifts as a politician and to the considerable damage that his predecessor inflicted on the Republican brand).  I will also attempt to recap my journey from moderately racially-sensitive young Arizonan to reasonably educated/racially-sensitive middle-aged schmoe — with nods to the black voices that helped my views evolve over the years.   

How far have we come as a nation?

While I wouldn’t go so far as to deny that America has made some genuine, appreciable progress in this area, I will begin by offering some statistics that help illuminate just how “post-racial” America is not:

1. America’s law enforcement system today ensnares MORE African-Americans (including the nearly one million behind bars and millions of others on probation or parole) than the antebellum South had enslaved in 1850 (and make no mistake: many American prisoners are slaving away in our rehabilitation-averse “corrections” facilities, working for pennies an hour for corporations from Microsoft to Victoria’s Secret to various representatives of the military-industrial complex — that’s right: we coerce the labor of brown people here so we can kill brown people over there…);

2. From 2005 to 2009 (pre- and post-Great Recession), median wealth for black households fell 53%, versus just 16% for white households (with banks far more inclined to help whites renegotiate their mortgages than blacks and Hispanics — likely the same blacks and Hispanics, largely, that the banks targeted unfairly for subprime loans in the first place, even when they qualified for prime);

3. The unemployment rate for blacks today exceeds 14%, very nearly double the rate of white unemployment;

4. In 2009, white households’ median net worth topped $113,000, TWENTY TIMES the median net worth of the average black household (representing the largest such disparity measured since the U.S. government first began releasing such statistics 25 years ago; also DOUBLE the wealth disparity that existed between whites and blacks prior to The Great Recession — and nearly TRIPLE the wealth disparity in 1995);

5. Only 52% of African-American males graduate high school in four years, compared to 78% of their white counterparts (due to consistent disparities in high-minority-population schools and disproportionate singling out of young black males for disciplinary action, including suspension, expulsion, and referral to law enforcement agencies); and

6. “As of 2004, more African American men were disenfranchised (due to felon disenfranchisement laws) than in 1870, the year the Fifteenth Amendment was ratified prohibiting laws that explicitly deny the right to vote on the basis of race.” (Here I’m simply quoting Michelle Alexander, author of the acclaimed book The New Jim Crow, recapping some of her findings for The Huffington Post).

*          *          *

Some Americans might be inclined to respond to the above statistics with skepticism, arguing that however appalling the numbers are, they do not necessarily implicate the system or prove discrimination — but countless studies have demonstrated otherwise (including analyses of sentencing disparities that clearly track race and recent studies that document widespread racial profiling by police and discredit much of the “science” of police forensics, showing that long-employed crime-lab methods — from ballistics to eye-witness identification to fingerprinting — are, in fact, seriously flawed).  In short, institutional discrimination in America’s policing, lending, education, elections, legal system, and other areas has been well documented over the years — to such an extent that denying such discrimination strongly suggests willful ignorance on the part of the denier. 

Particularly egregious is the failed, socially-disastrous “War on Drugs” that has destroyed so many (disproportionately African-American and Hispanic) lives in America and more than quintupled the U.S. prison population over the last 30 years.  I find particularly damning the case against New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” program.  The NYPD annually harasses hundreds of thousands of innocent minorities simply for walking the sidewalks of New York — NINETY PERCENT OF WHOM ARE NOT EVEN ARRESTED.  Here is award-winning film documentarian Eugene Jarecki on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” discussing that travesty of law enforcement:

Black History Month in “Post-racial America” Conclusion (of Part 1): Despite some genuine progress over the last half-century or so (thanks to the efforts of determined civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X), it is reasonable to say that blacks in 2013 America face nearly as many challenges as ever.  For although slavery was officially abolished with the Emancipation Proclamation and the North’s victory in the American Civil War, that morally repugnant institution was followed by Jim Crow, the KKK, poll taxes, segregation, redlining, discriminatory voter I.D. laws, and, more recently, the “War on Drugs,” with its mass-incarceration of minorities, especially males of African-American descent.  American business and political institutions have spent the last century-and-a-half working to preserve the old (nominally “Christian,” white male-dominated) power structure, keeping blacks out of high-paying jobs, elected office, elite educational and business institutions, voting booths, and homes — while increasingly placing them in JAIL and PRISON CELLS (with black males comprising over 40% of America’s 2.4 million prisoners, most convicted for victimless crimes, like possession of small amounts of marijuana, that blacks commit at no higher frequency than whites).

In other words, America, we’ve got a long way to go before we can declare our nation exorcised of the demon RACISM.  “Post-racial” the U.S. is NOT.

Next: Part II — A brilliantly presented case against “Post-racial America” (not mine, less burdened with statistics)… and recounting my personal journey toward racial semi-enlightened status

Part III — Happy 2013, seizing the day by helping Obama help us!

Last week many on the left were celebrating Hillary Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State as she prepares to move on to bigger and better things (eyeing 2016, no doubt).

My question is WHY?

Is it because Secretary Clinton won the week’s news cycle?  Or because the MSM has spent the last several days singing paeans to her alleged diplomatic accomplishments?  Or is the left simply exulting in the way Sec. Clinton faced down a few bloviating Senate Republicans, calling “bullshit!” on the GOP’s tired (utterly exhausted and feeble) attempts to twist al Qaeda’s lethal 9/11/12 attack on a U.S. “consulate”/CIA outpost in Benghazi into the cover-up of the century?  (So it took the administration the better part of two weeks to acknowledge that what happened in Benghazi was a straight-up al Qaeda attack rather than a demonstration that got out of hand…  So talking points changed after it was determined that the event had been conflated with simultaneous protests in Cairo against a vicious American hate-film…  SO WHAT?)

Arizona’s Sen. Jeff Flake is a Republican whose career in the House of Representatives actually impressed me pretty favorably (a rarity).  However, questioning Secretary Clinton, he made a perfect ass of himself, pretending there is something mysterious about the fact that the administration’s talking points about Benghazi were revised over time.  (And if Democrats had investigated the Bush administration every time talking points changed, they would never have gotten around to investigating any of Bush’s war crimes and outrages against human dignity… oh wait, they didn’t — but that’s a separate discussion).  Here’s Flake, interrogating Sec. Clinton about the administration’s revised talking points:  “We don’t exactly know where they were changed or how they were changed — but they were changed… or altered” (clearly insinuating with his tone that something diabolically nefarious was afoot).  Senator Flake looked like, well, a flake — a knee-jerk partisan with nothing of substance on his mind, just trying to score points.

I admit that I enjoyed seeing Ms. Clinton cut a few of those empty suits down to size (especially Wisconsin’s vapid Ron Johnson) for trying to reheat this giant Nothingburger of an election-season “scandal,” but the truth of the matter is that AMERICA IS IN REAL TROUBLE if the best we can hope for in our heated political exchanges are moments of schadenfreude at seeing a bunch of hypocritical halfwits outclassed.  Winning a news cycle or two, posting a symbolic or personal victory over the hapless GOP, doesn’t remotely mean that the right’s iron grip on policy has weakened.  It doesn’t mean that George Bush and Dick Cheney’s abominable legacy has been diminished in the least — because it hasn’t.  President Obama has embraced his predecessor’s grotesquely immoral foreign policy, lock, stock, and barrel, which is why America is more hated in the Muslim world than ever.

By following the neocon blueprint to the letter, including Bush’s redirection of the GWoT (prioritizing regime change in Iran over weakening al Qaeda), Barack Obama has turned the Middle East into a bloodbath.  The ethno-sectarian civil war that America unleashed in Iraq has now been replicated in Libya, Syria, and beyond, with the U.S. once again arming and funding “rebels” led by al Qaeda and its affiliates (it’s the 1980s all over again, with Saudi Arabia and its satellite states, especially Qatar, acting as middlemen between Washington and the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11/01).

And the effects of this failure have been as tragic as they’ve been predictable.  More than a decade after 9/11, the United States is still aggressively pursuing policies that only metastasize Islamic hatred of our nation and virtually guarantee decades of war and terrorism.  I’m hardly the first to note that Bush’s response to 9/11 greatly benefitted al Qaeda, turning the group from a ragtag crew of a few hundred die-hard foes into an international phenomenon, a global brand with widening appeal to thousands of human beings who justifiably fear and hate the United States.  From the beginning, Washington’s response to the 9/11 attacks was to play right into bin Laden’s hands, damaging America and increasing global terrorist attacks many times over.

It bears repeating: Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri wanted the U.S. to overreact to 9/11, shredding our Constitution and spending ourselves into bankruptcy by fighting brutal, civilian-slaughtering wars that were sure to bring millions to sympathize with their cause (even while condemning their methods).  These are the neocons’ bounteous gifts to our enemies: the Iraq War, drone strikes in half a dozen countries with which we are not at war, and the general rebooting of the Crusades (attacking militant Muslims across the globe — even when their interests are strictly provincial, concerned with fighting despotic and corrupt governments, as in Algeria: that’s what has driven these groups into al Qaeda’s waiting arms).

*          *          *

And that is why the principled left has NOTHING to celebrate in Secretary Clinton’s little political triumph. Because even though she made the Republicans look bad, the facts on the ground remain grim, thanks to President Obama’s decision to continue and expand Bush’s illegal and extraordinarily counterproductive (but oh-so-profitable) wars.

America’s partners in Libya and beyond, per Ms. Clinton’s testimony, are death squads and militias (most of whom identify with al Qaeda): “All these guys dressed completely in black, holding their automatic weapons — that was my welcoming party” (in Libya, where many of our “allies” against Qaddafi came from the ranks of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, where just a few years ago they were killing American soldiers — which is why the CIA was turning these soon-to-be allies over to Qaddafi and waterboarding them).  But in the absence of foreign “leaders” whom the West can control, Sec. Clinton testified that “militias… have proven to be responsive.” Responding to an observation that America’s “counter-” terrorism efforts on the African continent will only become more extensive in the years ahead — in Nigeria, Uganda, Somalia, Libya, Mali, Algeria, and beyond — Sec. Clinton declared that observation “prophetic” (another clue to what this abysmal future holds: the U.S. is establishing a new drone base in Niger, according to several recent news reports).  “We’re in for a long struggle here,” Ms. Clinton affirmed.

And the likelihood of MORE assaults on our heavily militarized/CIA-infested “consulates” like the one in Benghazi is very high.  Per Ms. Clinton, “we have probably at least twenty other posts that are under a serious threat environment as I speak to you.”

That’s the way it goes when our nation insists on invading and bombing countries without the slightest pretense of legality.  That’s the logical result when our soldiers shoot pregnant women and then dig the bullets out with knives to frame locals.  The ethnic cleansing, official targeting of funerals and medical responders, the unofficial Kill Teams, the ongoing, institutionalized torture and rendition, our war/hate-crimes (burning Qurans and gleefully urinating on the dead), and the U.S. military and CIA’s repeated targeting of whole communities that has characterized America’s Terror War may have flown beneath the radar of most Americans, but not so for the rest of the world.  Bush and Obama have earned for the United States the hatred of decent people the world over.

*          *          *

That said, there is hope.  And, however jarring the following pronouncement may sound after all I’ve just written, that hope resides largely in the current resident of the Oval Office.

For I am convinced that President Obama’s second term represents our best opportunity to reverse America’s dramatic slide into fascism and economic feudalism.  But we have to act very soon if we truly hope to redeem the promise of his 2008 election (which he immediately betrayed in 2009, needlessly rescuing the rotten establishment just when it was about to go down the drain).

“Go out and make me do it,” Barack Obama has told the American people (emulating, for once, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) — WE HAVE TO TAKE HIM AT HIS WORD.

As difficult as the task will be, I think we can (“Yes, we can!”) “make” President Obama deliver on the promise of his 2008 candidacy — but it will UNDOUBTEDLY require a massive popular movement that DEMANDS an end to the torturing, oligarch-exalting lawlessness that is today’s America.  And I think that Barack Obama will be amenable to such demands (call me foolish, but I actually believe there’s a middle class-supporting constitutionalist buried somewhere deep within the Corporatocracy-appeasing exterior of this president).  And therein lies our best hope: deep down, Obama agrees with us. The problem is that, like his immediate predecessors, he absolutely refuses to lead America in any direction not dictated by his corporate masters.

What he will do, however, representing the REAL VALUE of his presidency, is use a popular movement as cover to do what he should’ve done all along.  But we need to “make” him do it.  His actions to date make crystal clear that America is screwed if we’re just going to sit around waiting for him to lead.  He won’t.

So lose the lying labels.  There is no “liberal” in the White House, at present.  ONLY WE — by reaching out to those on the other side of the ideological spectrum — can restore America’s traditional values.  Because today’s progressives are “conservative,” in the best sense of the word (“measure twice, cut once” conservatives, rather than “I hate minorities, women, and gays” conservatives).  Because the facts are on our side: climate change clearly does threaten our planet; criminal bankers and reckless, grasping corporations have taken control of our government, corrupting and assaulting our public institutions and decimating the middle class; and the global war of terror is definitely not making us any safer.

But we have to MAKE HIM DO IT. And, if we really want to succeed, we have to first reach out to the principled right — the Ron Paul right (the constitutionalists) — civilly, intelligently, and with a willingness to put our differences aside, focusing on the common ground that unites us.

– Clean up our campaign finance system, gerrymandered districts, and broken election mechanisms.

– End the torture now and restore the Bill of Rights.

– Invest in our crumbling infrastructure and PROVEN methods of education (not willy-nilly privatization and mass-testing scams, like those that Bush and Obama have championed).

– Regulate the banks that have plundered our economy, preventing the next collapse.

– Make President Obama an honest man… while we still can.

My friends, I implore you, SEIZE THIS DAY — or we will live to regret the missed opportunity.

[A couple of blogs ago I mentioned that the last couple of months have been a bit tumultuous for me, largely due to some pressing family matters.  Suffice it to say, some of the people I love most have found themselves in crisis — which means that NOW is the time to act, if we wish to avert a potential catastrophe (so far so good, on that front; with the family support network rallying nicely). 

In last week’s blog, I mentioned the women-led peace and social justice activist group CODE PINK and my happy association with the group, which began in June of 2008.  The blog below is a reprint of sorts, though it’s never appeared before on this website.  I wrote the following words in Washington, DC, in July of 2008, while staying at the CODE PINK House, and many of its facts and bombshells remain all-too relevant today.  The publication of this “Blogifesto”/olive leaf to the (rah-rah) right marked a positive turning point, I would say, in terms of my family’s esteem for my activism — so there you have the other reason I decided to reproduce this blog today (after all, FAMILY has been much on my mind, of late).]

Jeepers, Creepers, What to Make of “Freepers!”
(from the CODE PINK House blog, July of 2008)

The enemy of my friend is my… friend?  Well, potentially anyway…

I spent maybe an hour and a half last Wednesday sharing some sidewalk outside of the Cannon Building with the pro-troops/pro-U.S. foreign policy group occasionally referred to as the “Freepers” (even, I’m told, by “Freepers” themselves).

In my travels across the U.S. — growing up in suburban Mesa, AZ, attending university and working in southern California, and chocking up nearly eight years in the Midwest between graduate school and employment as a graphic designer/apartment manager/security guard — I’ve had worse times and received worse receptions… from less reasonable and decent folks than most of the “Freepers” I met last week. 

In fact, from the moment I took up a “Support the Troops” sign and stood proudly (in Peace Pink) beside my fellow patriotic Americans, every individual “Freeper” who really took the time to engage me in conversation afforded me the same measure of civility and respect that I extended to him or her, which is to say, a good deal. While there were differences of opinion, there was also courtesy and a genuine willingness to hear one another’s views. 

And why not? We share so many of the same concerns: 

We ALL share a concern for the well-being of America’s troops.

 We ALL have a common desire to see America emerge victorious in the Global War on Terror (although we may differ on how best to achieve that victory). 

 We ALL recognize that the U.S. Congress, like so many other institutions in our country, is not functioning as it should.

 We are ALL passionate in the belief that our activism is in the best tradition of American patriotism and vital to a healthy democracy… something toward which we ALL strive.  

Nonetheless, there is real acrimony — and some genuine substantive differences — between our two groups… as well as a history of unfortunate incidents, it seems… 

One of the “Freepers,” an earnest, obviously bright and idealistic young man, bound for Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps, showed me a red paint stain on his otherwise pristine white sneaker… courtesy of peace protesters, he told me. By his account, a protest action at the Marine recruiting office in Berkeley, CA had involved the hurling of paint-filled balloons… apparently in his general direction.  (Whoopsie!)  While I made no excuses for the actions of my fellow peaceniks — it was neither my place to do so, nor my inclination — I did try to explain to him the principled position underlying that particular act.

The citizens of Berkeley have clearly articulated a moral objection to America’s current foreign policy, especially the war in Iraq (which has placed such a burden on military recruitment in recent years). For the Marines to seek fresh recruits in Berkeley in support of a policy most Berkeley residents are on the record as opposing — as immoral, illegal, and inimical to America’s interests in the world — well, it seemed like a slap in the face of the entire community… and an undemocratic slap at that. 

Berkeley had spoken.  The Marines had turned a deaf ear to the community’s objections.  Matters had escalated.

 Leaving aside the question of the moral high ground for a moment, one could at least point to the predictability of such a development (which does nothing, of course, to help restore the luster of my young acquaintance’s otherwise spiffy shoe).

 But these things tend toward escalation.

 Malignant, grievances spread. Ugliness begets ugliness. (Thus, centuries ago, Hammurabi warned his people: “NO MORE THAN an eye for an eye,” cautioning them against disproportionate and wanton revenge leading to an endless cycle of bloodletting… Jesus, of course, may have done Hammurabi one better with his admonition that we should all learn to “turn the other cheek” and actually LOVE our enemies. So far ahead of his time, we still seem incapable of embracing such sagacity some 2000 years after his death.)

 (Gandhi got it. Why can’t we?)

 Upon hearing my young friend’s complaint, I had to sigh. In the back of my mind I recalled hearing about how my sister Pinkers and our friends at Veterans for Peace had been pelted by objects hurled at them by (you guessed it) the “Freepers” while visiting our wounded troops at Walter Reed.  The “Freepers” may have felt justified at the time, possibly carrying within them that commonly held bastardization of Hammurabi’s wisdom: that the old “eye for an eye” axiom is really carte blanche to GO NUTS on your enemies… that “an eye for an eye” is supposedly what passes for justice… that revenge (NOT justice — which doesn’t involve “two wrongs”) is what the aggrieved are somehow entitled to… (Somewhere, I’m sure, Hammurabi is spinning in his urn.)

 But let’s move on from the mutual wounding between human beings (what Dostoevsky referred to as “lacerations”) to THE COMMON GROUND WE SHARE… because, brother and sister, I promise you, IT DOES EXIST (I know it does, because I have been there)! And it is on this common ground that we can one day stand firm against America’s foes, internal and external!

 …But only if we’re smart. Only if we have faith. Only if we are willing to put aside our pain and comfortable willingness to judge — and even hate — one another (because when Americans are divided, the terrorists really do win.).

 So let’s do this thang! (Are we READY?) Hell, yes, let’s do it!

 LET’S TALK ABOUT AMERICA’S TROOPS! (Do we care enough about our patriotic young men and women in service to shelve our petty battles for a moment and seriously discuss their plight? Let’s hope so, because their wounds go much deeper than ours.)

 The reason I choose to devote my time, energy, and resources to Code Pink, rather than, say, the “Freepers,” is that I am convinced that Code Pink’s stance, opposing the current Policy — which, writ large, predates George W. Bush, by the way — puts the Pinkers on the right side of America’s interests, America’s values, AND America’s troops… all of which are gravely threatened by the aforementioned Policy.

 As I explained to my new acquaintances on the sidewalk last week, I have spent most of the last decade reading several hours a day, listening to C-Span hearings, and following news broadcasts, radio and television (left and right of center) — and reading some excellent books along the way — in order to gain as comprehensive an understanding as possible of American history and of our current foreign and domestic policies.  I have endeavored most sincerely to identify and apprehend recent trends and assess our present situation… which in many ways is not an enviable one: infrastructure crumbling, debt soaring, dollar plummeting… with a populace deeply divided, unhealthy, and barely educated.

America can do better. In the past, we have done better. We can do so again. 

But keeping the focus on AMERICA’S MILITARY, paraphrasing General William Casey: The U.S. Army is badly stretched and under-resourced. Our National Guard and Reserves are very nearly broken thanks to long and multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan (one war a catastrophic failure, despite the recent calm — in news coverage — the other an ever-expanding failure that has seen huge upticks in violence, corruption, poppy production, and civilian casualties… and the comeback of the Taliban — THROUGH NO FAULT OF THE TROOPS… but rather due to the rose-tinted, self-serving obscurantism of our blinkered political class, Republican and Democrat alike).

According to the military’s own studies, military families are paying a high price for the mistakes of America’s political leadership: high rates of divorce, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues (not just PTSD), and a soaring suicide rate (in recent years the Army has set one record after another in this dismal category).

There’s a reason the Army and Marines face enormous recruiting challenges and a mass exodus in the officer corps: These policies are putting our military under enormous — and unnecessary — strain!

And when our soldiers and Marines try to get Uncle Sam to make good on his promises, they are routinely met with a sea of red tape — after their initial medical treatment, which by most accounts is quite good, to give credit where credit is due. Nonetheless, our servicemen/women have recounted one experience after another about being stonewalled, lied to, and cheated of promised benefits. Only those who get a little news coverage, it seems, manage to get what they have coming to them.

Many simply give up trying.

How did we arrive at this regrettable state of affairs?

One way we got here was by allowing the politicians, profiteers, chicken-hawks, ideologues, and demagogues to run roughshod over America’s career foreign policy and intelligence professionals… and experienced military voices.

Let’s review the history:

-Prior to 9/11, America’s top counter-terrorism official Richard Clarke and Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet (running around with his “hair on fire,” it was later said) virtually begged top administration officials to make a greater priority of preparing against a foreseeable (and foreseen) attack by al Qaeda.

-The 9/11 Commission revealed that their concerns were not shared by the Bush administration:

National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice failed to hold a single Cabinet-level meeting on the subject.

-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was far more concerned with streamlining (privatizing and shrinking) America’s military, closing bases and funneling money to (still) unproven boondoggles like national missile defense.

-President Bush admitted that he “didn’t feel that sense of urgency” regarding al Qaeda, despite the August 2001 Presidential Daily Brief entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”

-And Attorney General John Ashcroft? He slid anti-terrorism efforts to the bottom of the FBI’s top-10 priorities and admonished Paul Pillar to NOT raise the subject with him again!

-And after 9/11? When our politicians owed it to the nation to consult with — even defer a little to — America’s military experts and career intelligence and foreign policy establishment… ideology and hubris triumphed again.

Regarding the “enhanced” interrogation techniques: Senior legal counsel at ALL FOUR branches of THE MILITARY (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines) — as well as the FBI and the Pentagon’s Criminal Investigation Task Force — ALL balked.

Like his peers, the Navy’s General Counsel Alberto Mora resisted the suggestions coming from the White House and from Rumsfeld flack William Haynes II, calling the proposed techniques immoral, impractical, and illegal, possibly “rising to the level of torture.”

When the senior legal staff for the Marines warned that the proposed policy might “expose Marines” to legal and physical jeopardy, his concerns, too, were brushed aside. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and other experienced military minds were also left out of the ensuing discussion, and those who had objected were disdained and ignored by partisans and hacks who had never served a day in their life.

The result? Prisoner abuse and torture at Guantanamo Bay, where — ACCORDING TO THE U.S. MILITARY — nearly 50% of America’s initial detainees were innocent of any crime and unaffiliated with any terrorist group (according to the CIA, upwards of 33%).

Many of those detainees were simply scooped up by the CIA’s allies-of-convenience in the early days of Operation Enduring Freedom: the drug lords, warlords, and extremists who comprised the Northern Alliance, including many former allies of the Soviet Union, like General Rashid Dostum, and former acid-throwing jihadi, Gulbiddin Hekmatyar, who scarred many a Middle-Eastern girl for life (for not wearing the burka). These are the same characters Rumsfeld allowed to call U.S. airstrikes on their rivals (also our allies!) as they jockeyed for position in the new Afghanistan… and we trusted THEM to stock the cells at GITMO!

Why? Because callow cretins like Cofer Black and Rummy thought that paying mercenaries and thugs $1,000 bounties for “terrorists” would somehow yield meaningful results.

Has the Policy fared any better in Iraq?  No, it has not.

Not only has the Democratic and Republican politicians’ torture policy not yielded much in the way of actionable intelligence, but it has played a key role in turning the population of Iraq against us.

Since Abu Ghraib, most Iraqis polled now say it is “OK to kill Americans.” Earlier military polls revealed an Iraqi populace more inclined to give us the benefit of the doubt… but that was before the prisoner abuse and neighborhood sweeps that overfilled America’s prisons in Iraq (netting tens of thousands — of Sunnis, primarily — more than 80% of whom were innocent of any crime, PER THE ANALYSIS OF THE U.S. MILITARY… which was almost entirely ignored by the politicians and sycophantic press).

And who has paid the price for this inept, immoral, and ineffective policy?  THE TROOPS, THAT’S WHO…

Aside from the fact that such heavy-handed and unfocused attacks on Iraqi society have made our honorable and well-meaning troops reviled and viewed as “occupiers” in a land they had truly hoped to liberate, IT IS THE TROOPS WHO HAVE PAID THE PRICE.

Among other nightmares recounted by the U.S. troops serving in Iraq (moving among the obliterated and tortured bodies, encountering the foul smells of death and raw sewage, and dealing daily with the distrust of a hostile populace — THESE are the stories our troops tell, the further one gets from the press conference), American GI’s and Marines have described the bobbing, weaving walk they’ve had to adopt in order to avoid being shot by snipers when patrolling the Iraqi streets…

Frankly, these young people deserved better leadership than that which has led them to this dark, dangerous place.

After the scandal of Abu Ghraib, General Janice Karpinski was demoted and the enlisted men and women involved in the abuses were tried and convicted as criminals — despite the fact that they were following orders that emanated from Washington, D.C. and were carried out by politicized generals (Sanchez and Miller) and enforced by unregulated, unaccountable private contractors, Titan and CACI — as detailed in the report of General Anthony Taguba… who saw his military career cut short as a result of his honest report.

The higher-ups told our enlisted men and women to “soften up” the prisoners, to use dogs, strip the prisoners and take their photographs in sexually humiliating positions… exploiting “Arab vulnerabilities.”

These were their ORDERS.

The contractors and non-military personnel reportedly gave Sgt. Graner several “atta-boys” for his treatment of America’s prisoners. All the while, according to his fellow soldiers, his conscience plagued him; he didn’t think what he was doing was right (how could he? American troops, untrained in interrogation, encouraged by their superiors, were torturing detainees, sodomizing them, and forcing them to masturbate one another, among other things…).

But WHO got hung out to dry by the politicians and the complacent, “few bad apples” peddling press?  Graner (convicted and sentenced). Englund (convicted and sentenced). Frederick (convicted and sentenced). Davis (convicted and sentenced)… and so on.

And the politicians, Democratic and Republican, played right along. When the scandal broke, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “The American public needs to understand we’re talking about rape and murder here,” as if the President hadn’t signed a memo saying the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to these prisoners… as if these methods of interrogation (forced stripping and sexual humiliation) weren’t specifically authorized by Rumsfeld…

(But, my friends, they WERE authorized.)

And it was THE TROOPS who paid the price, not the POLITICIANS (not with this press).  And the troops in Iraq weren’t the only ones getting run over by the policymakers…

The Navy JAGs and Chief Prosecutors at GITMO complained from the start about un-American rules, no due process for detainees, and CONSTANT political interference from Washington. Over the years they have described a thoroughly politicized, micromanaged process and DC meddlers imposing absurd conditions to govern the tribunals — conditions our military never sought (conditions they RESISTED, actually).

We’re on our FOURTH Chief Prosecutor now, as the politicians keep forcing them out (for insisting on a lawful process for conducting these tribunals… Check out Col. Morris Davis’ account of the politicians who forced him to resign).

These people — the JAGs and Chief Prosecutors — aren’t “soft on terrorism;” they’re champions for America’s values — the values that actually provide us with our security. And they have been fighting a brave but losing battle with the politicians from Day 1… without our help, for the most part.

Where are the American people as the military keeps getting slapped around by the chicken-hawk politicians?

Most of us are in the dark, right where the pols and their jingoist media lackeys want us.  This media is so in the tank for the Policy that most Americans — including most “Freepers,” I suspect — simply aren’t aware of the extent to which our troops have been hung out to dry by our corporate political class and press.

Because of this Policy-complicit media, most Americans never heard about the U.S. Army captain who tried to report the prisoner abuse he’d seen in Iraq — prior to Abu Ghraib (back when it could have meant something) — only to be labeled “crazy” (over the objections of a military psychiatrist), strapped to a gurney, and flown out of the country.

Because of this media, most Americans don’t know that General Jay Garner, after spending years on the ground in Kurdistan leading Operation Provide Comfort, was unceremoniously dumped as America’s top man in post-war Iraq… in order to make room for Kissinger-protege Jerry Bremer.

Just a few weeks on the job, just after Baghdad fell, Gen. Garner was handed his nuts (figuratively speaking) the moment he suggested conducting elections (which was NOT the policy). Bremer continued to resist calls for elections until well into the insurgency, relenting only when Iraqi Shi’ites put over 100,000 protesters on the streets and DEMANDED elections.

You see, Bremer followed the dictates of the “cabal” (Col. Lawrence Wilkerson’s term for Cheney, Feith, Wolfowitz, Perle, etc.): the NeoCon clowns without a day of military experience among them, the anti-democrats who zealously advocated putting convicted criminal Ahmed Chalabi in charge of Iraq with his 700 thugs and his history of graft and fraud.

Self-serving, carpetbagging crumb that he is, upon arriving in Iraq, Chalabi immediately occupied Saddam’s elite Hunting Club in the wealthy Mansour neighborhood and began promoting himself as the leader of new Iraq… only to find that most Iraqis disliked and distrusted him. They’d never heard of him!  (And why should they have? He hadn’t lived there since the 1950s and left when he was only 13 years old!)

But unlike General Garner, Jerry Bremer was down with the Policy: Economic and Political Control imposed from the top-down… Contracts for cronies, NOT Iraqis (cronies like the five-star hotel-dwelling Halliburton employees who DEFIED our military’s request that they stay in tents with the regular folks and slapped Uncle Sam with a bill for MILLIONS of dollars instead!).

Bremer’s Iraq — the NeoCons’ Iraq — was intended to be a playground for privateers and contractors (Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” — READ IT).


In addition to giving Americans a bad name with their reckless and criminally aggressive tactics, murdering (without cause) dozens of Iraqi civilians (PER OUR TROOPS’ REPORTS), they’ve shot at and CS-gassed our troops (without an actual enemy in sight), poached from our officer class, and demoralized our enlisted men and women with their mercenary wages.

They’ve failed to complete the vast majority of the work they’ve contracted for, and what work they have done has been routinely late and outrageously short of ANY standard (walls that leak sewage and shoddy wiring, endangering our troops…) while collecting 90% or more of their contracts’ value.

What’s worse, in addition to the role that contractors played at Abu Ghraib (a disastrous chapter of the war that set the U.S. back immeasurably), it was a private contractor that in April of 2004 provided arguably the single worst turning point in the Iraq war:

Blackwater USA knowingly sent Americans into a Falluja “Red Zone” (off-limits to our military at the time) without proper maps, without a rear gunner (without much that was stipulated in their contracts), only to see them brutally killed, their bodies burned, dragged through the streets and hung from a bridge over the Tigris, leading to a MAJOR escalation of the war… just because some senior company man, an ogre nicknamed “Shrek,” apparently held a grudge against the decorated American veterans in his charge… and sent them to their deaths.

Do I care about our troops?  My Freepy friends, I have made it my business to get the goods on the people that are dirty-dealing our troops every day… and now I’m trying to expose the bums.

For instance, I KNOW that Halliburton provided our troops with extremely (fecal+) contaminated water with which to wash their faces and brush their teeth.  Halliburton DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO BUILD THE REVERSE-OSMOSIS UNIT THEY WERE PAID TO CONSTRUCT… or conduct regular tests of the water they were giving our troops!  (Not only that, but Halliburton gagged the company scientist who discovered their many failures, preventing him from sharing his findings with the U.S. MILITARY.)

Here’s another horror:

Did you know that at least a dozen GIs and Marines have been ELECTROCUTED on American bases in Iraq because of shoddy electrical wiring by Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR)? Or that KBR knew of the threat and IGNORED IT because their contract didn’t require them to fix their mistakes?

Make no mistake: Americans who support these policies do so at the expense of the troops — not knowingly, I realize, but nonetheless our ignorance puts the troops at risk (as does our blithe willingness to trust the media reports that tell us what we want to hear: “We’ve turned the corner…”).  BUT IT IS THE TROOPS WHO PAY THE PRICE.

Just as the CIA, DIA, and other U.S. intelligence agencies were ignored, derided, and used in the buildup to war in Iraq, so have America’s best and brightest military men and women been ignored, exploited, and shafted by the inexperienced, the self-serving, and the ideological — in the Bush administration and in the U.S. Congress.

(You may recall how General Tommy Franks was reduced to haggling with Donald Rumsfeld over the number of troops he initially wanted to bring into Iraq: over 300,000 — before he was forced to settle for 120,000…)

But please don’t mistake me for a partisan.

As much as any Republican Congressman, Nancy Pelosi has sold out our troops… just as Harry Reid has, and Jane Harmon, Silvestre Reyes, and the rest of those spineless donkeys in the Gang of Eight.  Their protests to the contrary, they support The Policy.

And this Policy has been terrible for America’s military. Step away from the canned press conference, skip the “Congressman’s Tour” of GTMO/Iraq/Afghanistan, and JUST ASK THE FOLKS WHO HAVE SERVED…

ASK the Generals: Shinseki, Zinni, Garner, Eaton, Sanchez, Newbold, Batiste, Riggs, Swannack… Ask Mr. “Pottery Barn” himself, “Doctrine”-less Colin Powell (slapped down time and again by that old Saddam courtier Donald Rumsfeld)…

Ask Colonel Morris Davis (GITMO’s latest Chief Prosecutor to resign in disgust) or Lt. Commander Charles Swift of the JAG corp…

Ask Staff Sgt. Yance Gray or Sgt. Omar Mora, Scott Helvenston, or Jerry Zovko… Oh wait, we can’t ask THEM. They — like thousands of other genuine American heroes — are DEAD.

IN CONCLUSION… My “Freepy” friends (if you’re still listening), some of you were surprised to learn last week that I am NOT a fan of Bill Clinton (these days, who is?)… or of Barack Obama, especially… or of the Democrats, in general.

(What can I say? I’m not.)

In the presidency of Bill Clinton, I see the SAME morally and intellectually bankrupt and utterly UN-AMERICAN agenda advanced by the current occupant of the White House… only Bill was less reckless about it (a more competent manager of America’s downward spiral).

BOTH Clinton and Bush favor trade policies that threaten American jobs and sovereignty — with little or no protections for the environment or workers’ rights (unless sweatshop labor for 11-year olds is somehow a “right”). They have BOTH helped accelerate a global race to the most desperate and impoverished corners of the world… while decimating America’s factories and mills.  (HERSHEY is moving to Mexico, people!).

BOTH Clinton and Bush believe in privatizing the American government: with over $200 billion dollars outsourced under Bill Clinton to unaccountable, venal, and inept businesses — and over $240 billion outsourced under George Bush to unaccountable, venal, and inept businesses (roughly the same figure, largely the SAME businesses).

BOTH Clinton and Bush condone the “crony communist”-style subsidies for American agro-giants that have driven tens of thousands of American small farmers out of business and kept the Third World farmer poor, starving, and dependent. (Thanks to America’s dumping of mega-subsidized crops on their doorsteps, many foreign farmers can’t come close to making a living growing the food they desperately need.)

BOTH Clinton and Bush allow barely regulated financial institutions to prey on Americans and foreigners alike: flimflamming the poor at home and using the IMF and World Bank to pressure impoverished foreigners abroad into selling their nations into perpetual servitude to usurious lenders who collect their original loans MANY times over.

BOTH Clinton and Bush believe in American Empire, making Americans less safe by maintaining standing armies throughout the world (instead of here, at home, ready to respond to disasters like Hurricane Katrina) and forcing economic and political policies (THE Policy) on other nations, chiefly to benefit the private interests and elites that increasingly OWN our country, too.  This is a side of 2008 America that the Founding Fathers would ABHOR, were they alive to see it.

Finally, NEITHER Clinton nor Bush have much regard for the Constitution, for sovereignty, or the rule of law.  Before George W. Bush took ANY of the following actions, Bill Clinton was:

…Taking America to war without a Congressional declaration;

…Illegally rendering prisoners across the world; and

…Trying to define Guantanamo Bay as a legal black hole, safe from America’s courts (not to mention killing children in Iraq).

Also, in the name of the (failed) “War on Drugs,” Bill Clinton’s NSA was already working to develop a program along the lines of the infamous program that George Bush expanded in February of 2001:  Peering — WITHOUT A WARRANT — into the e-mails and phone calls of THOUSANDS of AMERICANS… communicating with other AMERICANS… in AMERICA (seven months BEFORE 9/11)!

Really, the ONLY difference with George W. Bush is that it has been during his tenure that the Policy — The Policy that embodies the trend in our government that President EISENHOWER tried to warn us about — has reached its culmination:  The Military Industrial (Pharmaceutical-Financial-Telecommunications-Private Security…) Congressional Complex now WRITES the laws!

The Congressmen and women merely pontificate, posture, and preen over the fine print (…or maybe just the font).  The lobbyists run the show.  There’s a “fox” guarding every “hen house” (EPA, FDA, SEC, CPSC, Fannie Mae… DoD).  And nearly every child is being left behind.

(For those of us with eyes to see) neither the Emperor — nor his “Democratic” court — are wearing a single stitch of clothing… and we here at home — JUST like America’s troops abroad — are getting royally SCREWED by these buck-naked, irresponsible lunatics and their corporate courtesans in the press and elsewhere.

This is what we get for taking Democracy — and the blood of previous generations — for granted.

I forgot to mention the contractor that knowingly provided more than 2 MILLION defective helmets to our troops (and was rewarded with a brand new contract); or the sole-bearer of the contract to “up-armor” Humvees (falling further and further behind as our troops were getting killed by I.E.D.s — with no penalty from Uncle Sam); or the contractor that supplies our troops with flawed body armor, even after it has FAILED one independent test after another (they’re STILL selling that crappy design to Uncle Sucker — that’s us — and the TROOPS PAY with their lives)…

…I also neglected to mention the Pentagon’s top procurement officer, Bunnatine Greenhouse. She reported on brazen “no-bid,” “cost-plus” corruption in the Pentagon’s contracting process… and LOST HER JOB.




*          *          *

Please, my “Freeper” friends:

It’s easy to pick up a flag and wave it (or pin it to one’s lapel)…

It’s easy to let blustering media blowhards tell us what to think (shaming us into supporting the Policy by appealing to our anger, cynicism, and patriotism)…

It’s also easy — very easy — to get riled by equally passionate people on the other side of an issue — people who out of their own sense of grievance and moral outrage may occasionally cross the line, disrespecting or offending the sensibilities of others (taking out the occasional spiffy shoe)…

But we’ve got BIGGER FISH TO FRY, and THERE’S too much at stake.

It’s HIGH TIME we demand more oversight over the privateers, profiteers, and the governmental and special interests that are raping this country and exploiting our troops (sending them from one hellish war zone to the next in the service of an agenda that serves NONE of US).

For the sake of our troops…

For the sake of our children…

Let’s lobby! Let’s move! Let’s get Biz-ZAY, and take our democracy back!

(Common ground, here we come!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Part II — Lying labels, involving a “moderate” president and some “radical” peace activists

I’ve recently been reminded of the power of NAMING in any society, with 21st-century Newspeak abounding in many forums where pundits and commenters casually describe President Obama as a political “moderate.”  This misinformed view is commonly held by his many supporters and apologists (and the establishment he champions, of course), but I can’t help wondering where — beyond the president’s laudable steps toward recognizing the rights of the LGBT community — is the substance of this notion?  Is there really anything to it, beyond the powerful Obama brand?  Bear in mind I am not referring to the president’s charmingly self-assured personal demeanor or his accommodating (and hardly peeve-able, let alone flappable) political style.  I am speaking of his policies, of the substance of his so-called “leadership” (leadership being an accolade bestowed upon politicians who follow the oligarchs’ orders well, usually in contravention of the express wishes of the American people — in short, more Newspeak). 

But if Barack Obama governed anything like the “center-left” character he plays on TV, he wouldn’t have deported over 1.4 million individuals (at a record-breaking rate) during his first term — often dividing American children from their parents (undocumented/illegal immigrants who’ve been aggressively recruited by our minimum wage-averse business class, to toil in their fields, meat-packing plants, construction sites, hotels and motels, casinos, restaurants, and more).  If President Obama governed as any kind of liberal, he wouldn’t have escalated the federal government’s war against state-licensed medical-marijuana dispensaries, well beyond his draconian predecessor’s efforts.  He wouldn’t have exploded the historical record for using the 1917 Espionage Act against honest whistleblowers helping journalists expose high crimes (SIX times already in this fashion).  He’s dramatically expanded the immoral and counterproductive terror war, including the assault on our civil liberties, and he’s moved the Supreme Court even further to the right (two-for-two, on that front), so how gullible are we if we simply accept the patently misleading labels that we’ve been handed?

Instead of passively accepting these corporate-media supplied labels, we need to ask ourselves: what kind of “moderate” (Republican or Democrat) president in U.S. history would have done as Obama has, effectively ending due process, habeas corpus, and Posse Comitatus, including for uncharged (let alone convicted) American citizens on U.S. soil (after winning office on the promise he would undo such egregious transgressions against the founding values of the country)?  What kind of “moderate” refuses to investigate internationally reviled, mass-murdering torturers and instead treats muckraking journalists and whistleblowers like traitors and terrorists?  And what kind of “moderate” hands trillions of taxpayer dollars to a gang of robbers in three-piece suits, leaving their industry essentially unreformed and insolvent? 

Since I don’t wish to dwell overlong on a subject regarding which I’ve already expended a fair amount of time — and because I don’t wish to unnecessarily try the patience of readers who are already accustomed to hearing such criticisms of the president from this quarter — I’m going to devote the rest of today’s blog-installment to some truly radical (only in that “totally tubular and awesome” way) peace activists: CODE PINK!

*          *          *

A few weeks ago, my spouse and I attended a party celebrating the activism of a true CODE PINK stalwart, Rae Abileah, an idealistic, hardworking, and utterly impressive young lady who has given the better part of the last decade to opposing war, authoritarianism, and massive violations of human rights.  It was a modest gathering, just a few dozen individuals with stories to tell, testimonials to give, and songs to sing, with some acoustic guitar as accompaniment.  The pot-luck feast was savory and delicious, with a little beer and wine adding to the convivial atmosphere.  Rae’s proud, proud mom was in attendance and fairly glowing with pleasure to see how loved and admired the child she raised is.  Our hosts were Toby and Fred, two committed activists and friends (who had played the nyckelharpa at our wedding, beautifully I might add, music to which my wife and I waltzed — thanks to Toby’s lessons).  In short, it was as quaint, lovely, and wholesome an affair as one can picture in today’s America, and we were delighted to be among such warm, gentle, and decent people.

And these are the folks whom our corporate media marginalizes and labels “radical.”  Why? 

For readers who are unfamiliar with the organization, CODE PINK was born opposing the actual radicalism of the Bush administration — which the vast majority of Americans resoundingly rejected the moment they saw through the blitz of media propaganda that said Bush was a “strong leader.”  Once they were up to speed, most Americans vehemently disapproved of Bush’s institutionalized torture, preventive wars (not even “preemptive”), rendition and military tribunals, warrantless wiretapping, and more.  Most Americans — like CODE PINK — opposed the no-strings bailout of Wall Street that has left Main Street looking increasingly like Skid Row.  In short, most Americans found more representation of their views in this small, marginalized (but often surprisingly effective) organization than they found in their elected “Representatives” (our “representatives” — how’s that for an example of Newspeak!).

Did CODE PINK build and plant bombs to jolt the nation into consciousness?  No.  Did they plot violence against the mass-murdering war criminals in our midst?  Not even close (waving symbolically bloody hands in the face of a high official with the actual blood of innocents on her hands is hardly “radical” or violent, so THANK YOU, DES!).  Nor has CODE PINK ever even contemplated any form of violence — and I know the group pretty well (in 2008 I spent nearly half a year in the CODE PINK House in Washington, DC, beginning a relationship that lasts to this day… a relationship for which I remain very grateful). 

Conclusion: When it comes to public policy, this women-led, peace and social justice-predicated organization has been solidly within the mainstream of public opinion on one issue after another.  Granted, CODE PINK has been ahead of the curve when it comes to recognizing the terrifying, Constitution-eradicating moment that America is in, but the rest of the country have largely come to share their conclusions (at least they had done so, before President Obama confounded the issues all over again by cementing the Bush/Cheney legacy and making lawlessness cool for “liberals,” too).  I, for one, recognize my values in CODE PINK’s mission, and I have learned from their willingness to boldly disrupt the speeches of our atrocious leaders and take a courageous stance, even when it’s the unpopular thing to do (as it was in the early, heady, fascism-enabling days after 9/11).  In fact — and this is the real kicker — the only thing that makes CODE PINK remotely “radical” is their willingness to speak out, to follow the examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and practice non-violent resistance to resist America’s unmistakable slide into fascism.

More than anything, I wish the rest of the country would get off the sidelines and follow CODE PINK’s audacious example.  Together, we can reverse this disaster, and I sure as hell hope we do — because I, for one, miss the Bill of Rights and rule of law.

Next: Part III — Happy 2013, seizing the day by helping Obama help us!

[In the next few days I expect to post the second installment of my mini-blog series kicking off the New Year with a call to recognize the Orwellian moment we’re in and SEIZE THE DAY (while we still can).  But first, I thought it appropriate to correct an oversight and share my reaction to the resolution of the “fiscal cliff” (manufactured) crisis that dominated the national discussion — and the pages of this blog — at the end of 2012.  I apologize for the belated nature of this post, but a minor health crisis and some extended family matters have made for a tumultuous couple of months for me and mine.  Thank you for understanding.]

In a recent blog post, I asserted that in order to truly get a handle on politics and policy, one must go beyond the cadre of establishment liberals enjoying prominence today and seek the voices of strong, principled progressives like William K. Black, Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers, Glenn Greenwald, etc.

Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, and other establishment liberal fixtures — as brilliant and incisive as they often are — very consistently err on the side of shielding the deeply corrupt power structure that employs them (Viacom, NBC/General Electric, etc.), especially when it comes to criticizing the Democratic Party whose interests they are obliged to promote.  As a result, many radically conservative policies — adopted and advocated by today’s unprecedentedly-corporatist Democrats — receive little or no criticism from such liberals.  This failure on their part leaves us dangerously vulnerable to the plundering predations of the corporatocracy that in 21st-century America simply dictates policy to the U.S. government.

It also explains why a solid liberal like The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart consistently finds himself shilling for: the neoconservative agenda; big coal (5min,35sec into Stewart’s interview with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar); Wal-Mart’s “green-washing” public relations campaign (with Wal-Mart booster, former President Bill Clinton); and the folks bent on dismantling the New Deal, generally — with the very funny and perspicacious Mr. Stewart frequently advancing the MSM-standard (falsely-equivalent) notion that “both sides” of the “reform”/privatize entitlements argument (the radical-corporatist “liberals” and the radical-corporatist “conservatives”) need to give some ground and “compromise.”  The unspoken implications of this MSM-mantra remain unspoken for an excellent reason: any such compromise would represent a betrayal of the American people.  Any such compromise can only exist somewhere between unnecessarily slashing entitlements — the president’s position — and ending or privatizing them outright — the Republican position (contravening the will and interests of the American people in either case).

Since I feel like I’m unfairly singling out Jon Stewart, whom I genuinely admire, I’ll also note that Rachel Maddow has, in refusing to criticize the current administration, become a surprising cheerleader for militarism and war.  And Bob Reich acts as if only Republicans are to blame for the calamitous policies that have been advanced in recent years.  As in the case of Stewart, I admire both Ms. Maddow and Prof. Reich, but there’s no denying that their partisanship has impeded their progressivism.  (I’ll spare Prof. Krugman from any such criticism today, as I am mostly delighted with his superb explanations of the “fiscal cliff,” his compelling arguments against austerity, and his grudging willingness to fault the president for his disastrous performance in this arena.)

*          *          *

And now the time has come to share my reaction to the resolution of the whole “fiscal cliff” mess — admitting in the process that Prof. Krugman isn’t the only establishment liberal to put a ding in my theory, of late (although I’ve never argued that such folks are useless; merely inadequate… most of the time — in any event, here comes another exception to the rule).

The second establishment voice that I’d like to praise today is that of Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia University professor who, after the end of the Cold War, helped advance the brutal neoliberal/corporate agenda in Russia and the former Eastern bloc of the U.S.S.R.  While I’ve never been particularly favorably impressed by Prof. Sachs, I must say that I am BLOWN AWAY by his assessment of the cliff-hanging “deal” that was recently struck in the nation’s capitol… an assessment that I share completely.

Here’s how Sachs begins:

The White House and Senate have agreed to make the Bush tax cuts permanent for 99 percent of households, starving the federal government of funds. Even Mitt Romney could never have accomplished for the Republicans what Obama has just done for them.”

I couldn’t have put it any better.  Sachs continues, sketching out the real, long-term implications of this dismal deal:

We have been subjected to a White House negotiating process that violates every standard of rationality and transparency… The public has not been told that yesterday’s agreement threatens the financing of crucial programs for education, job training, infrastructure, environment, energy, science and technology, health care, nutrition, and the poor for years to come.”

Again, Sachs is spot on.  The expiration of the Bush tax cuts provided Obama and the Democrats with their last realistic chance to pass legislation with any prospect whatsoever of improving the economy and creating jobs.  Sachs continues:

Democrats will be shocked at what the White House and Senate have given away. Whatever the precise numbers, the White House unilaterally and permanently gave away more than 2 percent of GDP in net revenues, all in the name of symbolically ‘taxing the rich’ and ‘protecting the middle class.’”

He concludes his excellent analysis with the following observation:

Obama is now a lame duck even before being sworn in for his second term, and he will have brought the Democrats down with him. The White House should have put forward its own tax plan with adequate overall revenues. It could have told Congress to adopt the alternative plan or simply accept the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. That was the time for negotiating leverage. Instead, the White House gave up the revenues permanently and without a fight.”

And as bad as the ramifications of this moronic deal are for the president and his party, they’re much worse for the country as a whole.  Here, Prof. Sachs’ analysis should be considered ESSENTIAL READING for the American people:

The Federal Government is being dangerously weakened in its capacity to help America address the economic, environmental, and social challenges of the 21st century.”

Of course it is, Professor.  For “AUSTERITY” is just another word for ECONOMIC WARFARE, and the United States of America has finally found itself in the sights of the fascist corporatocracy that our policies helped elevate in the first place.  Obama and the GOP are simply applying the finishing touches to a decades-long project to break the social contract, unions, and the middle class while preventing the reemergence of anything like free-market capitalism or the rule of law.

Barack Obama has been re-elected and the GOP still controls the House of Representatives.  The .01%’s economy of endless war, fraud, theft, and usury is poised to dominate the future for generations to come — a bleak, authoritarian future that the politicians have just taken a BIG step toward securing.

In short, America, this is no time to relax.

Part 1: An industry shill accidentally illuminates America’s Newspeak-worthy labels.

Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! recently hosted a lively debate on the water-befouling natural gas-extracting process known as hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”).  In my estimation, the winner of the debate (albeit not by much and not on substance) was professional energy-industry shill, Phelim McAleer, whose documentary films have one consistent theme: burning fossil fuels is peachy keen and oh-so safe, no matter what those kooky environmentalists say.  His thick Irish brogue and folksy, ingratiating manner were handsome compliments to his lying denials — tobacco-industry worthy, only with regard to fracking’s environmental costs — and his willingness to talk over the other guests.  In all fairness, he was outnumbered by the fracking detractors on the panel and some of them had begun to debunk his false claims, credibly and in detail; they simply had to be interrupted.  Brogue, you’re on!

The shill’s central thesis, however, aimed at American progressives, is a doozy, 50% surprisingly well-observed and 50% “straw man” — all in all, a well-crafted piece of deceptive corporatocracy B.S.  The gist of McAleer’s thesis (the part with which I agree, even though it’s clearly intended as a dig) is that progressives are “the true conservatives” in today’s America.  Banking on the unpopularity of conservatism in the world, he calls progressives “conservative” for opposing fracking and, by extension, other modern wonders such as deep-ocean drilling, trade pacts, Predator drones, military tribunals, and credit default swaps.  He then takes this unexpectedly (unintentionally) astute observation all the way to Straw Man Country (where he was bound all along), suggesting that American progressives are science-ignorant Luddites stuck in the 20th century.  This is pure blarney, of course, and a slander to millions of progressives who have fought for decades to keep science in the classroom, the doctor’s office, and government policy. 

But the first part of McAleer’s claim, repeated for emphasis (like the rest of his industry-canned palaver), really resonated for me: PROGRESSIVES, IN FACT, ARE THE TRUE CONSERVATIVES IN TODAY’S AMERICA.  Demanding reforms of our corrupt institutions, progressives can point to America’s past traditions, noting that during the half-century+ of the nation’s greatest prosperity, American banks were regulated; elite criminals were occasionally investigated, prosecuted, and jailed; the government paid some heed to the Bill of Rights; workers were reasonably protected and compensated; taxation and social spending reflected a meaningfully progressive social compact; and the economy wasn’t utterly dependent on usury and fraud, endless terrorism-fueling wars, slave/sweatshop/prison labor, blanket citizen surveillance, and mass incarceration. 

Today’s progressives observe that even under Nixon there were significant advances in the nation’s environmental policies (as opposed to today, when “liberal” President Obama’s administration is more focused on corporate ambitions than environmental protection).  We note that even under conservative icon Ronald Reagan our government passed anti-torture laws (whereas under President Obama, the U.S. tortures even American citizens with sleep deprivation, forced drugging and nudity, physical abuse, and psychologically crippling sensory deprivation coupled with lengthy solitary confinement (I am now describing the conditions to which American soldier PFC Bradley Manning was subjected for well over a year before he was even charged with a crime; he’s now been held for well over two years despite not having been convicted of any crime).

The corollary to McAleer’s pithy little pearl of wisdom concerning progressives is that so-called “conservatives” in today’s America are the truly RADICAL ones.  They are the unabashed advocates of torture, including waterboarding.  They explicitly want to replace Medicare with vouchers, privatize Social Security, outlaw abortion in all cases, and turn the routine (once perfunctory) raising of the debt ceiling into an annual panic-inducing hostage crisis.  After more than three decades of dismantling (with beaucoup Democratic help) our legal, moral, and cultural traditions, conservatives want MORE, MORE, MORE: guns in every school (but zero trained educators); privatized everything (from the USPS to schools, libraries, roads, and hospitals), and nothing short of the total rescinding of the New Deal.  Modern American “conservatives” should be recognized for what they are: extreme radicals (the very opposite of conservative). 

In other words, we’re truly through the looking glass, Alice… or should I say, Mr. Orwell.  Newspeak has come to 21st-century America, where down is up, war is peace, “progressives” are conservative, and “conservatives” are guano-insane radicals.  Perhaps the first step toward taking our country back will involve reclaiming WORDS and their actual definitions.

Next: Part II — Lying labels, involving a “moderate” president and some “radical” peace activists