Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Enough!"--Keith Olbermann's Commentary on the New Robber Barons of Corporate America and Wall Street


Keith Olbermann is a critically acclaimed and award winning TV political journalist and commentator who hosts a brilliant daily evening program called "Countdown" on mass media outlet MSNBC. He is also one of my alltime favorite progressive muckraking journalists whose encyclopedic knowledge, left oriented criticism, and comprehensive coverage of the contemporary American political scene is unmatched since the late, great Edward R. Murrow. Tonight one of his regular features called 'Special Comment' was on the ongoing fraud, theft, and scandals caused by the banks, corporations, and other major financial institutions and the dire need for these latter day robber barons to be politically controlled and severely regulated by the government and the American People. As usual, Olbermann's bedrock intellectual integrity, acerbic moral outrage, and engaged political analysis goes directly to the heart of what the present national and global economic crisis is really all about and what should be done about it.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Arrogance, Incompetence, Greed: How Corporate America and Wall Street Continue to Hustle Us


WTF!....So folks lemme get this straight: This arrogant braindead muthafucka wants to "give" HALF the money back? Is this pompous asshole kidding me? The sheer CHUTZPAH of these fat, greedy, pampered, incompetent, hubris diseased whiteboys is simply astonishing (yeah, yeah even given the obvious fact that they've ALWAYS been like this)...Can anyone imagine if the CEO of A.I.G.-- the richest insurance company in the world who have been given carte blanche over 170 billion dollars of our taxpayer's money since September-- was either a woman, black, Latino, or Asian? (not that any of them would actually be in that position in the first damn place ya understand). But c'mon, play along with my little bizarre hypothesis for just a moment.

Can anyone imagine this criminally clueless person from any other ethnic, "racial", or gender group in the country having the utterly brazen and reckless temerity to actually say in public before Congress WITH A STRAIGHT FACE YET that they wanted to "give" half the money back ("Uh dig this your Honor: Why don't I just give yall half of the money back that we stole and we'll just call it a day. Nobody hurt ya understand. NO HARM NO FOUL ya dig and we can all get back to bizness as usual..." )

ONLY a filthy rich whiteboy drowning in the fetid ocean of his own twisted sense of entitlement and infantile "superiority" psychosis would have the fucking NERVE to actually stand before the entire country and act as though we OWE them anything. These thieves are nothing but CRIMINALS and if there was any justice AT ALL in this society they would all be in prison and the Bushwhackers who openly aided, abetted, cosigned, and directly participated in helping these "Masters of the Universe" (you know--the "universe" inhabiting their own peasized brains) would have been impeached long ago and also sent to jail with them.

But who am I kidding here? Until we as a citizens demand that these corporate gangsters and overeducated thugs receive the public beatdown that they richly deserve NOTHING WILL CHANGE. President Obama and his administration--even if he and they wanted to--can't do it, Neither can Congress or the courts. Only WE, the People can. The only question remaining in this ongoing catastrophe is will we?....


A.I.G. Chief Asks Bonus Recipients to Give Back Half
March 18, 2009
New York Times

WASHINGTON — As the lucrative bonuses paid to employees of the American International Group fueled fresh outrage at the White House and on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, the embattled chief executive of A.I.G. said that he had asked some recipients to give at least half the money back.

The chief executive, Edward M. Liddy, made the announcement during his testimony on Wednesday afternoon before a Congressional committee investigating the problems at the insurance giant.

“I have asked the employees of A.I.G. Financial Products to step up and do the right thing,” Mr. Liddy told lawmakers. “Specifically, I have asked those who received retention payments of $100,000 or more to return at least half of those payments.”

The A.I.G. chief said that some recipients had already offered to give up all of their bonuses, and he added later that he expected to get most of the money back.

Of the 418 employees who received bonuses, 298 got more than $100,000, according to the New York attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo. The highest bonus was $6.4 million, and 6 other employees received more than $4 million. Fifteen other people received bonuses of more than $2 million and 51 received $1 million to $2 million.

In response to Mr. Liddy’s offer, Mr. Cuomo said in a statement that it was too little, too late. “Rather than take half-measures, A.I.G. should immediately turn over the list, which we have subpoenaed, of who got what and when,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Before Mr. Liddy’s testimony, the A.I.G. affair prompted President Obama to declare that a culture of “excess greed” demonstrated in A.I.G.’s dealings should have no place in a new Wall Street.

“As we get out of this crisis, as we work toward getting ourselves out of this recession, I hope that Wall Street and the marketplace don’t think that we can return to business as usual,” the president said after meeting with his economic advisers.

Accordingly, Mr. Obama said, he will push for quick Congressional legislation to create a regulatory framework for entities like A.I.G., which is not a bank, similar to the powers that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has over banks.

“I’m angry,” the president said. “What I want us to do, though, is channel our anger in a constructive way.”

The president reiterated his faith in Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. “No Treasury secretary since maybe Alexander Hamilton has faced such challenges,” he said. Mr. Obama has already called for Mr. Geithner to explore whatever legal means might be available to retrieve the bonuses. The president and his aides have also noted often that the near-collapse of A.I.G. and other aspects of the financial crisis began to manifest themselves before the start of the Obama administration.

The president did not call on Wednesday for the bonuses to be paid back, or taken back somehow. But there was strong sentiment on Capitol Hill over the $165 million in bonuses, and it was by no means clear that asking bonus recipients to give up half of their windfalls would appease the lawmakers. A.I.G. has received nearly $200 billion in federal bailout funds.

By late afternoon, several legislative proposals to recoup the bonuses were being discussed in the Capitol, although their prospects were not clear.

“We are the effective owners of this company,” said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, going on to suggest a lawsuit to recover the $165 million in bonuses. “I think it’s worth trying.”

By “we,” Mr. Frank made clear, he meant the American taxpayers, whose collective anger has been felt on Capitol Hill over the last several days. And no wonder, said Representative Gary L. Ackerman, a Democrat from Long Island. The typical taxpayer knows he is “the ultimate sucker” in the A.I.G. debacle, Mr. Ackerman said.

The lawmakers, having heard from their furious constituents, seemed unwilling to be mollified by the pledge from Mr. Liddy, who took the helm at A.I.G. last fall after it had begun imploding because of reckless investments, that the company’s 116,000 employees were united in wanting to work out of the morass, and work “shoulder to shoulder” with federal regulators.

Instead, the lawmakers were focused on the recipients of bonuses at the very unit that caused A.I.G. “to teeter on the brink of collapse,” as Representative Paul E. Kanjorski, the Pennsylvania Democrat who heads the capital markets subcommittee, put it.

“A million dollars is a sizable sum to the typical American family,” Mr. Kanjorski said, “and a million dollars is a lottery prize for anyone who has just lost a job.” He called on A.I.G.’s employees to join with the legions of Americans who “have made personal sacrifices to survive these difficult times.”

For the American people, said Representative Paul Hodes, Democrat of New Hampshire, the initials “A.I.G.” now stand for “arrogance, incompetence and greed.”

But Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey, the senior Republican on Mr. Kanjorski’s subcommittee, said he had a question for those who were unhappy with the way the A.I.G. story had unfolded: “What did you expect, and why weren’t you asking more questions before?”

The big scandal is not the millions in bonuses but the billions going to try and save A.I.G. in the first place, he said. “And to what effect?”

It was clear even before the start of the hearing that there was the potential for emotional outbursts from the audience, enough potential that Mr. Frank warned at the outset that there would be “no heckling,” and that he would have people arrested, if necessary. A few hours later, Mr. Kanjorski said a group of protesters in the audience had exhausted his patience. He directed Capitol police officers to confiscate the protesters’ signs, which the police did without incident.

Representative Spencer Bachus of Alabama, the leading Republican on the Financial Services Committee, urged his colleagues not to be distracted by what he said should be their true goal, “trying to recover as much taxpayers’ money as possible.”

Mr. Bachus said Congress should feel some responsibility for the mess, given an apparent failure to regulate adequately in recent years. “The American people are paying for it,” he said.

But for the moment, the focus was on the 418 so far unnamed recipients of the bonuses, paid out after A.I.G. received $170 billion in public money.

Mr. Frank threatened to issue subpoenas, if necessary, to make public the names of the bonus recipients.

“Morally reprehensible,” Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, called the bonuses. No one disagreed.

Nor did anyone disagree with Mr. Liddy when he said A.I.G. had made mistakes “on a scale few could have ever imagined possible.”

“The most critical of those mistakes was that the company strayed from its core competencies in the insurance business,” Mr. Liddy said. “Those missteps have exacted a very high price, not only for A.I.G. but for America’s taxpayers, the federal government’s finances and the economy as a whole.”

“We are meeting today at a high point of public anger,” said Mr. Liddy, a former chief executive of Allstate who was installed as A.I.G.’s chief when the Federal Reserve announced its rescue package. “I share that anger. As a businessman of some 37 years, I have seen the good side of capitalism. Over the last few months, in reviewing how A.I.G. had been run in prior years, I have also seen evidence of its bad side.”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Myth of a Post-Racial America: The Central Role of Racial Discourse and Racism in the 2008 Presidential Election


Excellent and deadly accurate essay by Ayers & Dohrn! If any of you know Sarah Palin's address or that of any of her millions of acolytes and supporters throughout the country please mail her and them a copy of this essay at once. She and they just might learn something...On second thought what the hell am I talking about? That's an impossibility...Never Mind...


Monthly Review
March 2009
What Race Has to Do With It
by Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn

Bill Ayers is Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago and recently author of Fugitive Days (Beacon, 2008).

Bernardine Dohrn is director of the Children and Family Justice Center and Clinical Associate Professor at Northwestern University School of Law, Bluhm Legal Clinic. She is coeditor, with Rick Ayers and Bill Ayers, of Zero Tolerance: Resisting the Drive for Punishment in Our Schools (The New Press, 2001). This essay is excerpted from their new book, Race Course: Against White Supremacy (Third World Press, 2009).

Who could have imagined the 2008 presidential campaign?

Commentators, media people, and especially politicians fell all over themselves proclaiming that the 2008 election had, “nothing at all to do with race.” And yet every event, every speech and comment, every debate and appearance had race written all over it. Stephen Colbert, the brilliant satirist, hit it on the head when he asked a Republican operative, “How many euphemisms have you come up with so far so that you won’t have to use the word ‘Black?’” Everyone laughed good-naturedly.

It turns out that they and everyone else had plenty. When Senator Hillary Clinton spoke of “hard-working American workers,” everyone knew who she meant, but just in case anyone missed it, she added, “white workers.” The invisible race talk was about “blue collar” or “working class” or “mainstream” or “small town” or “hockey mom” or “Joe the plumber,” but we were meant to think “white.” All the talk of Senator Barack Obama’s exotic background, all the references to him as “unknown,” “untested,” a “stranger,” or a “symbolic candidate,” or “alien,” a “wildcard,” or an “elitist,” which one Georgia congressman admitted meant “uppity,” all the creepiness packed into the ominous “what do we really know about this man?,” and all the questioning of his patriotism, the obsession with what went on in his church (but no other candidate’s place of worship)—all of it fed a specific narrative: he’s not a real American, he’s not reliable, he’s the quintessential mystery man. The discourse was all about race, us and them, understood by everyone in the United States even when the words African American, black, or white are not spoken. Anyone who dared to point to these proxies and to call them euphemisms for race was promptly accused of being a racist, and, of course, of playing the ever-useful race card.

In this carnival atmosphere throbbed the omnipresent and not so clandestine campaign drumbeats that the senator from Illinois is a secret Muslim, that because his father was a Muslim, the son is forever a Muslim—assuming, of course, that faith in Islam is disqualifying. In a year of loopy ironies, it took a conservative Republican, retired general, and disgraced Bush secretary of state Colin Powell, to vigorously call the question, movingly insisting that it should be perfectly fine to be an American Muslim, and a president. In a perfect storm, Powell was immediately accused by white commentators of siding with his race.

Then there was the lethal mix of gender, race, ethnicity, and class. In the wake of Obama’s primary win in the “heartland” (white) state of Iowa, the Clinton campaign escalated. Gloria Steinem’s Op Ed in the New York Times on primary eve in New Hampshire, “Women are Never Front-Runners,” laid down the gauntlet, asserting a hierarchy of oppression, claiming that it was women who were the most despised, vilified, and unfairly treated by the media and by history—compared to the (supposed) deference to black men. “Why,” she wrote, “is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one?” Steinem’s intervention made a dichotomy of race and gender, and instead of a complex analysis of the breakthroughs of discriminatory barriers, here was an assertion of superior victim status on the part of white, powerful women. It obliterated the half of African Americans who are women, and the half of women in the United States who are women of color. Intending to highlight the real river of misogynist venom unleashed against Clinton, it posed and perpetuated racial division rather than intersection and unity—the popularly recognized hallmarks of the Obama campaign.

Hillary and Bill Clinton seized on this framing of feminism as a white women’s concern with escalated race talk. Hillary proclaimed on Fox News, “I don’t think any of us want to inject race or gender in this campaign.” But the Clintons promptly resorted to the well-worn “Southern strategy” in South Carolina and the border states. They dismissively referred to Reverend Jesse Jackson’s historic campaigns of 1984 and 1988 as purely race-based, rather than recognizing the unique “rainbow” coalition that included white workers, farmers, and professionals and was to be a harbinger of the Obama campaign. Clinton flagrantly appealed to white voters’ identity as “workers” or “women”—offering white people any reason to vote against Obama without saying he’s black—and followed the ancient and dismal road of racial discourse that appeals to white supremacy, fear, and anxiety. In fact, the prolonged Democratic primary served to chart the Rovian path the Republicans would later hone and utilize in the general election against Obama. Combined with their brazen strategies of voter suppression, demagoguery, and hate, the defense of the color line would become the core of the McCain/Palin convention and subsequent attack machine. dfsFabricated issues of “character,” values, and patriotism dominated the discourse, appeals were floated to white voters’ racial resentments and fears, and the deliberate marketing of the Republican Party—our kids used to call them “Repulsicans”—as the bastion of white peoples’ interests saturated targeted states across the land.

On March 18, 2008, Barack Obama delivered an epic, masterful speech in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on race and identity. Senator Obama’s talk was called, “A More Perfect Union,” and it tapped a deep longing to be free from the racialized straightjacket of anxiety, fear, and separation. The comedian Jon Stewart got it right when he said, “He treated the American public as if we were adults!” Obama managed to frame the discussion of racial justice in terms of broad American unity.

The speech was designed to redeem his campaign momentum in the wake of relentless, replaying videos of a line delivered by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Obama’s pastor, after September 11. In it Wright challenges Americans to question the nation’s sense of exceptional goodness, and the refrain “God bless America” in light of our history. It was an edgy sermon to be sure, and apparently most dangerous of all, it was delivered by an angry black man. Using a technique honed by the far right over thirty years, the media seized upon and de-contextualized a sentence from Wright’s lifetime work, characterizing him as “ranting,” “raving,” and “divisive.” Liberals joined the discrediting party, referring to him as that “loony preacher,” spewing “bigoted and paranoid rantings.” In reality Reverend Wright’s sermons were no more incendiary than everyday conversations when white people aren’t looking or listening, or than Dr. Martin Luther King’s sermons a generation before.

In contrast Senator McCain’s active association with the Reverends Hagee, Parsley, and Robertson and the remarks by Governor Sarah Palin’s Pentacostal “spiritual warfare” and “prayer warriors” ministry remained unmemorable and apparently unremarkable. Hagee’s political preaching remained in the realm of the acceptable, including his assertions that AIDs is an incurable plague, God’s curse against a disobedient nation, until an audio clip surfaced in which he preached that what Hitler did in the Holocaust was God’s plan to drive Europe’s Jews back to the land of Israel. Only then, did McCain disassociate himself from his insidious religious flock.

Nothing stopped the McCain and Palin campaign from agitating, encouraging, or at the very least tolerating shouts of “Kill him!” when Obama was verbally attacked by the candidates from the stump. The candidates’ failure to aggressively disassociate themselves from such threats appeared to have lost them a significant part of the independent electorate, and all moral credibility—an encouraging development. The right-wing attack on Congressman John Lewis’s mild rebuke, however, comparing these white crowds to segregationist supporters of Governor Wallace forty years previously, again illuminated the incendiary role of race.

As soon as Barack Obama began winning primary battles, Michelle Obama, the senator’s brilliant, accomplished wife, became a target for the far right-wing haters. Brazen commentators mixed up a bitter brew of misogyny and racism, and sloshed it generously throughout the blogosphere: she’s anti-American; she’s a disgruntled and hectoring black nationalist seething with unresolved racial rage; she’s Reverend Wright but with estrogen and even more testosterone; she’s a ball-breaker who wears the pants in the family. Maureen Dowd referred to the attacks as “Round Two of the sulfurous national game of ‘Kill the witch.’”

Demonizing Michelle Obama began in earnest when, in February 2008, she said that because of her husband’s campaign, hope was sweeping the nation, and that, “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country.” Those fifteen words were played over and over in a stuttering loop of outrage on right-wing cable, and stood as absolute proof that she (and he) came up fatally short in the “real American” department. In this narrative, uncritical pride-in-country is assumed to be a given, the default of all the good people; anyone who can separate affection for people, a land, an ideal from the actions of a state or a government is a de facto traitor. There’s absolutely no room here for refusal or resistance, for criticism, skepticism, doubt, complexity, nuance, or even thought. Citizenship equals obedience. Right-wing “commentator” Bill O’Reilly’s first reaction to Michelle Obama’s proud-of-my-country comment was to say, “I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels.” Interestingly, almost no one remembers her joy in the expanding and participatory electorate she was seeing, in contrast to her relatively mild critique, because the “first time” never stopped repeating. And almost no one recalls O’Reilly’s racialized threat of personal violence because it conveniently disappeared from the media’s discourse without a trace.

Fox News called her “Obama’s baby mama,” derogatory slang for an unwed mother. (Fox later apologized.) The National Review featured her on its cover as a scowling “Mrs. Grievance,” and referred to Trinity United Church of Christ as a “new-segregationist ghetto of Afrocentric liberation theology.” It is always black people who have to clarify an unstated assumption (as if John and Cindy McCain’s church, like George Bush’s and Ronald Reagan’s, are models of “post-racial,” integrated America). Take a look. It’s like the famous question: “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” The white kids never explain why they sit together.

On the night Barack Obama claimed the nomination, he walked on stage with Michelle and she turned and gave him a pound or a dap, a playful and affectionate little fist bump. It flew around the Internet like topsy—reviewed, debated, photo-shopped, commented upon—until E. D. Hill called it a “terrorist fist jab” on Fox News and that proved to be one step too far—Hill was ridiculed and scorned and eventually apologized. Simultaneously, of course, it was seized upon and imitated by new waves of young admirers.

But Michelle Obama had become an established, larger-than-life target for racial and gender animus on conservative blogs. Where were the (white) feminists to defend her and decry the rot? And the liberals seemingly can’t help themselves either—the New York Times ran a positive puff piece on her in which they noted that compared to her husband, “Michelle Obama’s image is less mutable. She is a black American, a descendent of slaves and a product of Chicago’s historically black South Side. She tends to burn hot where he banks cool, and that too can make her an inviting proxy for attack.” So much racialized and racist craziness packed into three short sentences.

In the aftermath it’s time to remember that President Lyndon Johnson, the most effective politician of his generation, was never involved in the Black Freedom Movement, although he did pass far-reaching legislation in response to a robust and in many ways revolutionary movement in the streets. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was not a labor leader, and yet he presided over critical social and pro-labor legislation in a time of radical labor mobilization in shops and factories across the land. And Abraham Lincoln was not a member of an abolitionist political party, but reality forced upon him the freeing of an enslaved people. Each of these three responded to grassroots movements for social justice on the ground.

And it’s to movements on the ground that we must turn as we think beyond this election or the next, and consider—in the midst of massive economic calamity—the problems and possibilities of building a future of peace and love and justice. We may not be able to will a movement into being, but neither can we sit idly waiting for a social movement to spring full grown, as from the head of Zeus. We have to agitate for democracy and egalitarianism, press harder for human rights, link the demands that animate us, and learn to build a new society through our collective self-transformations and our limited everyday struggles. We must seek ways to live sustainably; to stop the addiction to consumption and development and military power; to become real actors and authentic subjects in our own history.

It is surely a unique, awe-inspiring moment. The Obama campaign offered up a new paradigm, activated young people under thirty who have not heretofore exercised the franchise, and illustrated that substantial numbers of white people and Latino people and Asian-American people would indeed vote for a black man. A new generation has learned the tools of campaigning, community organizing, and political discourse and debate. Now their experience can be put to use mobilizing those same people to insist on the changes they imagined. Within the context of cultivating the tacit myth of being a post-racial society, the Obama campaign inspired and mined a deeper longing for humanizing racial unity—even racial unity based on justice. There is change in the air—evidence that the population has travelled some distance—as well as the familiar stench of a racist history.

Our favorite moment came in the heat of the primary battle when now President Obama was asked who he thought Martin Luther King Jr. would support, Clinton or himself. Without hesitation, he responded that Reverend King would be unlikely to support or endorse either of them, because he’d be in the streets building a movement for justice. That seems exactly right.

All material © copyright 1949-2009 Monthly Review

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, U.S. Foreign Policy, and the Obama Administration: Diplomacy or Continued Warfare?

Will Obama Advocate Same Old Policies in Palestine?

By Rayfield A. Waller

President Obama rode into office on the winds of change promising, post-Bush, diplomacy rather than belligerence as the new US foreign policy. But he has yet to speak up clearly and decisively against Israel’s policy of underdevelopment and ‘removal’ deployed against Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

Obama’s voice overseas, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is mouthing policies nearly identical to those of the Bush White House; so much so that the Palestinian newspaper, Al Quds, has editorialized against her, dubbing her ‘Condoleezza Clinton’, a reference to Bush’s Secretary of State, Iron Maiden Condoleezza Rice. Secretary Clinton in her recent trip to the Middle East offered Israel only words of appeasement even as the ominous figure of an incoming Israeli prime minister who loudly opposes Palestinian statehood-—Bebe Netanyahu-—is making it clear that more violent conflict and less diplomacy will likely be Israel’s course. What are we to call Israel’s policy? We ought to call it what it is: Palestinian Removal.

The criminal violence carried out by Israeli forces against Gaza’s civilians in December has yet to be condemned by the Obama administration. Meanwhile, Israel is stepping up the frequency of evictions carried out against Palestinian families and the razing of Arab homes in occupied East Jerusalem while building new, illegal settlements there.

Clinton’s clear message at a Gaza reconstruction conference in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, in early March, was not a repudiation of Palestinian Removal, but an announcement that the US will withhold recognition and support for the democratically elected Hamas. Clinton’s remarks continued the Bush policy of ‘West Bank and Fatah First’ while Hamas was excluded from the very conference that supposedly was called to raise funds for Gaza, which Hamas represents.

In the face of Israel’s continued strangulation of Arab civilian society by encroachment in Jerusalem, by embargo against Gaza, and by the use of bulldozers and tanks rather than diplomacy to settle Arab/Israeli conflict, Clinton announced no significant change in American foreign policy in the Middle East now that Obama is in the saddle: She formally made a promise of $900 million, ‘not a dime’ of which will go to Hamas, so as to ensure the eventual creation of a Palestinian state that will be “peaceful and responsible.”

Is this Orwellian doublespeak Obama’s ‘change we can believe in’?

Even as Gaza’s survivors digest the devastation of, in approximate numbers, 22,000 buildings destroyed, 1,300 dead, 500 or more injured, and 300 or more Palestinian children killed by Israel’s planned, mechanized, and targeted attack in December upon civilians and upon civil infrastructure, it seems that yet another American administration rears up in the White House and in Congress to turn a blind eye toward huge sums of US tax dollars funding Israel’s Removal Program against Arabs in the West Bank, Golan, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. With prime minister-designate Netanyahu’s ascension to power, increased Israeli hostility against Lebanon and Syria seems likely, despite Clinton’s overtures toward dialogue with Syria. Netanyahu’s track record as a hawk doesn’t suggest he will support the US in unilateral dialogue with his Arab neighbors.

Does Obama plan to continue the US policy of supporting ‘Israel’s security’ through direct weapons sales, huge subsidies and favored nation trade status, and by providing billions of US dollars in aid to Israel? In 2008, Israel received 2.4 billion in military financing, according to The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA), which dwarfs the 900 million promised to Palestine By Clinton in March. The Congress has averaged the (comparatively paltry) figure of $100 million US dollars annually in aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA); the new pledge of money to rebuild Gaza and cover budget shortfalls for the PA will be controlled by the US Agency for International Development, earmarked for what Clinton called “institutional reforms and economic development”.

Such a statement seems outlandish. It is as if American foreign policy is as detached from reality now as it has always been where Palestine is concerned: infrastructure projects, the meat and bread of any ‘economic development’ and now necessary to rebuild Gaza, is to be funded by the US while far greater expenditures of USAID dollars continue to go to funding Israeli destruction of that same infrastructure. Hamas was banned from Sharm el Sheikh while Israel flat out refused to attend, even though it is not clear whether Hamas will allow what aid is finally sent into Gaza if it is sent under conditions that hamstring Hamas. Nor is it clear that Israel will even allow the aid through its military blockade of Gaza, which is after all, still under occupation.

This is not the diplomacy Obama promised but merely the continuation of the mendacity that US policy toward Arab-Israeli peace has always shown itself to be, along with the entrenched assistance of the U.S. based pro-Israeli lobby (AIPAC—the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee).

Unless Obama ceases deploying irrational expenditures of monies said to ‘secure’ Israel, and favors instead a sane, diplomatic approach to peace that includes rather than excludes all representative parties at ground level, not only will Israel continue to be less secure, but Palestinian lives will continue to be sacrificed. Destruction of cohesive Palestinian daily life and culture is Israeli policy. Israeli bulldozers wreck homes rather than building this ‘economic development’ Secretary Clinton speaks of. The Removal Policy will only pick up speed and funding from soon-to-be Prime Minister Netanyahu. In any event, the reins of American foreign policy now firmly belong to President Obama.

If the new President chooses to ride the same old discredited nag of Bush’s policies, he will be riding not the winds of change but a whirlwind into continued conflict and bloodshed, only now the blood will now be on his hands.

Professor Waller is on the adjunct faculty of the department of Africana Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit. He’s a freelance journalist, and contributing writer to Progreso Weekly and to The Michigan Citizen.



This is a very important gesture and effort by Alice. Many more black intellectuals, activists, and artists from this country need to show their firm public support of the Palestinian people in their heroic fight against Israeli colonial occupation and apartheid and for their own much deserved sovereignty and national independence.


The Color Purple' author traveling to Gaza
Associated Press Writer

CAIRO, Egypt - Pulitzer-prize winning author Alice Walker, who wrote "The Color Purple," is traveling to Gaza along with other female activists to highlight the devastation of the Israeli offensive on Gaza's residents.

"I feel that what is happening in the Middle East is very important because the situation is so volatile," said Walker, speaking by telephone Saturday from the Rafah border crossing as her group waited to travel into Gaza. "I love people, and I love children and I feel that the Palestinian child is just as precious as the African-American child, as the Jewish child."

Walker is part of a group of about 60 women going to Gaza to deliver aid and meet with NGOs and residents. The trip, organized by the U.S. anti-war group Code Pink, is intended to push both Israel and Egypt to open the borders into Gaza, said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink who helped organize the trip.

The trip comes as efforts to reach a long-term cease-fire between Israel and the militant group Hamas have hit a roadblock. An Israeli offensive on Gaza, intended to stop rocket fire into southern Israel, ended Jan. 18 with separate cease-fires declared by both Israel and Hamas.

Members of the group intend to stay in Gaza until March 11, Benjamin said. During their trip, timed to coincide with International Women's Day on March 8, they will also deliver baskets filled with personal items such as shampoo for women in Gaza.

Walker, who was making her first trip to Gaza, said it was important for Americans who give so much military aid to Israel to understand how their money was being used.

"It's very important that they understand what is happening, and that we hold our own administration accountable," she said.

Politics and Cultural Hegemony in Post-Bush America


Following the incisive and valuable admonition of the late, great Miles Davis-- legendary musician, composer, and first rate literary critic-- Frank Rich always "writes what he knows." And like the redoubtable Miles himself Rich also manages to kick mucho ass in the process. Clarity, depth, insight, and precision are in short supply these days with far too many writers but Rich's mature appreciation for the intricacies and nuances of "truth and consequences" in our public political and cultural lives marks his stylish ongoing journalistic commentary as a highly accurate and reliable barometer of the times we currently live in. What more could we ask of any writer at any time?...


P.S. For further evidence check out Rich's extraordinary 2006 magnum opus "The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush's America" (Penguin Books)

March 15, 2009

The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off
New York Times

SOMEDAY we’ll learn the whole story of why George W. Bush brushed off that intelligence briefing of Aug. 6, 2001, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” But surely a big distraction was the major speech he was readying for delivery on Aug. 9, his first prime-time address to the nation. The subject — which Bush hyped as “one of the most profound of our time” — was stem cells. For a presidency in thrall to a thriving religious right (and a presidency incapable of multi-tasking), nothing, not even terrorism, could be more urgent.

When Barack Obama ended the Bush stem-cell policy last week, there were no such overheated theatrics. No oversold prime-time address. No hysteria from politicians, the news media or the public. The family-values dinosaurs that once stalked the earth — Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and Reed — are now either dead, retired or disgraced. Their less-famous successors pumped out their pro forma e-mail blasts, but to little avail. The Republican National Committee said nothing whatsoever about Obama’s reversal of Bush stem-cell policy. That’s quite a contrast to 2006, when the party’s wild and crazy (and perhaps transitory) new chairman, Michael Steele, likened embryonic stem-cell research to Nazi medical experiments during his failed Senate campaign.

What has happened between 2001 and 2009 to so radically change the cultural climate? Here, at last, is one piece of good news in our global economic meltdown: Americans have less and less patience for the intrusive and divisive moral scolds who thrived in the bubbles of the Clinton and Bush years. Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford.

Not only was Obama’s stem-cell decree an anticlimactic blip in the news, but so was his earlier reversal of Bush restrictions on the use of federal money by organizations offering abortions overseas. When the administration tardily ends “don’t ask, don’t tell,” you can bet that this action, too, will be greeted by more yawns than howls.

Once again, both the president and the country are following New Deal-era precedent. In the 1920s boom, the reigning moral crusade was Prohibition, and it packed so much political muscle that F.D.R. didn’t oppose it. The Anti-Saloon League was the Moral Majority of its day, the vanguard of a powerful fundamentalist movement that pushed anti-evolution legislation as vehemently as it did its war on booze. (The Scopes “monkey trial” was in 1925.) But the political standing of this crowd crashed along with the stock market. Roosevelt shrewdly came down on the side of “the wets” in his presidential campaign, leaving Hoover to drown with “the dries.”

Much as Obama repealed the Bush restrictions on abortion and stem-cell research shortly after pushing through his stimulus package, so F.D.R. jump-started the repeal of Prohibition by asking Congress to legalize beer and wine just days after his March 1933 inauguration and declaration of a bank holiday. As Michael A. Lerner writes in his fascinating 2007 book “Dry Manhattan,” Roosevelt’s stance reassured many Americans that they would have a president “who not only cared about their economic well-being” but who also understood their desire to be liberated from “the intrusion of the state into their private lives.” Having lost plenty in the Depression, the public did not want to surrender any more freedoms to the noisy minority that had shut down the nation’s saloons.

In our own hard times, the former moral “majority” has been downsized to more of a minority than ever. Polling shows that nearly 60 percent of Americans agree with ending Bush restrictions on stem-cell research (a Washington Post/ABC News survey in January); that 55 percent endorse either gay civil unions or same-sex marriage (Newsweek, December 2008); and that 75 percent believe openly gay Americans should serve in the military (Post/ABC, July 2008). Even the old indecency wars have subsided. When a federal court last year struck down the F.C.C. fine against CBS for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl, few Americans either noticed or cared about the latest twist in what had once been a national cause célèbre.

It’s not hard to see why Eric Cantor, the conservative House firebrand who is vehemently opposed to stem-cell research, was disinclined to linger on the subject when asked about it on CNN last Sunday. He instead accused the White House of acting on stem cells as a ploy to distract from the economy. “Let’s take care of business first,” he said. “People are out of jobs.” (On this, he’s joining us late, but better late than never.)

Even were the public still in the mood for fiery invective about family values, the G.O.P. has long since lost any authority to lead the charge. The current Democratic president and his family are exemplars of precisely the Eisenhower-era squareness — albeit refurbished by feminism — that the Republicans often preached but rarely practiced. Obama actually walks the walk. As the former Bush speechwriter David Frum recently wrote, the new president is an “apparently devoted husband and father” whose worst vice is “an occasional cigarette.”

Frum was contrasting Obama to his own party’s star attraction, Rush Limbaugh, whose “history of drug dependency” and “tangled marital history” make him “a walking stereotype of self-indulgence.” Indeed, the two top candidates for leader of the post-Bush G.O.P, Rush and Newt, have six marriages between them. The party that once declared war on unmarried welfare moms, homosexual “recruiters” and Bill Clinton’s private life has been rebranded by Mark Foley, Larry Craig, David Vitter and the irrepressible Palins. Even before the economy tanked, Americans had more faith in medical researchers using discarded embryos to battle Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s than in Washington politicians making ad hoc medical decisions for Terri Schiavo.

What’s been revealing about watching conservatives debate their fate since their Election Day Waterloo is how, the occasional Frum excepted, so many of them don’t want to confront the obsolescence of culture wars as a political crutch. They’d rather, like Cantor, just change the subject — much as they avoid talking about Bush and avoid reckoning with the doomed demographics of the G.O.P.’s old white male base. To recognize all these failings would be to confront why a once-national party can now be tucked into the Bible Belt.

The religious right is even more in denial than the Republicans. When Obama nominated Kathleen Sebelius, the Roman Catholic Kansas governor who supports abortion rights, as his secretary of health and human services, Tony Perkins, the leader of the Family Research Council, became nearly as apoplectic as the other Tony Perkins playing Norman Bates. “If Republicans won’t take a stand now, when will they?” the godly Perkins thundered online. But Congressional Republicans ignored him, sending out (at most) tepid press releases of complaint, much as they did in response to Obama’s stem-cell order. The two antiabortion Kansas Republicans in the Senate, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both endorsed Sebelius.

Perkins is now praying that economic failure will be a stimulus for his family-values business. “As the economy goes downward,” he has theorized, “I think people are going to be driven to religion.” Wrong again. The latest American Religious Identification Survey, published last week, found that most faiths have lost ground since 1990 and that the fastest-growing religious choice is “None,” up from 8 percent to 15 percent (which makes it larger than all denominations except Roman Catholics and Baptists). Another highly regarded poll, the General Social Survey, had an even more startling finding in its preliminary 2008 data released this month: Twice as many Americans have a “great deal” of confidence in the scientific community as do in organized religion. How the almighty has fallen: organized religion is in a dead heat with banks and financial institutions on the confidence scale.

This, too, is a replay of the Great Depression. “One might have expected that in such a crisis great numbers of these people would have turned to the consolations of and inspirations of religion,” wrote Frederick Lewis Allen in “Since Yesterday,” his history of the 1930s published in 1940. But that did not happen: “The long slow retreat of the churches into less and less significance in the life of the country, and even in the lives of the majority of their members, continued almost unabated.”

The new American faith, Allen wrote, was the “secular religion of social consciousness.” It took the form of campaigns for economic and social justice — as exemplified by the New Deal and those movements that challenged it from both the left and the right. It’s too early in our crisis and too early in the new administration to know whether this decade will so closely replicate the 1930s, but so far Obama has far more moral authority than any religious leader in America with the possible exception of his sometime ally, the Rev. Rick Warren.

History is cyclical, and it would be foolhardy to assume that the culture wars will never return. But after the humiliations of the Scopes trial and the repeal of Prohibition, it did take a good four decades for the religious right to begin its comeback in the 1970s. In our tough times, when any happy news can be counted as a miracle, a 40-year exodus for these ayatollahs can pass for an answer to America’s prayers.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company