Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Need for a Strong Public Sector Centered Economic Policy in the U.S.


I am in complete agreement with Krugman's incisive, highly useful, and very insightful analysis. It's really unfortunate that corporate minded hacks for Wall Street and the banks like Timothy Geithner and Laurence Summers are Obama's major economic advisors and not Paul Krugman or Joseph Stiglitz (both outstanding progressive economists and Nobel Prize winners as well). The great thing about Krugman is that he clearly understands that both political clarity and independent ideological commitment are absolutely crucial to forging, developing, and sustaining any sound economic policy. As Krugman, Stiglitz, and other progressive Keynesian political economists like Robert Kuttner and Naomi Klein fully recognize it will be extremely difficult for any truly progressive agenda to succeed without a strong political focus and the independence and toughness of will to see specific policy initiatives and positions through to their logical conclusions (like FDR did during the Great Depression with his very focused 'New Deal' economic policies). Otherwise drift and stagnation can easily set in and considerably weaken any public sector centered solution. I sincerely hope the President wakes up in time (which concretely is the 2010 congressional and senatorial midterm elections) to find his own political bearings and go beyond the kind of paralyzing caution that he has too often shown in dealing with economic issues thus far. In any event I think Obama is very fortunate to have supportive critics like Krugman around who will be thoroughly honest with him about his overall agenda because I have very little faith that Geithner and Summers either can or will given their highly compromised ideological and political relationship to both the banks and Wall Street...


November 6, 2009


Obama Faces His Anzio


Remember those Republican boasts that they would turn health care into President Obama’s Waterloo? Well, exit polls suggest that to the extent that health care was an issue in Tuesday’s elections, it worked in Democrats’ favor. But while health care won’t be Mr. Obama’s Waterloo, economic policy is starting to look like his Anzio.

True, the elections weren’t a referendum on Mr. Obama. Most voters focused on local issues — and those who did focus on national issues tended, if anything, to go Democratic. In New Jersey, voters who considered health care the top issue went for Gov. Jon Corzine by a 4-to-1 margin; Chris Christie won voters who were concerned about property taxes and corruption.

Yet there was a national element to the election. Voters across America are in a bad mood, largely because of the still-grim economic situation. And when voters are feeling bad, they turn on whomever currently holds office. Even Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, saw his supposedly easy reelection turn into a tight race.

And challengers did well even if they had no coherent alternative to offer. Mr. Christie never explained how he can reduce property taxes given New Jersey’s dire fiscal straits — but voters were nonetheless willing to take a flier.

This bodes ill for the Democrats in the midterm elections next year — not because voters will reject their agenda, but because all indications are that a year from now unemployment will still be painfully high. And Republicans may well benefit, despite having become the party of no ideas.

Which brings me to the Anzio analogy.

The World War II battle of Anzio was a classic example of the perils of being too cautious. Allied forces landed far behind enemy lines, catching their opponents by surprise. Instead of following up on this advantage, however, the American commander hunkered down in his beachhead — and soon found himself penned in by German forces on the surrounding hills, suffering heavy casualties.

The parallel with current economic policy runs as follows: early this year, President Obama came into office with a strong mandate and proclaimed the need to take bold action on the economy. His actual actions, however, were cautious rather than bold. They were enough to pull the economy back from the brink, but not enough to bring unemployment down.

Thus the stimulus bill fell far short of what many economists — including some in the administration itself — considered appropriate. According to The New Yorker, Christina Romer, the chairwoman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, estimated that a package of more than $1.2 trillion was justified.

Meanwhile, the administration balked at proposals to put large amounts of additional capital into banks, which would probably have required temporary nationalization of the weakest institutions. Instead, it turned to a strategy of benign neglect — basically, hoping that the banks could earn their way back to financial health.

Administration officials would presumably argue that they were constrained by political realities, that a bolder policy couldn’t have passed Congress. But they never tested that assumption, and they also never gave any public indication that they were doing less than they wanted. The official line was that policy was just right, making it hard to explain now why more is needed.

And more is needed. Yes, the economy grew fairly fast in the third quarter — but not fast enough to make significant progress on jobs. And there’s little reason to expect things to look better going forward. The stimulus has already had its maximum effect on growth. Even Timothy Geithner, the Treasury secretary, admits that banks remain reluctant to lend. Many economists predict that the economy’s growth, such as it is, will fade out over the course of next year.

The problem is that it’s not clear what Mr. Obama can do about this prospect. Conventional wisdom in Washington seems to have congealed around the view that budget deficits preclude any further fiscal stimulus — a view that’s all wrong on the economics, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Meanwhile, the Democratic base, so energized last year, has lost much of its passion, at least partly because the administration’s soft-touch approach to Wall Street has seemed to many like a betrayal of their ideals.

The president, then, having failed to exploit his early opportunities, is pinned down in his too-small beachhead.

If the Democrats lose badly in the midterms, the talking heads will say that Mr. Obama tried to do too much, this is a center-right nation, and so on. But the truth is that Mr. Obama put his agenda at risk by doing too little. The fateful decision, early this year, to go for economic half-measures may haunt Democrats for years to come.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Muslim & Arab American Citizens and President Obama Address Fort Hood Shooting

Analysis: US Muslims fear reprisals in wake of Fort Hood attack
Published Date: 07 November 2009
By Chris Stephen

THE KILLING of the Fort Hood soldiers by Major Nidal Hasan has set people in America's six-million strong Muslim community on edge, fearing a possible backlash against them.

Leading Islamic groups were quick to condemn the killings, with the largest Muslim civil rights group, the Council on American-Muslim Relations, declaring: "No political or religious ideology could ever justify or excuse such wanton and indiscriminate violence. American Muslims stand with our fellow citizens in offering both prayers for the victims."

Ibrahim Ramy of the Muslim American Foundation called on the government to protect Muslims from a backlash: "We reject the idea that this incident is motivated by a terrorist ideology of a religious community."

The attack comes as the council tries to persuade other Americans that Muslims in the United States do not identify with terrorism. "Most Americans were introduced to our faith on 9/11, watching a plane hitting a building," said council spokesman Corey Saylor. "Its an educational process. That will take years."

Just how many years is a moot point. Japanese Americans were seen as traitors following the shock of the attack on Pearl Harbor in the Second World War. "For Japanese Americans it took decades," said Mr Saylor.

The council's solution has been to promote education programmes designed to spread the word that US Muslims do not agree with extremist ideologies.

There has been little support among American Muslims for radical organisations and, to date, few racist attacks against Muslims are recorded.

US president Barack Obama's speech in Cairo earlier this year, in which he called on all Americans to recognise Muslims as fully integrated into the United States, eased tensions, but the council wants the president to do more.

"We're still waiting for him to visit an American mosque," said Mr Saylor.

November 6, 2009,

A Challenge for the Commander in Chief

New York Times

President Obama spoke of the shootings during brief remarks from the White House Rose Garden on Friday.

President Obama faces a delicate question in the wake of the Fort Hood shootings.

In any moment of national tragedy, Americans expect to hear from their president. Mr. Obama quickly came forward, offering words of consolation, prayers for victims and their families, and the promise to find out how such a calamity could occur on a military base. On Friday afternoon, he is scheduled to visit troops at Walter Reed Medical Center. He will also attend a service for the victims.

But will the commander in chief also try to use this as a teachable moment?

Investigators, who believe Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people, are piecing together how and why the attack occurred.

The grainy photograph of the suspected shooter – Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan – is being shown again and again on television against a backdrop of news reports that he claimed to be harassed because of his Muslim faith.

Does that raise the burden for Mr. Obama to address any potential backlash against Muslims – military or civilian – in the United States?

Mr. Obama appeared in the Rose Garden at the White House shortly after 11:30 a.m., offering brief remarks on the Fort Hood shootings. He said that he met with Robert Mueller, the director of the F.B.I., and ordered that flags be flown at half-staff until next Wednesday, which is Veteran’s Day.

“We don’t know all the answers yet and I would caution against jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts,” Mr. Obama said. “What we do know is that there are families, friends and an entire nation grieving right now for the valiant men and women who came under attack yesterday in one of the worst mass shootings ever to take place on an American military base.”

He added, “We honor their service, we stand in awe of their sacrifice.”

The White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said later on Friday that Mr. Obama would attend a service for the victims. Mr. Gibbs said the president’s schedule for the coming week, before he leaves for Asia, is “in flux” as the White House awaits word of when a service might be scheduled.

But as Mr. Obama was already weighing how many more troops to send to Afghanistan and how to explain that decision to the nation, has the tragedy at Fort Hood complicated the task for the commander in chief?

Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bulletin: Mass Shooting at Fort Hood in Texas--12 Dead, Gunman wounded but still alive


In addition to this catastrophic and horrifying tragedy for all involved in this shooting i
magine all the racist rightwing propaganda and vigilante violence that is now going to be aimed at Arab and Muslim American citizens in general both in and out of the U.S. military in the wake of this. As we all well know Americans are notorious for hunting down scapegoats in the wake of any tragedy like this and especially when racial and religious minorities are involved. So expect the worse. As a number of people are already suggesting both in the media and the general society this whole thing doesn't add up on a multitude of levels and it makes me seriously suspect that we may already have some sort of military or government coverup brewing like we did with the U.S. military "friendly fire" death of the American soldier Pat Tillman (remember him?). Stay tuned...

NOVEMBER 5, 2009

Mass Shooting at Fort Hood

New York Times

Update | 9:15 p.m. At a news conference outside Fort Hood the base commander, Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, just revealed that earlier reports that the suspected gunman, Major Nidal Hasan, had been killed were incorrect. Major Hasan was wounded but remains alive, Lt. Gen. Cone said, adding that he is in custody and "his death is not imminent." He added that 12 people, not 11, had been killed by whom the military authorities now describe as a single gunman.

Lt. Gen. Cone added that soldiers are not armed on the base: "As a matter of practice, we do not carry weapons - this is our home."

Update | 8:48 p.m. Here is video described as "the aftermath of a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas," shot by a Department of Defense video crew:

Update | 8:26 p.m. The Associated Press reports:

Federal law enforcement officials say the suspected Fort Hood shooter had come to their attention at least six months ago because of Internet postings that discussed suicide bombings and other threats.

The officials say the postings appeared to have been made by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who was killed during the shooting incident that left least 11 others dead and 31 wounded. The officials say they are still trying to confirm that he was the author. They say an official investigation was not opened.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case.

One of the Web postings that authorities reviewed is a blog that equates suicide bombers with a soldier throwing himself on a grenade to save the lives of his comrades.

Update | 8:17 p.m. My colleague James Dao has spoken with Nader Hasan, a cousin of the suspected gunman who said that the military psychiatrist had recently expressed deep concerns about being sent to Iraq or Afghanistan. Having counseled scores of returning soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, first at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and more recently at Fort Hood, he knew all too well the terrifying realities of war, his cousin said.

"He was mortified by the idea of having to deploy," Mr. Hasan said. "He had people telling him on a daily basis the horrors they saw over there."

Nader Hasan also told a local Fox affiliate that his cousin said he heard "horrific things" from soldiers who had served in combat, and that he had been "dealing with harassment from his military colleagues."

Update | 8:13 p.m. As a colleague from Texas reminds us, there was a mass shooting near the Fort Hood base, in the town of Killeen, in 1991. That shooting was described in a 2001 article in The Houston Chronicle:

Before Oct. 16, 1991, the Central Texas town of Killeen was perhaps best known for its proximity to the Army base at Fort Hood, and Luby's was known only regionally as a popular cafeteria chain that served a wide variety of inexpensive dishes. But on that day, both came to be linked to what was then the worst mass murder in U.S. history.

At 12:45 p.m., 35-year-old George Hennard of nearby Belton drove his pickup truck through a window at the Killeen Luby's and killed 24 people. His 15-minute rampage ended when he shot himself after being wounded by police officers.

Update | 8:08 p.m. NBC reports that Major Hasan was "transferred to the Texas base in July, where he was preparing to deploy to Iraq later this month."

Update | 8:06 p.m. According to Christopher Hogue, a spokesman for the Army at Fort Hood, says that the lockdown at Fort Hood has been lifted. A note on the Web site of a nearby hospital says:

Scott & White Memorial Hospital has received 10 gunshot victims from Fort Hood. All patients are adults. No other victims are expected to arrive at Scott & White in Temple or at any of Scott & White locations.

Update | 7:59 p.m. W. Gardner Selby reports on The Austin American-Statesman's Blotter blog:

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, who has been briefed on the shootings at Fort Hood, said one suspect, Nadal Malik Hasan, was a physician who was born in Virginia to parents who hailed from Jordan.

CNN reports that a cousin of Major Hasan said that he took "flak" for being of Middle Eastern origin.

Update | 7:41 p.m. Given that Thursday's shooting spree took place at a readiness center, where troops were about to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, the subject will certainly turn to combat stress. According to the Web site of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, where the suspected gunman, Major Nidal Hasan, worked as a psychiatrist, he was involved in thinking about just that issue:

The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS) addresses both the invisible and visible wounds of war through research, education and consultation. The invisible wounds of war include the mental health consequences of deployment. These can range from normal distress to the treatable mental disorders of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Warrior wounds can also involve health risks such as increased use of tobacco, alcohol and/or drugs that can result in violence to self, spouse and/or children.

Update | 7:22 p.m. Information about Dr. Nidal Hasan posted on a Virginia Board of Medicine Web site includes a note that he saw patients at Darnell Army Medical Center Monday through Friday.

Update | 7:11 p.m. A personnel record for Major Hasan obtained by The New York Times says that he was born in Virginia in September, 1970. He had an undergraduate degree from Virginia Tech. His record said that he had expressed no religious preference. His last posting was at Darnell Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, where he worked as a psychiatrist.

Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress Maj. Nidal Hasan
Update | 6:43 p.m. A cached version of a biographical entry for Nidal Hasan, the suspected gunman who was killed on Thursday at Fort Hood, on the Web site of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress where he worked before being deployed to Texas describes him as "Fellow, Disaster and Preventive Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, F. Edward Hebert School of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences."

A screen shot from the Web site of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress.
Update | 6:36 p.m. The Kileen Daily Herald reports on Twitter:

Metroplex Hospital in Killeen says it has received seven of Ft Hood shooting victims - two are in surgery, four are in stable condition and "one of the victims it received has since died."

Update | 6:33 p.m. We are waiting for another news conference to start at the base. Here is video from The Associated Press of the previous remarks from the base commander, Gen. Robert Cone:

Update | 6:26 p.m. My colleagues on our Research desk have determined that the name of the suspected gunman is Nidal Malik Hasan. He was a Major in the Army and had a medical license from the state of Virginia.

Update | 6:22 p.m. The Austin American-Statesman notes that this is the second shooting at the base in just over a year:

Another shooting occurred at the post Sept. 8, 2008. In that incident, Spc. Jody Michael Wirawan, 22, of Eagle River, Ala., who was scheduled to soon be discharged, fatally shot 1st Lt. Robert Bartlett Fletcher, 24, of Jensen Beach, Fla. When Killeen police arrived, they fired shots at Wirawan. He responded by shooting himself, Fort Hood officials told The Associated Press at the time.

The 209,000-acre installation has a total population of 92,533, according to the Fort Hood Fact Book. The total number of military personnel assigned is about 57,000. There are 17,900 on-post family members. About 5,600 civilians workers and about 9,500 contractors, the fact book said.

Update | 6:16 p.m. According to the Marine Corps Times, a Pentagon source said the suspected gunman killed at Fort Hood, Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, "was a psychiatrist recently reassigned from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to work with soldiers at Darnall Army Medical Center on Fort Hood."

Update | 6:10 p.m. My colleague Jeff Zeleny passes on President Obama's complete remarks on the shootings, made earlier this afternoon in Washington:

[There has been a tragic shooting at the Fort Hood Army base in Texas. We don't yet know all the details at this moment; we will share them as we get them. What we do know is that a number of American soldiers have been killed, and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence.

My immediate thoughts and prayers are with the wounded and with the families of the fallen, and with those who live and serve at Fort Hood. These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans in battles overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.

I've spoken to Secretary Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and I will continue to receive a constant stream of updates as new information comes in. We are working with the Pentagon, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security, all to ensure that Fort Hood is secure, and we will continue to support the community with the full resources of the federal government.

In the meantime, I would ask all Americans to keep the men and women of Fort Hood in your thoughts and prayers. We will make sure that we get answers to every single question about this horrible incident. And I want all of you to know that as Commander-in-Chief, there's no greater honor but also no greater responsibility for me than to make sure that the extraordinary men and women in uniform are properly cared for and that their safety and security when they are at home is provided for.

So we are going to stay on this. But I hope in the meantime that all of you recognize the scope of this tragedy, and keep everybody in their thoughts and prayers.

Update | 6:06 p.m. The Associated Press reports that "a defense official speaking on condition of anonymity says Hasan was a mental health professional - an Army psychologist or psychiatrist.

Update | 6:04 p.m. According to a post on The Austin American-Statesman's Blotter blog:

Jeff Sadosky, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, said the senator had been told that Malik Nadal Hasan, who has been identified as a the shooting suspect at Fort Hood, was upset about his upcoming deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan.

Update | 5:41 p.m. My colleagues in Washington report that the Army confirms that the gunman who was killed was Army Major Malik Nadal Hasan. Several news organizations are reporting that he was 39 or 40 years old.

Update | 5:36 p.m. CNN reports that the soldiers who were at the readiness center were getting ready to deploy to Iraq.

Update | 5:23 p.m. My colleague Elisabeth Bumiller reports that the Pentagon confirms that the suspect is an Army Major. Several television networks, including CNN, ABC News and NBC, citing anonymous law-enforcement sources, have identified the gunman as Army Major Malik Nadal Hasan.

Update | 5:18 p.m. President Obama addressed the attack during a previously scheduled meeting with leaders of Native American tribal nations. Frank James transcribed his remarks for NPR's news blog, The Two-Way. The President said, in part:

We don't yet know all the details at this moment. We will share them as we get them. What we do know is that a number of American soldiers have been killed and even more have been wounded in a horrific outburst of violence. My immediate thought is with the wounded and the families of the fallen. These are men and women who have made the selfless and courageous decision to risk and at times give their lives to protect the rest of us on a daily basis. It's difficult enough when we lose these brave Americans overseas. It is horrifying that they should come under fire at an Army base on American soil.

Update | 5:11 p.m. The Killeen Daily Herald reports:

Scott & White Hospital in Temple reported that it was receiving all victims of the shooting and all are adults. Scott & White Hospital reported that it would remain open and requested blood donations.

Update | 5:08 p.m. Christopher Hogue, a spokesman at Fort Hood says that the gunman who was killed had two handguns. He confirms that 12 people are dead, including the gunman and that 31 have been wounded. The base remains locked down.

Update | 4:54 p.m. According to a Twitter feed from the Killeen Daily Herald, a newspaper near the base, Gen. Cone told reporters that the incident is over: all soldiers are accounted for and all of the casualties were injured or killed in the initial burst of fire inside the readiness facility at the base. The Killeen newspaper reports:

Local police killed the confirmed shooter, one Fort Hood civilian police officer among the dead.

The newspaper adds "parents may NOT go pick up students from 10 schools on Fort Hood."

Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman, via Associated Press Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, the commander of the Army base at Fort Hood, Texas spoke to the media on Thursday after a mass shooting at the facility.
Update | 4:48 p.m. Lt. Gen. Robert W. Cone, the base commander, is speaking to the media outside the base. He confirms that 12 people have been killed and 31 wounded. He also said that the shootings took place at a readiness facility, which is where soldiers go before deploying overseas. Gen. Cone said that the gunmen were Fort Hood soldiers and used handguns. Two soldiers have been detained as suspects in the shootings, in addition to the suspect who was killed.

Update | 4:39 p.m. CNN's Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports that 12 people have been killed and up to 30 wounded. One of the dead is said to have been one of the gunmen.

Update | 4:37 p.m. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison told Fox 4 News in Texas that one shooter was in custody and "another is still at large."
She also said she was told by authorities that there were as many as 30 wounded at "a processing center where soldiers are processed to go to Iraq or Afghanistan."

"Our hearts go out," she said. "These are soldiers who are getting ready to go out to Iraq or Afghanistan and their families were under stress already. This was just a terrible tragedy and we don't even know the extent of it yet."

Update | 4:27 p.m. A note on the Web site of the base newspaper, the Fort Hood Sentinel, says that a graduation ceremony was scheduled for Thursday afternoon just after the shootings reportedly took place near the Howze Auditorium on the base. According to the Sentinel: "The ceremony recognizes Soldiers and family members who have not had the opportunity to participate in college commencement exercises during the past year due to deployments or other commitments."

Update | 4:21 p.m. Speaking to CNN, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison said that the gunmen were wearing military uniforms.

Update | 4:19 p.m. The Associated Press reports that the number of people injured in the attack is at least 20.

Update | 4:15 p.m. CNN reports that two military sources say that the second gunman at Fort Hood is "cornered."

Original Post | 4:07 p.m. Seven people have been killed and twelve wounded in a mass shooting at the Army base at Fort Hood, Texas, on Thursday, according to Lt. Col. Nathan Banks, an Army spokesman. Lt. Col. Nathan Banks told my colleague David Stout that the shootings started at about 1:30 p.m. Eastern Time and that the base has been locked down. He added that one person is in custody but there is believed to be at least one more gunman still at large.

The Associated Press reports that the Web site of the base in central Texas has posted an alert that says, "Effective immediately Fort Hood is closed." The Web site, which became unavailable soon after the shootings were reported, said that units at the base have been ordered to account for all personnel.

The site says: "This is not a Drill. It is an Emergency Situation."

The A.P. adds that several television stations in Texas have been reporting on the incident at the base, which is located halfway between Austin and Waco.

Patrick Tolbert of the local ABC affiliate KXXV reports:

Fort Hood officials say one person is in custody but are asking people to stay away from windows. We've learned an incident has taken place at the sports dome, now known as the soldier readiness area.

We will bring you more information on this incident as soon as it is available.

Any readers in the area with information, in the form of eye-witness accounts, photographs or video are encouraged to send it to us, either by writing to or posting in the comment thread below.

Genuine Economic and Political Democracy vs. A Market-Driven Society and Culture


Another excellent essay by the outstanding educator, activist, cultural critic, and social theorist Henry A. Giroux...


Market-Driven Hysteria and the Politics of Death
Friday 06 November 2009
by: Henry A. Giroux, t r u t h o u t | Feature

If we take seriously the ideology, arguments and values now emanating from the right-wing of the Republican Party, there is no room in the United States for a democracy in which the obligations of citizenship, compassion and collective security outweigh the demands of what might be called totalizing market-driven society; that is, a society that is utterly deregulated, privatized, commodified and largely controlled by the ultra-rich and a handful of mega corporations. In such a society, there is a shift in power from government to markets and the emergence of a more intensified political economy organized around three principal concerns: deregulated markets, commodification and disposability. In spite of the current failure of this system, right-wing Republicans and their allies are more than willing to embrace a system that erases all vestiges of the public good, turning citizens into consumers, while privatizing and commodifying every aspect of the social order - all the while threatening the lives, health, and livelihoods of millions of working class and middle class people.

If we listen to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and an increasing number of their ilk, free-market fundamentalism is not only sexy, it is an argument against the very notion of politics itself and the power of the government to intervene and protect its citizens from the ravages of nature, corrupt institutions and an unregulated market. In this discourse, largely buttressed through an appeal to fear and the use of outright lies, free-market capitalism assumes an almost biblical status as an argument against the power of government to protect its citizens from misfortune and the random blows of fate by providing the most basic rights and levels of collective security and protection. Before he died, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt advocated precisely for such rights, which he called a "second bill of rights," which included the right "of every family to a decent home. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. The right to adequate protection form the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment. The right to a good education."[1] That is, those social, economic and individual rights that provide a secure foundation for people to live with dignity and be free to become critical and engaged citizens, capable of both expanding their own sense of agency and freedom while being able to work with others to fulfill the demands of an aspiring democracy.

But in the truncated notion of freedom espoused by the right-wing extremists of a market-driven society, democracy is a deficit, if not pathology, and freedom is reduced to the narrow logic of an almost rabid focus on self-interest. This is a truncated version of freedom, defined largely as freedom from constraint - a freedom which, when not properly exercised or balanced, loses its connection to those obligations that tie people to values, issues and institutions that affirm "the existence of a common good or a public purpose."[2] This type of depoliticizing inward thinking with its disavowal of the obligations of social responsibility and its outright disdain for those who are disadvantaged by virtue of being poor, young or elderly does more than fuel the harsh, militarized and hyper-masculine logic of reality television and extreme sports; it also elevates death over life, selfishness over compassion and economics over politics. But more so, it produces a kind of dysfunctional silence in the culture in the face of massive hardship and suffering. There is more than moral indifference and political cynicism at work here; there is also a culture for which there is not much room for ideals, a culture that now considers public welfare a pathology, and responsibility solely a privatized and individual matter. This is a politics of disinvestment in public life, democracy and the common good. Hence, it is not surprising that we hear nothing from the faux populists Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, and other cheerleaders for an unchecked capitalism about a market-driven landscape filled with desolate communities, gutted public services and weakened labor unions. Nor do they say anything about a free-market system that in its greed, cruelty, corruption and iniquitous power relations creates the conditions responsible for 40 million impoverished people (many living in their cars or the ever-growing tent cities), and 46 million Americans without health insurance - one result of which, according to a Harvard University study, is the needless deaths of 45,000 people every year.[3] Nor do they register any alarm over a system that, according to a recent study released by the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, claims that "lack of adequate health care may have contributed to the deaths of some 17,000 US children over the past two decades."[4] What do they have to say about a deregulated market system with its corrupt financial institutions shipping jobs abroad, swindling people out of their homes and gutting the manufacturing base of US industry? What do they have to say about a political system largely controlled by corporate lobbyists? Or insurance companies that pay employees bonuses when they maintain a high level of rejections for procedures that can save people's lives. Not much. All they see amid this growing landscape of human suffering and despair is the specter of socialism, which amounts to any government-sponsored program designed to offer collective insurance in the face of misfortune and promote the public good.

For right-wing extremists, a market-driven society represents more than a tirade against "big government"; it constitutes a new kind of politics that privileges exchange values and quick profits over all noncommodified values, resists all forms of government intervention (except when it benefits the rich and powerful or uses force to maintain social order), celebrates excessive individualism and consolidates the power of the rich along with powerful corporations - currently coded as mammoth financial institutions such as the insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and big banks. Moreover, the ability of this previously devalued market-driven system to endlessly come back to life is truly astonishing. How can the Dick Armey's of the world be featured in The New York Times as if their ideology and ruthlessness is worthy of a major news story? How is it that an endless number of ex- and current politicians, who are wedded at the hip to corporate interests, can be taken seriously as spokespersons for the larger public? And as the fog of social and historical amnesia rolls over the media and the country in general, it does so in spite of the current financial crisis, the debacle following Hurricane Katrina and the in-your-face payout of big bonuses by institutions that were bailed out by the government. Clearly, market fundamentalism is alive and well in the United States, suggesting that it also works hard through the related modalities of education and seduction to induce the public to conform to the narrow dictates, values and dreams of totalizing market society, regardless of how disruptive it is of their lives. Shouting against the evils of big government does little to register or make visible the power of big corporations or a government that serves corporate rather than democratic needs.

What is unique and particularly disturbing about this hyper-market driven notion of economics is that it makes undemocratic modes of education central to its politics and employs a mode of pedagogy aimed at displacing and shutting down all vestiges of the public sphere that cannot be commodified, privatized and commercialized. Consumers are in and citizens are out. Fear and lying are the discourses of choice while dialogue and thoughtfulness are considered a weakness. To a greater extent than at any other point in liberal modernity, this regime of economic Darwinism now extends economic rationality "to formerly noneconomic domains [shaping] individual conduct, or more precisely, [prescribing] the citizen-subject of the neoliberal order."[5] Most crucially, this struggle over the construction of the market-driven consumer subject, especially as it applies to young people, is by and large waged outside of formal educational institutions, in pedagogical sites and spaces that are generally privatized and extend from the traditional and new media to conservative-funded think tanks and private schools.[6] As corporate-controlled spheres and commodity markets assume a commanding role educating young and old alike, pedagogy is redefined as a tool of commerce aggressively promoting the commodification of young people and the destruction of noncommodified public spaces and institutions. How else to explain that it is almost impossible to read about educational reform in the dominant media except as a tool to educate people for the workforce? In other words, education is a form of commerce and nothing more. Education for democracy today sounds a lot like the idea that health care for everyone is socialism. Clearly, what we are witnessing here is not just the rise political theater or media-driven spectacle in American society, but a populism that harbors a deep disdain for democracy and no longer understands how to define itself outside of the imperatives of capital accumulation, shopping and the willingness to view more and more individuals and groups as simply disposable waste products no longer worthy of the blessings of consumption.

As moral and ethical considerations are decoupled from the calculating logic and consequences of all economic activity, the horrendous human toll in suffering and hardship being visited upon all segments of the American population is lost in the endless outburst of anger, if not hysteria, promoted by right-wing extremists - shouting for a return to the good old days when financial institutions and money markets set policy, eventually ushering in one of the most serious economic crisis this country has ever faced. As the values of human togetherness, community, friendship and love are once again subordinated to the notion that only markets can give people what they want, the culture of fear and cruelty grows in proportion to the angry protests, the threat of violence and the unapologetic racism aimed at the Obama administration. In part, this is exemplified in not only the endless public pronouncements that make a market society and democracy synonymous, but also in the ongoing celebration, in spite of the near collapse of the mortgage sector, of the excesses of the new Gilded Age. Like those dead bodies that endlessly return in George Romero's film classic "Night of the Living Dead," right-wing Republicans and Democrats are back shouting from every conceivable platform to demolish any vestige of reform that relies on "big government." The right-wing infatuation with the word "death," as in the fictitious claim about Obama's death panels, is telling - more a projection of their own politics than a serious critique of health care reform. Despite a change in US political leadership, these forces - if left unchecked - will continue to promote and fight for a transformation of democratic governance and citizenship until they are both completely destroyed.

As democracy is increasingly reduced to an empty shell and the rise of a corporate and punishing state looms heavily on the 21st-century horizon, the market-driven principles of deregulation, radical individualism and privatization penetrate all aspects of daily life. Such market-driven values and their accompanying power-shaping institutions now profoundly influence the very nature of how the American public think, act and desire. All of which are increasingly wedded to the epicenter of a grotesque consumer culture, whose underside is a heartless indifference to the suffering and hardship of the millions of people without jobs, homes, health care and, increasingly, hope. The current fight against health care reform is not really just about fixing a terribly iniquitous and broken system; it is a struggle against the prospect of a better future for young people, the poor, the excluded and those struggling to stay alive in America. What are we to make of an ideology that moves from dismantling the welfare state to embracing the punishing state, an ideology that increasingly turns its back on those individuals for whom the prisons are now deputized as the only welfare institutions left in America, or, if they are lucky, find themselves in one of the emerging tent cities found under bridges and located in other invisible landscapes - used in the past to get rid of waste products, but now used to dump poor working class and middle class families?

Where is this hysteria going given that we now have in office an administration that refuses to fight for the ideals it campaigned on? We get a glimpse of where it is going in the tirades let loose recently by people like Sarah Palin, a dumber than dumb version of Ayn Rand, and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota), who, when she is not calling for members of Congress to be investigated for their communist sympathies, is railing against Obama's socialism. In leading crowds in Washington, DC, recently with the chant, "kill the bill," Bachmann displays not simply an angry protest against the reform of health care. On the contrary, there is a much broader notion of politics at stake here, one in which she and others are protesting for an utterly privatized and commodified society where corporations and markets define politics while matters of life and death are removed from ethical considerations, increasingly subject to cost-benefit analyses and the calculations of potential profit margins. In this scenario, each individual is on their own in confronting the many systemic problems facing American society, each of us responsible for our own fate, even when facing systemic problems that cannot be solved by isolated individuals. This politics of hysteria and ruthlessness that is now on full display in America is not just an attack on the social state, big government, the public sphere and the common good, but the very essence of politics and democracy. This is truly a politics that celebrates death over life.



[1]. For an excerpt of Roosevelt's call for a second bill of rights, see Bill Moyers, "Interview with James Galbraith," "Bill Moyers Journal," (October 30, 2009). Online at:

[2]. Bill Moyers, "Interview with James Galbraith," "Bill Moyers Journal," (October 30, 2009). Online at:

[3]. US Census Bureau Press Release, "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008," US Department of Commerce, Washington, DC. (September 10, 2009). Available online at:

Paul Klayman, "Harvard Study: 45,000 People Die Every Year," Institute for Southern Studies (September 18, 2009). Online at:

[4]. Editorial, "Lack of Health Care Led to 17,000 US Child Deaths," Agence France-Presse (October 29, 2009). Online at: ,

[5]. Wendy Brown, "Edgework: Critical Essays on Knowledge and Politics" (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 41.

[6]. For an excellent analysis of the control of corporate power on the media, see Robert W. McChesney, "The Political Economy of the Media," (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2008).

Henry A. Giroux holds the Global TV Network chair in the Department of English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada. Some of the ideas in this article draw from "Youth in a Suspect Society: Democracy or Disposability" (Palgrave/McMillan 2009). Henry A. Giroux's forthcoming books, "Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror" and "Politics After Hope: Barack Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy," (Paradigm Publishers) will be released in January 2010. His homepage is

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Triumph and Tragedy of Michael Jackson: 1958-2008


This is an outstanding personal essay by Detroit-based writer and cultural critic Patricia Calloway on the heinous nexus of money, fame, drugs, exploitation, and "entertainment" in the gigantic corporate matrix that tragically became known to the rest of us as the global commodity called "Michael Jackson, Inc."--which predictably destroyed and dismembered the brilliant human being of the same name (without the quote marks and incorporated copyright sign of course). My wife and I saw the man and artist Jackson this past weekend in "This Is It", the new tribute documentary film now playing in over 18,000 theatres nationwide, and it is a wonderful and thoroughly inspiring examination/celebration of a genuine musical genius and extraordinary dedicated artist of the highest caliber. What the film proves conclusively is that Michael Jackson was an absolute master of his musical idiom who truly deserved the encomium "King of Pop." I enthusiastically recommend that everyone see the film. I guarantee you won't be disappointed. It really is that good...



Losing Michael Jackson was like losing a brother in more ways than one.

By Patricia Calloway

There once was a king of pop
Who took milk going back to the top
His doctor was wit' it
But he overdid it
The milk, and the king of pop stopped.

On August 29, 2009--which would have been his 51st birthday-- Michael Jackson was finally interred at Forest Lawn Cemetery, his body committed to the ground by his family after weeks of lying in a freezer being chipped at, drained and sampled in the search for the cause of his death. Two culprits have emerged; one, Dr. Conrad Murray, who caused the death proper, and the anesthetic drug propofol, his weapon of choice. Accomplices include the tranquilizers midazolam and diazepam, with lidocaine and ephedrine acting as lookout and getaway driver, respectively.

That week in class we studied the action of the drug propofol as part of a course lecture in veterinary anesthesia; I am a second year veterinary nursing student who has recently completed an Associates degree in General Science. Our instructor talked about Michael and the drug in the most offhanded and disinterested manner. During our class break I went to a stall in the ladies' room and inexplicably burst into tears. I was quite surprised by that.

Michael's Milk of Amnesia

Propofol is a central nervous system drug used for anesthetic induction. It works very fast; it is highly lipid soluble, so it goes in and runs through the body, is metabolized then dissipates within five minutes. Its action produces unconsciousness and is painful when administered to humans.

The drug is suspended in a soybean oil and egg lecithin emulsion, hence its milky whiteness. It must be used quickly and completely because of its poor storage characteristics; any remainder must be discarded within six hours of opening because the proteinous emulsion supports bacterial growth and could become contaminated.

Dogs and cats do very well under propofol. Onset is usually less than 60 seconds and the duration of anesthesia is 5 to 10 minutes. Dogs recover quickly and smoothly from propofol with no hangovers even after multiple injections. Cats, while their recovery is a little longer, recover quickly as well. Humans are supposed to recover from propofol with a minimum of problems, except when your doctor is Conrad Murray; in that case, you've got a world of problems.

A Brother From Another Mother

My brother Rodney JoWayne Young was born in the same month as my brother Michael Joseph Jackson and they would have been the same age. My brother was a Detroit Police officer, a sergeant with over 20 years on the force. He had wanted to join the police force since high school; he graduated then worked at the Ford factory while taking classes at a local college. When the police academy called him he threw down his work gloves and apron and never looked back.

June 20, 2006 my brother was out after work riding his motorcycle with three other off-duty officers when he lost control of his bike on a freeway entry ramp. The bike went under an eighteen wheeler truck; he was crushed beneath its wheels. The driver drove another five miles before he knew he had even hit my brother.

When I visited his body in the hospital morgue the first thing I noticed was his peace vibration. I touched him; he was cold, of course, but there was no hint of last moment angst, no residual fear. I knew he hadn't been afraid in his final moments. How could that be?

For months I was tormented by the thought of the eighteen wheeler crushing the life from my brother's chest. An autopsy was scheduled to determine cause of death. He was a police officer; they had to make sure no foul play was involved (he worked in fugitive apprehension). The state police conducted the autopsy but the results weren't final for another sixty days. In the meantime he was laid to rest in a funeral fit for a head of state.

Then came the questions: How did Rodney, an experienced rider, end up under the wheels of an eighteen wheeled truck? How did Michael, a seemingly healthy man, end up in cardiac arrest under the nose of a licensed physician?

These were million dollar questions and it dawned on me as I watched Michael's memorial service, along with millions of others, that his family was on that same road toward to discovering exactly what happened to their loved one because things just weren't adding up.

Dr. Dootoomuch

When I first read the list of drugs administered to brother Michael in the early hours of June 25, 2009, I couldn't believe it. What the hell......? Who gives an entire family of drugs to a patient within hours of each dose? Who gives CPR on a soft bed instead of a hard surface? Why were there needle marks in his neck and what was injected into him? Why was he in the doctor's room and not his own? None of it made sense.

This doctor was clearly the most inept, negligent and downright stupid practitioner to ever hold a license if he gave Michael CPR on a soft bed. People Magazine reports that not only was Michael given cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a soft surface, but that the doctor used one hand to massage his heart.

In veterinary emergency CPR, we wouldn't dream of using one hand on a dog. In canine CPR, the chest is compressed between both hands, one under the chest, one over the heart, while the patient lies on its side; or, when chest up, one hand over its heart, the other under its back. The patient is always, always on a hard surface. In human CPR both hands are placed over the heart and compress the chest while the patient lies on his back.

According to his own attorney, Conrad Murray administered CPR to Michael Jackson the way I would give chest compressions to a dog in cardiac arrest. A dog. The King of Pop got substandard emergency care even by family pet standards.

The family pet would have received flumazenil, a benzodiazepine antagonist which would have reversed the effects of the Valium, Versed, and Ativan that Conrad Murray (for I refuse to call him “Doctor”) administered to him damned near every hour on the hour from one o'clock to seven thirty a.m. reports that Murray allegedly told emergency personnel at the hospital that he had given Michael flumazenil, but I don't buy that. I don't buy it because Michael is dead; I am of the opinion that Murray threw that in to cover himself only after he finally remembered he should have used it.

The family pet also would also have been immediately ventilated, put on an ECG and given IV fluids. Not one report states Michael Jackson got any of this from Conrad Murray; that's why I'll never call him “Doctor”. When sister LaToya demanded to see Michael's doctor to “ask what the hell happened” to her brother, he didn't identify himself. Paris-Michael, Michael's daughter, had to point him out to her; after that he disappeared from the hospital. That's why I call him....well, you know, other names.

And AEG Makes Three

Who books a man for three months running in 2009 and another two months in 2010 for a total of 50 dates at an outdoor entertainment venue? Anschutz Entertainment Group, that's who.

AEG is a global sports and entertainment promotion outfit; it is the world's largest owner of sports teams and venues and the world's second largest concert promoter behind LiveNation. AEG makes its money by promoting concerts and live shows in the sports venues they own. The Staples Center is just one example of the strategy that has propelled them to the top of live entertainment.

It was AEG who held the $4 million dollar memorial service for Michael Jackson, stiffing Los Angeles taxpayers for the bill while at the same time garnering international attention for the Staples Center. Angelenos weren't the only ones left holding the bag, however.

It was AEG who pulled a fast one on its advance ticketholders when it announced that any of the 750,000 tickets sold for the “This Is It” concerts could either be refunded upon request or ticketholders could receive souvenir tickets instead. The souvenir tickets, which AEG has carefully pointed out will become collector's items, have a holographic 3D face, kind of like those Topps baseball cards of the 1970's that moved when you moved them. The tickets sold for from £50-£75; 750,000 refunds would cost AEG about $85 million dollars in tickets and booking fees.

AEG was looking to save $40 million dollars by running this “All 750,000 tickets will be valuable, just wait and see” scam. Never mind that since AEG prints the limited edition tickets they control the market for and the value of the souvenirs. Luckily, Brits aren't stupid and many of them went for the refund. Good for them.

Quick, where's the remaining piece of the historic Berlin Wall? Don't know? Me, either. AEG had it removed because it blocked the view from one of their stadiums. Ask them where it is; they had it last.

The Jackson family suspects that several of the people surrounding Michael before his death were put there by AEG and looking at this Berlin Wall and ticket thing, I can't put it past them. Their biggest concern right now is how to best “monetize their asset”; that's “make money” to me and you.

These are the people Michael agreed to work for.

“G” Is For Greed

Published reports say Michael didn't want to do fifty dates, he only wanted to do ten. AEG sold and sold and sold until he relented. Michael loved his fans and didn't want to disappoint. According to LaToya Jackson, AEG exploited his love by planting people within his camp to monitor him. She feels that Conrad Murray helped others to control him with drugs. According to AEG, a “significant amount of money” was to be advanced to Murray by them and he would be with Michael in England for the concerts. Murray had given up two cardiology practices to work with Michael. If AEG was going to advance him “substantial amounts” of money, then Murray's ship had finally come in; millions of dollars and several baby mamas in debt, he was determined to sail.

Michael passed AEG's physical like a champ and the latest coroner's report backs up their findings; he was a little thin but he was healthy for a 50 year old man. Was the reason Michael couldn't sleep because Murray had him on stimulants so he could dance and sing for hours on end in preparation for the concerts? Sedative cocktails were used to put him down at night. Sam Goldwyn used and abused Judy Garland in the same way.

There's a “g” in his name, too.

The Light Of Day

When I had you, I treated you bad and wrong, my dear

And since you've been away

Don't you know I hang around with my head hanging down

And I wonder what I'm gonna do

The Los Angeles Coroner's Office has ruled Michael's death a homicide. In his official statement, the coroner found that Michael was a healthy 50 year old man whose weight was within normal range for his height, and though he had a few tics here and there, namely a little arthritis, a little chronic lung inflammation (probably from his lupus) and no skin cancer (it had cleared up!), he was in good general health. No, he was not bald, emaciated or covered in scar tissue and puncture marks, although there were some on his arms (fresh, obviously) and one on his ankle. Now that the wait is over we all know that Conrad Murray killed our brother.

“Acute Propofol Intoxication” is another way of saying Michael was overdosed on anesthetic. In veterinary nursing what Murray did to Michael is called euthanasia; he lost consciousness then, aloft, floated away peacefully and never knew a thing.

The Michigan State Police ruled Rodney's death an accident. In their official statement, they found that my brother had suffered cardiac arrest on the freeway ramp. He lost consciousness, then control of the motorcycle which crashed into the rear side of the truck; he went under the wheels from there.

That's why he had a peace vibration; he never saw his death coming and for this I am grateful.

The driver of the truck was from the state of Wisconsin, just a family man who was on his job. He did not know he had run over my brother until the officers my brother was riding with arrested him. When he learned what happened he became hysterical. He cooperated fully with police and after the autopsy findings all charges were dropped; it wasn't his fault, it was nobody's fault.

I was never angry at him; somehow I knew he hadn't hurt my brother willfully. I prayed for his peace of mind, something so scarce during that time. It was hard for us all, the family, the officers, everybody. We held no ill feelings toward him; it was just one of those things, one of those sad, tragic events that test us and our strength in times of crisis.

I will not be praying for Conrad Murray. It's just not in me. Conrad had better pray for himself; between the Jackson family, the states of California, Nevada, and Texas plus AEG, there won't be a scrap of meat left on his bones when he goes to prison. And he will go to prison. The only thing that can save him right now is the hand of God and I don't think he will get even that.

AEG had a $40 million dollar insurance policy riding on the outcome of the autopsy; now that the death has been ruled a homicide, they can collect. A pre-existing condition would have knocked them out of the money, so I'm sure they're relieved for their bottom line that Conrad Murray poisoned Michael with propofol instead of some unseen ailment suddenly rearing its head. They sold their rights to “This Is It” to Columbia Pictures for $60 million dollars and ten percent of the film's box office. The remaining ninety percent will go to Michael's estate, as it should.

However, AEG made a side deal with worldwide merchandiser Bravada for ring tones, trading cards and apparel which the Jackson estate is seriously frowning upon. This is going to be good, so strap yourselves in. In the meantime Michael's will designates twenty percent of all income generated after his death for various charities; he will be healing the world long after you and I have gone away from this place.

My Blue Heaven

I see Rodney in dreams. He has that same peace vibration about him and I'm never sad or scared when he comes to me. He is always dressed to the nines. Gianni Versace is obviously on the other side still making clothes, fabulous, fabulous clothes.

I hope Omar, Prince, Paris and Blanket aren't afraid when their daddy comes to them. They shouldn't be; he loved them more than life itself. It's the love that brings them to us, it's called a soul tie and it lasts forever. For as long as he loves his children and they love him the King shall remain.

Long live the King.

“Michael Jackson's This Is It” opens in theaters October 28, 2009. Patricia Calloway lives and blogs in Detroit, Michigan and will be in attendance with bells (and a sequined glove) on.