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Making a joke of the Supreme Court: Justice Antonin Scalia is a Publicity-Seeking Intellectual Midget
By Dave Lindorff
Sometimes you really don't need to write much to do an article on something. Writing about the inanity of Justice Antonin Scalia, the ethics-challenged, lard-bottomed, right-wing anchor of the Supreme Court, is one of those times.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement on a massive $1.01 trillion spending bill that the Senate plans to take up later today:
“At a time when the middle class continues to disappear, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else grows wider, this bill comes nowhere close to reflecting the needs and priorities of America’s working families.
“Instead of helping to strengthen Social Security, Medicare and other programs that help working families, this bill would allow the Pentagon to spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on our military and seemingly never-ending wars in the Middle East.”
“Instead of investing in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and creating millions of decent-paying jobs, this bill would let companies renege on promises they made to their workers by cutting the pension benefits of current retirees.
“Instead of cracking down on Wall Street CEOs whose greed and illegal behavior plunged the country into a terrible recession, this bill allows too-big-to-fail banks to make the same risky bets on derivatives that led to the largest taxpayer bailout in history and nearly destroyed the economy.
“Instead of cutting back on the ability of billionaires to buy elections, this bill outrageously gives the wealthy even more power over the political process.
“Instead of giving the Environmental Protection Agency the tools it needs to begin dealing with the planetary crisis of global warming, this bill would cut spending by the EPA.”
WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 – The Senate today advanced a Department of Defense bill that would authorize $560 billion for the military. The vote was 85-14. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) voted “no” and issued the following statement:
“I am voting no because I have very serious concerns about our nation's bloated military budget and the misplaced national priorities this bill reflects.
“At a time when our national debt is more than $18 trillion and we spend nearly as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, the time is long overdue to end the waste and financial mismanagement that have plagued the Pentagon for years.
“The situation is so absurd that the military is unable to even account for how it spends all of its money. The non-partisan watchdog agency, the Government Accountability Office, said ‘serious financial management problems at the Department of Defense made its financial statements un-auditable.’
“I support a strong defense system for our country and a robust National Guard and Reserve that can meet our domestic and foreign challenges. At a time when the country is struggling with huge unmet needs, however, it is unacceptable that the Defense Department continues to waste massive amounts of money.”
Why people want to become fans of a senator rather than pushing senators to serve the public is beyond me.
Why people want to distract and drain away two years of activism, with the planet in such peril, fantasizing about electing a messiah is beyond me.
And when people who've chosen as their messiah someone who isn't even running for the office they're obsessed with, respond to criticism with "Well, who else is there?" -- that makes zero sense. They've made the list and could make it differently.
But here's what's really crazy about talking to Elizabeth-Warren-For-Presidenters. If you complain that she hasn't noticed the military budget yet, they tell you that doing so would cost her the election. And when you reject that contention, they tell you that wars are just one little issue among a great many.
Now, when Congress was cooking up a Grand Bargain to solve the debt "crisis," people who were polled almost universally rejected any of the acceptable solutions under consideration, such as smashing Social Security. Instead, they said they wanted the rich taxed and the military cut. When pollsters at the University of Maryland show people the federal budget, a strong majority wants big cuts to the military. This is nothing new. People favor cutting war spending. People who elected Obama believed (falsely) that he intended to cut the military.
A different and more substantiated argument would be that turning against military spending would cost Warren the support of wealthy funders and the tolerance of media gatekeepers. But that does not seem to be the argument that Warren-For-Presidenters make.
It's the "just one issue among many" thing that's truly nuts. Look at this:
One little item makes up over half the discretionary budget, the things a Senator votes to spend money on or not spend money on. Does Warren think this massive investment in war preparation is too much, too little, or just the right amount? Who the hell knows? Can anyone even be found who cares?
The cost of one weapons system that doesn't work could provide every homeless person with a large house.
A tiny fraction of military spending could end starvation at home and abroad.
The Great Student Loan Struggle takes place in the shadow of military spending unseen in countries that simply make college free, countries that don't tax more than the United States, countries that just don't do wars the way the U.S. does. You can find lots of other little differences between those countries and the U.S. but none of them on the unfathomable scale of military spending or even remotely close to it.
Financially, war is what the U.S. government does. Everything else is a side show.
In the typical U.S. Congressional election, the military budget is never mentioned by any candidate or commentator. But surely it's fair to ask Senator Warren, with her great interest in financial questions and economic justice, whether she knows the military budget exists and what she thinks of it.
When a candidate is never asked about a subject, most people simply imagine the candidate shares their own view. This is why it's important to ask.
Of course, many people actually think that war is only one little issue among many others and that, for example, funding schools is totally unrelated to dumping over half the budget into a criminal enterprise. To them I say, please look carefully at the graphic above.
By Dave Lindorff
I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good.
By Dave Lindorff
I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good.
Senator Rand Paul wants Congress to Declare war on ISIS. Some, like Bruce Fein, are willing to ignore the UN Charter and the Kellogg Briand Pact, and write as if a war would be legal if Congress would just declare it. And, of course, Fein is right that in theory a Congress that was in any way held accountable by the public would be preferable to lawless presidents waging war where they like.
But Paul's war declaration doesn't just declare a war that is already underway. It declares a war limited to this action exclusively:
"protect the people and facilities of the United States in Iraq and Syria against the threats posed thereto by the organization referring to itself as the Islamic State."
See, it's sort of a pretense of defensive war. We'll fight you thousands of miles away in your country, in defense. But this pretense depends on the United States, and its corporate oil overlords, deciding to maintain people and facilities in Iraq and Syria.
What facilities does the U.S. government have in Iraq and Syria? Military facilities! (Including the world's largest "embassy," which is certainly a military facility.)
So we'll have a war with the sole purpose of defending soldiers and weaponry kept there just in case we need to have a war. If you're unable to see the logical problem here, ask a child to help.
Let me give you the low-budget, small guv'mnt version of this war: Bring the Goddam People and Facilities Home.
Done. Mission accomplished.
Of course, this is all an act. The war is underway illegally and unconstitutionally. ISIS recruitment is soaring as a result of the war it asked for. Weapons companies' profits are soaring as a result of the war they are happy to assist in. Nobody is threatened with impeachment for this unconstitutional war. That sacred sanction is saved as punishment for humane treatment of foreigners or fellatio.
So the war may get declared or not declared, limited or not limited. It will roll on, just like all the illegal drone wars underway, if the president and the weapons makers and the television propagandists choose.
Unless people actually wake up and stop this madness, as they did just over a year ago.
If we decide to do that, our demand should not be a war declaration.
Our demand should not even be an end to this one war, while continuing to dump a trillion dollars a year into preparing for wars that somehow end up happening.
Our demand should be an end to war-handouts. If the universe wants to have wars, let the wars pay for themselves. Let the wars become self-sufficient. It's tough love, I know, but socialism has failed. It's time we closed a whole department, and that department should be the deceptively renamed Department of War.
Congresswoman Lee’s Statement on the FY15 NDAA
Washington, DC – Congresswoman Barbara Lee released this statement regarding the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference bill:
“While I am pleased to see bicameral and bipartisan cooperation and certainly support several elements of the bill, I have grave concerns about the conference report.
This bill authorizes $63.7 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. OCO funds are an accounting gimmick that allows the Pentagon to fight wars for which we have not paid. I strongly oppose OCO and will continue to call for a debate and vote on the war in Iraq and Syria that is funded by this slush fund.
I hope my colleagues will join the bipartisan effort to ensure the audit-readiness of the Pentagon more than 20 years after Congress mandated it by supporting my Audit the Pentagon Act of 2014 (H.R. 5126). It is time to get serious about accountability, transparency and oversight.”
Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.
Oh no! The American jihadis are coming!: Stoking Fear as the US Prepares for the Nest War in the Middle East
By Dave Lindorff
You read it in USA Today: The latest “threat to America” is “thousands of jihadis” with Western passports,” returning from battle in Syria and Iraq to wreak havoc and destruction in the “US homeland.”
It’s a nightmare profoundly hoped for by the US Department of Homeland Security, that massive security-state bureaucracy looking for a raison d’être.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
DeSmogBlog's Steve Horn and Republic Report's Lee Fang have co-written an in-depth report on the influence the government-industry revolving door has had on Big Oil's ability to obtain four liquefied natural gas (LNG) export permits since 2012 from the Obama Administration.
Photo Credit: DeSmogBlog
Titled "Natural Gas Exports: Washington's Revolving Door Fuels Climate Threat," the report published here on DeSmogBlog and on Republic Report serves as the launching pad of an ongoing investigation. It will act as the prelude of an extensive series of articles by both websites uncovering the LNG exports influence peddling machine.
The report not only exposes the lobbying apparatus that has successfully opened the door for LNG exports, but also the PR professionals paid to sell them to the U.S. public. It also exposes those who have gone through the "reverse revolving door," moving from industry back to government and sometimes back again.
It reveals that many former Obama Administration officials now work as lobbyists or PR professionals on behalf of the LNG exports industry, as do many former Bush Administration officials. So too do those with ties to potential 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Michigan's First Congressional District is cold enough to freeze spit. Half of it is disconnected from the rest of Michigan and tacked onto the top of Wisconsin. A bit of it is further north than that, but rumored to be inhabited nonetheless.
In the recent Congressional elections, incumbent Republican Congressman Dan Benishek was reelected to his third term with 52 percent of the votes. Benishek is a climate-change denier and committed to limiting himself to three terms, a pair of positions that may end up working well together.
Benishek's predecessor in Congress was a Democrat, and a Democrat took 45 percent of the vote this year. Will that Democrat run again in 2016? Some would argue that if he does it should be from prison. Before he ran for office, Jerry Cannon ran the U.S. death camp at Guantanamo and, according to a witness, was personally responsible for ordering torture.
Green Party candidate Ellis Boal took 1 percent of the vote in Michigan's First, after apparently failing to interest corporate media outlets in his campaign, and by his own account failing utterly to interest them in what he managed to learn about Cannon, who also "served" in the war in Iraq.
Now, Congress is jam-packed with members of both major parties who have effectively condoned and covered up torture for years. Both parties have elected numerous veterans of recent wars who have participated in killing in wars that they themselves, in some cases, denounce as misguided. And we've read about the Bush White House overseeing torture in real time from afar. But it still breaks new ground for the party of the President who has claimed to be trying to close Guantanamo for six years to put up as a candidate a man who ran the place, and a man whose role in torture was not entirely from his air-conditioned office.
I would also venture to say that it breaks new media ground for the news outlets covering the recent election nationally and locally in Michigan's First District to not only miss this story but actively refuse to cover it when Boal held it in their faces and screamed. "Despite many attempts," Boal says, "I have been unable to interest any media in it, save for a small newspaper in Traverse City (near me) which gave it cursory attention."
Boal sent out an offer to any reporter willing to take an interest: "I located a witness, a former detainee now cleared and back home in Bosnia, who can testify of an instance of torture visited on him in early 2004, ordered and supervised by Cannon. I can put you in touch with him through his attorney. The details of the incident are here. . . . Without success I tried to make it a campaign issue."
Jerry Cannon, according to both Wikipedia and his own website, first "served" in the war that killed three to four million Vietnamese. He was commander of the Joint Detention Operations Group Joint Task Force Guantanamo from 2003 to 2004. He was Deputy Commanding General responsible for developing Iraqi police forces in Iraq from 2008 to 2009, and U.S. Forces-Iraq Provost Marshal General and Deputy Commanding General for Detention Operations in Iraq from 2010 to 2011. Boy, everything this guy touches turns out golden!
Boal has collected evidence of torture during Cannon's time at Guantanamo, from the Red Cross, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the U.S. Senate, and public reports including in the New York Times, here.
Boal focuses on Mustafa Ait Idir, a former prisoner of Guantanamo who, like most, has been widely written about, and who, like most, has been found innocent of any wrong-doing and been released (in November 2008 after years of wrongful imprisonment).
Mustafa Ait Idir says that soldiers at Guantanamo threw him down on rocks and jumped on him, causing injuries including a broken finger, dislocated knuckles, and half his face paralyzed; they sprayed chemicals in his face, squeezed his testicles, and slammed his head on the floor and jumped on him. They bent his fingers back to cause pain, and broke one of them in the process. They stuck his head in a toilet and flushed it. They stuck a hose in his mouth and forced water down his throat. They refused him medical attention.
Boal communicated with Idir through Idir's lawyer, and Idir identified Cannon from photos and a video as the man who had threatened him with punishment if he did not hand over his pants. (Prisoners who believed they needed pants in order to pray were being stripped of their pants as a means of humiliation and abuse.) Idir refused to give up his pants unless he could have them back to wear for praying. Consequently, he was "enhanced interrogated."
Torture and complicity in torture are felonies under U.S. law, a fact that the entire U.S. political establishment has gone to great lengths to obscure.
I shared the information above with Rebecca Gordon, author of Mainstreaming Torture, and she replied:
"Torture is a 'non-partisan' practice in this country. It's beyond disgraceful that the Democratic Party would run Jerry Cannon for Congress. Sadly, while most (but clearly not all!) Dems have repudiated torture in words, their deeds have been more ambiguous. Five years after President Obama took office, the prison at Guantánamo remains open, and torture continues there. The Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture has yet to be released. (Perhaps lame duck senator Mark Udall will be persuaded to read the whole thing into the Congressional Record, as some of us are hoping.) We have yet to get a full accounting, not only of the CIA's activities, but of all U.S. torture in the 'war on terror.' Equally important, President Obama made it clear at the beginning of his first term that no one would be held accountable for torture. 'Nothing will be gained,' he said 'by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.' But we know this is not true. When high government officials know that they can torture with impunity, torture will continue."
Noting Cannon's resume post-Guantanamo, Gordon said, "Under the al-Maliki government, the Iraqi police force, and in particular the detention centers operated by the Iraqi Special Police Commandos, routinely abused members of Iraq's Sunni communities, thereby further inflaming the political and social enmity between Sunnis and Shias in Iraq. When the so-called Islamic State began operating in Iraq, they found willing collaborators in Sunni communities whose members had been tortured by the al-Maliki government's police. When Jerry Cannon went to Guantánamo, he went as an Army reservist. In civilian life he was Sheriff of Kalkaska County in Michigan. Cannon's abusive practices and contemptuous attitudes towards detainees did not originate in Guantánamo. He brought them with him from the United States. Similarly, in civilian life, the members of the reservist unit responsible for the famous outrages at Abu Ghraib were prison guards from West Virginia. Their ringleader, Specialist Charles Graner, famously wrote home to friends about his activities at Abu Ghraib, 'The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, "I love to make a grown man piss himself."' In fact, if you want to find torture hidden in plain sight, look no farther than the jails and prisons of this country."
The mystery of where torture came from turns out to be no mystery at all. It came from the prison industrial complex. And it's now been so mainstreamed that it's no bar to running for public office. But here's another mystery: Why is President Obama going to such lengths to cover up his predecessor's torture, including insisting on redactions in the Senate report on CIA torture that even Senator Dianne Feinstein claims not to want censored? Surely it's not because of all the gratitude Obama's receiving from former President Bush or his supporters! Actually, it's no mystery at all. As Gordon points out: the torture is ongoing.
President Elect Obama made very clear in January 2009 that he would not allow torturers to be prosecuted and would be "looking forward" instead of (what all law enforcement outside of science fiction requires) backward. By February 2009, reports were coming in that torture at Guantanamo was worsening rather than ceasing, and included: "beatings, the dislocation of limbs, spraying of pepper spray into closed cells, applying pepper spray to toilet paper and over-force-feeding detainees who are on hunger strike." In April 2009 a Guantanamo prisoner phoned a media outlet to report being tortured. As time went by the reports kept coming, as the military's written policy would lead one to expect.
In May 2009, former vice president Dick Cheney forced into the news the fact that, even though Obama had "banned torture" by executive order (torture being a felony and a treaty violation before and after the "banning") Obama maintained the power to use torture as needed. Cheney said that Obama's continued claim of the power to torture vindicated his own (Cheney's) authorization of torture. David Axelrod, White House Senior Advisor, refused repeatedly, to dispute Cheney's assertion -- also supported by Leon Panetta's confirmation hearing for CIA director, at which he said the president had the power to torture and noted that rendition would continue. In fact, it did. The New York Times quickly reported that the U.S. was now outsourcing more torture to other countries. The Obama administration announced a new policy on renditions that kept them in place, and a new policy on lawless permanent imprisonment that kept it in place but formalized it, mainstreamed it. Before long Obama-era rendition victims were alleging torture.
As the Obama White House continued and sought to extend the occupation of Iraq, torture continued to be an Iraqi policy, as it has post-occupation and during occupation 3.0. It has also remained a U.S. and Afghan policy in Afghanistan, with no end in sight. The U.S. military has continued to use the same personnel as part of its torture infrastructure. And secret CIA torture prisons have continued to pop into the news even though the CIA was falsely said to have abandoned that practice. While the Obama administration has claimed unprecedented powers to block civil suits against torturers, it has also used, in court, testimony produced by torture, something that used to be illegal (and still is if you go by written laws).
"Look at the current situation," Obama said in 2013, "where we are force-feeding detainees who are being held on a hunger strike . . . Is this who we are?" Well, it is certainly who some of us have become, including Obama, the senior authority in charge of the soldiers doing the force-feeding, and a human chameleon able to express outrage at his own policies, a trick that is perhaps more central to the mainstreaming of vicious and sadistic practices than we always care to acknowledge.
Those retaining some sense of decency are currently urging the Obama administration to go easy in its punishment of a nurse who refused to participate in the force-feeding, who in fact insisted on being "who we are."
By Alfredo Lopez
The week before last, our President made a pronouncement on Net Neutrality that pleasantly surprised activists and won him favorable coverage in the newspapers: both rare outcomes these days.
Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
A controversial government contractor once again finds itself in hot water, or in this case, melting glacier water.
TransCanada chose Environmental Resources Management Group (ERM) as one of its contractors to conduct the environmental impact statement for Keystone XL on behalf of the U.S. State Department. ERM Group also happens to have green-lighted a gold mining project in central Asia that is now melting glaciers.
ERM Group has a penchant for rubber-stamping projects that have had tragic environmental and public health legacies. For example, ERM formerly worked on behalf of the tobacco industry to pitch the safety of its deadly product.
A January 2014 study about Keystone XL's climate change impacts published in the journal Nature Climate Change paints a drastically different picture than ERM Group's Keystone XL tar sands study.
The Kumtor Gold Mine, owned by Centerra Gold/Cameco Corporation, was provided a stamp of approval from ERM Group in October 2012. Similar to the TransCanada arrangement with the State Department on Keystone XL, Centerra served as the funder of the report evaluating its own project.
"The mine sits at an altitude of 4,000 meters above sea level, in the Tien Shan mountain range and among some of Kyrgyzstan's - and the region's - most important glaciers," explained an October 28 story published in Asia Times.
"Centerra Gold has consistently dismissed as untrue that operations at Kumtor have had negative implications for the glaciers, which are reportedly melting with observable speed due to years of dumping rock tailings onto the ice sheet. The Canadian company has backed its position with expert evaluations from consultancies such as Environmental Resources Management."
By Linn Washington Jr.
Repeated lies and law-breaking forced the 1974 resignation of then U.S. President Richard M. Nixon, leading to Nixon’s subsequent, and continued inclusion on the list of the "Worst Presidents" in American history.
A case can be made that democracy worked in this month's U.S. midterm elections, while representative democracy failed miserably.
On ballot initiatives all across the country, people in so-called red and blue states voted for raising the minimum wage, banning fracking, funding schools, taxing millionaires and billionaires, legalizing marijuana, reducing prison sentences, providing paid sick leave, and imposing background checks on gun purchases.
Want smaller government? I think we've found a worthy replacement. Let people govern themselves. They do a fine, fine job of it.
Imagine if candidates or a political party pushed for restoring a decent value to the minimum wage, banning fracking, and the whole rest of that agenda. I bet some people would vote for such candidates. And I mean even with the gerrymandering, the suppression and intimidation, the unverifiable voting machines, the disgusting negative advertising, the even more disgusting media coverage, and the legalized bribery system in all its glory, you would still see more people turn out to vote and to vote for progressive candidates -- if there were progressive candidates on the ballot and in the media in the same way that the current crop of Democrats and Republicans are.
But the candidates would have to be believable. People would have to get the sense that there were things the candidates cared about and would work their hardest for, that they couldn't be bought off with dollars or favors or rewards from a party leadership. The fact is that busy overworked and under-informed voters and potential voters primarily want to reject the current broken system. With nobody proposing to make the system better, those proposing to make it even worse attract support away from those proposing to muddle along more or less in the same dreary mess with a grumbled complaint or two. And, yes, every single candidate looked unworthy of voting for to the majority of potential voters. They stayed home.
Early indications are that neither the new Republican Congress nor the Democratic minority (nor President Obama) will be pushing for national legislation on the model of what voters just passed in ballot initiatives.
On the contrary, the Republican Congress expects to find a willing partner in President Obama for a conservative agenda that only a minority of Americans support. The White House and Republicans are talking up the NAFTA-on-steroids Trans-Pacific Partnership that nobody campaigned on.
Obama apparently will delay until January a vote on the war he's already intensifying in Iraq and Syria. His FCC is pushing for the elimination of internet neutrality. (Obama himself just spoke again in support of net neutrality, but whether actions follow words is always a big question.) The new Congress will be pushing for the tar sands pipeline that Obama has for years refused to stop.
Obama's surveillance state will have a willing partner, as will his agenda of burying information on the crimes of his predecessor.
And if you expect Congressional Democrats to push back strongly in support of middle class and working class Americans, you see something in them that many voters don't.
After the last midterms, the Occupy movement and related resistance movements began germinating. What sort of independent popular pressure will be brought to bear now? One place to start is by saying no to Republibama government.
Hot tub poll shows Republicans don’t like their politicians: Election Night Wasn’t a GOP Victory, It was a Democratic Rout
By Dave Lindorff
The sclerotic Democratic Party was trounced yet again yesterday, as Republicans outdid projections and appear to have taken at least seven Senate seats away from the Democrats, giving them control of the both houses of Congress.
By Harvey Wasserman
The GOP/corporate coup d’etat is nearly complete.
The Republicans now control the major media, the Supreme Court, the Congress and soon the presidency.
Think Jeb Bush in 2016.
All throughout America, right down to the local level, buried in a tsunami of cash and corruption, our public servants are being morphed into corporate operatives.
Our electoral apparatus is thoroughly compromised by oceans of dirty money, Jim Crow registration traps, rigged electronic voting machines, gerrymandering, corrupt secretaries of state.
The internet may be next. Above all, if there is one thing that could save us a shred of democracy, it’s preserving net neutrality. This fight could in fact outweigh all the others, and may be decided soon. Whatever depression you may now feel, shake it off to wage this battle. If we now lose the ability to freely communicate, we are in the deepest hole of all.
The roots of this corporate coup reach where they always do when empires collapse---useless, cancerous, debilitating, endless imperial war.
Lyndon Johnson lit the fuse in March, 1965. He had a chance to get us out of Vietnam. For many complex reasons---none of them sane---he escalated. He never recovered, and neither has our nation.
In 1967-8, an aroused generation marched for peace at the Pentagon, Chicago and elsewhere. We were accused of shattering the Democratic Party. But in fact we forced Johnson to negotiate a pre-election truce that might have saved the presidency for Hubert Humphrey.
As we all now know, that truce was treasonously sabotaged by Richard Nixon, in league with Henry Kissinger. LBJ knew what had been done, but said nothing. Had he trusted the American public with that knowledge, Nixon would have been gone long before Watergate, the war might have ended far sooner, the Democratic Party might still have meant something.
Instead, the party and the rest of us became prisoners of imperial war, captives of the corporations that profit from it.
From Watergate all we got was a punchless, corporate Jimmy Carter.
And from a dozen hellish years of Reagan-Bush, we got a showy, corporate Bill Clinton...and not a single substantial social reform. But the corporations got NAFTA, gutted social welfare, soaring college tuitions, abolition of New Deal safeguards against Wall Street greed, and much more.
They also got the death of the Fairness Doctrine from Reagan, and then a 1996 telecommunications act from Clinton that gave them full control of the major media. The age of Fox “News” was born in double-think.
Meanwhile Al Gore and John Kerry allowed the corporations to gut our electoral system. Gore won in 2000, saw the election stolen in Florida, and---like LBJ with Nixon’s treason---said not a word. It was absurdly easier to blame Ralph Nader for Gore’s blithe discard than to buckle down and fight for an election protection apparatus to preserve the vote so many had fought and died to win.
Kerry won in 2004, saw the election stolen in Ohio, and repeated Gore’s meek, mute skulk to oblivion. The Democrats let a corporate Jim Crow gut the registration process, deny millions of Americans their vote, install a national network of easily flippable electronic voting machines...and they said nothing.
Along the way the Supreme Court was handed to the corporations. Soon enough, they would open the floodgates.
But from the ashes of the Iraq war and the horrors of Bush 2, enough public power remained in 2008 to finally put an African-American in the White House. With his apparent opposition to the Iraq War, and loads of rhetoric about hope and change, Barak Obama won a mandate to heal the wounds inflicted by yet another Bush corporate presidency.
Obama expanded national medical coverage, and talked the talk of the global ecology and public good.
Then he sank us in the quicksand of Southwest Asia.
In analyzing this latest electoral debacle, our Orwellian corporate bloviators avoid like the plague any mention of corporate money or imperial war.
But like LBJ in Vietnam...Afghanistan and Obama’s other wars have gutted his presidency and all he might have been. They’ve drained our shrunken moral and financial resources. They’ve turned yet another Democratic harbinger of hope into feeble corporate cannon fodder. They’ve battered and alienated yet another generation of the progressive core.
Thus the GOP has been enthroned by a half-century of Democrats who’ve helped drag us into endless war, ignored our electoral rights and sold their souls---and the nation’s---to a zombie army of corporate operatives.
The money power has ruled this nation before. This time it means a whole new level of all-out war against social justice, our basic rights, our ability to live in harmony with our Mother Earth.
Beset by a whole new level of global disaster, we have no choice but to find some completely new answers. Our survival depends on it.
It will take all our creative and activist juices. Nothing is clear except that it won’t be easy.
And that no matter which corporate party tries to lead us there, the path to the promised land does not go through the deadly quicksand of imperial war, empty rhetoric or corrupted elections.
HARVEY WASSERMAN’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES is at www.solartopia.org, as is his SOLARTOPIA! OUR GREEN-POWERED EARTH.
"Vote. It's the American thing to do!" read an email I received yesterday. Actually it's the just-about-anywhere-else thing to do. U.S. voters lead the world in staying home and not bothering.
There are three schools of thought as to why, all of which I think are largely correct.
1. They don't make it easy. Americans, in many cases, have to work long hours in unlivable cities, go through a hassle to register to vote, wait in long lines, produce photo IDs, and get past intimidation, scams, and fraudulent removal from voter rolls.
2. Americans are idiots. This explanation is not always thought through, but the U.S. public is constantly indoctrinated with a belief in its own powerlessness, informed that action will make no difference, and distracted from civic engagement by bread and circuses.
3. There's nobody on the ballot worth voting for. The districts have been gerrymandered. The media, the debates, and the ballot-access rules all favor the incumbent or, at best, the two corporate political parties. The candidates flooding the airwaves with often quite accurate negative advertisements about how awful their opponents are have been bribed to hold similarly awful positions by the extremely wealthy interests paying for the show. And your vote for the greater or lesser evil of the two similar candidates is often counted on a completely unverifiable machine. Why bother?
Well, one trick that candidates and parties have come up with to get more people into voting booths is the public initiative or referendum. If people can vote to make a direct decision on something they're passionate about, many of them will also go ahead and vote for the candidates whose platforms are infinitesimally closer to their own positions. Thus you have Democrats and Republicans supporting placing measures on the ballot that they believe will attract either more Democrats or more Republicans.
In 2004, Floridians put a minimum wage vote on the ballot, meant both to raise the minimum wage and to elect Democrats. But John Kerry opposed Florida's minimum wage initiative. Floridians (assuming, based totally on faith, that the count was accurate) rejected Kerry while, of course, passing the minimum wage. So, as a trick to win votes for candidates, this tool requires candidates who aren't bigger idiots than voters are. But as a positive development on its own, the referenda and initiatives on ballots around the country today offer good reason to vote in some places.
Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota, San Francisco, and Oakland will almost certainly raise (that is restore lost value to) the minimum wage.
Alaska, Florida, Oregon, Washington, D.C.; Guam; South Portland, Maine; Lewiston, Maine; and lots of localities in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Mexico will vote on various forms of marijuana legalization.
In 50 localities in Wisconsin and in countless others across the country, people will vote for funding for schools.
In Illinois, voters can vote to tax all income over $1 million an additional 3 percent to fund schools.
Localities in California, Ohio, and Texas will have the opportunity to ban fracking by popular vote.
In Washington state and elsewhere, voters can vote to impose background checks on gun purchases. Betting on passage, the gun companies are urging people (criminals in particular, I guess) to buy now before it's too late.
So, my recommendation is to check out what things, if any, rather than people, you have a chance to vote for. By all means, stop being an idiot who imagines activism is pointless. But don't jump to the conclusion that voting is one of the top priorities. Check whether there isn't perhaps something actually worth voting for, or a way to make there be such a thing next time.
Is it worse to put into Congress or the White House someone who wants to end wars and dismantle much of the military but also wants to abolish Social Security and Medicare and the Department of Education and several other departments they have trouble remembering the names of, OR someone who just wants to slightly trim all of those departments around the edges while waging countless wars all over the world in the name of every heretofore imagined human right other than the right not to get blown up with a missile?
Can dismantling the military without investing in diplomacy and aid and cooperative conflict resolution actually avoid wars? Can a country that continues waging wars at every opportunity actually avoid abolishing domestic services? I would hope that everyone would be willing to reject both libertarians and humanitarian-warriors even when it means rejecting both the Republican and the Democratic Parties. I would also hope that each of those parties would begin to recognize the danger they are in and change their ways.
Democrats should consider this: States within the United States are developing better and worse wages, labor standards, environmental standards, healthcare systems, schools, and civil liberties. The Washington Post is advising people on which foreign nations to go to college in for free -- nations that both tax wealth and invest between 0 and 4 percent of the U.S. level in militarism. A federal government that stopped putting a trillion dollars a year into wars and war preparations, with all the accompanying death, trauma, destruction, environmental damage, and loss of liberties, begins to look like a decent tradeoff for a federal government ending lots of other things it does, from its very minimal security net to massive investment in fossil fuels and highways. Of course it's still a horrible tradeoff, especially if you live in one of the more backward states, as I do. But it begins to look like less of a horrible tradeoff, I think, as we come to realize that representative democracy can work at the state and local levels, and the major crises of climate and war can only be solved at the global level, while the national government we have is too big to handle our local needs and is itself the leading opponent of peace and sustainability on earth.
With that in mind, consider a leading face of the Democratic Party: Hillary Clinton. She's openly corrupted by war profiteers. She was too corrupt to investigate Watergate. Wall Street Republicans back her, and she believes in "representing banks." She'd be willing to "obliterate" Iran. She laughed gleefully about killing Gadaffi and bringing Libya into the liberated state of hell it's now in, with violence having spilled into neighboring nations since. She threw her support and her vote behind attacking Iraq in 2003. She is a leading militarist and authoritarian who turned the State Department into a war-making machine pushing weapons and fracking on the world, and she supports the surveillance state. There's a strong feminist argument against her. The pull of superior domestic rhetoric is strong, but not everyone will see a candidate who backed a war that killed a million dark-skinned Iraqis as the anti-racist candidate.
Republicans should consider this: Your star senator, Rand Paul, can be relied on to talk complete sense about the madness of war, right up until people get scared by beheading videos, and then he's in favor of the madness of war, if still so far short of all-out backing of war-on-the-world as to horrify the Washington Post. He has backed cancelling all foreign aid, except for military foreign "aid" up to $5 billion, mostly in free weapons for Israel. He used to favor serious cuts to military spending, but hasn't acted on that and now has John McCain's support as a good "centrist." He supports racist policies while hoping not to be seen doing so, and was against the Civil Rights Act before he was for it. He thinks kids should drive 10 miles to find a good school or get educated online.
Everyone should consider this: Candidates like the above two are so horrible, and end up moving ever closer to each other's positions, that the real choice is between them and someone decent. If the choice ever really arises between a libertarian who opposes war (many self-identified libertarians love war and are only against peaceful spending) and a humanitarian warrior with something to offer domestically (many humanitarian warriors don't have much of an upside elsewhere) it could shake up some people's blind partisanship. By why wait? Why not shake it up now? Why not start now investing energy in activism rather than elections, including activism to reform elections and how they are funded? Why not start now voting for candidates we don't have to hold our noses for? Six years into the Obama presidency, we have peace groups -- not all of them, thank goodness -- but we have peace groups putting everything into electing Democrats, after which they plan to oppose advocating for peace, instead backing limited war. It isn't the lesser-evil voting that kills us; it's the lesser-evil thinking that somehow never gets left behind in the voting booth.
By John Grant
Ain’t no time to wonder why.
Whoopee, we’re all gonna die.
- Country Joe MacDonald
The U.S. House of Representatives has not just left town, but prior to leaving passed a rule preventing any member from using the War Powers Resolution to force Congress to return and vote on war.
Here's a video of Congressman Jim McGovern denouncing the rule (or read the transcript here):
If you watch the video, following Rep. McGovern's remarks two of his colleagues run their mouths. The first is Congressman Pete Sessions nonsensically replying to McGovern. The second is Congresswoman Virginia Foxx on an unrelated topic. If you jump ahead to 10:25 McGovern replies to Sessions. It's well worth watching.
In addition, Congressman McGovern and five other Democrats and six Republicans have asked Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to hold a vote on war. Here's their letter: PDF.
Six Democrats and Six Republicans Ask Boehner and Pelosi to Hold Vote on War (After U.S. Congressional Elections)
Here's their letter: PDF.
In 1969, at the height of the U.S. war against Vietnam, Edwin Starr recorded a song called ‘War’, that reached number one on the charts. Among the lyrics are these:
War: What is it good for?
Much as one would like to believe these simple lyrics, there are facts that belie them. In a report from the Financial Times from March of 2013, it is stated that private contractors earned at least a whopping $139 billion dollars from the U.S. war against Iraq up to that time, and that total is ever increasing. Kellogg, Brown and Root, a former subsidiary of Haliburton, the company once run by former Vice President Dick Cheney, the architect of this war, earned nearly $40 billion.
We tend to think of war as resulting from an excess of aggression or disorderliness or rebellion. Western academics hunt in the genes of foreigners and study chimpanzees to find the root of the nastiness.
But one would be hard press to count the number of people who have lost their lives to an excess of cowardice in the halls of the United States Congress. "This chamber reeks of blood," said Senator George McGovern, who would have been shocked anew this week.
On Constitution Day, the House of Representatives -- followed the next day by the Senate -- decided to put off until after the next U.S. elections in November any possible consideration of the new U.S. war already underway in Iraq and Syria, but voted in the meantime to approve of shipping weapons over to Syria to fuel the violence.
Here's a website that tells you how your Representative and Senators voted and lets you send them an appropriate message with one click.
Said Congressman Jim McDermott, who voted No: "This amendment, which is valid only through early December, serves as nothing more than a faux authorization designed to get Congress through the election season. Moreover, it addresses only one aspect of the strategy the President outlined last week. That is not a responsible way to conduct public policy."
So, the President announced a three-year war, based on no timetable anyone has produced other than that of U.S. presidential elections. And Congress declared that it would consider looking into the matter after the next Congressional election. But it's not as if we don't all know that they are allowing the war to go on and worsen each and every day. Numerous Congress members denounce Congress for what they themselves call a shameful act of cowardice. But which of them are protesting their "leadership"? Which of them are moving a discharge petition to force a vote? Which of them are using the War Powers Resolution to compel a vote regardless of what the "leadership" wants?
Back on the 25th of July the House overwhelmingly passed the McGovern-Jones-Lee resolution which required the President to seek Congressional authorization before sending troops to Iraq. The President went ahead and ignored that. Will Congress cut off the funding? Censure? Impeach? Nope. Congress voted to approve weapons and training for Syrians who are closely allied with the forces Obama is already waging an air and ground war against in Iraq.
Senator Tim Kaine had been leading the charge to demand that Congress vote before any new war. (As noted, the House did, and the Senate did not follow suit.) Now Kaine says a discussion of that following the U.S. Congressional elections will be sufficient. Until then, the United States will fuel the violence on both sides of a complex war, while repeating incessantly "There is no military solution" and deploying the military and military weaponry in a counterproductive effort to find a solution.
Remarked Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who voted No on weapons to Syria: "The consequences of this vote will be a further expansion of a war currently taking place and our further involvement in a sectarian war. . . . What is missing from this debate is the political, economic, diplomatic and regionally-led solutions that will ultimately be the tools for security in the region and for any potential future threats to the United States."
Also missing was an organized opposition. Republicans voted yes and no, as did Democrats, as did the so-called Progressive Caucus, as did the Black Caucus. These people need to hear the message that cowardice is not a campaign strategy. They must be confronted with the demand that they stop this war, just as they were a year ago, when scary ISIS videos weren't manipulating Americans into once again doing the bidding of terrorists who gain strength from U.S. attacks. A year ago we spoke up. We confronted Congress members at town hall meetings. We stopped them.
Now they've literally cut and run. They're taking a two-month vacation in order to pretend they have nothing to do with the escalating violence. They need to hear from us in person. But we can start by sending them a note to let them know what we think.
Remember, their duty is not to vote approval for a new war, which will then somehow make everything OK. Their duty is to uphold the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the U.N. Charter, the wisdom of most of the world, the lessons of the past decade, and basic common decency by stopping the war.
McDermott Statement on Voting “No” on McKeon Amendment to Continuing Resolution H. J. Res. 124
Washington, D.C.- Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, made the following statement after voting no to the motion to approve U.S. military training and arms for Syrian rebels:
“Today, I voted in opposition to the motion to approve U.S. military training and arms for Syrian rebels.
I did not arrive at this decision easily. The threat ISIS poses to the people of Iraq and Syria and to U.S. personnel across the wider Middle East is a serious one. I also empathize with Americans’ emotional desire to respond assertively, and immediately, to the abhorrent murder of our two journalists.
The President continues to show admirable restraint; his speech last week was careful and thoughtful. However, after much deliberation and reflection on the perils of rushing into yet another military conflict in the Middle East, I decided I could not support the McKeon Amendment.
I have said consistently that if the President was prepared to escalate military action against ISIS, he must present Congress with a plan and ask for our support. I am alarmed that President Obama continues to believe he can take action against ISIS on his own authority.
This amendment, which is valid only through early December, serves as nothing more than a faux authorization designed to get Congress through the election season. Moreover, it addresses only one aspect of the strategy the President outlined last week. That is not a responsible way to conduct public policy.
I remember the last time Congress failed to thoroughly debate a plan for military action in the Middle East; it unleashed a veritable Pandora’s Box in Iraq and the wider region that we have struggled to contain ever since. The McKeon Amendment calls for the U.S. to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels, some of whom have murky identities and shadowy allegiances and who could - in the not too distant future - turn the very arms we supplied against the United States.
I appreciate this President’s thoughtful efforts to respond to the complexities that arose from George W. Bush’s irresponsible actions, but – at this time – I will not vote to sanction military action by proxy, even if sanctioned for a brief period of time.
Over the next several weeks, I will continue to urge the President to present his plan before Congress and ask for our support. When this Congress reconvenes in December, when this amendment expires, I will push for a robust and deliberative debate over a new Authorization for the Use of Force, one that is limited in scope and addresses the whole of the President’s plan.
After a decade of reckless military action, that is the only responsible way to proceed.”
By John Grant
To do nothing is to send a message to the wrongdoer, and the general public, that the victim has no self-worth and will not marshal the internal resources necessary to reclaim his or her honor. Shattered dignity is not beyond repair, but no elevating and equalizing of dignity can occur without the personal satisfaction of revenge.
-Thane Rosenbaum, Payback: The Case For Revenge