Sunday, March 29, 2009

Still waiting for Obama honesty on foreign policy

After Obama's press conferences with the press and later questions from the web, Bill Moyers asked his viewers what questions they would ask. Here's what I posted to his site:

President Obama,

The Bush administration's aggressive policy in the Middle East and Central Asia had a lot more to do with controlling Persian Gulf oil reserves and Caspian Sea pipeline routes than fighting terrorism.

He tried to force a Hydrocarbon Law on the Iraqis that would have given 88% of their oil income to big oil companies, a price no other Persian Gulf country would pay without a gun to their heads. The Iraqis refused even WITH the gun.

Big oil offered Iraqi legislators millions each in bribes, and they still wouldn't pass the law.

Likewise, in trying to deprive Russia of income from pipelines by building alternate routes, the Bush administration risked reigniting a Cold War with a nuclear armed adversary. John McCain slipped during the campaign and told the truth, that that was our main interest in the Georgia-Russia fight.

Will you be honest with the American public about the role these resources worth tens of trillions of dollars have played in our foreign policy decisions, whether Washington went along with it because they thought it was in our strategic or simply to pad oil companies bottom lines, or will you continue the embarrassing Bush lies about chasing terrorists over there where our actions only inflame hatred of the US?

To the extent that we don't have an honest debate about this, we don't have a democracy.

President Obama,

Poll after poll of Iraqis have shown that they want ALL US troops out of Iraq.

Why are you trying to keep a ''residual force there?''

Won't ignoring the will of the Iraqi people incite more hatred of the US, defeating the supposed anti-terrorist reason for being there?

President Obama,

You said we are sending more troops into Afghanistan to deal with ''al Qaeda,'' but wouldn't it make sense to open the Saudi pages of the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 that Bush classified?

Wouldn't it make more sense to deal with the root of the problem than strike at the branches and kill innocent Afghans?

Also, if we were concerned about weakening or destroying al Qaeda & the Taliban, shouldn't we attack those elements of the Pakistani military & ISI that sponsored them for years and demanded they be spirited out of Tora Bora rather than killed or captured, according to Seymour Hersh, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter?

If you don't address these issues, how do we know you aren't using the "War on Terror" as an excuse to pursue other agendas without public consent?

Maybe someone else can come up with better questions, but not anyone in the mainstream White House press corps. Even Ted Koppel couldn't bring himself to discuss the central role oil played in the Iraq War until he retired. I'd like to think our network news people are embarrassed when they compare their work to the BBC or just about any other nation's TV news people, but they've sold their integrity for seven figure paychecks and probably don't lose any sleep over it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

ROOT OF RAGE: Is our democracy Wall Street's bitch?

The public anger over the bailouts and bonuses taken from bailouts and economic appointees whose loyalties clearly lie more with the corporate criminals than with us boils down to that one question: is our democracy Wall Street's bitch?

We have woken up to find that we are a lowly streetwalker with a particularly powerful and conscienceless pimp.

He demands more and more of our money, and when we tell him the little he let's us keep isn't enough to take our baby to the doctor or send our older kid to college, he says, "That aint my problem, bitch. Who told you to have kids? Besides, Daddy gotta pay off this new pimp tooth," as he shows you a diamond encrusted crown on his bicuspid. Then he beats us with his ivory pimp cane almost to death.

This shouldn't have surprised you since he has been nagging you to get your grandma to sign over her Social Security checks to him too, which you and grandma have fought off since that would leave her to die penniless in the gutter.

One day, the neighborhood cop pulls you aside. He says your pimp has gotten into some horrible gambling debts and will be killed if he can't pay them off. Your first thought is, "Good, I hope he is killed and I'll be free," but the cop says if he can't pay, the people he owes money too will kill all his girls and their children too, so you better work harder, dig up the money you've hidden from the pimp, and make your kids start walking the street too.

This is just too much to bear. You have wanted to stop walking the streets, but you didn't know how since you've worked for the same pimp your whole life as did your mother and grandmother. But this is too much. You get the other girls together, go to the police station, and tell the captain that his cop in your neighborhood is dirty and making threats on behalf of the pimp.

To your surprise and delight, he agrees, and appoints a new clean-cut cop to the beat. The first day you see him, you stop to ask him what he he is going to do about the pimp. He tells you he has given him a stern talking to and told him to cut back on gold pimp teeth, pinky rings, and velvet suits--but in the meantime, you better give him all your money or you and your children will be killed.

While you are still in shocked silence, the cop takes the roll of bills from your bra and turns to deliver it to the pimp.

You snap out of your stupor and follow him to the pimp club, where the pimp takes the money, and instead of paying someone back while cowering in fear, he laughs and buys a round of drinks for the other pimps, the new cop, and the old one.

The cop had a gun and the pimps had none. He could have arrested all the pimps or even shot them dead. He did not, which means he either works for the pimps or aspires to be one.

Up until the Bush administration, we all thought we lived in a democracy. Then when we saw our most cherished constitutional rights and democratic processes trampled all to make it easier for the rich to steal from us and other countries like Iraq, we wondered if we were losing it. Just as it we thought we were digging our way out, the rich put a gun to our head and say they want $700 billion dollars or they will destroy the world economy.

It was no surprise that the Bush administration did so.

What was surprising was that the incoming Obama administration appointed an economic team from the same criminals who extorted us and wrote the rules making it easier for them to extort, and now that they are in government again, they continue to do so.

As Eliot Spitzer pointed out, Obama's Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, as well as others moving back and forth between government and Wall Street, may have collude to funnel even more money to a handful of banks and investment companies.

It is clear that the goals of Obama's economic team are to make the pimp whole and placate the streetwalkers just enough so they get back to work.

That is not enough.

Obama needs to clean the pimps out of his administration, pick a couple of the biggest ones working the streets and give them a beating they will never forget. Strip their pinky rings, take their canes, and knock out the pimp teeth. Even strip them naked of their pimp clothes. Then either throw them in jail or make them get an honest job and pay restitution to their girls (us).

Then he must kill, jail, or beat all the remaining pimps until they get out of the business.

We need a marshall like Kurt Russel in Tombstone who policed the outlaw Cowboy Gang like this:

Wyatt Earp: All right, Clanton... you called down the thunder, well now you've got it! You see that?
[pulls open his coat, revealing a badge]
Wyatt Earp: It says United States Marshal!
Ike Clanton: [terrified, pleading] Wyatt, please, I...
Wyatt Earp: [referring to Stilwell, laying dead] Take a good look at him, Ike... 'cause that's how you're gonna end up!
[shoves Ike down roughly with his boot]
Wyatt Earp: The Cowboys are finished, you understand? I see a red sash, I kill the man wearin' it!
[lets Ike up to run for his life]
Wyatt Earp: So run, you cur... RUN! Tell all the other curs the law's comin'!
Wyatt Earp: You tell 'em I'M coming... and hell's coming with me, you hear?...
Wyatt Earp: Hell's coming with me!
For the Obama adminstration, this means taking down the heads of Goldman Sachs, Citibank, Chase, JPMorgan, AIG, and any other firm that is used to telling our government what to do.

They need to be frog-marched in orange jumpsuits, taken to jail, held without bail and stripped of their assets, given a trial, then serve the rest of their natural lives in prison, to be beaten and raped like anyone else.

Then he must methodically dismember their businesses into a million pieces, so they can never treat America and our democracy like their bitch again.

The longer he waits to do this, the greater the hell he will have to rain down on them, or risk being replaced by a marshal who will.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Obama must fire Larry ''sanctity of bonuses'' Summers

Like many progressives, I was more than a little dismayed when the guys Obama picked to run his economic program were Wall Streeters who had worked for Bill Clinton but advocated and enacted many of the deregulatory and trade practices that gutted our economy.

But I hoped that those who said Obama needed insider technicians to affect change were right. Now after months of bailouts on terms the Bush administration could have written, that is no terms at all just a blank check, it is clear that the defenders of those choices were dead wrong.

The breaking point came this weekend when Larry Summers, Director of the National Economic Council, and former Clinton Treasury Secretary, said on This Week with George Stephanopoulos that the administration's hands were tied about blocking bonuses because of the sanctity of contracts.

As Glenn Greenwald pointed out, the administration eventually got around this sanctity when it came to allowing bankruptcy judges to renegotiate bad mortgages, had no trouble asking autoworkers to make contract concessions, and I would add that Obama's Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, had no problem ignoring contracts when he fired schools full of teachers at a time in Chicago, and his merit pay proposal, if enacted, would gut many contracts.

In spite of their loud protests about Wall Street bonuses, Obama's economic team isn't moving too fast to actually stop their payout or other abuses of taxpayer provided bailout money. Their creative solutions seem to be limited to writing blank checks to guys they were were working with and for just a few months ago.

Could it be that some contracts are more sacred than others?

Isn't it looking more and more like Summers, Rubin, and company are there not to reform Wall Street but to protect their buddies back at their firms from real change and punishment for the historic damage caused by greed?

Recently, a story said that the Obama administration is bracing for a populist backlash to all the bailouts. Instead of bracing for the backlash, he could prevent it by starting to take actions that show Wall Street is not being allowed to dictate their own punishment and reform.

He should not only fire Larry Summers, he should grab him by the collar, drag him out the front door of the White House and kick his ass off the porch.

If the rest of his economic team continues to bow and scrape to the various perfumed princes, trust fund babies, and sociopaths on Wall Street, they should be given the same shoe leather pink slip in short order.

The public needs to see some heads on pikes, and if Obama can't bring himself to do it to those on Wall Street, he could at least do it to their apologists in his own administration.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Gov't reaction to Wall Street meltdown like ''punishment'' of Prescott Bush for hiding Nazi money

If an ordinary citizen gave aid and comfort to our arch-enemy in World War II, they would have at minimum expected to spend the rest of their lives in prison or more likely, ended up like the Rosenbergs, executed for helping the Soviets.

Prescott Bush's bank was managing assets of a Nazi financier, including a steel plant that made heavy use of concentration camp labor.
Far from being unaware of this, Bush mentioned it in correspondence and was concerned that his bank's ''interests be protected.'' The government found this activity troubling enough that they seized the banks assets under the Trading with the Enemy Act.

Bush's punishment for his involvement?

You would think he would have at least ended up like John Walker Lind, stripped naked, blind-folded, and held in solitary until the trial that put him in prison for life (or shortened his life).

Instead, the whole business was hushed up and he later won a Senate seat.

It seems that something similar is going on with Wall Street today. Can anyone doubt that Wall Street's concerted effort to get themselves deregulated, their Rube Goldberg maze of shell corporations and off-shore accounts, and intentional defrauding of ordinary investors, mortgage holders, and retirees has done more damage to our economy than Tim McVeigh, Osama bin Laden, and all the other terrorists to ever blow up anything in the US combined?

And in fact, the connection to terrorism is not just by analogy, but literal. To the degree that we face a legitimate terrorist threat, it is because business interests demand to be put ahead of human rights, democracy, and even the national security of the United States.

The foremost example of this is how we treated Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev hoped to transition to a European-style social democracy, but the investor class and banks wanted a Russia that was easy to plunder of their natural resources and industry. The result was the standard of living and even life expectancy in Russia DROPPED after the fall of communism, and Putin succeeds partly because he is trying to reclaim their dignity by standing up to us. Oil companies interest in stripping Russia of their oil, gas, and pipeline income further antagonizes a Russia that we now no longer have an ideological beef with. In effect, for the sake of corporate profits, we are reigniting a Cold War with an enemy with thousands of nuclear weapons.

Worse, business is a direct cause of the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the Bush administrations failure to bring a quick conclusion to the War on Terror. Those in the Islamic world do not hate us for our freedom, but because we take theirs away to ensure that our oil companies have compliant governments to deal with, from overthrowing the democratically elected secular government of Iran in the 1950s to backing the oppressive Saudi government for decades. Oddly, even though the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11 found direct involvement of the Saudi government in the attacks nothing was done about it. Whether this was done because we didn't want to jeopardize business ties with Saudis or because the Saudis were doing the Bush administration a favor with the attack, neither is acceptable.

And yet, the punishment of the wealthy who endanger and loot us like this will be much like Prescott Bush's. The public will use our taxpayer dollars to clean up their mess, and they will continue to live lives of leisure and be free exercise their power as ''masters of the universe'' even though they are masters of nothing but moving our money into their pockets.

I have no problem with capitalism in theory, but in practice, we can no longer afford a financial elite that not only ignores the law, but buys our politicians and makes the indefensible legal.

Any solution to this current problem has to involve putting the fear of God or at least fear of the wrath of the American people into these spoiled sociopathic trust fund babies, the likes of which no financial elite has felt since the Russian or even French Revolution.

Anything less than that leaves America and the world at risk from more attacks by these economic terrorists who make 9/11 look like a toddler's temper tantrum.

Friday, March 13, 2009

VIDEO: Student loan debt crushing students & grads
on Democracy Now!

As the Obama administration continues to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out the nations banking system, a growing movement is calling on the government to do more to help students struggling to pay for college.

These are some of their stories.

click pic to see flick

Transcript & links

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

If teachers got merit pay like Wall Street...

if the same standard were used for giving out ''merit pay'' to teachers as Washington just did for Wall Street, then the teachers would have to make a third of their class stupider, kill a third, and not be able to account for the whereabouts of the last third. And they'd get millions of dollars in "merit pay" for doing it.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

It's not just Republicans that need to repudiate Rush

I got this email from the DSCC about browbeating GOP senators to repudiate Rush Limbaugh, and on one level, it's gratifying to see Democrats finally learning one of the correct lessons from the GOP: hit your opponent's strength. Do to Rush what the right did to the word "liberal" in the 80's, so that Republicans will be embarrassed to say anything that sounds remotely like any of his talking points.

I've already noticed a version of this in my college classes. Whenever a student says something about global warming being a hoax or making batteries for electric cars makes more pollution than an internal combustion engine spits out in its lifetime, I ask them, ''Where'd you hear that--on Rush Limbaugh?"

The tone is not accusatory, but for some reason, they never say yes.

There is just one problem of this shaming of Republicans: I would like to know which of the GOP's ideas so-called ''moderate'' Democrats are going to repudiate as well.

Will they forsake:

  • Only taxing the rich as much as they wish to be taxed and looking the other way when they hide money in off-shore accounts or use other book-keeping scams

  • Trade deals like NAFTA that screw American workers

  • H-1B visas that allow high tech companies to import engineers & IT workers and leave American college grads sitting on the bench

  • Privatizing government functions, including education, even though the private versions are consistently more costly and of questionable effectiveness

  • Letting corporations dictate the policies and regulations that effect them as Wall Street and banks still seem to be doing with the team of Geithner, Summers, Rubin, and Bernanke writing checks for trillions with no strings attached

  • Sending a black kid who robbed a 7-11 of $50 to be raped in prison and sending a white trust fund baby who broke our economy a check for billions to party with his friends, and after seeing the party, sending another check.

  • In the same vein, letting health insurance and drug companies have a seat at the table crafting health care reform when they should be roasted slowly on a spit to feed the people at the table

  • Letting politicians leave office and go to work for corporations they did favors for while in office

  • Using fear of terrorism and nuclear weapons as an excuse to intimidate and invade nations that don't do business on terms American oil companies and banks like as is the case with Iraq, Iran, and Venezuela (the Bushies went as far as to claim al Qaeda was in Venezuela)

  • Almost blasphemously, claiming we are teaching other countries democracy when we invade them and kill their people, then questioning how ''mature'' their culture is when they dare to fight back

  • Never dealing honestly with why we didn't punish the two countries that sponsored al Qaeda, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. In the case of the latter, they sent an agent to pick up two of the 9/11 hijacker at the airport who set them up in an apartment and funneled checks to them from the Saudi ambassador's wife.

  • Claiming other countries getting a handful of nukes is somehow a threat to us without adding that no country would be foolish enough to launch one at us or give them to terrorists to detonate here since everyone knows we have THOUSANDS and would not hesitate to burn their entire country off the map before one mushroom cloud cleared here. With the Soviets, there was MAD--mutually assured destruction. Today the would be OSHOSE--our side hurt, other side exterminated.

  • Intentionally blurring military defense and empire and wars of aggression. China and Russia have a tenth the military spending we do, and no one is lining up to invade them. Similarly, if a medium-sized Iraq can give us, the world's sole superpower, a bad day trying to occupy them, it is unlikely anyone would get very far with trying to occupy us or even consider it. Most of our Defense apart from the troops themselves is welfare for defense contractors.
Moderate, blue dog, DLC, or whatever you want to call them have voted with the GOP on most or all of these issues.

I would look forward to Democrats clearly separating themselves from the GOP on these points, and not just being better graded on a curve.
Subject: What Rush doesn't know
Date: March 7, 2009 9:03:47 AM PST

Rush Limbaugh doesn't know what he's started. Tens of thousands of you have already signed onto the DSCC's urgent call for Republican Senate leaders to denounce his shameful rhetoric - and that's just the beginning.

The Republican response has been predictable: blame the media, blame the Democrats, and rally their base. They'll do anything except tell Rush Limbaugh he's wrong.

They're hoping this will all blow over and they can go back to pretending like Rush doesn't speak for them. It's not too late for you to add your voice so we can keep the pressure on. If you sign today, we'll send your comments right to the Republican Senate leadership.

Click here to demand that Senate Republicans reject Rush Limbaugh's hateful rhetoric - We'll send them your comments. When you're finished, please forward this message to your friends and family.

The response so far has been tremendous, but we all have to do our part to fight back against ultra-conservative extremism. Join us today.

- J.B.