Thursday, January 15, 2009

How About a Brand New Start? (A Very Long One)

Who would have guessed that "W"'s retirement career was going to be in comedy? In his usual smirky "I know where the bones are buried, you don't and you couldn't do anything about it anyway if you did" brand of hit comedy at least. This would seem to be the new American Way based on the passes given to these smiling, murdering, serial liars - at least from the Press Conferences/TV appearances bestowed on their stunned, slavering audiences of the last week (although it momentarily gladdened my crushed heart that he got zero laughs for his best lines in Monday's, and had to fill in the last two empty rows for onlookers with interns due to lack of interest by his own people). I couldn't watch tonight's elephant ballet. I'm sure someone will tell me about it (hint: I don't want to know - I'm having chest pains already). Practice, smurf, practice. You will need it for the increasingly small number of admirers of torturers and liars who will be pressing up to you at your much-looked-forward-to, future, well-remunerated appearances before your fast friends and former moneylenders/supporters of criminality. I'm guessing the big crowds will be at the Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley appearances (although Bob Rubin will have to sit out the Citigroup one this year). They seem to have come out of their super-lending muck just fine - like Halliburton! Contribute millions - receive billions (in kickbacks/contracts); payback guaranteed (by the undone U.S. taxpayers who are all too glad to pay so they can get back to "American Idol" quickly). The huge numbers of innocents dying daily in the Gazan Holocaust (putting a strange, new twist on the word which was supposed to NEVER have to be said again because the Jews would never let it occur again), which is going on simultaneously with their Fond Reminiscences tour in front of friendly crowds is the one off note. I keep wondering (every day lately) how we would react if our homes were bombed because a foreign country was trying to assassinate/murder people (very bad guys) who might live next door. Somehow, even though it is precisely forbidden by the Geneva Conventions, I think Bush or Cheney would still be on TV explaining to a bumfuzzled Jim Lehrer how disappointed they were that the scheme didn't work out better, and that only a few people were killed in their search for the "bad guys;" that it was a moment of some regret (never a mistake for this Despicable Duo) for their administration (but it was really because they hadn't been more thoroughly annihilatory).

In what appeared to be a breakthrough for the Israeli military, Israeli and Palestinian media reported that Israel had killed a senior Hamas official in the bombing of his home. . . . The slain official, Said Siam, was the interior minister in Hamas-run Gaza, and was in charge of Security. Islamic Jihad radio said Mr. Siam’s brother and son had also been killed. In addition, the strike killed four members of a family next door, Gaza hospital officials said. . . . On the 20th day of fighting, Israeli ground forces pushed deeper into Gaza City and intensified shelling in both outlying neighborhoods and central districts, sending thousands of panicked residents fleeing from their homes, witnesses said. . . . The death toll among Palestinians rose to at least 1,076, according to Reuters, which quoted the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. At least 13 Israelis have been killed. The attacks have worsened the decades-long tensions between Israel and the United Nations. Israel views some branches of the United Nations as hostile and unfair, particularly the Relief and Works Agency, with its focus on helping Palestinians.
It must be A-Okay with the good people of our civilized western world (formerly staunch defenders of the Geneva Conventions' proscriptions on the premeditated killing of civilians - an exact parallel to Madeleine Albright's comment that half a million Iraqi innocents murdered seemed to be within reason to achieve the desired dominance goal) as I haven't noticed too many street demonstrations against the intensifying Gaza tragedy. (There was one very loud one of about 50 people staged in front of the Wachovia at Guilford College here in Greensboro when the bombing started. Kudos to the Quakers!) I always enjoy being schooled on current political realities. At Stop Me Before I Vote Again there is a very pointed essay to consider when you are congratulating yourself on getting rid of the Rethuglican "bad guys" for a very loooong time. You should stop here if you don't want to read a very amusing political dissection of our voting lives that runs a bit longish (enormously worthwhile though). (Emphasis marks were added and some editing was necessary - Ed.)
Every time liberals win an election . . . their intellectuals indulge in an odd, portentous imputation. They believe that the conservatives have lost in a very significant, very meaningful way, and that this loss is attributable to some dramatic failure in the conservatives' . . . constructs. They write well and often insightfully, but what it boils down to is that the conservatives have lost because they have bad cess in their heads, the poor things, and the bad cess has interacted with numinous forces to cause their defeat. It follows, then, in a scholarly . . . progression, that liberals have won because they have good stuff in their heads. The numinous forces have smiled. Needless to say, the conservative intellectuals indulge in the same game. However more of them get paid . . . they say "emergent" less often and they have a better understanding of their place in the food chain. They too elide a systemic critique, but more of them understand that's a job requirement. In the recent election, the victorious liberal candidate out-fundraised, out-organized, out-charmed and out-maneuvered everyone who got between him and the presidency. There was no epochal clash of ideologies. An enormously talented, very good looking man sailed right by a sad collection of mentally unbalanced hacks, in his own party. On paper, his policies were quite similar to theirs. He was, simply, the better politician. His conservative opponent had been delivered a bed shat in over eight years by Cheney-Bush and measured for him by Corporate Procrustes, who was determined to make sure it never fit, no matter how hard the poor sap abased himself. He had no principles left after a lifetime in politics, and no ideas with which to contest. So he offered up his self-regard. In the end, he became the useful idiot for a minor celebrity. No loss, none at all. Procrustes can work with Obama through the super yuppies from the Hamilton Project (motto: Your people, sir, is nothing but a great beast!). It was a farce. The heirs of John Kenneth Galbraith did not square off against the heirs of Russell Kirk. Just try to imagine any of the popular pundits so much as referencing them in support of an argument, never mind attempting to explicate their ideas. Al Gore offered more ideological content in his loss to George Bush. There should be a clue in that. Hip urban intellectuals swooned over a man who read Stendhal. No one else was moved. Gore was ridiculed and subjected to endlessly petty, ideologically empty calumnies in the media. His supporters dutifully tracked all of them down. He rewarded them by caving in a noisy and craven fashion. Any takers on a bet that Barack Obama has read Galbraith? But he wisely stuck to platitudes and to being good looking. He won and as has already been made abundantly clear, his supporters can expect no more in his victory than they got in Gore's loss. To drive it home to them, he's using Rick Warren in the same way George Bush used John Bolton at the United Nations: as a living, breathing insult. There is no crisis in American conservatism. The Republican Party has a human resources problem, a public relations problem and a brand identity problem. Talent is thin. They need to recruit. The brand needs to be adjusted to fit the needs of the organization in a way that does not alienate the consumers. The beshat bed left by Cheney-Bush has a new occupant already. Their revenue stream is secure. The managerial core is demoralized, but capable of seeing this through. It is a proud corporate concern with deep roots in the community. It can and will offer a robust, scalable nationwide management solution, with improved moral hygiene and fewer Big Gubmint calories than ever. If needed, and as needed, they can count on a hand up from their colleagues, offered for the good of the country, in the same spirit that got them the votes for the Iraq war, the continued funding of it, the Patriot Act, its extension, the slow sabotage of the factory farm schools, through NCLB, and their replacement with pay-to-play targeted training, the "self-regulating" financial services industry, the War on Drugs, the conversion of manufacturing to services, services to temping and temping to taking out loans for reeducation, etc. etc. A kindly hand, with many dimes in it to be displayed as tokens of managerial rivalry.
To put an even finer point on his argument he concludes with:
I see two organized entities vying for control of a system of production: an industrial state forcibly converting to a services state, while maintaining the organizational structure of the the industrial state. One entity is arguably better than the other in the sense that it takes a narrowly conservationist approach to maintaining the system. The people who "identify" with that call themselves liberals. The other entity takes a more immediately extractive approach. The people who identify with that call themselves conservatives. Cognitive dissonance works well for both groups of people. They consistently find reasons to maintain their identification, even when faced by the reality that neither entity views them as anything better than nuisancy labor. Their intellectuals perpetuate that and provide "content" to keep the defensive dissonance healthy, with health defined as the organizational needs of the system of production. Some intellectuals do that for free. Labor remains obedient.
One persuasive commenter said: "Re: Conservatism. All they need is a new daddy figure to lead them back onto the true path, someone who will give them the moral clarity that the current crop failed to project - or perhaps projected a little too clearly. As for the liberals, they shouldn't get too cocky. Obama was just Plan B, after all." One final comment to put the whole outsourcing argument to bed: "you say we are converting to a services state. What's next, when services - legal, accounting, etc. - are being outsourced?" There's even some incredibly fun poetry included among these political gems. From my best friend just Juan Moment comes this very passionate idea/plea(emphasis marks were added and some editing was necessary - Ed.):
Just like Afghani men in many cases are joining the Taliban, not due to their firm belief in the Taliban's extreme Islamic dogma, but to enlist with the only force out there that is fighting the invaders that killed their loved ones, so will Hamas be strengthened by USrael's despicable attacks on Gaza's civilian population. The way those fanatic Zionist assholes see it, the more civilians die in the onslaught the better, it means more enraged Palestinians, more olive groves and houses that can be annexed while whimpering about the raging Palestinians. However, with all our focus on Gaza, it's also worth remembering that our troops, US and allied forces around the world are just as barbaric as the IDF's henchmen. Looking at the numbers quoted in the Uruknet article, 1500 civilians killed in 8 months in Afghanistan, pretty much in the same fashion as their Muslim brothers in Palestine, leaves one in no doubt that our own governments, people we elected, are just as guilty as Livni or say, Shaul Mofaz, the Israeli Minister for Palestinian deaths. One has to wonder if the Allies' strategic planning in Afghanistan isn't in line with Israel's strategy - antagonize the civilian population in order to create the conflict needed to justify ones presence. So whilst I understand that people could do with a stiff drink in times like these, it should not be to help us forget our frustrations and to numb the anger, but to warm us up for the cold outside, where we will have to march till our feet start bleeding. Lets not succumb to the feeling of hopelessness and our insignificance. We are not powerless, quite the opposite, WE are the power, we are the people. Should enough of us make a stand, putting for a change our money where our mouths and keyboards are, marching hand in hand by the tens of millions against the system, show enough courage to engage in civil disobedience and withholding war taxes, we will make a difference. 10 million people giving $100 ea, and there is a billion dollars to fight this insanity. And when the money runs out in three months time, we do it all over again, until those fuckers learn that we are serious. We, not Rudd or Obama, have to get the snowball rolling. Those two soggy face washers won’t, that much is clear from their telltale silence on the war crimes committed by our alleged ally. But how? I hear you ask. How can us plebs make a difference? Easy, all it takes is a conscience and a few spare minutes every so often. Short of traveling to Palestine ourselves to oppose in Rachel Corrie’s spirit the atrocious crimes committed against nearly helpless people, we can do our bit from wherever we are, in multiple different ways. Donate to any organization that is dedicated to easing the Palestinian suffering, whilst at the same time boycotting any goods and services coming from Israel, or firms associated and in business with Israel. Let’s not kid ourselves, we all bear in one way or another some responsibility for the misery that exists across the developing world. Our consumer choices play an intrinsic role in the lives of many desperate people. They remain faceless to us, and yet we influence their livelihoods every day we go shopping. As we blindly spend our monies, it escapes us that by buying thoughtless we are squandering our enormous power. Not as one lone shopper who tries to make a difference, but collectively, as an ever growing number of people who are fed up with the way the system churns out victims. There are ways you and I can convey our message of disgust to the Israeli government slash establishment. Changing our consumer habits, making sure that no hard-earned cent of ours is making its way to this in large parts morally corrupt nation. Let your wallets and purses do the talking, speak out with your cheque books and credit cards. If we want our voices to be heard, we must first stop whispering, turn on our megaphones. So, to start up, send your English-language article or Letter to the Editor of as many media outlets as fits in your e-mail composer's To: field. Once you’ve send your letter to the editors, join the global Consumer BDS movement and Boycott, Divest and Sanction for Palestine. Find out about which companies to boycott, such as Johnson & Johnson and the Arsenal Football Club. Next time you buy shampoo or baby products, read the label. Anything produced in Israel will have a barcode on it that starts with the three digits 729. Read about which western brands and labels not to buy, like Maggi, Coca Cola or Nestle products. I know it's hard, but it can be done. We all can do it. Write a letter to those firms' Customer Care departments and let them know that you have stopped buying their products as they help to prop up or are in cahoots with the Israeli apartheid state. Also, make sure you check out this list of products from illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory. And most importantly, please give generously to: The Plant an Olive Tree campaign The Free Gaza Movement or any other worthwhile cause you identify. Should you be able to afford it, make it a regular donation, regardless of when a new ceasefire will be negotiated. Without ever having been there myself, the images available tell the story - the damage inflicted on Palestine's people and infrastructure is so severe, that aid of any kind will be needed for decades to come. The Palestinian suffering will eventually disappear again from the media radar, it always does, until the next shocking incident brings it all back into the headlines. But the suffering there is not temporary like our news cycles, or shall I say attention span, it is ever present and seemingly permanent. In order for us to really make a difference, we best make any efforts of ours a longer-term commitment. Write, march donate, sponsor, purchase, participate, just do something. Remember - people, united, can never be defeated. Any old way, no more time to waste, the people in Gaza and Afghanistan are counting on us, desperately.
As for myself, why not use this time of great awakening to the last eight years (at least) of Made-off ripoffs to make a truly new start in the building of our democratic institutions?
"In the eight years since George W. Bush took office, nearly every component of the U.S. economy has deteriorated. The nation’s budget deficits, trade deficits, and debt have reached record levels. Unemployment and inflation are up, and household savings are down. Nearly 4 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared and, not coincidentally, 5 million more Americans have no health insurance. Consumer debt has almost doubled, and nearly one fifth of American homeowners are likely to owe more in mortgage debt than their homes are actually worth. Meanwhile, as we have reported previously, the final price for the war in Iraq is expected to reach at least $3 trillion."
Frank Rich shows us how.
Three days after the world learned that $50 billion may have disappeared in Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, The Times led its front page of Dec. 14 with the revelation of another $50 billion rip-off. This time the vanished loot belonged to American taxpayers. That was our collective contribution to the $117 billion spent (as of mid-2008) on Iraq reconstruction — a sinkhole of corruption, cronyism, incompetence and outright theft that epitomized Bush management at home and abroad. The source for this news was a near-final draft of an as-yet-unpublished 513-page federal history of this nation-building fiasco. The document was assembled by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction — led by a Bush appointee, no less. It pinpoints, among other transgressions, a governmental Ponzi scheme concocted to bamboozle Americans into believing they were accruing steady dividends on their investment in a “new” Iraq. The report quotes no less an authority than Colin Powell on how the scam worked. Back in 2003, Powell said, the Defense Department just “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.’ ” Those of us who questioned these astonishing numbers were dismissed as fools, much like those who begged in vain to get the Securities and Exchange Commission to challenge Madoff’s math. What’s most remarkable about the Times article, however, is how little stir it caused. When, in 1971, The Times got its hands on the Pentagon Papers, the internal federal history of the Vietnam disaster, the revelations caused a national uproar. But after eight years of battering by Bush, the nation has been rendered half-catatonic. The Iraq Pentagon Papers sank with barely a trace. After all, next to big-ticket administration horrors like Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo and the politicized hiring and firing at Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department, the wreckage of Iraq reconstruction is what Ralph Kramden of “The Honeymooners” would dismiss as “a mere bag of shells.” The $50 billion also pales next to other sums that remain unaccounted for in the Bush era, from the $345 billion in lost tax revenue due to unpoliced offshore corporate tax havens to the far-from-transparent disposition of some $350 billion in Wall Street bailout money. In the old Pat Moynihan phrase, the Bush years have “defined deviancy down” in terms of how low a standard of ethical behavior we now tolerate as the norm from public officials. Not even a good old-fashioned sex scandal could get our outrage going again. Indeed, a juicy one erupted last year in the Interior Department, where the inspector general found that officials “had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives.” Two officials tasked with marketing oil on behalf of American taxpayers got so blotto at a daytime golf event sponsored by Shell that they became too incapacitated to drive and had to be put up by the oil company. Back in the day, an oil-fueled scandal in that one department alone could mesmerize a nation and earn Warren Harding a permanent ranking among our all-time worst presidents. But while the scandals at Bush’s Interior resemble Teapot Dome — and also encompass millions of dollars in lost federal oil and gas royalties — they barely registered beyond the Beltway. Even late-night comics yawned when The Washington Post administered a coup de grâce last week, reporting that Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne spent $235,000 from taxpayers to redo his office bathroom (monogrammed towels included). It took 110 pages for the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan research organization, to compile the CliffsNotes inventory of the Bush wreckage last month. It found “125 systematic failures across the breadth of the federal government.” That accounting is conservative. There are still too many unanswered questions. Just a short list is staggering. Who put that bogus “uranium from Africa” into the crucial prewar State of the Union address after the C.I.A. removed it from previous Bush speeches? How high up were the authorities who ordered and condoned torture and then let the “rotten apples” at the bottom of the military heap take the fall? Who orchestrated the Pentagon’s elaborate P.R. efforts to cover up Pat Tillman’s death by “friendly fire” in Afghanistan? And, for extra credit, whatever did happen to Bush’s records from the Texas Air National Guard?
Dawn Johnsen, a well-versed law professor and Constitutional scholar, was chosen by Obama to run the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice: the perfect place to begin this process of rectification. Please read the rest of this excruciatingly researched essay here. Suzan _______________________________

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