Friday, October 31, 2008

The "Electoral Remedy"

See my essay at Counterpunch, posted today.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Populism Arising—but Will It Be the Killer Kind?

By Chris Hedges

The old assumptions and paradigms about capitalism and free markets are dead. A new, virulent populism, still inchoate, is slowly and painfully rising to take their place. This populism will determine the future of the country. It is as likely to be right-wing as left-wing.

I watched these competing populisms flicker Thursday night at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., when I moderated a debate between independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader and Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin. The two candidates come from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Nader, in essence, is a democratic socialist in the mold of Eugene Debs or Norman Thomas. Baldwin, a founder and minister at the Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., is an evangelical, right-wing populist.

Baldwin, like Nader, rails against corporatism and our involvement in foreign wars, wants to repeal NAFTA and denounces the curtailment of civil liberties. But Baldwin goes on to support the abolishment of whole departments of the federal government, such as the Department of Education. He calls for U.S. withdrawal from the United Nations and NATO, the elimination of the Food and Drug Administration, the outlawing of abortion and removing all restrictions on the purchasing of firearms. One of his catchier campaign slogans is: “To help keep your family safe and your country free, go buy a gun.” He wants to seal our borders, deny amnesty and social services to illegal immigrants and end birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants. He calls for dismantling the Federal Reserve and the Internal Revenue Service, overturning the 16th Amendment and the personal income tax, and returning the American monetary system to hard assets: gold and silver.

These candidates, while marginal figures in the current election, express the two forms of populism that will soon find a wide political currency. The anger toward our elites will morph into rage. These new populisms may not be articulated by Nader and Baldwin, but they will be articulated by people like Nader and Baldwin.

The ideological foundations of free-market economics and a consumer society have collapsed. This collapse is hard for us to fathom. We are still in shock and denial. We cling to old structures of meaning and outdated words to describe them. We have yet to realize that all our political science and economic textbooks have become junk. We have yet to formulate a vocabulary to describe our altered reality. We grasp, on a subliminal level, that laissez-faire capitalism is gone, but we have not viewed the corpse, scheduled the funeral and read the last rites.

“People get very clearly that Washington found hundreds of billions of dollars to bail out rich people in a way the government does not usually intervene,” said Anthony Pollina, The Progressive Party candidate for governor in Vermont. “They understand that the government came up with all this money to support the wrong group of people. People get that in their gut. There is anger. It is not rage yet. There is still a little bit of disbelief. I may be running for governor, but all people want to talk about is how did we come up with all this money to give to rich people on Wall Street and why didn’t they let them pay their mortgage off.”

Millions of people will lose their homes. Jobs and savings will vanish. The government will continue to lurch from crisis to crisis. The greed of huge corporations, especially as they continue to cannibalize the country, will see them, and our elites, become the enemy. Exxon, to give one example, made $40.61 billion in profits last year while we struggled to fill the tanks of our automobiles and trucks. Oil and gas corporations, despite these profits, ruthlessly refuse to fill furnaces in winter when people cannot pay the bills. AIG, the insurance giant, after being saved with an infusion of $85 billion in taxpayer money, squandered $440,000 on an executive visit to a California spa. It spent $86,000 for its executives to hunt partridges in the English countryside and then blithely asked the U.S. government for an additional $38 billion.

Elites, when they confuse the artificial court life of Versailles with the real world, die. These capitalist entities, grossly out of touch, incompetent, blinded by greed and power and morally and intellectually bankrupt, are committing collective suicide.

“People are beginning to understand that when the economy is weak you have to put people to work,” Pollina, who is now outpolling the Democratic candidate, said. “We have a crumbling infrastructure in the state and a need for affordable housing. I have put forward three or four different ways to raise revenue to put people to work, including closing a loophole in our capital gains tax. I think people are attracted to me because they are realizing that this is now the most important thing we can do. We have to put people to work. We cannot continue to abandon them.”

The flagrant corruption of our political system—hostage to the hundreds of millions of dollars handed out by the corporations and elites to Democratic and Republican candidates—will become clearer as our initial shock wears off. The new American will be about the basics—jobs, food, health care and a place to live. We will discard the old vocabulary, the one still used by the Democratic and Republic parties, and learn to speak in the fiery language of populism. We will turn with a vengeance on the 1 percent that has amassed more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined. The populist conflict will see a battle between a frightened and dispossessed majority and the corporations and elites who seek to ruthlessly cling to power and wealth.

“Over the years people became disengaged,” Pollina said. “They stopped paying attention. This crisis has forced them to pay attention. It directly affects their economic future and ability to put food on the table. Outrage will lead to more involvement. This outrage could, however, fuel a right-wing populism around the country, although not in Vermont. Here I think people will move more to the left. In Vermont they have somewhere else to turn—I am here, Bernie Sanders is here, the Progressive Party is here—but on the national level this could see people turn to the right wing.”

A victory by Barack Obama may embolden right-wing populists. They will be able to use Obama and “liberal Democrats” as a lightning rod for the failings, growing poverty and incompetence of the state. The elite, as happens in all such moments of confusion, revolt and social chaos, will probably be forced to make an uncomfortable alliance with right-wing populists if they want to survive. The center of the political spectrum will melt.

“A lot of people feel the two parties have reached a consensus that all they have to do is support rich people to protect their hides,” Pollina said. “The two parties have come together to throw money at people who do not need it. People are beginning to understand they are no better off and probably their grandkids will pay for this. There is a great deal of resentment over the fact that Republicans and Democrats will risk everything to prop up rich people.”

We have begun a socialist experiment. George W. Bush and John McCain, in stunning repudiations of all they claimed to believe, call for massive state intervention in the financial markets and the use of billions in government funds to buy major stakes in banks. The question is not whether we will build state socialism. This process has already begun. The only question left is whether this will be right-wing or left-wing socialism.

The left, with a few exceptions, like the Progressive Party in Vermont, has largely thrown in its lot with the Democratic Party. Right-wing populists, as is evidenced by the acrimonious split in the McCain campaign, remain clustered around the fiefdoms of large megachurches that stoke hatred and frightening totalitarian visions of a Christian state. The left has no correlating centers of activism, organization or mass support, especially with the decline of labor unions. If left-wing populists do not rapidly build local organizations, as was done in Vermont, to compete with the right-wing populism of the Christian right, the most dangerous mass movement in American history, they will be easily swept aside.

There is not much time left. A Democratic victory in November may signal not a reversal of our fading fortunes but the start of a precipitous slide toward the Christian dystopia peddled by people like Baldwin.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose weekly column appears Mondays on Truthdig. He is the author of “American Fascists,” an important book on this topic.

Wikimedia Commons / edited for effect

The Klan marches on Washington, 1928, right around the time of another economic disaster.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What Matters Now? The Bush/Cheney Legacy

See my article published today in State of Nature.

(Note: in the version published at State of Nature, there is a paragraph on voting that reads this way:

"How could infamous atrocities and a veritable host of malignant deeds such as the mass murder of more than a million, two hundred thousand people in Iraq, egregious abandonment in New Orleans and its people in the face of Katrina, mass surveillance in felonious violation of the 1978 FISA law, brazen and unchallenged declarations by the White House that it is unaccountable to Congress, to international law, to the Constitution or to anyone at all, and on and on, be made right by anything so tame, so small, so risk-free, as what individuals do behind a closed space in a polling station for a few moments on one day in November 2008?"

I would prefer that it read in the following way given the fact that for some people, most especially black people, winning the right to vote and fighting against vicious attempts to disenfranchise them (such as police and official intimidation, disallowing their voter registration on specious grounds, dirty tricks, and far too few voting machines allocated to heavily black districts so that they must stand in line for hours and hours) means that their efforts to have their say have been a major battle. I do not want, in other words, to downplay the difficulties that blacks historically and currently face in being allowed into the voting booth in the first place (this also holds true for women's right to vote in the past). My main point in the paragraph and in the article as a whole that voting per se isn't where things are at and what needs to be done in the face of tyranny remains central:

"How could infamous atrocities and a veritable host of malignant deeds such as the mass murder of more than a million, two hundred thousand people in Iraq, egregious abandonment in New Orleans and its people in the face of Katrina, mass surveillance in felonious violation of the 1978 FISA law, brazen and unchallenged declarations by the White House that it is unaccountable to Congress, to international law, to the Constitution or to anyone at all, and on and on, be made right by what individuals do behind a closed space in a polling station for a few moments on one day in November 2008?")

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Storms to Come: the Elections, a November Surprise and the Aftermath

See my essay at World Can't Wait.

Pakistan on the Brink

As I've written previously, Pakistan concentrates the present contradictions in the world more powerfully and dangerously than perhaps anywhere else. See here as well.

As the article below from the Independent UK shows, the failure of the "war on terror" and its viciously, spectacularly counter-productive nature, are being played out in dramatic ways in Pakistan. If Obama becomes president, he will get the chance to continue these horrible policies that his predecessor, W., implemented on Obama's recommendations!

Look at what's happening to Pakistan and then ask yourself if this is the change we need and the change we can believe in.

Pakistan Stares Into the Abyss

Thursday 23 October 2008
by: Andrew Buncombe, Anne Penketh and Omar Waraich, The Independent UK

A spiraling conflict, economic collapse and blackouts threaten anarchy with far-reaching implications.

Pakistan was locked in crisis last night, with the government pressed by Washington to deepen its conflict with Islamic militants in the lawless regions on the Afghan border, and obliged to call in the International Monetary Fund to stave off financial catastrophe.

In the rugged north of the country, a major military offensive to root out Taliban militants has created a flood of up to 200,000 refugees and pitched Pakistani against Pakistani, Muslim against Muslim, in a conflict some are beginning to regard as a civil war.

A new US intelligence estimate meanwhile has warned that the renewed insurgency, coupled with energy shortages and political infighting, means that Pakistan, which is the only Muslim nation with nuclear weapons, is "on the edge."

"Pakistan is going through the worst crisis of its history," according to a leaked letter signed by the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the main opposition leader. It is a view shared by Imran Khan, another opposition leader, who says that the political and economic meltdown "is leading to a sort of anarchy in Pakistan."

"How does a country collapse?" the former cricketer asked. "There's increasing uncertainty, economic meltdown, more people on the street, inflation rising between 25 and 30 per cent. Then there's the rupee falling."

Pakistan is experiencing power cuts that have led to hourly blackouts, a doubling of basic food prices and a currency that has lost a third of its value in the past year. "The awful thing is there's no solution in sight - neither in the war on terror nor on the economic side," Mr Khan said during a visit to London. Heightening the sense of national emergency, the government yesterday turned to the International Monetary Fund for $15bn (£9.3bn) to cope with a balance of payments crisis caused by a flight of capital, after previously saying that applying to the IMF would be a last resort.

Almost every day there are retaliatory attacks against police and soldiers and Western targets. Hundreds of soldiers and an unknown number of civilians are losing their lives. The national parliament rejected the US influence on the government by adopting a resolution last night calling for an "independent" foreign policy and urging dialogue with the extremists.

The military operation against the so-called Pakistan Taliban is concentrated in the largely autonomous tribal areas that border Afghanistan. A total of 120,000 troops and paramilitary forces have been deployed against what senior officers say is a skilled and tenacious enemy. "They do not fight in one place, you cannot fight them in one place. It's basically guerrilla warfare," said Lt Col Haider Baseer, a military spokesman. "The area is mountainous, it's vast. And everybody carries a gun. It's the culture."

Long accused of failing to confront the militants, the military angrily points out that up to 1,500 soldiers and many more civilians have been killed in such operations since 2001. America has triggered national anger by dispatching troops from Afghanistan to attack a Pakistani village. At the same time, Pakistani officials point out that US and Nato forces in Afghanistan are looking to negotiate with the Taliban - something they have previously criticised Islamabad for doing.

Mr Khan claimed that the US-led "war on terror" had led to "approximately one million" men taking up arms in the tribal areas. "The total al-Qa'ida who were supposed to be in Pakistan were 800 to 1,200 people. This is the biggest gift of George Bush to al-Qa'ida, what he's done there," said Mr Khan. "It's like a factory of terror, it's producing terrorists, radicalising our society, pushing those people who had nothing to do with al-Qa'ida or Taliban into the arms of militancy and opposing the Americans and the Pakistan army," he said. [boldface added-DL]

Although Mr Khan leads the marginal Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf - which boycotted the last election - his views carry weight because of the strong moral stand he has taken in support of an independent judiciary and against endemic corruption, according to Pakistani analysts.

This week, perhaps partly to try to smooth relations, Richard Boucher, the US Assistant Secretary of State, praised the current military operation, which is said to have killed up to 1,000 militants. "I think it is good Pakistan is taking serious military action against the terrorists," he told reporters during a trip to the country, during which he met the recently elected President, Asif Ali Zardari. But Mr Zardari's coalition government is weak and the civilian president is accused by critics such as Mr Khan of being a "puppet" of the Americans, as was his predecessor, Pervez Musharraf.

Suicide bombs have become a near-daily occurrence. There have been more than 100 since July 2007, killing around 1,200 people. In 2006, there were just six such attacks. A report by the Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency suggested that in the first eight months of the year, more people were killed by suicide bombers in Pakistan than in Iraq or Afghanistan.

It remains unclear whether the army will continue to remain on the sidelines, as General Musharraf's successor as army chief-of-staff, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, has pledged to do. But the army could act as a power broker from behind the scenes.

"I have never known as much uncertainty as this," said Mr Khan, who is based in Lahore and is visiting his children who live with his former wife, Jemima Khan. The security risks are now so grave for Pakistani politicians that for the first time, Mr Khan is considering wearing a bulletproof vest after receiving death threats.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dear Dave and Howard - On Obama

Both Dave Lindorff and Howard Zinn have written new pieces about Obama and why they're holding their noses and voting for him.

Howard has been consistently and correctly saying that the key is mobilizing the people in a powerful extra-electoral social movement. But he nonetheless concludes that Obama's the "lesser evil."

Dave's piece, I'm sorry to say, is something that makes me want to put my arm around his shoulders and say: "Dave, what are you thinking?"

I was on a radio interview with Dave and my co-editor Peter Phillips on KPFA shortly before the November 2006 elections. I was saying that a people's movement had to be built and Dave came back arguing that we have to elect Democrats and that "We don't have time for a movement."

Well, we now all know how much good it did to elect those Democrats. They impeached Bush and Cheney and they ended the war on Iraq, right?

I'm afraid I don't have time right now to write a real response to them, but for now let me say this:

There is one and only one way that we can make any difference here and that is by building an independent political movement of the people. Anything else is illusion.

Vote for Nader or McKinney if you're going to vote for a candidate at all.

But don't harbor any illusions that voting means anything. The notion that the left can exert any pressure on Obama more than McCain is sheer fantasy. He is not beholden to us. He's beholden to big capital. Neither Obama nor McCain will have any reason to listen to the left and to the people unless and until a movement of the people is expressed in the streets, literally and metaphorically.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

More on the McCain/Palin Social Base

This is from Sherrill2 who posted this a few minutes ago at USA Today's website, commenting on McCain's appearance on David Letterman yesterday:

So we're supposed to be tied in knots over Barack Obama meeting William Ayers at a luncheon meeting about school reform. Despite hysteria from the Palin-McCain campaign, Williams Ayers has no felony convictions--none. Since the McCain campaign has raised the issue of relationships to terrorists, why does John Sidney McCain pal around with people like G. Gordon Liddy ?

Who is G. Gordon Liddy? Commenting on the good old days of listening to Hitler on the radio when he was growing up Liddy says, "It made me feel a strength inside I had never known before." In [the] 1970s, Liddy made plans to kill journalist Jack Anderson. He also plotted to firebomb the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. For his role in Watergate. Liddy was convicted of conspiracy, burglary and illegal wiretapping, and received a 20-year sentence. He served a total of five and half years in prison, including over 100 days in solitary confinement.

What does this have to do with McCain? McCain went on Liddy's radio show last year, greeting Liddy as "an old friend." McCain went on to say, "I'm proud of you, I'm proud of your family." Why does John McCain hang out with a convicted felon who went to prison for subverting democracy by breaking into Democratic election headquarters at the behest of a president who was forced to resign? In light of McCain's recent attempts to subvert democracy by attempting to suppress the vote, connect the dots.

Veterans and Other Protestors Met with Police Violence at Hofstra

An eyewitness report from IVAW the evening of the presidential debate.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Report from Outside the Presidential Debate Last Night

What "democracy" looks like outside the permitted "debate" celebrating "democracy."

From Debra Sweet

[For photos go here. For video footage, see here.]

A group of us from World Can't Wait were out at Hostra University last night before the debate. Several different groups of immigrant rights activists (Hempstead has a large Salvadoran community) student anti-war groups, the Long Island Alliance of peace/environmental groups, and about 50 Planned Parenthood supporters, along with a mix of Obama supporters marched and rallied in a kind of fluid mix across a wide turnpike from where the debate was held.

Iraq Veterans Against the War had announced last week that they had questions for Obama and McCain, and wanted their representatives allowed in. At 7pm, the deadline of when they expected an answer from the debate moderator and the candidates, about 15 members of IVAW led a march across the street. 100 of us followed at that point, into the street, backing them up at the entrance of the campus, shouting "Let them in!" They were met by a solid line of police on horses, with nearly 100 riot police. The activists were non-violent, and announced a peaceful protest.

Matthis Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith read their questions for the candidates, and when they stepped forward to go in, were arrested. A total of 10 IVAW members were arrested, some after standing together, pushed across the turnpike by cops on horses. The horses were used repeatedly to charge into the crowd, and especially at the IVAW members, in uniform, who were able to stay upright for nearly 10 minutes. As we were pushed to the opposite sidewalk, horses pushed several veterans to the ground, including Geoff Millard, and at least one, Nick Morgan was stepped on by a horse, and hospitalized with a broken cheekbone.

The several veterans who were not arrested spoke to the media afterward, full of outrage. Jabar Magruder, who was stationed in Iraq as part of the national guard, said he had not seen people attacked like that since he was in Iraq, and "I don't need to see that here".

I've gathered some of the coverage here:

Listen to Democracy Now for today. Interviews and live audio at the end of the broadcast.

IVAW members arrested while attempting to present questions to Obama and McCain

One hour before the final presidential debate of the 2008 campaign, fourteen members of IVAW marched in formation to Hofstra University to present questions for the candidates. IVAW had requested permission from debate moderator Bob Schieffer to ask their questions during the debate but got no response.

The contingent of veterans in dress uniforms and combat uniforms attempted to enter the building where the debate was to be held in order to ask their questions but were turned back by police. The IVAW members at the front of the formation were immediately arrested, and others were pushed back into the crowd by police on horseback. Several members were injured, including former Army Sergeant Nick Morgan who suffered a broken cheekbone when he was trampled by police horses before being arrested.

"Neither of the candidates have shown real support for soldiers and veterans. We came here to try and get serious questions answered, questions that we as veterans of the Iraq war, have a right to ask, but instead we were arrested. We will continue to ask these questions no matter who is elected. We believe that the time has come to end this war and bring our troops home, and we will be pushing for that no matter what happens in this election." said Jason Lemieux, a former Sergeant in the US Marine Corps and member of IVAW who served three tours in Iraq.

A total of 10 veterans were arrested during the action, including Matthis Chiroux, Kristopher Goldsmith, Adam Kokesh, Mike Spinato, Geoff Millard, Marlisa Grogan, Nathan Peld, Nick Morgan, James Gilligan and Jose Vasquez.

NY Indypendent:

At Least Nine Demonstrators Arrested as Iraq Vets Try to Enter Final Presidential Debate

By Alex Kane
October 16, 2008 | Posted in IndyBlog

As millions of Americans were readying their television sets to tune into the final presidential debate between John McCain and Barack Obama, a much different scene was unfolding outside of Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY where the debate took place.

At least five members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), a group of military veterans who are calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, were arrested, as well as at least four civilians, according to National Lawyers Guild observers. Nassau County police on horses trampled one member of IVAW, Nick Morgan, a veteran who served in Iraq for about a year. Morgan was knocked to the ground, and according to witnesses, the horse hooves slammed down on his face. A gash was visible on the side of his head as blood dripped down onto the pavement.

Protesters in the crowd said that Morgan was taken to a local hospital.

“The horses were pushing, like really pushing, against [members of IVAW], and physically touching their bodies,” says Erika Ward, an NYU student and intern at Democracy Now! “To see people laying on the ground…was crazy. For me, it was really emotional, [and] I saw people crying,” she continued.


The protest began slowly, with about 70 anti-war activists rallying at a parking lot nearby the Hempstead train station. Speakers included a member of the New York Civil Liberties Union, a local civil rights advocate, a Military Families Speak Out activist and a member of the May 1st Coalition for Immigrant and Worker Rights. As more activists from the NYC area poured in, the march to the campus of Hofstra started, with defiant chants of “Stop the torture, stop the war, this is what we’re fighting for,” and “They’re our brothers, they’re our sisters, we support war resisters!” filling the streets of Hempstead.

With IVAW members at the front, the crowd swelled to around 400 demonstrators. Members of the local Planned Parenthood joined in along the way. At one point, as the antiwar march neared the campus, a group of ten members of the Gathering of Eagles, a conservative pro-war organization, heckled the demonstrators. They shouted epithets like “traitor” and “treasonous” at the Iraq veterans.

The troops have “been promised so much…it’s important for IVAW to have a voice,” says Chelsea Florio, a freshman at Fordham University and a member of the Fordham Anti-War Coalition.

The members of IVAW, backed by a crowd of anti-war protesters, were allowed to pass through one line of police before they were met with lines of Nassau County riot police and cops on horses who would not allow the veterans to enter the Hofstra campus. IVAW members Matthis Chiroux and Kris Goldsmith, who organized the protest, went first and were promptly arrested. At least three other veterans and four civilians followed and were arrested as well.

The arrests seemed to energize the crowd, and as they chanted, “Let them in,” it looked as if things could easily get out of hand.

The police on horses pushed back against the crowd, which was fronted by a group of about 15 Iraq veterans, until the demonstrators had been moved onto a nearby sidewalk.

After a tense standoff for five minutes, it looked like the police in riot gear shoved veterans and demonstrators to push them even further back, and around four people were knocked over by riot police and horses. It was during this fracas that Morgan was injured. After the police assault, a standoff between the cops and demonstrators occurred for over an hour.


A week ago, Chiroux, who this past May publicly declared his intent to refuse to deploy to Iraq, sent a letter to CBS debate moderator Bob Scheiffer spelling out the demands of IVAW. Chiroux’s letter demanded that two members of IVAW, himself and Goldsmith, be allowed entry into the debate to ask Senators Obama and McCain one question each. CBS or Schieffer did not respond to the letter from Chiroux.

“What yourself and the candidates must decide now, Mr. Schieffer, is what the legacy of this debate will be. Will this be remembered as an event where both sides of the [aisle] and the media came together to hear from our nation’s heroes…or will the words and promises of both candidates be forever shrouded in the image of a host of uniformed veterans and their supporters going to jail because these campaigns cared too little to hear from them?” Chiroux’s letter read.

“Our goal is to make Iraq and veterans the forefront of the debate,” said Goldsmith.

Chiroux planned on asking Obama a pointed question: “My question is, as President of the United States of America, are you prepared to back up your own words [about the illegality of the Iraq War] and the U.S. Constitution by supporting service members refusing to participate in what you describe as an illegal occupation?”

Goldsmith wanted to ask McCain a question about his lack of support for veterans. “What promises are you willing to make, as a veteran, as a senator, as a presidential candidate, to the veterans of the United States, to prove that you will ensure the V.A. is fully funded, staffed and capable of preventing troops from suffering as they are now?” he says.

With the crowd emotionally exhausted and worn down, the protest started to taper off at about 8:30 PM.

“We have a blind media [and] deaf candidates, but [IVAW] has a voice that will be heard,” James Gilligan, a member of IVAW said earlier in the day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

On the Pre-Election Polls

The latest polls show Obama widening his lead over McCain. Some people are predicting a very large win for Obama. Several days ago I cautioned people that the GOP stealing the election was a likelihood.

If the gap between Obama and McCain gets too large, however, that is, in the high double digits, the gap that must be overcome in an election's heist is going to strain credibility and possibly make it infeasible for those who would otherwise really want to do it. [Reports are coming in about some of these efforts already in places like Ohio.]

Any Democrat running against the GOP this time around ought to have a huge lead over anyone the GOP wants to put forward, given the debacle that the Bush years have been.

(There is still time, by the way, for an October or even very early November surprise. The stock market crash and the worldwide financial crisis, nonetheless, have introduced a major stumbling block in the way of the GOP's plans, narrowing their options sharply.)

Most important of all, whoever wins in November will carry forward the major elements of the Bush White House's foreign policy and its stand on Wall Street, among other things.

The only chance we have to reverse this overall direction is to change the overall political atmosphere and bring to bear the one crucial and missing ingredient: a mobilized and visible independent movement of the people.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Some Quick Observations about the Fascist/Racist Wind Being Whipped Up by McCain/Palin

From Consortium News:

Why Are McCain Backers So Angry? [an excerpt]

By Robert Parry
October 12, 2008

From Republicans at political rallies to GOP lawmakers on TV talk shows, McCain-Palin supporters are angry, very angry – and they seem to think their anger justifies whatever they do: from calling Barack Obama a “terrorist” to shouting “kill him” and “off with his head” – to getting huffy when their violent rhetoric is challenged.

They’re even angrier now after Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, a veteran of the civil rights movement, chastised John McCain and Sarah Palin for whipping Republican crowds up into the kind of fury that can set the stage for murder.

Lewis, who marched and bled with Martin Luther King Jr., accused McCain and Palin of “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” in a way reminiscent of Alabama Gov. George Wallace, who rallied white anger against black civil rights advances in the 1960s.

“George Wallace never threw a bomb,” Lewis said Saturday. “He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who were simply trying to exercise their constitutional rights.”

While Lewis’s warning could have been an opportunity for McCain to reflect on the tone of his campaign, it became another excuse for him to get angry.

McCain – who has elicited some of the harsh crowd responses by asking ominously “who is the real Barack Obama?” – denounced Lewis’s statement as “a character attack against Governor Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale.”

Rather than apologize for his own recklessness – or, perhaps, pull a campaign ad that accuses Obama of lying about his association with a “terrorist,” former Vietnam War-era radical William Ayers – McCain demanded that Obama repudiate Lewis.

(Obama’s campaign responded by saying Lewis was right to condemn “hateful rhetoric” at the rallies but distancing itself from the Wallace comparison.)

* * *

Parry has many useful things to say in this piece, excerpted above, but he frames this overall as a contradiction between the fact that some GOP supporters are spewing venom towards Obama when they really should be angry at their own party.

He's right about this, but the main aspect of this ugly wind being whipped up from rally attendees saying things like "Bomb Obama" and "Kill Him!" is something else. It's not erroneous thinking. It's some of the more blatant signs of a fascist movement's character being displayed.

When Palin, for example, stated at the RNC that "Al-Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights" she was none too subtly fanning the flames of xenophobia and ugly know-nothingism.

The extremism that McCain and Palin represent is no laughing matter, even if SNL has been having a hilarious field day mimicking Palin and even if her stupidity and willful ignorance are painfully obvious. Their ugliness as a team and the depravity of their followers is not something McCain and Palin are so stupid as not to welcome as the desired outcome of their overall stance. In order to carry forward the Bush Program, these GOP leaders are cultivating their "army" of know-nothing fanatics because you can't carry these terrible things forward without such an army as a battering ram.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Naomi Wolf Sounds the Alarm

Naomi Wolf is one of the brave voices. She warns in this video that a coup has taken place and that we have a small window of time within which to reverse things.

I agree with Ms. Wolf in most particulars but do see things in some respects quite differently. I will get to those differences at the end - I encourage you to read the links within this post as they elaborate much further on what's going on and why - but first, a short list of what I would describe as critical points along this sliding path to a police state.

As Wolf has pointed out in her book, The End of America, the initial stages of a "shift" contain fascist elements side-by-side with liberal democratic elements. This stage of co-existence can go on for some time, but sooner or later the fascist elements eat up the democratic ones. For those who aren't paying proper attention, in other words, day-to-day life can appear quite normal while the horrors build and build in the background.

Paying proper attention in our conditions means going outside of what the Democratic Party and the mass media are directing our attention to. Most people in this country aren't accustomed to doing this as they largely take their cues about what's going on and what they can and should do about it from the political leadership class.

But this is a terrible mistake in our case. Millions of people have got to step outside of the customary and into doing things that are outside their comfort zones. Being comfortable in one's political actions in times such as these will prove fatal.

1) The coup might be properly described as a rolling coup in that there have been distinct nodal points along the way, a description that I think Naomi would agree with (she has spoken of a "fascist shift.") The first nodal point was the surrender by Al Gore and the mass media in 2000 to Bush and Cheney's stealing the election. Gore could have, should have, and didn't, call for his supporters to march on the Supreme Court to demand that all the votes be counted. Once this election was allowed to be stolen in the open through the machinations of the Supremes, the die was cast for everything else that has followed.

2) The second nodal point was the USA PATRIOT Act's passage after 9/11 that gave unprecedented powers to the government to snoop and overrule core elements of civil liberties under the rubric of the unending "war on terror." The acceptance by the rest of the political leadership class of the "GWOT" has been absolutely critical to allowing the rampage of the Bush regime and their followers. It represents the foundation for a police state under any future president.

3) The third nodal point was the 2004 election being stolen - again in plain sight - with the Democratic Party and the mass media again permitting this to happen and refusing to investigate, let alone even mention, the mountains of evidence of fraud.

4) The fourth nodal point was the 2006 Military Commissions Act that abrogated habeas corpus and legalized torture.

5) The fifth nodal point was the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 that gave the president emergency powers.

6) The sixth nodal point was the Democrats' failure to defund the Iraq War and their withdrawal of language from a resolution that would have prevented an attack on Iran by Bush. In addition, in 2007 the Democratic majority in Congress also declared that they would not do anything about the eminently hackable voting machines until at least 2010, thus making a stolen election in 2008 a real possibility, indeed, a likelihood.

7) The seventh nodal point was the issuance of NSPD-51 and HSPD-20 that provided secret policies for the continuity of government (i.e., emergency powers/martial law). When Representative DeFazio was denied access to these procedures in July 2007 and the story wasn't covered by the mainstream press, the story was allowed to pass unremarked upon.

8) The eighth nodal point was on and after April 8, 2008 when Bush admitted approving torture and the rest of the US leadership class said nothing and did nothing when they should have called for and moved immediately for his removal from office.

9) The ninth nodal point was the surrender by the all-progressives Minneapolis City Council to the police state by their green lighting the fascistic measures seen in the streets of St. Paul and Minneapolis during the RNC and the failure of the mass media to give proper coverage to this clear evidence that free assembly and free speech were no longer to be respected. It reflected the coming home of "shock and awe," the use of the bogus claim of terror to crack down in pre-emptive attacks on American protestors, and the use of torture-lite on at least one protestor.

10) The tenth nodal point was the October 2008 knuckling under of Congress to the "sky is falling" claims by the White House demanding the $700 Billion bailout and the warnings to certain unnamed reluctant Representatives of martial law if they didn't vote for the bailout.

11) The eleventh nodal point was October 2008 Bush's ordering the day-to-day control by U.S. Army North, the Army component of Northern Command (NorthCom), of the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team who could and will be used to quell U.S. "civil disturbances."

Naomi Wolf speaks clearly and specifically to the last two items on this list in the video below.

* * *

Ms. Wolf calls for the coup conspirators' arrests by District Attorneys. While I would and do support such an action, I think that we need to be clear here on what exactly it's going to take to stem this ugly tide and turn things around. What force will it take to do this? It will take the collective actions of the masses of people in this country. Such a massive action of millions will not materialize as a single act. It is something that must be built for and our efforts need to be aimed at bringing this into being as soon as possible.

The first thing we have to realize, and I know that this is a hard truth for many to face, is that elections don't mean a damn thing in this context. Even if you believe that electing Obama is critical, the chances that the 2008 election will be stolen, as have the last two, is very real and very likely. The grounds for "explaining" such an outcome, "proving" the pre-elections' polls "wrong" again are already with us: the surreptitious white racist vote and the energized Christian fascist vote. How many times do we have to be slammed in the head with the hard reality that votes are easy to steal before we realize that putting all of your hopes into your vote isn't the way to go? Money donated to the Democrats is wasted money. Supporting Obama (or any other third-party candidate) at this point is not only a waste, it takes away from the desperately needed real work to mobilize millions as an independent political force to fundamentally alter the balance of forces in the society. Funneling people, energy and resources into the electoral arena when yet another stolen election is probable and when the Democrats have repeatedly, blatantly, and criminally colluded with the Bush Regime on all fronts is a crime. You don't fight against fascists by supporting the enablers of fascists.

Our energies need to go - on the level of everyday life - into mobilizing the independent actions of the people. This is what the spreading of orange ribbons and other forms of orange in everyday life means: the public declaration that we stand against torture and against imperialist wars and that we call for others to also publicly declare themselves until millions are doing this.

Some might say, what will having a lot of orange do? The gendarmes will just round up the orange people. What this view fails to understand is that politics is determined by a combination of what is in people's heads and the use of coercion. Coercion only works if those who are using the force aren't losing the battle for public opinion. If enough people - who DO represent the large majority - are acting in open and public ways that manifest the PEOPLE's sentiments and that DO reflect truth and justice, then clampdowns with police state actions will not bury the movement but will expose the fundamentally monstrous nature of those using it and spur on others to step forward and further isolate the relatively small numbers who are the enemies of the people. This is a dynamic that has characterized every revolution.

Rolling back the fascist assault must and can happen. We don't have a great deal of time. Forcing war criminal John Yoo out of his UC Berkeley Law Professorship is an important battle. It will be an important victory and open the door to turning the tide against the war criminals who run this country now. Shutting down military recruiters preying on our youth is another important battlefront in this fight to change the future that we see unfolding in real time before us. Support and defend the RNC-8. Donate your money and your time to an organization that has consistently fought for the necessity to rely upon and mobilize the people - the World Can't Wait.

Finally, I agree with Wolf's sense of urgency here. But it is crucial to understand that mobilization can occur under varying conditions and we are not doomed if we do not mobilize sufficient numbers in a certain time frame. If the coup conspirators aren't arrested within three months or so, in other words, they don't necessarily win. The sooner we mobilize the forces necessary, the better, and we don't have any time to waste because Wolf is right about fascism in the making. But even after fascism is officially and openly in power, should this come to pass, this doesn't mean that the rebellion is doomed. We need to be on the one hand alarmed at what's going on, but we also have to guard against getting freaked out and then becoming paralyzed into inaction.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Oppose the Emerging Police State

SIGN the petition against DNC/RNC arrests, brutal treatment & surveillance of protesters.

The St. Paul City Council is now doing some investigation, and we want to get this national petition to them. Deadline is Thursday October 9.

background at:
New Left Notes

To: Local Elected Officials and Law Enforcement in Denver, St. Paul and Minneapolis:
CC: Homeland Security

Thousands of people came to your cities during the recent national political conventions to protest the U.S. occupation of the Middle East, widespread violations of international law by the Bush administration, and abuses of the rights of people living in this country.

They were met in each instance with $50 million spent on military tactics and material, and:

--involvement of US "fusion centers" combining domestic and military agencies for the purposes of surveillance of the protesters;
--riot squads on bicycles, motorcycles, horses, and military troop transports;
--use of agent infiltrators into political groups, and provocateurs on the streets;
--revocation and denial of permits to assemble and mass arrests of protesters & bystanders alike, with pepper & tear gas, concussion grenades, and batons;
--raids featuring drawn weapons at homes and offices and on private cars, on the basis not of crimes committed, but of speech.

Nearly 1000 people were arrested, including 40 members of the press, and including juveniles. Many of them were detained for days. Some were denied medication, medical care, and timely legal representation. Some were illegally interrogated as to their political beliefs and associations. Some were physically abused, with reported use of tasers, hoods, batons, and denial of food and bathroom facilities.

The charges range from vague misdemeanors to "conspiracy to commit riot in the 2nd degree in furtherance of terrorism" in the case of the RNC 8. These are demonstrably political charges devoid of actual crimes committed.

It may be that with the huge budget, the designation of the conventions as "national security events" and the ominous and baseless warnings from federal authorities that the political protests would be violent, such abuses against protesters were predicable. But they are NOT acceptable. We demand:

1) Charges against people involved in political protest at the conventions be dropped immediately. In particular, the indictment of the RNC8 must be withdrawn.

2) A thorough investigation of methods employed by law enforcement, and directed by Homeland Security, including the methods and justification for surveillance of political activists; the insertion of agents into political organizations; the crowd control methods and mass arrests; the conditions of detention of those arrested; and any ongoing surveillance and interference with the rights of those accused, arrested, or involved in the protests are contrary to the expectation of the rights to freedom of speech and assembly. Such investigations must include public hearings, and a real search for the truth in what happened.

3) A public report, dissociating your city from those methods found to suppress speech and assembly, and guarantee to the people that they will not be used again.

4) Rejection of the use of military involvement in surveillance, activation of national guard units or active duty military in future political protests.

SIGN and send it to others!

"Continuity of Government" (COG) Provisions activated in 2001

by Tom Burghardt

Continuity of Government (aka martial law) in the face of "civil disturbances" or other "disasters" as secretly promulgated by Rumsfeld ten months before 9/11.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Muslim Children Gassed in Ohio after "Obsession" DVD Distributed

Go here to read about this inevitable consequence of the pogromist atmosphere being whipped up by the likes of Sarah Palin and the extremist religious right.

As I have written ("Shock and Awe Comes Home to Roost"), these kinds of shocking events are the emerging reality of what is in store for America so long as the American leadership class remains in charge, unchallenged by a contrary wind coming from the people who will not stand for this.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Raising Our Sights

See my commentary on the Biden v. Palin debate at world can't wait here.