Saturday, November 28, 2009
--Michael Parenti, Against Empire: A Brilliant Expose of the Brutal Realities of U.S. Global Domination
-Today, the New York Times reports on Afghan allegations of a secret 'black jail' at Bagram Air Base near Kabul:
The site, known to detainees as the black jail, consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each illuminated by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day. In interviews, former detainees said that their only human contact was at twice-daily interrogation sessions.
“The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place,” said Hamidullah, a spare-parts dealer in Kandahar who said he was detained there in June. “They don’t let the I.C.R.C. officials or any other civilians see or communicate with the people they keep there. Because I did not know what time it was, I did not know when to pray.”
The prison is run by Special Operations forces.
It should be noted that although President Obama signed an order closing all CIA "black sites" in January, the order contained a loophole allowing the CIA to continue operating temporary detention facilities abroad.
-President Obama has decided to send an additional 30,000 or so American forces to Afghanistan in an effort to ensure terrorist networks can no longer operate out of Afghanistan. According to the Washington Times:
He [Obama] repeated his contention that the American goal was not to build Afghanistan into a modern, well-functioning state -- something that most experts think is well beyond the capability of any outside force. Instead, he said, it will be to turn the largely lawless and hardscrabble corner of the globe into a place that is sufficiently stable so al Qaeda and its extremist allies cannot operate effectively.
"We are going to dismantle and degrade their capabilities and ultimately dismantle and destroy their networks. And Afghanistan's stability is important to that process," the president said.
-A Chinese magazine, Outlook, ran an expose detailing the Chinese government's system of secret jails used to detain petitioners seeking redress from the central government in Beijing.
-A 10-month freeze on settlement building by the Israelis in the occupied West Bank announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a bit misleading. According to Ethan Bronner of the New York Times:
The 10-month settlement freeze excludes more than 2,500 housing units being built or recently authorized. The moratorium allows a limited number of schools, synagogues and community centers, the kind of “natural growth” banned by the dormant 2003 “road map” for peace, agreed to by the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.
In other words, although this represents a painful political concession by the Israeli government and is causing it internal trouble, there will never be a moment in the coming months when construction will stop in West Bank settlements.
And Israeli building in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital, will be unaffected.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
--Judge Guido Calabresi, dissenting judge in Arar's appeal
Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria and a practicing engineer, was arrested on September 26, 2002 at JFK airport after returning home from a family vacation in Tunisia. Arar's name was on a US watchlist of terror suspects, and while trying to change planes to return home, was arrested and placed into FBI custody. After being questioned for 13 days, without access to a lawyer, Arar was awaken in the middle of the night and put on a plane that eventually took him to Syria. Arar's case was a dramatic example of extraordinary rendition, an official US policy that has been adopted by President Obama's administration. After being sent to Syria, Arar was brutally interrogated and tortured, and forced to confess to having visited Afghanistan. Here is an excerpt of his videotaped testimony to the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs Committee (Arar could not physically be present at the hearing, as he is barred from entering the US) via Democracy Now!:
Let me be clear: I am not a terrorist. I am not a member of al-Qaeda or any other terrorist group. I am here to tell you what happened to me and how I was detained and interrogated by the US government, transported to Syria against my will, tortured, and kept there for over a year.
Upon reviewing my passport, an immigration officer pulled me aside. Officers from the FBI and New York police department arrived and began to interrogate me. My repeated requests for a lawyer were all denied. I was told I had no right to a lawyer, because I was not an American citizen.
On October 8th at 3 in the morning, I was awakened and told that they had decided to move me to Syria. By then, it was becoming more and more clear that I was being sent to Syria for the purpose of being tortured.
There, I was put in a dark underground cell that was more like a grave. It was three feet wide, six feet deep, and seven feet high. Life in that cell was hell. I spent ten months and ten days in that grave.
During the early days of my detention, I was interrogated and physically tortured. I was beaten with an electrical cable and threatened with a metal chair, the tire and electric shocks. I was forced to falsely confess that I had been to Afghanistan. When I was not being beaten, I was put in a waiting room so that I could hear the screams of other prisoners. The cries of women still haunt me the most.
After 374 days of torture and wrongful detention, I was finally released to Canadian embassy officials on October 5th, 2003.
Even after enduring this barbaric ordeal, this headline appeared in the New York Times yesterday: "Appeals Court Rejects Suit by Canadian Man Over Detention and Torture Claim." According to the article:
A federal appeals court in Manhattan ruled on Monday that Maher Arar, a Canadian man who claimed that American officials sent him to Syria in 2002 to be tortured, cannot sue for damages because Congress has not authorized such suits.
The case has been widely watched because Mr. Arar claimed to be a victim of extraordinary rendition, the government policy of sending terrorism suspects to other countries for detention and interrogation.
After years of our country committing numerous and well documented war crimes, including torture, extraordinary rendition (which almost inevitably leads to torture), and the killing of innocent civilians across the globe, our government still cannot be held accountable. What does that say about a country that supposedly prides itself on the rule of law and accountability?
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, including helping to recruit an Afghan paramilitary force that operates at the CIA's direction in and around the southern city of Kandahar, Mr. Karzai's home.
The relationship between Mr. Karzai and the CIA is wide ranging, several American officials said. He helps the CIA operate a paramilitary group, the Kandahar Strike Force, that is used for raids against suspected insurgents and terrorists. On at least one occasion, the strike forces has been accused of launching an unauthorized operation against an official of the Afghan government, the officials said.
Mr. Karzai is also widely believed to be involved in Afghanistan's booming opium trade, a $65 billion global industry.
As our political leaders consider further escalating the war in Afghanistan, a consideration that 54% of Americans oppose, the history of the CIA, foreign intelligence agencies (particularly Turkish, Israeli and Pakistani agencies), and their ties to various U.S. officials is worth remembering. After all, it is widely documented that the CIA had countless dealings with the mujahdeen in Central Asia during the 1980s and 1990s, principally the CIA's funding of Muslim guerillas, including Osama bin Laden, resisting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Also, as Michael Moore pointed out in his film, Farenheit 9/11, many members of the bin Laden family and other Saudi nationals were flown out of the country shortly after 9/11, and many of them were not even interviewed or questioned by FBI agents. This fact alone should make one rethink what actually happened on 9/11 and who was involved.
The NYT article mentioned above startled me for a number of reasons. First off, why would the U.S. government, through the CIA, be funding a warlord directly involved and personally benefiting from the drug trade, something US and NATO forces have been trying to disrupt and eliminate since the beginning of the invasion? The fact that the CIA, and quite possibly other foreign intelligence agencies, are still involved in covert and illegal dealings with thugs in Central Asia should give every American pause.
On Monday, Sibel Edmonds and John Cole, both former FBI agents, had a lengthy, but detailed, interview with Scott Horton of Anti-War Radio that shed some light on all of this. Edmonds, who worked primarily as a Turkish translator for the FBI, has risen numerous issues regarding 9/11, foreign espionage carried out by US agents on behalf of other countries (principally Israel and Turkey), and other nefarious activities that have not been investigated.
In a recent interview with Philip Giraldi of The American Conservative magazine, Edmonds highlights some important individuals that she claims were highly involved in espionage, bribery, and other illegal activities, including Marc Grossman, Air Force Major Douglas Dickerson, Dickerson's wife (who worked with Edmonds as a translator at the FBI), the Turkish born Can Dickerson, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith. The entire article is simply a must read, but I will highlight some main points here.
-Numerous investigations, dating back to the 1970s, were launched by the FBI against Feith, Perle, Grossman and others who were suspected of providing classified information-- military technology, access to weapons systems, policy proposals, ect.-- to various foreign governments, most notably Turkey and Israel. These investigations were never fully brought to fruition, which explains why Edmonds was fired after raising serious objections to her superiors at the FBI about this activity.
-This classified information was paid for using bribes and front companies, which many of the officials listed above worked for, and was then resold to other foreign intelligence agencies in many instances
-Numerous Congress members and their staffers were involved in some of these dealings
-Can Dickerson, Douglas Dickerson's wife who was hired by the FBI and given top security clearance, had a history with the American Turkish Council and was suspected of hiding intelligence and covering up various wrongdoings
There are many more details to this story that this amateur writer could not possibly cover, and I encourage all to thoroughly research and investigate this story for themselves. It is very confusing, and has not been covered by the mainstream media in any serious way for the past 5 years (or more). What is apparent is that intelligence agencies, both foreign and domestic, have shady dealings, high level contacts, and enormous budgets to engage in this type of activity (espionage, bribery, extra-judicial killings, ect.) and that should come as no surprise to anyone. What is extremely troubling, especially in light of the recent outrage expressed by Republican members of Congress claiming that the Council on American-Islamic Relations was trying to infiltrate the US government, is that this woman and the claims she makes are hardly noticed by the American public. This is one investigation that needs to take place immediately. Given the fact that numerous high ranking and influential individuals in our government, private sector, and international community are involved in this scandal, any investigation seems unlikely. Not to mention the fact that virtually no mainstream media outlet is covering this story...
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Below is a conversation Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and Jo Comerford had today regarding our insane military spending and where we place our priorities:
Friday, September 18, 2009
In the August 28, 2009 edition of the Socialist Worker, Lee Sustar interviews Andrew Cockburn, the co-producer, along with his wife, Leslie, of the documentary American Casino, an inside look at the financial crisis and sub-prime mortgage meltdown. Here is an excerpt:
Lee Sustar: There has been a claim from the financial industry that this was an unforeseeable crisis- and that all they were tyring to do is make home ownership more possible. Do you buy that?
Andrew Cockburn: Absolutely not. I think we made clear in American Casino, it all came from the top. It was Wall Street banks who pushed this, it was Wall Street banks who had the relationships with the mortgage companies. It was Wall Street that aggressively competed for the mortgage loans sold by mortgage companies, which could then be packaged into securities- those magical instruments, the CDOs [collateralized debt obligations], the CDO-squared and all those other things that we've come to know and love. There were the guilty parties, and certainly not- absolutely not- the homeowners who've gotten blamed for this.
In American Casino, we make it clear that it's not like that. Ordinary people were lied to, were conned, were defrauded into these loans. The system did this. In my view- and I think we say in the film- the system couldn't do anything else. They'd run out of other productive things to invest in. So basically, the option was loan sharking, which is what they did.
So, who is to blame for this mess we are in? And who has the power in our society and political system? Beck, Limbaugh and the like are skewing the economic reality in this country and using it to inflame increasingly dangerous Right-wing movements. The real problem in this country isn't that Obama, poor people and ACORN are stealing tax dollars and redistributing the wealth of this nation. It's that people are actually caught up in this farce and misrepresentation of the reality of the country in which we live. We all need to realize that our economic system preys off those that have the least amount of power, influence and say in policy discussions, namely the poor and disenfranchised. It is corporations and big business that have the clout in this country, and it is so undeniable and obvious that it is amazing people can buy into the propaganda put out by Limbaugh, Beck, and Fox News.
Update: Here is a great perspective on what was discussed above. Worth a read.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
On the diplomatic front, following the report's release, [Prime Minister] Netanyahu, [Foreign Minister] Lieberman, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will telephone many of their counterparts around the world. They will stress that the Goldstone report is one-sided, that it rewards terrorism and that it sets a precedent which will make it difficult for any country in the world to defend itself against terror...
"It will be a long diplomatic and legal campaign," said a senior Israeli staffer handling the Goldstone report. "We will invovle our friends from around the world, especially the United States, to prevent Israel's isolation," he said.
Israeli officials have called the report "one-sided" and accused the United Nations Human Rights Council of "regularly and routinely condemning Israel." Israeli officials prefer to launch investigations into war crimes and human rights abuses internally, and have issued reports claiming Israeli soldiers acted in accordance with international law. A Hamas spokesman also called the report unbalanced and completely misrepresenting reality, according to the Haaretz article linked to above.
While both sides of this conflict have demonstrably committed repugnant acts of violence, many of which could amount to war crimes, the latest invasion of Gaza leaves no doubt that the Israeli military had a direct policy of targeting civilians, private property, and essential infrastructure, including hospitals, water and sewage systems. According to a press release put out by the United Nations regarding the report:
The Mission found that, in the lead up to the Israeli military assault on Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade amounting to collective punishment and carried out a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip. During the Israeli military operation, code-named "Operation Cast Lead," houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations, and other public buildings were destroyed. Families are still living under the rubble of their former homes long after the attacks ended, as reconstruction has been impossible due to the continuing blockade. More than 1,400 people were killed during the military operation.
Significant trauma, both immediate and long-term, has been suffered by the population of Gaza. The Report notes signs of profound depression, insomnia and effects such as bed-wetting among children. The effects on children who witnessed killings and violence, who had thought they were facing death, and who lost family members would be long-lasting, the Mission found, noting in its Report that some 30 percent of children screened at UNRWA schools suffered mental health problems.
This is what top Israeli leaders are trying to keep from being presented to the U.N. Security Council: a report by the world's most reputable international organization that condemns not only Israeli actions, but also Palestinian tactics in the latest conflict. It is time that Israel stop leaning on the United States to hide the fact that it has committed serious crimes against humanity and that it had a direct policy of targeting Palestinian civilians, public buildings, and private property, not to mention water and sewage systems needed to maintain life.
Interesting debate from January 8, 2009 about the Israeli offensive in Gaza.
Mr. Nabhan played an increasingly important role as a senior instructor for new militant recruits, including some Americans, as well as a liason to senior Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, the senior American advisor said.
"This is very significant because it takes away a person who's been a main conduit between East Africa extremists and big Al-Qaeda," said the advisor, who like several United States officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the mission.
The extrajudicial killing of "suspected Al-Qaeda leaders" and other "terrorists" is a lamentable policy that has been enacted by both Democratic and Republican administrations, including current President Obama's administration. In all likelihood, Mr. Nabhan was a dangerous man responsible for the deaths of innocents and had links to terrorist groups. However, we will never know this for sure, as he was never investigated and prosecuted by any court of law. The U.S. military, acting on, again, in all likelihood, reliable intelligence about this man, was the judge, jury and executioner in his case. Given the extreme difficulties of fighting this "war on terror", many will argue that this was the best option available to U.S. policy-makers and military leaders. They will argue that arresting, investigating, and prosecuting Mr. Nabhan would have been extremely difficult and dangerous, if even feasible. I would say that engaging in extrajudicial killings by using military force in a sovereign nation is not only unwise, but increases the likelihood of the people we are trying to help of viewing our overt use of military force as unjust and immoral, not to mention contradictory to core Western values of due process, given that collateral damage and the killings of innocent civilians is an inevitability using these methods of justice.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada's where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everybody. On the right, there are those who argue that we should end employer-based systems and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.
I've said- I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both these approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the healthcare most people currently have. Since healthcare represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn't, rather than try to build a new system from scratch. And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.
Well, we know what doesn't work, at least for the vast majority of Americans: the private health insurance market. The private health insurance industry's primary concern is making money first and foremost, not providing adequate health insurance to their clients. Just ask Hilda Sarkisyan, whose daughter died at the age of 17 after CIGNA, a private health insurance company, denied her claim for a liver transplant. Or Wendell Potter, the former head of corporate communications for CIGNA, who had this to say about why he decided to leave the health insurance industry:
Well, I was beginning to question what I was doing as the industry shifted from selling primary managed care plans, to what they refer to as consumer-driven plans. And they're really plans that have very high deductibles, meaning that they're shifting a lot of the cost off healthcare from employers and insurers, insurance companies, to individuals. And a lot of people can't even afford to make their co-payments when they go get care, as a result of this.
I thought the whole argument for a public option was because the private health insurance industry in this country does not work and continues to devastate the lives of millions of people across this country? President Obama, what we need most is radical reform, not an approach that continues to placate the very industry that needs reforming.
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
P.S. How can anyone in good faith allow this type of conduct by US personnel? The detention without due process, torture and death of prisoners, many of whom are completely innocent of any serious charges, is abhorrent and the people responsible for it, including those that gave legal justifications for it and political cover, such as John Yoo, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Alberto Gonzalez, ect, need to be investigated and, when appropriate, prosecuted to uphold the rule of law in this great country. Please do not allow this two-tiered system of justice to continue by immunizing high level political officials who broke the law while prosecuting those who took their advice.
Monday, August 10, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
From: Simon Johnson
To: John Talbott
Subject: Re: Taking Back the Country
I admire your energy and focus in trying to mobilize a broader cross section of people against the big banks in particular and the way our political-financial system operates in general. I'm sure this is worthwhile and not at all a waste of time. Any efforts you or others put into educating people -- or enabling people to better educate themselves -- will surely pay off over time.
However, my sense of the political cycle around these issues is perhaps a bit different from yours. On the first round -- the crisis, immediate policy response and first-round "reform" efforts -- the big bankers have definitely won.
You were right when you argued way back that it would take a crisis before anyone really understood that we have a problem. But even so, most people still do not fully understand what has happened to them over the past 12 months -- and why their future taxes will be so much higher. I spend quite a lot of time talking to relatively well-informed people. After an hour or so of intense discussion and argument, I would say that most people see much more clearly just what the big banks got away with, although they do not necessarily agree with the idea of stricter regulatory controls on those banks. Left to their own devices, or just relying on the usual sources, I'm not sure how clear any of this is to most people.
And I worry that e-mailing friends doesn't necessarily engage people at the necessary level. You need repeated reinforcement of the key themes -- and a lot of back and forth with people you trust -- to really change minds on something this big. Or, as you say, you need to see it again and again, and perhaps you need to worry about the consequences for your own well-being.
If the big banks could just lie low for a while, I honestly think they would get away with everything -- the backlash would fade, and we'd be setting ourselves up for another massive crisis down the road.
Fortunately (in a sense), the banks cannot back off from their most egregious behavior. Perhaps this is in their DNA; definitely it is in their organizational culture and how they see the world -- the people who run the biggest financial institutions really think they are the masters of the universe and are proceeding on that basis.
Their profits, their wages, their bonuses, and their behavior have begun to antagonize people greatly. Already, some of my contacts who are close to the administration wince at the latest news from the financial sector, be it the bonuses that were paid last year to senior people who oversaw major mistakes (some of whom are now rewarded with senior policy roles!) or the blatant bragging about political influence that some CEOs are now making public.
And even if some sensible people at these banks would like to rein in employee compensation to more moderate and reasonable levels, they have a problem. If you lower the wages for your people, another bank -- perhaps one based in Europe -- will hire them away with a crazy package. The rat race, across companies and between people, means that this can only be curtailed through regulation. But the survivor banks are so strong politically that they will defeat all meaningful regulation for compensation.
This very success makes them more vulnerable to further criticism and backlash.
I'm not saying that the banks will simply commit political suicide. Nothing is ever so simple. But they will likely undermine themselves with Congress and eventually even with the administration. The midterm elections in 2010 and the presidential election in 2012 could well be very much about restricting the power of the big banks.
American democracy does not get on well with overweening unelected individuals who pretend to great power. Andrew Jackson saw off Nicolas Biddle in the 1830s. Teddy Roosevelt stood up to -- and eventually towered over -- even J.P. Morgan at the beginning of the 20th century. And FDR remade everything in the 1930s.
As I said before, I'm optimistic that President Obama can do the same. The challenge to democracy is palpable and growing. The fact that two -- and only two -- big banks came through the crisis unscathed is a perfect symbol of the problem. In the past, part of the myth of Wall Street was that it was competitive, that many could enter the industry, and that its political power was not too concentrated. This myth, among many, has now exploded.
We see the power for what it is. Mainstream media increasingly picks up the story line. And still the big banks cannot step back and curtail their most troubling activities.
Keep explaining and let the big banks provide the supportive evidence you need.
From: John Talbott
To: Simon Johnson
Subject: Taking Back the Country
I think you and I and most economists suffer from an antiquated belief that if we can just figure out exactly what went wrong, policymakers will beat a path to our door to ask our help in enacting necessary reforms. Unfortunately, the world no longer works that way. Our corrupted government, our criminal businesses and banking institutions, lobbyists, special interests, and the corporate controlled media are not interested in fixing this problem. They are making trillions of dollars through a vast scheme that transfers wealth from ordinary American taxpayers and consumers to their corrupt coffers. You are right that if big business thought about it, they should support efforts at restricting lobbying so that growth-oriented government policies could be implemented without the influence of corrupting special interests. But each lobbying corporation is also its own special interest, and so such internal reform is impossible.
The million-dollar question is: Why haven't ordinary Americans reacted more passionately and angrily in taking real action to end this systemic abuse? A decade ago, I wrote my first book on the corrupting influence of big business lobbying on our government and concluded at the time that average Americans would not focus on the issue until they had suffered real pain. I concluded that you can't defuse a bomb in America until after it has gone off.
But now the bomb has exploded. Forty million Americans are unemployed, millions have lost their homes, and most have taken a very substantial hit to their incomes, retirement savings and wealth. Why aren't Americans in the streets protesting this corrupt, enormously damaging criminal enterprise? I have traveled enough around America to realize that even though the current situation is enormously complex and not all Americans can describe exactly how the CDO market works, almost without exception every American can relate to you his frustration with how corrupt this government is and how unjust corporate lobbying and special influence in Washington has become. They get it. As a matter of fact, some of my high school-educated friends from my home state of Kentucky understand it a lot better than my Harvard-educated friends from Wall Street.
So I don't think the current challenge is figuring out exactly what caused the crisis. Focusing on what caused this episode will lead to narrow regulatory reform that reminds me that we all now take off our shoes at airports because one crazy fellow had the idea of putting a bomb in his heel. So while reform is needed in subprime mortgages, securitization, derivatives, and even in the magnitude of our financial institutions, none of these get at the fundamental problem: The people of this country are no longer making the rules by which they wish to live. If subprime mortgages hadn't blown up, some other area of highly leveraged bank lending would have eventually imploded. Even if the banking industry hadn't crashed, some other sector of the corrupt business/government criminal enterprise would have. Maybe the ice shelf of Greenland would have collapsed into the North Atlantic, maybe we would have run out of oil, maybe Microsoft's monopoly position in operating systems would have led to a worldwide computer virus shutdown, maybe poor consumer safety standards with China would have led to a global disease epidemic. The point is that when corporations make the rules, the results are not always good for the inhabitants of the planet.
So we don't have to decide today exactly what the reforms will be -- we just need to get corporate America out of our government so that the people can deliberate and make these reform decisions themselves without undue influence from bankers and corporations.
But there are two huge impediments to accomplishing this. This is not a traditional economics problem, it is an organizing problem or a collective action problem. People know the system is rigged and broken and unjust, but they feel as if there is very little that any one of them can do to effect much change. The organizing task is further complicated by the fact that our media, including television networks, cable TV, radio, newspapers, and magazine and book publishing, are almost all sponsored, owned and controlled by big corporations. The only hope is the Internet, over which big business has tried but to date failed to successfully exert its dominance. The Internet will prove to be both a source of unbiased news and information as well as the communication tool concerned citizens can utilize to fight back against big government, big business and big media.
What has to happen to get this movement started? First, I think people need to see that there is a channel being constructed that has the potential to be effective in directing their anger into real positive reform and change. I am in the process of beginning just such an organization and encourage people who are interested in fighting back against the system and against corporate lobbyists and special interests to contact me at my e-mail address, johntalbs (at) hotmail (dot) com.
Next, people have to believe that if they invest their time in such an effort they have the potential of winning. In this case, this is rather straightforward and easy to explain. If we are successful in organizing 5 million to 10 million Americans who want to see real change about how business is conducted in Washington, then by definition, we will have not only substantial political and voting power, but more important, the beginnings of a real consumer movement that could easily boycott the products and services of the worst corporate lobbyers in our government.
And this is where the magic of the Internet comes in. No one person could organize a 10 million person database in his lifetime. But Obama was able to accomplish it in less than two years. How? We don't have his money. Instead, we create our own Ponzi scheme. We create the ultimate chain letter. I e-mail 30 of my friends who each e-mail 30 of their friends and so on and so on. If only four cycles of people pass on the info we end up contacting 25 million Americans. We ask people to give us their e-mails and then contact them when we want to boycott a new offender.
It is time for Americans to realize that things are not going to improve until they get involved. It will take time. But the economy is not going to improve until we straighten out our corrupt system. Do you have anything more important that you are working on than this? The survival of liberal democratic society in the world.
Thanks for a great exchange of ideas. And best of luck in your future research and work.
Organizing average citizens against powerful financial interests has always been the central challenge of any democratic society. The only way that is going to happen is if the citizenry is informed and empowered to take a stand against the corrupt state of affairs in this country. In my opinion, the two-party system that is dominated by corporate financial interests is one of the main problems in our political system. Both Democrats and Republicans are heavily influenced by a variety of corporate interests, and corporate interests do not discriminate against either party; they fund both parties, making any real reform incredibly difficult in the face of an unorganized, disenfranchised populace. This will be an ongoing struggle for those of us interested in social justice and an undoing of the corrupted capitalistic economy that has exploited average Americans for decades.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Monday, July 13, 2009
It is just the kind of distraction from Mr. Obama’s domestic priorities — repairing the economy, revamping the health care system, and addressing the long-term problems of energy and climate — that the White House wanted to avoid.
A series of investigations could exacerbate partisan divisions in Congress, just as the Obama administration is trying to push through the president’s ambitious domestic plans and needs all the support it can muster.
“He wants to dominate the discussion, and he wants the discussion to be about his domestic agenda — health care, energy and education,” said Martha Joynt Kumar, a professor of political science at Towson University who studies the presidency.
The Bush national security controversies “are certainly a diversion from what he wants to do,” Professor Kumar said. “He wants to talk about the present and not the past.”
In the establishment world of our mainstream media outlets and politicians, breaking the law, at least when it is done by the nation's highest political leaders, is acceptable and any investigation into this law-breaking would be a "distraction" to Obama's domestic agenda (as if Republicans would be willing to acquiesce to Obama's "socialist" agenda anyways). It doesn't matter how much evidence there is for such crimes. Any investigation, according to the standard establishment argument, would be purely for partisan gain and would ignite a deep divide in Washington (as if Dems and Reps agreed on everything anyways). In Shane's view, upholding the law is secondary to Obama's domestic agenda. Why can't anyone seem to understand that this is not a partisan witch-hunt to go after Dick Cheney and Co. but a matter of upholding the rule of law. After all, we are supposed to be "a nation of laws, not of men."