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A President Without Precedent

Friday, November 7, 2008

A President Without Precedent

November 5, 2008

Unbelievable. What happened last night was unbelievable. A historic, cathartic moment that could possibly have redefined our country to ourselves and to the world. Barack Hussein Obama is now the president-elect of the United States of America.

After 8 years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. After all the shameless lying, the cheating, the dirty tricks, the stolen elections, the war-mongering, the scandals, the stonewalling, the incompetence, the relentless attacks on our civil liberties and the Constitution, and the greatest transfer of public wealth to the private sector, that is to say, the greatest mass rip-off in the history of the world, there appears to be a glimmer of hope. Democracy just might not be dead after all.

Personally, I was one of the millions that were swept off our collective feet by the Obama phenomenon. The guy is brilliant. He is the most inspiring political speaker that I can ever remember hearing. He has an uncanny ability to appeal to the better part of human nature. To our intelligence, not our fears. To our sense of justice, not our prejudices. The part that knows we are all in this together.

His story is truly a realization of the American dream. He is not one of the children of money and power. This son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Africa has raised himself up from his humble beginnings, and in a nation where the deck was totally stacked against him, he has achieved the most powerful office in the world. Because in this increasingly multi-ethnic and multi-racial society, he is the embodiment of unity.

But wait a minute. How did this happen? Or, more specifically, how - and WHY was this ALLOWED to happen?

Because if the last two presidential elections proved anything, they proved that the right wing of American politics has the power to steal an election from right under the nose of the American people. And that with their corporate control of the media, they have the power to (largely) cover it up.

I was one of millions of people who was seriously afraid that they would do it again.
And get away with it. What is - or was - there to stop them?

Why, in this election, were the final results almost exactly the same as the polls predicted, when in 2004 the exit polls showed that Kerry had won both Ohio and Florida, and there was absolutely NO media questioning of the “official” results?

In most countries, the exit polls are a very exact science - usually within 1/2 of 1 percent - that insure that votes are being fairly counted. Why - in 2004 - were we asked to accept a 4-point differential without question? And why - with the exception of Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s article in Rolling Stone - was there no major media coverage?

And let’s not even talk about the 2000 debacle, in which the U.S. Supreme Court awarded the presidency to George W. Bush, while blocking a recount which by all impartial estimates would have proved that Al Gore had won Florida, and hence the election.

So here we are. November 5. 2008. With the amazing Barack Obama … the first black, African-American President-elect of the United States. I have to ask, what persuaded the powers that be - the real powers behind the scenes, pulling the strings - to allow this?

Did our democracy just miraculously fix itself? Did the electronic voting machine
companies, which, as we remember, promised to deliver the election to Bush in 2004, suddenly put honesty above hackability? Were the vote caging, vote suppression, voter disenfranchisement, and other Karl Rove-style dirty tricks that worked so well for Bush in the last two elections just not good enough this time? Did the corporate media that reported on none of the above acquire a conscience? Was the organization that Obama built good enough, smart enough, big enough, and above all POWERFUL enough to stop them from stealing it again?

Well, maybe. I mean, the man won. And I think it’s great. Stunningly, amazingly great. And one of the MOST important things that his victory represents is what it means to the world. The entire planet looks to America for inspiration and leadership. They want so badly to have an America that they can believe in again… just like WE do. And having an American President with brown skin named Barack Hussein Obama might just take some of the fire out of the world terrorist movement. I think at the very least they (the terrorists) are going to wait and see.

All across the globe, in Africa, Indonesia, Japan, Europe, people are celebrating, breathing a collective sigh of relief, and most of all hoping that with this man things will really be different.

Think of it. After a guy who reportedly called the Constitution “just a goddamned piece of paper” we have a man who actually taught classes in constitutional law! Let us hope that Obama will work to undo the numerous violations of the Constitution that have occurred under Mr. Bush, many of them having been actually passed into law.

Let us also hope that Mr. Obama will recognize the need to show his country and the world that the extraordinary executive powers that were arrogantly asserted
by Bush and Cheney, mostly under the pretext of the “war on terror”, are in themselves a threat to our national security because they undermine the foundation of our constitutional democracy. He needs to disavow those powers and  return the government to its proper constitutional balance. And he knows better than most of us what that is supposed to be.

Barack Obama is an honorable man. Comparing him to what we have had for the last 8 years is like comparing intelligence to ignorance. Humility to arrogance. Honesty to utter mendacity. Compassion to indifference. And hope to despair.

He really made people believe in America again. That it CAN work the way it is supposed to. That democracy IS still real and alive. And people want SO badly to believe that. Here and all across the world.

And I think maybe the people at the top said, “You know what? It’s more important for America to be perceived this way in the world than it is for us to fix the election again and continue our right-wing fascist agenda. We got away with it twice. We made hundreds of billions of dollars. The wars are still going on. He’s not going to cut the military budget. We should be OK for a while. Three times in a row might be too much. There would be riots in the streets and we’d have to bring in the Army and it would make us look REALLY bad. Let the people have their vote… and let them have a real result… this time.”

Illusion? Reality?

I would SO much love to believe that this election signifies a true comeback for democracy and the beginning of the end of the dominance of rich, greedy white men. But I think that might be a little too much to hope for.

That being said, I am very happy to call Barack Obama MY new President.

As it did for so many others, it even brings tears to my eyes.

Because the last years have been so disheartening. And I want to believe again too.

The View From Oakland

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Welcome to my new blog. I have been meaning to write a new piece about our lovely President etc. for a long time.
So here it is:

It’s all coming apart for the Bush Administration these days. Finally. After the Democrats won a slight majority in the House and Senate last November, they are at last starting to exercise a little LONG overdue oversight… and hopefully we will be seeing some, if not all, of the incredible scandals and corruption that have been perpetrated by this administration fully exposed and explained to the public. And even more hopefully, those responsible will be not just held accountable, but punished!

Lying about WMD’s to start the Iraq war. Halliburton no-bid contracts and overcharging. Election fraud in Ohio. Tom Delay. Jack Abramoff. Duke Cunningham. Hurricane Katrina relief money (not to mention billions of Iraq war dollars) going straight into the pockets of private contractors like Blackwater USA. The elimination of habeas corpus. Torture. The U.S. attorney scandal. The list goes on and on, and that is just the tip of the proverbial political iceberg!

I only hope that the public is paying attention. Because it has been obvious to me and just about everyone I know from the very beginning that these people are as crooked as a barrel of snakes! Just look at the way they took power - I won’t say “got elected” because the way they “won” the crucial Florida election in 2000 was to have the Supreme Court block a full recount that, if carried out, would have proven that the other guy won!

I mean, how democratic is that? How American?

And it has only gone downhill from there. Compassionate conservatism, my ass. Let’s see through the smokescreen of right-wing rhetoric and propaganda to one simple truth. The people in power at present are dedicated and committed to one thing: wholesale redistribution of wealth in favor of the wealthy and power in favor of the powerful.

In America right now, a shocking statistic: the top 1% of households have more money than the bottom 90% combined! And you know what? They want more! They will not be satisfied with 99%! Or 99.9%! They want it all! There is no end to the greed of these people!

If we look at that and understand it as their main motivation, their raison d’etre, everything that has happened during the last six years starts to make a lot of sense, albeit in a very sinister and heartless way.

Recently I was watching the Oliver Stone movie “JFK” and was struck by a part of the monologue by Donald Sutherland’s character “X” - he played an informant who had worked for the CIA “black operations” covert activities department, secretly handling assassinations, overthrowing governments, etc. - and he asked three questions that he said would lead the investigator, New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison, to the truth about the Kennedy assassination: Why did it happen? Who profited from it? Who had the power to cover it up?

9/11 was the single most significant traumatic event in our country’s history since the Kennedy assassination. We would do well to ask ourselves those same three questions about that fateful day, especially in the light of what has happened since.

First, Why did it happen? Well, obviously there are quite a few people in the world who are not exactly big fans of America… particularly the way we have thrown our weight around in the world for the last 50 years or so. We preach democracy but we feel free to meddle all over the world… to overthrow democratically elected governments and support kingdoms and regimes with no trace of democracy… if it suits our national interests. We’re the big superpower and we can do what we like! Because we stand for Freedom! I can see how that kind of attitude could piss a few people off, don’t you?

I am by no means saying that what those 19 people armed with box cutters and bent on mass murder and suicide did that day was justified. It was a horrible CRIME. One of the worst in history. But it was not a WAR! No. A WAR is what WE started. Afterwards.

Now, I have seen a lot of information on the internet about various inconsistencies in the story of 9/11; the way the building seemed to come down as a controlled demolition, the fact that jet fuel burns at 1000 degrees cooler than the temperature required to melt the steel girders in the building’s structure, the unexplained collapse of Building #7 - which, incredibly, was reported by a BBC reporter 20 minutes before it happened, and you can see the building still standing in the background over her shoulder as she was making the report (I saw the footage) - and all of these could possibly point to something which has been universally dismissed in the media as “conspiracy theory”.

There have also been better-publicized indications that the government had prior knowledge that it was going to happen, but did nothing to stop it. In Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11″ it was reported that a bunch of Osama bin Laden’s relatives were flown back from Washington to Saudi Arabia right after the attack - during the total ban on U.S. air travel! I think any objective person would have to say this does raise a few questions!

But let’s not get distracted. If we really want to know why 9/11 happened, I believe we need to take a very serious look at the second question posed by Mr. “X”: Who profited from it?

That question is a LOT easier to answer. Well, let’s see. The Iraq war has already cost $500 billion and counting. And Bush wants another $124 billion from Congress. With no withdrawal date. Because we have to “support the troops”. Yeah. OK. So, I was thinking, how much of that dough is actually going to the troops?

Google search>army salaries. Bingo! The median salary for an Army private is - are you ready? - $16,363 a year! Of course, officers and specialists make more. Let’s say $30,000 a year average… probably a generous estimate. Multiply that by 150,000 troops by 4 years and we get $18 billion.

So, that leaves $482 billion that we have NOT spent on the troops. I wonder, where could that money be going? Well, I know Halliburton got a nice chunk of it. Google search>Halliburton war income. Sure enough! $18.5 billion between March 2003 and June 2006. So that one company had made more - as of almost a year ago - than the entire personnel of the U.S. armed forces up to now! So are we really supporting the troops, or is something else going on?

Of course, that leaves $463.5 billion still not accounted for here. The sheer numbers boggle the mind. It’s hard to imagine that much money. And remember: these are American taxpayer dollars! It’s our money! And where is it going? Short answer: it is going straight to the place that President Eisenhower warned us about in the famous speech he made just before leaving office in 1961… the military-industrial complex! Here is what Ike had to say:

“We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

Remember, this coming from the former Supreme Allied Commander of World War II! Not exactly a peace-nik. But if he was around today, his prophetic words would surely have been spun in the right wing media and dismissed as the ravings of an unpatriotic, bleeding heart liberal! And, from the same speech:

“When the economy is based upon a state of war, it is forever necessary to sustain that economy by staying in a war.”

These corporations - the ones that are raking in untold billions to service this war - are the real beneficiaries of the 9/11 attacks. And make no mistake: the people that own them are members of that top 1% that has more than the bottom 90%! And their piece of the American pie is getting bigger every day.

If we assume for the moment that to them, the end justifies the means, it also becomes extremely easy to see why there was so much intentionally manufactured false evidence about weapons of mass destruction, etc. in the run-up to starting the war in Iraq. I mean, what is more important to these heartless, greedy bastards who are really running things? That a few lies were told? That America would lose a little credibility? That tens - maybe hundreds - of thousands of people, including many of our well-intentioned brave young men and women, would be killed, wounded, maimed for life?

Or hundreds of billions of dollars??

Bush, Cheney, and their entire neo-con administration have been nothing but shills for this all-devouring, propaganda-spouting, law, truth and decency-ignoring corporate money-grabbing machine! The Republican-controlled Congress never questioned a thing, and gave them free rein to do everything they wanted to do. And they are still doing it! They will never admit a mistake, let alone any wrongdoing. And they will not stop until every last taxpayer dollar is in the hands of their corporate buddies.

Oh, and there is also Mr. X’s third question: Who had the power to cover it up?

When fewer and fewer have more and more - when the news media is almost completely corporate-owned - when there exists on radio and TV such an overwhelming majority of well-funded right-wing blabbermouth talk show hosts that ridicule any opposing views and have no use for serious discussion, it is not difficult to figure out who has that power. As long as their forces control the talking points, the public will never even have the opportunity to evaluate the relevant information, let alone form an intelligent opinion.

I just have this to say about the Iraq war: if Bush and Cheney had wanted to do it right, in the way that the American people deserved and that the rest of the world could have respected, they should have waited for an international consensus. The U.N. inspectors were on the ground looking for WMDs. If they had found any, and Saddam Hussein still refused to disarm, the rest of the world would undoubtedly have come on board.

But they decided to go it alone. And the press backed them up every inch of the way, even though their rationale to go to war was highly suspect (to me) even then. And it has cost us a lot, not just in money and lives but also in credibility and respect around the world.

The corporations that are collectively about half a trillion dollars richer are very happy about it, however.

Today, though, there are reasons to be (guardedly) optimistic about some things. The continual, never-ending revelations of the lying, criminal activity, scandals and cover-ups throughout the last six years of the Bush administration have finally started to wear thin with the American people. These morons were drunk with their own power and got greedy. They just went too far for too long! And they can’t even use Jesus to cover it up any more.

I loved it when Tom Delay was indicted and his boy Jack Abramoff got sent to prison. I chortled with joy when right-wing anti-gay Christian conservative Ted Haggard got caught with his pants down doing nasty things with a male hooker. And Alberto Gonzales… don’t even get me started on that sniveling, simpering little worm who thinks his job as Bush’s lawyer is to find a way to work around the Constitution! Our President’s “trusted advisers” like Karl Rove…these people have actually tried to make the Department of Justice nothing more than a political arm of the Republican Party! And they have succeeded to a great extent… but I think the American people are finally waking up to the fact that they have been played.

What I am saying is that there are a LOT more people out there - from this administration - who need to get arrested! Convicted. Publicly disgraced.

The neo-cons, the “religious right” - these so-called Christian conservatives - they have been in bed together for far too long. And people are finally getting wise. These people are like sleazy used car salesmen. They got a cowboy hat, an expensive suit, a Southern twang, and a box of plastic glow-in-the-dark statues of Jesus! Not to mention a parking lot full of very expensive military hardware! They have been selling us this war - and making piles of money for each other doing it - and in return they are telling the evangelical rank and file the really important things they want to hear: that they are anti-gay marriage and above all, “pro-life”.

Well, if that is not the ultimate in hypocrisy, I don’t know what is. Because there is one thing I am sure even Jesus would agree on, if he were alive today: You cannot be PRO-WAR and PRO-LIFE at the same time!!

There is a famous quote from the writer Sinclair Lewis: “When fascism comes to America, it will be draped in the American flag and carrying a cross”.

I saw part of the Republican presidential candidates’ debate yesterday, and Giuliani was the only one who dared to say that he would respect a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body and her own life!

I have so had it with these self-righteous “born-again” pricks that are more concerned with the fate of the unborn than the actually born! Every last Republican candidate was gung-ho in total support of continuing to spend billions on this war which is killing hundreds, if not thousands, every month, including children of course, and yet they get all mushy and sentimental (not to mention thumpin’ on that Bible) when it comes to a fetus!

Bottom line: the abortion issue is not a religious issue. It is not a moral issue. It is a civil rights issue! Full stop. (I was going to say “period” but thought better of it.)

These people are trying to tell women two things. One, that if they are going to have sex (ooh! bad girl!) they are going to have to pay the consequences of their sinful behavior. And two, that their lives and bodies are not their own, that they belong to the state… God’s own Christian Republican state.

Also, I think there is a rather cruel and cynical subtext to the whole abortion controversy, which explains why the neo-cons are so supposedly “pro-life”. It’s like what George Carlin said in one of his HBO specials: “They want live babies so they can turn them into dead soldiers!”

It’s true. Let’s face it, the rich and powerful are not about to send their children into battle. Certainly not to fight the “war on terror”. Not even to defend “freedom” against “Islamic fascists”. No. Who would collect their inheritance and take over their membership in the country club? Are you kidding? For $16,363 a year? Not a chance. Hell, their gardening bills are more than that!

No. They need kids from poor families. Dysfunctional families. Uneducated families. Kids that weren’t really wanted but their unwed mother couldn’t get an abortion because the Federal Government made it illegal. Kids that wanted to get a free college education. Kids that lived in a household where all they ever watched was Fox News. Kids that couldn’t find Iraq on a world map. Kids that wanted to do something for their country. Kids that wanted to make something of themselves. Kids that didn’t realize they were being used as pawns. Kids that bought into the American dream of liberty and justice for all. And most importantly, kids that won’t be missed by anyone rich and powerful.

The reign of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney has been a total disaster for America. They have been reckless, arrogant and belligerent. They have perpetrated great lies on this country. And they have thoroughly antagonized and alienated much of the world. Their policies, far from making the world a safer place, have greatly advanced the terrorist cause by greatly increasing the number of people who hate America.

And I actually believe that could be exactly what they intended to do.

Because their priorities are above all the continuation of this endless “war on terror” and with it, the consolidation of great wealth for the already ridiculously wealthy. They obviously have not the slightest concern for health care, the environment, or the wants and needs (or even the lives) of ordinary people.

When I see George W. Bush’s recent poll numbers, showing that only 30% of the population approves of his performance as President, I can only think, “How can 30% of Americans still be that stupid??”

- BF


Saturday, April 21, 2007