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Longwood Gardens. (Photo by joanneleon. October 14, 2012)
"Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates and credulity encourages."
~ Samuel Johnson
|Out Of The Clear Blue Sky by John Lester
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News and Opinion
Growing Oppostion to US Drones Program
The United States has a long history of violating international law when its leaders believe foreign policy objectives justify doing so. The belief in the right of the United States to overthrow democratically elected governments (Guatemala), to train and arm insurgencies (Nicaragua), and to launch aggressive wars (Iraq) free of the inconvenience of the law grows out of the nationalistic fervor of “American Exceptionalism.”
The president’s system of counting civilian deaths is only one potentially criminal component of his drones program. In February, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Sunday Times published the results of a joint investigation into the practice of targeting rescuers who converge on the scene of an initial drone strike. They concluded that between 2009 and 2011, more than a dozen such attacks occurred, resulting in the deaths of at least fifty civilians.
Not everyone agrees. There is a growing international movement against the impunity with which President Obama runs his drones program. UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Ben Emmerson has called for an independent investigation into each and every death that results from drone strikes. Such investigations are worthwhile in response to all future drone attacks, but are too little too late for those already victimized by President Obama’s potential war crimes.
We need more than an end to the “conspiracy of silence” concerning the president’s drone attacks; we need an investigation into the legality of the Obama Administration’s favored means of making war.
The End of the New World Order
In 1990, George Bush Senior had inaugurated a New World Order, based on uncontested US military supremacy and western economic dominance. This was to be a unipolar world without rivals. Regional powers would bend the knee to the new worldwide imperium. History itself, it was said, had come to an end.
But between the attack on the Twin Towers and the fall of Lehman Brothers, that global order had crumbled. Two factors were crucial. By the end of a decade of continuous warfare, the US had succeeded in exposing the limits, rather than the extent, of its military power. And the neoliberal capitalist model that had reigned supreme for a generation had crashed.
It was the reaction of the US to 9/11 that broke the sense of invincibility of the world's first truly global empire. The Bush administration's wildly miscalculated response turned the atrocities in New York and Washington into the most successful terror attack in history.
Not only did Bush's war fail on its own terms, spawning terrorists across the world, while its campaign of killings, torture and kidnapping discredited Western claims to be guardians of human rights. But the US-British invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq revealed the inability of the global behemoth to impose its will on subject peoples prepared to fight back. That became a strategic defeat for the US and its closest allies.
Revulsion against a discredited elite and its failed social and economic project steadily deepened after 2008. As the burden of the crisis was loaded on to the majority, the spread of protests, strikes and electoral upheavals demonstrated that pressure for real change had only just begun. Rejection of corporate power and greed had become the common sense of the age.
Bill Moyers: The Plutocracy Will Go to Extremes to Keep the 1% in ControlThere were several lengthy news stories and admin surrogates on news shows yesterday in advance of tonight's debate attempting to lay it all out with respect to the story about the attack on the embassy in Benghazi.
Moyers, Matt Taibbi and Chrystia Freeland explain how the plutocrats have willfully confused their self-interest with America’s interest.
To discuss how the super-rich have willfully confused their self-interest with America’s interest, Bill is joined by Rolling Stone magazine’s Matt Taibbi, who regularly shines his spotlight on scandals involving big business and government, and journalist Chrystia Freeland, author of the new book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else .
Intelligence Shows No Planning for Benghazi Consulate Attack
The latest intelligence assessment of the attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi indicates there was little if any pre-planning for it and that it was in part an opportunistic response to the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack, which has become a political hot potato in the presidential campaign with questions over when the Obama administration called the attack an act of terrorism.
“Right now, there isn’t any intelligence that the attackers pre-planned their assault days or weeks in advance,” said a U.S. intelligence official. ”The bulk of available information supports the early assessment that the attackers launched their assault opportunistically after they learned about the violence at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.” But the official added that “no one is ruling out that some of the attackers may have aspired to attack the U.S. in Benghazi.”
How Higher Education in the US Was Destroyed in 5 Basic Steps
Higher education is not what it used to be, and that's no accident.
A few years back, Paul E. Lingenfelter began his report on the defunding of public education by saying, “In 1920 H.G. Wells wrote, ‘History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe.’ I think he got it right. Nothing is more important to the future of the United States and the world than the breadth and effectiveness of education, especially of higher education. I say especially higher education, but not because pre- school, elementary, and secondary education are less important. Success at every level of education obviously depends on what has gone before. But for better or worse, the quality of postsecondary education and research affects the quality and effectiveness of education at every level.”
In the last few years, conversations have been growing like gathering storm clouds about the ways in which our universities are failing. There is talk about the poor educational outcomes apparent in our graduates, the out-of-control tuitions and crippling student loan debt. Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty. There are movements to control tuition, to forgive student debt, to create more powerful “assessment” tools, to offer “free” university materials online, to combat adjunct faculty exploitation. But each of these movements focuses on a narrow aspect of a much wider problem, and no amount of “fix” for these aspects individually will address the real reason that universities in America are dying.
The NYPD Caught on Tape
But the command level is precisely where the problem lies. The Nation video, produced by journalists Ross Tuttle and Erin Schneider, features interviews with two anonymous police officers from different precincts who describe how superiors push arbitrary and discriminatory stops in order to meet quotas. “If you’re a certain ethnicity standing on the corner, lieutenants, sergeants—they have no problem searching you, violating your rights, and racial profiling,” says one. Worse, police will deliberately provoke people to give themselves an excuse to make an arrest.
“The civilian population, they’re being hunted,” says one officer. “Instead of being protected by us, they’re being hunted—and we’re being hated.”
That police themselves feel like predators targeting youth of color is a chilling indictment of what the NYPD has become. It helps explain such recent outrages as the handcuffing of Alexis Sumpter on a Harlem subway platform by plainclothes NYPD officers who refused to believe her student MetroCard was valid. She was on her way to a summer internship when they “grabbed me by my arms and flung me up the stairs,” as she told a reporter. “I kept saying, ‘I’m only 15—why are you guys doing this?’ They said they didn’t owe me an explanation.” It also helps explain the February killing of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham, followed into his Bronx home on suspicion of selling marijuana by a police officer who would later claim he had “no choice” but to shoot him. Such tragedies are the result of a collective dehumanization of communities of color, a process rendered largely invisible to white New Yorkers by gentrification and perpetuated by an unrelenting “war on drugs” waged on similar communities across the country.
McGovern Was Prescient About America
“This administration,” he said of the Richard Nixon’s presidency, “is dominated by big business and big oil and big utilities. It’s really a big business operation. They give them anything they want: tax concessions, wage-price controls that have no restraints on big business.”
The Nixon administration had just quashed a Department of Justice anti-trust action against International Telephone & Telegraph, ITT, emerging then under its CEO Harold Geneen as the model of a modern monopoly extending its reach by gobbling up companies. The Nixon administration “let ITT buy their way out of” this anti-trust action, McGovern charged. ITT provided Nixon with major campaign contributions.
As to the situation if Nixon were re-elected president, “I really have a grim view of another four years of this kind of trickery and manipulation and credibility problems and secret deals and power politics and special interest politics. Letting the ITTs of the country run the government instead of the other way around,” said McGovern. “I really believe this present administration is dominated by the greediest interests in the country.”
The Vietnam War was still raging, and McGovern said: “The Vietnam War has virtually destroyed the unity of the nation, destroyed the unity of the Democratic Party. But I think a new coalition of peace and change priorities here at home is now forming around my candidacy. I believe I now stand in the mainstream of the American people.”
As to the difference if he became president instead of Nixon, “First of all there wouldn’t be any war. Secondly, I’d remove wage and price controls. I don’t think that it would be necessary to keep them if the war was over. Thirdly, there’d be a very substantial shift of resources away from war spending to building up the country, in terms of better facilities of all kinds: housing, transportation, health care, education and so forth.”
George McGovern: Touchstone of Liberalism
McGovern’s campaigns remain definitional political experiences for millions of Americans because they were about more than politics. They were about a deep vision of the republic’s past, present and future; so much so that his 1972 campaign slogan was “Come home, America.” Generations of Democrats recognized McGovern as a North Star hero, just as generations of Republicans made him the face of what they fear: a politics of compassion and decency that would, in the words of one of McGovern’s heroes, former Montana Senator Burton K. Wheeler, “place humanity above the dollar.”
In the last recent of his many fine books, What It Means to Be a Democrat (Blue Rider Press, 2011), McGovern maintained that mix. In my favorite passage, McGovern says, “During my years in Congress and for the four decades since, I’ve been labeled a ‘bleeding-heart liberal.’ It was not meant as a compliment, but I gladly accept it. My heart does sometimes bleed for those who are hurting in my own country and abroad.”
“A bleeding-heart liberal, by definition, is someone who shows enormous sympathy towards others, especially the least fortunate.” he continued. “Well, we ought to be stirred, even to tears, by society’s ills. And sympathy is the first step toward action. Empathy is born out of the old biblical injunction ‘Love the neighbor as thyself.’ ”
McGovern always practiced a politics that ran deeper than what we get from most Republicans, and most Democrats. It was a purer politics, a better politics, because it was so rooted in his love of America’s history, its literature and its possibility.
Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest
A hero of war, George McGovern became a champion for peace. Michelle and I share our thoughts and prayers with his family. -bo— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) October 21, 2012
Saul Williams - Not In Our Name (The Pledge of Resistance)
Remember when progressive debate was about our values and not about a "progressive" candidate? Remember when progressive websites championed progressive values and didn't tell progressives to shut up about values so that "progressive" candidates can get elected?
Come to where the debate is not constrained by oaths of fealty to persons or parties.
Come to where the pie is served in a variety of flavors.
"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum." ~ Noam Chomsky