First, the good news:
"WASHINGTON — President Obama is expected to sign executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year, government officials said." --New York Times
At least 716,760 people have been killed, and
1,397,255 seriously injured in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Actually, we've killed a million in Iraq and displaced two million.
Gaza's death count from Israeli attacks: 1,284. 4,336 wounded. Vast majority were civilians.
And here's the latest on Bushite fascism:
The NSA spied on everyone.....(Raw Story/Edwards/Kane)
Former National Security Agency analyst Russell Tice, who helped expose the NSA's warrantless wiretapping in December 2005, has now come forward with even more startling allegations. Tice told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Wednesday that the programs that spied on Americans were not only much broader than previously acknowledged but specifically targeted journalists.
"The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications -- faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications," Tice claimed. "It didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications."
Tice further explained that "even for the NSA it's impossible to literally collect all communications. ... What was done was sort of an ability to look at the metadata ... and ferret that information to determine what communications would ultimately be collected."
According to Tice, in addition to this "low-tech, dragnet" approach, the NSA also had the ability to hone in on specific groups, and that was the aspect he himself was involved with. However, even within the NSA there was a cover story meant to prevent people like Tice from realizing what they were doing.
"In one of the operations that I was in, we looked at organizations, just supposedly so that we would not target them," Tice told Olbermann. "What I was finding out, though, is that the collection on those organizations was 24/7 and 365 days a year -- and it made no sense. ... I started to investigate that. That's about the time when they came after me to fire me."
Flagging the Inauguration
Remember the great Flag Frenzy of 2001? Do you remember the little plastic flags fluttering from every car, the flag stickers, the flag t-shirts, the flag everything, and the insistence against all logic that these displays were about citizen solidarity only, and not about conformity with the new regime of secrecy, hierarchy, insecurity, imperialism, fascism, and acceptance of the lie of 9/11, that some terrible change had occurred that forced us all to accept a degradation and diminution of life, liberty, and happiness? Do you remember all the damned flags? They're still with us; at my day job, they're on the vehicles in two places, they're sewn onto the shoulders of many workers even though there are strict rules about uniforms. And the flags still mean conformity, blind obedience, the rule of the faceless mob, the kneejerk elevation of militarism to stainless heroism. Well, the flag means that today. But for a few hours Tuesday, the flag meant something different.
I realized as I headed to work Tuesday that, with the ascension of Barack Obama to office, there was a small window of time in which the US flag took on a largely celebratory tone. Tuesday morning (that is, Pacific time), waving the flag meant that one might be celebrating the inauguration of some different qualities to the Office of the President of the United States.
Don't get me wrong, I'm ready to take on Barack Obama's regime for its imperialism and corporate capitalism. But Barack Obama is intelligent--a teacher of Constitutional interpretation--genuinely compassionate to all appearances, sane, steady, forthright, and a complete repudiation of the sort of NASCAR Bubba politics that brought forth the security gates and the flag patches that gall me at work daily.
Believe me, there are a number of my fellow union workers --maybe not the majority, but a number-- who were very uncomfortable Tuesday morning about the state of affairs. After all, their hero George Bush was fading away under a cloud of anger and accusations, and The One that they had been warned about--"the Messiah," as one worker bitterly and sarcastically muttered to me--was taking the sacred Commander In Chief slot away from them, and thus taking away their years of smug association with righteous power. Well, there was no way I was going to soften the blow.
So imagine the dismay and confusion when the American US Red White And Blue Flag walks into the workplace --a six foot cloth banner-- wrapped around the shoulders of a despised leftist transsexual. "Thank you," a National Guard member said, when she saw the flag, then mumbled, "I think." Clearly there was something wrong with this picture. It took a second, but they caught on to the fact that I was up to something. To wield the flag like that, I needed some sort of Bubba authority--like military service, or at least church affiliation. I clearly wasn't American enough to wave a flag. Tolerating my presence in the workplace is enough of a strain, now I'm picking up the sacred emblem of righteousness and wearing it around?
How could things get any worse, they asked themselves, and I could see it on their faces, and I asked myself the same question. How could things get any worse, so that I can rub their years of triumphant hypocrisy in their faces?
Well, it got worse, when I whipped the flag off my shoulders and whooped with joy, when Barack Hussein Obama corrected that jackass Supreme Court Chief and took the Oath of Office. Funny, there were no eyes cast with a glaze of adoration at the flag then, as it swirled majestically over their heads, lightly tickling the television glow of the Inauguration. No, funny thing, the flag seemed to have an opposite effect. There was no cheer in NASCAR Mudville that day, even though one of their own, the bigot Rick Warren, had been chosen to spew Jesusisms all over the stage. That was a sop and they knew it. That flag wasn't supposed to be in the hands of an abomination like me--but in the sudden confusion of Bubba emotions, no one could articulate their rage. It was beautiful.
So the flag got stuffed into my backpack. I'll bring it out later, when Obama invades Iran, continues to occupy Iraq, and escalates in Afghanistan--then I'll burn it. It was definitely five bucks well spent, even if the money did go to a Chinese capitalist.
President Obama has a capitalism problem. He had to use every bit of his political clout to get the Democratic Congress to release the second half, the $350 billion of the legislative bank bailout. One might think that the money would be easier to release to Obama's Administration, since after all it went with so much speed to the notoriously corrupt Bushites, but that may itself be the problem. Banks took the money and aren't lending it out. They have contractual, and thus legal obligations to their stockholders, and they aren't going to give out money that won't be paid back as corporations collapse in the financial earthquake. And of course they don't give a damn about the average worker, they built their fortunes by squeezing the blood out of the working class and if the workers perish, that's not their problem. Maybe the masses can get a job cleaning the pool. Let them eat canned corn.
The latest Great Leap Sideways is the concept of the aggregator bank, sometimes called the Bad Bank. In this scheme, the bad loans are gathered together and sold off to a government bank, thereby cleaning up the remaining portfolios in the commercial banks. The government then tries to squeeze something from its Bad Bank assets, and confetti falls from the majestic towers of Wall Street as America gets back to work. The problem is, no matter how many goodies we give to the inheritance class and their banks, they're not going to lend it out. They're not in the charity business, as they will be quick to tell you. So the Bad Bank is a bad idea, and it will lead to further collapse and loss of government funds.
However, something is going to have to be done. The system is collapsing at an accelerating rate. For the inheritance class, this means that democracy may raise its ugly head.
(WSWS.org) Patrick O'Connor has this to say about Obama's plans as revealed in the Geithner confirmation hearings:
"No one objected from either party when Geithner, in his opening statement, indicated that the Obama administration intends to deal with ballooning budget deficits resulting from government handouts to the banks by slashing bedrock social programs such as Social Security and Medicare. He told the committee, "Our program to restore economic growth has to be accompanied—and I want to emphasize this—has to be accompanied by a clear strategy to get us back as quickly as possible to a sustainable fiscal position." It was necessary to demonstrate, he added, that "we as a nation will return to living within our means."
"Marketwatch noted: "He [Geithner] said the budget would have to tamed on a five-year horizon. Along these lines, Obama is looking for a 'mechanism' to move forward on entitlement reform on a bipartisan basis."
"Meanwhile, the banks are being rewarded with a new bailout package involving sums of public money substantially larger than that already committed by the Bush administration under TARP and related programs."
There are some cogent comments on this from Michael Parenti on globalresearch.ca., titled "Capitalism's self-inflicted apocalypse." Here is a small excerpt:
"Democracy becomes a problem for corporate America not when it fails to work but when it works too well, helping the populace move toward a more equitable and livable social order, narrowing the gap, however modestly, between the superrich and the rest of us. So democracy must be diluted and subverted, smothered with disinformation, media puffery, and mountains of campaign costs; with rigged electoral contests and partially disfranchised publics, bringing faux victories to more or less politically safe major-party candidates.
"The corporate capitalists no more encourage prosperity than do they propagate democracy. Most of the world is capitalist, and most of the world is neither prosperous nor particularly democratic. One need only think of capitalist Nigeria, capitalist Indonesia, capitalist Thailand, capitalist Haiti, capitalist Colombia, capitalist Pakistan, capitalist South Africa, capitalist Latvia, and various other members of the Free World--more accurately, the Free Market World.
"A prosperous, politically literate populace with high expectations about its standard of living and a keen sense of entitlement, pushing for continually better social conditions, is not the plutocracy's notion of an ideal workforce and a properly pliant polity. Corporate investors prefer poor populations. The poorer you are, the harder you will work—for less. The poorer you are, the less equipped you are to defend yourself against the abuses of wealth. [Words of Michael Parenti on globalresearch.ca]
"In the corporate world of "free-trade," the number of billionaires is increasing faster than ever while the number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world's population. Poverty spreads as wealth accumulates.
"Consider the United States. In the last eight years alone, while vast fortunes accrued at record rates, an additional six million Americans sank below the poverty level; median family income declined by over $2,000; consumer debt more than doubled; over seven million Americans lost their health insurance, and more than four million lost their pensions; meanwhile homelessness increased and housing foreclosures reached pandemic levels.
"It is only in countries where capitalism has been reined in to some degree by social democracy that the populace has been able to secure a measure of prosperity; northern European nations such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, and "Denmark come to mind. But even in these social democracies popular gains are always at risk of being rolled back.
"It is ironic to credit capitalism with the genius of economic prosperity when most attempts at material betterment have been vehemently and sometimes violently resisted by the capitalist class. The history of labor struggle provides endless illustration of this.
"To the extent that life is bearable under the present U.S. economic order, it is because millions of people have waged bitter class struggles to advance their living standards and their rights as citizens, bringing some measure of humanity to an otherwise heartless politico-economic order."
[That is just a small excerpt of Parenti's excellent article; read more at global research.]
The new Administration, however, isn't as isolated as the previous one, and no doubt would like to get the ball rolling. The funny thing is, they can't, not by giving more billions to banks. They do have a way of getting things going quickly, though, and they'll get around to it only when every other avenue has been closed off and the wolves are closing in. You know what I'm talking about. I'm talking about socialism.
We need socialism now. We need, for a start, fully socialized health care--not a bailout of the bloated health care profit industry, but a direct nationalization of the hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies. No more profit from sickness! That sould be our rallying cry. I demand nothing less, and in fact nothing less will keep this society from a health disaster.
Now for the fun part: I demand that the banks surrender. They should not just be nationalized--that's in the cards and they know it. No, there should be no mere takeover of their clandestine, Byzantine, corrupt functioning, as their profiteers sail off to sunny destinations on their two-hundred-foot helicopter-pad-equipped yachts. No, I say we take their semisecret, illegal offshore assets, the ones held in the Lesser Antilles and other tax havens literally by the trillions. They took it from us, let's take it from them, in the name of justice and survival, and let's use it to build a new society. And it'll be easy. A couple of gunboats per island will do the trick. Sail the US Nimitz to Aruba, and we'll see how long they'll hang on to those trillions.
I'm talking about revolution here, and as usual I'm far too early. I think maybe my lifetime is far too early, but I'm willing to put it to the test. After all there have been other surprises--just ask Jesse Jackson. Revolution! And the first thing to do is to raise our desires for that new society by imagining just how good it could be.
Why not, for example, decentralize power distribution? The only real reason we have central power plants, wasting half their energy through the inefficiencies of long-distance power distribution, is so that money can be concentrated in the hands of the inheritance class. Coal power plants aren't needed at all; with a combination of decentralized solar, geothermal, wind power, and conservation, we could all have just as high a standard of living. Imagine neighborhood power plants distributing electricity to as few as ten homes each, supplemented by each household's solar panels. We could have that, and full employment, and the parasite class could go hang. We could have that, if we take our money back.
How much wealth is healthy for a human being? Do you think you could be satisfied in your efforts and toils with three million per year? I agree, and I think wealth should be limited to that amount. Anyone who feels they need more than three million per year can have a fully-funded, top-quality socialized CAT scan to see what is wrong with their head. Corporations should be abolished and replaced with transparent cooperatives, responsible to the society and to their workers. Once we do that, we'll wonder how we were ever so crazy as to create vast inpenetrable hierarchies. Our grandchildren will ask us, 'Why did people put up with corporations?' What were we thinking? 'Why were there two million people in jail and the streets swarming with brutal cops, grandma? What was that all about? Were people just crazy? Did we really kill a million people for oil profits?'
Regular listeners will recall that I recently read part of a statement by the often-censored head of Nasa's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, James Hansen, warning that time was running out to reverse climate change. It will come as no surprise he hear now that time has indeed run out for deliberations about palliative measures. Here is part of an interview this week in the Guardian (in Great Britain).
"Barack Obama has only four years to save the world. That is the stark assessment of Nasa scientist and leading climate expert Jim Hansen, who last week warned only urgent action by the new president could halt the devastating climate change that now threatens Earth. Crucially, that action will have to be taken within Obama's first administration, he added.
Soaring carbon emissions are already causing ice-cap melting and threaten to trigger global flooding, widespread species loss and major disruptions of weather patterns in the near future. "We cannot afford to put off change any longer," said Hansen. "We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead."
Hansen said current carbon levels in the atmosphere were already too high to prevent runaway greenhouse warming. Yet the levels are still rising despite all the efforts of politicians and scientists.
Only the US now had the political muscle to lead the world and halt the rise, Hansen said. Having refused to recognise that global warming posed any risk at all over the past eight years, the US now had to take a lead as the world's greatest carbon emitter and the planet's largest economy. Cap-and-trade schemes, in which emission permits are bought and sold, have failed, he said, and must now be replaced by a carbon tax that will imposed on all producers of fossil fuels. At the same time, there must be a moratorium on new power plants that burn coal - the world's worst carbon emitter.
Hansen - head of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies and winner of the WWF's top conservation award - first warned Earth was in danger from climate change in 1988 and has been the victim of several unsuccessful attempts by the White House administration of George Bush to silence his views.
Hansen's institute monitors temperature fluctuations at thousands of sites round the world, data that has led him to conclude that most estimates of sea level rises triggered by rising atmospheric temperatures are too low and too conservative. For example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says a rise of between 20cm and 60cm can be expected by the end of the century.
However, Hansen said feedbacks in the climate system are already accelerating ice melt and are threatening to lead to the collapse of ice sheets. Sea-level rises will therefore be far greater - a claim backed last week by a group of British, Danish and Finnish scientists who said studies of past variations in climate indicate that a far more likely figure for sea-level rise will be about 1.4 metres, enough to cause devastating flooding of many of the world's major cities and of low-lying areas of Holland, Bangladesh and other nations. ....[more at Guardian.co.uk]