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Obama’s Royal Scam and The Iron Fist Of Rahm January 2, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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Published on Saturday, January 2, 2010 by FireDogLakeby FireDogLake’s Bmaz

Audacity To Hope

Change We Can Believe In

Rule of Law

Accountability

Freedom From Lobbyists and Special Interests

Privacy

Harm From Illegal Surveillance

Constitutional Scholar

Transparency

Predatory Business Practices

Closing Guantanamo

Withdrawing From Iraq and Afghanistan

These are but some of the major buzzwords, issues and concepts Barack Obama based his candidacy and campaign on to convince the American electorate to sweep him in to office. Mr. Obama, however, has gone significantly in the opposite direction on each and every one since taking office. As Frank Rich noted, there is a growing “suspicion that Obama’s brilliant presidential campaign was as hollow as Tiger’s public image – a marketing scam…”.

Is there support for this allegation other than anecdotal evidence? Yes, and Micah Sifry has an excellent piece out detailing the basis:

After all, the image of Barack Obama as the candidate of “change”, community organizer, and “hope-monger” (his word), was sold intensively during the campaign. Even after the fact, we were told that his victory represented the empowerment of a bottom-up movement, powered by millions of small donors, grassroots volunteers, local field organizers and the internet. …. The truth is that Obama was never nearly as free of dependence on big money donors as the reporting suggested, nor was his movement as bottom-up or people-centric as his marketing implied. And this is the big story of 2009, if you ask me, the meta-story of what did, and didn’t happen, in the first year of Obama’s administration. The people who voted for him weren’t organized in any kind of new or powerful way, and the special interests-banks, energy companies, health interests, car-makers, the military-industrial complex-sat first at the table and wrote the menu. Myth met reality, and came up wanting. …. Should we really surprised that someone with so much early support from Wall Street and wealthy elites overall might not be inclined to throw the money-changers out of the temple? …. When it came to planning for being in government, it turns out that Plouffe, along with David Axelrod, was a chief advocate for bringing in then Rep. Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff. He writes, using a baseball analogy: “Rahm was a five-tool political player: a strategist with deep policy expertise, considerable experience in both the legislative and executive branches, and a demeanor best described as relentless.” (p. 372) Note that nowhere in that vital skill-set is any sense of how to work with the largest volunteer base any presidential campaign has developed in history. Rahm Emanuel came up in politics the old-fashioned way; organizing and empowering ordinary people are the least of his skills.

It is an extremely interesting piece by Sifry, and I recommend a read of the entirety. For those that have not read David Plouffe’s book on the campaign, The Audacity To Win, or one of the other long form reports of the Obama 2008 campaign, Sifry lays open the hollowness of Obama’s “grass roots”. Use em and lose em appears to have been the Obama modus operandi. The American people were desperate for something to latch onto, and Obama and Plouffe gave them a slickly tailored package.

As Digby notes, this line by Sifry really sums it up:

Now, there is a new enthusiasm gap, but it’s no longer in Obama’s favor. That’s because you can’t order volunteers to do anything-you have to motivate them, and Obama’s compromises to almost every powers-that-be are tremendously demotivating.

I think that is exactly right, and the needle in much of the activist base is moving from “demotivated” to downright demoralized and antagonistic. Yet Obama and his administration, notably Rahm Emanuel, indignantly continue to poke sticks in the eyes of the activist base and boast about it; and it is not from necessity, it is from design and pleasure.

Quite frankly, the seeds of this should have been seen coming. I have never forgotten the shudders I felt when I read two interrelated articles by Matt Stoller and David Dayen discussing how, heading into the 2008 general election, Obama was not just benefitting from, but devouring and commandeering broad swaths of Democratic base activist groups and their power, and actively working to marginalize and cripple those that didn’t assimilate into his Borg.

From Stoller:

This isn’t a criticism; again, Obama made his bet that the country isn’t into ideological combat and wants a politics of unity and hope, and he has won at internally. In terms of the ‘Iron Law of Institutions’, the Obama campaign is masterful. From top to bottom, they have destroyed their opponents within the party, stolen out from under them their base, and persuaded a whole set of individuals from blog readers to people in the pews to ignore intermediaries and believe in Barack as a pure vessel of change. … All I’ll add is that it’s time to think through the consequences of a party where there is a new chief with massive amounts of power. I’ve been in the wilderness all my political life, as have most of us. The Clintonistas haven’t, and they know what it’s like to be part of the inside crew. We have a leader, and he’s not a partisan and he can now end fractious intraparty fights with a word and/or a nod. His opinion really matters in a way that even Nancy Pelosi’s just did not. He has control of the party apparatus, the grassroots, the money, and the messaging environment. He is also, and this is fundamental, someone that millions of people believe in as a moral force. When you disagree with Obama, you are saying to these people ‘your favorite band sucks’.

And DDay:

There’s nothing shadowy about this – it’s an extension of what the Obama campaign has been doing since he entered the race. He’s building a new Democratic infrastructure, regimenting it under his brand, and enlisting new technologies and more sophisticated voter contacting techniques to turn it from a normal GOTV effort into a lasting movement. The short-term goal is to increase voter turnout by such a degree that Republicans will wither in November, not just from a swamp of cash but a flood of numbers. The long-term goal is to subvert the traditional structures of the Democratic Party since the early 1990s, subvert the nascent structures that the progressive movement has been building since the late 1990s, and build a parallel structure, under his brand, that will become the new power center in American politics. This is tremendous news.

However, despite his calls that change always occurs from the bottom up, these structures are very much being created and controlled from the top down.

Stoller and DDay, although both seemed to have a nagging question or two, both thought that the gathering “Obama Nation” was a good thing and that once he took office the immense consolidated power and organization would, in fact, as Obama was jawing, be used to end the age old grip of corporate money and influence and propel good new and different policies into action. This pie in the sky was directly defied by passages in their own articles though. Not only was Obama consolidating Democratic power to serve only him from the top down, he was taking out people and groups that didn’t step in to his line.

Stoller:

I have heard from several sources that the Obama campaign is sending out signals to donors, specifically at last weekend’s Democracy Alliance convention, to stop giving to outside groups, including America Votes. The campaign also circulated negative press reports about Women’s Voices Women’s Vote, implying voter suppression. … He has bypassed Actblue, and will probably end up building in a Congressional slate feature to further party build while keeping control of the data. … The campaign has also, despite thousands of interviews with a huge number of outlets, refused to have Obama interact on progressive blogs. … I’m also told, though I can’t confirm, that Obama campaign has also subtly encouraged donors to not fund groups like VoteVets and Progressive Media. These groups fall under the ‘same old Washington politics’ which he wants to avoid, a partisan gunslinging contest he explicitly advocates against.

DDay:

But wresting away ALL the power and consolidating it is I think a misunderstanding of how inside and outside groups can be mutually reinforcing and part of a more vibrant cultural and political movement, and how the culture is moving toward more decentralized, more viral, looser networks to organize. Obama’s movement, based on unity and hope, is working because politics is of the moment, a fad, Paris Hilton. To sustain that, you must institutionalize engagement, civic participation, awareness and action, even in a non-horse race year, as a necessary facet of citizenship. And there’s no reason to shut down reinforcing progressive structures that can keep it fun and interesting and vital.

Shutting down Democratic and progressive structures that do not toe his line is exactly what Obama and his right hand man, Rahm Emanuel, have done since the election. As Stoller and DDay noted, they actually started even before the election and accelerated after it. The deal was sealed when, immediately after the election, Obama chose the iron fist of DLC strongman Rahm Emanuel to lead his administration, immediately dumped Howard Dean and began shuttering Dean’s wildly successful fifty state apparatus.

There was only one reason to do that, and it was not to germinate a new grass roots policy force; it was to consolidate power and kill off any other voices and/or authority within the party. As Micah Sifry demonstrated, consolidation and exclusion were always a part of the Obama plan. Almost more disconcerting than Obama’s singular cornering of all the power and movement is his refusal to use it to propel new policies. Not even on healthcare did Obama even attempt to truly energize and mobilize the vaunted Obama network, preferring instead to leave it up to the lobbyists, in the bag Congressmen like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman and corporate interests.

This is exactly what has made the progressive campaign and voice of Jane Hamsher, Cenk Uygur, Firedoglake and other awakening progressive movements so critical. It is crystal clear the Obama Presidency is less than it was advertised to be; the only route to correction is through power and action; assertion of independent power is the only thing they will respect and acknowledge. The change will not come through old school Washington politicians beholden to corrupt financial institutions, the insurance lobby and corporate interests. Politicians like Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel.

© 2010 FireDogLake

Bmaz is an attorney in Phoenix, Arizona practicing criminal defense, civil rights and civil trial law. He is a graduate of Arizona State University, both undergraduate and School of Law, and covers legal and political issues for Firedoglake and sister site Emptywheel. Bmaz is a fan of sports, music, automobiles and margaritas and can be reached at bmaz22@gmail.com

The Underlying Divisions in the Health Care Debate December 18, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Democracy, Health, Political Commentary.
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(Roger’s note: Hmm, “the merger of government power and corporate interests.”  Now, where have I heard that before?  Yes, now I remember, it was called National Socialism and occurred in post-Weimar Germany in the 1930s.  The article below discusses the corporatist phenomenon but stops short of calling a spade a spade.  Corporatism = Capitalism.  Plain and simple.  The inner logic of capitalism, whether it occurs in a political democracy or in a Communist dictatorship in the form of state capitalism, is accumulate, accumulate, accumulate.  The big keeps getting bigger, the rich richer, the poor poorer.  With greater economic concentration comes the ability to hijack the political process, which is exactly what we are seeing in the United States.  Big Corporate America owns Congress, the Presidency, and via the Presidency the Supreme Court.  “We the People” are the ones left out.  Permanent war, billions upon billions spent upon nuclear and non-nuclear armaments; permanent economic crisis; continuing deterioration of the social safety net; continuing environmental degradation: these are the by-products of worldwide capitalism.  Nothing short of revolutionary changes can save the planet [or do you think the heads of state meeting at Copenhagen -- the heads of state of the industrial nations fronting for oil and coal, the heads of state of the poor nations bludgeoned by the likes of Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emanuel into submission -- do you think they can or will do it?])
 
Published on Friday, December 18, 2009 by Salon.comby Glenn Greenwald
Ed Kilgore has a very perceptive analysis in The New Republic about the underlying (and largely unexamined) ideological and strategic differences among progressives that are at least partially driving the rift over the health care bill.  He argues — correctly — that the current debate “displays a couple of pretty important potential fault lines within the American center-left” that have manifested in other disputes as well.  That was the principal point of this much-maligned Daily Kos post observing that many (but not all) of the progressive bloggers most vehemently demanding passage of the health care bill also supported the Iraq War.  As the author of that post (Jake McIntyre) explicitly said, his intent wasn’t to suggest that those individuals shouldn’t be listened to because of their Iraq position six years ago (that would be an invalid and unfair claim), but simply that — as Kilgore says – there are underlying and significant differences in strategic and ideological outlook driving the health care debate that have been present for some time but are typically ignored.Shared contempt for the Bush administration (at least once Bush and the Iraq War became discredited) largely obscured these differences when Bush was in office.  The desire to undermine the Bush GOP and dislodge that movement from power subsumed all other objectives and united people with vastly different political outlooks and agendas.  There is still a shared revulsion towards the Palin/Limbaugh Right, but that faction is too marginalized and impotent to serve the same function.  With the unifying force of Bush/Cheney gone, the divisions Kilgore describes are now vibrant and increasingly potent.  In addition to health care and Iraq, roughly the same progressive fault lines are seen over the bank bailout, escalation in Afghanistan, Obama’s economic team, tolerance for Obama’s embrace of Bush/Cheney civil liberties polices, and even the reaction to Matt Taibbi’s recent Rolling Stone article on Obama’s subservience to Wall Street. 

There are many reasons for the progressive division on the health care bill.  There are differences over the narrow question of health care policy, with some believing the bill does more harm than good just on that ground alone.  Some of it has to do with broader questions of political power:  if progressives always announce that they are willing to accept whatever miniscule benefits are tossed at them (on the ground that it’s better than nothing) and unfailingly support Democratic initiatives (on the ground that the GOP is worse), then they will (and should) always be ignored when it comes time to negotiate; nobody takes seriously the demands of those who announce they’ll go along with whatever the final outcome is.  But the most significant underlying division identified by Kilgore is the divergent views over the rapidly growing corporatism that defines our political system.

Kilgore doesn’t call it “corporatism” — the virtually complete dominance of government by large corporations, even a merger between the two — but that’s what he’s talking about.  He puts it in slightly more palatable terms:

To put it simply, and perhaps over-simply, on a variety of fronts (most notably financial restructuring and health care reform, but arguably on climate change as well), the Obama administration has chosen the strategy of deploying regulated and subsidized private sector entities to achieve progressive policy results. This approach was a hallmark of the so-called Clintonian, “New Democrat” movement, and the broader international movement sometimes referred to as “the Third Way,” which often defended the use of private means for public ends.

As I’ve written for quite some time, I’ve honestly never understood how anyone could think that Obama was going to bring about some sort of “new” political approach or governing method when, as Kilgore notes, what he practices — politically and substantively — is the Third Way, DLC, triangulating corporatism of the Clinton era, just re-packaged with some sleeker and more updated marketing.  At its core, it seeks to use government power not to regulate, but to benefit and even merge with, large corporate interests, both for political power (those corporate interests, in return, then fund the Party and its campaigns) and for policy ends.  It’s devoted to empowering large corporations, letting them always get what they want from government, and extracting, at best, some very modest concessions in return.  This is the same point Taibbi made about the Democratic Party in the context of economic policy:

The significance of all of these appointments isn’t that the Wall Street types are now in a position to provide direct favors to their former employers. It’s that, with one or two exceptions, they collectively offer a microcosm of what the Democratic Party has come to stand for in the 21st century. Virtually all of the Rubinites brought in to manage the economy under Obama share the same fundamental political philosophy carefully articulated for years by the Hamilton Project: Expand the safety net to protect the poor, but let Wall Street do whatever it wants.

One finds this in far more than just economic policy, and it’s about more than just letting corporations do what they want.  It’s about affirmatively harnessing government power in order to benefit and strengthen those corporate interests and even merging government and the private sector.  In the intelligence and surveillance realms, for instance, the line between government agencies and private corporations barely exists.  Military policy is carried out almost as much by private contractors as by our state’s armed forces.  Corporate executives and lobbyists can shuffle between the public and private sectors so seamlessly because the divisions have been so eroded.  Our laws are written not by elected representatives but, literally, by the largest and richest corporations.  At the level of the most concentrated power, large corporate interests and government actions are basically inseparable.

The health care bill is one of the most flagrant advancements of this corporatism yet, as it bizarrely forces millions of people to buy extremely inadequate products from the private health insurance industry — regardless of whether they want it or, worse, whether they can afford it (even with some subsidies).   In other words, it uses the power of government, the force of law, to give the greatest gift imaginable to this industry — tens of millions of coerced customers, many of whom will be truly burdened by having to turn their money over to these corporations — and is thus a truly extreme advancement of this corporatist model.  It’s undeniably true that the bill will also do some genuine good, as it will help many people who can’t get coverage now to get it (though it will also severely burden many people with compelled, uncontrolled premiums and will potentially weaken coverage for millions as well).  If one judges the bill purely from the narrow perspective of coverage, a rational and reasonable (though by no means conclusive) case can be made in its favor.  But if one finds this creeping corporatism to be a truly disturbing and nefarious trend, then the bill will seem far less benign.

As I’ve noted before, this growing opposition to corporatism — to the virtually absolute domination of our political process by large corporations — is one of the many issues that transcend the trite left/right drama endlessly used as a distraction.  The anger among both the left and right towards the bank bailout, and towards lobbyist influence in general, illustrates that.  Kilgore says that anger among the left and right over corporatism is irreconcilable, and this is the point I think he has mostly wrong:

To put it more bluntly, on a widening range of issues, Obama’s critics to the right say he’s engineering a government takeover of the private sector, while his critics to the left accuse him of promoting a corporate takeover of the public sector. They can’t both be right, of course, and these critics would take the country in completely different directions if given a chance.  But the tactical convergence is there if they choose to pursue it.

This supposedly irreconcilable difference Kilgore identifies is more semantics than substance.  It’s certainly true that health care opponents on the left want more a expansive plan while opponents on the right want the opposite.  But the objections over the mandate are largely identical — it’s a coerced gift to the private health insurance industry that underwrites the Democratic Party.  The same was true over opposition to the bailout, objections to lobbying influence over Washington, and most of all, the growing anger that Washington serves the interests of financial elites at the expense of the working class.  

Whether you call it “a government takeover of the private sector” or a “private sector takeover of government,” it’s the same thing:  a merger of government power and corporate interests which benefits both of the merged entities (the party in power and the corporations) at everyone else’s expense.  Growing anger over that is rooted far more in an insider/outsider dichotomy over who controls Washington than it is in the standard conservative/liberal ideological splits from the 1990s.  It’s true that the people who are angry enough to attend tea parties are being exploited and misled by GOP operatives and right-wing polemicists, but many of their grievences about how Washington is ignoring their interests are valid, and the Democratic Party has no answers for them because it’s dependent upon and supportive of that corporatist model.  That’s why they turn to Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh; what could a Democratic Party dependent upon corporate funding and subservient to its interests possibly have to say to populist anger?

Even if one grants the arguments made by proponents of the health care bill about increased coverage, what the bill does is reinforces and bolsters a radically corrupt and flawed insurance model and and an even more corrupt and destructive model of “governing.”  It is a major step forward for the corporatist model, even a new innovation in propping it up.  How one weighs those benefits and costs — both in the health care debate and with regard to many of Obama’s other policies — depends largely upon how devoted one is to undermining and weakening this corporatist framework (as opposed to exploiting it for political gain and some policy aims).  That’s one of the primary underlying divisions Kilgore identifies, and he’s right to call for greater examination and debate over the role it is playing.

Copyright ©2009 Salon Media Group, Inc.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

The Obama Dystopia May 25, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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Andrew Hughes

www.opednews.com, May 25, 2009

After 8 years of the Bush-Cheney nightmare during which we saw the wanton destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq, the cynical  negation of centuries of Law designed to protect the most basic human rights and a foreign policy worthy of Genghis Khan, there came along the “Great Black Hope” in the persona of Barack Obama. The collective world consciousness turned uncritically to what was presented as a new era for peace, change and trust in Government.

Never before had one witnessed such an accomplished use of manipulation, propaganda, deceptive imagery and public relations wizardry to sell the public a man who was to take the baton from Bush and run with it in the race to destroy the economy, the rights of the people and help birth a nation totally controlled by those who have always lurked in the shadows of power. “Change” was promised and was delivered in the form of a deepening of the already Dystopic  nightmare.

Promises were broken with no apology, the same creative legalese that infested the Bush administration, in the form of John Yoo and Alberto Gonzalez, was again used to deny justice to the inmates of Guantanamo, It was used to justify more torture, more destruction of the Constitution and more illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens.

The President that extended the hand of peace to the Muslim world has murdered hundreds of Pakistani men, women and children. The President who promised accountability in Government has filled his staff with lobbyists, banksters and warmongers. His Attorney General refuses to prosecute some of the worst war crimes committed in modern history and continues to give legal cover to criminals who tortured with impunity.

The country has been further bankrupted by the continuing theft of taxpayer money as the Wall St. campaign donors receive their quid pro quo. Obama has stood by idly as Bernancke states that the private Federal Reserve is not answerable to either Congress or the American public. The U.S. taxpayer is now on the hook for $14.3 Trillion and rising. Foreclosures and unemployment are mounting with no meaningful efforts by the administration to alleviate the symptoms, never mind the cause. The new image of America is one of tent cities, lengthening soup kitchen lines, sherrifs evicting countless thousands of young and old from their homes, once prosperous towns descending in to an eerie stillness and an increasingly disillusioned populace.

The “War on terrorism” has mutated in to a control grid for an increasingly aware population. The foundation for this had already been put in place by Bush with the Patriot Act, Patriot Act 2, Military commissions act and numerous executive orders that strangled what was left of Posse Comitatus and the Constitution.

Homeland Security now defines “Terrorists” as those who believe in the Constitution, the first, second and fourth amendments. Returning veterans are being targeted for a denial of their second amendment rights. A  “Terrorist Watchlist” of more than a million and rapidly growing, is being used as the basis for denying citizens the rights to travel and to work.

Obama is now mulling over the idea of indefinite detention without trial for U.S. citizens. This, from a teacher of the Constitution ! Bills are in congress to criminalize free speech on the Internet via the Cyberbullying Act which will make hurting somebody’s feelings a felony. Just as the Patriot Act morphed in to a mechanism to subdue the U.S. population, the Cyberbullying Act will be subverted to criminalize political free speech and any criticism of the Government.

“Cyberterrorism” is being used as a pretext to bring government regulation to the the last stronghold of unbiased information. Washington has realized that it’s getting harder to get away with their Fascist agenda and are moving to control the field. The populace are beginning to realize just what kind of “Change” Obama intended to deliver.

There has been growing resistance on a state level with several invoking their 9th and 10th Amendment rights in a valiant attempt to stop the Federal Vampire from draining the last drops of blood, the last vestiges of Freedom and Hope.

This is the Dystopic Nightmare that America finds itself in today and each day brings new assaults on Freedom and Sanity. The framework for total control of the citizenry, the economy and the media is being built upon in a relentless aggrandization of Govermental power. Obama sits atop his new Empire still smiling that sickeningly disingenuous smile surrounded by his seasoned courtiers who have worked for decades to hijack America and steer it towards this New World Order. 

 http://meltdown101.livejournal.com

An Irishman born in Dublin in 1959 now living in France for the last 8 years. I write on Economics and Politics.

Yes, we can’t February 15, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Economic Crisis.
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 Jerry Mazza
Online Journal Associate Editor

www.onlinejournal.com

February 13, 2009

When I say we can’t, I mean the big WE, the US government, the president, his fellow would-be change-makers and the forces of reaction and retribution that just can’t seem to get their fear, stinginess and partisanship under control or pandering to the worst in the people of the US.

For instance, this latest stimulus plan has proved to b far less than stimulating than it should have been for education, health care, climate change, pursuit of alternate energy and reforming the balance of wealth towards working and middle classes.

Once again, its stimulation buzzes towards tax cuts, keeping in $70 billion on the Alternative Minimum Tax, which cuts would have been forthcoming later in the year anyway. But the right just couldn’t help sink their teeth in now, right now, and into $35 billion for the state fiscal fund. So, yes we can’t do the right thing; can’t do what we have to do, not now. So when?

Moreover, the would-be followers in the footsteps of FDR, today’s “yes we can” folks, from the top down, did not display the fire, sense of empowerment or will to win for the common good. Instead, they caved too quickly, too willingly to make nice with the savages on the right. Yes we can’t, it seemed they were saying, fight you tooth and nail to the ground. We’re here to build bridges, not to tear them down, which was what is about to happen with or without them.

And, when it came to the next day, the Obama-touted Geithner-designed, new bank bailout, it was another case of yes we can’t. Yes, we can’t tell you exactly how we are going to punish the pampered bankers. Yes, we can’t tell you what new laws we can create to regulate the financial excesses that brought us here. Yes, we can’t even tell you how much this is going to end up costing.

Yes we can’t even tell you what old banking laws should be should either rescinded (like the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, CFMA, which included “The Enron Loophole,” signed by Bill Clinton in 2000), or reinstated (like the Glass Steagall Act repealed in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act) to create the kinds of protections we had even before Clinton, both signed around Christmas when Congress was dipping in the grog and a gift from Santa came down the chimney for the bank and securities industries. And on and one we go . . .

Yes we can’t tell you who will clean out the Sleepy Hollow of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to get the folks awake, up and running to can the next bad guy, like Bernard Madoff (now under penthouse arrest), or how to put the fear of god into the banking and investment industries for even the hint of future scams.

Once again, corporate protectionism, lack of transparency, specific regulation of specific financial WMD, like subprime lending, derivatives, credit swaps, hedge funds, and CDOs quietly ruled the day. Yes, we can’t echoed through the walls of Congress, the press and living rooms of America, the once bountiful and beautiful. Yes, yes, we can’t has been a couple of truly downer days. And for all those who take pleasure in that, may you burn in hell. In fact, you’re already there.

On the other hand, the president couldn’t seem to say yes we can’t to a barbarous war in Afghanistan and their Pakistani neighbors. Or yes, we can’t to threatening Iran with nuclear warfare. Or saying yes, we can’t to continuing the annual multi-billion dollar support for Israel’s nuclear proliferation or to supporting its Gaza genocide.

President Obama couldn’t even seem to say yes, we can’t to Rahm Emmanuel for yanking the job of U.S. ambassador to Iraq from Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, as Wayne Madsen reported, along with Emmanuel sidelining the new Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. So, it’s been a yes, we can’t holiday so far, which I’m waiting for someone in the White House to dispel like a bad headache.

What else is new? Well, yes, we can’t stop loving you, America that is, and all that you need, industry built, rebuilt to supply jobs; elites run out on poles; corruption eliminated; losing the still lingering stink of racism and creation of poverty. Until we can lose all the yes, we can’ts, yes, we can won’t be anything but a bumper-sticker. And one party will continue to look and sound just like the other after the illusion of an election. And the orthodoxy of both will rule our lives singularly like a political religion, with little room for question or change. So it goes. Or maybe not.

Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer living in New York City. Reach him at gvmaz@verizon.net. read his new book, State Of Shock: Poems from 9/11 onat www.jerrymazza.com, Amazon or Barnesandnoble.com.

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24 THINGS ABOUT TO BECOME EXTINCT IN AMERICA January 22, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Science and Technology.
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I don’t have the source for this list; it was sent to me by a friend (RH).

24. Yellow Pages This year will be pivotal for the global Yellow Pages industry. Much like newspapers, print Yellow Pages will continue to bleed dollars to their various digital counterparts, from Internet Yellow Pages (IYPs), to local search engines and combination search/listing services like Reach Local and Yodle Factors like an acceleration of the print ‘fade rate’ and the looming recession will contribute to the onslaught. One research firm predicts the falloff in usage of newspapers and print Yellow Pages could even reach 10% this year — much higher than the 2%-3% fade rate seen in past years.

23. Classified Ads The Internet has made so many things obsolete that newspaper classified ads might sound like just another trivial item on a long list. But this is one of those harbingers of the future that could signal the end of civilization as we know it. The argument is that if newspaper classifieds are replaced by free online listings at sites like Craigslist.org and Google Base, then newspapers are not far behind them.

22. Movie Rental Stores While Netflix is looking up at the moment, Blockbuster keeps closing store locations by the hundreds. It still has about 6,000 left across the world, but those keep dwindling and the stock is down considerably in 2008, especially since the company gave up a quest of Circuit City. Movie Gallery, which owned the Hollywood Video brand, closed up shop earlier this year. Countless small video chains and mom-and-pop stores have given up the ghost already.

21. Dial-Up Internet Access Dial-up connections have fallen from 40% in 2001 to 10% in 2008. The combination of an infrastructure to accommodate affordable high speed Internet connections and the disappearing home phone have all but pounded the final nail in the coffin of dial-up Internet access.

20. Phone Landlines According to a survey from the National Center for Health Statistics, at the end of 2007, nearly one in six homes was cell-only and, of those homes that had landlines, one in eight only received calls on their cells.

19. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs Maryland’s icon, the blue crab, has been fading away in Chesapeake Bay. Last year Maryland saw the lowest harvest (22 million pounds) since 1945. Just four decades ago the bay produced 96 million pounds. The population is down 70% since 1990, when they first did a formal count. There are only about 120 million crabs in the bay and they think they need 200 million for a sustainable population. Over fishing, pollution, invasive species and global warming get the blame.

18. VCRs For the better part of three decades, the VCR was a best-seller and staple in every American household until being completely decimated by the DVD, and now the Digital Video Recorder (DVR). In fact, the only remnants of the VHS age at your local Wal-Mart or Radio Shack are blank VHS tapes these days. Pre-recorded VHS tapes are largely gone and VHS decks are practically nowhere to be found. They served us so well.

17. Ash Trees In the late 1990s, a pretty, iridescent green species of beetle, now known as the emerald ash borer, hitched a ride to North America with ash wood products imported from eastern Asia. In less than a decade, its larvae have killed millions of trees in the Midwest, and continue to spread. They’ve killed more than 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan alone, with tens of millions more lost in Ohio and Indiana. More than 7.5 billion ash trees are currently at risk.

16. Ham Radio Amateur radio operators enjoy personal (and often worldwide) wireless communications with each other and are able to support their communities with emergency and disaster communications if necessary, while increasing their personal knowledge of electronics and radio theory. However, proliferation of the Internet and its popularity among youth has caused the decline of amateur radio. In the past five years alone, the number of people holding active ham radio licenses has dropped by 50,000, even though Morse Code is no longer a requirement.

15. The Swimming Hole Thanks to our litigious society, swimming holes are becoming a thing of the past. ’20/20′ reports that swimming hole owners, like Robert Every in High Falls, N.Y., are shutting them down out of worry that if someone gets hurt they’ll sue. And that’s exactly what happened in Seattle. The city of Bellingham was sued by Katie Hofstetter who was paralyzed in a fall at a popular swimming hole in Whatcom Falls Park. As injuries occur and lawsuits follow, expect more swimming holes to post ‘Keep out!’ signs.

14. Answering Machines The increasing disappearance of answering machines is directly tied to No 20 our list — the decline of landlines. According to USA Today, the number of homes that only use cell phones jumped 159% between 2004 and 2007. It has been particularly bad in New York; since 2000, landline usage has dropped 55%. It’s logical that as cell phones rise, many of them replacing traditional landlines, that there will be fewer answering machines.

13. Cameras That Use Film It doesn’t require a statistician to prove the rapid disappearance of the film camera in America. Just look to companies like Nikon, the professional’s choice for quality camera equipment. In 2006, it announced that it would stop making film cameras, pointing to the shrinking market — only 3% of its sales in 2005, compared to 75% of sales from digital cameras and equipment.

12. Incandescent Bulbs Before a few years ago, the standard 60-watt (or, yikes, 100-watt) bulb was the mainstay of every U.S. home. With the green movement and all-things-sustainable-energy crowd, the Compact Fluorescent Lightbulb (CFL) is largely replacing the older, Edison-era incandescent bulb. The EPA reports that 2007 sales for Energy Star CFLs nearly doubled from 2006, and these sales accounted for approximately 20 percent of the U.S. light bulb market. And according to USA Today, a new energy bill plans to phase out incandescent bulbs in the next four to 12 years.

11. Stand-Alone Bowling Alleys BowlingBalls.US claims there are still 60 million Americans who bowl at least once a year, but many are not bowling in stand-alone bowling alleys. Today most new bowling alleys are part of facilities for all types or recreation including laser tag, go-karts, bumper cars, video game arcades, climbing walls and glow miniature golf. Bowling lanes also have been added to many non-traditional venues such as adult communities, hotels and resorts, and gambling casinos.

10. The Milkman According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 1950, over half of the milk delivered was to the home in quart bottles, by 1963, it was about a third and by 2001, it represented only 0 .4% percent. Nowadays most milk is sold through supermarkets in gallon jugs. The steady decline in home-delivered milk is blamed, of course, on the rise of the supermarket, better home refrigeration and longer-lasting milk. Although some milkmen still make the rounds in pockets of the U.S. , they are certainly a dying breed.

9. Hand-Written Letters In 2006, the Radicati Group estimated that, worldwide, 183 billion e-mails were sent each day. Two million each second. By November of 2007, an estimated 3.3 billion Earthlings owned cell phones, and 80% of the world’s population had access to cell phone coverage. In 2004, half-a-trillion text messages were sent, and the number has no doubt increased exponentially since then. So where amongst this gorge of gabble is there room for the elegant, polite hand-written letter?

8. Wild Horses; It is estimated that 100 years ago, as many as two million horses were roaming free within the United States . In 2001, National Geographic News estimated that the wild horse population had decreased to about 50,000 head. Currently, the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory board states that there are 32,000 free roaming horses in ten Western states, with half of them residing in Nevada. The Bureau of Land Management is seeking to reduce the total number of free range horses to 27,000, possibly by selective euthanasia.

7. Personal Checks According to an American Bankers Assoc. report, a net 23% of consumers plan to decrease their use of checks over the next two years, while a net 14% plan to increase their use of PIN debit. Bill payment remains the last stronghold of paper-based payments — for the time being. Checks continue to be the most commonly used bill payment method, with 71% of consumers paying at least one recurring bill per month by writing a check. However, on a bill-by-bill basis, checks account for only 49% of consumers’ recurring bill payments (down from 72% in 2001 and 60% in 2003).

6. Drive-In Theaters During the peak in 1958, there were more than 4,000 drive-in theaters in this country, but in 2007 only 405 drive-ins were still operating. Exactly zero new drive-ins have been built since 2005. Only one reopened in 2005 and five reopened in 2006, so there isn’t much of a movement toward reviving the closed ones.

5. Mumps & Measles Despite what’s been in the news lately, the measles and mumps actually, truly are disappearing from the United States. In 1964, 212,000 cases of mumps were reported in the U.S. By 1983, this figure had dropped to 3,000, thanks to a vigorous vaccination program. Prior to the introduction of the measles vaccine, approximately half a million cases of measles were reported in the U.S. annually, resulting in 450 deaths. In 2005, only 66 cases were recorded.

4. Honey Bees Perhaps nothing on our list of disappearing America is so dire; plummeting so enormously; and so necessary to the survival of our food supply as the honey bee. Very scary. ‘Colony Collapse Disorder,’ or CCD, has spread throughout the U.S and Europe over the past few years, wiping out 50% to 90% of the colonies of many beekeepers — and along with it, their livelihood.

3. News Magazines and TV News While the TV evening newscasts haven’t gone anywhere over the last several decades, their audiences have. In 1984, in a story about the diminishing returns of the evening news, the New York Times reported that all three network evening-news programs combined had only 40.9 million viewers. Fast forward to 2008, and what they have today is half that.

2. Analog TV According to the Consumer Electronics Association, 85% of homes in the U.S. get their television programming through cable or satellite providers. For the remaining 15% — or 13 million individuals — who are using rabbit ears or a large outdoor antenna to get their local stations, change is in the air. If you are one of these people you’ll need to get a new TV or a converter box in order to get the new stations which will only be broadcast in digital.

1. The Family Farm Since the 1930s, the number of family farms has been declining rapidly. According to the USDA, 5.3 million farms dotted the nation in 1950, but this number had declined to 2.1 million by the 2003 farm census (data from the 2007 census hasn’t yet been published). Ninety-one percent of the U.S. farms are small family farms. 

A View from the South: Amy Goodman on Bolivia’s Morales November 25, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Bolivia, Latin America.
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Posted on Nov 19, 2008

By Amy Goodman

 

Evo Morales knows about “change you can believe in.” He also knows what happens when a powerful elite is forced to make changes it doesn’t want.

 

Morales is the first indigenous president of Bolivia, the poorest country in South America. He was inaugurated in January 2006. Against tremendous internal opposition, he nationalized Bolivia’s natural-gas fields, transforming the country’s economic stability and, interestingly, enriching the very elite that originally criticized the move.

 

Yet last September, the backlash came to a peak. In an interview in New York this week, Morales told me: “The opposition, the right-wing parties … decided to do a violent coup. … They couldn’t do it.”

 

In response, presidents from South American nations met in Chile for an emergency summit, led by the two women presidents, Michelle Bachelet of Chile and Cristina Kirchner of Argentina. The group issued a statement condemning the violence and supporting Morales.

 

Morales continued in our interview: “The reason why I’m here in the U.S.: I want to express my respect to the international community, because everybody condemned the coup against democracy to the rule of law—everybody but the U.S., but the ambassador of the U.S. It’s incredible.”

 

After the attempted coup, Morales ejected U.S. Ambassador Philip Goldberg, declaring, “He is conspiring against democracy and seeking the division of Bolivia.” Morales went on: “He used to call me the Andean bin Laden. And the coca growers, he used to call them Taliban. … Permanently, from the State Department of the U.S., I have been accused of being a drug trafficker and a terrorist. And even now that I’m president, that continues on the part of the embassy. I know it does not come from the American people.”

 

Morales has now given the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration three months to leave the country, and announced at the United Nations Monday that the DEA will not be allowed back. Morales was a “cocalero,” a coca grower. Coca is central to Bolivian indigenous culture and the local economy. As Roger Burbach, director of the Center for the Study of the Americas, writes, “Morales advocated ‘Coca Yes, Cocaine No,’ and called for an end to violent U.S.-sponsored coca eradication raids, and for the right of Bolivian peasants to grow coca for domestic consumption, medicinal uses and even for export as an herb in tea and other products.”

 

Morales aims to preserve the Bolivian heritage of coca growing, while eliminating the scourge of drug trafficking. He says the U.S. uses the war on drugs as a cover to destabilize his country: “If they really fought against drug trafficking, it would be very different.” He said the South American leaders are finally organizing amongst themselves: “We are actually setting up a national intelligence in collaboration with our neighbors Argentina, Chile, Brazil. And that way, the fight against drug trafficking is going to be more effective, but it’s going to be something that has a political element in it. If we don’t permit the DEA to come back, that doesn’t mean we’ll break relationships with the U.S.”

 

The resurgent democracies in Latin America are hoping for better relations with an Obama administration. On the election of the first African-American U.S. president, the first indigenous president of Bolivia told me, “Maybe we can complement each other to look for equality among people, people who are here on Mother Earth.” After we spoke, Morales headed off to Washington to visit the Lincoln Memorial and to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “I want to honor my brothers, the movement, the Afro-American movement. I have the obligation to honor the people who preceded us, the ones who fought for the respect of human rights and rights in general.”

 

Thousands are gathering outside Fort Benning, Ga., this weekend for the annual mass protest and civil disobedience against the U.S. School of the Americas (now called WHINSEC), a military training facility that is alleged to have trained hundreds of Latin American soldiers who have gone home to commit human-rights violations. The wounds of U.S. intervention in Latin America are still raw. President-elect Obama has an opportunity to reach out and grab the extended olive branch being offered by President Morales.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She has been awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and will receive the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

© 2008 Amy Goodman

 

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