Dec 312010
 
rmaddowSpecialwikileaks

A SPECIAL PRESENTATION WITH VIDEO AND COMMENTARY

Michael Moore Talks Wikileaks, Assange’s Rape Charge on Rachel Maddow

Annotated by Patrice Greanville  |  All annotations in brackets [   ] by the editors.

 [print_link]

BACKGROUNDER

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd provides a good summary of the event:  “On December 21, Michael Moore and Rachel Maddow came together in a meeting of the minds for a special edition of her show broadcast from 92Y in New York. They discussed Wikileaks and his assistance in Assange’s bail, of course. But perhaps most importantly, Moore addressed the accusations that he’s been dismissive of Assange’s rape allegations, amid a firestorm of criticism from those who have felt betrayed and appalled by his dismissal of the charges as “hooey” on Keith Olbermann’s show. Here, he clarifies his position — that we must take the charges “very seriously” — notes he started a rape crisis center in Flint, Michigan, and credits the women’s movement for advances in rape being taken seriously.”  (http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/404550/


“From the Maddow blog:

MADDOW [Notice the loaded framing of the question by Maddow]: Can your suspicion about the forces arrayed against Julian Assange and Wikileaks — your suspicion about the timing and pursuit of these charges — coexist with respect  for the women making these accusations against him and with a commitment to take rape allegations seriously, even when the person accused is someone that for other reasons you like? [What PC liberal or person with any sense is going to declare that he "doesn't respect women" in front of a whole audience of liberals?   These are strawmen questions, marshalled for pure rhetorical effect.]

MOORE: ...Every woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted or raped has to be, must be, taken seriously. [This is something of a non-issue. But, "every woman"??? What about a woman who has been paid or coerced into false accusations? Police and intelligence services have a long tradition of doing exactly that, under a variety of ruses. And obviously neither Moore nor Maddow have heard of J.P. Sartre's The Respectful Prostitute / La putain respecteuse (1946)  Those charges have to be investigated to the fullest extent possible,” Moore said. “For too long, and too many women have been abused in our society , because they were not listened to, and they just got shoved aside. . . .So I think these two alleged victims have to be taken seriously and Mr. Assange has to answer the questions…” 

Maddow’s snide all-out attack on the credibility of WikiLeaks, using an obviously misleading cable from the US diplomatic mission in Havana about “the banning of Michael Moore’s SICKO” (which never took place) set a new standard for service to the empire.  But by leaving out the full context of the story, and by doing contortions to present WikiLeaks and its intentions in a bad light, Maddow implied that WikiLeaks is no reliable journalistic organization, or worse, an instrument for sinister purposes.

Watch the video:

 

Well, so much for that. Now for our formal ruminations. 

Who do you believe?  Assange or Rachel Maddow? 

By GUI ROCHAT AND PATRICE GREANVILLE

 If for no other reason, the Maddow show was useful in exposing, once again,  the miserly, treacherous limits of mainstream liberalism.  

Media Consumer Beware 

Judging from the above display, our enthusiastic cable television commentator, the maddening Ms Maddow has apparently branched now into public performances like her antagonist Mr. Beck, proselytizing however for the establishment flavor of the liberal cause. Praising our dear leader Obama who, following his conservative policies, has traded away his campaign promises of not enriching the rich even more in order to gain political advantages into two main propaganda issues. All this was discussed at the New York YMCA at 92nd street.

First a few prelims focusing on what has now become an embarrasing tendency by Maddow to serve as a boostering shill for Obama and the Democrats.  

The DADT measure was long on the books and could have been resolved by presidential decree long ago like Mr. Truman did for assimilation of African Americans in the armed forces. Second, although this is a measure that can be fairly assigned to the human rights ledger, as an advance, especially since it serves to give an extra push to the gay struggle for complete equality before the law, given the current historical context of a declining American empire with an imploding middle class, it is a gain that will do little to enhance the well-being of most gays let alone most Americans. (On this aspect, be sure to check the excellent arguments already presented by Cindy Sheehan, which we also carry on our sites.) Nevertheless our liberal heroine Ms Maddow rejoiced over this ‘great’ success of Mr. Obama as if he was our greatest emancipation hero. The army has been complaining that the majority of discharged gay soldiers were linguists who could help in the occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan etc.

Ignored by Ms Maddow is the fact that soldiers are there to fight and kill (or to assist those who do), so now we can openly recognize that the LGBT population can not only be used as cannon fodder or criminal accomplices but also as additional cogs in the machine of the empire’s conquests. Though gay people have long been assimilated into most armies of the Western world, America can pride itself of following (some twenty to thirty years too late) the same policy that anyone who wants to serve its empire can do so. Lachai’im.

With the first phase of the boosterist gusher over, Ms Maddow produced the filmmaker Mr. Moore, who piously stated that he was brought up as a Christian (to indicate that he has no sympathy for Moslems?). He then proceeded to tell the liberal claque audience that he was involved in women’s rape causes since the age of nineteen, which was mighty feminist of him. Ergo he argued that the charges of rape against Wikileak Assange could very well be justified, even though the British Internet newspaper, the International Guardian, had published a detailed account of the charges against Mr. Assange which from almost every viewpoint seem to be circumstantial at best.

As for that matter the conservative liberal Internet publication The First Post published recently an article by their woman psychologist explaining all about poor Mr. Assange’s youth, his hostility to an absent father, a loyal mother and disdain for women, all gleaned from a superficial knowledge of the man, and from  the glossy scandal press

(Does Julian Assange suffer from being a mama’s boy? | The First Post)

. This sort of malicious gossip is fully discredited too by an interview that Mr Assange did with David Frost Julian Assange – FROST OVER THE WORLD – Al Jazeera English, and by an even better interview he did with Cenk Uygur on MSNBC’s The Dylan Ratigan Show (12.22.10 — See http://www.greanvillepost.com/?p=10880)

After that Ms Maddow ruminated about the great advantages for world peace that the by now hopefully passed Start Treaty would bring to the US and Russia. One Republican senator stated openly that it would make little difference in the overwhelming military might of the US to destroy any country that would dare to stand up against the empire. The Start Treaty may be signed but nevertheless the government is spending many billions of dollars for new strategic nuclear warheads for artillery and for the ultimate weaponization of space. (See S. Lendman, http://www.greanvillepost.com/?p=11025)

As long as we listen to liberal talk, we are doomed because no real solutions are being proposed, only endorsement and endless adaptation to existing bad circumstances and the danger in that respect of such as Ms Maddow and Mr Moore cannot be underestimated. Their positions undermine any kind of possible resistance.

 ••••

PATRICE GREANVILLE is TGP’s founder and editor in chief.  GUI ROCHAT serves in the capacity of Senior Editor.

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Dec 312010
 
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SPECIAL

 

The   B u l l e t   •   Socialist Project • E-Bulletin No. 441    December 17, 2010

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Murray Smith

IT IS NOW POSSIBLE to begin to draw a tentative balance sheet of the vast movement against the reform (or more exactly, counter-reform) of the pension system in France over the last few months. We need to look at the depth and breadth of the movement, the forms that it took and the positions adopted by its various components. And finally at what might be the repercussions and consequences.

The immediate aim of the reform proposed by President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government seemed quite clear. It was to raise the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62 and the age for retiring with a full pension from 65 to 67, with corresponding increases in the number of years of contribution required. But behind this immediate aim lies the ongoing objective of slowly undermining the public pension system, with the aim of pushing workers toward subscribing to private pension plans, to the greater profit of the pension funds.

Private funds have never been able to develop in France to the extent that they have elsewhere.

This is not the first pension reform: previous ones in 1993 and 2003 lengthened the periods of contribution for the private then the public sector, changed the method of calculating and indexed pensions on the evolution of prices rather than wages. Since 1993 the value of a pension has dropped by around 20 per cent. A million pensioners live below the poverty line and 50 per cent receive less than 1000 euros a month. (The minimum wage in France is currently 1337.70 euros a month.) Nor will this reform be the last. A further review of pensions will take place in 2013, conveniently after the next presidential elections.

Movement Grows

The movement against the reform began as soon as it was clear that there was going to be one, even before the exact details were published. The first one-day strike was on March 23, 2010, followed by two others on May 27 and June 24. After the summer break the movement took off again and indeed intensified, with 2.5 million demonstrators in the streets on September 7, reaching its highest point in mid-October, with days of action that put up to 3.5 million people onto the streets. And since they were not all the same people, the newspaper Le Monde has calculated that up to 8 million people were involved in the mobilizations at some point.

The days of action were called by the Intersyndicale, a coordinating committee of the French trade union confederations, all of which were represented on it, from the biggest to the smallest, from the most moderate to the most radical. The Intersyndicale continued to function throughout the eight months of the movement and had the undisputed authority to determine the timing of the big national days of action/one-day strikes.

This was not the first time that such an Intersyndicale had functioned. It was already the case, partially, in the movement over pension reform in 2003 (although the moderate Confédération française démocratique du travail – CFDT – French Democratic Confederation of Labour pulled out early after an agreement with the government and the radical Solidaires federation was excluded) and again in the movement in 2006 that defeated the CPE (an attempt to introduce a cut-rate minimum wage for young workers entering the job market). Very significantly, given the nature of the movement in 2006, the Intersyndicale was broadened out to include the student and school student unions. The Intersyndicale functioned again in the one-day strikes against austerity at the beginning of 2009.

Trade Unions’ Role

The central role played by the trade unions is no accident. In the present period, they have a unique authority. Whatever may be thought of their errors, their failures, their weaknesses and their limits, individually and collectively, they are considered by millions of workers as instruments of defence. No political party has the ability to put millions of people into the streets. Not the Socialist Party (SP), despite its electoral support, nor the forces to the left of the SP. This central role of the unions has something to do with the traditions of the French workers’ movement, but not only that. The unions played a central role during the general strikes of 1936 and 1968 and in many other movements, but behind the main union federation, the General Confederation of Labour (Confédération Générale du Travail, CGT), stood the French Communist Party (PCF), which was hegemonic in the working class. No party has such hegemony today.

It was the unity of the trade unions, which was not always the case in the past – far from it – that made possible a movement on this scale. None of them could have done it on their own. The CFDT in particular had a strong reason to stay on board. Its desertion of the movement in 2003 cost it many members, mainly to the benefit of the CGT and Solidaires. But the unity that made the movement possible inevitably imposed some limits on it. The Intersyndicale was never going to call a full-scale, ongoing general strike to defeat the reform. Not only the CFDT and the smaller moderate unions, but also the CGT (as was already shown clearly in 2003) were not ready for that. It would certainly have been the most effective weapon to defeat the government but the trade union leaderships as they are were never going to do it.

Only the Solidaires federation consistently defended such a line but it was very much in a minority. Over and above the question of the general strike, the Intersyndicale as a whole did not take a position of calling for the withdrawal of the reform; Intersyndicale’s main components proclaimed their willingness to negotiate, complaining of not being consulted.

Left Parties’ Response

Although the parties of the left could not themselves mobilize millions, they all supported the actions initiated by the Intersyndicale. For the Socialist Party this was done with not a few hesitations, qualifications and false notes. The official position of the SP was to defend the right to retire at 60 but to accept prolonging the years of contribution necessary for that to 41.5 years, which rather emptied it of its content. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, president of the International Monetary Fund and a potential SP presidential candidate in 2012, distanced himself from the party’s opposition to raising the retirement age, as did other figures on the right of the party. Even the SP’s first secretary, Martine Aubry, had to do a quick about-turn after initially approving of raising the retirement age to 62.

The forces to the left of the SP took a position of outright refusal of the reform, crystallized from the beginning by a petition launched by ATTAC and the Fondation Copernic (a left-wing think tank) on April 7, 2010, and signed by individuals representing a spectrum of parties and associations. These included many representative trade unionists, intellectuals and representatives of all the parties to the left of the Socialist Party (PCF, Greens, New Anti-Capitalist Party, Left Party…). There were also a significant number of SP members, including some leading ones. Collectives established on the basis of this appeal played a role in explaining the reform and winning public support, especially in the early stages, and unitary meetings were held all over the country.

The depth and breadth of the movement were such that, inevitably, comparisons have been made with past movements. From the point of view of the extent of the movement and the numbers of people involved, this was the biggest movement since 1968. In 1995 the strike movement was much more powerful, spearheaded by the rail workers. But the movement was less broad.

Why No Ongoing General Strike?

But when you make the comparison with 1968, the question arises: why was there no ongoing general strike? Of course as we have seen the union leaderships were not ready to call one, but the two massive general strikes in 1936 and 1968 were not called by the union leaderships. They began in the workplaces and spread, only being taken in charge by the unions at national level later on. Why did that not happen this time?

There is no simple answer to that, but a large part of the reason lies in the changes that have taken place in the working class. Although there are still some large concentrations of workers and some strategic sectors where a strike can have a big impact (as was seen in the recent movement), the situation of the working class bears no comparison with 1968. Many of the big bastions of the working class and of the trade unions in heavy industry have gone, in France as elsewhere. Privatizations have been pushed through. Workers are much more atomized, work units are smaller, there are more non-unionized workplaces, there is more precarious work, there is unemployment and the threat of it, there is growing household indebtedness. This was reflected in the fact that many rank-and-file militants who, unlike the union leaderships, did want a general strike were sceptical about the possibility. Another factor was certainly the absence of a credible perspective of social change, which was there both in 1936 and in 1968. Socialism may not have been an immediate perspective but it was a long-term one for millions.

Rather than comparisons with 1968, it is more interesting to situate the 2010 movement in the chain of resistance to neoliberalism over the last fifteen years, marked on a national scale by the movements in 1995, 2003 and 2006, and last but not least by the European referendum campaign of 2005. If we look at the multiple facets and forms of struggle of the movement we will see that it draws on these experiences while developing them. In the first place, like previous movements, the movement had massive public support, which increased rather than diminished as it progressed, reaching over 70 per cent in the autumn. That was among the general public. Among workers it was higher. In September a CSA poll showed that 89 per cent of public sector workers and 76 per cent of workers in the private sector were opposed to pension reform.

The backbone of the movement was the series of one-day strikes and demonstrations that built up from 800,000 demonstrators in March to 3.5 million on October. But around that backbone many other things were happening. On each national day of action many workers not only marched but went on strike. Some sectors could be counted on to take strike action every time, rail workers and teachers among others. The decision to have some demonstrations on a Saturday, the first one on October 2, was not well received by many militants. But it made possible the participation of many workers, especially in the private sector, who supported the movement but were not ready to go on strike, in many cases because it would have cost them their job. On top of the national days of action there were many local initiatives in areas that were bastions of the movement, above all but not only, in the area around Marseilles. And at a local level, the militants were often well to the left of the national union leadership, and the call was not to renegotiate the reform but for it to be withdrawn.

High Point of Radicalization

The movement reached its high point in the second half of October. Following a day of action on October 12 many sectors remained on strike, either continuously or in a rolling fashion, and this continued after the day of action on October 19. The focus was now on the most militant actions. Key sectors engaged in ongoing strikes. All the oil refineries in France were out, as were port workers and lorry drivers (who in France are largely wage earners rather than being self-employed). Some of these sectors had their own specific motives to strike – plans for the privatization of ports, danger of closure and delocalisation of refineries. Another key factor was the massive mobilization in the movement of school students, who struck and blockaded their high schools, and to a lesser extent university students, though the universities were only just starting again after the holidays.

At this stage of the movement the strikes were accompanied by forms of direct action. The oil refineries were not just on strike but blockaded, as were the ports. Dozens of tankers blocked off Marseille. There were blockades of motorways (especially by the lorry drivers), railway lines and industrial zones. These actions were conducted by workers from different sectors and by students. Perhaps the most striking thing is that as the movement radicalized so did public support for it. Financial support for the strikers poured in.

At the height of the movement a poll taken on October 20-21 (Harris-Marianne) showed some remarkable results: 69 per cent approved of the strikes and demonstrations (92 per cent among those on the left); 52 per cent supported public transport strikes (77 per cent on the left); 46 per cent approved of blocking the refineries (70 per cent on the left, 57 per cent of manual workers). The combination of forms of struggle, from mass demonstrations to more militant strikes and direct action, not only gave the movement its breadth and depth. It also made it possible to escape from the “all or nothing” trap – either a general strike or demoralisation and demobilization. The forms of action that appeared in this movement will be seen again.

`Not Victorious, Not Defeated’

The movement was in the end not victorious. The government camped on its position, the law went through, the police broke the blockades of the refineries and imported oil from other countries. The movement began to lose impetus toward the end of October. But in the first place what happened was not inevitable. Even short of a full-scale general strike, a continuation of the movement at the level it had reached in mid-October could have made the economic and political price too high for the government to pay. And “not victorious” does not mean crushingly defeated. This was not Britain in 1985. Sarkozy may want to be France’s Thatcher but he certainly is not. This was a tactical defeat, which may turn out to have been a Pyrrhic victory for Sarkozy. It was not by any means the kind of defeat which demoralizes and deters people from fighting again.

The strength of the movement is an indication of profound dissatisfaction with Sarkozy and his government. It crystallized around the issue of pensions, about which people have strong feelings. They think, entirely reasonably, that they have a right to retire on a decent pension at an age when they can still enjoy their retirement. But there are also other factors at work. There is a widespread feeling that this is one neoliberal measure too far, that after this there will be others, and that it has to stop somewhere. There is a questioning of what sort of society this is leading to. This is true even among young people. Probably many of the school students who demonstrated did not understand the fine details of the law on pensions. But they know they will have difficulty finding any kind of decent job, they wonder why people will have to work until they are 67 when there is so much youth unemployment, and in a more diffuse way they wonder what kind of society they are growing up into. There is also a widespread feeling, in France as in other countries, that it is ordinary people, workers, the poor, young people, who are being made to pay for the crisis, while bankers and brokers continue to rake in the money.

There has been resistance to neoliberalism in other countries and at present popular resistance against austerity is spreading across Europe. But it is certainly in France that resistance has been greatest over a long period. There is a long history of popular revolt in France, combined with deep-seated attachment to equality, solidarity, the defence of the “general interest” against particular interests, which flows from the French Revolution. The proclaimed aim of Sarkozy when he came to power in 2007 was to put a stop to this “French exception” and get France up to speed with its European partners. The progress that he has made has been in the face of considerable opposition and remains fragile. To this should be added the perception of Sarkozy himself.

Under neoliberalism, governments have tended increasingly to act not only as guarantors of the capitalist order in general but as direct servants of the rich and in particular of the sphere of finance. But up until now no French president has so blatantly and shamelessly paraded his links with the rich as Sarkozy. Indeed a recent book about him is simply entitled The President of the Rich. No further explanation is required. It is symptomatic of the Sarkozy regime that the minister who steered the pension reform through (and was dropped in the subsequent government reshuffle), Eric Woerth, is himself up to his eyes in a scandal centred on France’s richest woman, Liliane de Bettencourt. Another example is the fact that Guillaume Sarkozy, elder brother of the president and a prominent businessperson, planned to cash in on the reform by launching a private pension fund on January 1, in partnership with public financial institutions that are ultimately controlled by his brother. The plan appears to have been stymied for the moment, but its existence, over and above the family connection, illustrates the close links between the Elysee Palace and business circles.

What Now?

What is the situation now that the movement is effectively over? One striking feature of it was that in spite of massive rejection of Sarkozy there was no sign of a political alternative. The few calls that were made for a dissolution of parliament and new elections received little echo. That reflects the fact that at the moment the only alternative to Sarkozy and his Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, UMP) party is the Socialist Party. People may vote for it as a lesser evil than Sarkozy, but in most cases without great enthusiasm. The fact that the SP candidate in the 2012 presidential elections could well be IMF president Dominique Strauss-Kahn speaks volumes about the absence of any alternative to neoliberalism from that quarter.

All the political forces in France are now positioning themselves for 2012. The recent government reshuffle, the re-appointment of Francois Fillon as prime minister, the departure of most of the centrist and ex-left ministers and the realignment of the government on the UMP is a sign that Sarkozy is battening down the hatches and trying to mobilize the core vote of the traditional right.

After being united in the movement over pension reform, how the left, specifically the forces to the left of the Socialist Party, prepares future electoral confrontations will be of great importance. On that level, things will become clearer over the next few months.

But many things can happen between now and 2012. A British prime minister once said that a week is a long time in politics. In the present international social and economic climate, particularly in Europe, the period that separates us from the 2012 elections are an eternity. What is certain is that the combativeness and inventiveness that were demonstrated in the movement will be reflected in many partial, local struggles. Indeed they already are.

Whether we see a new generalized movement depends on many things: what measures the government dares to take, what miscalculations it may make, what is forced on it by, for example, the crisis of the eurozone.

Outside the arena of social struggles, and apart from elections, other political initiatives are possible. During the movement, calls were made for a referendum on pensions, in particular by Left Party leader Jean-Luc Melenchon. The idea did not really take off, perhaps it was not the right moment to raise it in the heat of the struggle. But it seems to be gathering some support now, and it could be one way of keeping the issue of pensions alive. There is a precedent in the success of the unofficial, popular referendum against the privatization of the Post Office in 2009.

Whatever the precise developments over the coming months, the forces that were brought into action over the last eight months will continue to manifest themselves, and the French working class will continue to be in the vanguard of resistance to neoliberalism and austerity in Europe. •

Murray Smith lives in Luxembourg and is a member of the anti-capitalist party Dei Lenk. He is a former leading member of the Scottish Socialist Party. This article appeared in Links.

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Dec 312010
 
john-kerry-Lugar-afterSTARTvote

Again, more flimflam and Kabuki between the powers than any real advance in the work of nuclear disarmament

By Stephen Lendman  | [print_link]

Hyped support reveals gross hypocrisy about a deeply flawed process and outrageous price for it. More on that below. Yet a September 14 New York Times editorial headlined, “Ratify the New Start Treaty,” saying;

“Failure to ratify this treaty would be hugely costly for American credibility and security….The Senate needs to ratify New Start now.” In fact, endorsing ratification undermines The Times credibility. More why below.

A more recent Washington Post November 19 editorial headlined, “The New START pact should be passed, not politicized,” saying:

“….the treaty ought to be approved. But no calamity will befall the United States if the Senate does not act this year….In reality, Mr. Obama’s urgency (has) less to do with national security than with the upcoming shift in Senate seats” next year.

The Los Angeles Times said ratifying Start could “be a defining moment for Obama. Failure might be regarded abroad as confirmation that the administration is too weak to put its stamp on world affairs.”

RIGHT: Sen. John Kerry and Richard Lugar discussing treaty with the press, right after the vote.

Most major media reports endorse ratification. None explain key facts about a deeply flawed treaty or what’s ahead when implemented. An earlier article on Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review explained why, accessed through the following link:

http://sjlendman.blogspot.com/2010/04/obamas-brave-nuke-world.html

Calling it old wine in new bottles, it explained that nuclear disarmament or serious reductions aren’t envisioned or planned. New and upgraded weapons will replace outdated ones. Dangerous testing will continue, and billions of dollars will be committed to proliferate a first-strike capability with overwhelming destructive power, including from space.

Obama’s Nuclear Posture Review was more about war making than prevention. Also unchanged is the 2005 Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, removing the distinction between defensive and offensive deterrents. It includes the most modern triad of land and sea-based strategic bombers, land-based missiles, and ballistic missile submarines as well as robust research development and industrial infrastructure to develop, build, and maintain unchallengeable offensive and defensive systems.

It exceeds deterrent, calling for preemption with nuclear or non-nuclear weapons against named adversaries, whether or not true. In other words, aggressive wars for unchallengeable global dominance are planned, especially against nations in resource-rich areas.

Missile defense is also misnamed. It’s, in fact, for offensive first-strike, notably against Russia and China in case confrontations erupt for resource control. Whether ratified or not, America’s permanent war agenda is unchanged, falsely justified to seek peace, democracy and world stability. It’s about power threatening global survival to assure America has more than anyone and keeps it. 

Start is a smoke screen, more hypocrisy than substance. Disingenuous media hype suppresses the truth without explaining what’s needed – full nuclear disarmament without which world safety is impossible.

The Western States Legal Foundation (WSLF) on Start

WSLF “monitors and analyzes US nuclear weapons programs and policies and related high technology energy and weapons programs, with a focus on the national nuclear weapons laboratories.” It believes that “nuclear weapons threaten our fundamental human security” and must be abolished.

WSLF’s Andrew Lichterman headlined a commentary, “The START Treaty and Disarmament: a Dilemma in Search of a Debate,” saying:

Public discussion and full disclosure have been absent as negotiations continued. The real adversary “is the US military-industrial complex and its representative in the United States Senate.” Those in it want unchallengeable US military supremacy, using the ratification debate “to extract both policy and spending commitments in return.”

Start “will have little effect (on) the arms race.” It will only minimally affect “nuclear weapons deployments, and places no meaningful limit on the modernization of nuclear arsenals or the development of strategically significant weapons systems such as missile defenses and conventional ‘prompt global strike’ weapons with global reach.”

The treaty’s only purported benefits include verification and reestablishing a negotiating framework for future negotiations. However, the ratification price extracted huge concessions to the “weapons establishment,” beginning with “increases in….budgets and accelerated construction of new nuclear weapons facilities” to design, develop, produce, and deploy the most modern ever destructive arsenal globally, assuring “civilization-destroying” capability “for decades to come,” as well as impeding disarmament efforts.

Yet congressional and public debate didn’t discuss it. Instead, so-called experts, former key public officials, and disarmament organizations endorsed ratification, “parroting” Obama’s devoid of substance talking points, leaving out future costs and concessions to the “nuclear weapons establishment.” Nor explaining that without them, ratification possibilities were nil. Democrats as well as Republicans would balk.

The Start deal will do little to deter nuclear weapons proliferation. It’s mainly about counting rules and verification. In addition, the actual number of warheads isn’t reduced. America and Russia will be able to deploy almost the same number of strategic ones as the 2002 Moscow Treaty permitted.

New Start is also “missile defense-friendly,” including America’s research for new propulsion and delivery technologies able “to hit a target anywhere on earth in less than one hour” with nuclear or non-nuclear warheads. No “global strike” capabilities will be compromised. Nor are constraints placed on modernizing nuclear arms. What the Obama administration promotes as a plus, in fact, is continued proliferation of new generations of humanity-destroying weapons, while at the same time, enriching the nuclear weapons establishment.

His FY 2011 budget request included 10% more for nuclear weapons programs, and continued increases for the next five years. Last May, a budget commitment included $180 billion over the next 10 years for nuclear weapons and delivery systems. All along, “the nuclear weapons establishment played its usual double game,” promoting Start while seeking greater financial commitments. By November, Obama promised billions of dollars of additional increases, including an “extraordinary commitment to ensure the modernization of our nuclear infrastructure.”

Contrast the commitment to war making and nuclear weapons proliferation to promoting austerity in discretionary spending for vital homeland needs, including millions of households suffering from lost jobs, homes, savings and futures. 

A new US Census report confirms it, saying nearly one-third of working families struggle to meet basic needs. From 2007 through 2009, low income households (earning less than 200% of the official threshold) increased from 28 – 30%. The report came days after congressionally approved tax cuts enriched corporations and America’s aristocracy, giving chump change to struggling workers, facing austerity cuts in 2011.

Start and nuclear proliferation, however, get top priority to fuel the Pentagon’s war machine, endangering global security and survival. Moreover, despite rhetoric, “prospects for significant reductions below proposed….levels (meaning current deployments) are at best highly debatable.”

Couched in rhetorical deterrence, actual policy is escalation and dominance, combining the world’s most powerful conventional forces with enough nuclear capability “to threaten everything from credible use of small numbers of nuclear weapons up to societal annihilation.”

Without significant change, reductions will only be cosmetic, “leaving unaltered the fundamental danger” that a globally destructive force stays intact and improves by continued modernization. Further, other nuclear powers will be challenged to keep up, fueling a dangerous arms race, heightening even greater risks.

Shamefully, the “new START turns disarmament polices on its head with many” supportive groups, experts and pundits uncritically adopting the administration. Lacking, however, is any understanding of disarmament obstacles, costs or risks. For its part, the public is left entirely uninformed, hearing hype with no substance, including advocacy for urgent ratification of a treaty yielding no real change.

“(P)ropagandists for the powerful….dress up such deals as serving the ‘national interest’ ” to enlist public support, omitting back room dealmaking to enrich the nuclear weapons establishment and other war profiteering interests. In this environment, chances for disarmament and non-proliferation are nil, especially with public ignorance and indifference not demanding it. 

As a result, Lichterman argues “for turning disarmament work right side up,” thinking not just about short term possibilities “in the halls of government in corrupt, bellicose, and heavily armed states,” none truer on all counts than America. Longer-term efforts “can confront the institutions of the nuclear-military-industrial complex where we find them,” and learning from “a half-century (of) concentrated, unaccountable power on our communities and natural world,” seeking change to preserve societies and global survival. It remains endangered under new Start.

A Final Comment

For months, the Obama administration maintained a drumbeat of hype for new Start, including in a November 17 press release headlined, “Fact Sheet: An Enduring Commitment to the US Nuclear Deterrent,” saying:

“President Obama has made an extraordinary commitment to ensure the modernization of our nuclear infrastructure….” Plans ahead including investing “over $85 billion over the next decade” for modernization and deterrence. In fact, over double that amount will be spent plus likely future add-ons. The press release mentions several programs with few details, bemoaning “America’s aging nuclear complex and stockpile.”

In a May 13 message to the Senate, Obama said:

“The Treaty will enhance the national security of the United States. It mandates mutual reductions and limitations of the world’s largest nuclear arsenals. (It) promote(s) transparency and predictability in the strategic relationship between the United States and the Russian Federation,” and will assure each side can verify the other. 

As explained above, it represents old wine in new bottles, dressed up in rhetorical mumbo jumbo, suggesting changes that, in fact, leave everything virtually the same.

An earlier March 26 press release headlined, “Key Facts about the New START Treaty,” covering:

– “treaty structure;

– strategic offensive reductions;

– verification and transparency;

– treaty terms; and 

– no constraints on missile defense and convention strike.”

In fact, details provided obscured more than clarifying new Start details, part of regular White House disinformation to keep public opinion uninformed and unaware that claimed changes are more hype than substance. Ahead for decades, global security will remain threatened, perhaps more so as sophisticated technologies and powerful new weapons are developed and deployed, including from space.

No matter. On December 22, the Senate voted 71 – 26 to pass Start, what The New York Times called Obama’s “most tangible foreign policy achievement.” Thirteen Republicans joined Democrat unanimity, exceeding the constitutionally required two-thirds majority. 

Senior Editor Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour/.

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Dec 312010
 
rachelMaddowshow

“Yes, Obama did!” (Or did he?)

Another Maddow apologia pro Obama causa
N0. 2 IN OUR WHY THE MEDIA SUCK SERIES 

While no one with an atom of decency will deny that Rachel  Maddow has on many occasions performed exceedingly well as a progressive journalist (denunciations of GOP criminals and hypocrites, reports about the BP-Gulf Coast tragedy, come readily to mind) his good media persona is now rapidly being eclipsed by the unabashed boosterism she enthusiastically exhibits on behalf of Barack Obama and the Democratic party, a posture that pushes her ever more deeply into the folds of the sytem, and, in effect, toward the right.

We don’t know if and to what extent Maddow, currently basking in adulation, his career in ascendancy, is aware of this transformation, but if she’s conscious of what is increasingly sounding like outright sycophancy and still persists on that course, she’ll soon become not only a loss to the triumph of authentic progressive politics in this nation, but yet another obstacle to its realization. 

Gui Rochat / Patrice Greanville, Editors TGP

[print_link]

Maddow praises, but does Obama deserve the accolades? 

We have answered this question many times in these pages, always conclusively in the negative. Barack Obama is a fraud. A flagrant continuist and shameless expander of  Bush junior’s signature policies of endless wars, lawless police surveillance and shilling for the plutocracy, his arrival on the scene quickly disarmed what passes for the left in the U.S., and, more seriously, has gravelly stained the name and idea of a true progressive ascendancy in America. (On this topic, check out the dispatches by—among others— Paul Street, David Michael Green and Stephen Lendman, three formidable critics who have provided numerous bills of attainder on Obama.)   

Myths however die hard, especially when they are backed by the next-to-inexhaustible media resources of the biggest power on earth, a power whose expertise in the underhand art of selling lies and hypocrisy as truth remains unmatched in the annals of modernity. And at this point in history, it is to the advantage of this power to have Barack Obama at the nominal helm of the American hegemon.

It’s hardly surprising then that recently, during this much-ballyhooed “lame duck session” of Congress,  the fortunes of the alternatively clueless and treacherous Obama have begun to rise again.  Much of this amazing and wholly undeserved resuscitation —a phenomenon we have seen before with Reagan, for example, the “teflon president”— is owed to the power of the “free press” in the modern world, a monstrously huge and misnomered structure liberally sprinkled with battalions of apologists in the service of mythmaking, a type of mediacrat that now unfortunately includes Rachel Maddow.  

Monopoly of access

The power of mainstream media to set the national tone and agenda has been dented but not broken by the free internet (actually the left portion of the web, since fully 2/3 or more at least are colonized by corporate entities and the usual assortment of rightwingers, nutcakes, and misguided sorts, i.e. Obamaniacs, all of whom do not really challenge the plutocratic status quo, and represent a total waste of this precious resource).  In this context, the selling of the president, the interminable wars and criminal foreign policy, the injurious economic policies at home, or the corresponding supporting ideologies, is fairly feasible in a nation like America, where the ignorance and confusion of the public has been assiduously cultivated for generations.  As Hitler well knew it, for the Big Lie to triumph all it takes is constant repetition from just about every visible pulpit, and the bigger the lie the easier the sell.  Still, we have easily gone one better on the Nazis. For totalitarian information works best when it’s wrapped in the illusion of freedom, without the benefit of some state-controlled “Ministry of Truth”.  That is exactly the insidious model of “information” that enslaves the American mind today and is likely to do so into the foreseeable future—unless an awakened citizenry manages to puncture the malignant bubble. 

Iron in the velvet glove

Propagandists are often helped by superficialities which they exploit with adroitness.  Things like matters of style. Thus, the contradiction between policies protecting vested interests and those benefiting the public are more easily perceived in a presidency such as that of George W. Bush, but far less so in that of  Obama. Besides, Bush directed but Obama seems to cajole and persuade and there is a distinct difference in outward appearances while the contents remain the same.

Obama has shown by now his true colors, namely those of a centrist conservative and a loyal imperialist to boot, as could have been learnt beforehand from his two books. But—as the elites came to understand— popular discontent with Bush’s policies and his unadorned recidivism needed to be placated by propaganda about an imaginary break with the past. Thus an Obama  presidency appeared to be ideal, supplying the mythmaking mills with a chief executive tangentially connected to a minority population but with a gift of the gab and with a brain nicely steeped in intellectual sophistry.

Media to the rescue

Since the rising public dissatisfaction—still leaderless— presented something of a yawning legitimacy crisis for the ruling corporate powers of which the infotainment machine is an important component, the ever treacherous liberal media were quickly mobilized.  Here was a trumped-up promise of hope and change—pure hogwash— that the perennially manipulated masses surely “could believe in” and that reverberated with a large part of the deluded public.  It’s worth noting that appearances are so effective when properly manipulated, that not only the legendarily gullible American masses swallowed the bait, so did huge sections of the world audience, including many in politically sophisticated nations such as France, Italy and Britain. A sad spectacle of massive silliness, the adulation heaped on Obama upon his win in 2008 was tantamount to an informal coronation. 

ABOVE LEFT: CBS news anchor Katie Couric represents the mainstream establishment branch of the liberaloid media.  She gushed about how “the president isn’t calling himself the ‘comeback kid,’ but some other folks are.”  Similar pronouncements were heard from The New York Times, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and many others.

Political truths, however, can’t be kept under wraps indefinitely.  Reality—the raw matrix of truth—compelled a reevaluation. Now that Obama has been revealed to be nothing but warmed-over Bush, Reagan and Clinton, liberal media figures like Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, and the obnoxious self-serving bloviator, Chris Matthews, plus their counterparts throughout the TV and print establishments, are again in full battle gear attempting to whitewash Obama’s rather soiled public image. The golden opportunity for the makeover presented itself during the latest infamous Congressional “lame duck session”,  which saw a last-minute rush of pseudo-democratic legal accomplishments.  (See below for a fuller discussion.)

RIGHT: MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. A shameless self-promoter with an unpredictable political compass. Of late, he has found religion shilling for Obama.

Leaving aside for a moment that other “great victory” achieved by Obama and his cohorts, the imposition of a scandalously defective and rapacious health insurance scheme on most Americans, yet another typical non-solution to a major crisis (more on this below), the liberal media have been busy justifying some of Obama’s more recent egregious betrayals of the public interest.  In this, they have their work cut out for them since Obama can be counted on to produce more historical lemons of this sort.

Selling the unsellable

Rachel Maddow (below) and her ilk are now doing reverse somersaults to make the unpopular palatable, and the indefensible tolerable, if not downright desirable.  It’s a tough call, but when you’re flying high in the privileged spheres of media royalty, the pain of such tasks is cushioned by fame, enormous salaries, and multiple perks, not to mention huge psychological wages, all of which, incidentally rarely fail to influence a person’s ideology, how you perceive the world.  Keep this in mind as you review the handling of their current propaganda challenges:

TAXCUTS FOR BILLIONAIRES

The outrageous an economically poisonous tax break for the superrich enacted by George Bush Jr. has been extended under The Great Bloviator, while the public has been cynically foisted off with token appeasing rewards of a thirteen-months extension of unemployment benefits and a small lowering of the social security tax.  This deal is a worthy successor to Obama’s give-away of public funds to Wall Street to the tune of trillions (no one knows or cares to spell out the actual amounts) and his legally enforced but woefully deficient health insurance “reform” program (a very poor substitute for single payer healthcare).  

That neither a tax break for the rich nor Wall Street enrichment across the board will create jobs that could help the general public in a sinking economy are glossed-over facts.   Meanwhile, the more obvious solutions to this part of the crisis,  that significant infusions of cash into the pockets of the working people of America either via a massive public works program or through the undertaking of a colossal energy shift program away from oil (neither of which would generate exportable jobs) would quickly re-energize the American economy are downplayed or poo-poooed by the punditocracy.  Incidentally, there’s nothing experimental about such policies.  Their dependability was established by John Maynard Keynes eons ago; it’s got to do with the so-called MPC (marginal propensity to consume of different income classes) and a multitude of governments—including FDR’s— have since implemented them in various ways to reasonable success.

PUSHOVER ISSUES HAILED AS GREAT VICTORIES

Consistent with the previously outlined efforts, the last few weeks have shown a resurgence of the old Obama myth, namely on the wings of relatively unavoidable legislations such as the repeal of DADT, the 9/11 Responders Act and the Start Treaty, all of which received full approval in the conservative and liberal press and in all other media. When all wings of the establishment close ranks, that should tell us something foul is afoot. The scam in these maneuvers is obvious: these legislative “breakthroughs” remain minor concessions by the powers-that-be, a fact hardly understood or mentioned, and the argument that even small concessions to the public weal are better than none is contradicted by the always nefarious hidden side effects.  For the record, what these issues and their “wins” have in common is this:

• All of them are “obvious” in their rightness, and in being overripe for approval. Low-hanging fruit for political underachievers;

• All that was required to get them over the top was a tiny bit of leadership, something Obama has repeatedly shown to have no talent or stomach for;

• Being perfectly “negotiable” demands, all of them COST NOTHING to the system.  They are and were part of the innumerable obsolete whimsical wrinkles of a rotten, decaying system.  Their enactment into law has no effect whatsoever on the nature of power in America, nor its class composition, nor its distribution, from factory floor to corporate boardroom and elsewhere into every nook and cranny of society. In short, none of them represent a win for the masses, while capitalism and its toxicity sail blissfully on.

DADT IN PARTICULAR A DUBIOUS VICTORY 

Besides placating an influential segment of the population, the spurious nonsense of the repeal of DADT, so lauded by Rachel Maddow, is but a ruse to re-attract valuable military personnel in an atmosphere where public dissatisfaction with the very costly Afghanistan war resulted in very much lower recruitments (now even Harvard in the light of this ‘enlightened’ act has permitted access again to ROTC on its campus).  But however you figure it, apparently we have a gay/lesbian section of the public eager to shed foreign blood, or advance their own personal ends at the cost of disregarding what the imperial army does, or, worse, give up the ghost for the fatherland in one of this nation’s endless adventures across the globe in pursuit of further power and riches for the puny minority that by now controls or owns pretty much anything worth controlling around the globe. Most of the conservative military establishment personified by the Republican Gates would sooner or later have forced this legislation through anyway.

The inherent falsehood in this “victory” has been laid bare by brave, uncompromising enemies of war and injustice, such as Cindy Sheehan, who have asked the obvious questions and found the tarnish under the glitter.  Says Sheehan, 

The recent repeal of the US military policy of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is far from being the human rights advancement some are touting it to be. I find it intellectually dishonest, in fact, illogical on any level to associate human rights with any military, let alone one that is currently dehumanising two populations as well as numerous other victims of its clandestine “security” policies. 

This criticism is nowhere to be seen on the mainstream media channels which, aside from customarily caving in to the imperial line, are loath to be seen as raining on a “gay victory”.  Calling it a “wrong battle for equality,” Sheehan clarifies:

 It is hard to separate this issue from the activities of the military. War might be a “racket”, but it is also the most devastating act one can be involved in, whether you are the aggressor or a victimised civilian, no one can shake off the psychological scars of war. No one. Its effects on the individual as well as collective human psyche are terminal. Championing equal rights is an issue of morality, war is immoral, and the US military is heading further and further down the path of immorality.

Such sentiments are echoed by numerous veterans and ex members of the security agencies. Among them decency and a superior form of service to country have prevailed, but apparently this notion has not gained much traction among the official opinionmakers. Hence, continued silence on these essential points.  Sheehan’s capping argument is an appeal to the progressive gay community, a community she sees in danger of succumbing to the system’s mendacious blandishments:

Some of us in the peace movement work really hard to keep our young people out of the hands of the war machine that preys on disadvantaged young people in inner cities and poor rural settings.Some of us in the peace movement work really hard to keep our young people out of the hands of the war machine that preys on disadvantaged young people in inner cities and poor rural settings.  To see a demographic that is (without appealing to stereotypes) traditionally better educated, more politically progressive, and economically advantaged fight to join this killing machine is very disheartening. (CINDY SHEEHAN: Don’t go, don’t kill! http://www.greanvillepost.com/?p=10894)

Is Rachel Maddow, herself a prominent member of the LGBT community, prepared to answer these not so minor criticisms?

9/11 RESPONDERS: THE ORPHAN ISSUE

Similar criteria apply to the 9/11 responders “non-issue,” one of those incredibly ridiculous and incomprehensible political battles often fought in America over nothing.  Nothing because even the revolting Republicans and the forces that they front for had nothing to lose and much to win by simply giving the green light to this legislation, which in any case represented peanuts in terms of money as things usually go in America. Incomprehensible because there was no real principle of any kind involved, except the desire of Republicans to posture as guardians of deficit control (another false issue) and it would have been very bad propaganda for both the administration and its putative opposition not to have shown a modicum of  compassion in a case where the general public is still so traumatized by the blow-back (rare, when we consider the crimes of our foreign policy) and so united in its willingness to grant anyone and everyone who was even remotely connected with the 9/11 tragedy or the towers’ relief  operations the designation of “hero”.  Not for nothing did crass opportunists like Giuliani and Bush descend like locusts on the newly consecrated ground, eager to grab some popularity via the inevitable photo-ops. 

What’s more, the drama attached to the 9/11 tragedy keeps the whole system of terrorist threats alive with all the concomitant onerous security measures which only serve to reduce any resistance to the demands of empire, namely a tightening of the economic belt for the masses and a continued obscenely bloated military budget.  Indeed, as the leading weaponry exporter to the world, heavy military investments keep this flagging economy alive.

A TREATY OF SORTS

As for the Start Treaty, one wonders why Russia would acquiesce to it; probably they assume that something is better than nothing and that as a pragmatic consideration it may contain to some degree American aggression against Russia. Nevertheless, for the American elites, it remains chiefly a propaganda ploy. At the same time that Congress is deciding to approve the Treaty, the administration is aggressively promoting the development of nuclear materiel for other uses than bombs and for the weaponizing of space, with the requisite commitment of many billions of taxpayers’ dollars. (For a full discussion of the treaty’s real and not-so-real feastures, check out

Start Treaty Hypocrisy

http://www.greanvillepost.com/?p=11025 .

SUMMATION

The soi-disant ‘liberal’ press and television figures such as Maddow and Matthews, who all serve to make the population more servile and accepting of their overlords demands, are having a field day under the crypto-conservative Obama.  In doing so, they are prolonging the fraudulence of the Obama administration non-solutions, and delivering the nation to the tender mercies of the Right.  Cynics say that people get the governments they deserve, and the same may be said about their media. Maybe this is a case of karmic Schadenfreude because having for so long profited from the Empire’s depredations, the American population is now slowly descending into the same economic and social hell they caused other countries to undergo, with no chance of rescue from the pervasive, deadening and very soulless  effects of Capitalism.  Via active (if misguided) support, or sheer indifference to “politics”,  preferring to remain focused on their own personal “dreams”, a vast segment of the American population has created its own prison with no chance for escape, neither for themselves nor for their fellow citizens, along with long-suffering billions in poorer lands.  

Time perhaps to proclaim: A bas les sales Capitalistes !

_________

GUI ROCHAT and PATRICE GREANVILLE serve as senior editors with The Greanville Post. 

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Dec 312010
 
bases-aircraft

By Medea Benjamin, December 21, 2010 

The peace group I co-founded, CODEPINK, has not only been protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the drone attacks in Pakistan, but we have been going to military recruiting stations, high schools and career fairs throughout the country encouraging our youth not to join the military. We talk to young people about the illegality of the wars under international law since we were not attacked by either Iraq or Afghanistan. We talk about how killing and maiming innocent civilians is morally wrong and creates new enemies, perpetuating the cycle of violence. We explain that the majority of Afghans and Iraqis want us out of their country and that these wars are not making us safer. We insist that our military should be used to defend us at home, not to invade other people’s lands.
     We know that the military is one of the only ways many young people can afford a college education these days and that the financial crisis severely limits this generation’s career options. But we still encourage young men and women to look for other opportunities that don’t involved killing or being killed in wars we shouldn’t be fighting.
     It might seem contradictory, then, that CODEPINK was an enthusiastic supporter of the rights for gays and lesbians to join and serve openly in the military. But within our organization, it was never even controversial — we stand up for the rights of all human beings. The decision to join the military or not should be determined by individual choice, not institutional discrimination.
     We pressured our Congressional reps and attended every hearing with signs calling for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We joined protests at the White House and rallies in Congressional districts. And we were in the Senate on Saturday when the historic vote passed, hugging and kissing our friends who had struggled so hard for this victory.
     We understand that allowing gay soldiers to openly serve in the military is a crack in the armor of bigotry that will eventually open the way for gay people to marry and be guaranteed equality in the workplace. We understand this victory in the larger context of the march toward full human rights for this oppressed community. And who knows? Perhaps this victory will also serve to strengthen the military’s respect for human rights abroad.
     We also understand the potential for a powerful alliance between the gay and anti-war communities. We can work together to help young people — gay and straight — find careers that won’t kill them, maim them, destroy them psychologically, or cause them to do harm to others. We can jointly reach out to those already in the military to speak out against the violations of the rights of peoples whose land we occupy. We can ask gay veterans to join groups like Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War. And we can work together to turn our military from an aggressive force to one that truly defends us here at home.
     As we struggle to find a more civilized way to treat each other in this world, let us recognize the commonalities in the fight for gay rights and the fight to end war.

______________
Medea Benjamin is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK:Women for Peace.© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

 

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