Jan 242011

By Chris Hedges [print_link] Posted on Jan 24, 2011

Barack Obama is another stock character in the cyclical political theater embraced by the liberal class. Act I is the burst of enthusiasm for a Democratic candidate who, through clever branding and public relations, appears finally to stand up for the interests of citizens rather than corporations. Act II is the flurry of euphoria and excitement. Act III begins with befuddled confusion and gnawing disappointment, humiliating appeals to the elected official to correct “mistakes,” and pleading with the officeholder to return to his or her true self. Act IV is the thunder and lightning scene. Liberals strut across the stage in faux moral outrage, delivering empty threats of vengeance. And then there is Act V. This act is the most pathetic. It is as much farce as tragedy. Liberals—frightened back into submission by the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party or the call to be practical—begin the drama all over again. 

We are now in Act IV, the one where the liberal class postures like the cowardly policemen in “The Pirates of Penzance.” Liberals promise battle. They talk of glory and honor. They vow not to abandon their core liberal values. They rouse themselves, like the terrified policemen who have no intention of fighting the pirates, with the bugle call of “Tarantara!” This scene is the most painful to watch. It is a window into how hollow, vacuous and powerless liberals and liberal institutions including labor, the liberal church, the press, the arts, universities and the Democratic Party have become. They fight for nothing. They stand for nothing. And at a moment when we desperately need citizens and institutions willing to stand up against corporate forces for the core liberal values, values that make a democracy possible, we get the ridiculous chatter and noise of the liberal class.

The moral outrage of the liberal class, a specialty of MSNBC, groups such as Progressives for Obama and MoveOn.org, is built around the absurd language of personal narrative—as if Barack Obama ever wanted to or could defy the interests of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase or General Electric. The liberal class refuses to directly confront the dead hand of corporate power that is rapidly transforming America into a brutal feudal state. To name this power, to admit that it has a death grip on our political process, our systems of information, our artistic and religious expression, our education, and has successfully emasculated popular movements, including labor, is to admit that the only weapons we have left are acts of civil disobedience. And civil disobedience is difficult, uncomfortable and lonely. It requires us to step outside the formal systems of power and trust in acts that are marginal, often unrecognized and have no hope of immediate success.

The liberal class’ solution to the bleak political landscape is the conference. This, along with letters and cries of outrage circulated on the Internet, is its preferred form of expression. Conferences, whether organized by Left Forum, Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun or figures such as Ted Glick—who is touting a plan to lure progressives, including members of the Democratic Party, into something he calls a “third force”—are where liberals go to feel good about themselves again. These conferences are not fundamentally about change. They are designed to elevate self-appointed liberal apologists who seek to become advisers and courtiers within the Democratic Party. The conferences produce resolutions no one reads. They build networks no one uses. But with each conference liberals get to do what they do best—applaud their own moral probity. They make passionate appeals to work within systems, such as electoral politics, that have been gamed by the corporate state. And the result is to spur well-meaning people toward useless and ultimately self-defeating activity.

“What we need is an alliance which consciously incorporates elected Democrats as well as elected Greens and independents, as well as groups, or individual leaders and members of groups, like Progressive Democrats of America and the Green Party,” Glick proposes. “More than that, this alliance eventually needs to support and work to elect candidates running both as Democrats and progressive independents, and maybe even an occasional Republican.”

The Tikkun Conference held in Washington last June was another pathetic display of liberal apologists begging Obama to be Obama. The organizers called on those participating to “Support Obama to BE the Obama We Voted For—Not the Inside-the-Beltway Pragmatist/Realist whose compromises have led to a decrease in his popularity and opened the door for a revival of the just-recently-discredited Right wing.”

Good luck.

The organizers of the Left Forum conference scheduled for this March at Pace University in New York City also communicate in the amorphous, high-blown moral rhetoric that is unmoored from the actual and real. The upcoming Left Forum conference, which has the vacuous title “Towards a Politics of Solidarity,” promises to “focus on the age-old theme of solidarity: the moral act of imagination underpinning working-class victories everywhere. It will undertake to examine the new forms of far-reaching solidarity that are both necessary and possible in an increasingly global world.” The organizers posit that “the potential for transformative struggles in the 21st century depends on new chains of solidarity—between workers in the rich world and workers in the global south, indigenous peasants and more affluent consumers, students and pensioners, villagers in the Niger Delta and environmental campaigners in the Gulf of Mexico, marchers and rioters in Greece and Spain, and unionists in the United States and China.” The conference “will contribute to the intellectual underpinnings of new and tighter forms of world-wide solidarity upon which all successful emancipatory struggles of the future will depend.”

The conference agenda, which sounds like a parody of a course catalogue description, includes the requisite academic jargon of “moral act of imagination” and “chains of solidarity.” This language gives to the enterprise a lofty but undefined purpose. And this is a specialty of the liberal class—to grandly say nothing. The last thing the liberal class intends to do is fight back. Left Forum brings in a few titans, including Noam Chomsky, who is always worth hearing, but it contributes as well to the lethargy and turpitude that have made the liberal class impotent.

The only gatherings worth attending from now on are acts that organize civil disobedience, which is why I will be at Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C., at noon March 19 to protest the eighth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Veterans groups on March 19 will also carry out street protests in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. You can link to the protests at AnswerCoalition.org. Save your bus fare and your energy for events like this one.

Either we begin to militantly stand against the coal, oil and natural gas industry or we do not. Either we defy pre-emptive war and occupation or we do not. Either we demand that the criminal class on Wall Street be held accountable for the theft of billions of dollars from small shareholders whose savings for retirement or college were wiped out or we do not. Either we defend basic civil liberties, including habeas corpus and the prosecution of torturers or we do not. Either we turn on liberal institutions, including the Democratic Party, which collaborate with these corporations or we do not. Either we accept that the age of political compromise is dead, that the corporate systems of power are instruments of death that can be fought only by physical acts of resistance or we do not. If the liberal class remains gullible and weak, if it continues to speak to itself and others in meaningless platitudes, it will remain as responsible for our enslavement as those it pompously denounces. 

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “Death of the Liberal Class.” He writes a column for Truthdig that appears here every Monday.

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Jan 242011

COMMON ENOUGH AS IT IS, the story of this abandoned, homeless, sick and near death young feline, is one of the        most heart-rending stories I’ve seen in years of animal related work involvement. It so easily encapsulates the madness of our society, the unnecessary suffering that takes place routinely right under our noses because our social resources  are constantly wasted and our mental focus distracted away on the toxic crap created by a stunningly corrupt and often criminal system. 

This poor guy reminds me so much of my own tuxedo baby, animalito, a long-hair version actually.  His fixed stare worries me; it might indicate brain damage, or it may just be a general state of near cachexia, with little in the way of proper hydration, nourishment, etc.  I hope it’s the latter and not something permanent or fatal. (Filed Jan. 23, 2011)

The YouTube post is eloquent:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azK4VEOjdSg [/youtube]

UPDATE!  This just in.  Jan. 24, 2011
Just got through (noon, NYC time) to the vet’s office where he’s being treated. Today’s he’s doing much better and apparently improving fast. They’re running the usual tests, and were concerned that he could have a neurological disorder, but now they think the strange stare could be attributed to a very advanced ear mite infestation (which of course they’re treating, too), general undernourishment, dehydration, and so on due to prolonged homelessness. The vet is near the border of Illinois and Iowa. They think he’s about 2 y/o, a young feline.

If anyone can help, please do.  The people at the vet’s told me they know this lady and her group, and they’re solid.  They mostly work with canines, but when a creature in need comes knocking at their door, they won’t turn it away.

Patrice Greanville

Editor, TGP

The vet hospital is the Hancock Vet Clinic at 217-847-3911. They’re located in Hamilton (hence our hero’s temporary name), Illinois, right on the border with Iowa.  It’s a pretty small community of about 3500 souls.

NOTE: The animal defense group caring for this animal is small and grossly underfunded, as usual, so a small drive has been organized to defray the medical bills connected with “Hamilton”‘s treatment.  If you can contribute a few dollars, please do so. You‘ll feel like a million.



UPDATE #2 (Jan. 25, 2011)

We have just received this video, showing Hamilton doing much better. The need to pay his bills and find a home remains, however.  Here he is:



UPDATE #3 (JAN. 31, 2011)

Well, Hamilton the Tuxedo cat is traveling to Naperville, IL to a rescue called PURRS.  There he will receive the love and attention he deserves and hopefully finds a wonderful forever home.  The world has truly changed for Hamilton.  He has become a wonderful, sweet, cuddly love bug (as Anissa described him).  He is not shy about asking for attention and since he is such a beautiful boy, he gets plenty of it.  I want to thank everyone for being so caring and generous.  Not only was Anissa able to cover Hamilton’s Vet bill but a couple of other wonderful creatures that wonder into her life.  With the horrible weather about to hit us, it is more important than ever that people like Anissa have the resources to rescue more dogs and cats.


I am asking for one more favor that will not cost you a single penny.  Anissa has been trying to win a Grant from Pepsi Refresh Project to purchase a new transport Van for her rescue.  For 4 month she has been diligently soliciting votes and finally this month she made it to the top 10 and stayed there.  She needs to hold to her position for the rest of the day today and she will be awarded the $25K grant.  Can you please vote for her Rescue.  Just hit the link below and vote for West Hancock Canine Rescue.   


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Jan 242011


   Comic Jon Stewart attacks WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange

A cheap shot by a political lightweight and insufferably smug egomaniac

By David Walsh
7 December 2010 [print_link]

Comic Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show, the satirical US news program and talk show, went out of his way November 30 to attack WikiLeaks’ co-founder Julian Assange and the exposure of American government conspiracies around the world.

In the eight-and-a-half-minute segment, Stewart downplayed the explosive WikiLeaks material, cynically made fun of Assange’s name―of all things―and generally made light of revelations that have produced a major crisis for US imperialist diplomacy.

Assange is presently the subject of an intense international campaign of persecution spearheaded by US authorities. He faces phony sexual assault charges in Sweden and calls from the American ultra-right for his assassination.

That Stewart chooses this moment to broadcast a demeaning and dismissive routine at Assange’s expense is an act, if nothing else, of extraordinary cowardice. By his comments, Stewart solidarized himself with the US and other powerful states and the global media in their campaign to demonize and, if possible, eliminate, one troublesome individual.

Stewart has had his good days in the past, attacking Bush administration officials and Wall Street’s media mouthpieces. He may still have some ahead of him, but his general trajectory is increasingly toward the establishment.

Stewart and his Comedy Central colleague, Stephen Colbert, maintain a following among young people in particular. In the giant vacuum that is American political life, their brand of disrespect and ridicule gains a relatively easy hearing. The departure of George W. Bush from the White House and the arrival of Barack Obama have helped bring out the relative poverty of their humor and overall outlook, as so much of their criticism of the Bush administration was of a superficial, “cultural” character.

Stewart’s large “Rally for Sanity” October 30 in Washington was dominated by political and social complacency and empty calls for moderation, very much in tune with the White House and the Democratic Party’s 2010 election campaign. Stewart, in his address to the rally, faulted ultra-right and liberal commentators alike for the present tense political atmosphere, suggesting that while their over-the-top rhetoric “did not cause our problems … its existence has made solving them that much harder… If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

The Daily Show host’s malicious comments about Assange ran along the same lines. He began November 30: “The release of many embarrassing and possibly damaging diplomatic cables has introduced the world to a new super-villain, WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.” On the one hand, Stewart sought to make fun of those outraged at Assange, but only from the point of view of underscoring the supposedly unrevealing and unsurprising character of the WikiLeaks revelations. Moreover, the monologue on Assange was interspersed with crude comments, which had nothing to do with the subject at hand, satirically or otherwise, but had the aim of lowering the tone as much as possible.

The Daily Show segment on WikiLeaks made reference to some of the cables’ content, but generally to their most obvious and harmlessly embarrassing elements, i.e., the publication of US diplomats’ opinions about various world leaders.

In one of the brief video sequences, a CBS newsman noted that an Italian official had described the WikiLeaks exposures as “a diplomatic 9/11.” Stewart followed up indignantly, “Then he’s a —– idiot. … I’ll give you, it’s diplomatic mischief night maybe, but most of the —- in there is nonpolitical chitchat and things we already knew.”

Stewart went on: “Transparency is a good thing, government wrongdoing should be ferreted out. Although, just because something is secret doesn’t necessarily mean it’s nefarious.” In sum, “an interesting yet less explosive and less than searing indictment.”

After a few comments on video from Assange, about the latter’s personal satisfaction in “crushing bastards,” Stewart addressed the WikiLeaks founder directly: “I think you are underestimating how cynical Americans are about our government already. We’ve engineered coups in Chile, Iran, Guatemala etc. … We sell weapons to our enemy’s enemy who somehow always then becomes our enemy and forces us to defend ourselves from our own weapons. That happens a lot. …

“It takes a lot to unimpress us. You should really read up about the —- we already know about us. So unless in these WikiLeaks we’re going to find out that the aliens from Area 51 killed Kennedy? Stop with the drama.”

Truly remarkable! The chronically self-satisfied Stewart―who earns how many hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars a year for acting as one of American society’s official court jesters?―lecturing an individual who has put his neck on the line in the interest of exposing imperialism’s crimes to stop dramatizing himself!

The remainder of the segment was devoted to a would-be comic debate between Stewart and one of his mock correspondents, Aasif Mandvi, in which the latter took the position, presumably linked to Assange and WikiLeaks, that “everyone has the right to know everything about everyone” and cited positively the invasive airport scanning as an example of that.

Delivered the soft lob from Mandvi about the scanning, Stewart replied: “That’s not transparency. Transparency is about being open to the public on important issues and processes so that the public can make informed decisions.”

Mandvi later asserted pompously that the WikiLeaks’ revelation was “basically our generation’s Pentagon Papers.” Stewart responded, “The Pentagon Papers exposed blatant lies about how the government got us into the Vietnam War, how they continued to mislead us about the war’s progress, even the most cynical reading of these documents, I don’t think rises to that indictable level.”

Mandvi dismissed this airily with, “It’s not meant to, it’s about the beautiful anarchy of information. It shows that what the government says in private is not necessarily what it says in public.” This of course permitted Stewart to return to one of his favorite and most cynical themes: “But who doesn’t know that? That seems like a relatively banal point to be made.”

The exposed cables have shed light, in fact, on filthy US operations around the globe, from warmongering against China, coordinating lies with the dictator of Yemen, covering up Saudi support for terrorism, participating in war crimes in Sri Lanka, to weighing the usefulness of a coup in Pakistan, and much more.

In their scope and weight, the WikiLeaks are more damning than the Pentagon Papers. WikiLeaks has helped bring to public attention the way in which catastrophic events, such as wars and coups, are prepared and organized by the imperialist powers. This is what has outraged the various regimes and has set in motion the campaign to close down WikiLeaks and destroy Assange.

Through his unserious and dishonest attempt to discredit Assange and WikiLeaks, Stewart has only disgraced himself. Anyone who looks to the Daily Show as a politically oppositional beacon is looking in the wrong direction.

DAVID WALSH is a renowned cinema and cultural affairs critic. He serves as senior cinema critic for the World Socialist Web Site. 

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