Archive for the ‘Parliamentary cretinism’ Category

Our Man in Haiti

January 15, 2010

Guess who Obama just picked to head, along with Bill Clinton, the US relief effort in Haiti? That’s right, it’s George W. Bush. Is this a sick joke or what? I guess this is just another example of the “change” that Obama promised us. This is an insult to the people of New Orleans, especially since Obama has reneged on his promise to help them. This just goes to show that in US politics nothing succeeds like failure. After all, Obama kept on Ben Bernanke as his Federal Reserve Bank chief, and he chose as his Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, whom one Wall Street analyst described as a man who “has failed at everything he ever tried to do.” Obama seems to have a soft spot for incompetent people; he picked Joe Biden as his vice president. And he picked Larry Summers as his chief economic advisor. This is a man who once said that Africa is “under-polluted”.

Sometimes one has to wonder whether Obama is extremely cynical, or whether he’s just not as smart as he sounds. He continued Bush’s bailout of the banks. He’s digging himself into a hole in Afghanistan (and soon he may be digging himself into another hole in Yemen). He’s getting ready to sign a health care “reform” bill that Americans will come to hate. His chances of getting re-elected look slimmer all the time.

Wrapping Up the Naughts

December 30, 2009

Well, not only have we come to the end of the year, but we have also come to the end of the decade. All the reviews of the 2000’s that I’ve read have been pretty much the same. There seems to be universal agreement that this decade sucked big time. W.H. Auden once called the 1930’s a “low, dishonest decade.” The 2000’s certainly had more than their share of dishonesty. Just think of the mind-numbing barrage of lies during the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

This is all the more dismaying considering that the decade started out promisingly. The Anti-WTO demonstration in Seattle in November 1999 had reinvigorated the left. People wanted to do things, to get out in the streets and make a statement. During the Democratic National Convention in 2000, 40,000 people marched through the streets of Los Angeles, in the face of intimidation by the police. When George W. Bush stole the 2000 election, that didn’t put any damper on things. To many people, it just confirmed their suspicion that the system is totally corrupt. The police repression at the Genoa demonstration in the summer of 2001 did disturb some people, but still they felt that they could accomplish something.

I remember that summer I was living in Los Angeles, and I was involved in a solidarity campaign with the Immokalee farm workers. They had called for a boycott of Taco Bell, to get them to pressure the growers into raising their wages. Once a week we would have a demonstration in front of a Taco Bell in East Los Angeles. Each week the protest got bigger and louder. People from the neighborhood would join in, as well as students from nearby East Los Angeles College. They wanted to make a difference in the world. Teenagers would go up to cars in the drive-thru and explain to people why they shouldn’t buy from Taco Bell.

Then September 11th happened.

Suddenly people were all driving around with American flags on their cars and bumper stickers saying, “United We Stand.” This was an understandable visceral response to the attacks, but I could see that it would only lead to trouble. The media suddenly stopped treating Bush as a joke and began touting him as a national hero (even though he hid out at two air force bases during the day of the attacks.) In the economic slump that followed the attacks, Bush urged people to go out and shop. The media treated this as serious advice.

The left never really recovered from what happened. I think it fair to say that most of the people who marched through the streets of Seattle probably voted for John Kerry in the 2004 election. This is really sad, especially when you consider that Kerry is an enthusiastic supporter of everything those people were protesting against. (And Kerry was promising to send 40,000 more troops to Iraq.) “Anybody but Bush” became the mantra. Anyone who questioned this immediately found himself a pariah, if not threatened with physical violence. Kerry’s campaign slogan was “Help is on the way.” I guess people didn’t think they needed help, since Kerry lost the election.

Four years later, we had Obama promising us “hope”, which sounded a little catchier. Then there was the financial meltdown, and Obama became a shoo-in. The irony here was that Obama is a firm supporter of the economic policies that led to the meltdown. Sometimes hope is just that.

The year started off with Israel’s savage attack on Gaza. Not a murmur of criticism from Obama or any of the other Democrats. Once in office he impressed everyone with his ability to form complete sentences, such a refreshing change from his predecessor. He put forward an economic stimulus plan (mostly tax cuts) that was too timid to have much effect. The Republicans immediately started screaming “socialism”, and they’ve been like a stuck record ever since. In October it was announced that, for no clear reason, Obama was to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. (It seems that the prize was actually for not being George W. Bush. The legacy of W.’s presidency is that the bar has been lowered on just about everything.) Shortly afterward, Obama announced he was going to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Now, the Democrats in Congress are on the verge of passing a Health Care “Reform” bill that has nothing progressive about it and is in some ways actually reactionary. One hopes that the way this bill made its way through the Senate will make people question the way our government is set up. The Senate (originally modeled after the British House of Lords) is an inherently undemocratic institution. Every state gets two senators, regardless of its size. Thus, California, which has a population of 36 million, has the same number of senators as Wyoming, which has 544,270 people. (More people live in the city of San Francisco than in the whole state of Wyoming.) This problem is compounded by the filibuster rule. It takes 60 votes to overcome a filibuster. (The idea here seems to be that having a simple majority just isn’t good enough.) So, we had the disgusting spectacle of Senate Democrats groveling at the feet of Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (pop. 3 million) and Ben Nelson of Nebraska (pop. 2 million). The most hilarious moment of the year came when Lieberman announced that he had suddenly changed his mind about the Medicare buy-in (which he had supported for years). He was now opposed to it, just because he had heard a liberal congressman say that he liked the idea. (This is the conservative mentality in its purest form: if the liberals are for it, I’m agin’ it!) So the Medicare buy-in was immediately jettisoned, without a murmur of protest. As for the cynical promises that were made to Nelson to get his one lousy vote, you can expect the Republicans to be making hay out of them in next year’s congressional elections.

Everything is not bleak, however. There have been a few glimmerings of a fightback, such as this summer’s G20 protests and the demonstrations at the Copenhagen climate conference. And there were the Viva Palestina convoys to Gaza. Interestingly, there has been an upsurge in struggle in Iran. It seems I was right in guessing that last summer’s demonstrations were about more that just a stolen election. So, I guess Obama wasn’t completely wrong about there being “hope”. It’s all a matter of what one does with it.

(By the way, the Immokalee workers eventually won concessions from Taco Bell. This was one of the few labor victories of this miserable decade.)

Worse Than Nothing

December 9, 2009

It now looks as though the Republican party and a few right-wing Democrats are the only things that stand between us and a truly terrible health care “reform” bill that will actually be a huge hand-out to the insurance industry. How did we get into this situation? People had the naive belief that the Democrats would “do something” about the health care crisis, unlike the Republicans, who prefer to do nothing. Many figured that even if the Democrats came up with something lame, it would better than nothing Yet now the Democrats are threatening to pass a bill that is worse than nothing.

At times like this, one really must question the assumption that the Democrats are a “lesser evil”. Not only are we getting screwed over on health care, but Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan – something that Bush refused to do. Because we’re locked into a two-party system, people assume that one party can’t be as bad as the other. However, it’s not a matter of one party being better or worse than the other. This is the wrong way of looking at the matter. The two parties are bad in different ways. This is because they simply represent different tendencies in the corporate elite.

The essential problem with our health care system is that it is if for profit. However, the Democrats can only come up with “reforms” that are meant to protect profits. This means that the Democrats will come up with “reforms” that will make things worse, not better.

The Police State Continues to Grow

October 17, 2009

Those of you who believe that civilian review boards are the solution to the problem of police violence should consider this: on October 1, a civilian review board in Eugene, Oregon ruled that a police officer “did not break department policy” when he tased a man who was pinned to the ground. (You can read about the board’s decision here and here. You can find a detailed account of the tasing incident here.) Now, obviously, if someone is pinned to the ground, there’s no need to use a taser. This simple logic is apparently beyond the comprehension of three of the five members of the Eugene Civilian Review Board.

The Eugene Weekly article I linked to above notes: “…the Eugene mayor and City Council recently expanded and packed the CRB with appointees that appear opposed to the concept of civilian review that voters passed overwhelmingly.” The mayor, Kitty Piercy, is a liberal Democrat, who has spoken at anti-war rallies. The City Council is dominated by liberal Democrats. These high-minded liberals apparently can’t bear the thought that police officers should abide by any kind of ethical standard. This is the state of democracy in the US today.

Update: the Eugene City Council has refused to reappoint Richard Brissenden to the Eugene Civilian Review Board. Brissenden, a municipal court judge, was one of the two CRB members who dissented on the board’s ruling on the tasing incident. At the above-mentioned meeting, Brissenden criticized the behavior of the Eugene Police. The council members who voted against his reappointment were: Andrea Ortiz, Alan Zelenka, Mike Clark, Jennifer Solomon, Chris Pryor and George Poling. (Remember this when these people are up for re-election.) The Eugene Weekly comments:

    Credible independent oversight of police review in Eugene now appears dead. Resurrecting oversight could take citizen action in recalling officials who oppose police review or defeating them at reelection, citizen ballot initiatives, intense public pressure on city government, and lawsuits. We also join conservatives on The [Eugene} Register-Guard editorial board in calling for an immediate moratorium on the use of Tasers by Eugene police until the department ends its secrecy and develops a meaningful policy that actually restricts this dangerous, excruciating weapon.

When Moore is Less

September 28, 2009

Michael Moore’s new film, Capitalism: A Love Story has just been released. The comments I’ve heard about it have been mostly good. (You can find Louis Proyect’s review here.) I will no doubt go to see it. I must, however, admit to having some feelings of trepidation. Every Michael Moore film, no matter how good, has at least one awful moment in it.

Sicko is a great film. One has to admire the courage that Moore showed in taking on the insurance industry. Yet there’s that horrible moment when Moore starts gushing over Hillary Clinton, as if he has a school boy crush on her. (For all I know, he does.) What makes this insulting is that Clinton helped to kill the single payer movement in the 1990’s.

I know I’m not the only lefty who cringed when Moore started berating Charlton Heston (who was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease) in Bowling for Columbine. Heston was a crank, but he was a relatively harmless one in the larger scheme of things. I remember that when this film first came out, I heard an interview with Moore on the KPFK radio station in Los Angeles. The interviewer started things off by asking him to explain what the movie was about. Moore responded with a quote from D. H. Lawrence. I can’t remember the exact words, but it was something to the effect that “every American is essentially a killer.” The only conclusion I could draw from this was that Moore was saying that violence is ingrained in US culture. Interestingly, this was the argument that Heston tried to make in the film, but Moore kept interrupting him.

By the way, does anyone actually know what the main argument of Bowling for Columbine is?

On the thread following Proyect’s review, Renegagde Eye reports: “I saw a screening of this film, with MM in person there. He was asked about a labor party, why he doesn’t split with Dems. He replied he was too old to start a new party. He recommended taking the Dems over.” Moore might as well have argued that we should take over the Roman Catholic Church. In both cases, we have an entrenched institution with a great deal of money and vested interests behind it. The very idea that leftists (even ones who wear baseball caps) can take it over is moonshine. It would actually be easier to start a new party.

Moore is a talented and important filmmaker, but when it comes to trying to find some way for us to move forward, he is clueless.

Update: I went to see Capitalism: A Love Story and I must say that I liked it a lot. I think it is the best of the Moore films that I’ve seen. There wasn’t anything like the horrible moments that I talked about. True, the movie was soft on Obama, and there was a teary-eyed tribute to Franklin Roosevelt that I could have done without. However, the film was powerful because it showed concrete examples of the suffering that capitalism causes, and it also showed examples of people fighting back (though I would have liked to have seen more of the latter.) At the screening that I went to, people applauded at some moments. I strongly urge everyone to see this important film.

The G20 Protests: Getting Back to Where We Were

September 28, 2009

I suppose everyone has seen the disturbing videos of police attacking demonstrators at the G20 protests in PIttsburgh. There are a couple of things we can learn from this. The first is that the cops will start busting heads if they know they have overwhelmingly superior numbers. The attacks were all on gatherings of a few hundred or so people. Clearly, demonstrations need to be as large as possible. Actions by small groups of anarchists just don’t cut the mustard.

The second is that the US Left has greatly weakened itself through its strategy of tailing the Democrats. According to the New York Times, there were between 3,000 and 4,000 people at the main march on Friday. Even if one assumes this was an under-estimate, it’s clear that there were much fewer people than those that showed up for the anti-WTO protests in Seattle in 1999. (The only union that took part was the United Steelworkers. So much for the AFL-CIO’s efforts to “revive” the labor movement.) It’s clear that it’s going to take a great deal of work just to get back to where we were ten years ago. This is what comes from making “lesser evil” arguments. The Left demobilizes itself.

Barack Obombsaway

August 29, 2009

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen the Obama “Hope” image in a while. A few months ago, it was ubiquitous. And you don’t see many people in Obama t-shirts any more. The reality of Obama’s administration has begun to set in: most of Obama’s policies are not going to be significantly different from Bush’s. Certainly not with regard to the economy; Obama has continued Bush’s policy of giving trillions of dollars to the banks. What’s more, all the screaming and yelling of the tea baggers can’t conceal the fact that Obama’s health care plan really is a terrible plan. The Huffington Post, that nexus of liberal opinion, has said that the plan would be a “windfall” for the insurance companies. These parasitical entities that have caused so much suffering will benefit much more than the American people possibly will. As for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi cities, that is simply the fulfillment of an agreement that the Bush administration made with the Iraqi government last year. (Reports are that violence has decreased since. This suggests that we on the left were right in arguing that the occupation has been fueling the violence.)

Those who saw Obama as the “peace” candidate must be scratching their heads right now. It can be argued that Obama is actually more hawkish than Bush. Obama has escalated the war in Afghanistan – something that Bush refused to do. Earlier this summer Obama sent Joe Biden to Ukraine and Georgia, where he made shockingly inflammatory statements. He endorsed Georgia’s bogus claims to Abkhazia and South Ossetia and taunted the Russians. He followed Bush’s line in calling for granting NATO membership to Georgia. This would mean that the next time the Georgians decide to start a war with Russia, we would be obligated to defend them.

Won’t that be fun?

This really shouldn’t surprise us. JFK turned out to be more hawkish than Eisenhower, authorizing the Bay of Pigs invasion and deepening US involvement in Vietnam. Bill Clinton actually carried out more interventions than Reagan and Bush the Elder. It can be argued that, when it comes to foreign policy, liberals are potentially more dangerous than the right. The conservatives have no illusions as to what imperialism is about. Liberals, however, want to believe that they really are bringing enlightenment to the world.