Friday, January 29, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Howard Zinn in Memorium

Historian Howard Zinn challenged the Establishment. He researched and documented history from the everyman perspective rather than from the standard historical perspective of the elite.

His work challenged the truism that to the victor of war goes the spoils and the writing of history. He challenged the ideology of American exceptionalism, believing that honest exposure of the darker aspects of US History is necessary for the maturing process of the nation.

He understood that the US Constitution was written to establish a government of the elite, by the elite, for the elite. People's struggles for recognition in the Constitution was a necessary evolutionary process... The Bill of Rights, abolition of slavery, women's rights were not included in the Constitution without a struggle.

Zinn was born into a poor family in a New York City slum. During the 1930s, he worked in the shipyards where he organized laborers in the fight for better conditions. He recalls - in one of his many interviews - the first beating he took at the hands of police, which prompted his understanding that police aren’t neutral in concerns of state. In the 1940s, he met his wife, enlisted in the Air Force, and was sent to Europe as a World War II bombardier. He was ordered, late in the war, to drop the U.S.’s first batch of napalm on a French village where the German occupiers had all but surrendered. This led to Zinn’s unwavering pacifism.

The preceding historic narrative is from movie-review of:


Directed & Produced by: Deb Ellis & Denis Mueller.
Director of Photography: Michael Burke, et al.
Edited by: Cyndi Moran.
Music by: Billy Bragg, Woody Guthrie & Eddie Vedder.
Released by: First Run Features.
Country of Origin: USA. 78 min. Not Rated.
Narrated by: Matt Damon.

Howard Zinn: 1922 - 2010


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Obama's Cheap Words Signal Nothing

TIME Magazine reports that Obama is "signal[ing] a somewhat new approach to financial reform." The article sites the Obama administration's "plan for $117 billion worth of bank taxes to recoup the costs of bailouts."

Given that the Federal Reserve has given banks at least a trillion, and backed up bad gambles to the tune of several more trillion dollars, some of us are rolling our eyes at this pittance of $177 billion. We think we should effectively "own" these banks, receiving a cut of their profits for as long as it takes to offset the cost of the bailouts; it shouldn't be negotiable, no law should need to be passed.

We had these corrupting institutions over a barrel and could have extracted real reform. But Obama let them go, and now these institutions are back to their old ways of using their power and money to corrupt our legislative and executive branches... the US Supreme Court is no help with decisions that allow corporations to buy elections, and the fourth branch, the media, is owned by the corrupting corporate powers that be.

It's hard to believe the broader message TIME claims about Obama, citing this sound bite,

His uncharacteristically blunt message to financial giants and their political defenders said it all: "If these folks want a fight, it's a fight I'm ready to have." [1]

That's a nice story concept by TIME, but is it real? Does it really "say it all?" Or is it just another case of cheap words?

Are Obama's advisors, like David Axelrod, simply telling the President to ratchet up the populist rhetoric to stem the public angst towards the administration's economic policies emanating from the likes of Larry Summers and Tim Geithner? I can see Obama's advisors on the phone with the financial giants, "Don't worry. The President needs to say these things to quell public sentiments. Our basic understandings with you are not going to change." This isn't empty speculation; we have numerous memoirs from the past to draw on in which similar things are documented.

History is rife with examples of leaders saying one thing and doing another... take George W. Bush and his "Healthy Forest Initiative" or his "Clear Skies Act," which were, in great part, environmental roll-backs.

The Democrats under Obama continued Bush's bailout policies and are now giving lip service to so-called financial reform; $117 Billion over a decade is chump change to the powerful financial sector; the four largest firms—Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase—took in $22.5 billion in profits through September [2]... that's profits for less than a year immediately after the "financial crisis."

Thinking people of both conservative and progressive leanings are reaching the same conclusion; the two major parties have been captured by a small powerful elite that use both parties to advance their interests, interests that reflect little allegiance to those of our Nation or the general well being of the average people.

Skeptical progressives are going to need a lot more than words before their hope in tangible outcomes translates into support of Obama and his policy initiatives. Obama's choice of Rahm Emanuel damaged his credibility, as did his choice of Summers and Geithner, and his decision to keep on Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

As I've said before, the elite is so powerful that Obama may be their prisoner. OK, so it might not be his fault, because he may be forced to push establishment-oriented policies. If that's the case, then we know his words are just that... words. We want to see Obama "signal" with deeds not just words.

1. TIME Magazine,
Wall Street: Obama's Bank Crackdown Signals Policy Shift
, January, 2010.

2. DemocracyNow! Headlines, November 18, 2009.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

GDAE Podcast - Episode 25

2009 GDAE Podcast Retrospective

Themes of:
  • Music,
  • Financial Robbery of 2009,
  • Prosecuting Bush era officials for numerous crimes,
  • American Exceptionalism,
  • Human Exceptionalism
  • Climate Change
  • Right-wing Fringe Storm Clouds,
  • Health Care,
  • Perpetual War
  • Middle East,
  • Media Reform,
  • Humor
  • Obama
  • and more

Play Episode 25 from this page:

Click to Download Episode 25

Previous Episodes & 60-Sec Promo:

GDAE Podcast 60-Second Promo

GDAE Podcast Episode 24 December 31, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 23 November 29, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 22 November 11, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 21 October 18, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 20 October 9, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 19 September 27, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 18 September 16, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 17 August 31, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 16 July 30, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 15 June 17, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 14 June 10, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 13 May 22, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 12May 5, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 11 April 24, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 10 April 9, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 9March 28, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 8 March 15, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 7 March 1, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 6 February 17, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 5 February 6, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 4 January 24, 2009


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Random Thoughts Spawned by Truth

The following was triggered by a post at Truth 101 blog:

We can understand Obama's behavior if we view him as a prisoner of the wealthy establishment. The aristocracy is loosing its grip, papering over the financial mess for instance. While that teeters, we need to be engaged in diffusing the fringe right wing.

The last line is motivated by my current reading of Gathering Storm: America's Militia Threat by Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center.


Friday, January 8, 2010

Island of Properity in a Sea of Poverty

The following is a transcript from a segment on GDAE Podcast Episode 23 from late November 2009.

We've all heard that about 1% of Americans own about 38% of the nation's wealth.... and the bottom 40% own less than 1% of the nation's wealth. These are 2001 statistics and the disparity has certainly grown since then, during the Bush years.

On another scale, the relatively few developed Nations have accumulated a similarly disproportionate share of global wealth, in part at the expense of exploiting the natural resources of the lesser developed nations.

We've commented in the past on GDAE Podcast that this analogy between individuals and nations translates to the financial melt down. A small minority of wealthy elites in the US benefited from the financial bubble at the expense of a super majority of Americans, yet it was the majority of tax payers who bailed out the tiny financial elite when the crash was upon us a year ago.

By analogy, on a global scale, it was a small minority of countries, the Group of 7, or G-7, that created and benefited from the bubble economy; yet it is the other countries being hammered both during the go-go bubble expansion days of wealth accumulation and on the down-side of the global financial crash.

Now, with global climate change, we see the devastating legacy of this wealth disparity that has persisted over the generations: The minority of industrialized countries have accumulated their wealth, in part, by pushing a cost off onto the environment in the form of greenhouse gas emissions. Like the use of slavery, a small minority have gotten rich on the backs of others.

These are illegitimate riches. But where do we find ourselves today? These illegitimate profits have been invested to create even more riches, which have often been passed between generations (can you say "Paris Hilton?"). The wealth has been used to buy influence in all three branches of government, such as removing the Glass-Steagall Act designed to prevent speculative financial crashes from contaminating commercial financial institutions that fund small businesses, home and car loans, student loans, home improvement loans and the like. But now these super rich speculative financial institutions, and the US Government itself, are insolvent, although they won't admit it. [Now the US CAN'T pay global climate pollution reparations ... unless the US takes a loan from China to do so.]

This scenario of wealth accumulation among a tiny elite reminds me of something I recently read in an old National Geographic magazine. I came across a statement by a wise 39-year old Kuwaiti made back in 1975. When oil wealth in the Middle East was accumulating, the Kuwait fund for Economic Development pledged $16 billion to developing countries. According to National Geographic, The fund's director general, Abdlatif Al-Hamad, 39, explained the philosophy behind such generosity. He said:

"We cannot close our doors and say to hell with everyone else. Nothing is clearer than the danger of having an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty."