Safe and secure don’t work for the warrior activist. Standing on the sidelines watching the bully smack another kid, countless men beat, belittle, humiliate women to no end, or just looking out your window from a 5 story walkup and seeing 6 kids trying to stomp a young cat to death for the fun of it just doesn’t work for some people in life. You don’t get an invite to this way of life, you can’t train for it, you see wrong hurt and automatically step up as life calls upon you from somewhere within your soul and the rough ride stays with you until your last breath feeling that with all you gave it still wasn’t enough to stop the pain and wishing for one more moment to step and say; Hey, What The Fuck Are You Doing, Stop That! You can’t do that to…
© 2014, agentleman.
A GENTLEMAN’S VIEW CHALLENGE TO PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENT: A Platform for 2016 Presidential election;
If we continue to do things the same way, they most certainly won’t change…
This is the National Agenda Of The Progressive Party.
- Economic Justice: Prosperity should be accessible to everyone, not merely the few.
- Civil Rights: Every individual’s civil rights must be protected; discrimination and harassment based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or physical and developmental ability should be banned.
- Health Care: Every individual should have affordable, quality health care.
- Education: It is essential that we invest in quality public education for all.
- Environment: We must commit to restoring and protecting our environment.
- Reproductive Freedom: Women and men – not politicians – deserve the right to make personal decisions about their reproductive health in accordance with their own personal and moral beliefs.
These are some specifics that address the issues of today’s reality and the stated Progressive agenda:
1. This country pays American taxpaying dollars subsidizing Fortune Five Hundred Companies during the last year to the tune of 63 Billion dollars. My understanding of the whole purpose of being one of elite prestigious companies on this list besides policies that make Wall Street happy is the ability to a) pay all employees a wage good enough to afford one wager earner per family as to allow real child rearing to take place in America and to do this without having United States subsidizing your employees with food stamps, to pay their fair share of corporate taxes if they have enough money to pay obscene bonuses to their CEO’s, to bring jobs home to America instead of utilizing sub standardly supported employees overseas. Meet those requirements and make them the standard then maybe some relief can be considered but during the last ten years of war in which much profit was made, very little was paid to support the patriotic work of our military much less the support the infrastructure updates needed all around this great nation by those companies making ever so much more profit. These savings will be the foundation funding education discussed below in item #8.
2. Immediate shutdown of all corporate subsides for foreign companies and any American Companies or business entities making profit during this support, manufacturing/operating overseas for avoidance of tax responsibilities (i.e. Apple). This should be about being an American citizen first an recognized American Business entity, proudly willing to participate in forwarding the American cause and Ideals. 50% of this savings should directly be put to education in addition to the savings from item #1 and would not be an added tax on any corporation or individuals to fund.This is simple, show profit, pay huge bonuses you don’t need United States government financial tax payer subsidized support for those benefits to the business or individuals. THIS ARGUMENT WILL NO LONGER BE ACCEPTABLE WITH PROGRESS: ‘Removal of subsidies equals tax increase’.
3. Refinance all outstanding mortgages at 3% and forgive related debt underwater and otherwise to include interest and penalties, give all financial institutions impacted an one time charge off without addition subsides for those outstanding balances. The point here is not to reward those who shouldn’t have taken part in the bad mortgage programs, but give a chance to homeowners who can afford to and not punish them as we did not the bankers. Let us be honest; many people will gain advantage from these saving including some responsible for causing this damage in the first place, so be it.
4. Forgive all student debt to include all interest and penalties, Banks were paid to stay in business while all others suffered, so no charge off for this loss period! The idea is to use avenues of revenue in place today and free up personal household debt. Take the government out of the business of profiting from educating its citizens which America should gladly welcome. See item #8.
5. Mandatory solar on all federal buildings by end of first term (2021). This is a no brainer when it comes to directly setting the tone for Uncle Sam’s responsible and representative behavior and policy about climate. The United States government has a mandate as a national security issue to take any action necessary to reduce this governments carbon footprint production, this and the next item starts us in that direction.
6. Electric government motor pool by 2025 for passenger vehicles, seeking full electronic transportation motor pool by 2040. Again making a statement that Uncle Sugar will take a conscience effort to a much smaller carbon footprint with the government’s motor pool and impact on climate.
7. Single payer modification made to the Affordable Care Act, Complete medical coverage for women’s health that allows for full range and control of choices. This would be the right thing to do to a system stolen from the opposition with the mission of giving to the client (health care patient) as little as possible for their money as put together by the Heritage Foundation in opposition to the Hillary Clinton Health Care plan.
8. Free full academic/vocational college education for all naturalized citizens who desire such education; vocational education and/for advancement can stand in its stead 10 year time limit to completion. See #2 for cost for implementing this educational national push.
9. Minimum wage standard at federal of 22 dollars an hour. $10.10 is not a ‘real living wage’ and an insult that doesn’t address family’s ability to have one parent at home, or childcare costs for single parents. If we claim to be about family we need to invest in the reality of what it takes to have and run a family today.
10. Fully subsidize purchases of electric personal passenger automobiles for 10 years . (Vehicles must meet standard of fully electric operational capability and can not be hybrid) This would be like the homes for vets after world war 2, with the intent of moving as many people as desired to convert to green mobility to be able to do so.
All of this he/she could do by executive order, two for each of Her/His first week in office. These executive orders would directly impact the financial status of the middle and lower strata Americans across a broad spectrum of households in a way that would immediately stimulate economic growth and activity for continued expansion by freeing up money that was being paid to continue to be buried under all this debt. Wall street was taken care of without begging Congress to get off their asses and do what they were elected to do and that is legislate instead of the traitorous behavior this country has witnessed to date. This would adjust the playing field for awhile, there is still much work to achieve a level one. This is where I fail to see the boldness of today’s Progressive Movement…
Pick a point, the economy, make a stand, suggest practical solutions, then put people on the spot, arguing with a fool only proves there are two, we have five years of two parties of fools arguing… Any of my followers who can suggest an even stronger platform, I will post their suggestions, I just thought we should at least attempt to care about and take care of the home front first. These suggestions attempts to address the financial difficulties everyone but the people who cause the catastrophe in the first place are experiencing. If we are not doing anything to give back/restore/build some trust with those who been devastated by the impact of this recession then the rest is straight bullshit! These 10 items address actions that can be taken presently and will positively impact many Americans across the spectrum no matter the party and that would be a good thing for America not just for Wall Streets Billionaires…
A Lesson From Ecuador: “Health is a right guaranteed by the state and whose fulfilment is linked to the exercise of other rights, including the right to water, food, education, sport, work, social security, a healthy environment and everything that promotes well-being. The state shall guarantee this right by implementing economic social, cultural, educational and environmental policies. It shall guarantee permanent, timely and non-exclusive access to programmes, actions and services promoting and providing comprehensive healthcare and reproductive health. The provision of healthcare services shall be governed by the principles of equity, universality, solidarity, interculturalism, quality, efficiency, effectiveness, prevention, and bioethics with a fair gender and generational approach.” President of Ecuador statement about the citizens of his country which we could learn from…A Third World Country like that.
© 2013 – 2014, agentleman.
No, We Can’t Trust Rand Paul on Race Issues, Says Civil Right’s Pioneer
“I would say that he is the great pretender.” By Steven Rosenfeld
Civil Rights pioneer and former Kentucky state Sen. Georgia Davis Powers.
Editor’s note: Georgia Davis Powers, 91, has spent her life in the civil rights movement. She was a friend and confidante of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1967, she was the first woman and person of color elected to the Kentucky state Senate, where she served for 21 years. This month, Powers wrote an op-ed for the Louisville Corrier-Journal, “Don’t Be Fooled By Rand Paul,” in response to the U.S. senator and 2016 Republican presidential candidate’s efforts to cultivate black voters. AlterNet asked Powers what Americans outside of Kentucky need to know about Rand Paul.
Steven Rosenfeld: I understand that Rand Paul opened a campaign office in the African-American section of Louisville, and spoke about racial justice at the National Urban League’s conference. You’re saying don’t be fooled. Why?
Georgia Davis Powers: I have been involved in politics for the past 50 years. I go by a person’s record. And his voting record does not show me that he is sincere. And I believe that he’s reaching out into the African-American community trying to bring more votes for himself and his party, but understand that our trust has to be earned. And he has not proven to me that he has earned the trust of the African-American community. I look at his record and he has been opposed to so many things that I have fought for, for years, having served in the Kentucky Senate for 21 years. I know your record is your legacy.
SR: What is that record that people need to know about?
GDP: Some of his actions. He opposes the minimum wage, which I support. He wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, take healthcare away from 421,000 Kentuckians. He wants to abolish the U.S. Department of Education. And he opposes the Paycheck Fairness Act, which ensures that men and women are paid equally for equal work. I have been fighting for that for many many years. He voted against the Violence Against Women Act. And he opposes lowering interest rates on student loan borrowers, which I support. His record to me belies trusting him now.
SR: Behind one’s voting record are one’s beliefs. What does Rand Paul believe?
GDP: I would say that he is the great pretender. His belief system to me is a farce. I do not believe that he is sincere. I believe that he has a motive for delving into the black community, to convince black Americans that he is sincere. He must earn our trust. We don’t give it freely.
SR: You’ve said Rand Paul supports the rights of businesses to discriminate. Why is this so disturbing?
GDP: I think if you are in government, in business, you are opening up your business to all people. When he believes that private businesses should have the right to discriminate to who comes in their business, that’s in opposition to what I think. He thinks it would be right for a restaurant to discriminate against Dr. Martin Luther King.
SR: There’s a new line in the Republican Party. We hear it from Rand Paul. We hear it from the Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, that race doesn’t matter anymore, that as a nation, we are beyond having to pay attention to race.
GDP: That’s not what I think. I think that race does matter. It seems like the conservatives have taken over and race matters in many of the issues that come about. They make it matter. The Supreme Court has made it matter.
SR: What does it make you think when hear a politician saying that now?
GDP: I have lived in the black community and I have never moved out from the black community. I know opportunities are not as great in the black community as they could be and should be. Educational opportunities are not as great as they should be. Our children are not given the advantages that other children of other races are given. I know about Kentucky, and I’m sure other states are not too different. Our children do not have the opportunities that other races have. And once given the opportunity, we can be as bright and great as anybody else. So there is a difference. I see the difference every day.
It seems like to me there’s certain areas that are trying to take the African American back 50 years ago. We’re not going back. We’re not going to let it happen. So we have to expose those who are pretending to be our friend; at the same time, they are trying to diminish our influence, diminish our employment, our educational opportunity. I just can’t trust it.
SR: Rand Paul is a leading 2016 presidential candidate. What would you remind people to take a hard look at when they see his name in the polls?
GDP: I am urging people to vote against him—that’s what I would be doing. And you know there also is an opinion [commentary] by the mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, have you seen that opinion, Blacks Shouldn’t Be Fooled By Rand Paul? She’s also the Secretary of the Democratic National Committee. So she feels the same way that I do. I read her opinion in the last couple of days.
It’s not just me. There are many people in positions who speak out. They know, or they feel like they know, Rand Raul’s views, and his actions. It doesn’t matter what he runs for, senate or president or whatever, he cannot win my trust. I go by what he’s done in the past.
SR: You wrote some of the people he has surrounded himself with are white supremacists. There’s really not a nice way to say that.
GDP: They are. There is no other way to say it. As a matter of fact, the day after my article was in the Courrier-Journal, the very next day his article, opposing my article, was there. He didn’t refute anything that was in my opinion piece. I don’t think he even wrote it. I understand somebody else did. But it did not deny anything I said. That tells you a lot right there.
SR: You’re correct. He did not deny anything. He says ‘I’m a good guy now.”
GDP: Yeah… a leopard does not change its spots.
© 2014, agentleman.
Will Dems Ever Stop Being Craven Tools of Wall Street?
The Dems need to experience more of the surprise rebellions that took down some old bulls in the GOP.
To put it crudely, the dilemma facing the Democratic party comes down to this: Will Dems decide next time to stand with the working people, or will they stick with their big-money friends in finance and business? Some twenty years ago, Bill Clinton taught Democrats how they can have it both ways. Take Wall Street’s money—gobs of it—while promising to govern on a heart-felt agenda of “Putting People First.”
It worked, sort of, for the party. Not so much for the people. New Democrats prevailed. Old labor-liberals lost their seat at the table. Among left-wing malcontents, Bill Clinton became “slick Willie.”
Now economic adversities have blown away the Clinton legacy, which is rightly blamed for much of what happened to middle-class wage earners. New voices like senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherod Brown are demanding a new new politics—big governing reforms that really do put people first. The old New Dems are stuck with their moderation and obsolete economic doctrine that is utterly irrelevant amid the nation’s depressed circumstances.
Sooner or later I expect politics will change, because the injuries and adversities will not go away in the absence of stronger government interventions. For now, however, the Clintonites are the Democratic Party, having deliberately excluded liberal thinkers and activists from the ranks of government policymakers for two decades. Economic experts recruited by the Obama administration are more likely to have been trained at Goldman Sachs or Citigroup. They do not personally share the public’s anger.
So here is the unspoken subtext for 2016 and beyond: What does the Democratic Party actually believe? Democrats argue among themselves, but try not to provoke fratricidal accusations. The question is sufficiently hot that it is no longer a subterranean discussion. The Washington Post and The New York Timesare chewing on it too.
A recent Post article warned Democrats to lay off the “inequality” talk for fear of sounding like “class warfare.” Well, yes, it is. As billionaire Warren Buffett remarked, the class warfare has been underway for some years . “Our side won,” he said.
The president has made several fine speeches on the issue, but the Post says the White House has already decided to drop it. Talk specifics, but keep it cool. Robert Borosage, director of the Campaign for America’s Future, suggests this is a recipe for “passive voice populism.”
The New York Times produced a tougher piece on the Dems’ intramural debate. It described in disturbing detail how closely Hillary has relied on the financial constituency. “As Wall St. Faces Scorn, It Warms to Clinton,” the headline said. She was, after all, a senator from New York. And when she ran for president and lost in 2008, organized labor was enthusiastically on her side.
Still, Hillary Clinton is dangerously out of step with the new zeitgeist. If she already has the 2016 nomination locked up, as her campaign gremlins keep telling us, it’s hard to imagine she would desert the finance-friendly politics that supported her rise to power.
The Hillary question has many corners to it. On one hand, it could achieve the epic breakthrough of electing a woman. On the other hand, it might postpone the restoration of progressive economic polices for another four years.
For that reason and some others, Clinton could run and lose the election. Still, many Dems see her as as the best prepared candidate and the best compromise among contending party factions. Dems do realize the need to hold onto the White House and Supreme Court appointments in order to derail the Roberts Court’s attack-happy right-wingers. Or, who knows, maybe she will decide not to run.
In other words, this dilemma will not be resolved by one election, or maybe several elections, because it is larger than individual candidates and their personal qualities. Nor is it limited to Democrats (witness the nervous breakdown of the Republican Party). We are really looking at the capture of representative democracy deformed by the deadly embrace of capitalism.
Only the people themselves can dig themselves out of this trap. My personal hunch is that Democratic office holders will not find the courage to embrace the future and the reform vision that some of their colleagues are advocating until their party feels threatened by its own constituencies. That is, the Dems need to experience more of the surprise rebellions that took down some old bulls in the GOP. If the people cannot get either major party to lead the way, maybe they will need to create a new party that will.
© 2014, agentleman.
The Worrying Vacuity Of Hillary Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton
I’ve tried to avoid the Clinton book tour bullshit this past month or so. Not good for my blood pressure. When I checked in occasionally, it was to discover that nothing much has changed. The Clintons are still self-pitying money-grubbers – $12 million in speaking fees since she left the State Department? – and now their offspring, exploiting her nepotistic advantage with all the scrupulous ethics of her parents, is continuing the grift. If you ask of Clinton what she’s fighting for, what she believes in, if you want to get her to disagree with you on something, good luck. Any actual politics right now would tarnish the inevitability of a resume-led coronation. That the resume has little of any substance in her four years as secretary of state does not concern her. She was making “hard choices”, and if we cannot appreciate that, tant pis.
I’d like to find a reason to believe she’s a political force who stands for something in an era when there is a real appetite for serious change. She could, after all, decide to campaign vociferously in favor of the ACA this summer and fall (universal healthcare is, after all, one of her positions), but that might siphon money away from her foundation and candidacy. She could get out there and start framing a foreign policy vision. But, again, too risky. I see nothing that suggests a real passion for getting on with the fight – just the usual presumptions of a super-elite, super-rich and super-cocooned politician of the gilded age.
So I did watch the Daily Show interview last week, and was not surprised. As in most of her softball media appearances, she was both unctuous and vapid. But even I was aghast at the sheer emptiness and datedness of her one attempt to articulate a future for American foreign policy. She actually said that our main problem is that we haven’t been celebrating America enough, that we “have not been telling our story very well” and that if we just “get back to telling” that story about how America stands for freedom and opportunity, we can rebuild our diminished international stature. One obvious retort: wasn’t she, as secretary of state, you know, responsible for telling that tale – so isn’t she actually criticizing herself?
Next up: could she say something more vacuous and anodyne? Or something more out of tune with a post-Iraq, post-torture, post- Afghanistan world? Peter Beinart had the same reaction: “As a vision for America’s relations with the world,” he wrote, “this isn’t just unconvincing. It’s downright disturbing”:
It’s true that young people overseas don’t remember the Cold War. But even if they did, they still wouldn’t be inspired by America’s “great story about [promoting] human freedom, human rights, human opportunity.” That’s because in the developing world—where most of humanity lives—barely anyone believes that American foreign policy during the Cold War actually promoted those things. What they mostly remember is that in anticommunism’s name, from Pakistan to Guatemala to Iran to Congo, America funded dictators and fueled civil wars.
Larison piles on:
Changing the substance of policies is never seriously considered, because there is little or no recognition that these policies need correction or reversal. This takes for granted that opposition to U.S. policies is mostly the product of misunderstanding or miscommunication rather than an expression of genuinely divergent interests and grievances. I don’t know that Clinton is naive or oblivious enough to believe this (I doubt it), but it’s instructive that she thinks this is a good argument to make publicly. She is more or less saying that there is nothing wrong with U.S. foreign policy that can’t be fixed by better marketing and salesmanship, and that’s just profoundly wrong. It’s also what we should expect from someone as conventionally hawkish and “centrist” on foreign policy as Clinton is.
My fear is that she doesn’t actually mean any of this. She just needed to say something, and so came out with a stream of consciousness that is completely platitudinous and immune to Fox News attacks. It’s a defensive crouch that is always her first instinct. Think of the Terry Gross interview – and her discomfort in grappling with actual disagreement, from her own base that time. Her goal is always safety. And safety won’t cut it in a populist age.
So if she runs, my guess is she’ll wrap herself tightly in the maximalist concept of American exceptionalism and make this her appeal as a post-Obama presidency. See? she’ll say to the same voting groups she went for last time. I’m a real American, and I believe in America. And yay America!
Maybe this is merely a function that she isn’t running yet (and still may not). Why stir the pot if your goal at this point is merely selling books and raking in more corporate, Goldman Sacks dough? But when, I wonder, has she been otherwise? She remains scarred by the 1990s, understandably so. But the country has moved on in a way she seems to find hard to comprehend.
© 2014, agentleman.
Why People Are Organizing to End U.S. Empire
The U.S. empire economy no longer serves us — as it fades, we must choose our path forward. By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
World history is filled with empires, e.g. the Roman and Byzantine empires, the European colonial empires, various ancient Iranian empires, the Arab Caliphate and Ottoman Empire, the Soviet Union to name a few. These historic empires have one thing in common: they no longer exist. As the lifecycle of empire wanes, rather than being a benefit to the home country, sustaining empire becomes more expensive than it is worth.
While the US economy and military remain the largest in the world, the economy is faltering and losing its vitality. Chalmers Johnson, a CIA analyst who became a critic of the agency and author of a series on US Empire, writes:
“Thirty-five years from now, America’s official century of being top dog (1945-2045) will have come to an end; its time may, in fact, be running out right now. We are likely to begin to look ever more like a giant version of England at the end of its imperial run, as we come face-to-face with, if not necessarily to terms with, our aging infrastructure, declining international clout, and sagging economy.”
The US began as a colony of European empires, especially of England, and then evolved into its own North American Empire. Thomas Jefferson called the United States an “empire of Liberty” when he purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803. As “Manifest Destiny” took root, the US stole land of Indigenous peoples, appropriated Texas and Oregon and then went onto California. The Mexican War and Texas cessation took 55% of Mexico’s pre-1836 territory including lands in present day California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming as well as Texas through its cession from Mexico.
The modern US Empire has its roots in the Spanish-American War when the US occupied Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines and in the two World Wars. Since World War II, the United States has been a growing global imperial power at war—somewhere—every year. Seymour Melman wrote in March of 2003: “Now, at the start of the twenty-first century, every major aspect of American life is being shaped by our Permanent War Economy.” This has been a prime cause of the hollowing out of the domestic economy.
Rather than fixing the infrastructure, which the American Society of Civil Engineers ranks in its annual report card as a D+, the federal government’s “financing is lavished without stint to promote every kind of war industry, and foreign investing by U.S. firms.” As Seymour points out “there is no public ‘space’ for dialogue on how to improve the quality of our lives. Such topics are subordinate to ‘how to make war.’”
Economy and Empire
An empire must keep its client states happy as well as its transnational corporations profitable. This has resulted in a foreign policy designed for corporate interests and foreign oligarchs. The Wikileaks documents show US secrecy often hides crimes, abuses and unethical behavior linked to corporate interests; it also hides actions of a government that operates not for the public interest but for the profits of transnational corporations; and that is why secrecy is often unnecessary. We see this most glaringly in the rigged trade agreements being negotiated in secret except for hundreds of corporate advisers who work with the US Trade Representative in writing the agreements.
The flood of migrants coming from Central America is blowback from US foreign policy in the region. Just as NAFTA undermined the Mexican economy, Central American trade agreements have done the same for that region. Further, US support for brutal governments who impoverish their people and support for coups against governments that try to create greater equity have made these nations very difficult to live in. Even US drug policy adds to the misery in these countries. People desperate to survive come North in the hopes of finding a better life. While some cities, most recently Vancouver, seek to become sanctuary cities that protect immigrants, the Obama administration takes the approach of criminalization and deportation.
Not only does Empire foreign policy undermine the federal budget, with 55% of discretionary spending going to the military, but it also undermines the US economy as jobs are shipped overseas and corporations hide trillions of dollars in assets overseas to avoid paying taxes (See, for example, this article, Boycott Walgreens: The Tax-Dodger On The Corner). Empire economics does not serve the workers in the US or abroad and does not serve the security of people as safety nets are shredded due to austerity.
The cost of war has escalated. Just one weapons system, the F-35, a fighter jet that has been grounded because it does not work, has cost $49 billion per year since the program begin in 2006. Hayes Brown of Think Progress made a list of what that money could have been spent on instead. It could have bought a mansion for every homeless person or fed every school child in the US, funded every humanitarian crisis or provided global security through the UN or provided funding to rebuild America.
The economic impact of Empire policy is going to take a new turn as nations become allies outside of US influence. This week was the beginning of an alternative to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) officially launched the BRICS Development Bank. This comes at the same time that 78 nations have called for a new era where there is respect for the sovereignty of nations and policies that seek economic, environmental and social justice. Many nations of the world are fighting back against US hegemony.
Empire Economy Causing Unrest
Not only are governments challenging US dominance, but people are fighting back as well. A wave of revolts, not only in the US but around the world, against big finance capitalism that allows transnational corporations to dominate the world economy has the power structure, including bankers, on heightened alert. The US military has been spending tens of millions since 2008 in the Minerva Project studying how protest movements develop and go viral. This week we learned the military was studying how to control emotions by manipulating social media. We also learned that spy agencies also have tools to manipulate social media in order to control people.
And, we see their fear in the harsh way they handle protests against Empire policies. Last week in Syracuse, a nonviolent protester against drones and grandmother of three, Mary Anne Grady Flores, was sentenced to one year in jail. You can see video of her moving sentencing speech here. After her sentencing, another drone protester was convicted and is also facing a year in jail. Flores was released on bail pending appeal, but 7 subsequent drone protesters were hit with heavy bail after they were arrested.
The Empire advocates should be afraid. Earlier this year a war was stopped when people united to oppose the attack on Syria. Currently, the Israelis cannot hide their war crimes, even if the media does not report them. We are developing our own media tools that can stop and expose the realities of wars.
The former Assistant Secretary of Treasury Paul Craig Roberts reviews the realities of the failing US economy, piercing the veil of false media reporting on a non-existent “recovery” and tying it to the Empire economy, asking:
“In view of this reality, why is Washington pushing its puppet in Kiev toward war with Russia? Why is Washington pushing NATO to spend more money and build more bases on which to deploy more troops in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, especially when Washington’s contribution will be the largest part of the cost? Why is Washington re-entering the Middle East conflict that Washington began by inciting Sunni and Shia against one another? Why is Washington constructing new naval and air bases from the Philippines to Vietnam in order to encircle China?
“If Washington is this unaware of its budget constraints and its financial predicament, it cannot be long before Americans experience economic catastrophe.”
The Arc of US Empire Shows Decline
The last 100 years of Empire and imperialism brought the US great wealth, creating the largest economy in the world which the IMF values as $17 trillion or one-quarter of the global economy. Today, the US economy is struggling with high unemployment, record numbers of Americans dropping out of the job market, large trade deficits and declines in many measures of standard of living. At the same time, other countries, most notably China, India, Brazil and Russia, are beginning to challenge the US.
As noted earlier, these countries along with South Africa joined together to create the BRICS development bank to challenge the World Bank and IMF, which are dominated by the US and its western allies. This may be the most important challenge to US economic dominance since 1945 especially when combined with bilateral agreements between countries that omit the US dollar, weakening its position as the reserve currency of the world.
Alfred W. McCoy, author of Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State, convened a global working group of 140 historians to consider the fate of the US as an imperial power. He predicts four scenarios for the future of the United States, all leading to the end of Empire.
First on the list is economic decline. He writes that “three main threats exist to America’s dominant position in the global economy: loss of economic clout thanks to a shrinking share of world trade, the decline of American technological innovation, and the end of the dollar’s privileged status as the global reserve currency.” The scenario ends with:
“After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2020, as long expected, the U.S. dollar finally loses its special status as the world’s reserve currency. Suddenly, the cost of imports soars. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget. Under pressure at home and abroad, Washington slowly pulls U.S. forces back from hundreds of overseas bases to a continental perimeter. By now, however, it is far too late.”
The second is fear of oil shock by the leadership which explains the US’ current extreme energy extraction boom even though it threatens the environment and public health. McCoy writes that the waning economic power of the United States has caused it to lose control of the world’s oil supplies. In 2010, he pointed out that while the US was still a gas guzzler, “China became the world’s number one energy consumer this summer, a position the U.S. had held for over a century.”
Further he emphasized the rising power of Iran and Russia, two countries the US is belligerent with, saying that by 2025 they will “control almost half of the world’s natural gas supply, which will potentially give them enormous leverage over energy-starved Europe. Add petroleum reserves to the mix and, as the National Intelligence Council has warned, in just 15 years two countries, Russia and Iran, could ‘emerge as energy kingpins.’” Competing with them through extreme energy extraction, under the “all of the above” energy strategy, will come at tremendous cost to the ecology of the US and the planet.
The third scenario is what our last article on Empire examined: Military Misadventure. McCoy writes: “Counterintuitively, as their power wanes, empires often plunge into ill-advised military misadventures. … These operations, irrational even from an imperial point of view, often yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the loss of power.” He points to the invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, with war threatened in Pakistan.
McCoy describes how with the US military “stretched thin from Somalia to the Philippines and tensions rising in Israel, Iran, and Korea, possible combinations for a disastrous military crisis abroad are multifold.” Since writing this, the US military is stretched even thinner with more military crisis areas, e.g. Libya, Syria, the Ukraine and Russia unfolding. Each could grow into a wider conflict.
The final scenario is World War III in the Asian Pacific which he described as having previously been “America’s Lake,” but which is now challenged by China. The US fears China as, he notes, “the Pentagon reported that Beijing now holds ‘the capability to attack… [U.S.] aircraft carriers in the western Pacific Ocean’ and target ‘nuclear forces throughout… the continental United States.’”
The Wikileaks cables that were produced after McCoy’s article further describe the fears of the US as a declining world power in the face of China. A March 24, 2009 State Department cable describes a meeting between Secretary of State Clinton and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd held in Washington, DC. During the meeting Clinton complained about how difficult it was to take action against China asking “How do you deal toughly with your banker?” Rudd says Australia was playing close attention to China and building up its Navy in response. He urged the US and its allies to pull China into US-dominated structure of state relations, “while also preparing to deploy force if everything goes wrong.”
No doubt this conversation was one of many that led to Obama’s Asian Pivot and the increased focus on negotiating the China-less Trans-Pacific Partnership thus encircling China militarily and economically. McCoy, writing prior to these policy changes, predicts vast resources being spent on the full “spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battlespace.” He describes this including not just traditional military weapons but “a new digital network of air and space robotics, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and electronic surveillance.” All of this preparation for conflict with China comes at the expense of the faltering domestic economy and indebted federal budget.
These scenarios describe the decline of US Empire and each has the potential for tremendous negative effects on the domestic economy as the decline occurs. McCoy finds that “every significant trend points toward a far more striking decline in American global power by 2025 than anything Washington now seems to be envisioning.”
How quickly do empires unravel? McCoy writes a warning:
“Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.” (Note: the year of the invasion and occupation of Iraq.)
Creating a Different Future
Of course, it does not have to be this way. The people of the United States can educate themselves about these realities and mobilize to force the government to take a very different course. Chalmers Johnson presents a different vision:
“If, however, we were to dismantle our empire of military bases and redirect our economy toward productive, instead of destructive, industries; if we maintained our volunteer armed forces primarily to defend our own shores (and perhaps to be used at the behest of the United Nations); if we began to invest in our infrastructure, education, health care, and savings, then we might have a chance to reinvent ourselves as a productive, normal nation.”
Melman argues that to achieve this “We must come to grips with America’s State Capitalism and its Permanent War Economy. Failing that, there is no hope for any constructive exit.” Johnson does not see this scenario as likely, but it is up to us to make it likely, to recreate the world as we want it to be. The crisis of American Empire is an opportunity for a new course of action that can save us, and the world.
There has been more than 100 years of people seeking to end war as a means of solving conflicts between nations and peoples. A new campaign, World Beyond War, is seeking to organize a global movement to end war. They are raising money for a billboard campaign that will build on the opposition to war, teach that ‘war cannot end war’ and let people know there is a movement for them to join.
While ending war and US Empire would be monumental changes, they seem reasonable when we look at the predicament of the United States: the economy is failing, the world is looking for alternatives to the US dollar, the US military has not won a major war since World War II and is stretched thin around the globe, the cost of military equipment has skyrocketed, the traditional energy supply is uncertain and risky, the people and nations around the world are revolting and public opinion in the US opposes war and militarism.
On a positive note, as we write this the US House of Representatives just voted in a bipartisan landslide 370 to 40, to require the President to come to Congress to get authorization to renew the war in Iraq. Last year a war in Syria was stopped when it became clear Congress would not support it – after citizen pressure. We have more power than we realize.
Now is the time to build our power and use it. Let’s organize to end Empire and militarism and create an alternative democratized economy that puts the needs of people and the planet first.
© 2014, agentleman.
Repeal Prohibition, Again
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.
There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.
We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these. But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.
The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.
There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the “Reefer Madness” images of murder, rape and suicide.
There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.
Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime.
In coming days, we will publish articles by members of the Editorial Board and supplementary material that will examine these questions. We invite readers to offer their ideas, and we will report back on their responses, pro and con.
We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.
© 2014, agentleman.
The Politics of Parenting: How Our Society Criminalizes Poor Mothers of Color
By Sonali Kolhatkar
I spoke recently with Michele Goodwin, founder of the Institute for Global Child Advocacy and the president of the U.S. chapter of Defense for Children International. She is also a professor at UC Irvine School of Law. In an interview on Uprising, she told me, “The wealthier you are, and being white in the United States and abroad, provides certain kinds of luxuries, and those luxuries we see rolling out every year in some new how-to book in terms of parenting.” Still, Goodwin agreed with the principle that Skenazy promotes about how “children have been overly structured in the United States. Everything is programmed for them and what this leads to is children not being able to necessarily make healthy decisions … and [being] less equipped to be able to be independent and on their own than they would have been a generation ago.
“On the other hand,” Goodwin said, “there are some very harsh penalties that a poor child who is living in a home with a mother of color might be subjected to. There are [also] two very different realities for wealthy women who parent versus those who are poor.”
Today, alongside the stagnation of wages, subsidies to child care costs have also been precipitously falling. As this report by the National Women’s Law Center found, “total federal funding for child care assistance has declined since 2001.” (Imagine Congress or the White House choosing to underfund the military or reducing subsidies to the oil industry!) Many states have also made it harder for poor families to be eligible to receive child care assistance, and of those who are eligible, a significant number face waiting lists.
Goodwin reflected, “Let’s remember that part of the rhetoric on good motherhood and bad motherhood has also had a value judgment laid on it, that says that a mother is only accountable, responsible and respectful when she is working.” Yet Harrell, who was a full-time working mother, could not afford summertime child care on her $8-an-hour McDonald’s salary. “What are working parents to do?” Goodwin asked.
It is not just poor and working-class parents who face the conundrum of unaffordable child care. As a middle-class parent in a two-income household, the $1,200 a month that my husband and I shell out for a modest day care for our 1-year-old barely allows us to make ends meet financially. Certainly I want my son’s caregiver to be well paid, so the only option that remains is government subsidy, which is nonexistent for our income level. Goodwin cited an example in which her colleagues, a law professor married to a doctor, realized they could not afford to have children because child care was too expensive. She told me, “If law professors married to physicians cannot afford child care, then what are we saying to poor women? They are virtually left with no option, and we claim that it is socialist or communist to somehow think about how to take care of our kids.”
Wealthy families do not have to worry about being able to afford child care or being criminalized for leaving their children unattended because they can afford constant professional supervision. Goodwin pointed out that, ironically, “Women of color continue to be used as a primary or certainly significant caregivers for very wealthy white families around the world.”
Although the cases of Harrell, Taylor and Edwards have all generated widespread outrage and even crowdfunding campaigns to pay for their legal costs, not enough is being said or done to address the real gender, race and class disparities in today’s criminalization of mothers.
“All of this is barbaric and we need to rethink this entire system of what it is we are doing to these women,” Goodwin said. The only way in which the barbarism of our current system can be changed is if we fix the structural and societal shortcomings with respect to gender, race and class in our views on parenting. To do that, we must not only raise the minimum wage and increase child care subsidies for poor, working- and middle-class families, but we must also address racial disparities in our criminal justice system.
When 46-year-old Debra Harrell was arrested July 1 for leaving her daughter unattended at a public park, she joined the ever-increasing ranks of poor mothers of color who are criminalized. Harrell, who is African-American, and whose full-time job at a South Carolina McDonald’s meant that she couldn’t watch her own child, or have enough money to afford child care, was jailed and separated from her 9-year-old child for some time.
Harrell has since been released from jail and reunited with her daughter. Harrell’s lawyer says his client was fired without specified reasons from McDonald’s last week; the company says it did not fire her. Nonetheless, Harrell’s case represents the increasingly barbaric terrain that lies at the intersections of gender-, race- and class-based prejudice.
Earlier this year, a 35-year-old African-American mother in Arizona named Shanisha Taylor was arrested for leaving her two young children in a car unattended with the windows cracked open while she went for a job interview. A homeless mother who had no child care options, she decided, perhaps unwisely, that getting a job to financially support her child was worth the small risk. She is now being charged with two counts of child abuse, is separated from her children and has likely lost any chance at employment or housing.
A third example is 22-year-old Thelma Louise Edwards, also an African-American mother who was recently incarcerated for leaving her 4-year-old in a car while she worked at a New York TGI Fridays. As this columnist explained, Edwards’ brother, who normally watched the 4-year-old boy, dropped him off unexpectedly one day outside her workplace and when she went to the car, the child was asleep. Edwards, who like most working poor parents, has two jobs and did not want to risk losing one of them. So when her manager asked her to work late, she felt obliged and left her son sleeping for a bit on his own. She now faces the prospect of never seeing her son again.
As a society we actively suppress wages, cut child care subsidies, insist that poor parents work, require that they comply with a complex legal maze of caring for their children by any means possible, and then imprison them and separate them from their children when they cannot make the impossible possible. And it is women more often than men, poor people more often than rich, and black and brown parents more often than white ones who are held to these harsh standards.
Take the case of a white woman named Kim Brooks, who explained in a Salon article how she, in a rush, left her son in a car on a cool day while she stepped into a store for just minutes. A passer-by surreptitiously took a video and turned her in. With the ability to hire a lawyer, Brooks was able to defend herself against charges and walked away with a requirement to do community service and take parenting classes. Even though her experience was harrowing, she did not face jail time or the prospect of her child being taken away from her. Her class, and likely her race, privilege protected her from the same fates as Harrell, Taylor and Edwards.
Another white mother, Lenore Skenazy, a blogger and author of the book “Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children (Without Going Nuts with Worry),” attracted plenty of criticism some years ago, including the epithet of “World’s Worst Mom,” for her decision to let her 9-year-old son ride the New York subway on his own. Skenazy has certainly not faced criminal charges or the potential separation from her child. She asserts that today’s society is obsessed with the constant dangers we imagine children face and that we need to allow kids much more independence for their sakes and ours. The problem with this idea is that when poor mothers or mothers of color consciously or unconsciously adopt the idea of “free-range kids,” they are more likely to be viewed as unfit, neglectful mothers and face the very real likelihood of being separated from their children.
© 2014, agentleman.