Monday, November 29, 2010

News Item: More Fraggin' in Afghanistan Goin' On

Afghan police officer kills 6 NATO service members.

ABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan border police officer opened fire on NATO troops during a training mission in the east of the country Monday, killing six NATO service members before he was shot dead, NATO and Afghan officials said.

The shooting — the highest toll for NATO forces since nine Americans died in a Sept. 21 helicopter crash — was the latest in a series of shootouts in which Afghan security forces have turned on their NATO partners.

NATO declined to identify the nationalities of the victims. The majority of forces in Nangarhar are American.

NATO is investigating an incident in which two U.S. Marines were killed earlier this month in southern Helmand province, allegedly at the hands of an Afghan army soldier.
Six NATO Soldiers Killed by Man in Afghan Border Police Uniform the headline reads. Have you noticed how American soldiers killed in Afghanistan are now being described as 'NATO Soldiers'? Softens the blow, doesn't it? That's how propaganda works.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stop the War Coalition

Thousands of protesters took to the streets to march against the war in Afghanistan today as Nato leaders discussed bringing an end to the nine-year conflict.

Demonstrators were led by military families as they carried anti-war placards and banners against cuts to government spending.

As the march moved from Hyde Park, central London, protesters chanted: 'When they say warfare, we say welfare'. The coalition government has stated that Britain's combat role in Afghanistan will end by 2015.

Guardsman Christopher Davies, who was killed on Wednesday in Helmand, was the 100th British member of the armed forces to die this year after being deployed to Afghanistan.

Many of the protesters said the Government's commitment to end Britain's combat role over the next four years was not soon enough.

Clara Torres, 62, said: 'That's far too long for them to be there. They shouldn't be there in the first place.

Ms Torres, a retired nurse from Richmond, Surrey, who marched with her daughter and baby granddaughter, said: 'We don't own them, Afghanistan is nothing to do with us.

'We should leave now.'

Protestors take part in the Afghanistan: Time to Go demonstration, organised by Stop the War

The demonstration came to a halt in front of the fashionable Cookbook Cafe, on Park Lane.

Diners inside the expensive restaurant looked unsettled as they continued with their lunch.

At Trafalgar Square the rally was addressed by a series of speakers.

Seamus Milne, a commentator for the Guardian, said: 'In Lisbon today the Nato leaders will try to make it appear that they are bringing an end to this war, a war that is now in its 10th year

'This talk of an exit strategy is clearly a sham.'

He continued: 'They're stating that their aim is to withdraw combat troops by 2015.

John Hilary, the executive director of War on Want said: 'We have a message for David Cameron and his Liberal Democrat allies.

'Do not dare to tell us that there is no money for public services and public sector workers.

'We want the £11bn that is being spent on the war in Afghanistan to go on things we need in this country.

'Bring home the troops and bring justice to the people of Afghanistan.'

Saturday, November 20, 2010

'Bipartisanship' Is a Filthy Word which Will Bleed Us Dry

and Obama is a counterfeit Progressive.

I don't care how often the article I post below may have been reposted. I clipped it days before, as soon as I saw it because it perfectly expresses what wakes me up at 2:35 A.M. every morning until I can find my Crane radio (product placement!) and tune it in to real news on the BBC.

Joseph A. Palermo is Associate Professor, American History, California State University, Sacramento. His realm of expertise includes political history, presidential politics, presidential war powers, social movements of the 20th century, social movements of the 1960s, civil rights, and the history of American foreign policy.

I have shortened his original article, D-Day in the Class War, just a tad, adding a little emphasis of my own.

After a decade of stagnant or declining real wages, "bipartisan" schemes are proliferating to shift the burden of Washington policymakers' own catastrophic mismanagement of the nation's fiscal policies right onto the shoulders of working people. The press commentary has been abysmal. All "serious" thinkers out there on television or in print are in full agreement that "entitlements" must take a big hit, along with education and health care.

President Obama's "
bipartisan" deficit commission, co-chaired by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, (sometimes referred to as the "Cat Food Commission" because of the likely dietary changes some senior citizens will have to make if its prescriptions are implemented), wants to cut taxes for the wealthy and corporations. Another high-profile group, headed by Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin, (which might be called the "Kibble Commission"), wants to strip $650 billion out of the Social Security trust fund with a payroll tax holiday (to be paid back later!) that they believe will create economic growth. So the Cat Food Commission views Social Security in crisis and bordering on insolvency, while the Kibble Commission believes that Social Security can absorb a $650 billion hit. And these are the best and the brightest.

Both "
bipartisan" bodies claim that "tough decisions" must be made. Yet their policies are only really tough if you happen to belong to America's struggling working middle class. They want to inflict the "pain" on the government programs that have traditionally given working people a slight leg up. In these "bipartisan" schemes the financial services crooks who wrecked the economy come away smelling like roses.

Are we forgetting that it was working- and middle-class taxpayers who bailed out Wall Street's biggest investment banks in what could be the greatest gesture of working-class benevolence toward the super-rich in American history? Working-class taxpayers also paid for the unemployment insurance and infrastructure projects that were needed following the pillaging of America's housing sector. Working-class taxpayers continue to foot the bill for the bloated military budget and two wars. (They've also sent their sons and daughters off to fight.) And about eight million of them who had jobs in 2005 didn't have them anymore by the middle of 2009.

And how are working taxpayers repaid for the assistance they've given to their fellow citizens of the investing class? They get "commissions" and "foundations" and elite "study groups" that are orchestrating the next giant rip-off of America's middle class.

Few in the press seem to want to educate the public about how we got into this fiscal crisis in the first place or why projected budget surpluses at the beginning of the Bush years were so needlessly squandered. And remember:

  • Those surpluses were turned into deficits through "bipartisan" agreements, such as the Bush tax cuts, the wars, and the bailouts.
  • There's also precious little mention of the grotesque inequality in American society these days, which is worse than even during the Gilded Age.
  • The establishment press seems determined to avoid the obvious conclusion: The rich, the super-rich, and the super-duper rich (as well as the conglomerates) must pay more in taxes to get the United States through the crisis.
  • Ending the two debilitating wars and rolling back what Eisenhower called the "military-industrial complex" should be next.
  • And the billions of dollars wasted in corporate welfare each year must be diverted to human needs.

These steps should be the top priorities before any "deficit-reduction plan" is seriously considered -- "
bipartisan" or otherwise. At this moment in American history, after large swathes of the middle class have been wiped out, the last thing we need is another elite-driven assault on the living standards of working people.

Even though it was Wall Street that fostered the conditions that produced our current economic state, we're told from pundits across the political spectrum that we mustn't tax the rich because it will stymie job-creating investments. But I'm sure Lloyd Blankfein, Hank Paulson, Angelo Mozilo, and their ilk can afford to kick in a little more in taxes to save the country they claim (when under oath at least) to love so much.

In the 2010 midterm elections, the super-rich and their business associations threw around hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign cash like it was so much chump change. And they're gearing up to set new spending records in 2012. They appear to be very civic-minded plutocrats. Yet where is their "pain" and "sacrifice" when it comes to reducing the federal deficit? What "tough decisions" that affect their bottom lines are they being asked to make? And what happened to the quaint notion that those who have so greatly benefited from the opportunities American society has bestowed upon them having a special obligation to pay a little more when their country is in crisis? We're all in this together, right?

President Obama and the Tea Party Congress will most likely end up culling the absolute worst elements from the deficit reduction plans put forth so far, tie them together into a "package," slap a "
bipartisan" label on it (which inside the Beltway is close to godliness), and then ram it down our throats by triangulating against what remains of the progressives in Congress.

Politicians, pundits, commentators, and citizens must choose a side now. You're either on the oligarchy's side or on the people's side. It's D-Day in the class war.

We've been told lately, again from "
bipartisan" sources, that American soldiers will be fighting and dying in Afghanistan well past Obama's July 2011 "deadline," and the war will continue until at least the end of 2014, (at which time they'll just move the bar to 2018 or 2020 or 2030). Newly-minted "deficit hawks" should ask the question: Is it worth it to drop another $350 billion into Afghanistan? Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute, and others like him, think so, but they aren't making an argument for staying in Afghanistan -- they're manufacturing consent. Now the Peter Petersons and the rest of them are manufacturing consent on the deficit too.

The Republicans have already successfully painted the Democratic president as being outside the mainstream. They've vilified his every move and have suggested that there's a huge conspiracy behind his agenda aimed at extinguishing everything that is great and wholesome about America. With control of the House of Representatives they'll go on fishing expeditions to dredge up anything that can be construed as "corrupt." They'll dirty him up while they block any progress that might improve the lives of ordinary Americans. The people will continue to be perpetually angry and disappointed.

It's not surprising that in 2010 Democratic base voters couldn't match the Republicans vote for vote. We're told that the progressives must organize and mobilize to fight back in the coming years against the right-wing onslaught, which is true. Workers in France and Greece and college students in London are engaging in the kind of protests against austerity that should be happening here.

I guess we're going to find out if a career legislator (in the Illinois State House and the U.S. Senate) can make the adjustment from being one voice among many to take command as president. On the campaign trail it seemed self-evident that Obama would make an extremely effective chief executive. But two years later, it appears he has the temperament of a legislator. He was a great campaigner, but in power he has been a very weak leader ...accepted far too many a priori limits on moving his legislative agenda forward ....It's time for President Obama to tap into his inner community organizer.
Personally, I think the professor is just trying to end his otherwise excellent and objective essay by spinning us an up-note note. I think we've see Obama's inner community organizer. It's too late to tap into it. And there's not much there, there. Now is the time to search for a new horse to switch to, if even in mid-stream; because in two more years of this bipartisanship, our current mount will be hopelessly down stream.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Obama Betrayed Himself

And the rest of us, too!

Marshall Ganz helped devise the grass-roots organizing model for the Obama campaign. His most recent book is "Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement." He is a lecturer in public policy at Harvard University.

Ganz Tells Us How Obama Lost His Voice, And How He Can Get It Back:
President Obama entered office wrapped in a mantle of moral leadership. His call for change was rooted in values that had long been eclipsed in our public life: a sense of mutual responsibility, commitment to equality and belief in inclusive diversity. Those values inspired a new generation of voters, restored faith to the cynical and created a national movement.

Now, 18 months and an "enthusiasm gap" later, the nation's major challenges remain largely unmet, and a discredited conservative movement has reinvented itself in a more virulent form.

This dramatic reversal is not the result of bad policy as such; the president made some real policy gains. It is not a consequence of a president who is too liberal, too conservative or too centrist. And it is not the doing of an administration ignorant of Washington's ways. Nor can we honestly blame the system, the media or the public — the ground on which presidential politics is always played.

It is the result, ironically, of poor leadership choices.

Abandoning the "transformational" model of his presidential campaign, Obama has tried to govern as a "transactional" leader. These terms were coined by political scientist James MacGregor Burns 30 years ago. "Transformational" leadership engages followers in the risky and often exhilarating work of changing the world, work that often changes the activists themselves. Its sources are shared values that become wellsprings of the courage, creativity and hope needed to open new pathways to success. "Transactional" leadership, on the other hand, is about horse-trading, operating within the routine, and it is practiced to maintain, rather than change, the status quo.

The nation was ready for transformation, but the president gave us transaction. And, as is the case with leadership failures, much of the public's anger, disappointment and frustration has been turned on a leader who failed to lead.

Obama and his team made three crucial choices that undermined the president's transformational mission.
  1. He abandoned the bully pulpit of moral argument and public education.
  2. He chose to lead with a politics of compromise rather than advocacy.
  3. He chose to demobilize the movement that elected him president.
By shifting focus from a public ready to drive change — as in "yes we can" — he shifted the focus to himself and attempted to negotiate change from the inside, as in "yes I can."

During the presidential campaign, Obama inspired the nation not by delivering a poll-driven message but by telling a story that revealed the person within — within him and within us .....

On assuming office, something seemed to go out of the president's speeches, out of the speaker and, as a result, out of us. Obama was suddenly strangely absent from the public discourse. We found ourselves in the grip of an economic crisis brought on by 40 years of anti-government rhetoric, policy and practices, but we listened in vain for an economic version of the race speech. What had gone wrong? Who was responsible? What could we do to help the president deal with it?

And even when he decided to pursue healthcare reform as his top priority, where were the moral arguments or an honest account of insurance and drug industry opposition?

In his transactional leadership mode, the president chose compromise rather than advocacy. Instead of speaking on behalf of a deeply distressed public, articulating clear positions to lead opinion and inspire public support, Obama seemed to think that by acting as a mediator, he could translate Washington dysfunction into legislative accomplishment. Confusing bipartisanship in the electorate with bipartisanship in Congress, he lost the former by his feckless pursuit of the latter, empowering the very people most committed to bringing down his presidency.
  • Seeking reform from inside a system structured to resist change, Obama turned aside some of the most well-organized reform coalitions ever assembled — on the environment, workers' rights, immigration and healthcare.
  • He ignored the leverage that a radical flank robustly pursuing its goals could give a reform president — as organized labor empowered FDR's New Deal or the civil rights movement empowered LBJ's Voting Rights Act. His base was told that aggressive action targeting, for example, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee — where healthcare reform languished for many months — would reflect poorly on the president and make his job harder. Threatened with losing access, and confusing access with power, the coalitions for the most part went along.
  • Finally, the president demobilized the widest, deepest and most effective grass-roots organization ever built to support a Democratic president. With the help of new media and a core of some 3,000 well-trained and highly motivated organizers, 13.5 million volunteers set the Obama campaign apart. They were not the "usual suspects" — party loyalists, union staff and paid canvassers — but a broad array of first-time citizen activists. Nor were they merely an e-mail list. At least 1.5 million people, according to the campaign's calculations, played active roles in local leadership teams across the nation.
But the Obama team put the whole thing to sleep, except for a late-breaking attempt to rally support for healthcare reform. Volunteers were exiled to the confines of the Democratic National Committee. "Fighting for the president's agenda" meant doing as you were told, sending redundant e-mails to legislators and responding to ubiquitous pleas for money....

During the 2008 campaign, transformational leadership defied conventional wisdom. Funds were raised in wholly new ways. Organizers set up shop in states that no Democratic president had won in recent times. Citizens were engaged on a scale never before imagined .....

Now Obama must take a deep breath, step back, reflect on the values that drew him into public life in the first place and acknowledge responsibility for his mistakes. He must reverse the leadership choices of the first half of his term. His No. 1 mission must be to speak for the anxious and the marginalized and to lead us in the task of putting Americans to work rebuilding our future. He must advocate, not merely try to mediate in a fractious, divided Washington. And he must again rely on ordinary citizens to help us move forward.

Although the stakes are greater than ever, only by rediscovering the courage for transformational leadership can he — with us — begin anew.

Let it be so.