Clown Town U.S.A.: Obama's Cairo Speech

Beyond The Soaring Rhetoric of Obama's Cairo Speech: A Toxic Innocence At Home
by Phil Rockstroh
Even as President Barrack Obama waxed eloquent in Cairo, Egypt, on the moral imperatives of the community of nations, public opinion polls released in the United States revealed that, by a substantial percentage, its citizens believe torture is an acceptable option for interrogation of suspects deemed terrorists by various US governmental agencies. In addition, other polls show a majority of the American public hold the opinion that the all American theme park of state torture, located at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, should remain open for business and continue to welcome guests from around the globe, taking them for the ride of their lives through the dark id of the American psyche.

These revelations should not come as a shock. Torture, official secrecy, and other sundry apparatus and accouterments of the national security state are about the only viable enterprises remaining in this declining nation. Moreover, one of the defining traits of the insecure (both among men and nations) is to stand, bristling in a paranoid posture, with feet planted in stubborn defiance of changing circumstances, snarling at invisible threats and imagined affronts, as life moves on with indifferent grace.  

Recently, in the latest in a series of setbacks and self-inflicted wounds, the national identity of the United States sustained another humiliating blow when General Motors was driven into a ditch, declared totaled, and then stripped and sold for spare parts. This event throws a rod into the smoking engine block of the nation's dream machine: The automobiles manufactured in Detroit were once symbols of American power, freedom of mobility, even sexual allure. But the world has sped ahead, leaving the US wheezing dust in its wake: The era of high horsepower and American ascendancy, with its glinting chrome conceit and reinforced steel illusions of unassailable power, now sits upon concrete blocks rusting in the automobile graveyard of history.

At present, and for many years now, the American automobile culture has meant little more than feckless commuters stalled in traffic, alternatively sullen and seething in their powerlessness. Yet, this is not the time to throw a populist pity party: The people of the nation face a future circumscribed by their own lack of self-awareness and their refusal of civic engagement. Year after year, they have displayed avidity for little more than the rigged, roadside attractions of the corporate carnival; hence, traffic is heavy on this lost highway, all lanes are jammed on the superhighway to Clowntown, U.S.A.  
 
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National Outrage: Wichita Abortion Clinic Now Closed

by Jayne Lyn Stahl

Far be it for me to judge the decision by George Tiller's family today to "permanently close" his late abortion services clinic in Wichita, Kansas in light of the horrifying murder of their loved one.

In a statement released today the Tiller family says "We are proud of the service and courage shown by our husband and father and know that women's health care needs have been met because of his dedication and service." A consequence of closing the clinic, Dr. Tiller's colleague, LeRoy Cathart, who intended to stay on, and continuing providing care to women, will no longer have the opportunity to do so.

Far be it for me, or anyone, to sit in judgment of the actions of Dr. Tiller's family unless we have walked in their shoes, unless we have witnessed the barbaric gunning down of a loved one, and even then, it is their call, and their call alone.

But, given that there are only a handful of other late abortion practitioners, in the country, some of whom, like Dr. Tiller, daily risk infamy, injury, and worse to dedicate themselves to protecting the lives of women, one can't help but wonder what signal permanently closing Tiller's clinic sends to those who would like to put a permanent end to choice. In the words of a Boulder late abortion provider "this is what they want. They've been wanting this for 35 years." And, today, the Tiller family have given choice opponents what they've wanted. Add a comment
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There's Life, and Then There's Just Stuff. Forget the Stuff

by Dave Lindorff

I got an important reminder today that at least where the country’s economic crisis is concerned, it’s really mostly just about stuff.

The reminder came in the form of a very large limb, about two feet in diameter, projecting out over my driveway from an ancient horse chestnut tree. The limb suddenly decided it had been hanging around long enough, and it just broke off, unannounced, and landed on top of my car.

I heard an enormous cracking sound out my window, looked out, and where there had been a car, there was an enormous pile of branches and leaves.

I went outside and surveyed at the situation, and it was clear that there was a good deal of damage. The left front fender had been badly dented and pulled away from the body, and the hood was buckled. Worse, a larger part of the limb had fallen across the roof midway back, making a small dent on the left side and a large one on the right side. Looking more closely, I could see that on the right side of the vehicle, the upper frame and the upright post between the doors had been bent. Neither door could open, and the two doors were overlapped near the top—another indication of a bent frame.

I spent two hours with a chainsaw clearing the huge limb off the car, and then drove it to a body shop, where the owner looked it over and assured me the car was totaled. A 1993 vehicle, it would cost far more to fix the frame and replace the roof than the value of the car. This was bad news, since I had put a brand new engine in the car only a year and a half ago, and had rebuilt the transmission a year ago. That’s an investment of about $8,000, and I’ll be lucky to get $3000 from my insurer if they total the car, even though it was in perfect condition inside and out.

A thing like this can be pretty depressing, but after a cold beer I got to thinking, “Heck, it’s just a car.” Nobody got hurt, after all, which was something. If the limb had fallen on our other car, a Honda Civic, it would have crushed the thing flat, and anyone sitting in it, too. If it had fallen on a person, forget it.

And so it is with our economic crisis. Homes are plummeting in value, jobs are being lost (magazines I have depended on for assignments have been folding or cutting back their freelance budgets). But most people have places to turn to—relatives, churches, friends, food stamps. Losing a house to foreclosure can seem like a tragedy, but it’s not terminal cancer. It’s stuff. Renting isn’t the end of the world.

What makes our national crisis seem so terrible is that so many people have been so focused on their wealth, their possessions and their standard of living, we’ve stopped thinking of ourselves as part of a community. We see a house in foreclosure in the neighborhood, and we don’t think, “How terrible. I wonder if those people need help.” We just drive on by and go home to watch TV. In fact, we worry so much about what this economic crisis is doing to us personally that we aren’t focusing collectively on the real issue, which is how the ruling elite are profiting from the mess, and stealing us blind, with the help of Congress and the White House. Add a comment
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Newt Gingrich Declares: "I Am Not A Citizen Of The World!"

by Linda Milazzo

This evening at a Washington DC fundraiser, in a statement that can best be described as regressive American exceptionalism, former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich said of himself:
"I am not a citizen of the world. I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous!"
Witness the video below of Mr. Gingrich's pronouncement that defines in two simple sentences the elitism, racism and egotism that have destroyed his Republican Party:



The question is, how can this protectionist, elitist, and even racist declaration be in the best interests of America, which despite Mr. Gingrich's supremacist notion, is part of the global community?

What's most frightening is the air of superiority with which Gingrich made his statement. Staring straight into the camera before a room of Republicans, this leader of his party defamed any benefit he might derive as a citizen of the world. With George W's arrogance, Dick Cheney's sociopathy, and Donald Rumsfeld's bravado all rolled into one, Gingrich equates a citizen of the world to "intellectual nonsense." He typifies the very characteristics of the Bush years that thrust this nation into its abyss.

Clearly Gingrich's "I'm not a citizen of the world" is a slam on Obama after the President's recent Mid-East & Europe tour. But undermining Obama's global popularity won't alter the fact that Gingrich could never achieve such acceptance. In the ever blending global arena, Gingrich is consistently bland.

Mr. Gingrich, if you are not a citizen of this world, then stay the eff out of it. Go back to where you went ten years ago when you were forced from the House in disgrace. Add a comment

Tomgram: Frida Berrigan, Downloading Disaster

by Tom Engelhardt

It helps to have spent a childhood reading sci-fi. It means nothing bizarre really surprises you. In June 2008, TomDispatch regular William Astore wrote a post about how the Air Force had jumped big time into cyberspace. That service had even bigger dreams for a "$30 billion cyberspace boondoggle" that would theoretically have provided it "with the ability to fry any computer on Earth." Based on the information Astore mustered, this site offered a prediction: "Expect cyberwar in the Pentagon before this is all over."

Make it so! One year later, all three military services (and, it seems, half the other agencies in Washington) are fully uploaded and stalking each other in a funding cyberwar. As a result, the virtual sun is shining for military-industrial corporations, as Frida Berrigan tells us in her latest post: actual money is starting to flow, and a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed new cybermilitary-industrial complex is in formation. Not surprisingly, it has all the trappings of the older version of the same, right down to the corporate names on the logos and the military-industrial fun in the sun that goes with it.

Take the Air Force's "Collaboration in Cyberspace" symposium due to open a week from now in Shreveport, Louisiana. Northrop Grumman has sponsored one of its coffee breaks; SAIC has taken care of the "attendee registration bags"; Lockheed Martin has ponied up for "the invitations that are in each attendee's conference bag inviting them to a special AFCS [Air Force Cyberspace] event"; and you (if you happen to be a reasonably humongous military-industrial style corporation) can still get your tagline and logo plastered on the symposium's "ever popular" Cyber Café (for a measly $5,000 fee!) -- and for nothing extra, your logo will be a screensaver on every computer in that café. You'd better do it while you can. After all, you've already just about missed your chance for a corporate sponsorship slot at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association 4th Cyber Cup Invitational golf tournament that same week. Most of those have already been taken. But don't get teed off: there'll be plenty more! Tom

Cyberscares About Cyberwars Equal Cybermoney - Watching the Cybermilitary-Industrial Complex Form

By Frida Berrigan

As though we don't have enough to be afraid of already, what with armed lunatics mowing down military recruiters and doctors, the H1N1 flu virus, the collapse of bee populations, rising sea levels, failed and flailing states, North Korea being North Korea, al-Qaeda wannabes in New York State with terrorist aspirations, and who knows what else -- now cyberjihadis are evidently poised to steal our online identities, hack into our banks, take over our Flickr and Facebook accounts, and create havoc on the World Wide Web. Add a comment
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2 "School of Americas" Generals Charged In Crimes In Colombia

by Sherwood Ross

Two Colombian generals, both of whom received training at the U.S. Army's "School of The Americas"(SOA) at Ft. Benning, Ga., have been accused by authorities there of crimes involving narcotics and collaborating with criminal paramilitary groups, according to a report in the June 15th issue of The Nation magazine.

Brig. Gen. Pauxelino Latorre has been charged "with laundering millions of dollars for a paramilitary drug ring, and prosecutors say they are looking into his activities as head of the Seventeenth Brigade," investigative journalist Teo Ballve reports. He notes that criminal probes repeatedly linked his unit "to illegal paramilitary groups that had brutally killed thousands" of Colombian farmers in an effort to seize their land for palm oil production.

Another general, Rito Alejo Del Rio, former Seventeenth Brigade leader, is in jail on charges of collaborating with paramilitaries, gangs that have been responsible for widespread atrocities. He also received training at SOA.

Various firms currently engaged in palm oil development since 2002 apparently have received $75 million in U.S. Agency for International Development money under "Plan Comombia," Ballve writes. And some of the firms appear to be tied to narco-traffickers, "in possible violation of federal law." The writer notes Colombia's paramilitaries are on the State Department's list of foreign "terrorist" organizations.

"Plan Colombia is fighting against drugs militarily at the same time it gives money to support palm, which is used by paramilitary mafias to launder money," The Nation quotes Colombian Senator Gustavo Petro, as saying. "The United States is implicitly subsidizing drug traffickers."
President Alvaro Uribe has urged Colombians to increase palm production from 750,000 to 15 million acres to cash in on the expected boom in biofuels. "Oil palm, or African palm, is one of the few aid-funded crops whose profits can match coca profits," Ballve notes. But human rights groups have long accused palm companies, notably Urapalma, of cultivating stolen lands, he adds.
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Obama's Outreach to Muslims: Empty Rhetoric, Same Old Policies

by Stephen Lendman

As well as anyone, Edward Said understood the West's long-standing antipathy to Islam - reflected in Samuel Huntington's "The Clash of Civilizations" article in the summer 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs and later a 1996 book.

He wrote that future conflicts won't be "primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural....the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics. The fault lines between civilizations will be the battle lines of the future" - demagogically suggesting a benevolent, superior West confronting a belligerent, hostile, inferior Muslim world. In other words, good v. evil.

Said called him and others like him, "ignorant," a "clumsy writer," and an "inelegant thinker" using a "gimmick" to suggest a "war of the worlds" pitting good guys against bad ones.

Post-9/11, it was easier than ever for America to declare war on Islam, abroad and at home - a policy no different under Obama than for eight years under George Bush. Empty rhetoric changes nothing, in Cairo or elsewhere. Facts on the ground are clear, unequivocal, and hostile - in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Occupied Palestine. Also toward Iran, Syria, elected Hezbollah Lebanese officials, the legitimate Palestinian Hamas government, and targeted Muslim Americans at home - for their activism, prominence, charity, religion and ethnicity. It's the wrong time to be Muslim in America and most anywhere else in the world.

Around 1.5 billion Muslims want change and the basic respect they deserve. In the spirit of noted US civil rights  activist, Fannie Lou Hamer, they're "sick and tired of being sick and tired," colonized and exploited, targeted and slaughtered, vilified as terrorists, occupied and oppressed, falsely charged, convicted, and sentenced in kangaroo-court proceedings, imprisoned and tortured, or viewed the way Edward Said explained in his noted book, "Culture and Imperialism" - as "the strange (inferior, Orient, East, them)" v. "the familiar (superior, Europe, West, us)." They deserve much better, yet remain a political target of choice. Add a comment
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Severing the Bonds that Shackle: Stealth Strategy in Cairo

by William A. Cook

Consider the potential consequences of Obama’s speech in Cairo last week. Set aside the complaint that he offered no actions to correct the crisis; ignore the fact that he did not repudiate the absolute bond that tethers United States policy to that of Israel; avoid his silence regarding the racist urgings of Lieberman and the arrogance of Netanyahu as they dictated foreign policy for the U.S.; and forego any latent desires to have heard criticism of U.S. complicity in the 60 years of occupation as the people of Palestine lost all but 22% of their homeland to the Zionist forces controlling Israel. Consider instead the possibility that Obama, without fanfare or hint of change, struck out on a new stealth strategy toward reconciling the crisis in Palestine.

What if Obama’s intentions have been carefully thought out over a prolonged period of time, before he won the Presidency, before he decided on his Cabinet, before a continuation of the plans was forced on him that merely extended the failures of the past to bring resolution to the conflict but furthered the interests in Israel as it continued to take absolute control of all of Palestine by occupation, coercion, and land theft, with the intent of forcing no other resolution than “conditions on the ground” dictated, leaving only three bantustans and the Gaza strip. What if he understood that no man can win the Presidency without the support of AIPAC and the Jewish lobbies it supports and had, therefore, to devise a means to resolution that could enunciate absolute support for Israel’s security yet find a way to bring an end to the occupation letting the Palestinian people establish their own state.

What if he knew that the only means to that end was to sever the bonds that shackle the United States to Israel by forcing deliberations out of the back rooms of the White House and the Knesset into the open air of world scrutiny. What if he sensed that the only way to bring the reality of the situation to the American people would be to force the controlled main stream media to cover the crisis realistically. Considered in this light, Obama’s commitment to a resolution of the Israeli/Palestine conflict at the beginning of his Presidency -- including his first act as President, a call to Mahmoud Abbas, followed by an anonymous White House item that included Israel as a state with nuclear weapons, followed by his policy of two states living side by side in peace before Netanyahu became Prime Minister, followed by a speech to the Arab world from Cairo, a speech anticipated by the entire world – suggests that he intended to thrust this issue before the American people, before the EU, before the Arab world so that Israel could not maneuver developments to its own ends as it did most recently with the Annapolis Peace initiative. In short, the plight of the Palestinians under the 60 year occupation, as asserted in his speech, now must be resolved, and he outlined how that could be done in this speech.

The speech achieved six primary goals: first, it altered dramatically the relationship between the United States and the Arab world by recognizing the need for the United States to change its stance from one of confrontation and antagonism to one of mutual respect and dignity based on tolerance and partnership; second, it established a new political dynamic by forcing Israel to deal with its neighbors beyond Jordan and Egypt; third, it engaged many states in the Arab world by using the Arab Leagues’ 2002 Peace initiative as a base, forcing the EU as well as Israel to recognize the pre-1967 borders as a viable means to create a Palestinian state; fourth, it removes Netanyahu and his coalition from dictating terms for resolution, indeed, it forces Israel to accept the existence of a Palestinian state and in the process forces the hand of AIPAC to comply as borders are at last established for the state of Israel; five, it forced open the need for U.S. mass media to address the “plight” of the Palestinian people at a time when the visual slaughter inflicted on them in January is still present in the press and on You Tube; and sixth, by referencing the need to control all nuclear weapons, it brought attention once again to the reality that Israel alone in the mid-east possesses them. Add a comment
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Jewish town in Galilee demands ‘loyalty oath’ - New bylaw designed to bar Arab couple

by Jonathan Cook in Misgav

A community in northern Israel has changed its bylaws to demand that new residents pledge support for “Zionism, Jewish heritage and settlement of the land” in a thinly veiled attempt to block Arab applicants from gaining admission.

Critics are calling the bylaw, adopted by Manof, home to 170 Jewish families in Galilee, a local “loyalty oath” similar to a national scheme recently proposed by the far-Right party of the government minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Other Jewish communities in the central Galilee -- falling under the umbrella of a regional council known as Misgav -- are preparing similar bylaws in response to a court petition filed by an Arab couple hoping to build a home in Misgav.

“It looks very much like this is being co-ordinated by the Misgav council in an attempt to pre-empt the court ruling,” said Ronin Ben Ari, resident of another Misgav community, Mikhmanim, and an opponent of the bylaw change.

Manof’s move comes in the wake of efforts by Ahmed and Fatina Zbeidat, who live in the neighbouring Arab town of Sakhnin, to win admission to the Misgav community of Rakafet.

Traditionally some 700 rural communities in Israel, including 30 in Misgav, have weeded out Arab applicants by issuing automatic rejections through special vetting committees. Arab citizens make up one-fifth of the country’s population.

According to a legal rights group, rural communities, which are home to only five per cent of the population but have control over four-fifths of the countryside, are seen by the state as a bulwark against Arabs gaining access to what are called “national lands”.

However, the vetting system has been under threat since a court ruling in 2000 that required the committees to consider Arab applicants and justify their decisions. Add a comment
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Words and War

by Norman Solomon

It takes at least tacit faith in massive violence to believe that after three decades of horrendous violence in Afghanistan, upping the violence there will improve the situation.

Despite the pronouncements from high Washington places that the problems of Afghanistan can’t be solved by military means, 90 percent of the spending for Afghanistan in the Obama administration’s current supplemental bill is military.

Often it seems that lofty words about war hopes are boilerplate efforts to make us feel better about an endless warfare state. Oratory and punditry laud the Pentagon’s fallen as noble victims of war, while enveloping its other victims in a haze of ambiguity or virtual nonexistence.

When last Sunday’s edition of the Washington Post printed the routine headline “Iraq War Deaths,” the newspaper meant American deaths -- to Washington’s ultra-savvy, the deaths that really count. The only numbers and names under the headline were American.

Ask for whom the bell tolls. That’s the implicit message -- from top journalists and politicians alike.

A few weeks ago, some prominent U.S. news stories did emerge about Pentagon air strikes that killed perhaps a hundred Afghan civilians. But much of the emphasis was that such deaths could undermine the U.S. war effort. The most powerful media lenses do not correct the myopia when Uncle Sam’s vision is impaired by solipsism and narcissism.

Words focus our attention. The official words and the media words -- routinely, more or less the same words -- are ostensibly about war, but they convey little about actual war at the same time that they boost it. Words are one thing, and war is another.

Yet words have potential to impede the wheels of war machinery. “And henceforth,” Albert Camus wrote, “the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.” Add a comment
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Lingering white supremacy in South Africa sounds much like United States

by Robert Jensen

Apartheid is dead in South Africa, but a new version of white supremacy lives on.

“During apartheid the racism of white people was up front, and we knew what we were dealing with. Now white people smile at us, but for most black people the unemployment and grinding poverty and dehumanizing conditions of everyday life haven’t changed,” a black South African told me. “So, what kind of commitment to justice is under that smile?”

This community activist in Cape Town said that, ironically, the end of South’s Africa’s apartheid system of harsh racist segregation and exploitation has in some ways made it more difficult to agitate for social justice today. As he offered me his views on the complex politics of his country, Nkwame Cedile, a field worker for People’s Health Movement, expressed a frustration that I heard often in my two weeks in the country: Yes, the brutality of apartheid ended in 1994 with free elections, but the white-supremacist ideas that had animated apartheid and the racialized distribution of wealth it was designed to justify didn’t magically evaporate.

That shouldn’t be surprising -- how could centuries of white supremacy simply disappear in 15 years? What did surprise me during my lecture tour was not the racial tension but how much discussions about race in South Africa sounded just like conversations in the United States. There was something eerily familiar to me, a lifelong white U.S. citizen, about those discussions. I have heard comments from black people in the United States like Cedile’s, but I’ve also heard white Americans articulate views on race that were sometimes exactly like white South Africans’. I learned that even with all the differences in the two countries there are equally important similarities, and as a result the sense of entitlement that so many white people hold onto produces similar dodges and denials.
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