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Posts Tagged ‘terrorism

UPDATED: The U.S. War Machine Leaves an Ugly Slick of Oil & Blood

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UPDATE — DECEMBER 31, 2009: The post below, originally published on July 26, 2008, was written as an outcropping of our disgust over the genocide and ethnic cleansing taking place in the United States’ brutal covert war in Somalia. We never finished this post and never will (see note at bottom of this page). However, the information herein continues to be as relevant today as it will be tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. (Think Obama constitutes a change from the Bush Administration’s warmongering for oil under the guise of fighting terrorism? Think again.)

Many Americans would be surprised to know that, throughout the course of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. has also been busy with wars elsewhere in the world. Only, we don’t call them wars. We call them things like peacekeeping missions, nation-building or “low intensity conflicts.” Or, as is the case in Colombia, where the U.S. is at work wresting control of oil pipelines and trying to destabilize the bordering oil-rich countries, such as Venezuela, while demonizing the leaders of these countries, we call it a “war on drugs” — even as the U.S. is the pusher man working out of Colombia, using the proceeds from our drug sales to fund our war machine in South America. (Think about it. Has cocaine ever been cheaper or more available than since Clinton and Bush began their war on drugs in Colombia? The same is true of heroin in the Afghanistan drug trade). And we don’t, as a rule, fight these wars ourselves. Instead, we buy off corrupt dictators and/or destabilize and overthrow democratically elected leaders and install corrupt dictators of our own choosing. Then we build armies for them — funding, training and arming these paramilitaries to the tune of millions, so that they can fight our various covert and proxy wars on terror around the globe, which are, coincidentally, in the most mineral-strategic countries on the planet — from South America to Africa and the Middle East. It is no coincidence that the U.S. is the world’s largest arms supplier, our war machine generating loyalties, death and destruction in over 174 states and territories.


These wars are given little scrutiny on the media radar, even as they’re claimed to be part of the larger war on terror — or, in the case of, say, Sudan, they fly under the guise of humanitarian efforts. Much like Somalia, Yemen is not so strategic for its oil reserves, but for its natural gas reserves. Oh, and there’s also that matter of its location (location, location). Specifically, Somalia and Yemen are located across from each other, like mirrors, on either side of the opening from the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. This strait connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden through which our oil and gas laden ships must pass.The U.S. has been covertly warring for years to control this shipping lane. As such, news stories — past present and future — on Ethiopia, Djibouti, Yemen, Somalia and, yes, pirates are inseparable from this larger story, a story about a superpower that will use any ruse to get what it wants, up to and including climbing in and out of bed with friends, enemies and even the terrorists we claim to be fighting.

As for the collateral damage from our clandestine wars — genocide, ethnic cleansing and untold millions of human lives ground into starvation, disease, misery, death and civil war — America alternately ignores and feigns outrage. When it becomes strategically feasible and/or necessary, the U.S. military steps out of the shadows, setting up high-profile military installations, so that we may help these poor victims, or protect them from the “bad guys,” with whom we may or may not still be in bed. This is the story being replayed in countries throughout the world. Yemen is no exception.

Considering that during the months before 9-11, the FBI had their finger on the pulse of the pre-9-11 terrorist network in Yemen (to which the Bush Administration was in
“ignore” mode), it is curious that U.S.has subsequently enjoyed the sort of relationship with Yemen over the past 8 years, where we could rendition detainees there to be tortured at our CIA black sites in Yemen. Which makes it somehow ironic that the media is using the Yemen connections of the recent underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab
/AbdulMutallab, to help us recall and re-ignite our anger over 9-11. It seems the American public is now being signaled that it’s time to switch from from ignore-mode to the outrage-mode being feigned by our leaders. This is, of course, our cue, as patriotic, freedom-loving Americans to rally behind our pre-Christmas bombing campaign waged on the innocent men, women and children in Yemen, which promises to be an ongoing campaign in the war formerly known as Bush’s war on terror. It is no coincidence that this latest bombing campaign was already underway when the underpants bomber boarded the plane for America. Nor is it a coincidence that the trail of the underpants bomber is littered with questions that, for the official record, go unasked and unanswered.

Such has been the nature of America’s war on terror, beginning with 9-11. Our leaders can afford to be arrogant and sloppy because, truth be known, the U.S. is untouchable. We encourage those interested in these stories to do their own research. This page is a good starting point. Our apologies that we cannot finish our own effort out, and for any dead links on this page.


An odd coincidence: Pick any oil-rich spot on the globe, and you will find the U.S. engaged in the war on terror.

In this vein, why has there been such a preponderance of al Qaeda terrorists (or, rather, a preponderance of **propaganda about **al Qaeda) surrounding the oil fields of the world over the past 7 years?

The current war in Iraq is not the first U.S. war for oil. Nor is it the first war for oil that has claimed massive civilian casualties, which were then concealed by the U.S. media. This is the first war for oil, however, fought on the grounds that a foreign country posed a direct threat to the U.S. — false grounds — which our government intentionally deceived us into believing. This is also the first war for oil fought under the mantle of spreading freedom and democracy, even as the U.S. government funds and arms both sides in a civil war: Shiites against Sunnis and Sunnis against Shiites — who then terrorize, torture, slaughter and commit ethnic cleansing of the very Iraqi populations we’re supposedly fighting to “save” from the evil terrorists. There’s a term for the type of warfare being waged by the U.S. in Iraq. It’s called war crimes.


That the American people have not demanded accountability from Congress, and have largely remained silent about the atrocities of this war – whether through complacent ignorance or sheer disbelief that our government could actually commit such atrocities — has only served to condone this war and the policies of this administration. Our collective silence has, in effect, given Bush-Cheney carte blanche to wage other wars on terrorism – wars now being fought in countires throughout the world, with scarcely a mention in the U.S. media.

Unknown to most Americans is that dozens of countries throughout the world have now been accused of harboring al Qaeda terrorists. Unknown to most Americans is that the Bush-Cheney Administraion is and has been waging clandestine wars in these countries, under the banner of “fighting terrorism,” sometimes called “peacekeeping missions” and “nation-building.” Unknown to most Americans is that we are currently spending millions of dollars in each of these countries, to fight mere handsful of alleged al Qaeda terrorists, whose existence — in many instances — is based on “intelligence” as leaky as the intelligence that sent us to war in Iraq. The potential and the reality (as seen in both Iraq and Afghanistan) is that these wars result in “chasing needles by burning haystacks,” as entire populations of innocent civilians are brutalized by the Bush-Cheney war machine , as it pursues small handsful of terrorists, who may or may not even exist.

In Iraq, alone, the Bush-Cheney war machine left in its wake over 4 million “displaced” Iraqi citizens — driven from their homes through violence and ethnic cleansing. From this point forward, if there were any questions left regarding the true intention of the U.S. forces, one need look no further than the billions of U.S. dollars spent building the enormous network of permanent U.S. bases over the past 7 years. These mega-bases have been built with every U.S. lifestyle amenity imaginable — from Baskin Robbins to Burger King, from miniature golf to swimming pools, from Hertz Rent-a-Car to department stores, and from football stadiums to movie theatres — not to mention air-conditioning, satellite internet access, cable television and international phone service.
The average Iraqi citizen has not enjoyed some of these amenities — such as electricity, food, water, shelter, sanitation and health care — since the days of Saddam Hussein. Ironically, construction on the permanent U.S. bases in Iraq proceeded swiftly toward completion, while U.S. work on to restore the most rudimentary of services for Iraqis — such as water purification, food, health care and electricity — fell to the wayside.

A Crude Awakening

Despite what we, in America, hear on the evening news, the words ‘victory’ and ’success’ do not belong in the same sentence with the word ‘Iraq.” The situation in Iraq is one of humanitarian crisis. Five years into the U.S. invasion of their country, Iraq is now deemed, the worst humanitarian crisis in the Middle East since 1948. Human rights and relief agencies throughout the world (International Red Cross, Amnesty International, Oxfam) have described the situation as “disasterous,” as a “dire humanitarian crisis,” calling Iraq, “one of the most dangerous countries in the world…. a place of carnage and despair.” Our vice-president, Dick Cheney, recently described Iraq as a “successful endeavor,” a sentiment we hear echoed daily from our mainstream U.S. media. Would the American public be silent, if they knew that we are waging similar wars in dozens of countries?
Question: When is a war a war?
Is it a war, if it’s called a ‘low-intensity conflict’? Is it a war, if only a small number of U.S. military troops are sent in? And is it a war, if the soldiers are from private mercenary armies hired through U.S. corporations? And is it a war, if our military funds, trains and arms rogue armies to fight these wars? Is it a war if the military’s stated purpose is ‘peacekeeping’ or to lend humanitarian aid? And what if it’s a little of each? Is it a war?
The answers lie in the oil fields: If U.S. military engagement and/or aid results in the U.S. gaining control of a country’s oil/mineral profits — at the expense of the native populations, who suffer impoverishment, torture, ethnic cleansing and/or genocide as a result of our actions — then that military engagement is, indeed, a war. It is a war for oil.  
Curious to know just how many wars are being fought for oil, we decided to take a head count of each and every country where the U.S. is fighting the war on terror. Our bet is that each and every one is also, ultimately, a war for oil. Whether the resulting silence from this truth is deafening, or not, is anyone’s guess.

Pick a Continent, Any Continent…

Say, Africa. Although Africa is but one stop on Dick Cheney’s proposed world tour for oil, it’s a good place to start, since the entire continent stands to be devoured, beginning with its name. Renamed in February 2007 (for military purposes only, mind you) Africa is now called the U.S. African Command (USAFRICOM or AFRICOM). As shown on this map, USAFRICOM was created from the existing United States European Command (USEUCOM), United States Central Command (USCENTCOM) and United States Pacific Command (USPACOM). Whatever that means. It is with some haste, then, that we inventory the African countries involved in Bush-Cheney’s global war on terror.

Lost in all the flurry of Bush’s February 2007 announcement of the surge in Iraq was his concurrent announcement of another surge — this one on the continent of Africa. Having neatly accomplished ‘Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems’ in their war for oil distribution in Iraq, Bush-Cheney — poised, now, to undertake another empire — easily won congressional approval for “African solutions to African problems.” aka, U.S.AFRICOM: the U.S. African Command and its military arm ACOTA. A Department of Defense military operation, AFRICOM was created by Bush-Cheney to enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa. Started in October 2007, and set to be fully operational by September 30, 2008, AFRICOM is installing military commands in a total of 53 African countries – that’s all of Africa, except Egypt.

In an August 2007 congressional briefing, State and Defense Department officials emphasized to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that AFRICOM’s aim is to boost cooperation on anti-terrorism and peacekeeping activities, and programs that promote regional stability. In this same briefing, Theresa Whelan, Deputy Assistant for African affairs, echoed this sentiment — assuring Congress that AFRICOM is focused on security, not combat. On the heels of this assurance, however, she nonetheless cautioned: ” I would anticipate that there would be an increase in the amount of exercises we conduct and other military-to-military cooperation activity.”

Many in Africa are understandably suspicious. Believing, perhaps, that past is prologue — the majority of countries are protesting the presence of AFRICOM, as are many individuals around the world, including some high-profile activists, such as Danny Glover , who consider the ongoing U.S.-British militarization of Africa to be little more than a strategy toward gaining control of Africa’s natural resources, most notably its oil. As one critic noted: “Peace operations” and “nation building” are what the military and the mercenaries call their activities. But just like Bush’s “healthy forests” and “clear skies” initiatives, the names mean the opposite of what they do.


The Oil Fields of Africa: Black Gold, Texas Tea

The conundrum the Bush-Cheney Administration faces in Africa is the same all the world over: how to pry the mineral rights from the rightful owners — the African people, in this case — while convincing Congress and the American public that our presence is purely benevolent? The events of September 11th provided an easily path: wage war on terror. This path is all the easier in Africa, where so many countries are already under the control of corrupt, suppressive dictators, whose loyalties are easily purchased.

The tactics used by Bush-Cheney are generally the same, however, no matter what the county. First, they make a case for terrorism in the country – preferably al Qaeda. Then, and not necessarily in this order, they (1) provide U.S. military assistance to fight terrorism, (2) accuse any one who disagrees with the U.S. military presence of being a terrorist insurgent, (3) incite existing cultural tensions toward divisiveness or civil war, (4) fund and arm the “goods guys” and/or the “bad guys” (aka terrorists) to physically remove — through either ethnic cleansing and sometimes genocide — the native populations living on the lands around the oil fields and pipelines, (5) if these populations protest, label them as terrorist insurgents.

Throughout each step of the process, U.S. oil interests are expanded and secured — under the guise of “economic development” for the host country. When all is said and done, however, it is the U.S. who owns the controlling interests in their oil fields. Of course, by the time AFRICOM was created, Bush-Cheney had already done the legwork, having identified terrorist influences in most of the oil-rich African countries set to receive AFRICOM’s military commands. And in a few countries — such as Somalia and Sudan — they’d already accomplished steps 1 through 5.

_____________________________

As an aside, a smattering of quotables on the topic:

After the end of the Cold War, U.S. policy toward Africa was driven by President George H. W. Bush’s vision of a “New World Order.” …. President Bush announced in his 2006 State of the Union Address his intention to “to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025,” …. analysts estimate that Africa may supply as much as 25% of all U.S. oil imports by 2015. — from the Report for Congress, “Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa,” March 10, 2008.

Today that new world is struggling to be born, a world quite different from the one we’ve known. A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. — From President George H.W. Bush’s speech, “Toward a New World Order,” delivered before the nation and a joint session of Congress, September 11, 1990

Along with Latin America, West Africa is expected to be one of the fastest growing sources of oil and gas for the American market. African oil tends to be of high quality and low in sulfur, making it suitable for stringent refined product requirements, and giving it a growing market share for the refining Centers on the East Coast of the U.S.Dick Cheney, May 16, 2001

In the aftermath in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, it is increasingly clear that the United States ignores Africa at its peril….The continent’s failed states and huge swaths of ungoverned territory offer sanctuary to terrorist groups.American Enterprise Institute May 2004 conference bulletin: Leave No Continent Behind: U.S. National Security Interests in Africa

Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works. Armed Forces Journal, June 2006. “Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Would Look,” by Ralph Peters

_____________________________

It is easy to understand, then, the fears of African citizens, who feel helpless to the incoming U.S. military presence in their countries. Some in America know this same helplessess, as we’ve seen war protesters branded as terrorist sympathizers or “homegrown terrorists” in recent years. The difference between Americans and Africans is that we do not have a history (up to this point, anyway) of being forced from our homes by the U.S. military, or of witnessing the mass slaughtering of our families, neighbors, communities, of whole towns of people, who protested the policies of the U.S. government. The fear of these African countries is understandable, then, as America’s war on terror turns its calculating eye toward the oil fields of Africa.

U.S. Oil & Mineral Claims vs. Terrorist Claims in Africa:
An Alphabetical Compendium of Coincidences
 
**Benin (important for its proximity to Nigeria oil and its political-economic relationship w/ECOWAS)
**Burkina Faso (important for its proximity to Nigeria oil and its political-economic relationship w/ECOWAS)
**Cape Verde (important for its proximity to Nigeria oil and its political-economic relationship w/ECOWAS)
Guinea-Bissau
**Lesotho
Liberia
**Madagascar
**Malawi
**Mali
**Mozambique
**Namibia
Niger
Senegal
Sierra Leone
Swaziland
**Tanzania
Togo
Zambia
Zimbabwe
** these countries receive aid through compacts with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government corporation, created by Bush in 2002, to “undercut terrorism by attacking poverty overseas.” While most of these countries lack significant oil reserves, their geographical & political relationships with oil-rich countries lends a strategic importance to U.S. interests in Africa.
* * *
 
 
EDITOR’S NOTE: Our original idea with this post was to document every mineral/gas/oil-rich country in the world where the U.S. is engaged in various military operations. Frankly, the task is too disgusting to continue. To anyone interested in such things, just google to find which countries have rich reserves of oil and gas (or gold, diamonds and other minerals). Then google the name of any of these countries + “al Qaeda” or “insurgents” or “Dick Cheney” or “U.S. military,” or “USNORTHCOM” or “Blackwater,” or “mercenary armies,” or the name of either Bush Jr. or Sr.
Dig just a little, and you will find the U.S. in the thick of it, secretly funding covert and proxy wars, arming and training paramilitaries. You can also google terms such as: genocide, ethnic cleansing, humanitarian crisis, starvation, rape, death squads, disease, etc. and find your way to the U.S. through the back door, so to speak. One notable exception to the rule will be Darfur, where China beat us to the punch. In Sudan, however, the U.S. and China seem to be in partnership, each country jockeying for their fair share of oil and carnage.
Depending on the country, you may also find a “war on drugs,” particularly in South America, but also in Afghanistan. This is how the U.S. funds some of it’s illegal wars, as there is only so much money that can be hoodwinked out of Congress to fund our covert wars. But drug money is only one of the many ways the U.S. gets around the inconvenience of laws that forbid us to provide military aid to countries engaged in genocide, torture, renditions, illegal imprisonments and so on.
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American Health Care Reform: Socialist Plot or Evil Conspiracy? You decide.

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(NOTE: If you want to cut to the chase (thereby skipping my 24-paragraph editorial hooplah, below) simply skip to page 2 of this piece for info and links on the 3 health-care options currently under consideration: the single-payer plan, the public option and the status quo.)

 

 

DrowningWhen you’re drowning, you don’t notice the color of the hand throwing you a rope.

 

Welcome to American health care!

The same band of thieves that brought our economy to our knees has brought our health care system to its knees. The only difference between the banking industry and the health care insurance industry is that, with the right propaganda, the health care industry hopes to buy just a little more time — time enough to shake the last dimes out of our pockets before the damage becomes so catastrophic that, at last, the deluded mobs will click into survival mode and grow color-blind to the hand throwing them a rope.    

Until then, it appears that our health care debate will continue to be poisoned with wild-haired fears about socialist plots, scary black men, Nazi death panels and birth certificate conspiracies.  It appears, too, that Obama fully intends to continue with this quaint notion of forging bipartisanship with the very corporate propagandists and their paid political hacks on Capitol Hill who have been spending millions upon millions to sabotage his adminstration and, by extension, America itself.

Remember all that talk during the campaign about appeasing terrorists?

Who’d a-thunk: Here we are, one year later, and darned if Obama’s not appeasing a small faction of violent extremists, who believe it is their eminent right to deem certain politicians (any, by extension, the majority of Americans who are in favor of health care reform) as being so evil, that anything and everything — up to, and including murder — is a justifiable means to silencing the opposition. It is of some irony that many of these extremists, much like their al Qaeda counterparts, believe that their God has appointed them to this agenda — that He is calling upon them, personally, to bring our country and its leaders down in flames.

This would be the same God who called upon the Puritans to hang witches; the same God who called upon white men to enslave blacks like beasts of burden; the same God who called upon white men to exterminate Native Americans; the same God who called upon the Klan to lynch blacks, Jews and union activists; the same God who, today, is calling on conservatives and the evangelical Right — many of these working under the invisible auspices of the infamous Doug Coe and The Family —  to lynch and  assassinate their political opponents.   

The complicity of the the Republican Party in this is most unholy and undemocratic process is testament to the power of the insurance industry (existing, as it does, in financial partnership with Wall Street, the evangelical Right, the pharmaceutical industry and, yes, the giants in the oil industry). The abject failure of conservative politicians to condemn the violent rhetoric is testament to the power of money: to the millions upon millions of corporate dollars that have been paid into the coffers of Republicans and blue-dog Democrats who — while they may not be among those openly fanning the flames of violence — are merely sitting on their hands, while death threats are being waged against their Democratic colleagues.

 

VIDEO BELOW: Rep. David Scott of Georgia reads the racist hate mail he received in the wake of a town hall meeting on health care reform

 

It all started innocently enough….

Back in August 2008, Obama laid out his vision for the type of health care debate he hoped to pursue under his adminstration:   

I’m going to have all the negotiations around a big table. We’ll have doctors and nurses and hospital administrators. Insurance companies, drug companies — they’ll get a seat at the table, they just won’t be able to buy every chair. But what we will do is, we’ll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies. And so, that approach, I think is what is going to allow people to stay involved in this process.

Had Obama delivered on this promise — handing the reins over to actual health care reformers and the American people they represent, rather than handing the reins over to the giants who serve the insurance and pharmaceutical industries — the tone of today’s health care debate would not have devolved into a mob war, peppered with incendiary rhetoric about socialist plots to kill old people and babies. We wouldn’t be witnessing the faux outrage of paid protesters shouting shoulder-to-shoulder with genuinely terrified (albeit sadly misinformed) people who have been deluded into believing that health care reform is a secret plot to turn America into a facist, socialist state, with Obama conspiring to use health care as the vehicle for a eugenics/euthenasia program. 

Had Obama placed the health care debate in a public forum, the word “lynching” would not have made its way out of a congressman’s mouth and into the health care debate.  But the Republicans abrogated their integrity long before this. They lost it the instant they openly wished failure on the Obama Admnistration. They lost it the instant they embraced the ghost of the 1920s era Klan to carry their mantle. In order for bipartisanship to work, both sides have to engage in debate. It doesn’t work when one side is hanging effigies and issuing death threats against the other.    

This is nothing new. The entire history of our country has been one long struggle to forge bipartisanship between the wealthy and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the Christians and the non-Christians, the violent and their victims. It has only been by sheer force of constitutional law that the noble principles of our Constitution ever held in check the baser nature of our society: slavery, Native American genocide, Black Code, Jim Crow, lynchings, McCarthyism, segregation, racial code…. And, even then, change always occurs too late — if it occurs at all — and only after decades or even centuries of intimidation and violence.  

Change has never, ever — not one single time — occurred through mutual agreement. Think about it.

 

VIDEO: Rachel Maddow interview with former Republican evangelical activist, Frank Schaeffer, on the mob violence being organized by the Republican party and the insurance industry.

 

Perhaps Obama believed that bipartisanship could be forged by appeasing the corporate giants and the politicians whose pockets they line. After all, these people don’t play nice. Obama surely figured that out early-on in his administration. Perhaps he believed it would buy their cooperation if — instead of real health care reform — he offered up a token gesture to the American people: something that constituted a change, of sorts, but would — first and foremost — do no harm to the profit margin of these corporations. Perhaps Obama believed he could buy their peace by silencing the voice of true health care reformers — which was accomplished by giving the bums-rush to the single-payer advocates, as they were ushered away from the ‘big table’ with police escorts. 

This is what happens when you make back-room deals with ruthless people: you give them the reins to power. And they take it.  

By giving the power to these corporations and the politicans they serve, Obama gave them license to hijack health care reform. And in doing so, he robbed ordinary American citizens of their voice in the political process; robbed us of the opportunity to talk, as a nation, about the actual costs — the dollars and cents — of our existing for-profit insurance coverage vs. a single payer plan; robbed us of the opportunity to study the feasibility of  incorporating “Medicare for all”  into our health care stystem — extending this government plan to cover more than just senior citizens, veterans and the disabled.  

He robbed us of the opportunity to discuss the quality of health care in this country as delivered by the for-profit insurance industry vs. single-payer Medicare type coverage; robbed us of the opportunity to learn the facts (as opposed to the fallacies) about health care systems in other developed countries, such as France, which the World Health Organization rated as #1 in health care quality, vs. the #37 slot held by the United States. It’s a safe bet that the rabid protestors carrying angry signs about socialist takeovers would be impotent to explain the health system in France, which enjoys a hybrid system — a mix of private, “for-profit” insurance and government insurance, similar in theory what has been proposed for the United States. 

Americans assume that if it’s in Europe, which France is, that it’s socialized medicine. The French don’t consider their system socialized. In fact, they detest socialized medicine. For the French, that’s the British, that’s the Canadians. It’s not the French system…. The French want pretty much the same thing as Americans: choice and more choice.– historian Paul Dutton at Northern Arizona University, author of Differential Diagnoses: A Comparative History of Health Care Problems and Solutions in the United States and France.

What would have happened, had Americans been presented with a one-paragraph bill, reading something like this?

Americans, you now have the freedom of choice: You may either pay your insurance premiums to a private, for-profit health insurance carrier, or pay your premiums into a government single-payer insurance plan, similar to the plan that has long-been enjoyed by senior citizens and veterans. Or, if you like, you can do both. The private, for-profit insurance industry, being an integral part of  the free market, is free to set their own policies. Should you choose to pay into the government’s single-payer plan, you will be covered from birth to death for all medical care, period, with no co-pays or deductibles. 

Obviously, one paragraph wouldn’t suffice, but this would be a workable starting point for plainly stating health care reform, in a nutshell. Regarding the cost for this plan, Obama could take a page from the for-profit insurance industry in the U.S.  Because they have proven, if nothing else, that insuring people can be an obscenely lucrative business. How else could UnitedHealth Group afford to pay a single executive $819,000 per day? That’s a almost $103,000 per hour paid to just one CEO! How else could the insurance industry afford to shell out $1.5 million per-day to wage a campaign to convince Americans that single-payer health care = a facist, socialist plot to take over our country and kill old people and babies?  How else could the insurance industry afford to spend 1 out of every 3 health care dollars on lobbying, PR and executive compensation packages? You think those folks haven’t calculated the net worth of this campaign? More to the point: Does anyone honestly believe that the  insurance industry gives a whit who lives or dies in America?

VIDEO: Robert Greenwald of Brave New Films and sickforprofit.com answers the question, “What does UnitedHealthcare CEO Stephen Hemsley have to lose if Congress passes real healthcare reform this year?” 

 

What the insurance industry does not want us to know is this: Human health is a commodity that generates shareholder profits and billion-dollar executive compensation packages. So long as this is the case, there will always be the built-in incentive to deny medical care — not on the basis of medical advice or science, but by its relationship to the profit margin.

The insurance industry would like us to believe that, under Obama’s plan, health care decisions would be made by government bureaucrats. The insurance industry would like us to believe that it is superior to have our health care decisions made — not by doctors, but by insurance industry executives, armed with actuary tables that tell them exactly who is (and is not) profitable to insure, as well as which diseases and treatments must be denied for the sake of the industry’s profit margin.  

As a disabled American who is insured by a single-payer plan — Medicare, for which I pay a $100 per month premium — I can tell you that no insurance bureaucrat, nor government bureaucrat, has ever stood between me and my doctor, nor dictated which providers I am “allowed” to see, or disallowed any treatment my doctors recommended. 

My point is not to extol the virtues of the Medicare system, nor to entirely demonize the insurance industry, but to suggest that there is absolutely a happy medium to be struck between the debt-plagued Medicare system, which provides efficient and unobtrusive health care, vs. the insurance industry, which  generates billions upon billions in profit by denying care.   

What the lynch-mobbers have yet to understand is their backers (politicians and insurance execs alike) don’t give a whit about the plight of sick people, or about the evils of socialism. The insurance execs funding this propaganda campaign aren’t losing sleep over the idea that health care reform is a secret plot to kill old people and babies (although the insurance industry would have to plead guilty, were they being honest, to the crime of delivering death sentences to people of all ages and walks-of-life). No, what keeps insurance executives awake at night is the elephant in the room:

It is not only possible to insure millions of people without going bankrupt, it is possible — as the insurance company has been proving for decades — to generate obscene profits doing this. It only stands to reason, then, that a well-managed insurance program, such as the single-payer plan, could exist as a break-even proposition, generating neither catastrophic loss or obscene profit.  

France has proven this. To be fair, the system in France is not perfect. They are currently tweaking their system in the response to a $9 billion debt in their health care system. Nine billion dollars is nothing to sneeze at. The U.S. has been spending this much every two weeks in Iraq, and expects to spend this amount every 18 days, after our “troop withdrawal,” for the next five years in Iraq.     

empty chairObama’s folly has been the belief that he could buy peace and cooperation from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries by putting a gag order on the true advocates of health care reform and serving up a 1,000 page bill that is so ambiguous and inscrutable that no will know just how many times the Democrats cried “Uncle!” to the insurance and pharmaceutical industries by the time all is said and done.

Maybe this is America’s destiny — to keep learning the same bitter  lesson over and over: that equality, liberty and fidelity to the spirit of our Constitution can only be realized after a protracted rein of inequality, human suffering and lawlessness. Granted, the lynch mobs represent only a small fraction of Americans, but history proves that it takes a million-fold human lives chained to misery and oppression to offset the power, wealth and influence of just one slave trader, one lynchman, one assassin, one corporate giant, one crooked politician, one Christian warrior gone amok. 

And, even then, the peace is only temporary, for it’s only a matter of time before the torch has been re-ignited, passed on to the next generation. Which is to say that it is a sad state of affairs when the best we can hope for, come September, is not honest bill for health care reform but, rather, that the death threats being issued by the henchmen of the corporate giants will not be realized.

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Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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For more information on the specifics of the 3 health care plans, see page 2 of this article.

Sarah Palin’s Reflection, as Seen from the Abyss

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Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you. — Friedrich Nietzsche

Many of us have been wishing for just a modicum of news coverage on Joe Biden, whose presence on the national stage has been dwarfed to near non-existence by the paparazzi-style coverage of Sarah Palin– our media’s latest flash-in-the-frying-pan darling, who has stepped into the shoes previously occupied by such notables as Paris Hilton, Brittney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith. 

Be careful what you wish for. Joe Biden finally got some news coverage this past Thursday, as he was “interviewed” by Barbara West, an anchor for Florida station WFTV (see video, below), who regaled Biden with a series of classic “when did you stop beating your wife” questions on Marxism. 

This interview needs to be preserved in the annals of American history, so that future generations can see, firsthand, how fearmongering and demagoguery work. For historical perspective on how this has played out in America over the past 300+ years, read on. Otherwise, just vote. For cripe’s sakes, vote — and urge everyone you know to vote. And if, by chance, on November 4th, you find you’ve been caged or purged or challenged – call Election Protection at 1-(866) OURVOTE (1-866-687-8683). Click here for more info on protecting yourself from voter fraud.

HAS IT BEEN ONLY 316 YEARS?

From June through September of 1692, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem Village, for hanging. Another man of over eighty years was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft. Dozens languished in jail for months without trials. Then, almost as soon as it had begun, the hysteria that swept through Puritan Massachusetts ended. — “An Account of Events in Salem,” from the University of Missouri — Kansas City website

As years passed, apologies were offered, and restitution was made to the victims’ families. Historians and sociologists have examined this most complex episode in our history so that we may understand the issues of that time and apply our understanding to our own society. The parallels between the Salem witch trials and more modern examples of “witch hunting” like the McCarthy hearings of the 1950’s, are remarkable. — from the Salem Witch Museum website

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 HAS IT BEEN ONLY 60 YEARS?

Below is a video with clips of various anti-communist footage, produced by the U.S. government during the McCarthy era, and designed to red-scare the bejeebers out of Americans. The Sarah Palin speech (see video at end of post) is a modern version of the same, just not yet whipped into the full frenzy that this sort of fearmongering ever-threatens to incite.  

HAS IT BEEN ONLY 7 YEARS?

In the wake of 9-11, the Bush Administration exploited our justifiable fear of terrorists to both squelch American dissent over their agenda, and to strong-arm Congress into approving all the legislation they enacted (e.g. the Patriot Act, FISA, extraordinary rendition and related torture laws), all of which were designed to sidestep both the spirit and letter of Constitutional law. Over the past 7 years this legislation has, word by word, dismantled our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. These documents have yet to be restored to the former integrity they held for over two centuries. While these fundamental changes to our democracy affect each and every American, we’ve fortunately been spared, thus far, some of the worst outcomes potential to this legislation, even as this potential will continue to loom over us until our Constitution and Bill of Rights are restored to their pre-Bush Administration integrity. We’ve been fortunate. Some, such as Maher Arar have not been so fortunate: 

For more on this case, see the full Congressional hearing (1 hour, 28 minutes) on this case, held in October 2007, here, which includes Maher Arar’s testimony. Also, see footage here (7 minutes) from a related hearing, in which an outraged Sen. Patrick Leahy demands answers from Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales regarding the extraordinary rendition and torture-outsourcing in the Maher Arar case. 

  

HAS IT BEEN ONLY 1 DAY?

In the above video, Sarah Palin resurrects the ghosts of Salem and the McCarthy era, as she weaves a scary tale of lies to suggest that Obama’s tax plan will turn American into a nightmare communist state. Inherent to this accusation is a promise to carry the torch of the Bush-Cheney Administration’s legacy of fearmongering, persecution and lawlessness.  History bears this out: certain people in America live in a constant state of fear. All they need is someone to take the stage and tell them, exactly, what it is they’re so afraid of: Witches? Socialists? Blacks? Muslims? Communists? The McCain Palin campaign is telling them exactly what they want to hear. 

dem·a·gogue: One who will preach doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots — H.L. Mencken

  

WILL IT BE ONLY 9 DAYS?

Vote on November 4th. And do everything in your power to make sure that vote isn’t stolen from you. So much depends on this, with such a tremendous degree of voter fraud taking place by both Republicans and the Christian right. The extent of this fraud can only be known after the fact, when it’s too late to do anything about it.

Sarah Palin & Spiritual Warfare: A Kindler, Gentler Terrorism

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Honestly, the whole damned mess just exhausts me. The last thing I feel like doing right now is researching and writing on yet more layers of Sarah Palin’s nut-headed involvement in yet more bizarre, religious doomsday cults that have been combed from the fringes of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity. So I won’t.

But you, the reader, may want to invest the time and energy, if you are a Catholic, a Jew, a Christian, a Buddhist, an agnostic or — for that fact — if you are any human being living on this planet who is not part of Sarah Palin’s religious network that embraces any of the following institutions, leaders, movements and terms as part of a larger strategy: Prayer Warfare/Spiritual Warfare, Strategic Prayer Network, World Prayer Center International, Transformations, witchhunting, New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), Thomas Muthee, Third Wave, C. Peter Wagner, Global Harvest Ministries, Global Apostolic Prayer Network, killing Mother Theresa with prayers, spiritual mapping, the apostolic-prophetic movement, Ana Mendez (Farrell), and Mary Glazier.

Why would you want to invest your time in this luncacy?

Because Sarah Palin’s religious fringes see it as their appointed mission from God to change the world through various modes of “spiritual warfare” — destruction and death being, at times, a necessary part of this grand design — which culls out “non-member” politicians, authorities and religious figures, so that they may be replaced with “member” politicians such as Sarah Palin. Her involvement with these fringes is more than casual. And one needn’t scratch too far below the surface to find this, nor to see that Sarah Palin has been flashing “the code” of this sect to her fellow members, in the casual, everyday language of her statements throughout her political career (e.g. her “prayer warrior” comment in her Oct. 22, 2008 James Dobson interview). I’ve seen enough. I don’t have the energy to write about it.  

At the same time, I can’t totally plunge my head into the sand, as some prominent members of this fringe feel it’s also their appointed duty to disenfranchise *certain* voters who vote for *certain* candidates, their tactics no different than the ones currently being used in the Republican Party’s voter fraud campaign. So it is with gratitude to Bruce Wilson that I offer a link to his article, below, which offers a comprehensive discussion on this topic, with many, many links included for verification and further reading. It should be delved and considered by any person who contemplates voting Sarah Palin’s into any public office — or by any human being who shares the planet with a person contemplating such a vote.

Huffington Post: Sarah Palin Linked to Second Witchhunter by Bruce Wilson

McCain’s Bogeyman Politics: The last refuge of a scoundrel

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! A terrorist plane! An Arab! A Muslim! An Islamic extremist! A scary black man! A rock star! The anti-Christ! A commie! A socialist! A traitor! A treasonist! It’s un-American! It’s… it’s….

It’s election year.

And the McCain campaign, ever-desperate for something to run on besides their shoddily repackaged version of the Bush Administration, is grabbing at straws. As such, they’ve amassed the most reprehensible stump tactics in political history and repackaged them into a plank, of sorts: bogeyman politics. A scary mix of race-baiting, red-baiting and kitchen-sink demagoguery, bogeyman politics can turn a garden-variety politician into a scarecrow. By the same token, it can transform a great man into the very embodiment of terror: the bogeyman. History bears this out. The McCain-Palin bogeyman platform pays great tribute to the architects of fearmongering: Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, Westwood Pegler, Paul Joseph Goebbels, Joseph McCarthy and George Wallace.

And to anyone who would accuse Rep. John Lewis (GA) of going ‘over the line’ by mentioning George Wallace in his recent rebuke of McCain-Palin for “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” I would ask you to tell me: What are McCain, Palin, their surrogates and supporters doing — in both words and foulness of spirit — that is so different from what we saw during George Wallaces’s campaigns?  

Barack Obama is not even worthy to shine the shoes of John McCain. — PAC member, Deborah Johns, speaking from the pro-McCain-Palin “Stop Obama Tour” October 17, 2008

 

I’m a proponent of the “we must remember history, lest we repeat it” school of thought. Apparently, there are many in this country who have either forgotten, or they’re too young to own a visceral perspective of those bleak lessons that history has so painfully taught us over the past 60 years. Else, how could our media so easily disregard the McCain-Palin campaign’s flirtation with McCarthyism? And how could any American, except die-hard racists, embrace a platform that engages in the scary black man/scary Muslim race-baiting rhetoric (an amalgam of 1950s era racism and 21st century Muslim terrorist fearmongering)? How could anyone embrace a campaign that soils the character of a good man, based solely on the color of his skin and the unfortunate coincidence of his middle name?  

The history books will one day record the McCain-Palin campaign as being every bit as flagrantly ridiculous and dangerous as it truly is. The shame is that that we don’t recognize these destructive campaigns in their time. It is only in retrospect, years after the damage has been done. The demagogues of Nazi Germany, the McCarthy era and White Supremacy did not seize power overnight. That power had to be cultivated — word by word, fear by fear — conjuring forth the darkest elements of human nature to do war against imaginary evils. 

History tells the tale: good men and women can be drawn to do dark deeds, given the incentive of fear. While human beings may never lose their fear of the bogeyman — that amorphous being that hides in the shadows, in closets, under the bed at night and flies planes into buildings — we can choose to become more wise. Great leaders, like Obama, shed light into the dark places. Fools, like McCain/Palin, draw us further into the darkness. Wise men know the difference between the two camps. 

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Billboards showing Dr. King and Rosa Parks attending an integrated event at the Highlander Folk School in 1957 are erected across the South. To the white power structure, integration is a "communist plot" against the "Southern way of life." Therefore, anyone attending an integrated event was — by definition — a "communist."

Billboards, such as the one above, showing Dr. King and Rosa Parks attending an integrated event at the Highlander Folk School in 1957 were erected across the South. To the white power structure, integration was a “communist plot” against the “Southern way of life.” Therefore, anyone attending an integrated event was — by definition — a “communist.”

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers  

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Quotes and other foodstuffs for thought:

George Wallace was fond of red-baiting. In his 1963 inaugural speech, he compared fascist Germany to the Civil Rights movement, and he blamed desegregation and the Civil Rights movement on communism: 

This is the great freedom of our American founding fathers, but if we amalgamate [desegragate] into the one unit as advocated by the communist philosophers, then the enrichment of our lives, the freedom for our development, is gone forever….And may we take note of one other fact…. There are not enough native communists in the South to fill up a telephone booth. — George Wallace

 

They’re building a bridge over the Potomac for all the white liberals fleeing to Virginia. – George Wallace, 1968

I’ve lived here for at least 10 years and before that, about every third duty I was in either Arlington or Alexandria, up in communist country. —  John McCain’s brother, Joe, speaking about two Democratic-leaning areas in Northern Virginia, October 4, 2008

His voting record is more to the left than the announced socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont. — John McCain, when asked if Obama is an extremist, July 17, 2008

I don’t know. All I know is his voting record, and that’s what people usually judge their elected representatives by.– John McCain (same interview) when asked if he thinks Obama is a socialist, July 17, 2008

His answer actually scared me even more… It’s kind of a socialist viewpoint. I don’t want to share my money with other people. That’s not the American dream. — Joe “the plumber” Wurzelbacher, reacting to his discussion on taxes with Barack Obama, October 14, 2008

Then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror. – Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) describing in March 2008 what would happen if Obama won the presidency

I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button. — Kentucky Rep. Geoff Davis (R) said of Obama, April 2008

Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they’re a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity. — Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, in comparing Michelle Obama to Sarah Palin, Sept 4, 2008

A few years later, he ran for the U.S. Senate. He won and has spent most of his time as a “celebrity senator.” No leadership or major legislation to speak of. His rise is remarkable in its own right – it’s the kind of thing that could happen only in America. — Rudy Giuliani, in his Sept. 2008 RNC convention speech, makes a subtle nod to Affirmative Action as the conduit to Obama’s rise in politics. 

He worked as a community organizer. — Rudy Giuliani on Barack Obama, Sept. 2008 RNC

This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn’t just need an organizer. — Sarah Palin, Sept. 2008

I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that.Sarah Palin, June 2008

Our national leaders are sending U.S. soldiers on a task that is from God. — Sarah Palin, June 2008

As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. — Aldolf Hitler

What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay. He wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America. He’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights? – Sarah Palin on Obama, Sept. 2008

A writer observed: “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity.” I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind…. They are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America … They love their country, in good times and bad, and they’re always proud of America.  – Sarah Palin at the Republican convention, Sept. 2008, quoting Westbrook Pegler, the racist, fascist, pro-Nazi, anti-semitic, pseudo-populist journalist/writer who openly wished for the assassinations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. We believe…. We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and growing our food and are fighting our wars for us. Those who are protecting us in uniform. Those who are protecting the virtues of freedom. — Sarah Palin, explaining an early comment regardings areas of the country that are “pro-America” vs. those parts of America that are not. — Oct. 16, 2008

We believe also that there is a reason we all get teared-up when we hear Lee Greenwood sing about America, because we love America and we are always proud of being Americans. And we don’t apologize for being Americans. — Sarah Palin, October 16, 2008

McCarthyism is Americanism with its sleeves rolled. — Joseph McCarthy during the McCarthy era

I think it should be a states issue not a federal government, mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I’m in that sense a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. – Sarah Palin, October 2008

This nation was never meant to be a unit of one… This is the exact reason our freedom loving forefathers established the states, so as to divide the rights and powers among the states, insuring that no central power could gain master government control. — George Wallace, 1963 [EDITOR’S NOTE: The mention of ‘state’s rights’ has long been code for being anti-Civil Rights/white supremacy. This was a prominent component of George Wallace’s rhetoric, as he tried to assert the state’s right to preserve prejudice as in institution. The above is but one example, from one of his more famous speeches, delivered from the schoolhouse steps, as he physically blocked the door to bar black students from entering]

You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’ — Lee Atwater, explaining the evolution of the GOP’s Southern strategy, 1981

This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. – Sarah Palin on Obama,  October 2008 

Our opponent is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.  — Sarah Palin, October 2008

My opponent’s touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned. For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. It’s as if somehow the usual rules don’t apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that…. In short: Who is the real Barack Obama? — John McCain, Oct. 2008 [In short, McCain would like us ask ourselves, “Is Barack Hussein Obama a *real* American? Just who is this dark stranger? And what is this scary, black, Muslim-y terrorist-like guy going to do with our country if we elect him?”] 

I play to win. I do whatever it takes to win. If I have to fuck my opponent to win I’ll do it. If I have to destroy my opponent I won’t give it a second thought. — John McCain, spoken before a gathering of GOP operatives at the National Republican Senatorial Committee where McCain outlined his campaign strategy in his senate race.

 It is not truth that matters, but victory. — Adolf HItler

“Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family.” — from a McCain campaign press release, October 2008

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State. — Paul Joseph Goebbels on the power of propaganda

“Sit down, boy.” — Shouted at an African American media soundman by a Sarah Palin supporter during a rally  

“Kill him!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Treason!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Traitor!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“Off with his head!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

“He’s an Arab!” — said by a McCain-Palin supporter at a McCain town hall meeting, Oct. 2008

“Commie faggot!” — shouted by a McCain-Palin supporter at a Palin rally, Oct. 2008

The great strength of the totalitarian state is that it forces those who fear it to imitate it. — Adolf Hitler

In the wake of their ongoing, indendiary rhetoric — along with the unchecked, ugly responses from the McCain-Palin rally audiences — Rep. John Lewis of Georgia issued a statement to the McCain campaign, adding his voice to the many, many others (colleagues, media figures and journalists, etc.) rebuking the campaign’s negative tactics. In Lewis’ statement, he reminded McCain of the historical precedence for violent repurcussions in the wake of such dangerous rhetoric. McCain took umbrage at this and chose to turn Rep. Lewis’ reprimand into an attack on Obama: 

Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I’ve always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track. I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America. — John McCain, Oct. 2008

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Perhaps, one day, John McCain will experience one of those death-bed conversions, similar to the one experienced by George Wallace, similar to the one Lee Atwater experienced while dying with a brain tumor. I’ve been around this world long enough to know that there are few burdens too heavy to bear. A heavy conscience is one of them 

I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul. It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime.

Mostly I am sorry for the way I thought of other people. Like a good general, I had treated everyone who wasn’t with me as against me…..My illness has taught me something about the nature of humanity, love, brotherhood and relationships that I never understood, and probably never would have. So, from that standpoint, there is some truth and good in everything. — Lee Atwater, 1990

McCain & Palin: A hopeless campaign of dog whistles and kazoos

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I grew up in the South. I know the code. I know it when I hear it, and I know how it works.  

To the uninitiated, “code” is sometimes likened to a dog whistle, heard only by a particular audience, whose ears will perk up at the mention of particular words. The code has become somewhat of a tradition in American politics, a device used to summon closet racists and certain other red-blooded Americans to the stump. If delivered properly, these same words can be used to romance the mainstream. Times used to be simpler. Restaurants, theaters, buses, water fountains and so on were duly marked: whites or coloreds. And the latter could be barred entirely from the political process by various forms of threat, including the prerequisite of taking a “literacy test” before voting. Nowadays, if a politician wishes to divide the packs into “us” vs. “them” it is more politically-correct to use a dog whistle.  

Although we’ve heard the code throughout the campaign (see examples at the bottom of this post), the dog whistling grew to a fevered intensity during the Republican convention.  After all, their opponent was not only black but — by virture of his middle name — he could also be pegged as Muslim, which, as any dog whistler could tell you, equals terrorist. So it was only natural that Sarah Palin, making her vice-presidential debut, would quote the words of a racist, fascist, pro-Nazi, anti-semitic, pseudo-populist journalist named Westbrook Pegler — a writer who openly wished for the assassinations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. As dog whistles go, Sarah couldn’t have made a cleaner, more precise delivery of his quote, when she said in her acceptance speech script: 

A writer observed: “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity.” I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind….

To the uninitiated, it sounded like Sarah Palin was merely conjuring the honest, by-gone simplicty of Normal Rockwell’s America. To the initiated, those words sounded like the same old, same old dog whistles we’ve been listening to since George Wallace’s heyday. In politics, that’s what you call a win-win situation. And so it was that, for a few brief days in early September, a majority of Americans appeared ready to follow the pied pipers down that well-worn path that was last traveled by George W. Bush. But then, something happened. Two things, actually: Sarah Palin spoke without a script, and Wall Street began to collapse.

Both events made glaring the shoddy construction of the McCain-Palin platform, as well as the ineptness of the two candidates carrying that platform. Their poll numbers dived accordingly. Lacking substantive issues on which to run, and having failed at counterfeiting Obama’s campaign of hope, service and change, the McCain camp opted for the path of last resort: lying about their own record, while yollering baseless, incendiary attacks on Obama. After all, the fearmongering worked for George Wallace with blacks, it worked for Richard Nixon with the anti-war protesters, and it worked for George Bush with Muslims. As September wore on, the dog whistling escalated to full-throated accuastions: Risky! Elitist! Not proud of America! Dangerous! Dishonorable! Catastrophic harm! Al Qaeda! Domestic terrorist! Terrorist!  Terrorist!

With these words, the McCain-Palin ticket gave their crowds implicit permission to engage in the same. Ordinary stump patriotism quickly disintegrated into a pack mentality, as their rally mobs began shouting, with a menacing glee, racial epithets and words such as: He’s a terrorist! Traitor! Treason! He’s a socialist! A communist! A commie faggot! Barack Hussein Obama! A one-man terrorist cell! A Muslim! An Arab! Osama bin Lyin! Bomb Obama! Off with his head! Kill him!

Back when I was in school, in the earliest day of segregation, my best friend was African American. As a result, I got at least one ass-whooping per week. Some days, upwards of 50 kids would mob around me, jeering and yollering epithets as 2, 3, 4 or 5 kids would pounce, kicking me and pummeling me in the head. This was on school grounds, usually while waiting for the bus in the afternoon. I remember one day glimpsing — as I looked out between the legs of the mob — a teacher standing nearby. She was my science teacher, my homeroom teacher. She glanced over when I yelled, “Make them stop!” then turned her head away, as if distracted by something in the other direction. I learned to take the daily ass-beatings sitting down, with my arms wrapped around my head. An easier recourse would have been to step back into my proper place, an option I rejected from the get-go, back when the threats first started, back when I was first indicted with that notorious alias: n-lover. Those words were whispered and spat at me from every niche, clique and cranny of my school, and they dogged me home, via the nightly phone calls. The violence soon followed.   

As an n-lover, there were different rules for me than other white kids. If I raised my hand in class, it was as if I were invisible. My participation was, at best, endured by my teachers as they sighed, rolled their eyes or issued snappy retorts — their tone impatient, conveying a thinly-veiled contempt (English teachers being the exception to this rule).  If I forgot my homework or was late for class, I’d be sent to the office with a note deeming me ‘disruptive’ or a ‘troublemaker.’ Granted, none of these actions could have been tried as crimes in a court of law, but when such treatment becomes a daylong, day-in and day-out way of life over a period of years, it can either wear a person down in very fundamental ways, or it can inspire a person to rebel. I’ve generally, but not always, tended toward the latter. To my parent’s credit, being an n-lover was the most natural thing in the world to me. It never occurred to me, until I got my first ass-whooping, that blacks and whites could not be friends. 

So it is with no small amount of gratitude that I, as a citizen of this country, embrace any and all national and political figures who are voicing outrage over the McCain-Palin campaign’s shameful and dangerous campaign rhetoric. I am equally grateful to those in the media who are echoing censure for both the lies and the incendiary hate-baiting. Although the truth is self-evident, some of our most prominent media figures appear to be engaging in denial.  Or, perhaps, they believe it to be impolite or showing an unfair bias to state these ugly truths outright.   

The Messenger 

Just this past weekend, one of Capitol Hill’s most respected voices, Rep. John Lewis from Georgia — a man who repeatedly and quite literally put his life on the line during the Civil Rights era — spoke out against the McCain-Palin camp’s dangerous rhetoric:

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“As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing today reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

“During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed one Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

“As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.”

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Attacking the Messenger

McCain’s response to Rep. John Lewis’ reprimand speaks for itself:

Congressman John Lewis’ comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama’s record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign.

I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I’ve always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track.

I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America.

It goes without saying that McCain has backed himself into a corner. Unless he continues to draw the sort of supporters that would have seamlessly fit into a 1963 George Wallace rally, McCain will lose what what little is left of his ragtag base. It seems the old dog whistle’s grown a little rusty over the years. People don’t hear it quite the way they used to.  But still, McCain and Palin will keep bleating on the thing, which nowadays sounds more like a kazoo. And, with whatever breath they have left over, they will huff and puff fake outrage over each and ever censure, and they will continue the campaign of outrageously pathetic lies, such as the one we recently heard, when McCain tried to turn the tables and accuse Obama of calling him a terrorist. (see video here). 

Noble Words, Noble Deeds

There are some who accuse Obama of lofty rhetoric, who say that Obama can’t lay claim to  noble deeds to back-up his noble words. One of Sarah’s scripts derisively termed it “the idealism of high-flown speechmaking, in which crowds are stirringly summoned to support great things.” I would remind these people of what happened at an Obama rally at Independence Square in Philadelphia this past April. When Obama mentioned Hillary Clinton’s name, the crowd booed, and he told them to stop. It happened again, just this week, when his supporters booed McCain. Barack Obama intervened when his supporters merely booed his opponent. He called for civility. Yet, when faced with supporters who label his fellow senator a terrorist — repeatedly calling for his assassination —  John McCain says absolutely nothing.

To those who would accuse Obama of lofty rhetoric, I would ask that they turn away from the dog whistles for a moment and listen — really listen — to Obama’s speech from last March (see excerpt and video, below) delivered at Constitution Center in Philadelphia, in which he not only addressed race, but described that fundamental path by which America can work together to pursue a better future. This is the same fundamental path he’s been forging for his entire political career, including this campaign. Unlike his opponent, Obama speaks for all Americans, each and every one of us, including those who are still asking the question, “Who is Barack Obama?” Listen to his words and pay attention to his actions. You will find no contradictions.  

Tears flow down the face of Marty Nesbit as Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois, speaks in Philadelphia about race.

Tears flow down the face of Marty Nesbit as Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois, speaks in Philadelphia about race.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well. For we have a choice in this country.

We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism…. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that. But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.


That is one option.

Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.


This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with
whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power
on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on
if we do it together.


This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for
men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans
from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the
fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.


This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve
together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to
talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and
never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by
caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.
I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what
the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect,
but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today,
whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me
the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and
openness to change have already made history in this election.

ABOVE: See the full content of Barack Obama’s March 2008 speech in Philadelphia, PA at Constitution Center.  

 

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by Mantis Katz for the canarypapers

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AN UGLY FOOTNOTE

Below is a sampling of the dog whistles, verbal molotovs and other incendiary devices that have been lobbed in the course of this presidential campaign. There are plenty more. I’ll enter them later, if (big if) I have the stomach for it:  

Then the radical Islamists, the al Qaeda, the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on Sept. 11 because they will declare victory in this War on Terror. — Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) describing in March 2008 what would happen if Obama won the presidency

I’ve never believed in quotas, and I don’t. — John McCain, April 2008

I’m going to tell you something: That boy’s finger does not need to be on the button. — Kentucky Rep. Geoff Davis (R) said of Obama, April 2008

Just from what little I’ve seen of her and Mr. Obama, Sen. Obama, they’re a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they’re uppity. — Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, in comparing Michelle Obama to Sarah Palin, Sept 4, 2008

A few years later, he ran for the U.S. Senate. He won and has spent most of his time as a “celebrity senator.” No leadership or major legislation to speak of. His rise is remarkable in its own right – it’s the kind of thing that could happen only in America. — Rudy Giuliani, in his Sept. 2008 RNC convention speech, makes a subtle nod to Affirmative Action as the conduit to Obama’s rise in politics. 

He worked as a community organizer. — Rudy Giuliani on Barack Obama, Sept. 2008 RNC

This world of threats and dangers is not just a community, and it doesn’t just need an organizer. — Sarah Palin, Sept. 2008

What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet? The answer is to reduce the strength of America in a dangerous world. Terrorist states are seeking nuclear weapons without delay. He wants to meet them without preconditions. Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America. He’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights? — Sarah Palin on Obama, Sept. 2008

A writer observed: “We grow good people in our small towns, with honesty, sincerity, and dignity.” I know just the kind of people that writer had in mind…. They are the ones who do some of the hardest work in America … They love their country, in good times and bad, and they’re always proud of America.  — Sarah Palin, Sept. 2008

I think it should be a states issue not a federal government, mandated, mandating yes or no on such an important issue. I’m in that sense a federalist, where I believe that states should have more say in the laws of their lands and individual areas. — Sarah Palin, October 2008 [EDITOR’S NOTE: The mention of ‘state’s rights’ has long been code for being anti-Civil Rights. This was a prominent component of George Wallace’s rhetoric, as he tried to assert the state’s right to preserve prejudice as in institution. Here’s but one example, from ne of his more famous speeches, delivered in 1963 from the schoolhouse steps, as he physically blocked the door to bar black students from entering: “This nation was never meant to be a unit of one… This is the exact reason our freedom loving forefathers established the states, so as to divide the rights and powers among the states, insuring that no central power could gain master government control.” ]

This is not a man who sees America as you see it and how I see America. We see America as the greatest force for good in this world. — Sarah Palin on Obama,  October 2008 

Our opponent is someone who sees America it seems as being so imperfect that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country.  — Sarah Palin, October 2008

My opponent’s touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned. For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. It’s as if somehow the usual rules don’t apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that…. In short: Who is the real Barack Obama? — John McCain, Oct. 2008 [In short, McCain would like us ask ourselves, “Is Barack Hussein Obama a *real* American? Just who is this dark stranger? And what is this scary, black, Muslim-y terrorist-like guy going to do with our country if we elect him?”] 

“Barack Obama’s friend tried to kill my family.” — from a McCain campaign press release, October 2008

Sit down, boy. — Shouted at an African American media soundman by a Sarah Palin supporter during a rally  

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The McCain campaign has crossed the line between tough negative campaigning and inciting vigilantism, and each day the mob howls louder. The onus is on the man who says he puts his country first to call off the dogs, pit bulls and otherwise. — Frank Rich, October 2008

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For more on dog whistle politics, see:

Stop Dog Whistle Racism: tracking race in this year’s elections

Sarah Palin & the Vietnam War Era: Shall we reduce our history to bumper sticker slogans?

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I figure I can keep prefacing my posts with this anecdote until it no longer applies: I once knew a man whose parrot could say “shit.” While the bird had no idea what the word meant, it nonetheless spent its days repeating, “shit” (along with “open the door” and “what’s up?”) daylong, come rain or come shine. 

Sarah Palin is like this. Her scriptwriters have given her some zingy speeches, phrases and one-liners, which she delivers with a fair degree of skill. Problem is, she hasn’t the foggiest idea what she’s talking about. It’s one thing to memorize the facts. It’s another thing, entirely, to understand those facts — and particularly to understand them within their historical context.

Oh, that the lessons from the ugliest chapters in our national history could be reduced to bumper sticker slogans, which we could forever intone in times of trouble, to save us from all future calamity. The world doesn’t work that way. Anyone who thinks so is just plain wrong. And any national leader who thinks so is just plain dangerous. In this vein, I feel compelled to set the record straight on the Vietnam War era, which served as the backdrop to those notorious and violent protests of William Ayers that have recently become the subject of Sarah Palin’s bumper-sticker slogans — those carelessly delivered slogans that carry the same potential for deadly violence as any of the Weathermen’s bombs.    

The Vietnam War Years: some sorely needed perspective on those horrible times

William Ayers’ activities with the Weathermen were abhorrent, no matter that he committed them in the cause of ending the war in Vietnam. I can state, without a doubt (and even lacking statistics) that nearly all Americans were opposed to bombing government buildings in protest of the war. It would be a lie,  however, to say that Ayers was out of the mainstream in his beliefs that the war was wrong and needed to end. 

The fact is, during the height of Ayers’ anti-war activities, the majority of Americans were of the same mind as Ayers in opposing the war in Vietnam. Depending on the age group, the opposition ranged from 66% to 77% of Americans opposing the war in Vietnam War.

Again, we can all overwhelmingly agree today that William Ayers’ violent methods were wrong (wrong, wrong, wrong). But let’s be clear. It would be a lie to say that his opposition to the war was “un-American” as Sarah Palin would like us to believe, unless you’re the sort who believes that the majority opinion, within a democracy, is undemocratic, or that citizens who protest when they believe their government is wrong are “unpatriotic.” Because, if you’re that sort, then you’re also the sort who would paint as treasonists and terrorists men like Patrick Henry, Paul Revere, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson…..

The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive. — Thomas Jefferson

During the height of the Vietnam War, millions of Americans took to the streets in protest against the war, with the majority of violent acts being committed — not by the protesters, but by law enforcement. Even this is an over-simplification. The point here is that Sarah Palin knows shamefully little about the history of the country she’d like to rule, much less the rest of the world. In this vein, I offer, below, an exceedingly brief historical context of the Vietnam War era, because it seems history’s been re-written into things that were and were not. 

My effort here will no doubt inspire the wrath of some. I suspect this is why we don’t see an outpouring of such efforts, even as there are no doubt countless millions in this country who would agree with what I’m saying. I’m of the mind that, lest we remember the lessons of our history, we will be forced to relearn them over and over. Ain’t no bumper sticker can save us from ignorance. I am particularly mindful and fearful of this when I hear the hateful, violence-inciting vitriol of Sarah Palin’s stump speeches.  

ABOVE: A May 1964 conversation between President Lyndon Johnson and his National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, one year before the fatal escalation of troops. Here, Johnson voiced his strong reservations about escalating this war: Looks to me we’re getting into another Korea. It just worries the hell out of me….. I don’t think it’s worth fighting for, and I don’t think we can get out, and it’s just the biggest damn mess that I ever saw….. It’s damned easy to get into a war, but it’s going to be awfully hard to extricate yourself if you get in.

ABOVE: Four years after this conversation, Walter Cronkite denounced the war in Vietnam in a broadcast that effectively put an end to Johnson’s aspirations for re-election. Would that we had, today, such journalists of integrity.

ABOVE: For those who didn’t live through the Vietnam years, this is a sampling of what we saw on the evening news. For those who did live through those years, but have forgotten the national climate at that time, here is a sampling of the 66% to 77% of Americans who, like William Ayers, were opposed to the war. This footage at least shows us that the Bush Administration took one lesson from the Vietnam War — namely, that if you shut out the media (don’t show the slaughtering of women and children, and don’t show those coffins arriving home) you can keep the American public in the dark about the realities of a war and, thereby, reduce the level of negative opinion and protest.  (note: the sound quality on this video is uneven — scratchy, then loud, then soft — but well worth the 10 minutes to watch).

Leave no authority existing not responsible to the people. — Thomas Jefferson

 

See our related posts:

Sarah Palin Hurls William Ayers: A Molotov Cocktail with a Twist of Lies 

The Terrorist Tactics of Sarah Palin & John McCain: It’s time to tell the media “Enough is Enough!”

McCain & Palin — Palling Around with Terrorists While Rome Burns