Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obama Wins Debate, Calls 'Crisis' a 'Final Verdict'

Barack Obama seized the offensive and never lost it! Setting the tone at the outset, he charged that McCain had been a 'loyal supporter' of an unpopular President over a period of eight years. He called the current financial crisis 'a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policies promoted by President Bush and supported by Sen. McCain.' We can't afford another four, he said.

Obama's win was impressive. Unlike McCain, who often tried to mask displeasure with an uncomfortable 'smile', Obama refuted McCain consistently and deftly turned refutations into rapier-like attacks.

Presidential Debate. Obama Winds Decisively
WASHINGTON, Sept. 27 (UPI) -- A post-debate poll indicates Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Barack Obama won Friday night's first presidential debate in Oxford, Miss.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey, conducted shortly after the debate ended, showed 51 percent thought Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, did the best job, while 38 percent said Republican opponent Sen. John McCain of Arizona won.

Only people who watched the debate were questioned and the audience included more Democrats than Republicans. Some 524 people were polled by telephone Sept. 26 after the end of the debate.

There were big differences by gender. Men were nearly evenly split, with 46 percent giving the win to McCain and 43 percent to Obama while women voters gave Obama the win, preferring him to McCain 59 percent 31 percent, CNN said.

"It can be reasonably concluded, especially after accounting for the slight Democratic bias in the survey, that we witnessed a tie in Mississippi tonight," said CNN Senior Political Researcher Alan Silverleib. "But given the direction of the campaign over the last couple of weeks, a tie translates to a win for Obama."

--Poll: Obama won presidential debate
Obama seized the offensive and never lost it. In response to McCain, Obama did not merely 'refute', he countered and charged.
From the outset of the 90 minute debate, which was almost called off because of the economic crisis, Mr. Obama was on the offensive, mocking his rival for having said that “the fundamentals of the economy are strong” when it is in freefall. He accused him of promoting a failed Republican philosophy of deregulation that had caused havoc in the financial markets
“This is a final verdict on eight years of failed economic policies, promoted by George Bush, supported by Senator McCain,” Mr. Obama, said. He described it as “a theory that basically says that we can shred regulations and consumer protections, and give more and more to the most, and somehow prosperity will trickle down.”

--Obama and McCain clash in first televised debate
A high point of the debate was Obama's devastating assessment of the GOP's Iraq war:
“You talk about the surge. The war started in 2003. And at the time, when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni and you were wrong.”

Barack Obama, Presidential Debate

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How the Right Wing has Helped the "Leftist" Cause

In 1969, Hillary Rodham, at Wellesley College, wrote an 'A' paper --a 92-page senior thesis entitled "'There Is Only The Fight…": An Analysis of the Alinsky Model". During the Presidency of Bill Clinton, the GOP --thinking that the paper contained evidence that Hilary had strong radical or socialist views --tried to get a copy that it could use against Clinton. In fact, the GOP is the biggest practitioner of Alinsky's 'rules for radicals'. I know because I had a GOP 'campaign manual' that was based upon Alinsky's campaign and organizational tactics.

By that time, at Hilary's request, Wellesley was denying access to the paper. What is in that paper that 'neo' and other 'conservatives were so massaged and outraged? A clue may be found in the terms: 'social revolution'.
If the ideals Alinsky espouses were actualized, the result would be social revolution. Ironically, this is not a disjunctive projection if considered in the tradition of Western democratic theory.

-- Hillary D. Rodham, There Is Only The Fight…": An Analysis of the Alinsky Model
Ninety-nine percent of America's total wealth is now owned by just one percent of its population. Social revolution, therefore, is a necessity if the nation is to survive. This increasingly tiny elite will not --of its own accord --release the strangle hold it exercises over the nation's means of production, its national defense, the government itself.

Put another way: about one percent of the nation is rich enough to have bought and paid for a 'government' that it utilizes to defend its interests, its wealth, and the 'transfer of its raw power' from this generation to the next. A top-heavy US increasingly resembles the pro-typical, militaristic banana republic. A top-heavy society is unstable; one that has nukes poses an imminent threat to the entire world as the rogue administration of George W. Bush has demonstrated.

Hilary's paper deals with the work of Saul Alinsky, a social activist and organizer born in Chicago in 1909. Hillary's thesis is touted as '...very revealing of Alinsky’s view of American life '.
…after graduating from the University of Chicago, Alinsky received a fellowship in criminology with a first assignment to get a look at crime from the inside of gangs. He attached himself to the Capone gang, attaining a perspective from which he viewed the gang as a huge quasi-public utility serving the people of Chicago.

--Quote, "There is Only the Fight, Hilary Rodham
Alinsky is described as an 'academic-turned-radical' which it is claimed was a 'personality type' found first among journalists covering the Russian Revolution of 1917 and --some 'five decades later --among journalists and students trying to make sense of US military involvement in Viet Nam.

What is interesting to me about Hilary's paper is the level of 'outrage' it inspires though very, very few have actually read it. Wellesley denied access to it. Later, when it was released, it was apparently available for a while on the internet. Now --even that access appears to have disappeared. I found but one link and that, interestingly, was on a 'neoconsertive' web site. Like 'neoconservative' ideology, it didn't work.

It would appear, then, that those who are most outraged by Hilary's paper have never read it. Secondly, Hilary's paper is inspired and thus based upon Alinsky's 'Rules for Radicals'. You can get a copy of that by mail at Why does Hilary's paper continue to generate so much right wing teeth gnashing when its inspiration is available in paper back. That has to do with the fact that the right wing may get away with absurd characterizations of works that are not available. Lies about a work that is in print and available on are more difficult to support. The GOP is would be well-advised to confine its lies to things that cannot be so easily verified otherwise.

At last --the disingenuous nature of right wing outrage is obvious when it is the right wing, the GOP in particular, that cites Alinsky more often than does the 'left'. For years, I kept a 'Republican Campaign Handbook' carefully put together by "right wing" political consultants in Houston. The manual quoted Alinsky extensvely, primarily his 'Rules for Radicals', which include:
  • Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.

  • Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people. The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.

  • Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

  • Rule 4: Make opponents live up to their own book of rules. “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

  • Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.

  • Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”

  • Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.

  • Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”

  • Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.

  • Rule 10: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Avoid being trapped by an opponent or an interviewer who says, “Okay, what would you do?”

  • Rule 11: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, polarize it. Don’t try to attack abstract corporations or bureaucracies. Identify a responsible individual. Ignore attempts to shift or spread the blame.
  • --Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals
For a complete online 'manual' for organizers, see: The Citizen's Handbook

I want to thank the right wing for having directed so much attention to the work of Saul Alinsky, a man whose work might have gone unnoticed. Clearly --he is not forgotten and, thanks to the press he still gets, millions of progressives and liberals will continue to be inspired by his 'rules' --as applicable to communities hoping to improve conditions in their neighborhoods block-by-block as well as those seeking to build a consensus, a movement, perhaps a much-needed social revolution.

Such campaigns, indeed, revolutions themselves are most effective when they are put together the Saul Alinsky way: block by block and neighborhood by neighborhood. By daring to call attention to Hilary's book and, by extension, Saul Alinsky, the right wing has done a much better job than her suppressed paper could ever do. The right wing has shown us HOW we can organize to defeat them and, in the process, build up a liberal, progressive consensus from the ground up, block by block, all over the nation.

The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Evidence that Bush Will Exploit 'Crisis' to Declare Martial Law

Having spent '35 of the last 60 months' patrolling Iraq armed and in uniform, the 1st Brigade Combat Team has been re-assigned. According to the Army Times, it will perform the same duties in the United States --or, as the Times puts it --"at home".
They may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack.

Training for homeland scenarios has already begun at Fort Stewart and includes specialty tasks such as knowing how to use the “jaws of life” to extract a person from a mangled vehicle; extra medical training for a CBRNE incident; and working with U.S. Forestry Service experts on how to go in with chainsaws and cut and clear trees to clear a road or area.

The 1st BCT’s soldiers also will learn how to use “the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,” 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.

“It’s a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they’re fielding. They’ve been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we’re undertaking we were the first to get it.”

The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets.

“I was the first guy in the brigade to get Tasered,” said Cloutier, describing the experience as “your worst muscle cramp ever — times 10 throughout your whole body.

“I’m not a small guy, I weigh 230 pounds ... it put me on my knees in seconds.”

--Army Times Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1
Excuse me! I believe that the 'goddamned piece of paper' --otherwise known as the Constitution of the United States --makes the use of armed forces against American citizens on American soil a matter of 'high treason' i.,e the government waging 'war' upon the people, a matter that is expressly forbidden by the "Goddamn piece of paper", Article III:
Section 3. Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of treason, but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted.

--US Constitution, Article III
Additionally --
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

--US Constitution, Amendment III
There is also the matter of the abusive use of military personel to violate the Constitutional rights of US citizens:
Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

US Codes, § 1385. Use of Army and Air Force as posse comitatus
Of course, none of this means anthing to George W. Bush, a would be dictator for whom the rule of law means nothing, the Constitution is 'just a goddamned piece of paper". Bush is an incompetent boob who has, in fact, bankrupted the nation, violated the Constitutional rights of US citizens and has waged war upon them with acts of high treason and mass murder.

Bush should stand trial for his life on these capital charges to include thousands of violations of US Codes, Title 18, Section 2441.
(a) Offense.— Whoever, whether inside or outside the United States, commits a war crime, in any of the circumstances described in subsection (b), shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years, or both, and if death results to the victim, shall also be subject to the penalty of death.

--TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 118 > § 2441. War crimes

One wonders --is Bush who is otherwise semi-conscious --aware of the trouble he is in? Is this his motivation for blackmailing the nation into supporting his bailout of rich, elite Wall Street insiders whom Bush refers to as his 'his' base'?

See: Fortune Magazine Reveals Why There Is A Gas Shortage - And Warns It Could Get Worse!

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What if the GOP Had Let Wall Street 'Privatize' Social Security?

For years the GOP, the demagogue John McCain and the Bush administration have looked at Social Security and licked their greedy chops! Now is the time to ask: what if these greedy GOP bastards had privatized Social Security?? The quick response: millions of retirees would be facing starvation or the FEMA camps!

Social Security was targeted not because it was a failure or because it was broken as we were repeatedly told. It was targeted because it was a success --in fact, Social Security was and remains the government's ONLY unqualified success. Certainly --it could have been depended upon to further enrich the fat cats at your expense.

In the meantime, Wall Street and the GOP blackmail the nation: bail out the robber barons or face the collapse of the dollar when, in fact, the bailout itself threatens catastrophic hyperinflation i.e, the utter collapse of the buck.
Economist Michael Hudson: the bailout is a giveaway that will cause hyperinflation and dollar collapse

Bailout talks stall as Bush meets with Congressional leaders and Presidential candidates. German Finance Minister says US will no longer be the financial Superpower. French President Sarkozy says the days when "the all powerful market is always right are over". The Real News Network spoke to economist and historian Dr. Michael Hudson who says that it's not a "bailout" but a "giveaway" and will create a new kleptocracy of billionaires.

Dr. Michael Hudson is a Wall Street financial analyst and historian. Dr. Hudson was Dennis Kucinich’s Chief Economic Advisor in the recent Democratic primary presidential campaign, and has advised the U.S., Canadian, Mexican and Latvian governments, as well as the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). A Distinguished Research Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City, he is the author of many books, including Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire and of Super-Imperialism and of The Myth of Aid .

--Once in a Century Rip-Off

GOP attacks on Social Security was party's first phony crisis, perhaps a dry run for the current bailout.
To save Social Security, Bush wants to destroy it -- replacing government-guaranteed retirement benefits with private accounts that will be subject to the whims of the stock market. It's an expensive plan. Allowing workers to divert even a small portion of their payroll taxes into private investments, as Bush is proposing, would require the government to borrow at least $2 trillion to make up the immediate shortfall. It's also completely unnecessary, according to Paul Krugman, a prize-winning professor of economics at Princeton University. In a blistering series of columns in the New York Times, Krugman has marshaled the economic data to show that Social Security is not only solvent, it's in much better financial shape than the rest of the federal government. "The people who hustled America into a tax cut to eliminate an imaginary budget surplus and a war to eliminate imaginary weapons," Krugman wrote recently, "are now trying another bum's rush."

At his tree-shaded home in Princeton, New Jersey, Krugman took a break from working on a new economics textbook to explain why the crisis is phony -- and what's wrong with Bush's plan "to convert Social Security into a giant 401(k)."
What would you say to college students and young workers who are convinced they'll never see a dime of the money they put into Social Security?

You've been sold a scare story. Right now Social Security has a large and growing trust fund -- a surplus that has been collected to pay for the surge in benefits we'll experience when the baby boomers start to retire. If you're twenty now, you'll be hitting retirement around 2052. That's the year the Congressional Budget Office says the trust fund will run out. In fact, many economists say it may never run out. If the economy continues to grow at an average rate, the trust fund could quite possibly last forever.

But what happens if it doesn't?

Even if the trust fund does run out, Social Security will still be able to pay eighty percent of promised benefits. The actual shortfall would be a pretty small part of the federal budget, quite easily made up from other sources. Once the whole baby-boomer generation is into the retirement pool, Social Security's share of the gross domestic product will only increase by about two percent. Well, President Bush's tax cuts are more than two percent of GDP -- and they're happening right now, not fifty years from now. So the idea that there's this Social Security thing that is a huge problem is just wrong.

But if the trust fund does run out, the government would have to raise taxes or cut benefits, or some combination of both, to keep Social Security solvent.

Yes, if the trust fund is ever depleted, then something will have to be done. But you need to have some perspective on the seriousness of this whole thing. On the day the trust fund is exhausted, Social Security revenue will cover about eighty percent of the cost of benefits. Right now -- today -- if you look at the U.S. government outside of Social Security, revenue covers only about sixty-eight percent of total government spending. So on the day the trust fund is exhausted, forty-seven years from now, Social Security will be in better financial shape than the rest of the U.S. government is today.

So if there's no crisis in Social Security, why is President Bush pushing so hard to privatize it?

It's politics. Since the days of Barry Goldwater, the Republican right has really wanted to dismantle Social Security. And now they have a degree of political dominance that lets them push it to the top of the agenda -- even though no rational analysis of the actual problems facing the U.S. government would say that it belongs there.

Why do they want to dismantle it?

It's hard to understand why anyone would want to return us to the days before the New Deal, when millions of elderly people lived in poverty. But if you really dislike the notion that the government provides a safety net for the poor, then Social Security is the prime target. The U.S. government is a big insurance company, with a side business in national security. Social Security is the biggest social-insurance program that we have. It's been highly successful, and it's extremely popular. It's one of the things that makes people feel somewhat good about government -- and so, therefore, it must go.

And some people stand to profit from abolishing it. Wall Street poured a lot of money into both of Bush's campaigns, hoping he will divert Social Security into the stock market.

That's a factor, but I don't think it's the reason behind it. Attacking Social Security is a lot like attacking Iraq -- just because a lot of people stood to get lucrative contracts from it, that doesn't mean that's why they did it. If you privatize Social Security, there's going to be a tremendous amount of income for the mutual-fund industry. That's one reason there is a constituency for this on Wall Street. And that's one of the important reasons why this is really gonna work very badly.

What do you mean? Those who are pushing privatization say that our financial markets are one of our greatest strengths -- that private investment will work better in the long run than government-managed accounts with lower rates of return.

There are two problems with that. First, the fees charged on private accounts will be a significant drain on returns. In a typical portfolio, we're probably looking at a return of four percent. But fees are likely to take at least one percent, like they do in Britain. So now we're down to a return of three percent or less on private accounts. And since Bush wants to borrow $2 trillion to pay for the transition, we're talking about borrowing at interest rates of three percent to establish private accounts that will yield three percent -- with a lot of additional risk. So it's a lose-lose proposition, except for the mutual-fund industry.

The second problem with the market is that some people -- probably many people -- will end up getting much less than they would have under the current system, depending on which funds they pick and how the market does. A lot of people will hit age sixty-five with very little in their private account -- and that means a big return of poverty among the elderly, which is exactly what's happening in Britain right now. As a result, the government will have to step back in and rescue people. We'll have more suffering and bigger bills. People will ask: Where did all that money go? The answer will be: It basically went into mutual-fund fees.

But what if stocks do well? Isn't it possible that privatization would work?

The only possible way that stock returns can be high enough to make privatization work is if the U.S. economy grows at three to four percent a year for the next fifty years. But Social Security's own trustees expect the economy's growth rate to slow to 1.8 percent. If that happens -- if their own assumptions are correct -- then privatization would be a disaster. And if that doesn't happen -- if the economy continues to grow at a steady rate -- then the trust fund is good for the rest of the century, and we don't need privatization.

In selling the idea that there's a crisis, Bush has a lot of powerful words on his side: "choice," "freedom," "ownership society." What words do you have to counter his sales job?

Scam. Three-card monte. I've been thinking a lot about flying pigs. The privateers are claiming that you can have something for nothing. They're basically saying, "Let's assume that pigs can fly." And when you say, "You know, it's not good to assume that pigs can fly," they respond by saying, "What's wrong with you? Don't you understand the enormous advantage of flying pigs?"

The only reason they talk about how wonderful an ownership society would be is because we managed to win the battle over the word privatization. The Cato Institute -- which is the intellectual headquarters for all this stuff -- founded something in 1995 called the Project on Social Security Privatization. But focus groups don't like that word, so in 2002 they changed the name to the Project on Social Security Choice. They didn't announce a name change -- they just went back and scrubbed their Web site, so there's no indication that it was ever called "privatization."

If there's no crisis in Social Security, why aren't the Democrats saying that more clearly and forcefully?

There's a lot of timidity. They're desperately afraid of seeming like "Oh, well -- we have our heads in the sand, and we're not active." I would like to see them step up to the plate and say that these claims that we're going to have a crisis sometime in the next fifteen years is just garbage. Bush is handing them an opportunity by making this the centerpiece of his agenda. Democrats should treat privatizing Social Security the way Republicans treated Clinton's health-care plan -- they should say, "This is a disaster, and we will stand against it." Social Security is simply not the biggest problem facing the government today.

What is?

If you really want to get scared about something that can happen between now and 2052, you should talk about Medicare and Medicaid. The entire system of private health insurance is gradually collapsing. And as the share of people getting medical insurance through their employers continues to decline, the number of people who have to rely on the government for health insurance keeps going up. At the same time, medical costs keep on rising, because doctors keep on figuring out new stuff to do -- procedures that didn't exist ten or twenty years ago.

So what needs to be done to shore up Medicare?

In our system, we have huge administrative costs -- which are mostly driven by insurance companies spending huge amounts of money trying to avoid covering people. Our health-care costs are eighty percent higher than those in other advanced countries. The best way to contain those costs is to go to a single-payer system, one in which the government insures everyone. That would probably cut the cost of health care by at least twenty-five percent.

But there's no way that will happen under Bush.

He actually wants to do the opposite. If he manages to privatize Social Security, he'll try to privatize Medicare next. He'll try to strip away guaranteed health care and turn it into some kind of system of individual health accounts. The right says that what we need is more choice, more competition. But every piece of evidence suggests that health care is an area in which privatization actually raises costs. If they succeed at dismantling both Social Security and Medicare, then you're pretty much back, on domestic policy, to the days of Warren Harding -- which is exactly where they want to go.

--The Fake Crisis: Economist Paul Krugman explains Bush's latest con -- social security
We have been lucky so far to have beaten GOP attempts to let Wall Street insiders steal your Social Security, steal your retirement prospects. If the GOP is not decisively discredited, exposed to be the endemically crooked party that it is in fact, we might not be so lucky in the future. Increasingly --the future is now.

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