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Worst president ever?

History Should and Probably Will Judge President Obama Harshly

 

President Barack Obama is on track to go down in history as one of the, or perhaps as the worst and most criminal presidents in US history.

He started out, campaigning in 2008, as someone would would restore the rule of law in US international affairs and here at home after eight years of criminality during the Bush and Cheney administration, as saying he would end America’s wars and bring back an era of international cooperation and negotiation, and as saying that he would confront the dire threat of global climate change.

On the basis of that promise, he won a dramatic election victory, raising hopes across the country and across many voting blocks. On that basis, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize -- the first time the award was given before anything had been done by the laureate being honored. And on the basis of that promise, people expected action on climate change and on ending America's wars.

Instead, the president began backpedaling almost instantly. Instead of restoring the rule of law, he almost promptly announced that he would not permit his Justice Department to engage in any prosecutions of CIA, FBI, military of Bush/Cheney administration personnel for violations of international law or of US law. He introduced new secrecy rules, launched a record number of prosecutions of government whistleblowers, including an international manhunt to arrest or kill NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden which included the forcing down of a presidential aircraft carrying the president of Bolivia, wrongly suspected of flying Snowden from Russia to that Latin American country, and a secret espionage indictment against Wikileaks founder Julien Assange, who has thus been trapped for years in the little UK embassy of Ecuador which has granted him asylum. And most egregiously, Barack Obama, sabotaged the first international meeting on climate change held in Denmark, and has ducked every opportunity to have the US lead on reaching an international agreement to seriously reduce global carbon emissions.

During the three Congressional electoral cycles and his re-election campaign in 2012, Obama studiously avoided pressing on any of these key issues, and especially on climate change. His position: “all of the above”, for energy development, has seen the US move, not towards carbon emission reductions, but towards expanded production of gas, oil and even coal extraction, making the US the largest oil producer in the world, and a major provider of dirty coal to both US electric companies and large coal using countries abroad, including China.

Obama in Alaska talking about the urgency of fighting climate change, while Shell's arctic ocean drill platform heads north to search for more oil in the arctic sea floor, with White House approvalObama in Alaska talking about the urgency of fighting climate change, while Shell's arctic ocean drill platform heads north to search for more oil in the arctic sea floor, with White House approval
 

We need peace officers, not pinkertons

What’s Wrong with Police in America

 

Americans got a glimpse of what policing is like in a more humane and civilized society last year when four young Swedish cops, on vacation in New York City and riding on a subway, found themselves faced with a bloody fight in the aisle by two angry black men.

A subway car full of New Yorkers watched in stunned disbelief as the four Scandinavian cops, all in civvies and unarmed, leapt into action. They used non-lethal techniques to pin the two combatants without hurting either one and then began trying to talk them down, calmly, never raising their voices, and avoiding any swearing or verbal abuse. Neither man was hit by any of the officers despite their struggling. As the Swedish cops waited for New York’s Finest to arrive, they gently rubbed and patted the distressed captives and spoke to them reassuringly.

It was not the way that situation would likely have gone down had it been four off-duty New York cops in that car. First of all, they would almost certainly have had guns on them. Second, they would have been shouting and upping the tension level. Third, they might well have applied chokeholds instead of arm restraints, and would have had the men pinned face down, with knees in their backs. Quite possibly punches would have been thrown along with kicks and stomping in a gang-banging frenzy. Given the history of prior such incidents, it’s conceivable that shots might even have been fired, and that passengers could have been hit by stray police bullets (as happened in a Times Square incident not long ago). One or both of the fighters might well have been injured or even killed.

Instead a violent incident was peacefully halted...incredibly with nobody hurt.

That’s how policing is done in much of Europe, where police shootings are almost unheard of. It’s how it should be done here.

But the whole concept of policing in the US is quite different from what prevails in most democratic countries. For one thing, abroad police are not ubiquitous in most places. I was in Finland, Austria and southern Germany last year, as well as in Quebec, and it’s actually hard to find a cop in any of those places when you’re looking for one. I walked for two hours in Montreal and didn’t see a single police officer, on foot or in a patrol car. Not so in New York, Philadelphia, Boston or even my local community of Upper Dublin, PA, where it’s easy to pass two or three cop cars just while driving the three miles between my house and the train station.

New York's Finest busting up a legally protected protest during the Occupy Movement in 2011New York's Finest busting up a legally protected protest during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street Movement
 

Big donations are great, but what we really want are lots and lots of small ones

We're over 10% of the Way to our Goal. Let's make it 90%! Readers, please step it up!


Good news! Some of our readers are starting to come through. We have, four months into this first ever fund-raising effort, raised one-tenth of our goal: $2000 in mostly small donations. That is great as far as it goes, but really, people are paying into all kinds of crazy Kickstarter campaigns. Why not just support great journalism?

What's been raised so fare is not nearly the kind of money that would allow the dedicated members of this collective -- who put out the reports on this award-winning site for nothing, doing the reporting and writing in our spare time -- to cut back on our day jobs and actually devote serious time to alternative news reporting, but it's the start. If you, our readers, can get into the habit of occasionally supporting a site like this that you turn to regularly or even occasionally to know what's happening, big things will happen here.

We know this can work. You all clearly want what we are producing, and value our reports (we know that because you keep coming back and reading what we write), and yet still far too many of you, our readers, are just taking what we do for free. That isn't going to help build a movement. We need solidarity to build a new media model. And solidarity aside, just from the point of view of self-interest, we could provide so much more of the unique news we have been providing for almost four years if we had some serious money coming in to support us in that work.

So readers, hear our call! Join those TCBH! readers who are coming through with support, show some solidarity for a change, support what we do, don't just take it, and send us what you can. We're hoping from $5 per reader, but even $1 would help, if you all did it.

It's easy: use the handy Paypal button above, or send cash or a check made out to Dave Lindorff/TCBH to POB 846, Ambler, PA 19002

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Our Quadrennial Reality TV Show

Sorting Through the Bullshit in America

 

One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit. ... The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept.
     - Harry Frankfurt, professor emeritus of philosophy, Princeton University, author of On Bullshit
 

In a recent news story, a New York Times reporter referred to “the siren call” of ISIS propaganda that motivated three teenage Muslim girls to fly from Britain to ISIS-controlled Syria. The girls were clearly frustrated, facing anti-Muslim prejudice and cultural pressures unique to Muslim girls. They clearly found no solace in “the siren call” of western, market-worshipping consumer society. The New York Times reporter did not characterize western culture this way, but it might be so characterized. The so-called Free Market is becoming a sort of religion.

The girls seemed caught in a delusional double bind, driven by hope for more satisfying lives. “[T]he girls spoke of leaving behind an immoral society to search for religious virtue and meaning,” the Times story reports. At least one of the girls is now married to an ISIS member. The question that interests me is how much of the competing pressures working on such vulnerable girls amounts to what Professor Frankfurt calls bullshit.

Bullshit is taking over the world. It’s certainly become a staple of our culture. ISIS and other religious entities employ it masterfully, via social media. When the Times reporter uses the phrase “siren call” she's using an antiquated, poetic term that carries some judgmental or patronizing spin. Reduced to its essence, the ISIS siren call would seem to be a form of what Professor Frankfurt calls bullshit, calculating statements and claims that exhibit no concern for the truth; influence and power is the goal. And as Frankfurt told Jon Stewart, the stuff is piling up higher every day. Marketing, advertising and public relations reeks of it. Religion makes it sound holy. In the struggle for the bottom line, bullshit consumes more and more of the informational oxygen in the room. Polarization is the rule everywhere, leading to factional struggles that assure bullshit an honored space, as a devotion to the serious search for truth becomes more a quaint and naïve posture. Well, that is, unless the intellectual search is in the service of business efficiency, technological advancement or profit. The fact is, bullshit rules.

In a recent essay in Harper’s called “How College Sold Its Soul ... and Surrendered to the Market,” William Deresiewicz writes that what we used to call a “liberal education” -- a curriculum that emphasized accumulating a breadth of knowledge and the capacity for critical thinking in order to produce a responsible citizen -- is being winnowed out of existence and replaced by institutions that emphasize training to be a winner in what is called “neo-liberalism” -- that is, market-oriented capitalism.

“It is not the humanities per se that are under attack,” he writes. “It is learning: learning for its own sake, curiosity for its own sake, ideas for their own sake.” As an example, he cites how Florida Governor Rick Scott “has singled out anthropology majors as something that his state does not need more of.” Scott has proposed raising tuition costs at Florida state universities for liberal arts majors. This hits close to home, since I graduated in 1973 from Florida State University with a major in English and Creative Writing, and a minor in Philosophy.

Wall Street reporting is a joke

The Stock Market is Getting Harder to Rig

 

It’s entertaining to watch and to read reports in the corporate media about the current stock market decline, which over the course of the last six business days erased $2.1 trillion in the market value of stocks of publicly-traded US corporations (and in a lot of ordinary Americans’ retirement savings).

CNN, in an article on Wednesday, had a piece on its CNN Money website saying not to worry about the market crashing, because, “At the moment, the US economy looks healthy. It’s on track to grow about 2% this year, and unemployment is back at the low levels it was at prior to the Great Recession.”

The New York Times, also on Wednesday, did acknowledge that there were some issues that had been “overlooked” that were now getting attention, but the article focussed entirely abroad, not at the US itself. It argued that the US economy is not as immune from global economic slowdowns as many analysts had believed. For example, while trade with China may only account for some 2% of the revenues of US public companies, much of the rest of the world, including large parts of Asia and Australia, as well as Europe, are heavily dependent upon trade with China, and the US economy is linked to all of them. So, the article concluded, if China’s economy stalls, as appears to be happening, most of the world stalls, and that would cause problems for the US too.

Let’s look at both of these arguments more closely though.

First of all, anyone who says the US economy “looks healthy” isn’t looking very closely. A 2% growth rate is hardly anything to crow about, and since the Fiscal Crisis, when growth was negative, the US economy has struggled to do much more than 2% per year, with the best year being 2014 when it made it to 2.4%. Compare that to the 1990s, when there were five years of growth rates of 4% a year or more, and only two years of below 2% growth rates.

Under a thunderhead

 
 

Under a thunderhead
in a suddenly darkened field,
straight-backed against a stone,
I wait
like a hunted thing
charmed into paralysis
by a great predatory growling
distantly igniting the silver lining,
blowing the fuse
of everything I was promised
as the trees fill
their great sails
and the ridge line fails --
that great wall breached!
Under the thunderhead
I am still here
as the temperature drops 5 degrees
because, not I,
but something being born in me,
that has storm-tested wings,
wants to stay no matter what,
instead of dashing for the house
to watch from inside
as I have watched,
how many storms?
unhinge this gentle place,
trap the stillborn moment,
in that coppery light
while the ever-breaking wave,
the wind,
drags that weighted curtain,
of the rain we always say we need,
across the ecstatic valley.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

“Now I get it!”

Katie Couric’s Hit Job on Social Security

 

Katie Couric, a veteran TV journalist and currently global anchor for Yahoo News, just trashed Social Security in a hit piece misleadingly called “Explaining Social Security” that purported to be explaining the system’s financial “crisis.” Far from explaining the system, she trundled out tired falsehoods and scare tactics long used by the system’s enemies -- notably the Republican Party and including many Democrats in the pocket of Wall Street. (Significantly, the online video was sponsored by Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, hardly a fan of Social Security.)

First, Couric’s long list of whoppers:

She claims for starters that the system works like a bank, collecting workers’ Social Security payroll taxes, and stashing them under a government mattress, and then paying out the money as retirement checks when they take their retirement. This is simply not true and was never meant to be true. What actually happens, and happened from the beginning of the program in1936, is that the payroll taxes collected from current workers and their employers go to pay for the benefits of current retirees.

Couric makes it appear that greedy baby boomers are going to be sucking money out of the pockets of younger active workers to fund their retirements as though this were something new and unseemly, when in fact, retirees since 1936 have been getting their benefits paid by younger people actively in the workforce. That is the actual way the system was designed to work, not, as she suggests, as a enforced retirement savings program.

Then she highlights what she wrongly claims is the problem: that the system has gone out of whack because of the unanticipated burden of some 74 million baby boomers now beginning to retire and collect Social Security benefits, and a relatively diminished number of current workers who have to pay for those benefits.

Couric warns ominously that the $2.8 trillion in the Social Security Trust Fund is being diminished to cover the annual shortfall in current payroll tax collections, and says this fund is going to eventually run out. Then she says that the program’s future is “well...not secure.”

This is about as disingenuous or ignorant as a journalist can be. Social Security is completely secure -- unless crooked politicians kill it. Sure the trust fund would “run out” in about 2033 if nothing was changed by Congress between now and then But Couric conveniently fails to mention that even then, taxes from current workers would be sufficient to cover 77% of the retiring boomer benefits due indefinitely until the percentage of elderly begins to decline. And remember, by 2033 the youngest baby boomer would be 69, so the wave of retirees would actually already be shrinking in relation to the active workforce, meaning the alleged “crisis” would already be resolving itself.

Journalist Katie Couric and Wall Street financier Peter Peterson, two enemies of Social SecurityJournalist Katie Couric and Wall Street financier Peter Peterson, two enemies of Social Security
 

The most draconian information-gathering law yet!

The Senate Wants to Make Internet Companies and Providers Spies

How much noise does the other shoe make when it drops? If the shoe is a law that would complete the development of a police surveillance state in the United States, it's almost silent.

Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee quietly sent a bill to the Senate that would require Internet companies (like Twitter and Facebook) and on-line Internet content and service providers (from giants like Comcast to more specialized providers like May First/People Link) to literally become part of the country's intelligence network by turning over to the government -- without any government request -- any posts on their systems related to "terrorist activities" and the identities of the posters.

News about the bill only became public when Reuters noticed and reported on it.

Turning the Magnifying Glass on UsTurning the Magnifying Glass on Us - original http://www.davidicke.com
 

The provision, Section 603 of Senate Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, is terse, simple and frightening. If passed, it could force Internet companies and providers to turn over information on organizations, activists, journalists, researchers and even interested commenters whose posts touch on "terrorist activity": the over-used under-defined term that drives so much of our contemporary legislation. It would also encourage these services to monitor their systems for any material that could possibly be considered relevant to "terrorism".

Not only does the provision chill communications but it turns the Internet into a law enforcement agency and that would fundamentally change its character and the society it serves.

The full Senate will now debate the law and it will probably sail through in the Fall. The House hasn't announced a similar measure but, given who runs the House, such a companion bill is very likely.

Make deal not war!

Obama’s, and Washington’s, Absurd Choice of a Nuclear Deal or War on Iran

 

I don’t know which is worse: President Obama asserting, in defense of the nuclear deal he and his Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated with Iran, that “The choice we face is ultimately between diplomacy and some form of war, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not three months from now, but soon,” or the fact that most Americans, and most American pundits, seem to accept that limited choice of options as a given.

Nothing could be more ridiculous, of course. We already know, because the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors have repeatedly inspected Iran’s nuclear energy programs and reactors and verified the fact, that no bomb-making work has been going on in Iran for years. Iran has no weapons-grade uranium 235 and no plutonium. Even the US intelligence services and Israel’s Mossad leaders past and present have said that Iran has no nuclear weapons program underway.

If the existence in a country of scientists capable to make a bomb were a cause for going to war, the US would have to be attacking Saudi Arabia, Egypt, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, all the countries of Eastern Europe and all the former Soviet states now referred to as “the Stans” in central Asia, as well as a host of others whose students have performed admirably as engineers and physics majors in US and European universities. Any of these countries could work out the science and the engineering issues needed to design and build a bomb, and if they didn’t have nuclear reactors that could churn out the necessary fissile material (most do), they could buy it on the black market.

So, for that matter, could Iran, if its leaders really wanted The Bomb. How hard would it have been for Iran to surreptitiously buy a nuke or three from ally and fellow Muslim state Pakistan, which has a bunch of them, or from financially strapped North Korea, or just to buy the ingredients for a bomb from them? But Iran has not done this, and despite years of unprovoked Israeli threats to send bombers to attack Iran, a fairly impressive and vicious cloak-and-dagger Mossad campaign to assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, a US/Israeli-orchestrated cyber attack, called Stuxnet, that destroyed most of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and supercomputers, and covert US support of terrorist actions inside Iran, Iran’s leaders have not reconsidered their decision back in 2003, a full 12 years ago, to halt the country’s research on developing a nuclear bomb, which Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has declared to be a “sin” under Islam.

Anyone who is convinced Iran plans to build a bomb and create Mideast mayhem by using it should ask themselves how that would benefit Iran. The country has been battered by sanctions and an oil embargo that have hampered any and all of its efforts to grow its economy and to improve the lives of the Iranian people. Iran also experienced first hand the horrors of war in the prolonged and horrific struggle it had against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein (who had US backing). Even if there are people who occasionally still shout “death to America” at demonstrations in Tehran, it would be hard to find someone in that country who would really want a war with the US, or with Israel either for that matter -- a country that has at its disposal some 400 nuclear weapons (and which, unlike Iran, has never signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, does not allow international inspectors on its territory, and most importantly, has never ruled out using nukes first or against a country that has no nukes).

The US can't expect fellow Security Council member states China, Russia, France, and even Britain and Germany, to stick with sanctions on Iran if Congress kills the nuclear deal just negotiatedThe US can't expect fellow Security Council member states China, Russia, France, and even Britain and Germany, to stick with sanctions on Iran if Congress kills the nuclear deal just negotiated
 

A moment of silence for Cecil

 

Cecil the lionCecil the lion

Let’s have a moment’s
Silence for Cecil (Ses’-al),
But not yet.
During that silence
Let us think about why
Cecil’s life matters.
Was it because his trust was betrayed
And we felt a little responsible?
Or are we just so upset with what is happening
To the whole planet
In our name
That when something so patently disgusting
And immoral happens to an icon
Like Cecil,
We gladly wrap our minds around it,
Sign petitions, and inwardly set up a howling?
Getting mad when you know you are right
Is very cleansing.
So, in our moment’s silence
We can thank Cecil
For stirring our conscience.
It feels good to feel!
And before we get back to business as usual,
And during our moment of silence,
Let us think some more about
Why we’re so pissed
That such a perfectly handsome animal
Was murdered and decapitated.
What was the button
That Cecil’s murder pushed
That set off the alarm?

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Fightin' Cock FlyerFightin' Cock Flyer

Listen as Chuck, John, Dave and Linn Join Prairie Radical Mike Caddell of the Fightin' Cock Flyer on Radio Free Kansas

Here's the link to prairie radio radical Mike Caddell's Radio Free Kansas program, where you can hear the podcast of the whole group interview that was conducted on Saturday, May 8.

Also, listen to Dave Lindorff on Chris Cook's Gorilla Radio on CFEV Radio in Victoria, Canada.

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by Dr. Radut