December 08, 2009

Gutter Politics, with Tomatoes and Other Garbage

If you can't kill her, at least throw tomatoes at her -- or cheer on those who do. Thus speak today's progressives:
"what's wrong with throwing tomatoes at palin??"

"the guy that threw tomatoes at Sarah Palin. He is my hero now."

"Sarah Palin got tomatoes thrown at her! lol...tooo bad they missed though :(("

"I have no problem with his motives, just his aim. He just did what we all dream of doing."

Make no mistake: the ultimate motive and goal of this perspective, one that is deeply embedded in our culture, is to Kill that Woman! The foundational belief is that women are evil. See that essay for the details. And see this more recent article for another example of the same phenomenon. Cheering for tomato-throwing, cheering for a rape in progress ... it all comes from the identical mindset.

A comment to VastLeft's post is worth noting:
Sad to see a young "progressive" movement commit suicide like this isn't it?

It's really troubling how members of failed political movements begin to lash out against boogeymen/women in these kinds of sick ways.

Bush followers used to lash out at completely powerless liberals for conservative failures. Now Obama followers lash out at completely powerless conservatives for progressive failures.
I'm very sympathetic to this perspective, and I shared this view at one time.

But that time ended several years ago for me. I described the reasons for my changing view in, "The Plea of Helplessness, the Refusal of Responsibility, and Today's Progressives." You can consult that essay for the lengthier analysis. Here's the critical point:
In the event, [the progressives] didn't prove me wrong; to the contrary, they demonstrated the truth of what I had still hoped, however faintly, wasn't true. But what was demonstrated to be true was simply that virtually everything the Democrats and progressives claimed to be their fervent concern was merely instrumental: that is, they staked out the positions they did for their perceived political advantage, and for the assistance those positions would provide in regaining and consolidating power.

In the end, that was the only goal, the only purpose toward which everything else was directed: the achievement and maintenance of power.
As also discussed in that essay -- and in a post from a few days ago about "health care reform" -- the progressives' behavior since Obama took office and the Democrats consolidated their control over Congress has demonstrated the truth of these observations countless times, in increasingly sickening detail.

The commenter's last remark merits additional emphasis: "Now Obama followers lash out at completely powerless conservatives for progressive failures." This is certainly true, and it represents a typical method of denial and deflection: seeking to avoid accountability and responsibility for one's own failures by falsely attempting to lay blame on an external target.

But that's only part of the dynamic involved. In certain respects, the underlying purpose is more critical to those who repeatedly engage in this kind of behavior. That purpose is two-fold: to strengthen the internal identity and cohesiveness of one's own group, while simultaneously demonizing opposing groups.

I analyzed these dynamics at length in, "Learning to Hate 'The Other.'" I was going to set forth here only a couple of my "Observations About Tribal Beliefs and Behavior" offered at the beginning of that article, but I then realized that they are all of critical importance (as they almost always are when this sort of behavior is involved). So here they are again:
ONE: To the degree that membership in a particular tribe or tribes is important to a person's sense of identity, that person believes that his own tribe(s) is inherently and uniquely good. To the degree that tribal membership is a critical element of personal identity, all members of all tribes are convinced this is true of those tribes to which they belong.
TWO: Insofar as the tribe's centrally defining characteristic(s) (race, religion, political beliefs, etc.) are concerned, all other tribes that differ with regard to these characteristics are necessarily inferior and wrong. This has an especially critical implication: at first with regard to these centrally defining characteristics, and inevitably in a more general sense, the individual members of all other tribes are necessarily inferior to and less worthy than the members of one's own tribe(s).
THREE: The basic dynamics of all tribes are the same. This applies to all tribes in two different critical respects. It is true of dynamics within the tribe -- that is, of those particular mechanisms which create and maintain tribal identity and cohesiveness -- and it is also true of how one tribe views itself and behaves in relation to other tribes.
FOUR: The major mechanism by which any tribe creates and maintains tribal identity and cohesiveness is obedience: the requirement that each member of the tribe conform his thinking and behavior in accordance with the major elements of the tribe's belief system.
The earlier article has much more on the nature of obedience in this context, as well as examples of how these dynamics manifest themselves; the second part of that series has still further details about how these beliefs and behaviors are first taught to very young children by many parents.

I will soon be continuing that series. There is a great deal that remains to be said about this general subject.

December 06, 2009

How Bad Is The Fuck You Act?

You may well conclude that by calling it The Fuck You Act, I've already indicated that the monstrosity that will finally emerge from Congress in the name of "health care reform" is very, very bad indeed. You're correct!

But it's worth setting forth some further particulars concerning how and why this legislation will be so incomprehensibly godawful. The exercise has value in itself, and I also do this as background to some upcoming articles. Two general principles are helpful with regard to what follows; I discussed both of them in a recent article about global warming and what I termed "The Fatal Corporatist Problem."

First, and this merits strong emphasis, the "health care reform" legislation will fatally undercut all the goals set forth by Democrats and progressives themselves. To restate the point: if the Democrats and progressives are sincere and genuinely committed to what they say their goals are, they should be working day and night to defeat this abomination. That most of them are doing the opposite is deeply revealing. And they are doing the opposite for the most transparent and pathetic of reasons: they are desperate for something they can call a "win" as an alleged demonstration of perceived "political power."

Note the qualifiers I have italicized in the preceding sentence. This is the Horror Hall of Mirrors of the fatally corrupted world now inhabited by the "leading" progressives: reality is endlessly reflected and distorted, until all that remains is a nightmare depiction offering no connection at even a single point to something that constitutes a positive achievement in terms of their own stated purposes. Virtually nothing in the final bill will offer genuine assistance to those the progressives claim to be so eager to help. You may think I exaggerate. Keep in mind that what is called the "public option" has been so eviscerated that it is worse than nothing; see this article for the details of how this "bait and switch" operation occurred.

But I don't exaggerate in the least:
Ezra [Klein] believes that if the votes aren't there for a decent public option then the horse trading should be around getting something good in return for giving up the public option rather than negotiating the terms of the public option. That would make sense if the public option were just another feature of the health care bill. But it is not. It is the central demand of the liberal base of the Democratic Party in this rube goldberg health care plan and has long since gone way beyond a policy to become a symbol.

Perhaps that is wrong on policy grounds.
People will argue about that forever. But that doesn't change the fact that it is no longer a matter of policy but rather a matter of political power. And to that extent it cannot be "bargained away" for something like better subsidies, even if it made sense. "Bargaining away" the Public Option is also the bargaining away of liberal influence and strength.

Indeed, since the political establishment and the media have been declaring it dead for the past six months, the fact that it is still in the bill is a testament to liberal strength. And that is why Republicans and corporate centrists are so desperate to destroy anything that's called a "Public Option" no matter how many compromises are made to accomodate them. And it's why the liberals are so adamant about keeping it alive.

Again, as a matter of policy I don't know that the public option actually means much anymore. But as a matter of politics, it's very important. Powerful people, from outside and inside the Party are desperate that the liberals are not seen to win this battle. It changes the balance of power in ways that extend far beyond the health care debate and they know it.
I've read this several times since I first saw it a few days ago. Each time I go back to it, I first have this thought: "It can't be as bad as I think it is. It just can't. I must have misunderstood it." And every time I read it again, I conclude: "No, it's not as bad as I had thought. It's worse."

The "public option" is no longer a question of policy, but "a symbol." To whatever extent it may somehow reflect policy, it may be "wrong on policy grounds." The fact that it may be "wrong on policy grounds" doesn't matter: "it is no longer a matter of policy but rather a matter of political power." The identical point is restated to emphasize that this is truly what the writer believes: "as a matter of policy I don't know that the public option actually means much anymore." One further critical point must be kept in mind: in very significant part, the fact that the public option doesn't "actually mean[] much anymore" is the result of the progressives themselves determinedly making genuine reform impossible, in the name of political "feasibility": see here and here for many details concerning how the Democrats and progressives worked toward this end. I also recommend consulting this post for an overview of what transpired, including some very recent developments; more on those recent developments will be found here (and read the comments).

So it is the progressives themselves who were in significant part responsible for a result that may be "wrong on policy grounds" and a public option that doesn't "actually mean[] much anymore." And that's not all: the same progressives now maintain that this worse than meaningless public option must be kept in the bill as "a matter of political power," but not even actual political power, merely its symbol -- and they further argue that the public option must be kept in the bill and "cannot be 'bargained away' for something like better subsidies, even if it made sense."

In other words: even though those people who will not be able to pay for insurance -- and who thus may be subject to penalties for failing to comply with the mandate -- may desperately need those "better subsidies," they won't get them "even if" those "better subsidies" "made sense." In still other words: too bad you won't be able to pay for insurance, too bad you might be fined (and won't be able to pay the fines, either), too bad you might even go to jail. We could help you, but we won't. And we won't help you because it's more important for us to have our symbol of political power.

And the people who won't be helped are precisely those people these same Democrats and progressives endlessly told us they so desperately wanted to help when this wretched, abysmal process began.

This is the very definition of moral and intellectual bankruptcy. In certain respects, it is not possible to go any lower. If you're willing to give up this much -- and as far as "health care reform" is concerned, they've given up everything that matters -- is there anything at all you won't give up? This is the inevitable result of engaging in this manner with a fundamentally corrupt system:
Thus, the lesson: when you choose to be a critical part of a system that has become this corrupt -- and the endless corruptions of our corporatist-authoritarian-militarist system have been documented at great length here and in other places -- you will not ameliorate or "save" it. The system will necessarily and inevitably corrupt you.
For much more on this general theme, see Chris Floyd's superb recent article.

The second general principle to be remembered was also discussed in my recent piece about the corporatist problem. It is stated with wonderful conciseness by Gabriel Kolko, who wrote this about the actual nature of the Progressives' achievements in the early part of the twentieth century. The same remains true today, as the corporatist system has become the inescapable foundation upon which all policy decisions and all legislation are based: "It was not a coincidence that the results of progressivism were precisely what many major business interests desired." Much more about this and about the earlier Progressive Era will be found in the previous article.

With these issues in mind, consider some excerpts from Helen Redmond's recent article, "Health Care's Historic Flop":
I get weekly emails from Levana Layendecker of Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Mitch Stewart from Organizing for America. In increasingly shrill prose, the two try to convince me to support whatever legislation emerges from Congress. They warn, “IF THE INSURANCE COMPANIES WIN, YOU LOSE.” I agree completely. That is why I won’t support any legislation Congress passes because the insurance companies have already won and we have lost.

We need only look at the check lists of two of the most powerful people in health care reform to see who is benefiting most from the proposed legislation in Congress.


AHIP [America's Health Insurance Plans] uses lobbyists and campaign contributions to shape legislation, not to kill or oppose it as HCAN and Organizing for America constantly claim. That’s what the 3000 lobbyists are doing every day in Congress - inserting industry friendly, arcane language and loopholes into unfathomable (except to industry lawyers and actuaries) 2000 page bills which the Democrats support. To be sure, insurers don’t like the public option but it’s so not robust, so eviscerated, so devoid of honesty keeping mechanisms it poses no competition or threat to profits as most political commentators now admit. Similarly, Ignagni wants tougher financial penalties for those who don’t purchase health insurance but it’s not a deal breaker, nor is accepting all patients regardless of health status. The industry has already announced premium increases and the added revenue will underwrite health care for those with “pre-existing” conditions.

It’s obvious. THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY IS WINNING AND WE ARE LOSING. There is an inconvenient contradiction that both HCAN and Organizing for America attempt to obscure: President Obama and Congressional leaders are working hand in glove with the very corporate criminals both organizations excoriate. AHIP and PhRMA have unfettered access to politicians and a massive influence on health care legislation. Why? Because the Democratic Party, despite its populist image, is a party of big business, of capitalism, not a party of the people. Notwithstanding the occasional howl about “insurance industry abuses” (to hoodwink us into thinking they are curbing those abuses) current legislation entrenches the industry even further into the core of the health care system and is on the brink of handing them unprecedented billions in taxpayer money and a mandate. This is dangerous not only to our health, but to democracy. Once the spigot to billions in public money is open, the industry will oppose attempts to shut it off. The money will flow back into American politics as campaign donations and kickbacks to happy-to-help, pro-industry politicians of which there are no shortage on either side of the aisle.


Here’s an inconvenient, honest-to-god truth: the legislation does nothing to solve the health care crisis. It’s estimated up to twenty million people will still be uninsured. There are no effective cost containment mechanisms in either bill because that would reduce profits. There are no controls on the price of premiums and the House bill permits charging twice as much for older people as for younger ones. More profits. Insurers can continue to deny physician recommended medical care and patient claims. Medical-loss ratio in favor of insurers, million dollar salaries for CEO’s and Wall Street investors untouched. The caps on out-of-pocket expenses are $5000 for individuals and $10,000 for families. These amounts result in medical bankruptcy now. Employers must pay 72.5 percent of premiums for individuals and 65 percent for families. That gives companies who currently pay a higher percentage an incentive to shift costs onto employees then dump them into the insurance exchange because it will be cheaper. The plans in the exchange will be high deductible, stripped down, tiered plans much like the ones available through the Commonwealth Connecter in Massachusetts. There will be an expansion of Medicaid but the history of the program reveals that just as it expands, it contracts. Eligibility criteria and reimbursement rates for Medicaid change with the fiscal fortunes of the states and federal government. It is truly stunning that health care reform will be paid for with billions in “savings” from the health care program for the elderly; Medicare. Why not use “savings” from the bloated 700 billion dollar military budget? The talk about fraud and waste in the Medicare program is a cover to cut benefits and seniors are right to be angry and mistrustful.
As I've written:
I point you again to Chris Floyd's wonderfully brief and entirely accurate summary of what is going on in the health care reform debate. It's no debate at all: whatever happens, certain already immensely powerful and wealthy corporations closely allied with the State will become still more powerful and wealthy. Given the nature of the corporatist system that now throttles every aspect of life in the U.S., that is how the system works. That's how it's set up, and that's its purpose. The fact that insurance companies will reap huge rewards on the backs of "ordinary" taxpaying Americans is not a regrettable byproduct of an allegedly good but imperfect effort at reform, or a flaw that will be fixed at some unspecified future date. And as already powerful and wealthy interests become more powerful and wealthy, the State will also increase its already massive power over all our lives still more. None of that is incidental: it's the point.
But I think I must now revise the name I gave to this legislation. Let us try to capture more completely the hideous, monstrous nature of what Congress is doing. Henceforth:
The Fuck You to Death Act
I suggest you lie back and breathe it in. Breathe deeply.

It won't hurt as much that way. And you'll die faster.

December 05, 2009

'Tis the Season for Giving

So if you can, please give a little here.

This is an entirely selfish request on my part. If I had any "extra" money myself (I don't and haven't for years, as regular readers know far too well), I'd happily give some to Violet. Sadly for me, I only started reading her regularly in the last month or so. As one example of the resulting interesting exchanges, you can look at this post and the comments.

Much more importantly, there's this recent post of Violet's. Her efforts in the critical area of challenges to the prevailing power structure are of vital significance in my view. This ties into my article here, and I will soon be continuing that series and offering my own thoughts about particular issues around which a new coalition could be formed. (My impossibly quick take on the two very broad issues which could be the basis of such a coalition are anti-corporatism [see here for a recent discussion of same, with regard to corporatism and the problem of global warming, entirely apart from the specifics of your own view of that problem] and anti-Empire [see lots of my essays; here's one]. Clearly, that must be filled in with a huge amount of detail; as I say, hopefully soon for all that.)

So I very deeply want all such efforts to continue, especially when they are pursued by a person of startlingly incisive intelligence and impressive knowledge. This isn't to say that I agree with Violet about each and every issue; as a lefty-anarchist, I obviously don't -- but as explained in my earlier article, I don't consider such full agreement possible or, more significantly, necessary. I think it will be of great value to figure out in detail where agreement can be found and how a meaningful challenge to the existing system might be mounted. (Certain issues properly should and must be non-negotiable, but not all.)

Many (most? all?) of us are hurting right now, some of us a lot. I know that to ask for help for ourselves or others represents an impossible extra burden for many people to shoulder. Violet herself acknowledges that very graciously. But those of us who aren't demonstrably insane and/or destructive and/or manipulative and/or intent upon power and nothing else at all seem to dwindle in number with each day that passes. So I think we need to help each other out to the extent we can.

Ha! I just talked myself into it. So I'm sending Violet $10.00. I can manage that.

Please do what you can.

December 04, 2009

Offered with (Almost) No Comment


On January 29, 2008, the Center for Constitutional Rights and co-counsel, the International Human Rights Law Clinic at the Washington College of Law, filed an Amended Complaint with the District Court for the District of Columbia against 24 named individual Defendants and the United States for their role in the arbitrary detention, torture and ultimate deaths of Yasser Al-Zahrani and Salah Al-Salami. The individual Defendants and the United States moved to dismiss the claims on June 26, 2009, and Plaintiffs filed their opposition on October 5, 2009. The Defendants’ reply is due December 4, 2009. The case is pending before Judge Ellen Huvelle of the D.C. District Court.


Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld, et al. is a civil action against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and 23 other senior officials and military officers for the abuse, arbitrary detention and wrongful deaths of Yasser Al-Zahrani of Saudi Arabia and Salah Al-Salami of Yemen, who died in U.S. custody at Guantánamo Bay on June 10, 2006.
From an email from the Center for Constitutional Rights that I received a short while ago:
This afternoon, the government filed reply papers in support of its motion to dismiss the case of Al-Zahrani v. Rumsfeld, arguing that no federal court has the power to hear cases seeking accountability for abuse of detainees at Guantánamo.

The Center for Constitutional Rights brought the suit against Donald Rumsfeld and 23 other federal officials on behalf of the families of Yasser Al-Zahrani and Salah Ali Abdullah Ahmed Al-Salami, two detained men found dead at the base in June 2006.

Among other claims, the government continues to advance arguments that:

** No federal court has jurisdiction to address the deceased’s claims of torture, wrongful detention and wrongful death, or any claims of abuse by any Guantánamo detainees;

** Detainees at Guantánamo are entitled to no constitutional protections beyond habeas corpus;

** While torture and indefinite incommunicado detention without charge may be illegal, U.S. officials who participated in such conduct vis-à-vis the deceased are still immune from any liability;

** None of the 24 named officials in the case, including Donald Rumsfeld and senior military commanders charged with responsibility over day-to-day operations in Guantánamo during the time of the deceased’s detention, bear any individual responsibility for the men’s arbitrary detention, abuse or ultimate deaths at Guantánamo; and

** Despite Supreme Court precedent establishing the United States’ effective sovereignty over the military base, that Guantánamo is still a “foreign country” thus barring the deceased’s tort claims against the government.
Put this development (which, I need hardly add, is now standard operating procedure for this administration, as it was for the previous one) together with Obama's speech earlier this week, and draw what conclusions you will.

My health precludes me from drinking alcohol, except on very rare occasions. I think I might have a drink this evening.

And I plan to swear. A lot. And then play with the cats and listen to opera.

December 03, 2009

A Postscript: Choices Have Consequences

I have an addendum to my post the other day concerning Obama's announcement of his "new" Afghanistan strategy ("A Deadly Liar and Manipulator").

A short while ago, I happened to look at an essay of mine from the end of August of last year. In that post, "A Choice of War Criminals," I set out the relevant provisions of the Nuremberg Principles. I then demonstrated -- and the proof is a remarkably simple one to grasp -- how application of those Principles leads to the unavoidable conclusion that both Barack Obama and John McCain were and are war criminals. As I also pointed out, the same is true of many others in our national ruling political class.

I had forgotten the conclusion of that earlier article. Because of its relevance to news events of this week and to the continuing murderous course of American Empire, I offer the final part of my argument again:
In his speech tonight, Barack Obama said not a word about holding anyone responsible for these crimes. But as noted above, how could he? He would have to hold himself responsible, too. Besides, if Obama is elected President, it will be time for "unity," and time "to move on." Accountability? Justice? Forget it.

And that brings us precisely here:
You desperately need to understand this: the next President of the United States, no matter who it is, will enter office knowing that he or she can systematically and regularly authorize torture, order mass murder, direct the United States military to engage in one campaign of criminal conquest and genocide after another, oversee uncountable acts of inhumanity and barbarity -- and he or she will never be challenged or called to account in any manner whatsoever. It may have taken the Bush administration two terms to bring us to the point where such evils are committed and even boasted about in broad daylight, while almost no one even notices -- but this will be where the next President starts.

And for this monstrous, unforgivable fact, you can thank the Democrats and those who whore themselves for the Democrats' success in our disgustingly meaningless elections.
If you vote for the candidate of one of the two major parties, this is your choice: John McCain, war criminal -- or Barack Obama, war criminal.

In view of all this, are people still going to seriously tell me -- are they going to seriously tell me -- that it is crucial to vote for Obama, because McCain is a crazy old man? Why exactly? Are they going to tell me it is critical for Obama to be the next President so that he can systematically and regularly authorize torture, order mass murder, direct the United States military to engage in one campaign of criminal conquest and genocide after another, oversee uncountable acts of inhumanity and barbarity -- and never be challenged or called to account in any manner whatsoever? But, they will whine, Obama would never do that. They may hope he will not, and I hope they are right -- although the prospects are alarming in the extreme -- but he will have the power to do all of it.

There is only so much I can stomach, and there are limits to what I will support. I will not vote for a war criminal, especially a war criminal who has insulated himself from all accountability for his own acts. Barring unexpected developments, I refuse to vote for either of these men. They are both vile, cynical, lying, ignoble, contemptible, sickening human beings. I therefore intend to follow a very different course.

But one of these men will be the next President. May God have pity on us, and may God have pity on the world.
I was bitterly amused to see my earlier reference to the "unity" theme, one which Obama repellently took up again the other night. Tragically, the balance of my remarks are decidedly and very notably unamusing.

Choices have consequences. When people choose to support a system such as ours today, endless destruction, murder, torture, barbarity and devastation are what they will get, necessarily and inevitably. Almost no one chooses "the only honorable course." Instead, most people avail themselves of transparent rationalizations, of mindless invocation of "lesser evils," and of the full panoply of denial and avoidance.

But the suffering and the death go on. Most Americans don't care. Nor do most writers and bloggers. They don't suffer anything close to the worst of the consequences of their choices, at least not yet. As far as they're concerned, all of that is far offstage, easily ignored.

If you voted for a war criminal, you voted for murder, torture and destruction. If you expected any other result, you're a fool. And that's the kindest description that can be offered.

The Only Honorable Course

In connection with discovering or reinforcing what that "honorable course" is, I urge you in the strongest possible terms to read every word of this latest Chris Floyd article immediately.

I hope you read Floyd every day. Here he has provided a distillation of all those elements that set his commentary far, far above what almost anyone else has to offer.

So again: please read it. I also urge all those so inclined to leave the link to Floyd's magisterial article everywhere you can.

(Very fortuitously for me, I'm working on a series of essays related to Floyd's themes in this latest piece, and I hope to start publishing them in the next several days. I will be so bold as to mention one earlier article of my own which addresses much the same subject matter: "The Honor of Being Human: Why Do You Support?" That piece contains an excerpt from Arendt which merits scrupulous attention, especially in these terrible times.)

December 01, 2009

A Deadly Liar and Manipulator

To all those who repeatedly claimed that, no matter what "mistakes" he might make and regardless of the scope of the devastating effects of those errors, Obama had to represent a markedly better choice than McCain, take note: in certain respects, Obama is far more dangerous than McCain could have been. For the same reasons, Obama is also more dangerous than Bush was. I remind you that I have written numerous essays damning Bush for almost every single one of his policies. It is hardly the case that I viewed Bush in anything approaching a positive light, however remotely.

In large part, the danger represented by Obama arises from the fact that Obama's election gutted whatever effective opposition might have existed. To their eternal shame, the Democrats never opposed Bush in any way that mattered -- but at least the possibility of opposition had not been obliterated entirely. In the near term and probably for longer, that possibility now appears to have been extinguished. I've been writing about this aspect of Obama and what he embodies for some time; see, as one example, "The Fatal Illusion of Opposition." As I noted in a later article:
I confess that I am very fearful for the future of this country, even more fearful than I have been in the Bush years. And that, I also confess, is a development I would never have predicted. But there had been the possibility of opposition over the past seven years, although it finally became clear that all such opposition was a deadly illusion, and that the nominal opposition was in certain respects even guiltier than the Bush criminals.

An Obama victory will kill much of the possibility for meaningful political opposition for good -- that is, opposition that might significantly alter the existing system without destroying it (if that is at all possible, which I am almost entirely convinced it is not). But the resentments, the anger and possibly even the hatred will remain, and they may grow. What happens then?

It hardly bears thinking about.
Even given my views over a substantial period of time, I have to admit that I was taken aback by one aspect of Obama's speech this evening on Afghanistan. I wasn't mistaken about the policies he would announce, or the obviously false arguments he would employ to justify those policies. About all that, I was correct in every detail; see the immediately preceding article for the details. Nor was I surprised by the number and comprehensiveness of the lies Obama told. On the occasion of Obama's widely-heralded speech about race in America, I wrote:
Almost every politician lies, and most politicians lie repeatedly. Yet in one sense, Obama's speech is exceptional, rare and unique -- but not for any of the reasons offered by Obama's uncritical, mindless adulators. It is exceptional for this reason: it is rare that a candidate will announce in such stark, comprehensive terms that he will lie about every fact of moment, about every aspect of our history that affects the crises of today and that has led to them, about everything that might challenge the mythological view of America. But that is what Obama achieved with this speech. It may be a remarkable achievement -- a remarkable and detestable one, and one that promises endless destruction in the future, both here and abroad.
Before discussing the aspect of Obama's speech that most concerns me -- and that, I respectfully submit, should deeply concern you -- let me note that Obama made very clear that he purportedly intends to extricate us from Central Asia by involving us in increasingly complex ways in the affairs of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you think that is a glaringly obvious contradiction, you're entirely correct. How exactly do you leave that region of the world more quickly by involving yourself in ever more complicated and numerous ways? The answer is that you don't. But as my previous article stated, we aren't leaving. Obama and the U.S. government are not unlike the dreaded house guest who insistently tells you he's going home in just another week or two -- honestly, he is, and how could you possibly not believe him? -- even as he redecorates your extra bedroom at notable cost and takes over several of your closets for many of his most precious belongings. You hear his words, and you see what he does -- and your heart sinks as you realize that a life of independence, a life that is yours, is gone.

Consider the extent of our ongoing involvement in all aspects of life in Afghanistan:
Second, we will work with our partners, the UN, and the Afghan people to pursue a more effective civilian strategy, so that the government can take advantage of improved security.

This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai's inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We will support Afghan Ministries, Governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we will also focus our assistance in areas – such as agriculture – that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people.
Were Obama and the U.S. appointed dictator of Afghanistan? I seem to have missed that bit of news. Almost immediately after that passage, Obama said: "So tonight, I want the Afghan people to understand - America seeks an end to this era of war and suffering. We have no interest in occupying your country."

This is the advantage of holding a gun to someone's head: your victim isn't about to call you a goddamned liar when you can pull the trigger at any moment.

And consider what Obama said about Pakistan:
In the past, we too often defined our relationship with Pakistan narrowly. Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interests, mutual respect, and mutual trust. We will strengthen Pakistan's capacity to target those groups that threaten our countries, and have made it clear that we cannot tolerate a safe-haven for terrorists whose location is known, and whose intentions are clear. America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan's democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistani people must know: America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan's security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.
If you think we're leaving this part of the world any time soon, or perhaps even in your lifetime, you'll believe anything. But that's all right: lots of Americans do precisely that.

But all of this is standard issue for rulers of Empire; the rhetoric and presentation may be of better quality than offered by Bush or that would have issued from McCain, but the points are essentially identical. What I find both revealing and disturbing is the concluding section of Obama's speech; more specifically, there are two elements that Obama put together in a way that is extraordinarily manipulative. I also consider it exceedingly dangerous.

Look at the final section that begins, "Finally, we must draw on the strength of our values..." Obama tells a series of notable lies here, starting with his very next sentence: "That is why we must promote our values by living them at home – which is why I have prohibited torture and will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay." Guantanamo "will close," at some future date that forever recedes from the present. And Obama may have said the words that "prohibit[] torture" -- but Bush said the same words, to the same effect. In fact, Obama has emphatically not ended the practice of torture: as proof, consult this article and this one (and there are more than a few additional articles elsewhere making the same and related points).

Obama's description of the unique role played by the United States tells the usual story of "American exceptionalism." We might appreciate the uniformity of the ruling class's view on this point, captured in this passage from earlier tonight:
Since the days of Franklin Roosevelt, and the service and sacrifice of our grandparents, our country has borne a special burden in global affairs. We have spilled American blood in many countries on multiple continents. We have spent our revenue to help others rebuild from rubble and develop their own economies. We have joined with others to develop an architecture of institutions – from the United Nations to NATO to the World Bank – that provide for the common security and prosperity of human beings.
This is indistinguishable from the views of Irving Kristol, widely considered the "godfather" of the neoconservative movement, views which I recently recalled in this piece. For Kristol as for Obama, the impersonal, unanswerable forces of history have placed this "special burden" on America's shoulders. We don't want to run the world, but no one else is sufficiently special or unique to do the job; as Kristol so wretchedly and dishonestly put it, it was all just "our bad luck." We had to do it -- for the good of everyone who lives on Earth. This is the all-purpose disinfectant for crimes of staggering magnitude: the U.S. murders more than a million innocent Iraqis, but we did it for the Iraqis' "own good"; we torture, but we only do it because our enemies leave us no choice -- and we learn very early that the infliction of pain is the path to moral improvement, most especially for the improvement of those weaker than ourselves.

As was true of Obama's speech on race, the lies this evening were breathtaking in their scope:
For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation's resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for – and what we continue to fight for – is a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.
You might object to these proclamations by pointing out, as one singularly contradictory fact, that the U.S. maintains a global empire of military bases. Your objection is easily parried by the earlier part of the argument: But don't you see we don't want to do this? This isn't what we would choose, if the world would only behave itself. The United States has no choice about any of this, not if we want a world of security and peace. And that is what you want, isn't it?

Thus do domination, control and power serve as their own justification. This is what Kristol believes, it is what Obama believes -- and he told you he believed all this two and a half years ago -- and it is what everyone in the American ruling class who wields power believes.

With this background, I want you to read or reread the final paragraphs of Obama's speech. It is this passage more than any other that causes me to conclude that Obama is an extraordinarily dangerous man, and a manipulator of the first order:
In the end, our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms. It derives from our people – from the workers and businesses who will rebuild our economy; from the entrepreneurs and researchers who will pioneer new industries; from the teachers that will educate our children, and the service of those who work in our communities at home; from the diplomats and Peace Corps volunteers who spread hope abroad; and from the men and women in uniform who are part of an unbroken line of sacrifice that has made government of the people, by the people, and for the people a reality on this Earth.

This vast and diverse citizenry will not always agree on every issue – nor should we. But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse.

It is easy to forget that when this war began, we were united – bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. I believe with every fiber of my being that we – as Americans – can still come together behind a common purpose. For our values are not simply words written into parchment – they are a creed that calls us together, and that has carried us through the darkest of storms as one nation, one people.

America – we are passing through a time of great trial. And the message that we send in the midst of these storms must be clear: that our cause is just, our resolve unwavering.
We will go forward with the confidence that right makes might, and with the commitment to forge an America that is safer, a world that is more secure, and a future that represents not the deepest of fears but the highest of hopes.
Two aspects of these remarks are noteworthy; I consider both to be abominable in their meaning and intent.

Obama maintains that "our security and leadership" ultimately "derives from our people," and he then itemizes certain of those "people" ("workers," "entrepreneurs," "teachers," and so on). It's obvious that Obama means you, and me, and every other "ordinary" American. What may not be immediately obvious is much more significant. Given the context of this speech, and in light of Obama's announcement that the U.S. will remain in Central Asia for decades to come (in addition to being involved in virtually every other region of the world in numerous ways), Obama thus seeks to implicate you in the crimes of Empire. Never mind that the ruling class will act as it chooses for its own interests, and that they don't give a damn about you except insofar as you provide the money and blood for their damnable work. Forget the fact that you are incapable of redirecting the actions of the U.S. government, and that your only choice is to withdraw your support when the crimes become too ghastly for you to allow yourself to be associated with them any longer.

No, according to Obama the crimes of Empire are your crimes. The work of Empire is your work. You are as responsible, and as guilty, as anyone. Obama maintains that you cannot disown it, even if you wish to.

And that leads directly into the second aspect of these concluding remarks. Read this sentence again: "But I also know that we, as a country, cannot sustain our leadership nor navigate the momentous challenges of our time if we allow ourselves to be split asunder by the same rancor and cynicism and partisanship that has in recent times poisoned our national discourse."

To make certain you understand him, Obama makes the same point a moment later: "I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. I believe with every fiber of my being that we – as Americans – can still come together behind a common purpose."

Obama has put us all on notice: if we disagree with his policies, if we condemn the endless series of aggressive wars waged by the U.S., we are imperiling the strength and security of the United States itself. If we dare to criticize him or the actions of the U.S. government, we are displaying "rancor and cynicism and partisanship" that will "split asunder" the absolutely necessary national "unity." If we challenge Obama on any point of importance, we are "poisoning" the "national discourse."

In other words: disagreement on any matter of moment is not only dangerous, but illegitimate and even immoral. And if you consider the logical end of this argument, and what has happened before in American history (see this post about what happened during both World Wars, under Democratic presidents; much more about Wilson, World War I and the suppression of dissent will be found here), there is a further meaning: such disagreement may well be criminal.

No, I am not saying that Obama makes this full argument in explicit terms. He hasn't -- not yet. But look at the meaning of what he has said -- and consider the principles upon which that view rests, and where those principles can lead. But most people will focus only on the immediate problem of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and this very ominous warning will escape them.

To return to one of the points from which we began: when Bush or others in his administration made efforts in this direction, they were quickly condemned. If McCain had offered similar statements, he would almost certainly have been similarly condemned, out of primitive partisanship if for no other reason. But who will object when Obama makes such statements? Other than a few disaffected people like me, anyone at all? Anyone of note? I very much doubt it. We shall see.

Many of my articles over the last few years have analyzed what I consider to be the great dangers represented by Obama. My judgment of him has been consistently negative in the extreme. But I have to say that I now think I underestimated just how dangerous he may prove to be in time. And in terms of his concluding remarks tonight, what might happen if there were, may God forbid, another attack in the U.S. on the scale of 9/11 or even worse? What would Obama say and, more importantly, what might he propose to do about those who displayed "rancor" or "cynicism" or "partisanship," or who "poisoned" the "national discourse," thus perilously undermining national "unity"?

In the wake of such an attack here at home, who would oppose him? Would anyone dare to? And if they did, at what cost?

Vigilance, my friends. Eternal vigilance, as the man said.