Thursday, September 5, 2013

The People Strike Back Against the Empire

About the only people left in America supporting a war against Syria are the Obama administration, its friends in the Congressional leadership, its friends in the corporate media, and an ever-dwindling number of diehard partisan Obama Personality Cultists. Oh, and rich people.

Meaning, the war will probably commence once the pretend-democracy debates are finished, and regular people can safely be ignored once again, and your feckless reps can whine that you shouldn't let the perfect peace be the enemy of the military good. And anyway, what about the dead children whom they will make sure weigh upon your consciences because you, you the selfish people of America, just sit there and care only about such petty concerns as the imminent bipartisan cutback in the federal food-stamp program (Never mind that the gassed Syrian children will stay dead, no matter how many other children they kill to demonstrate that when the USA does it, it's for a good cause.)

According to a recent Washington Post/ABC News poll, the poorer you are, the more likely you are to oppose the president's plan to launch missiles against a country for reasons that the White House is increasingly becoming muddled about. The children.... the red line.... core values.... international norms.... the credibility of the Temp Emp and Superpower. Here in the USA, a country where one in three people is a paycheck or an illness away from financial ruin, where one in four families is "food-insecure", where per capita income has sunk to 24th in the civilized world, where government-subsidized private health insurance will still leave many millions uncovered and underprotected and bankrupted, the vast majority are dead set against our involvement in any more military adventures. The lower the income, the greater the opposition.

Only a third of respondents reporting income of under $50,000 are open to Obama's war plans, while 43% those making over $100,000 are gung-ho. Could it be because the children of poor people are more likely to join the military for lack of any better economic prospects, thanks to criminal bipartisan neglect of the employment crisis? Could it be because the children of the rich are highly unlikely to ever be sent into battle? Probably.

In his New York Times column today, Charles Blow examines other polling which shows that the American people are fed up with both militarism and the politicians obsessed with it to the point where other pressing problems are being neglected:
Now here we are with another administration coming to Congress and to the American people, asking for approval to strike another Middle Eastern dictator over weapons of mass destruction.
But this time, the facts on the ground in America have been altered. The aftertaste from Iraq still lingers. Trust in the government to do the right thing at least most of the times has plunged to just 19 percent. Congress is divided on how we should proceed. And the international community has yet to rally in favor of intervention.
Striking Syria has given Americans a chance to exhibit and exercise the caution that they eschewed in the lead-up to the Iraq war, and they are doing just that.
The paper of record's news division has also abandoned its bellicose cheerleading at least long enough to prominently place an article on the home page that documents how the "rebels", so celebrated by the American chickenhawk class, are not above using WMDs themselves.

President Obama seems to be losing steam by the minute.

On a related note, the Washington Post is also now publishing a running tally of Congress Critters' stances on supporting an attack on Syria. So far, the "Nays" and "leaning Nays" have it. Interestingly, Senate progressive heroine Elizabeth Warren is still listed among the wafflers. (Her new Massachusetts colleague, Ed Markey, has already courageously pulled a Barack, merely voting "present" in order to get the war plans out of committee. He is apparently awaiting his own private secret briefing from the secrecy brigade, to which regular people are not invited because learning the truth would probably make our heads explode from the secret awesomeness of it all.) It looks as though Warren may already have been captured and herded into the Obama Veal Pen. We'll just have to wait and see.


annenigma said...

Several days ago Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake had Elizabeth Warren listed on her tally as being in favor of Syrian military action based on comments she made.

Doesn't surprise me. She's another slick ivy league player along the lines of Obama and toeing his line.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Twenty years from now Elizabeth Warren in the back seat of a limo with the avuncular Barack Obama sitting beside her, patting her wrist.

Obama reassures her, "There, there. You're quite well off, aren't you?"

She doesn't even look at him as she replies, "You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Barack."

Pearl said...

Hopefully, Congresspeople worried about the voting next year, will be
influenced enough by the American people's opposition to Obama's plans for Syria to vote NO . So, write, phone, sign petitions to increase the number of voters opposing giving him permission to go ahead with his catastrophic attack. And should he not be supported by the House and goes ahead on his own, I feel he will be in real trouble at home regardless of what ensues and calls for impeachment should be on the table.

We will have the opportunity of outing many congressmen and women who
support Obama, in the next congressional election no matter what.

Pearl said...

Russia gave UN 100-page report in July blaming Syrian rebels for Aleppo
> sarin attack | McClatchy

Pearl said...

Rep. Alan Grayson: Syria Intelligence Manipulated - Washington Whispers
( via @usnews

Noodge said...

Saw your response to Krugman this morning, Karen, and beg leave to take issue with something you wrote there:

"The politicians love to trumpet equality of opportunity, but
do nothing to ensure equality of outcome."

While the politicians do love to talk about equality of opportunity, they rarely, if ever, do anything more than talk. The single most important contributing factor in determining your socio-economic status at age fifty is still your socio-economic status at birth. Equality of opportunity is a myth, no matter how much it's talked about.

And that is the problem that most needs addressing. Equality of opportunity means that everyone should have a roof over their heads, food on their tables, an excellent education, and access to decent medical care. It also means doing whatever is necessary to prevent the creation of a de facto aristocracy (large estate taxes are an important element in this effort).

But equality of opportunity does not mean equality of outcome, and it shouldn't. There is a big difference between ensuring that everyone has the same and ensuring that everyone has enough, and our government's primary concern should be ensuring that everyone has enough to build whatever life they desire. There really shouldn't be any problem with people being as rich as they like as long as we take pains to guarantee their wealth doesn't buy them things like media dominance, undue political influence, and preferential treatment under the law. All those things are achievable without mandating equality of outcome.

If money is what floats your boat, then so be it. As much as I believe wealth is corrupting, it is not for me to judge. Use your wealth to buy all the Ferraris, Gulfstreams, and dinners at Per Se you want. But nobody should be allowed to use their desire for wealth to keep others from enjoying a decent life with a living wage and medical care. Nobody should be allowed to use their wealth to create a society (like the one we have now) that, as a matter of policy and law, favors the wealthy over the rest.

And once we have true equality of opportunity, outcomes will no longer be so skewed. All things being equal, any system tends toward the mean with time, but it's the "all things being equal" part that's so hard to get right. The average batting average in Major League Baseball hasn't changed much at all in the last 100 years, but there hasn't been a .400 hitter since before Jackie Robinson. Jackie's arrival brought equality of opportunity - a system working toward the optimum - and served to move the extremes to the mean. That equality has raised the minimums while at the same time bringing down the maximums without any external mandate regarding the number of hits any single player can have.

The same thing can be done for the system that is an entire nation, or an entire world. We just need to stop the trupmeting and actually do it.

James F Traynor said...

And that , Noodge, is the working definition of a successful social contract. But it won't happen. Listening in to a score or more interviews of CEO's and those who represent them will show you why. Essentially it's the scorpion thing - it's in their nature. And I think that's why Karen, and the rest of us, more than occasionally get irrationally pissed off at the rich.
It's in our nature. My recommendation? Do business with them and a very rare lunch but never ever go to dinner or get in bed with them. Especially at their house or in their bed.

James F Traynor said...

And the Syria business. Well, the old and trite saying of a stopped clock being right twice a day applies here. I think the bombing of Serbia by Clinton worked. But even putting a bunch of randomly stopped clocks showing the correct time when placed in a sack and then telling time by drawing one of them just won't do.

Noodge said...

Mr. Traynor: Being pissed off at the rich isn't irrational; I'm just as angry as you and Karen are. The ultra-rich, and their hunger for ever greater riches, are the reason why we don't have that successful social contract.

The bottom 99% are not asking to be made equal with the wealthy when it comes to the possession of wealth. We're just asking for everyone to have enough. While people have the right to accumulate all the wealth they want, nobody has the right to use their wealth to keep others from having life's essentials (equality of opportunity being one of those essentials). In fact, those of great wealth have an obligation to ensure that everyone has access to life's essentials.

At least that's what I picked up from Rousseau and Rawls.

MAMMON, n. The god of the world's leading religion. Ambrose Bierce

Zee said...


Great comment.

I agree with James that you've provided the working definition for a successful social contract.

Pearl said...

The principles of true Socialism is the answer. The problem of course is, that given human nature, it will become corrupted once in place, because it requires that its members operate on the honor system and cooperate fully with each other. The original aims of Communism in Russia, had noble ideas for the people after the Revolution and removal of the Tsarist system, but power infighting, disagreement on the interpretation of their purposes led to ugly and lethal confrontations and now the country is a mix of socialistic values overpowered by inefficient attempts at capitalism.

It seems that no system is perfect given the human condition but the Nordic experiment in the Scandinavian countries seems to work fairly well but then, they are not huge countries and with a different history than that of the European nations. And the Middle East which allows religious extremism to
flourish is a tinder box as we are seeing currently.

I remember meeting Norman Thomas once in Wisconsin when he gave a speech to
a group I belonged to about his beliefs, and remember thinking if everyone had the humane and honest, caring attitudes he personally represented, socialism might work. But the reality is different unfortunately.

Another point that is not often mentioned in all the chaos we are living through is that of overpopulation, especially in the poorer countries, which is creating scarcity leading to infighting, more and more inequality among its people and with less opportunities for them to live with any kind of decency or dignity or hope.

If the U.S. and other countries would send help to the Syrian people via
food, shelter, medicine, etc. instead of the kind of plans Obama has in mind something could be resolved to end the bloodshed. But we are saddled with ignorant, selfish leaders and lawmakers in government the likes of which I can never remember seeing before. But I am pleasantly surprised to see the reaction of the American people to the possibility of another war coming up along with suspicion of our government's motives. Maybe there is some hope left after all.

One thing I can predict no matter what the outcome of President Obama's
plans for Syria - his place in history will be at the bottom of the heap.

The Black Swan said...


Pretty much agree with everything you say. Wealth isn't the problem, it is wealth at the expense of every living thing on the planet that is the problem. Provide everyone with the means for food, shelter, health care, education. If you want more then you can join the world of capitalism and try your luck as an employee or entrepreneur. But you shouldn't have to go the capitalist market to get the basic necessities of life.

annenigma said...

This can only be a good thing and one small ray of sunshine in our darkness.

'Google Seeks Out Wisdom of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh'

Tara said...

From what I've read, heard and seen, people are not convinced we should bomb targets in Syria. We are war weary, for sure. It makes me mad as hell that the President trots out the photos of dead children to make his case. No one is arguing the tragedy of these senseless brutal deaths, we just disagree that a unilateral US bombing run is going to solve the problem. The US could lead the efforts for peace talks, could lead the world is providing support for refugees, and work with the international community to condemn the Assad regime. We are tired of meaningless chest-beating. Did it help in Iraq? Afghanistan? After billions of dollars, untold death and destruction, corruption and corporate gravy trains, did we really help the situation in those countries? Was it worth it?

Jay - Ottawa said...

While mocking the absurd security requirements placed on our elected representatives by the once-co-equal executive branch, Rep. Alan Grayson does a good job of insisting on transparency(*) and explaining in plain language why he won't be stampeded to vote blindly for a strike against Syria.

(*Eloquently defined by Obama in campaign of 2008.)

annenigma said...

I'm asking everyone to ponder the latest Snowden revelations for awhile, specifically this - We have discovered that the NSA is able to break into almost every encrypted system in our country and the world. That includes electronic voting machines along with everything else.

Tinfoil Hatters used to suspect the Diebold Corporation of having the ability to tamper with the election results, but it turns out our own government can. Or I should say more specifically that it's the NSA's Generals who can, and they can keep it all Top Secret, and lie about it.

Tinfoil Hatters also have suspected that the NSA could use blackmail based on capture of secret information to influence politicians and Presidents. But think of this - we have discovered that they don't even have to risk that personal contact. They can just surreptitiously tamper with the electronic voting systems to effect the results they need to protect their power.

Any candidate signalling their support, either privately or publicly, can get a little help from their friends in high places and even show genuine surprise over winning their election. Theoretically speaking, any President running for a second term can win if he acts appropriately during his first term, and any candidate running for their first term can win if they are sympatico with the Generals who run this beast.

As if our elections weren't already a sham! But this does explain exactly how political miracles can happen and why wars and surveillance go on and on no matter who gets 'elected'. Those Generals who run our defense and intelligence agencies really know how to protect and defend - their own power.

Excuse me while I go polish my tinfoil hat.

Pearl said...

A number of years ago when I was in Florida for the winter, we had an expert who had experience with the possibility of voting machine tampering speak to our Democratic group. This was not long after the Gore-Bush debacle where as
you know, it changed the election outcome. It was absolutely shocking to be shown how easy it was to change results in the current machines being used in Florida and elsewhere (possibly with the Diebold machines annenigma mentioned)
as well as other areas he was asked to check on. However, where these
suspect machines were used, the states and areas involved refused to change anything although safer methods were recommended (like the old fashioned method of writing in choices rather than depending on electronic ones.)
I'll never forget that talk, it was mind blowing. And especially now, where elections affect how the business of the country is carried out and honesty has gone out the window, we have to be more vigilant if at all possible.

These election machine companies have a foot in the door with government
purchasing procedures, where special deals were made which benefited both

Electronic Voting Machines Still Widely Used Despite Security Concerns via @HuffPostTech

Pearl said...

I am amazed by the well spoken and erudite comments to Blow's excellent column as well as to others as well as to editorials, etc. in the NYTimes.
I am even more surprised to find that this Syrian misadventure plan of our President and his advisors has brought out other connected events in our recent history of malfeasance by our leaders. These are events that many of us, especially Karen, have been speaking about seemingly to an uninterested audience, but I am finding out now that they were listening, albeit silently.

I have kept encouraging everyone I know for a long while to keep writing, talking, shouting, protesting because our words will eventually come through. They have, dear friends - just read the many comments in the media, now echoing the words we and others have been saying for a long while.
It is a great feeling and I had hoped that some catastrophic event would eventually become the catalyst for change in thinking and here we are. We are now part of a great ground swell of anger, distrust, realization of how we have been duped that extends well beyond poor Syria. I don't think we will be able to be fooled so easily again. I think the winds of change began when Snowden, Manning opened Pandora's box and the population began to wake up.

And Karen, you have done Yeoman's duty and beyond as well as been a major player in our Orwellian world. But we have to keep on being sh-t stirrers to keep the momentum going. We are finally getting our message out.