Geopolitical Assisted Suicide

 

As the rancid response to the movie “Miral” and the rancorous reception for J Street at the Knesset indicate, Israel’s right wing and their supporters are circling the wagons to protect the settlers in Indian country against the marauding savages.  J Street is the liberal alternative to AIPAC, and the new Israel lobby for America’s predominately liberal Jewish community, should they wish to have their views reflected in our foreign policy towards Israel.

But from its inception, the Netanyahu government has snubbed J Street and last week a Committee of the Knesset met to investigate them in a manner reminiscent of the House of Un-American Activities.  Jeremy Ben Ami, the head of J Street (who I will be interviewing today) valiantly defended his organization, producing thousands of letters of support from American Jews who support both peace and Israel.  But their entreaties were lost on the hard-liners who dominate Israeli politics and nobody is about to give peace a chance.

Just as the entire landscape in the Middle East is shifting towards a more hopeful and democratic future, and young Arabs are bravely putting their lives on the line for freedom, in the region’s only democracy, Israel’s right wing are saying no to freedom of speech, thought and opinion.  There is only one narrative they and their supporters in America insist.  We are right and they are wrong, and if you agree with them, you’re either a traitor or an anti-Semite. 

The same argument is being made against “Miral”, the brave new film by Julian Schnabel, based on an autobiography by his girlfriend Rula Jebrael who also wrote the screenplay.  How dare a Jew make a film that tells the Palestinian side of the long and tortured story of the twice-promised land beset by too much history and not enough geography?

The criticism of “Miral” from both American Jewish organizations and film critics ranges from the hysterical to the absurd.  The main argument that the enforcers of AIPAC have drummed into Capitol Hill is that there is no other side to the story but ours.  This was recently displayed when the Obama Administration dutifully vetoed a U.N. resolution opposing West Bank settlements, that was identical to American policy and was supported by J Street.

There is no mystery why Obama and the Democrats in Congress repudiated their own policy and squandered what is left of their leverage and credibility in the so-called “peace process”.  With Wall Street already arrayed against them in 2012, they are not about to support J Street against AIPAC and commit campaign finance suicide.

In terms of the film critic’s specious carping about a very moving and powerful film’s alleged deficiencies, you have to blame Sid Fields, whose bible on how to write screenplays has not only got every screenwriter with a laptop at Starbucks faithfully following the script, but now the film critics are complaining that “Miral” does not stick to Field’s approved cinematic formula.

The reason the film does not start out with the “inciting incident” is that it is a true story that is following the protagonist’s actual experiences and historical influences.  It makes sense and gains its emotional momentum precisely because it is true.  Now there’s the rub.  Because there is only one truth, the approved one, and if you deviate from that, you are a heretic.  And that sounds more like an argument coming from Bin Laden than Ben Gurion.

Defense Secretary Gates was recently in Israel where he warned that as the Middle East becomes more democratic, a new political landscape will provide both a challenge and an opportunity to Israel.  As these decrepit kleptocratic regimes of colonels, princes and potentates who use hostility towards Israel to distract their restive populations from their plunder, topple one by one, the big lie is exposed.  But if Israel still does not deal with the Palestinians justly and honestly, then the other big lie will be exposed.  Israel is not really serious about peace.

Unfortunately intrangigence and inflexibility appear to be the Likud coalition policy and strategy.  Their only endgame seems to be to shrink the Palestinians down to a concentration camp size and hope they give up and migrate to Jordan.  And as the Palestinian papers leaked to Al Jazeera reveal, young Palestinians need to throw off the yoke of their failed leadership just as their brothers have done in Tunisia and Egypt. 

Will this lead to a flourishing democracy or a reactionary theocracy?  Who can say?  But will it be worse than the old status quo of recycled historical pain and competing victimhood that hardliners here and throughout the Middle East are clinging to?      

Moderating Political Correctness

 

For years I have been regularly denounced at KPFK, both on the air and in meetings of the Local Station Board and at the station, as either a CIA agent or a dupe of the illuminati–Bilderberger-Trilateralist-Neocon conspiracy because until the “truthers” stop rehashing their tortured theories and actually come up with some real proof, I refuse to accept their 9/11 “truth”.

So until I see the light, the “truthers” tie up the phone lines during fund drives, make it impossible to have listeners call in on air, and heckle me at public events.  And if I’m not one of the aforementioned pariahs, I’m just a plain old racist, sexist white male heterosexual “oppressor” from the Westside.

What keeps me going, and KPFK for that matter, since I’ve raised millions for them over the years, is the feedback I get from the actual listeners I serve.  I regularly hear from a rainbow coalition of intelligent, engaged citizens who want to be informed, not pandered to with the patronizing assumption that minorities only care about their “oppression”. 

Unsurprisingly I’ve heard from a wide spectrum of Americans with a common interest in finding out about the activities and agendas of powerful political and economic interests stealing our country and endangering our world.  That is why I hate conspiracy mongers because they encourage despair and alienation from the government of “we the people” the Constitution empowers through citizen’s activism, thus making it easier for malignant interests to take over the government and steal the country. 

A republic, if you can keep it, the genius of the U.S. Constitution it that it leaves unresolved the tension between the individual and the state, protecting minority rights while respecting the will of the majority. 

That is not to say that originally only white men of property were to be in control and that America was set up to be the best place on earth in which to do business.  But the so-called activists who have given up on America forget that there is a revolutionary mandate built into the Constitution. 

Just after the safe part of the Declaration of Independence that is quoted by school children about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, comes the uncomfortable part that is rarely invoked…“That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”

Assuming that we are all part of some minority or other, and not a part of Sarah Palin’s tribe of “real Americans”, which I hope is the case, how do I as a broadcaster on radio powered by the people, navigate between the loud and unpleasant opinions of the few without disrupting the open-minded attention of the many?

In response to an interview I did on last Thursday’s program, I have been assailed by offended listeners who think it is my job to “stand up” to expressions and thoughts they don’t like.  They accuse me of not just appeasing what they find offensive, but agreeing with it.

In terms of my own First Amendment battle, how do you tolerate unpopular speech that provides accurate insight, without becoming an adjudicator of political correctness?  The case in point is Edward Luttwak who I interviewed Thursday because I wanted to follow up on an article of his in the L.A. Times about Libya, “It’s Not Our Fight”. 

Luttwak is clearly very pro-Israel and anti-Arab, but he is much more nuanced than neoconservatives and was against the Iraq war from the beginning.  He objected to “Operation Iraqi Freedom” on the grounds that getting rid of secular Arab leaders, no matter how unpleasant, would lead to a worse outcome with more dangerous fundamentalists taking over.  Since it is now clear the Iranian regime were the winners of the Iraq war, he was prescient. 

I thought that having a right-winger make a case against a war might be interesting, given that anti-war sentiments and arguments on KPFK and Pacifica appear to be the exclusive domain of Noam Chomsky and other voices on the Left.

But some angry listeners have accused me of a double standard, charging that I allowed Luttwak’s anti-Arab bias free reign, but would have never tolerated similar racist undertones directed at Jews.  My producer found that amusing since, whenever we cover the Middle East, he finds himself fielding one angry call from a listener calling me an Anti-Semite, followed by the next, calling me an Zionist.

At one point during the interview when Luttwak was going on about "fat Arabs" who represent the Arab League, I was about to say, "What about Sharon, wasn’t he a fat Israeli leader?"  But had I tried to “balance” the conversation with that quip, it would have become a very different interview and gone nowhere, even if it satisfied a few angry listeners.

I interviewed Luttwak because of his objections to the Libyan war, and his wider critique of U.S. foreign policy.  His glaring anti-Arab bias I assumed was clear for all to see.  Frankly a lot of Likud voters and hard line supporters of Israel I’ve talked to express similar sentiments.   And I suspect, although Netanyahu is too sophisticated to say the same in public as Luttwak does, in private I am sure he and his foreign minister Lieberman have uttered words of contempt for Arabs.

So while I take comfort in the fact that I mostly get praise and encouragement from listeners, those who feel I am a sellout because I do not make the arguments they want to hear can always complain about me to the Local Station Board, and the Pacifica National Board.  They will not be the first and they’ll find a lot of board members agree with them that “free speech” radio should be limited to KPFK’s comfort zone of approved speech.  Perhaps that is why the Pacifica network is going bankrupt, preaching to an ever-diminishing choir, and why the Left is not winning any converts lately.  They think they have the answers, but they don’t have an argument. 

Searching For The Center

 

I thought it made sense to talk to a self-described centrist about the partisan gridlock that is paralyzing the budget process, with the 2011 budget unresolved since last fall and 2012’s not even on the table.  Meanwhile we limp along from impasse to impasse on a bi-weekly basis to avoid shutting down the government.

But yesterday’s interview generated a ton of mail from unhappy listeners who were annoyed at me for not challenging what they saw as Republican talking points dressed up in bi-partisan language.  On the other hand, I’m sure to many listeners I came across as being a partisan, and indeed my guest scolded me for being so.   Even though I thought I was trying to make a point that went beyond political partisanship to political ownership.

Perhaps I’m old fashioned but one does not invite guests over to berate them in public, when the purpose is to elicit information.  But clearly I should have been more forceful in making the point that since it appears Wall Street buys both parties, the real divide in America is between Main Street and Wall Street, not between Republicans and Democrats.

I was sternly rebuked for expressing my suspicion that partisan gridlock is more about a cynical electoral calculation than an ideological divide.  It seems to me it’s not so much that the Republicans want to sabotage the economy to gain full control of the government, but that from day one they have resisted any effort to help the economy recover from the recession with its resulting collapse of tax revenues. 

Republicans may want to take advantage of the crisis to shrink the hated government, but while they say they want to cut the bloated public sector, their legislative agenda is really about transferring public money into private hands.  Indeed their priority seems to be to dig the deficit hole deeper by going to the mat to continue tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent. 

Which leads back to my main point that it’s the wealthiest one percent who appear to be running the show.  They are not so much engaged in sabotage to tank the economy, as they are impeding the recovery for the many, while reaping all the benefits for the few. 

Again it is not about a rhetorical ritual on Capitol Hill, but an economic fact in an increasing polarized country, where less income trickles down to more and more Americans, while fewer and fewer extract more and more wealth.  After allowing Clinton and Obama to court them for their campaign money, Wall Street has now jilted the party of the people to return to the country club comfort of the party of plutocrats.

This is not to say that the Republican Party does not have a Main Street component.  That constituency was evident when House Republicans resoundingly rejected George W. Bush’s first TARP bailout.  They were true to their free market principals back then, but since the boiling mad Tea Party entered the hallowed halls of Congress, it no longer about dividing but conquering.

As Mitch McConnell made clear after the 2010 Republican resurgence, they are not about compromising with their learned colleagues anymore, their priority is to run the Muslim imposter with a fake birth certificate out of town and rescue the country from un-American socialist freeloaders.

Although we are told the key swing voters who decide elections are in the center, it is difficult to find where the center is and what it means today.  I am sure the founding fathers had compromise and consensus in mind, but we are living in a divided country where the red and the blue sides are heading in opposite directions.

With the New South and “Christian” values voters now controlling the Republican Party, historical delusion and spiritual dogma increasingly dominate their discourse.  Meanwhile blue states like California seem more comfortable embracing the challenges of the future than sticking to the certainties of the past. 

We will just have to see if somewhere over the rainbow coalition there is a better land that we dreamed of for all in the future.  But in the real world of today, the clear winners in America are the color of money.  They are the few, the powerful, the pillagers and the puppeteers.  And they are laughing all the way to their banks.   

Wall Street's Useful Idiots

The KGB used to refer to gullible western peaceniks as “useful idiots” who were easily manipulated to further the Soviet’s cynical Cold War agenda.  Having been a “useful idiot” myself, since I worked against the nuclear arms race, I take exception to that description but it does ring true today in another context.

The Tea Party, a populist movement galvanized by outrage over Wall Street’s rampant greed and the taxpayer bailout that rewarded their excesses, now fairly fits the definition of “useful idiots”.  But this time they serve a different totalitarian “evil empire”, Wall Street.  Every one of the Tea Party’s representatives in Congress and their newly elected governors, are unflinchingly pursuing Wall Street’s legislative agenda, that is diametrically opposed to populist American values.

So much for grassroots, but we already knew that professional Republican operatives like Karl Rove and Dick Armey had corralled the movement.  Now it is clear they have captured it; teabag, teapot, cup and saucer, sugar and all. 

True there are some rumblings against the Afghan quagmire from the Libertarian wing of the Tea Party, but most of the noise is about the deficit and the need for deep budget cuts.  And to a man and a woman, they are faithfully parroting Wall Street’s line as they foist the deficit hoax on the American people with a mantra the mainstream media have obediently echoed. 

Little wonder the Republicans are making headway rewriting recent history to blame the economic crisis of 2008 on big government regulation, not Wall Street’s reckless endangerment of the global economy.  In recent hearings in the House they have exposed their legislative priorities that unwaveringly reflect their fidelity towards their main paymasters. 

Their first two targets, chosen by the Koch Brothers and the Tea Party’s Wall Street backers, are women, Lisa Jackson the head of the EPA and Elizabeth Warren, the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Aided by smear campaigns orchestrated by the Wall Street Journal and the dominant right wing media, they threw everything they could to slime and tarnish these women to not just discredit them, but to undermine the credibility of the agencies they head and thus diminish their effectiveness in oversight. 

But the real agenda enacted by the “useful idiots” for the big five banks, is to preserve the bank’s ability to bleed the middle class dry.  Since wages have been flat for working Americans and the Middle class since the 1970s, household debt has doubled as a share of personal income over the 30 years up to the crash of 2008. 

Apparently the banks want more blood out of this stone, with unbridled access to fleece the nation’s debt slaves.  Elizabeth Warren is a speed bump on their path to a plantation economy.  While the household debt crisis is much more dire and closer to home, the national debate is focused on an abstraction and a distraction, the national debt.

Although the deficit was largely caused by unfunded losing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with the massive bailouts to staunch the bleeding as Wall Street imploded, you would never know that today.  The zealous deficit hawk and Wall Street billionaire Peter Peterson has cleverly spread his money around to rewrite history and lay the blame on big government spending, in particular Federal entitlements and State public employee benefits.  Of course government spending is to blame, but it was taxpayer money spent on the wrong things; unnecessary wars and rescuing unconscionable financial fraudsters.

Again, since it is clear the Kochs got exactly what they paid for and so did Wall Street, we return to political campaign finance as the root of all evil.  Although Clinton offered up the Democratic Party for sale to Wall Street, and then Obama closed the deal, in 2010 the Democrat’s fair weather friends screwed them and gave their money to Wall Street’s traditional friends the Republicans. 

Surely they will do it again in 2012, since the evidence is they are helping Republicans now.  While Wall Street extracts more wealth for themselves, the oligarchs are helping wreck the economic recovery for Main Street, presumably to ensure their hirelings win big next time and they end up with the whole enchilada.

So why has Obama not come to Elizabeth Warren’s defense?  Why not turn the tables on these cynical revisionists who are throttling his economic recovery?  Why not recapture the outrage against Wall Street that the Democrats allowed the Tea Party to run away with in the first place?Make the Tea Party explain their fealty to these same champions of free enterprise who ripped us off in 2008, and are at it again; but this time with an apparent political agenda to create a one party corporate plutonomy. 

Oil and grain speculation, on top of poor harvests, are driving up the price of gas and food, and as the economic recovery falters, the Republicans chances of winning back the Senate (where many more Democrats are up for reelection), not to mention the White House, are looking better and better.  Will we wake up too late when the Tea Party’s backers will be able to totally elimination the EPA?  Will we sit by and watch that uppity woman Elizabeth Warren burned at the stake?

The Cool Cat Versus The Mad Dog

After a lot of dithering, President Obama acted at the last minute to prevent Qaddafi from eradicating the last pockets of a rebellion, reversing a revolution that had spread across most of the country and was poised to eliminate the dictator. 

While the Libyan opposition and most of the world press had already written off Qaddafi, the President knew otherwise from U.S. Intelligence assessments.  With Obama’s deliberate caution buttressed by a war-weary Defense Secretary and a skeptical Secretary of State, it looked like the superpower would sit this one out, until the last minute.

Something happened, and while the Arab League’s call for a No Fly Zone seemed to change the diplomatic landscape, reports that it was Susan Rice at the U.N. and Samantha Powers on the N.S.C. weighing in on Hillary that changed the day, don’t measure up.  True it was unusual to have the French leading the charge.  However cynics suggest Sarkozy was driven to repair his tattered image of palling around with dictators.  But there has to be more to this.

Since the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs just admitted the end game is uncertain and that a stalemate is possible, it seems clear the U.S. military was reluctant to join the war party.  And no sooner had the shooting started; the Arab League began to have second thoughts about civilian casualties although the League’s head Amr Moussa has since retracted his remarks in the absence of credible evidence.  

Now the Congress is weighing in with a coalition of critics from opposite sides expressing concern over the lack of strategic clarity and diplomatic purpose.  Clearly there is none, aside from protecting civilians from further slaughter by a demented despot. 

But that has not been a priority in recent world affairs and it has never been applied universally.  Sure it is not a good idea to give the Syrians a green light to slaughter their restive population, not that they care what we think, or to give Ahmadinejad permission to take the gloves off against his opposition. 

Apparently the Russians and the Chinese felt sufficiently shamed by international approbation to abstain from vetoing the intervention and why Germany and Brazil joined them is worth further explanation.  But this latest war remains short of answers except for the possibility that it is in fact about stopping the slaughter of civilians. 

And since there is such a sorry record of international indifference to slaughters protected by sovereignty, have we become too jaded to accept it a face value?  Of course there is the oil factor and Europe needs Libya’s oil, but we are not intervening in the oil-rich Gulf.

Since Bush junior’s wrecking crew gave intervention a bad name, we have been bogged down in the wrong wars while sitting on the sidelines uncertain about what to do about the right rebellions. 

But this is a slippery slope with a whole lineup of righteous interventions waiting as the world’s dictators cling to power with a callous determination to kill as many of their own people it takes.  Syria could be next, and Saudi Arabia; from the strategically important all the way down to murderous regimes that do not affect our vital interests like in the Ivory Coast and Zimbabwe. 

Along with a belief that if the good guys don’t act, then Al Qaeda will fill the void, my suspicion is that, in spite of the official denials, there is an understanding that the only way the military intervention in Libya makes sense is to remove the Qaddafi family. 

A divided Libyan would be the worst outcome, with the oil fields stuck between the eastern and the western halves.  And it is likely that even Qaddafi’s inner circle has little loyalty to the greedy family of spoiled brats who have plundered the country.  

Perhaps there will be a coup inside the regime, but if the head of the snake is cut off, it is very likely that the regime will collapse and the opposition and most of the tribes will come together without the great slaughter of score-settling that is predicted.  

If killing the Qaddafis is the unspoken plan, then it does pose some troubling questions about how to deal with criminal regimes in an era of global transparency.  With an International Criminal Court able to indict criminal heads of srate, but incapable of bringing them to trial, short of sending in foreign armies to exact street justice, what kind of new world order is that?