Hypocrisy and Human Rights


Yesterday I spoke with the Libyan poet Khaled Mattawa who described growing up in a country led by what he describes as “a homicidal clown and his offspring – one ghastly daughter and several murderous-looking sons dressed in Italian suits or Army uniforms”.  As a teenager Khaled was forced to watch public hangings of professors, poets and human rights activists, endlessly repeated on State TV.  As recently as 1996 a massacre took place at the Abu Salem prison where 1,270 political prisoners were slaughtered, many of whom the courts has judged innocent.

In addition to an unaccounted and untold death toll, that recent mass murders of prisoners was faithfully carried out by Qaddafi’s brother in law, who along with the “ghastly daughter”, were recently feted at a private concert featuring Beyonnce as the well-compensated live entertainment.  Since the family has stolen an estimated 120 billion of the country’s oil wealth, whatever blood money she was paid is a pittance to Libya’s avaricious first family.

Yet Libya is a member of the U.N’s Human Rights Council and one might ask, what is the matter with the U.N.? True they recently passed a unanimous Security Council resolution condemning the Libyan regime for murdering their own people with heavy military weapons like tanks, AAA and fighter-bombers, unleashed on civilians on the streets.  But how did they get elected with 155 votes from other U.N. members, in a secret ballot, to the prestigious Human Rights Council?

Of course they ended up in good company with that champion of human rights Saudi Arabia sitting with them even though Saudi Arabia was one of only two countries (along with South Africa) who refused to sign the original U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.  That has something to do with language condemning slavery, which still continues today in Saudi Arabia, where not only are servants property, wives are too.

The other member of the U.N. Human Rights Council with an appalling record of jailing and executing political prisoners is Cuba.  Although the Castros are often uncritically worshiped in the West, with celebrities beating a path to hang out at a barbeque with El Jefe, there are political prisoners there on hunger strikes today, and recently just being gay would get you jail time.

As much as no-nothing right wing isolationist in our country rail against the U.N. for encroaching on our “sovereignty”, and want the U.S. out of the U.N., surely we should demand a little more value for our money, since we are the largest donors. 

But we are guilty of serial hypocrisy, having supported dictators around the world for decades.  And now we’re sheepishly standing by while our old friends like Hosni are getting hosed by their own people inspired by the very democracy that we preach but do not practice. 

Surely it’s time to stand up for our principals so that we can demand that others do.  Only then can we get around to the long-overdue house cleaning at the world body. 

Teachers; The New Welfare Queens


I’m always grateful for John Stewart who compiles these montages of overpaid angry white men gnashing their teeth on Fox News over the phony liberal outrage of the day scripted by Roger Ailes.   Although the poison spewing from Fox’s echo chamber of junkyard dogs is sometimes overwhelming, Stewart makes you laugh.  Otherwise you’d cry.

Unfortunately I remember Reagan’s election promise that he would take the handcuffs off the millionaires and put them on the welfare queens working for him.  Even though there was no evidence that millionaires were shackled or that welfare queens were running wild.  That did not stop the Reagan Democrats from swallowing the bait and blaming their lot on a mythical freeloader sponging off their tax dollars instead of the greedy millionaire who doesn’t pay taxes.  And as soon as Reagan got elected, guess who got the tax break and who got stiffed?

Since Ailes, Rove and Atwood et al came of age under Reagan, you can’t blame them for dusting off the playbook.  Class warfare works.  Not the reflexive defense of the mega rich that the Fox hirelings faithfully echo when they decry “class warfare”.  But the real class warfare that the Republican successfully wage to get Democrats to vote against their own interests. 

The genius of the minority party is that it consistently gets members of the majority party to defect to them by stirring up class resentments and inflaming hatred towards imaginary “others” who are usually poor and black or brown.

Last time they found “Joe the plumber” to campaign for them against a community organizers who was black and was trying to help the poor.  The next time they will pit worker against worker as the revenue collapse from the Wall Street crash shakes down into a financial crunch when the States hit the wall.

Already unemployed workers from the private sector are being encouraged to scapegoat “overcompensated” public employees.  A preview of the Republican 2012 strategy that was recently launched in Wisconsin, which thanks to the garrulous governor, we all learned about from his frank discussion with the prankster posing as David Koch.

So why not demonize those jet-setting teachers driving their used Volvo’s and strutting about in their designer outfits from “Ross Dress For Less?”  It is a win-win for the Republicans.  After all the teachers are into public education.  And we can’t have that. 

If we have an educated public, they will vote for the Democrats.  So just as we downsized airline pilots and turned them into aerial bus drivers, we’ll demote teachers to vocational guidance instructors for the service industries.   How do you spell “Supersize me?”

The Next Shoe to Drop


It looks increasingly like Saudi Arabia is going to flare up in revolt some time soon. There is a Facebook campaign underway to rally young protesters on March 11 to block the main traffic circle in Jeddah and to gather in other cities to voice their demands for change.  This in a country ruled by the Al Saud family where you go to jail for criticizing the King.

The founder of Saudi Arabia Ibn Saud literally screwed his country into existence.  He had 365 children and it was from that progeny that the princes and princesses proliferated into the thousands to create the Kingdom’s ruling family today who control the oil spigot that trickles down on them first so that what is left fuels the country’s economy.

Fortunately with oil prices at $100 a barrel there is still plenty to go around. But with 40% unemployment amongst the young, and Saudi Arabia has its youth bulge too, the Kingdom’s commoners are restless.  Meanwhile as King Abdullah throws money at “reform”, dissidents are careful not to make him the target of their festering political anger; that is mostly directed at the conniving courtiers, a clique of ageing princes waiting for the frail King to die. 

Prominent among them is the black Prince Nayef, head of the Interior Department, meaning the secret police. He along with his son Prince Mohammed, have been systematically jailing lawyers, professors, writers and students who dare suggest that the absolute monarchy allow for a semblance of a parliament instead of the hand-picked rubber stamp debating society the royals set up in the name of Democracy.

Nayef and the reactionary princes hide behind piety with their control of the pervasive religious police.  And just like Qaddafi, they use Al Qaeda as their bogeyman in their “war on terror” which has been a convenient fig leaf to arrest real reformers.  Meanwhile the Kingdom continues to export Wahabbism, its petro-dollar funded, reactionary and xenophobic form of fundamentalist Islam that has destabilized Pakistan and Afghanistan and inspires Jihadis around the world. 

Otherwise known as “the Taliban with oil”, the Saudis have done more than anyone to radicalize Islam and suppress the traditional diversity of religious practice within the word’s fastest growing religion.  The Wahabbis make the fundamentalists in the Vatican, who have captured the Catholic faith and purged it of liberal modernity, look like Quakers. 

Nothing controls a people more than if you control their bodies and their sex lives.  Like the theocracy our politicians who inflame the anti-abortion fundamentalists would wish to impose on us, the Saudi royals have perfected a system that unleashes theocratic vigilantes upon a population, who are so oppressed by the strictures; they have no time to think of revolution. 

But the cynical Al Saud’s, who use the Wahabbis as a shield so that they can live extravagant and decadent lives behind the palace walls, have this tiger by the tail.  Like a guard dog that could turn on its master, Wahabbism has a poster boy, and its name is Osama bin Laden.

When Saudi oil was first discovered in the thirties by a team of American geologists from Chevron, they were captured by tribesmen and taken to the King whose interpreter was an eccentric British Arabist, one Harry St. John Philby.  The King thought the Americans were looking for water but instead it turned out to be oil. When told of the potential wealth he was sitting on, the King weighed his choices; would he let his friends the British develop the oil fields or allow the Americans to exploit their discovery.

Philby advised the King that as the oil money poured in, the British would eventually expect him to adopt a parliament and a democratic façade whereas the Americans would not interfere in his domestic affairs.  They would only be concerned with commercial arrangements. 

Thus ARAMCO, the most successful company in the history of the world was born, and what the father Harry St. John Philby gave to the Americans, his son Kim Philby, the Soviet master spy, took back.  Now that’s called blowback.  So if the Saudi shoe is about to drop, we should expect a lot of blowback in the geopolitical pipeline.  And it’s coming soon to your neighborhood gas station.

The Global "Inside Job"


It was a thrilled when “Inside Job” won the Oscar for the best documentary feature last night, even though “Gasland” and “Restrepo” were equally worthy efforts.  And I jumped out of my chair when I heard Charles Ferguson’s acceptance remark that three years after the devastating financial disaster caused by Wall Street, no financial manager has gone to jail. 

Bill Black made that point very forcefully yesterday and I hope to interview the producer of “Inside Job” today to find out whether this publicity boost for the movie will translate into more attention to what is the real root cause of our economic distress today.  But as we all know, that message has been buried by the pervasive propaganda about the phony deficit “crisis” being self-righteously sold by the likes of New Jersey’s fat fraud of a governor, who is telling everyone that they should go on a diet. 

Perhaps a sequel to “Inside Job” might be a documentary exploring the global inside job that is the evil twin of Wall Street’s scamming of the American taxpayer.  Has anyone done the math to add up how much the current crop of deposed despots have stolen from their people?  Just the latest dominos; the Tunisian thieves the Ben Alis, the Mubaraks three decades of pilfering and the Qaddafi clan’s forty years of fleecing Libya are worth adding up.

I’ve heard that it could be thirty billion, fifty seven billion and one hundred and twenty billion respectively; just from those three.  But if you did an inventory of the world’s dictators whose country’s treasuries are indistinguishable from their dictator’s personal bank accounts, you might come up with a number that even Wall Street would be impressed by.

We seem to selectively decry blood diamonds and Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection, but not only is this predatory pillaging systemic, it has been sustained for decades.  Sometimes called sovereign funds, this dirty money is eagerly accepted by the big banks and their off shore branches, and ends up enriching the global elite who may not allow the dictators into their exclusive club, but clearly profit from this transnational cabal of embezzlers. 

The sub-prime scam on Wall Street was a massive Robin Hood in reverse where the rich speculators conned the poor aspirants to the American dream into buying houses that were sold out from under them, leaving the mostly minority families broke and living in their cars.  And adding insult to injury, the taxpayer bailed out the thieves not the victims, in the greatest transfer of private debt into public debt in history.

But someone should look at this on a global scale, since most poor and Third World countries are under the boot and in the grip of kleptocrats and their clans of crony capitalists. How much has and is being stolen from the poor to give to the already rich? And how much does this endemic looting contribute to the growing global divide between the rich and the poor? That’s a question that deserves an answer. 

The Film That Cost 20 Trillion to Make: and the Oscar goes to...


Today Bill Black, the chief prosecutor for the S&L financial disaster of the 1980’s (who put a thousand white-collar criminals in jail for the rip-off) joined me to pitch a DVD of the movie “Inside Job”.  As much as I loath begging for money with increasing frequency to keep the lights on at KPFK, it was such a pleasure to have Bill explain the significance of this feature documentary up for the Oscar tonight. 

Bill was able to explain the economic and political reality we face and show how “Inside Job” lays out the story that the Democrats and Obama have failed to tell, and in failing to do so, have allowed the Tea Party to capture and turn the political tide against them.

Capitalizing on the biggest crime of the century, the Republicans have prospered from the Wall Street rip-off that has devastated the global economy and hobbled Main Street, and escaped with the perfect getaway.  Stealing right out of Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine”, they have turned what was largely their mistake into a political Trifecta.

They’ve sold the deficit fraud to the American people while maintaining tax breaks for the uber-rich who helped bring about the crisis. They got elected by promising jobs and are now cutting them and preventing a recovery from the recession.  And they have convinced a lot of Americans that our financial woes are the result of lavish union benefits enjoyed by public employees at the expense of the downsized non-union private sector.

And of course as we know from the prank call with the Wisconsin governor, their strategy is not to balance the budgets in state houses with increasing revenues that have collapsed because of the Wall Street created recession, but to destroy the public employees union because they fund the Democrats. And thank to the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United “ decision, corporations now have an unlimited advantage in campaign funding which they are just beginning to exercise.

So you might ask, “are the Democrats suicidal?” Why did they not do what “Inside Job” does, tell the story? And as Bill Black said today, put the Wall Street crooks on trial and capture the headlines in an endless perp walk from 2008 until the present.  Why didn’t they explain what happened with indictments and trials?  Show how the insiders rigged the casino and how they fleeced the poor.  Reveal how they bought the politicians and neutralized the regulators.

The Tea Party would never have gotten off the ground if Obama had not chosen to “not look back”.  He would have commanded the “jobs” narrative from the beginning, and they would never have been able to steal it as they did in 2010 and con America with the deficit hoax and the big lie of getting Americans back to work while they lavish tax breaks on the billionaire who are laying off workers and cutting their benefits. 

I hope “Inside Job” wins tonight and more people discover the message that it delivers.  If so maybe this criminally distorted political debate can be turned around.  Clearly our political leaders wont do it, even if it will save them from electoral defeat in 2012.  So we must do it and lead them, since they have failed to lead us.