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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary (4906)


Today you will find Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner in New York. He’s there to “reassure” Wall Streeters who have been crying “wolf!” ever since the Obama financial reforms were passed and signed into law last month.  The theme of their latest high-pitched whine is that the new law “has injected uncertainty into the financial markets.”

Gee, I don’t know about you, but my entire adult life has been nothing but one uncertainty after another. I’m pretty damn sure that’s true of 99.9999999% of the 7 billion hominids on the planet.

But the folks on Wall Street, who hauled in trillions of dollars over the past decade on sure-deals that turned out to be toxic to everyone else, want that kind “certainty" back. It’s not like I don’t understand why, I do. Hell, if I’d been able to sell pieces of still-steaming crap for billions of dollars to stupid/greedy investors, I’d want that back too.

I only mention this because it’s critical that everyone stay up to speed on what I call the “Meme of the Day” being propagated by America’s oligarchs. (Oh yes, we have oligarchs too. The only difference between ours and Russian oligarchs is that our oligarchs understand the importance of shaping public perception before and after a successful heist. Russian oligarchs don’t give a damn about what “the people” think of them. Instead they all ascribe to the Grabit & Dash” school of business.)


Billionaire Hollywood mogul, Haim Saban, jumped on Olive Stone’s recent comments, and compared the Oscar-winning filmmaker to mad Mel Gibson. Saban, who owns Univision, which broadcasts the anti-Semitic ravings of Pastor John Hagee, has some ‘splaining of his own to do!     

[Correction: I apologize for mistakenly citing Bruce Wilson's claim, in his Talk2Action piece, that Haim Saban's Univision network broadcasts the programs of John Hagee. Wilson has told me that upon his further investigation, he has discovered that no such connection exists. I should have done a better job in my own research. -- Bill Berkowitz ]  


As one of America’s greatest and most controversial filmmakers, Oliver Stone inspires both rapturous praise, and torches and pitchforks. Andrew Breitbart’s bighollywood.com’s Kurt Schlichter, who is firmly ensconced in the latter camp, recently wondered “Why this pretentious clown still gets taken seriously?”  

In interviews, Stone often brings a strange affect; during a recent interview on Bill Maher’s HBO program “Real Time,” Stone came off as kind of weird. Not weird as in totally off-the-wall weird, but peculiar enough to make even a fan slightly uncomfortable. Even by Hollywood standards, where controversies are manufactured at the drop of a publicist’s stunt, Stone frequently draws fire; often due to the subject choices of his films. Over the years, he’s made some extraordinary films, including “Platoon,” “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Wall Street” “JFK,” “Nixon.” And, as might be expected from a guy that has been making movies for decades, there are a few clunkers in his oeuvre; “U Turn” and “The Hand” come immediately to mind.


To say the release of 91,000 classified documents has revealed a disconnect between our public position on Afghanistan and the actual situation on the ground is like inferring a disparity between yoga and bayonets. Dawn dishwashing liquid and green olive tapenade. A tray full of Southern Comfort old- fashioned sweets and a herringbone Segway.

Unlike the Pentagon Papers, we can’t even work up a good outrage, mainly because come on, 91,000 documents. That’s like reading all seven Harry Potter books thirty times over. I don’t care how authentically rustic your wand is, nobody’s doing that. There’s even questions as to whether it’s 91,000 documents, 92,000 documents, if all the documents have been released or more are being held in reserve for we mere Muggles.

I know. What’s a thousand documents amongst friends? Well, there’s your problem. We don’t have any friends. Corruption over there is endemic, pandemic and epidemic. Our allies aren’t necessarily allied on our side. The fighting is going badly and a halfway decent deep- dish pizza crust remains a concept the Afghanis seem unable or unwilling to embrace. Not to mention Democracy.


It seems like the Republicans in Congress have decided that sabotaging economic recovery and employment growth is their best tactic for electoral gains in the November elections. Indications of this plan have been around since the Democratic victories in 2008. It seems that all doubt about facilitating the economic downturn as a path to political power for Republicans have been removed by recent legislative votes.

Economic recessions and depressions almost always result from insufficient “effective” consumer demand for goods and services produced domestically. In economic terms, wanting something is not “effective demand” . For a want to become a demand for goods or services, it must accompany the desire to buy with the ability to actually purchase.  Money is required.

Jobs are not created by just having large pools of investment money available. There must be the opportunity to invest in a business that will have customers who can buy the goods and services before the investment money flows into job creation activities. The Republican Right economic theory that economic prosperity and  employment ” trickle-down from the wealthy” has proven to be unsound by historical experience.

Tax cuts for the wealthy create huge investment money pools but not jobs. Our nation has plenty of money setting idle in corporate and personal coffers. Corporations have almost a trillion dollars setting essentially idle in corporate accounts at this time.

This is the seventh installment of a project that is likely to extend over a two-year-period from January, 2010.  It is the serialization of a book entitled The 15% Solution: A Political History of American Fascism, 2001-2022.  Under the pseudonym Jonathan Westminster, it is purportedly published in the year 2048 on the 25th Anniversary of the Restoration of Constitutional Democracy in the Re-United States. It was actually published in 1996 by the Thomas Jefferson Press, located in Port Jefferson, NY. The copyright is held by the Press.  Herein you will find Chapter 6.  In it you meet Jefferson Da­vis (J.D.) Hague, a Sara Palinesque character who was the 45th President of the old United States.  He was a great grand nephew of the pre?World War II Mayor of Jersey City, NJ, Frank Hague, a man who once said: "You hear about constitutional rights, free speech and the free press.  Every time I hear these words I say to myself, 'That man is a Red, that man is a Communist!'  You never hear a real American talk like that."


I was never a Boy Scout but I was a helluva Cub Scout.  Pack 30, First Congregational Church. I rose through the ranks: Bobcat, Wolf, Bear, Lion. I accumulated Gold and Silver Arrow Points, the Cubs’ junior varsity version of merit badges. My mom was a Cub Scout den mother and spent a lot of time teaching fake Indian campfire songs and decorating various arts and crafts with poster paint.          

But when the time came to transfer to the big guys, the Boy Scouts, I saw years of knot tying and helping little old ladies across the street ahead of me and opted not to re-up. Nonetheless, I feel my time served qualifies me to have an opinion about President Obama not appearing in person at this week’s National Scout Jamboree in Caroline County, Virginia. The Jamboree is a gathering of the clans that takes place every five years or so and this year’s is especially significant as 2010 marks the centennial of the scouting movement in the United States. Congratulations. The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is a wonderful organization. Truly.          

But the right wing of this country, with the aid of Fox News and other media outlets, has opted to ignore many of the qualities one usually associates with a good scout – trustworthiness, honesty and especially cleanliness – to sling mud at the president for not making a personal appearance at the Jamboree. Instead, he videotaped a message for the lads.  Not exactly a sin on the order of massive oil spills or ethnic purification. But to hear conservative commentators you’d think he had at the very least used the flag to buff Air Force One. All of this complicated by the fact that the president came to New York instead for some fundraisers and an appearance on “The View.”            


"House Approves Money for Wars, but Rift Deepens, By ELISABETH BUMILLER and CARL HULSE
WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives agreed on Tuesday to provide $59 billion to continue financing America’s two wars, but the vote showed deepening divisions and anxiety among Democrats over the course of the nearly nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan."
--New York Times, 28 2010

We see at least five basic truths emerging from the Afiascostan situation.

One, Barack Obama baldly lied to us when he promised in his campaign that the days of funding wars via supplemental spending bills--acting as though an ongoing war were suddenly an unpredictable emergency--those days were done. Just elect me, he promised, and you'll never see that bait-and-switch again. We got gamed. This supplemental was voted in at his personal request.

Two, the war president and his pushbutton Senate and House war allies are committed to absolutely draining the American taxpayer of all lootable funds. All the idiot lights on the American societal dashboard are flashing red--unemployment is worsening, housing is sliding, BP has befouled the Gulf of Mexico for the next century, militarism has penetrated even the grade schools of our coarsening country with Starbase, we are wondering where our next energy meal is coming from--and yet these federal elected 'leaders' have just conspired to continue this incredible self-inflicted hemorrhage.

Three, this H.R. 4899 desanguination of both your paycheck and the social services available to you and yours is done despite a nearly Ellsbergian whistleblow on the war with the Wikileaks release of 91,000 documents that conclusively prove American war crimes in the conduct of the war. This corpus of open secret disclosures effectively shows yet again that all the US military is ultimately doing there is aiding al-Qa'ida and Taliban and other Islamist recruiting around the world.


Last month, I saw a cartoon in the Economist that mocked President Obama for giving a speech to Uncle Sam on changing to clean energy alternatives.  Uncle Sam cheered and then said, “Great—I’ll go get the car.”   It was an idiotic cartoon in the first place, but the message was clear:  Americans don’t have a choice; they must rely on gas.   What the cartoonist failed to mention is that Obama owns a hybrid-electric car.  Big oil investors have brainwashed Americans into believing that there are no electric cars; there are only gas-fueled cars.  

American tax payers have now paid over $1 trillion for the oil wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  We won’t see a dime of that money for our schools, jobs, college grants or anything else.  It was reported that “after a take-it-or-leave-it vote by the Senate, House Democrats faced little choice but to drop billions in aid for schools, college students and others that they had hoped could ride on legislation paying for President Barack Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan.”

Democrats had full control with 80% approval ratings when Barack Obama entered the White House.  He had, in Bush’s words, “capital” and what did Obama spend that capital on?—the same Bush oil war policies: It’s obvious that occupying the Middle East is primarily about U.S. oil companies stealing foreign oil.   


 Zondervan, the Christian book publisher, is (was) planning a Sara Palin biography aimed at tweens called “Speaking Up: The Sarah Palin Story”.

You know the story: She ran for vice president, and lost; she was governor of Alaska, and quit halfway through her term; her book, “Going Rogue: An American Life,” was a best-seller; she’s a commentator on the Fox News Channel; she will soon be sharing Alaska in a series for The Learning Channel; she’s in great demand as a speaker, and gets handsomely paid for her appearances.

She tweets; she Facebooks; she endorses candidates; and now, Sarah Palin will have her life story told in a biography specifically earmarked for Christian evangelical tweens. Maybe!  

Originally scheduled for publication in October – just prior to the mid-term elections – the book’s publisher, Zondervan, a wholly owned subsidiary of HarperCollins (which published Palin’s “Going Rogue”), which in turn is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, made a surprise announcement a few days ago saying that publication of the Palin tweener bio had been put on indefinite hold. According to the Associated Press, "Cheryl Lundberg, Zondervan's director of customer service, said in an e-mail that after 'careful review and discussion,' it was deemed that October was not an 'optimal time' to publish the book. She said no decision had been made on when the book would be printed."

There was no indication as to who was involved in the “careful review and discussion.” Although it is pure speculation my part, given the tight control SP Inc. has over all of its many platforms and marketing outlets, it is possible that she got wind of the project and expressed reservations about it moving forward at this time.  


The Bush/Cheney bunch used fear so effectively to get us to do the wrong things that we are now afraid to do the right thing. The right thing, of course, would be to admit that Afghanistan will never be anything but Afghanistan. And the Afghan people will never be anything more, or less, than Afghans.  And, above all else, “being Afghan” means, above all else, fidelity to tribe -- and there are a lot of tribes:

Forty percent of Afghans are Pashtun, 11.4 of whom are of the Durrani tribal group and 13.8 percent of the Ghilzai group. Tajiks make up the second largest ethnic group with 25.3 percent of the population, followed by Hazaras, 18 percent; Uzbeks, 6.3 percent; Turkmen, 2.5 percent; Qizilbash, 1.0; 6.9 percent other.

Oh, and BTW, the 40% who are Pashtun -- the tribe of the Taliban. They always have, and always will, control the largest hunk of Afghan soil:

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