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Saturday, January 04, 2014

LETTERS TO LEADERS SERIES PART 1 

LETTERS TO LEADERS SERIES: JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.




LETTERS TO AMERICAN LEADERS: Chief Justice John Roberts, Senator Ted Cruz, Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senator Rand Paul, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Governor Chris Christie, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Sherrod Brown, President Barrack Obama.



January 2014

The Honorable John Roberts
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

Justice Roberts:

You shocked the Tea Party world when you cast the deciding vote upholding the Affordable Care Act. Didn’t they get the memo? Scalia and Thomas may adhere to the antiquated and knee jerk views of the antebellum league but you and Alito are firmly planted in the corporate wing of the party. Without a clear corporate interest (insurance corporations and pharmacies on one side; the service industry on the other), the Roberts court could go either way. By casting the decisive vote you became the most powerful member of your own court, a role that had been held almost exclusively by Anthony Kennedy.

It will be fascinating to see how you rule on the excesses of the National Security Agency. Without corporate interests (unless you consider the scope and depth of information gathered by private corporations or the role of contractors in government surveillance) we will soon discover whether or not there exists a constitutional right to privacy. We will also learn whether or not the libertarian ideal still informs the so-called conservative judicial philosophy. I have my doubts.

The Supreme Court is supposed to be the ultimate defender of civil liberties. At a time when both the executive and legislative branches cower before the gods of security, surprise us all by fulfilling your solemn duty.

Respectfully,
Jack Random


The Honorable Ted Cruz
United States Senator for the State of Texas

Dear Senator:

You have been garnering more than a fair share of attention these days and I was wondering if it might be affecting your psyche. It takes more than a Texas-sized ego to read Dr. Seuss on the floor of the Senate. Before this process of self-aggrandizement goes any further you would do well to remember those who came before you.

Remember the former and sometime governor of Alaska? She used to be at the forefront of the political forum. Now you have to google her resume. Sarah Palin had her moment upon the stage and then was banished to the sidelines of Fox news. She is you. The flavor of the day is running stale. Enjoy your moment but do not be fooled by the hype of your sponsors and friends. Fame is illusory and vanishes before the paint dries on the Cruz 2016 banner. Remember Rick Santorum? He is you. He had his shot, his time in the spotlight, and he will never be allowed a second run. Remember Rick “not ready for primetime” Perry? What plays in San Antonio doesn’t necessarily play in Akron.

You also may be given a run but in the end you will shuffle on back to Texas where they seem to embrace substandard intellects, intolerance in the name of Biblical morality and a twisted sense of constitutional intent. Most of all, Texas loves a man who knows he’s right even when he’s dead wrong.

Sincerely,
Jack Random


The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Former United States Senator for the State of New York
Former Secretary of State

Dear Ms. Clinton:

The question is as obligatory as the answer is obvious: You are running for president. Everything you have done since the last run in 2008 has been geared to the next in 2016. You have bolstered your foreign policy credentials by serving honorably as Secretary of State and resigned to give yourself distance from the Obama administration in the event things do not go well in the second term.

A word of advice: We need a woman president. We do not need a second coming of Bill Clinton. Yes, everyone remotely associated with Democratic Party politics loves Big Bill now; and yes, he is a remarkably talented politician. But he is also singularly responsible for eliminating the left from mainstream American politics. The Democratic Party today is the moderate branch of the Republican Party not too many years ago. It did not start out that way for President Clinton but that is his legacy.

What would you bring to the White House to distinguish yourself from your husband? One of the low points of your previous campaign was when you attempted to channel Bill in defending a gas tax holiday: “I’m not going to put in my lot with economists.” Bill could get away with that sort of tomfoolery; you cannot. Be yourself and let the chips fall. We can only hope that who you really are is what we need in a president.

Respectfully,
Jack Random


The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House of Representatives

Representative Boehner:

For too long you have hidden behind the cover of the lunatic fringe. In the last days of the 113th congress you stepped out of the shadows by issuing a very public challenge to the Tea Party and their corporate sponsors on the far right. At long last the second most powerful official in America found his vocal chords. Was that the plan all along? Did you give them just enough rope to hang themselves without doing irreparable harm to the Republican brand? Or are they still alive and kicking, rested and ready to resume their March of the Lemmings over the political cliff?

The real question is: What now? Do you begin to work with the president if not for the benefit of the nation then for the appeal and reputation of the Republican Party? Passing the Dream Act, raising minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits is the least congress can do to restore viability to the legislative branch. If it costs you your leadership role so be it. Better to step away than to lead the march over that cliff.

With Regards,
Jack Random


The Honorable Rand Paul
United States Senator for the State of Kentucky

Senator Paul:

I am not a libertarian but I admire the libertarian philosophy for its strict adherence to the principle that the role of government should be confined to protecting the rights and liberties of individuals. If you are going to claim the banner of libertarianism, you must be true to the libertarian ideal that government should not impose its subjective morality on any individual citizen.

Your position on reducing sentences for nonviolent drug offenders is progressive but it is not libertarian. Your refusal to come out for legalization of illicit drugs or even to state that nonviolent drug offenders should not be imprisoned removes you from the libertarian party. Moreover, your radical non-libertarian opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest makes us wonder how you could ever be confused with a libertarian.

Maybe I have misstated the libertarian ideal. If so please enlighten me. Or maybe your philosophy borrows more from the rigid individualism and pure capitalism of your namesake Ayn Rand than it does from the libertarianism she derided as a vehicle for anarchy.

So what is it, Senator? Are you an Objectivist in the Ayn Rand tradition, are you a libertarian or are you something else entirely? Before you become a candidate for the presidency, we’d really like to know.

Respectfully,
Jack Random


The Honorable Elizabeth Warren
United States Senator for the State of Massachusetts

Dear Ms. Warren:

If not for the irrational and unprecedented Republican obstructionism in congress you could have been a largely unknown bureaucrat, head of the under-funded and ineffectual Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Instead, you have joined the ranks of the most elite body of legislators in the nation. Thank you, Republicans!

You have established yourself as an extraordinary voice for the needs of working people and against the unbridled avarice of Wall Street. You have addressed the ever widening disparity between the rich and poor as clearly and eloquently as any politician in recent memory.

While the case of Barrack Obama proclaims it possible for a first term senator to reach the White House, he had something you decidedly do not: support of Wall Street financiers. For now, you would do well to follow in the footsteps of Al Franken and Sherrod Brown as the leaders of the Democratic branch of the Democratic Party in the United States Senate.

Live long and prosper. Few could have imagined you a Senator four years ago. Four years from now, who knows?

Warm Regards,
Jack Random


The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senator for the State of Kentucky
Minority Leader of the United States Senate

Dear Sir:

They say you’re a tough guy. You’d better be. You’re behind the eight ball with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

The Tea Party is banging on your door and all your coffers of corporate sponsorship may not be enough to protect you. Yours is the most difficult challenge of tacking hard right for your party primary and pulling hard to the middle for the general election without appearing the political chameleon that you will have become. You’ve had a long run in the halls of power. It would surely be best for your reputation and legacy to retire gracefully and yield to the next generation of leadership – even if that generation appears to have lost its grounding on the solid earth.

Sadly, when an individual has sat at the table of the elites and enjoyed the finest wines of influence, it rarely leads to common sense. Sadly, the longer you have tasted that sweet nectar, the less you are inclined to let it go.

With Regards,
Jack Random


The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senator for the State of Nevada
Majority Leader of the United States Senate

Dear Sir:

At long last you took a decisive step in curtailing the power of the filibuster in the United States Senate. We are not impressed.

In ending the filibuster for presidential appointments to the bench you finally did what the party of opposition would have done in a New York minute. Had you ended the filibuster as a tool of obstruction to legislation I might be more inclined to applaud. Had you ended the filibuster during Obama’s first term, preferably in the first year, I would sing your praises to the mountaintops.

Consider what might have been accomplished: the right to organize in the workplace, a long overdue raise in minimum wage, labor and environmental protection in trade policy, a Put America to Work program rebuilding our antiquated infrastructure, a comprehensive mass transit and alternative energy program, immigration reform, the Dream Act, an expanded voting rights act, common sense gun control, on and on.

I am no fool. I know that too many Democrats and their corporate sponsors wanted the cover of Republican obstructionism as an excuse not to act. I suspect you are one of them. Just don’t expect us to applaud because you took one little step for democracy in the royal halls of the United States Senate. It is far too modest and much too late.

The only virtue of the Senate today is that states (unlike congressional districts) cannot be gerrymandered; they can only be distorted by disenfranchisement. It is past time we struck down all the antiquated, aristocratic protocols of the Senate. The British stripped away the power of the Lords ages ago.

When the Republican leaders warned that you would pay a price, you should have replied: Go ahead, make my day!

Respectfully,
Jack Random


Governor Chris Christie
State of New Jersey

Dear Governor:

My Republican friends wrote you off when you shook the hand of our president and welcomed federal aid in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. I replied: He just made himself the leading contender for 2016.

They saw you as a turncoat. I saw you for what you are: A shrewd operator, an opportunist, a slick politico and a powerful enemy of the working folk you pretend to represent. You are a corporate Republican. You are radically anti-labor and your empathy for the poor and needy begins and ends with sympathetic words and well-timed hugs for the television cameras. You are a gifted politician.

At a time when your party was demanding severe budget cuts, you secured ample funding to rebuild homes, buildings, structures and lives destroyed by the hurricane but how you used that funding remains shrouded in mystery. The common folk who needed your help most are still waiting.

Maybe you’d like to know how people voted before handing out assistance. Whether the scandal regarding the partial bridge closure that served to punish a New Jersey city whose mayor refused to back you in the recent election, can be traced directly to your hands or not, we have begun to see how you operate. The more we see, the less appealing you will become.

You are far from the second coming of Teddy Roosevelt (as some would suggest). You more resemble the second coming Warren G. Harding.

Respectfully,
Jack Random


The Honorable Bernie Sanders
United States Senator for the State of Vermont

Dear Senator:

I love you, Bernie. There is little ground between your positions on the major issues of the day and my own. But I have to chuckle when I see your name mentioned as a progressive candidate for the White House on the Democratic ticket. Has everyone forgotten that you are not a Democrat?

To run for the Democratic nomination your first act would have to be a repudiation of your independence. Don’t go there, Bernie. If you want to run for the presidency do so as an independent. As a United States Senator with decades of governing experience, you are eminently qualified. Within the Democratic Party you would be branded a socialist and marginalized just as Dennis Kucinich was marginalized. As an independent candidate you would inject fear into the core of the Democratic machine.

In our heart of hearts, we both know that real systemic change, the kind of change that our national evolution demands, can never come within the confines of the two-party system. We both know that the probability of third party or independent success is remote but it is no more so than the chance of your prevailing within the Democratic Party.

Whatever path you choose, no public official has earned the loyalty and support of the progressive community more than you have.

Warm Regards,
Jack Random



The Honorable Sherrod Brown
United States Senator for the State of Ohio

Dear Senator:

When you won reelection to the United States Senate from the critical state of Ohio, you instantly became a candidate for the presidency. From a progressive perspective no one is stronger on trade policy or labor rights than you.

You were a primary target of the Karl Rove hit machine, the Chamber of Commerce and every major corporate interest in the nation. They deployed every dirty trick in the Rovian handbook, yet they failed miserably to stop you in Ohio. Do you think they might be afraid to take you on nationally?

You opposed the Iraq War from its inception even when all around you yielded to post 911 madness. You have called for full withdrawal from the long war in Afghanistan. You have been a voice of reason and restraint in our dealings with foreign adversaries. The time has come to reward a political leader for demonstrating the courage of his conviction and being on the right side of history.

Most politicians have to reinvent themselves to make a run at the White House but you were a populist before populism was popular. Check the record: Fair Trade, Fair Wages, Minimum Wage, Labor Rights, Income Inequality, on and on. You were among the first to speak out and you have never wavered.

Run, Sherrod, Run!

Most Sincerely,
Jack Random


Barrack Obama
President of the United States of America

Dear Mr. President:

The clock is already running down on your presidency. In many ways you have been what you pledged to be. That is the foundation of our discontent.

We knew or should have known from the beginning that your primary corporate sponsors were the wolves of Wall Street. One does not become the first person of color to be elected president without significant corporate sponsorship. We knew or should have known that you would answer to corporate interests even in the wake of a financial meltdown born of corporate fraud. We knew that your hands would be tied not only by congress and the Supreme Court but also by powerful international interests that reign over all presidencies. We knew and yet we hoped for better and greater things.

If you believed (as I presume you did) that the Affordable Care Act would secure your legacy, by now you should be recalibrating. ACA is and will continue to be a legislative accomplishment of uncertain value. History may consider it a bridge or an obstruction to a more rational healthcare system. Only time will tell.

If you want your presidency to rest on more than the substantial symbolism represented by the color of your skin, you must do more. Consider what you can still accomplish: Pardon Edward Snowden and open the books on the NSA. Pass the Dream Act. Pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq completely. Declare an end to the war on terror. Close Guantanamo Bay. Call for an international framework on the future of war: Drone and robotic war.

These are some of the things a president can do without much help from congress. You will not receive much help from congress. But you don’t need congressional approval to do the most important thing of all: Tell the truth about the halls of power. Tell the truth as Eisenhower did. Reach for greatness as only a president can and your legacy will secure itself.

Hopefully,
Jack Random

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Wednesday, June 05, 2013

THE STRUGGLE FOR RELEVANCE: OBAMA, MCCAIN & MEDEA BENJAMIN 

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY. THIS CHRONICLE POSTED BY DISSIDENT VOICE 6/5/13.





THE STRUGGLE FOR RELEVANCE:
OBAMA, McCAIN & MEDEA BENJAMIN


By Jack Random



There is no shortage of rhetoric in American politics but as for real world consequences it begins to resemble the Bard’s immortal lament: Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

President Barack Obama gave what might have been the most significant speech of his second term, proclaiming the eventual end of the Global War on Terror, over a decade long strategic blunder that should never have happened. Lest we forget, after the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, the Taliban government of Afghanistan offered to hand over Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda conspirators to an impartial, international tribunal, an offer that was summarily dismissed by then President George W. Bush.

Americans wanted revenge and would settle for nothing short of global war, even if it meant attacking a dysfunctional nation whose government had less to do with the actions of its terrorist inhabitants than our own Central Intelligence Agency, who recruited and armed them during the Afghan-Soviet war. We would have our revenge even if it meant invading and occupying a nation that was in fact an enemy of Al Qaeda on manufactured evidence concerning weapons of mass destruction.

The past is forgotten and history rewritten in the nation’s fervor never to admit wrong. We are convinced that the entire world understands our actions as the natural response of an aggrieved nation but there are families in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia who are not persuaded. They will never forget the vengeance we have wrought and so the war continues in perpetuity, propelled by its own volition.

President Obama’s declaration is significant but only if it can be believed. Within a week of his speech, promising a shift in policy on targeted assassinations, a CIA directed drone strike killed a Taliban leader in Pakistan.

Unlike the Bush administration, this president was supposed to understand the difference between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The latter is our sworn enemy. The Taliban is a primitive religious organization like so many others in a dangerous world. As a government, they were brutal and despotic like so many others in under-developed nations. But the Taliban had no interest in geopolitics or international jihad. Before we invaded, the Taliban had tacit American support as the best of bad alternatives to instill order in the Afghan nation.

We were supposed to be negotiating with the Taliban for the end of hostilities in Afghanistan. Clearly, those negotiations have failed. This targeted assassination of a Taliban leader had nothing to do with any threat posed to America or American interests. The threat was to Pakistani institutions, most notably the military. It appears therefore that our use of drones is extended to allies, even allies as unreliable as Pakistan.

Obama promised to curtail the practice, to make it more transparent, subject to legislative review, and to remove the CIA from control. By expanding the use of drones to intervene in the internal affairs of another nation, this action strips the president’s declaration of all meaning.

What then can we expect of his promise to restore civil liberties sacrificed in the name of the War on Terror? What then can we expect of his renewed intent to close the abomination that is Guantanamo Bay?

We begin to wonder if the CIA has gone rogue. We begin to wonder if the president and commander-in-chief is truly in charge of the nation’s foreign policy.

Any impartial observer of American history cannot doubt that our intelligence community has at times betrayed our elected government. Beyond the assassinations that turned the nation’s course on its head, there are the curious affair of the botched Iranian hostage rescue under Jimmy Carter and the subsequent arms for hostages deal that played a critical role in bringing Ronald Reagan to power.

Is it so farfetched to believe that the CIA would have its own agenda? This latest action would seem in direct contradiction to the president’s announced intentions. It is worth emphasizing that removing the CIA from control of the drone program was central to the president’s proposals. It is also worth noting that the CIA was in charge of the spying operation in Libya that cost an esteemed American diplomat his life.

If these musings are correct, how would we know? Would any American president be willing to announce publicly that the CIA is out of control? How would he prove such a charge and what actions could be taken to right the balance? The CIA should be dismantled from the bottom up and rebuilt to its original intent but it has become too powerful to allow that to happen.

His domestic agenda stymied at home by an intransigent congress, the president finds himself waiting for the midterm elections, hoping for the impossible and struggling to assert his second-term relevance.

Meantime, his former rival in the race for the White House, the man who never saw a war he did not like, Senator John McCain engaged in his own struggle for relevance by starring in a little political theater for the cause of war in beleaguered Syria.

As if we needed a reminder of how many wars we’ve missed by not electing him commander (remember Georgia?), McCain pulls off a virtual bungee jump into Syria for brunch and a photo op with Rebel Commander #9. The aging senator assures us he can tell the good guys from the bad by a simple vetting process.

Remember how adept the McCain bunch was at vetting it’s vice presidential nominee? It turns out his handlers in this bit of theater were equally adept. One of the men chosen for the senator’s photo op was quickly identified as the photographer for a terrorist group that kidnapped a dozen Lebanese pilgrims. Whether that charge turns out to be true or not, it points out the absurdity of his vetting proposal.

A decidedly under whelmed American media dutifully greeted the returning senator but failed to ask the pressing questions: First, if this was so important, where was Lindsay (i.e., Senator Graham, McCain’s sidekick in virtually all political theater)? Second, does anyone really care?

Why anyone would still listen to a man who has been wrong on every issue of any importance for the last twenty years is beyond understanding. His only claim to validity in recent years is his support of “The Surge” in Iraq but the strategy only worked to the extent it did because we paid our enemies to fight a common enemy; once the payments stopped, they returned to their own interests.

Rounding out our featured trio in the fight for relevance is veteran activist and worthy heroine of the left, co-founder of CODEPINK, Medea Benjamin. I have long admired Benjamin and CODEPINK for their constant presence and principled actions on the streets of protest against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but when Benjamin chose to heckle the president at the moment when his message was most allied with hers, it looked a little too staged, a little too desperate, as if all that mattered was getting on the nightly news.

Political theater has its time and place but in my humble judgment this was neither. Her explanation after the fact was that she listened carefully to what the president said and found it lacking. He did not promise to begin releasing prisoners from Guantanamo next week as if he could unilaterally take such an action. What nations will take the prisoners? If we sent them to a war zone or a nation prone to torture and brutal oppression, would CODEPINK be pleased?

Obama did not announce that CIA control of the drone program would immediately stop or questionable assassinations would immediately cease and that too was cause for dissatisfaction. To believe that the president could affect these changes immediately is more naivety than I am willing to believe Medea Benjamin possesses.

In the end, as much as I wanted to be with her and to support her action, the most I could muster was empathy.

It is no secret that the left is in decline. Since the gradual and perhaps inevitable disappearance of the Occupy Movement, the culture of principled protest has suffered. Sadly, we are not building a movement at the moment; we are struggling for relevance and ill-timed gestures with an uncertain message will not help.

So where do we stand? Do we crawl back into the cracks and shadows of the counter culture or do we find new ways to affect change?

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no left in American mainstream politics. There is the middle and the right. We can thank Bill Clinton for this state of affairs for it was Clinton who redefined the Democrats to bring in moderate conservatives. Republicans had little choice but to move further to the right.

To my way of thinking, this represents a huge opportunity. Poll after poll tells us the people are moving to the left. The younger the population grows, the more progressive the electorate becomes.

I believe it is critical for the left to mobilize its resources to engage the system directly. That means finding candidates to run for office, finding congressional races that are winnable, and supporting campaigns with time, organization and money.

If we cannot do this, if the best we can do is staged disruption, then we will fall even further into the pit of political irrelevance and the anarchists are right: Tune out, get off the grid, and refuse to participate.

Jazz.

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.

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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

SHAME OF A NATION: GUANTANAMO BAY 

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.





SHAME OF A NATION:
GUANTANAMO BAY


By Jack Random



Like any being capable of reflection, every nation must acknowledge not only its legacy of pride but its legacy of shame as well. A nation must have pride to bind its people together in common cause. Pride inspires achievement and enables us to withstand threats, to overcome barriers and to bear the burden of hardship along the path of history.

National pride is not only healthy; it is essential to the survival of a nation. But without concomitant shame to hold it in check, it becomes dangerous and ultimately self-destructive. A nation must have shame to right its wrongs, to alter a wayward course of action, to form a more just and democratic union, and (god forbid) to make reparations for injustice.

The American nation is rightfully proud of establishing the first modern and enduring democracy. We are rightfully proud of expanding the franchise to the landless, to women and minorities. We are proud of ending the damnable scourge of slavery though it required a river of American blood to accomplish it.

We are proud of our essential role in stopping the Nazi fascist machine from overrunning much of the world. We are proud of our advances in civil rights and civil liberties. We are proud of economic success and the technological advances that enabled an American to set foot on the moon, that led to the creation of the worldwide web, an unstoppable force that unites the global community.

America’s proud legacy is rich and varied but just as every man has his flaws so every nation has its legacy of shame.

That our founders built this nation on soil made rich with the blood of its native children is undeniable and as shameful as the Holocaust or any other attempt to annihilate an entire race of human beings.

We have fought wars without just cause against innocent people, killing millions of Vietnamese, Laotians, Cambodians, Indonesians and South Americans. We have built a military machine so powerful and omnipotent that it can only serve the cause of empire and greed. When we have squandered the greatest treasure the world has ever beheld on weapons of war and mass destruction while so many of our people go homeless and jobless and without decent medical care, we should be ashamed.

That we have witnessed the daily slaughter of men, women and children, watched drug lords outgun the police, enabled terrorists and madmen dedicated to massive harm, and failed in every effort to stem the tide of gun violence is shameful beyond belief. That we have failed to act in the name of the constitution and the Bill of Rights though we know in our hearts it is a fool’s argument, the verbal knee-jerk of the gullible, is all the more shameful.

In the face of all evidence that we are poisoning the planet past the point of no return, we cling to our avaricious ways and protect at all costs the right of corporations to pursue wealth without regard to cost. We would rather mortgage the health and well being of future generations than to alter our course.

For that we should be ashamed.

We exploit the vulnerable for a cheap labor force and demonize the exploited. We sanction slave labor under deplorable and inhumane conditions overseas by enforcing a hands-off, Free Trade policy, yet we are outraged when a building in Bangladesh collapses, a chemical plant in India explodes, or a sweatshop in Nepal burns to cinders. How many lives would be spared if only we insisted on the most basic labor rights and working standards from our trading partners? And to those compassionate corporations that have pledged to abandon Bangladesh after the latest catastrophe, don’t pretend you care if you only move your operations to a substandard facility in Malaysia.

For this we should be ashamed.

Our government has performed deadly experiments on unsuspecting, unknowing and innocent people. We have overthrown democratic governments in the name of freedom, shredded the Bill of Rights in the name of law and order, denied citizens the fundamental right to vote by a myriad of nefarious means, turned a blind eye to crimes against humanity, including genocide, and yet, at this time in history, viewed up close and personal, there is no greater shame than what we are doing on a small corner at the southern tip of Cuba at a godforsaken place called Guantanamo Bay.

From the beginning in January 2002, the Guantanamo Bay prison facility aka detention center was a bad idea, one in an almost infinite chain of bad ideas from the Neocon officials of the Bush administration. It was chosen because it was outside the United States and therefore not subject to American law. Our government claimed it was exempt from the Geneva conventions as well, a claim struck down by the Supreme Court, and yet few outside that small circle of Bush madmen would deny that the detainees of Guantanamo were tortured, abused and denied every protection of due process under the law.

Of the 779 men detained at Guantanamo, nearly 200 were released by 2004. Of the 517 detainees still held in 2005, independent reviews of Defense Department data found that 80% were not enemy combatants captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan but individuals turned over by Afghans and Pakistanis in exchange for bounty and favors. Far from the “worst of the worst” the officials claimed publicly, most of the detainees were “low level” combatants and individuals unaffiliated with terrorist groups. Eight detainees have died at Guantanamo, including six by suicide. By May 2011, 600 had been released, most without charges.

In 2008 five individual detainees were charged with acts of terrorism connected to the September 11 attack under the 2006 Military Commissions Act, an act ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Of all the proceedings against the detainees, exactly two have not been overturned.

Of the roughly 170 remaining in perpetual limbo at Guantanamo Bay, at least 86 have been deemed no threat and cleared for transfer. An estimated 100 are involved in a hunger strike protesting their conditions and status. Twenty-one have been force-fed through tubes inserted into their throats.

When elected President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay but he soon found that task politically impossible. As a result, the remaining detainees, including those determined non-threatening, are placed in a hopeless state. They have no access to anything resembling legal recourse. The trials that have been staged under the guise of military tribunals have been something out of an unfinished Kafka novel. They can neither go home nor anywhere on this earth where they can walk as free men.

That so many have chosen to starve themselves is not surprising. What would any man do under such circumstance?

Now they are being denied the right to die by their tormentors. If they persist in their refusal to eat to the point of starvation, a tube will be inserted into their throats so that their suffering can continue indefinitely.

Where is our sense of shame? Where is our compassion? Where is our sense of right and wrong? Where is the justice we proclaim to the world?

Mr. President, damn the politics and keep your promise. Close Guantanamo now.

Jazz.


JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.

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Sunday, January 13, 2013

UNDER-REPORTED STORIES OF 2012 

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.





DRONE WARS TO BENGHAZI:
THE UNDER-REPORTED STORIES OF 2012


By Jack Random



Another year has passed, another tick on the celestial clock, another moment to reflect on where we’ve been, another crossroad on the endless highway of life on the planet earth. In many ways the past twelve months have been unremarkable, full of sound and fury but signifying nothing.

We have retained a moderate Democratic president. We have elected a congress that remains intractable. We have steadied our course on the path to austerity. Our economy continues to regain its balance at a painfully slow pace. Our workers remain underemployed and underpaid. Our homes remain undervalued and far too many of our people are struggling. Our foreign wars, though winding down, have not yet ended. We have survived catastrophic natural disasters and human-made tragedies.

There were positive changes initiated by the people but the government remained stagnant at best and regressive at worst. Advances in the civil rights of the lesbian and gay communities were countered by the erosion of civil liberties (habeas corpus, due process and the right to assemble in protest). Legalization of marijuana at the state level ran counter to inconsistent federal enforcement policies.

Yes, it could have been worse but in so many ways we ended the year as we began.

Those of us who believe in change often use this occasion to reflect on opportunities lost. Those of us who follow the media often focus on what was not covered as much as what was. Every year an organization called Project Censored offers its selection of the most under-reported stories of the year. What follows is mine.

An under-reported story is one that received significantly less coverage than it deserved. By that standard one story is a perpetual holdover on the list. For while it may receive significant coverage it always falls well short of what it deserves.


1. GLOBAL WARMING. This year we learned that the polar ice caps have melted at a more rapid pace in the last twenty years than they had in the previous ten thousand years. Moreover, a comprehensive study using satellite data confirmed that the great melting and consequent rise in sea levels is occurring at an accelerating rate. The implications of this acceleration are worthy of the kind of coverage that predictions of doom based on the Mayan calendar received as the year drew to a close. Instead, such stories appeared in the back pages of newspapers and rarely made an appearance beyond the print media.

The Mayan calendar apocalypse came and went with a shrug and a chuckle. The Global Warming apocalypse delivered Hurricane Sandy, devastating the northeast with unprecedented destruction. Mother Nature cried out: Can you hear me now?

The media answered: No, we cannot. We will continue to burn fossil fuels until we can no longer breathe the air. We will continue to pretend that the debate is ongoing, that the best we can do is stand back and report both sides of the story, and that we cannot say that this storm or that catastrophe is caused by global warming. We can only infer. We can only speculate.

Fair enough. The air belongs to all of us and we will all live or die with the consequences of our neglect. The earth will abide.

2. DRUG LORDS OF MEXICO. Six years ago President Felipe Calderon pledged to crack down on the drug lords who effectively rule his nation. Unable to trust the local or national police, he used the military in a full throttle assault on the well-armed and well-established cartels in every region of the country. As a result an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 people were slaughtered in escalating violence.

In December 2012 Enrique Pena Nieto replaced Calderon and soon after pledged a new approach to the on war drugs. He’s calling off the dogs. Nieto learned what Calderon should have known: You cannot win a war on drugs any more than you can win a war on terror.

Now the cartels are facing a new challenge. An estimated forty percent of their profits come from the marijuana market and that profit is threatened by the legalization of marijuana north of the border (Washington and Colorado). This is how you fight back effectively against the illegal drug trade: by making the product legal, controlled and regulated. Now let’s talk about other drugs: Legalize, control, regulate and the cartels will fold.

3. DRONE WARS. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can be ended in the blink of an eye without trial, without due process, and apparently without consequences, as long as it happens on foreign soil. Welcome to the age of the drone wars. Initiated during the tenure of George W. Bush, drone warfare has accelerated under the leadership of Barrack Obama.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, beyond the war zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, of an estimated 358 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, 306 have occurred during Obama’s presidency. Those strikes have killed somewhere between 2,613 to 3,422 individuals, including anywhere from 473 to 889 civilians. Drone strikes have been employed a minimum of 43 times in Yemen and at least three times in Somalia, all with deadly results and civilian casualties.

Clearly, drone warfare has supplanted traditional war and covert operations as the method of choice for eliminating terrorist suspects. Reminiscent of the Bush administration, unless presented with overwhelming evidence (pictures of women and children in the rubble, for example), the Obama administration describes all casualties as Al Qaeda or Al Qaeda affiliates. When the evidence is incontrovertible, we accuse the terrorists of using civilians as shields and issue a muffled apology for collateral damage.

Media coverage of these events have been isolated and minimalist. Even those who strongly criticized the Bush administration’s war policies have held back. Why? Perhaps because we fear that the alternatives would be even more deadly. At least drone strikes come without the cost of American lives.

As a nation we have not yet addressed the implications of drone warfare. It is apparent that our technology is out front in this area. What happens when other nations, nations like Yemen, Pakistan, Iran and Somalia acquire such weapons? Can a drone fly silently and undetected across the oceans to strike a target thousands of miles away? How many civilian casualties are acceptable? How fallible are these weapons? What limitations should be placed on their deployment?

It is certain that the nature of warfare, itself, has changed with this technology. We need to explore the topic fully rather than bury it beneath an innocuous headline.

4. BENGHAZI: A CIA OPERATION. The killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three employees of the Central Intelligence Agency on September 11, 2012 set off a firestorm of political protest. We were in the final months of a presidential election and Republicans were determined to extract political payment. In spasmodic leaps and bounds Republicans and their media spokespersons charged the State Department and by extension the White House with gross ineptitude and a cover up.

Respectfully, they asked all the wrong questions. The great mystery of the Benghazi attack was solved when the Wall Street Journal issued a report that the diplomatic annex in Benghazi was primarily a CIA front. It had no diplomatic status and the vast majority of officials who worked there worked for “the company” under diplomatic cover.

Given that central fact, it follows that the “cover story” centering on Libyan outrage over an offensive video on social media originated with the agency. It follows that the CIA was responsible for the ambassador’s safety. It follows that the cover was blown and the mission failed.

Some of the questions not asked and therefore never answered were: Why was the ambassador there if the annex had no diplomatic function? How common is the practice of using our embassies as cover for the CIA? Will this revelation endanger other embassies? Will it damage our relations in the region and throughout the world?

Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham were not interested in these questions. They were only interested in scoring political points. The truth is: When the CIA is involved, we will never know the full and unvarnished story. Former Commanding General and Director of Central Intelligence David Petraeus got off easy. That he was ultimately responsible for the failure in Benghazi is all but certain. The truth is: The CIA needs to be reigned in and it is not likely to happen until the commander in chief is willing to stand up to the military-industrial complex. But that’s a long and tortured story.

5. EROSION OF CIVIL LIBERTIES. The principle of habeas corpus holds that a person cannot be arrested, detained, tried or convicted without a compelling body of evidence that he or she committed a crime. Habeas corpus is one of the founding blocks of western justice predating the Magna Carta circa 1215.

The principle of habeas corpus served our nation well until the reign of King George the Lesser and the USA Patriot Act of October 26, 2001. With the signing of that legislation, all rights deferred to the suspicion of terrorism and that suspicion requires no compelling evidence, no due process and no trial by jury. When we allow the foundation of our justice system to be weakened, all rights begin to erode. Freedom of speech is curtailed. Freedom from unwarranted search and seizure is effectively eradicated. It seems the only provision in the Bill of Rights that remains untouchable is the right to bear arms without regard to a well-regulated militia.

Many of those who marched on the streets of protest during the Bush administration believed that the erosion of civil liberties would end with the election of Democrat Barrack Obama. Many believed that Obama would keep his promise to close Guantanamo Bay, a glaring violation of international law and a disgrace to the American government. Many assumed that the president would keep his promise to roll back the Patriot Act and restore the rule of law. Many should be outraged now that the president has failed to keep his promises. Moreover, when congress passed and the president signed into law legislation designed to stomp out the Occupy Movement (H.R. Bill 347), he sanctioned the effective end of the first amendment right to assemble in protest.

We have reached a new low in the protection of our individual liberties yet few have noticed and fewer have raised their voices in protest. In the name of security, in the endless pursuit of our enemies, the people and the media have given the president a pass. But when we lose our basic liberties, they are not easily restored.


The through line of these under-reported stories is clear. We focus our attention on the crisis of the moment and the tragedy of the day. We consistently fail to see the forest for the trees. The media dutifully entertains us with images of disaster, human suffering and displays of partisan rancor while neglecting to connect the dots.

We cannot continue down this path without irreparable harm to future generations. The politicians constantly warn us that we are handing our debts to our children and theirs and they are right. But it is not the monetary debt that poses the greatest threat. That debt is eminently manageable. The greater debt is the legacy of neglect and willful ignorance we are handing down. The greater harm is that they may never know the rights that were lost while we were sleeping. The greater harm is the toxic waste we continue to spew into the atmosphere even as we know the consequences. The greater shame is that we turned our heads when the world was spiraling out of control and we chose not to notice.

Perhaps it is not our fault. We turn on our televisions and we are told what to think, what to know, what to think about and what to ignore. We learn that there are two sides to every issue and the best we can do is to choose sides and vote accordingly.

If we train ourselves to become intelligent observers, sooner or later we will begin to notice what our media of choice does not report or what they cover without the depth and focus the subject requires. When we begin to peer behind the curtains, to see what is hidden in plain sight, to connect the timeline of events and to understand the greater truths, only then we will be able to affect real and substantive change.

Jazz.

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

RE: MOURNING IN AMERICA: WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN? 

[Editor's note: This was in response to "Mourning in America: When Will We Ever Learn?" Reprinted below.]

I am in 100% agreement.

Firearms regulations have been diluted, neutered, and defeated through the efforts of a small group of politically well-financed and well-organized fanatics that believe that an amendment allowing them to keep and bear arms is there to allow them to oppose the will of the government by force if they think it’s necessary. They’ll use hunting as a crutch to win a few more votes, but we all know that fully automatic rifles with clips that hold dozens of rounds of armor piercing ammunition are not hunting weapons. Neither of the two pistols the shooter in New Town had on him were hunting weapons. Those pistols were not target pistols either. All three weapons had no other purpose than what they were used for, killing human beings, and they were obtained legally. Is there anything else we need to know about them?

I will no longer vote for or donate to any politician or political organization that allows the NRA to influence them.

Michael Caine


JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.



MOURNING IN AMERICA: WHEN WILL WE EVER LEARN?

By Jack Random



How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.



Bob Dylan, Blowin’ in The Wind



I am a writer. It is who I am. Writing is what I do that gives my life fundamental meaning. Of course there is family and there are friends for whom I am eternally grateful to be able to share my thoughts and feelings, but writing is how I connect to the world and the worldwide web is my forum.

As the nation mourns the horrific actions of a deranged young man in a rural town in Connecticut, my eyes turn inward. I wonder what my life would be like if I were unable to formulate words or if no one wished to read or hear them. I don’t for a moment believe that I would resort to violence but I am also acutely aware of the frailty and unpredictability of human nature.

I know that words can convey only a small fraction of the depth of sorrow that the loss of a child visits to the soul. I know that the cry for vengeance after such an act is also a part of human nature and I know that it is in vain.

Who among us can say what vile acts we are capable of if the entire world seems to turn against us or, perhaps worse, turns its back as if we did not exist?

I am reminded of a moment of clarity in Michael Moore’s documentary film Bowling for Columbine, a poignant account of America’s first mass murder at a public school. Some had decided that a certain kind of music was at least partially to blame for the unthinkable actions of two young men and Marilyn Manson was at the top of the list. Moore asked Manson what he would say to the kids who perpetrated the crime. His reply was more revealing than dozens of media experts attempting to explain the event:

“I wouldn’t say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say and that’s what no one did.”

No one can say that a failure to listen was a cause of the massacre at Columbine or Newtown, Connecticut. No one knows or will ever know but we do know this: Every educator, every administrator, instructional aide, nurse, counselor and school psychologist can identify children who desperately need help and do not receive it.

Politicians like to say “you can’t throw money at a problem” just before they lower the hammer for another round of budget cuts at the public schools. Maybe so but you can be sure that an absence of funding for essential resources does a great deal of harm.

Every school district and every school should have mental health professionals available to troubled students whenever and wherever they are needed. Simply stated, there is no money for services the politicians consider unessential.

We hear it every time there is a shooting at a school and everyone agrees but when the story fades and the schools face another round of budget cuts, as they inevitably will, the mental health counselors are the first to fall.

Words fail and mental health services are not enough. No matter what services we provide, no matter what precautions we take, no matter how many security measures we install at our houses of education, there will always be individuals who pose a threat not only to themselves but to others, not only to friends and family members but to innocent children.

Some say it is our culture of violence. I don’t buy it. In a civilized society, human nature trumps cultural influence. We are no more violent than our European, Asian, Middle Eastern, African or South American brethren. We are a compassionate people. We care deeply and we mourn for our fallen children.

We all know the numbers. We are among the world’s leaders in peacetime firearms casualties (4th behind South Africa, Colombia and Thailand according to NationMaster.com). We lead the world in gun ownership and availability and we have the weakest gun control laws in the industrialized world. Only in America can any random Jack walk into a gun show and walk out with the equivalent of an AK-47.

In our hearts, if we are honest, we know the reason behind the numbers. Like Bill Clinton said in reference to balancing the budget, it’s the math. It’s the laws of probability. The more guns we produce, the more assault weapons we make available, the more they will fall into the wrong hands.

This is not conjecture. This is not speculation. This is simple math. Like rats breeding in a confined space, our behavior and its consequences are eminently predictable. If there is a gun in your house, you and your loved ones are more likely to fall victim to gun violence. If we make it easier for deranged individuals to get their hands on assault weapons and rapid-fire clips, we guarantee that more innocent people will die.

In our hearts we know, yet we let it go on as if change in America is impossible. It is possible. We are a democracy and the voice of the people will ultimately be heard over the roar of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

One of the unintended consequences of the Supreme Court’s unconscionable Citizens United decision (legalizing unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns) is that organizations like the NRA are no longer major players. No politician must pander to the NRA any longer. For every dollar in NRA blood money there are at least a thousand from the elite international corporations. The gun industry can no longer dictate legislation in Washington.

That is not a good reason for long-due change but it is a political reality.

We are a nation in mourning. We cannot stop the tears with our collective sorrow. We can ease the suffering of the afflicted families only by small measures. We cannot prevent future tragedies from befalling others but this time we can at least take action that will mitigate the harm. This time we can begin to control our deadly weapons and have complete certainty that lives will be spared.

To paraphrase Pete Seeger’s anti-war ballad:


Where have all the flowers gone?
Gone to graveyards everyone.
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?



To those who say they need their guns for target practice, I say the vicarious pleasures of a million target shooters is not worth the life of one child.

To those who say possession of firearms, from semi-automatic pistols to military quality assault rifles, is your god given right, I say our children have a god given right to live long and fruitful lives.

To those who hide behind the second amendment right to bear arms, I say you should be ashamed. Who appointed you the guardians of our democracy? I say: As long as we have the ballot box, we have no need for a self-anointed revolutionary militia. If ever we did, it would not be you.

Lay down your arms for the public good. Lay down your ammunition for the students of Columbine, for the people of Aurora, for the citizens of Tucson and Oak Creek, and for the children of Newtown.

It is time we answered the question “When will we ever learn?” emphatically: Now!

Jazz.


JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

THE WASICHU’S LAST STAND: FALL OF THE WHITE MAN IN AMERICAN POLITICS 

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.


By Jack Random



“The Wasichu wore so many faces, an endless sea, wave after wave, more than the stars, and each one carried the same darkness beneath his pale skin, each afraid and filled with hate. Two thousand years of hatred and slaughter, two thousand years of death and poverty, two thousand years of genocide and white man rule yet still they feared and hated.”

From The Killing Spirit by Jack Random


Given the gender gap and the extraordinary racial divide demonstrated in the recent election, it does not take a political genius to conclude that today’s Republican Party is more dependent on the white man than at any time since the civil rights movement under Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The Lakota had a name for the pale skinned invaders who came to their land, massacred their people, slaughtered the buffalo, spoiled their sacred lands and destroyed their way of life, pushing them and all native peoples to the brink of extinction. They called them the Wasichu.

The Wasichu has been translated to white eyes or pale face or the white man but its meaning goes deeper. It refers to a class of men who believe in conquering, killing, defeating all others and bending them to their will. It refers to men who are motivated by greed and power. It refers to men who would rather exploit the earth, kill its animals and rape its natural wonders rather than learning to live on the land in harmony.

More than anything else, the Wasichu represents the spirit of greed and that spirit has taken complete control of the Republican Party that was soundly rejected in the 2012 election.

The Wasichu has not changed but the nation has.

In 1876, one hundred years after the founding of the United States of America, the most infamous Indian killer in western lore foolishly attacked the largest encampment of Native Americans ever assembled in one place. The seven tribes of Lakota called it the Greasy Grass but it would be known in the annals of the nation’s history by the white man’s name: Little Bighorn.

Colonel George Armstrong Custer along with every member of his five companies in the notorious Seventh Cavalry was killed on the field of battle.

Watching Republican candidate Mitt Romney deliver his brief but gracious concession speech two hours after the issue was settled, I was reminded of Custer poised on Last Stand Hill, still believing that somehow fate would intervene, that reinforcements would arrive, that something miraculous would arise to deliver victory from certain defeat.

The miracle never happened and both Custer and Romney would suffer a crushing defeat. Custer’s Seventh Cavalry would have its revenge years later at the Wounded Knee Massacre. Romney’s Grand Old Party, the last bastion of white man rule, will have no such revenge.

History will record the 2012 presidential election as the white man’s last stand.

For two and a quarter centuries the most exclusive white man’s club in America was the executive office of the presidency. That exclusivity ended in 2008 with the election of Barrack Obama. His re-election in 2012 marked the last election in which any political party can hope to win based almost entirely on the support of white men.

Yes, Mitt Romney could have won this election by gaining two-thirds of the white male vote. The record will show a landslide victory in the Electoral College but the margin of victory in nearly all of the contested states was thin. President Obama won not only by dominating the minority vote but also by peeling off enough of the white woman vote to close the deal.

Had the Republicans not chosen to openly attack women’s rights on equal pay, abortion and contraception, their chameleon standard bearer would likely have won.

Four years from now, given the same strategy and the same policies, it will not be so close. The march of changing demography, the browning of America, continues unabated.

Custer is dead and buried and this time the only revenge will come from women and the minorities as they redefine party politics in America.

The GOP will rue the day their corporate sponsors created and financed the Tea Party, that predominantly white working class coalition who took the reins of power by preaching fiscal conservatism but governed by attacking unions and pressing forward with their radical and increasingly unpopular social agenda.

A wholesale rejection of the Tea Party was one of the underlying themes of this election. If not for census year redistricting, the House of Representatives would have gone the way of the Senate. But redistricting cannot hold back the tide of demographics.

The GOP created this beast and the GOP must now perform the delicate operation of eradicating their influence without alienating their members.

The party must now cater to those it vilified only yesterday and the transformation has already begun. Within hours of the election results, spokespersons affiliated with the Republicans made the first overtures to the Latino community and the word Amnesty, verboten for over a decade, was introduced in the debate on immigration. The first test of the party’s ability to bring the Tea Party radicals in line will be the Dream Act, a modest reform that will provide a pathway to legalization for young illegal immigrants.

Beyond immigration reform, the GOP must act to stop the erosion of support among women, particularly unmarried women. The party tried and failed to sever its ties to its candidates who spoke openly about the immorality of contraception, God’s will when rape or incest results in pregnancy and other radical right positions. The party did little to separate itself from the decree that life begins at conception or the requirement that women who chose abortion must be compelled to undergo an intra-vaginal examination. That must and will change if the party wishes to be viable in future elections. We may even see movement on equal pay for equal work and day care for women in the workforce.

The Democrats will also be forced to the left on social issues. Obama initiated the process with his embrace of gay marriage and his executive decision that effectively enacted the Dream Act as long as he remains president. The process of liberalizing what is supposed to be the liberal party will continue as they attempt to hold on to their current advantage, even as they continue their rightward migration on economic issues.

The forgotten of the electorate in this equation is also the largest: the working people. The mystery factor is the working white man who has notoriously and consistently voted against his own interest for decades. In recent years working people have witnessed their jobs exported overseas, their homes foreclosed or devalued, their wages diminished and benefits stripped down to a bare minimum largely as a result of Republican policies. Still, they are counted on to get in line and vote GOP at every opportunity.

Some have suggested that white men or indeed the entire electorate is just plain dumb. I don’t buy it. Many working class Americans may lack sufficient education and may choose to rely on a propaganda machine (Fox News, Rush Limbaugh) for political information but they are by no means dumb. Just surviving in the modern world requires moxy, know how, the ability to adapt and work with others. They may be misinformed, they may even be bamboozled but they are not dumb.

Others, including myself, have pointed to willful ignorance to explain the phenomenon of voting against one’s interest. I stand by that conclusion but there is something else operating here, something underlying willful ignorance, something most everyone knows but very few in the world of mainstream political discourse openly discuss: Today’s Democratic Party is not what it used to be.

There was a time when it could fairly be generalized that the Republicans were the party of business and Democrats were the party of labor. Today they are both the parties of big business (more specifically, large multi-national corporations). The difference is the Republicans are more so, clinging to deregulation and tax cuts for the elite even after the collapse of 2009, holding to an absolute support of Free Trade and openly attacking the very right of workers to organize in the workforce.

If the Democrats have done anything to secure the rights of labor I am not aware of it. Moreover, they have actively supported Free Trade, the single most important policy to all working people. They have won the support of organized labor by default.

Working people is the new frontier of American politics. If the Democrats restore their status as the party of labor, if they push hard for labor rights in America and embrace Fair Trade in our relations with other nations, they will become the dominant party for at least a generation to come. If they fail to take hold of labor, they will leave the door wide open to independent or third party challenge.

There are strong pro-labor and Fair Trade advocates within the Democratic Party, most notably Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio. The Senator won re-election in the most critical battleground state in the nation and did so against the full force of corporate funding and every dirty trick in Karl Rove’s handbook.

Today the Democrats have a decided advantage but if they wish to secure the future they would do well to listen to Senator Brown.

The white working man is dazed, confused, and cruising down the highway to political irrelevancy. He desperately needs a bridge to rejoin the fold. Fair trade and a strong push to protect American workers may provide that bridge.

Jazz.

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.

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Friday, November 02, 2012

OCTOBER SURPRISE: THE SUPERSTORM AND THE 2012 ELECTION 

JAZZMAN CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.


By Jack Random



“I have a job in New Jersey that is much bigger than presidential politics… I have to say, the administration, the president, himself, and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate have been outstanding with us so far. We have a great partnership with them. I want to thank the president personally for his personal attention to this.”

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, October 30, 2012


No one can predict what will happen in the final days of a presidential election. Last time around the October surprise was the impending total collapse of Wall Street and the global financial system, a crisis so acute it forced a Republican president to go against a fundamental tenet of his party’s philosophy by advocating a massive financial bailout.

For those whose memories are short, we were on the verge of a catastrophe that went to the very foundation of our economic system. Had it been allowed to unfold (let the markets correct themselves), a worldwide Great Depression would certainly have followed.

Republican John McCain’s muddled response, contrasting with Barrack Obama’s decisive leadership, paved the way to a clear and decisive victory.

In the 2012 election, the crisis came in a different form. As if to remind us that the effects of climate change cannot be denied by political decree, Mother Nature spawned a Super Storm whose breadth and depth of destruction throughout the northeastern seaboard was unprecedented.

Just when we thought climate change would not make an appearance this election cycle, along comes Hurricane Sandy to provide a grim vision of what our willful ignorance can do. And while we cannot with certainty attribute one extreme weather event to global warming, we would be fools not to acknowledge that this is exactly the kind of event climatologist have predicted.

Every Romney supporter who laughed when their candidate belittled the idea of a president fighting the rise of the ocean might now have second thoughts, particularly if they live on the east coast.

Welcome to the new world where catastrophic weather events become more commonplace, more extreme and less predictable.

As our hearts go out to the millions of Americans affected by this storm, the lives and homes lost, the towns and communities decimated and the hardships that will be faced for years to come, our responsibility as citizens compels us to connect these events to the choices we face in the coming election.

Governor Chris Christie of devastated New Jersey rose above partisan politics when he praised President Obama’s quick and decisive response to this catastrophe.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney staged a fake relief event and refused to comment about his previous positions advocating cutbacks in emergency management, handing responsibility to the affected states and privatizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

We all remember what the last Republican president did to FEMA and how miserably that agency responded to Hurricane Katrina.

Candidate Romney is spending his final days of the campaign talking about big change but what he’s really offering is a change back to the policies of George W. Bush. When a president fundamentally does not believe in the role of government, agencies like FEMA, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Protection Agency inevitably decline.

To suggest that a state hit by a disaster and still struggling to climb out of the financial hole created by Republican policies, should somehow manage its own emergencies is flagrantly irresponsible. To suggest that a profit-motivated private corporation would do a better job of emergency management is absurd.

We have already witnessed what private insurance companies did in the wake of Katrina, drawing artificial lines between wind and water damage, finding loopholes and any excuse to deny claims or tie them up in court until wary and beleaguered homeowners are forced to sell out at a loss.

In times of crisis the people deserve and indeed demand an effective federal response to save lives, to mitigate damage and to help rebuild. President Obama is fulfilling that basic governmental responsibility because his administration was prepared for it. He has promised to stay the course and we must hold him to that promise.

That is not the kind of federal response we could expect from a Romney administration. Yes, he would appear on television, he would express his sincere condolences, he would make promises but in the end every state, every community, every homeowner and every individual would be left on their own. When the cameras leave and the coverage fades, the promises would be forgotten.

It is times like these that test the spirit of the nation. It is events like these that touch our hearts and trigger our empathy for our fellow citizens because we know, at another time and place, it could happen to us, to our families and loved ones.

At times like these we are made stronger by our sense of unity and our confidence that our elected leaders will help us to recover and rebuild.

At times like these we know what good government looks like.

It is perhaps unfair that a presidential election should be decided by a single event but when a candidate disavows virtually everything he has campaigned on to hide the fact that his agenda is to maximize the profits of the corporate elite while the rest of the nation pays for it with an age of austerity, then fairness is no longer in the equation.

The polls say the election is a toss-up (at least in the popular vote). I have no reason to doubt their validity. But with four days to Election Day, with the devastation of the Super Storm fresh in our collective consciousness, I believe we will see a clear and decisive victory for the Democrats in the House of Representatives, the United States Senate and in the White House.

Jazz.

JACK RANDOM IS THE AUTHOR OF THE JAZZMAN CHRONICLES (CROW DOG PRESS) AND GHOST DANCE INSURRECTION (DRY BONES PRESS). THE CHRONICLES HAVE BEEN POSTED ON NUMEROUS CITES OF THE WORLDWIDE WEB, INCLUDING THE ALBION MONITOR, BELLACIAO, BUZZLE, COUNTERPUNCH, DISSIDENT VOICE, THE NATIONAL FREE PRESS, GLOBAL FREE PRESS AND PACIFIC FREE PRESS. SEE WWW.JAZZMANCHRONICLES.BLOGSPOT.COM.

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