Press**Watch: return of the zombie 20th century


If you missed your favorite historical events in the Twentieth Century, you'll be thrilled to learn they're all coming back.  Imperial wars?  Check.  Rampant and unrelieved racist oppression?  Check.  Economic Collapse?  Yes, we have that too.  Good thing we have global warming, or else it would be difficult to distinguish current events from the Nineteen Thirties.

Let's tackle that list in reverse, shall we?  Right now President Obama has received his Nobel Wish-You-Would-Make-Peace Prize and will be showing up at the tail end of the Copenhagen conference on climate change.  There's a a couple of reasons he won't be making a speech calling for dismantling our car-commuter and centrally distributed power grid in favor of land-use changes and localized publicly-owned solar, wind, geothermal and wave power.  And that couple of reasons is the oil industry and the coal industry.  Right now the coal industry is salivating at the prospect of literally hundreds of new carbon-and-mercury-spewing plants going on-line in the next few years, and the oil industry, well, they've had the US government by the imperial war throttle for decades now.  So here's the official line:

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 10, 2009


"COPENHAGEN -- Two top Obama administration officials arrived Wednesday at the U.N.-sponsored climate talks that opened this week offering both diplomacy and a tough line: The United States is willing to be a full partner in fighting climate change, but the real problem is with China and the developing world. ...."

Translation:  Hey look over there!

(Quotation from Antonia Juhasz' book The Tyranny Of Oil, p. 279 middle graf, p.210 top)

As President Obama is firmly in the grip of the same lobbyists, we can expect him to perform for them.  Judging from his speeches on the war, that performance consists mainly of talking a good game, vaguely, and then letting Hillary and other Obama Administration officials do most of the backtracking.  Meanwhile the right-wing pro-corporate shills will be cranking out the sort of fearmongering that they do best, claiming that climate change agreements will lower wages and raise taxes.  Because, you know, the mega-corporations are all about the little guy...

But why worry about global climate change?  Those emails prove it's all a hoax.  Or maybe they don't. My favorite deconstruction of the climate email hoax is from Lee Fang writing in Think Progress:

"In mid-November, thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit webmail server — a top climate research center in the United Kingdom — were hacked and dumped on a Russian web server. Polluter-funded climate skeptics, along with their allies in conservative media and the Republican Party, sifted through the e-mails, and quickly cherry picked quotes to falsely accuse climate scientists of concocting climate change science out of whole cloth. The skeptics also propelled the story, dubbed “Climategate,” to the cover of the New York Times and newspapers across the globe. According to a Nexis news search, the Climategate story has been reported at least 325 times in the American press alone. While the hacked e-mails may reveal that scientists might not have nice things to say about climate change deniers at times, they do nothing to change the scientific consensus that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use are raising temperatures and making oceans more acidic. As the right attempts to use the Climategate story to derail the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference this week, arctic sea ice is still at historically low levels, Australia is still on fire, the northern United Kingdom is still underwater, the world’s glaciers are still disappearing and today NOAA confirmed that not only is it the hottest decade in history, but 2009 was one of the hottest years in history. " ....

So much for wishful thinking, but you can expect the corporate press to keep the story alive.

Did I mention economic collapse?  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one-half of African-American teens aged sixteen to nineteen cannot find work.  Yes, that's the post-Reagan-era BLS, and yes, I said one half.   Effectively, that means that if you're a black teen you can pretty much forget about economic participation.  If you don't already have a job you aren't going to get one.  That's the miracle of capitalism.  I saw several miracles sleeping on the Burnside Bridge last night, wrapped against temperatures more than ten degrees below freezing.  At least, I hope they were sleeping, but after several days of this sort of cold, it's a fair bet some of them are dead.  In which case I'd like the Portland Business Alliance to knock on their mothers' doors and explain.  I know, wishful thinking.

There's a good compilation of the oh-so-amazing economic recovery on Alternet, by Karen Dolan and Diana Pearce, titled "We're Doing a Heckuva Job Helping Those Devastated By The Economic Meltdown."  They start by comparing the economic situation to a Katrina.

Pointing out that food relief programs are reaching less than a quarter of needy kids, they write,

"Most Americans' sense of well-being is tied to their jobs. With unemployment and underemployment at over 17 percent, higher among black, Latino and women-maintained household populations, the fall from middle class to poverty is often quick and painful. America’s children suffer the most. Almost one in five children in the United States lives in poverty; almost one in four suffered from inadequate access to food last year. These numbers are on the rise without an end in sight.

"And although two safety net programs in particular, food stamps and unemployment insurance, have proven fairly responsive during the recession, what does this mean in practical terms? About 57 percent of unemployed workers currently receive unemployment compensation thanks to the Recovery Act and congressional extensions. But the amounts are typically less than half of the wages they were receiving and many are suffering from the devastating loss of work-related health benefits."

In other words, the re-depression is just as devastating as you think it is.  Dolan and Pearce suggest direct goverment relief:

"The first step is an emergency relief package. We propose a roughly $400 billion relief package that will:

    • Create 1 million new public-sector jobs;
    • Cover the gaping state and local fiscal deficits;
    • Maintain existing jobs;
    • Bolster inadequate safety net programs like TANF and SNAP;
    • Extend and expand Unemployment Insurance and COBRA.
"There are innovative ways to keep homeowners in homes threatened with foreclosure by allowing them to rent. Low-income families facing homelessness can be protected when landlords go into foreclosure by funding a national housing trust fund that can provide desperately needed affordable housing."

That sort of relief isn't going to happen, however, until we hit the streets with protest, and I mean protest of the city-shutting size of the 1999 Seattle WTO struggle.  Are you ready to march for jobs and human dignity?  Because until we do, the profitable spiral into feudal serfdom will continue, taking as many people down as profits will allow.  Any talk of mortgage relief is going to meet with fierce opposition from Obama's best buddies in the banking industry like Ben Bernanke.  And it takes a lot of protesters to shout him down, when we're in the streets and he's in a nice quiet boardroom explaining to President Obama that mortgage relief just isn't possible.

The banksters are a little worried about this eventuality--they're reportedly packing pistols now.

"From Alice Schroeder at Bloomberg:

“I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.

"I called Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas van Praag to ask whether it’s true that Goldman partners feel they need handguns to protect themselves from the angry proletariat. He didn’t call me back. The New York Police Department has told me that “as a preliminary matter” it believes some of the bankers I inquired about do have pistol permits. The NYPD also said it will be a while before it can name names….."

Speaking of wars, I think I was mentioning that President Obama is picking up his Nobel Peace Prize this week.  Did I mention that?  Oh yes.  Here's what the Fourth Internationalists at have to say about it:

Afghanistan massacre on eve of Obama’s surge

By Bill Van Auken
10 December 2009

With the first elements of 30,000 additional US troops set to arrive in Afghanistan next week, the massacre of as many as 15 civilians in a US raid has heightened fears that the Obama administration’s so-called surge will spell a dramatic rise in bloodletting.

The killings took place in eastern Laghman province in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Gulzar Sangarwal, the acting head of the provincial council, reported that 13 civilians were killed in the raid on the village of Armul, including one woman. Local villagers reported 15 killed, including children. Reuters news agency said its correspondent had seen the bodies of a woman and 12 men, several of them teenagers.

Local authorities have blamed the killings on US Special Forces troops.

The deaths triggered an angry protest that ended in still more killings. According to Reuters, some 5,000 villagers marched on the provincial capital of Mehtar Lam chanting slogans denouncing the US occupation, the puppet government of President Hamid Karzai and the provincial authorities. The crowd shouted “Death to America, Death to Obama and Death to Karzai” as they marched through the town.

The villagers carried the bodies of the civilians slain in the US raid, laying them in front of the provincial governor’s house.

Soldiers from the Afghan National Army opened fire with live ammunition in an attempt to disperse the crowd, reportedly killing two demonstrators outright and mortally wounding two others, who died in the local hospital.

Outrage over the killings spread to the neighboring province of Nangarhar, on the border with Pakistan. Pajhwok Afghan News reported that 3,000 students from Nangahar University occupied the main highway linking Kabul and the provincial capital of Jalalabad for hours on Wednesday, chanting slogans denouncing the US-led occupation and the Karzai regime and burning American flags. A US military column attempting to move down the highway was forced to turn back to Jalalabad.

"As is its standard operating procedure in such incidents, the US command in Kabul initially denied that any civilians were killed in the raid. It issued a statement claiming that the occupation troops had only shot “militants” and insisting that there were “no operational reports to substantiate those claims of harming civilians, including women and children during this operation.”

"Faced with protestors carrying the bodies of civilians, the second-highest ranking American commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, backed off from the categorical denial Wednesday, stating that the raid had been a “confusing operation” and that the US military was “continuing to investigate.”


---Bill Van Auken          -- more at


Oh, and by the way, Hillary Clinton made it manifestly clear that Obama was just kidding when he said that troops would be withdrawn in 2011.  They're staying, just like the troops in the now permanently US-occupied Iraq.


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