Green Means \”Impeach\”


Black Friday and the Shame of Wall Street… and Congress

Giving Wall Street $800 Billion in taxpayer’s money — over $2000 for every man, woman and child in America — was supposed to free up credit markets and stabilize the economy, right? Yeah, right!

Perhaps the most shocking political episode in my lifetime has been the completely cynical and corrupt surrender of the Democratically-controlled Congress to the Wall Street speculators (aka, thieves), whose almost unbelievably reckless policies brought this gigantic mess upon us. And the punchline of this sick joke is that this criminal act of base thievery has not brought us economic security as advertised, but utter chaos. An entire country, Iceland, is on the verge of going under! From Britain to Australia, all is turmoil, confusion, FEAR. And everyone is saying or thinking: this can’t go on, the market’s going to bottom out soon… isn’t it?

I’m convinced that this has happened because the Left doesn’t exist in America as a political force. Progressive people meeting, talking, demonstrating, writing blogs (like this one)… all that means nothing. All the talk and good intentions of good people can be cancelled literally at the stroke of Bush’s pen, or at the whim of the utterly cynical Nancy Pelosi, whose only thought is not, “How can we public servants help the people?” but “How can we political hacks avoid damage and gain power?” The only reason the bailout took a week to get through Congress was because of the resistance of wingnut Ayn Rand Republicans! The Democratic leadership were completely okay with giving away the people’s money to their buddies in the financial services industry. The Party that refused to impeach the sociopath George Bush and the truly evil Dick Cheney, ostensibly on the grounds that they were lame ducks and couldn’t do any more harm, have now allowed those two criminals to start one last war: the war against the  American taxpayer!

Have Bush/Pelosi gone too far? Will the American people stand for this? I was coming home on the subway tonight and all I saw around me were people napping, reading bad newspapers, nodding out… oblivious. Yet the events of the past few weeks might ultimately cause more misery — more starvation, more homelessness, more hopelessness — than America has seen since the Great Depression. 

Who wins the election almost doesn’t matter. (Yes, McCain/Palin might attack Iran, and that does matter.) President Obama is not going to pull us out of this mess. (Somebody has rightly written that, if Barack wins, his new slogan might well be, “No, we can’t,” as in “no, we can’t have any more social services because there’s no more money.”) President McCain definitely won’t pull us out of it. Only We the People can pull us out of this.

If Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party gets 5% of the national vote, that would at least be a beginning, because it would raise the Greens to major party status and give Progressives a voice in government. But whether McKinney succeeds or not, it’s up to the people to get mad and fight back, by doing direct action, by organizing strikes, by never letting our lying, traitorous “representatives” off the hook. As Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young once sang, “We’re finally on our own.”

THE BAILOUT BILL FAILS! THE PEOPLE WIN!

They’re calling it “Black Monday,” but this historic day, September 29, 2008, represents a bright victory for the People. The leadership of both the Republican and Democratic Parties ¾ particularly the latter ¾ with Bush right behind them, tried to ram the Wall Street Charlatans Relief Act into law this afternoon. But a funny thing happened. The People suddenly woke up and at long last realized they’re in a class war. They shouted “NO” with one voice ¾ and I mean that literally: according to one report I heard, emails and phone calls coming in to legislators were running 100 to 1 against the bailout bill as it stands. Whether any such bill can pass the Congress now is open to question. But the People certainly will not tolerate a measure that rescues the arrogant masters of the financial world ¾ who contribute little or nothing of value to the real world ¾ yet does nothing for ordinary folk and their increasingly terrifying problems.

One of the few positive provisions originally proposed for the bill ¾ but later rejected ¾ was one that gave bankruptcy judges the right to alter the terms of mortgages for homeowners facing foreclosure. And just this morning, in this interview, by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now of Congressman Dennis Kucinich, he revealed that he had been informed that his party’s presidential candidate, Barack Obama, during negotiations on the bailout at the White House last week, had specifically requested that the bankruptcy proposal mentioned above be excluded from the bill. So not only was Obama an eyewitness to this screwing of the average homeowner, he was actively complicit in the process.

In fact, both Obama and McCain (as well as Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and the whole Democratic leadership) were playing it dumb today, casting blame on their opponents for the death of the bill. If they had any real political savvy, they would take credit for the bill’s failure, so hateful is that piece of legislation to most Americans!

I will have more to talk about on this in a future posting. Suffice it to say that this was a very bad day for Wall Street, which means that it was a very good day for the rest of us.

Bailout Madness!

According to this story in The New York Times, Washington was in a state of utter chaos on Thursday ¾ or, as Sean O’Casey would have said, “a state o’ chassis¾ over the proposed bailout, using taxpayer money, of the thieves and frauds of Wall Street. Actually the Times piece reads more like a Monty Python skit (see my post on Michael Palin, below), so full of demented dialogue and comic bits of business was the account (given by an eyewitness and several people briefed later) of the negotiations that went on in the White House, as both Democrats and Republicans tried to make up their minds how best to steal the people’s hard-earned cash. The POTUS, George W. Bush, was actually quoted as saying, “If money isn’t loosened up, this sucker could go down.” Apparently, the “sucker” to which Bush was referring was the American financial system as a whole, not John Q. Citizen… but I suppose that interpretation might also make sense.

Who put a stop to what had originally been planned as the biggest, fastest swindle on record? Was it Barack Obama or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who declared that this act of highway robbery would not stand? Of course not. Exactly as occurred during the failed Supreme Court nomination of Harriet Myers, it was Bush’s own party that balked ¾ to the Democrats’ shame. No less a right-wing bigwig than House GOP Leader John Boehner came out publicly against the bailout, putting forth his own cockamamie plan that involved the use of government-backed insurance to purchase the failed banks’ mortgage-based securities. According to the article, for several days conservative Republicans on the Hill had fretted that a government intervention of such magnitude would serve as “a step down the path to socialism.” (If only…)

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson (who, contrary to popular opinion, is unrelated to the late comedian and presidential candidate Pat Paulsen) made a desperate attempt to save his $700 billion bailout plan. His zeal was understandable, since the proposal, which eliminates all possibility of Congressional or judicial oversight, would have made the Secretary, whose lax supervision of the markets helped bring about the mess in the first place, a kind of tsar of the American economy. In the heat of the moment, Paulson in the Roosevelt Room actually got down on one knee before Pelosi, not to propose marriage but to beg her not to “blow it all up” by withdrawing her support for the bailout. To this, Pelosi was reported to have quipped, “I didn’t know you were Catholic.” (I’m not making this stuff up!) Then she added, all too accurately: “It’s not me blowing this up, it’s the Republicans.”

The real comic relief, though, was supplied by John McCain. Big John suddenly decided that he was so indispensable to the process that he suspended his campaign ¾ canceling and then uncanceling his scheduled appearance at Friday’s televised debate with Obama, with the McCain campaign stupidly declaring victory in an ad in the Wall Street Journal before the debate even took place ¾ and speeded to Washington to save the day, like a political superhero. When he got to the Big Meeting in the Cabinet Room, however, he had practically nothing to say, which is not surprising, as he apparently did not bother to read Secretary Paulson’s plan, which is all of three pages long and widely published on the Internet. Obama ¾ the smart imperialist to McCain’s buffoonish one ¾ reportedly “peppered” Paulson with questions without committing himself, and after this seasoning lambasted his opponent at a news conference for kibitzing where he wasn’t wanted. What is truly revolting, however, is what the Times article revealed in passing: that (if the Republican leadership is to be believed) the Democrats cynically tried and failed to “jam through” an agreement on Thursday morning ¾ one that would have cost every man, woman, teenager and toddler in America over $2000 ¾ just to deny McCain the opportunity to participate in the negotiations later on and possibly gain some political capital. 

The Times itself is clearly in favor of the biggest possible bailout as quickly as possible, ostensibly to avert a recession ¾ I thought we were already in one ¾ without taking into account such perils as inflation, or even hyperinflation. (That $700 billion has to come from somewhere, and since no sane politician is going to advocate the raising of that much money in new taxes, the cash would have to be produced by the government simply printing more money, devaluing the dollar yet further.) The prospect of America repeating the history of Germany in the 1920s, when ordinary people had to trundle their wildly inflated wages home in wheelbarrows, has now become by no means an improbable one. By throwing a monkey wrench into the bipartisan deal, Representative Boehner may have committed an inadvertently patriotic act.

By contrast, Green Party presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney has come up with an eminently reasonable proposal, one that favors ordinary Americans, not the masters of Wall Street. In her essay, Seize the Time, McKinney proposed the following list of steps (by no means exhaustive) to deal with the crisis:

  1. Enactment of a foreclosure moratorium now before the next phase of ARM interest rate increases take effect;
  2. Elimination of all ARM mortgages and their renegotiation into 30- or 40-year loans;
  3. Establishment of new mortgage lending practices to end predatory and discriminatory practices;
  4. Establishment of criteria and construction goals for affordable housing;
  5. Redefinition of credit and regulation of the credit industry so that discriminatory practices are completely eliminated;
  6. Full funding for initiatives that eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in home ownership;
  7. Recognition of shelter as a right according to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, to which the U.S. is a signatory, so that no one sleeps on U.S. streets;
  8. Full funding of a fund designed to cushion the job loss and provide for retraining of those at the bottom of the income scale as the economy transitions;
  9. Close all tax loopholes and repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the top 1% of income earners;
  10. Fairly tax corporations, denying federal subsidies to those who relocate jobs overseas; repeal NAFTA.

So progressives have a critical choice this year. They will have to decide whether they want to give their vote and support to Cynthia McKinney, a candidate with fresh ideas who is not beholden to the money men (and if McKinney receives just five percent of the total vote on Election Day, the Green Party would then become a major force in U.S. politics), or an intelligent yet empty agent of the corporate state like Barack Obama. If they don’t choose correctly, the “sucker” may indeed “go down.”

Thank you, Doctor Paul!

We all know the old dance: it’s a very ancient and corrupt American custom. In an election year, two candidates of the same mainstream party bitterly contest the primaries. Each tries to make the case that to vote for the other guy or gal would be tantamount to destroying the country. To attain the Holy Grail of the party’s nomination, each candidate puts her/his opponent through a process seemingly designed not only to make him or her lose, but to sully that candidate’s professional and personal reputation beyond repair. And when the dust settles and one candidate emerges victorious, the defeated candidate suddenly forgets that the opponent is Evil Incarnate and for the sake of something called Party Unity casts aside all pretense of consistency, integrity and self-respect, shifting the axis of evil to the standard bearer of the other political party and embracing the new nominee and former enemy as a long lost buddy, with whom he/she has never had any ideological differences worth talking about (this last part, sadly, is almost always true).

But one major party candidate this year refused to perform this insane dance. Texas Congressman Ron Paul fought hard against John McCain during the Republican primaries, disagreed with him on practically every issue, and was ultimately buried by the McCain juggernaut. But he refused to play the game. He was much too principled, too committed to his core beliefs — of which McCain is the very antithesis — to compromise. So when the call came from his fellow Texan, Phil Gramm (by the way, isn’t Gramm not supposed to be working for the McCain campaign anymore?), with the message, “You need to endorse John McCain,” Ron Paul politely but firmly said No.

As the good doctor later described it, the demand was not quite as bullying as it may sound. Knowing well his colleague’s stubbornness, Gramm tried to make the argument in terms of his, Paul’s, self-interest. McCain, Gramm claimed, was going to cut taxes more than Obama, so logically the Republican candidate would do “less harm” than the Democratic one. But the congressman knew that to cave in now to GOP pressure would be to betray everything he’d worked and voted for in his career. Besides, as he would later remark, “I don’t like the idea of getting two or three million people angry at me.” The decision was not a difficult one.

But his next decision may well have been. Instead of fading into the night as the glare of the media spotlight moved on to McBama, Dr. Paul chose to be a beacon of true democracy. No longer a candidate himself, Paul called a press conference at the National Press Club on September 10th to bring attention to third-party candidates and thus shine a light not only on all the crucial issues that the two frontrunners refuse to tackle, but on the extent to which our democracy itself has been snuffed out by the single corporate party with two heads and its media lapdogs.

He invited to the press conference Independent candidate Ralph Nader, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, Libertarian candidate Bob Barr (who for reasons of his own declined to appear) and my own candidate, Cynthia McKinney of the Green Party. Amazingly, the three politicians who showed up and Dr. Paul — despite their numerous and strong ideological differences — agreed on a four-point statement of principles, opposing:

  1. A foreign policy that commits the US to disastrous foreign wars like the one in Iraq, which destroys lives and depletes our treasury;
  2. The erosion of our constitutionally-protected civil liberties, including the Patriot Act, the approval of torture and the FISA bill;
  3. The runaway growth of the national debt, which creates an intolerable burden for future generations; and
  4. Corporate bailouts and the untrammeled power of the Federal Reserve system.  

Dr. Paul in his presentation was gracious, modest, eminently reasonable. He deplored the “lesser of two evils” psychology which leads citizens to vote for people of whom they do not approve. He urged people not to waste their vote on politicians and policies in which they don’t believe. He also deplored the mainstream media and its obsession with “lipstickgate” and other nonsensical “issues.”

Then the candidates each got up to speak.  Though they are united in their conviction that the system must be changed, each presented a different point-of-view. My candidate, Cynthia McKinney, reminded people of the Four Pillars of the Green Party: Peace, Social Justice, Ecological Wisdom and Grassroots Democracy. She remarked that when she left the Democratic Party, she “declared [her] independence” from an unjust system, a “politics of conformity and control.” She added that we engage in politics “so we can have power over public policy.” Politics is, after all, the “authoritative allocation of values in a society,” and that only a tiny minority of Americans now have their values affirmed in this society, wheras most of us have our values affirmed “practically none of the time.” She urged voters to “declare [their] independence” from the current system.   

It must be said in truth that I disagree, and in some cases strongly disagree, with some of Ron Paul’s views. But I cannot help but admire his patriotism and integrity, as well as a virtue almost unheard of in politicians today: courage. Thank you, Dr. Paul!