Under Seige: The Survival of the United States

mlkriversidechurch Photo credit: John C. Goodwin

Fifty years ago (on April 4, 1967), the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr gave a speech connecting the main struggles then going on in the U.S.A.  I’ve provided links to it, both as text first, and also the video. Warning, they are long.

TEXT – The link between the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, and economic injustice

VIDEO – A Time to Break Silence (Full)

While I am a wee bit early for the anniversary of that speech, I read today that President Donald Trump is asking the US Congress to increase defense spending by 54 BILLION DOLLARS- that’s $54,000,000,000 (If you could save $100,000/year, it would take you 540,000 years to save 54 billion dollars.) MLK felt that such reckless spending would kill this country. Although I approve of Trump’s shaking things up and challenging the U.S. political establishment, I cannot approve of his recently expressed desire to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and now his plea to divert even more of out tax dollars to military spending. I believe, as did MLK, that the health of my country depends on how we treat our citizens, how we teach our children, and how we plan for our future. It is not tied to building a wall, an actual literal fucking wall around ourselves, and focusing ourselves on increasing our armaments, aiming weapons at the world and daring anyone to try to breach that wall. It is a siege mentality.

Among the consequences of a siege mentality are black and white thinking, social conformity, and lack of trust. It is a false choice! Many in the United State believe that our only defense is military, that we must have overwhelming superiority in weapons of mass destruction, and other firepower in order to protect ourselves. We live in a huge world, full of other nations, other peoples, and we are not under siege by them. Many support us, many admire us even now, as we prepare to enter a new Dark Age of fear, of belligerence, and of a poverty, in both the economic and spiritual sense, that will cripple this country. WE CAN BE BETTER THAN THIS!

We do not need to retreat into a bunker bristling with weapons in order to survive. We can work with many other countries to cut off funding to terror groups, isolate them, and if necessary to eliminate them. They are misguided idiots led by fanaticism, without remorse, without concern for others. That alone isolates them. We cannot defeat them by becoming like them. If we continue down this path we will fail, and we will self destruct.

If we were to, for instance, look to a shared future with other nations and peoples around the globe, prepare for it, plan for it, or, I don’t know, even SPEND MONEY ON IT, might we not have a better chance at survival?

I cannot tell people what to do, or how to do it, but I am certain that working and planning together is our best, most viable option.

There are two ways to end a siege: utterly overwhelm and destroy, or starve the enemy out. This is what we face. By building a fortress, hiding behind it, and closing ourselves off from the world, we are making the entire world our enemy. WE BECOME THE ENEMY OF THE WORLD. One day, we may find ourselves facing a united world that either comes for us to destroy us, or worse, ignores us. Without trade, without cultural exchange, without friends, and without hope, we will starve ourselves into oblivion.

Say No to Loudmouthed Scaremongers

Obama And Biden Meet With National Security Leaders At The White House

President Barack Obama

Today, USA President Barack Obama gave a speech on terrorism. He spoke of the senseless killings in Florida, and the USA’s participation in the fight agaist ISIL, aka ISIS. But beyond that, he spoke, and quite eloquently, about the fight at home. Rather than try to highlight all of the points he made, I am including the latter half of his speech as it relates directly to us here in the USA. His points about doing the work of the terrorists by using the phrase “radical Islam” and lumping the un-Islamic murdering terrorists in with all Muslims is well taken, I think. That is exactly what Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, the founder of al-Qaeda, said that he hoped to do on September 11, 2001 by funding and coordinating four terrorist attacks on US soil!

President Barack Obama said we should not ban all people from Muslim countries from entering the USA, but we should certainly ban suspected terrorists, who are already banned from flying, from purchasing assault weapons. That would be the smart thing to do, but I fear the USA will not do the smart thing. Between the gun-manufacturing lobbyist NRA, and dangerous fearmongers like the Republican presumptive nominee for President, it’s possible we will fall right into the trap that bin Laden set for us: to war against an entire people because of their faith, thereby ensuring a fatwah against the USA in response. That would be stupidity of the highest order, and treason to the ideals of our republic.

OBAMA: Lastly, here at home, if we really want to help law enforcement protect Americans from home-grown extremists, the kind of tragedies that occurred at San Bernardino and that now have occurred in Orlando, there is a meaningful way to do that. We have to make it harder for people who want to kill Americans to get their hands on weapons of war that let them kill dozens of innocents.

It is absolutely true, we cannot prevent every tragedy. But we know that consistent with the Second Amendment, there are common sense steps that could reduce gun violence and could reduce the lethality of somebody who intends to do other people harm. We should give ATF the resources they need to enforce the gun laws that we already have.

People with possible ties to terrorism, who are not allowed on a plane should not be allowed to buy a gun. Enough talking about being tough on terrorism. Actually be tough on terrorism and stop making it easy as possible for terrorists to buy assault weapons.

Reinstate the assault weapons ban, make it harder for terrorists to use these weapons to kill us. Otherwise, despite extraordinary efforts across our government, by local law enforcement, by our intelligence agencies, by our military — despite all the sacrifices that folks make, these kinds of events are going to keep on happening. And the weapons are only going to get more powerful.

And let me make a final point. For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize the administration and me for not using the phrase “radical Islam.” That’s the key, they tell us. “We cannot beat ISIL unless we call them radical Islamists.”

What exactly would using this label would accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to try to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this?

The answer is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.

Since before I was president, I have been clear about how extremist groups have perverted Islam to justify terrorism. As president, I have called on our Muslim friends and allies at home and around the world to work with us to reject this twisted interpretation of one of the world’s great religions.

There has not been a moment in my 7.5 years as president where we have not been able to pursue a strategy because we didn’t use the label “radical Islam.” Not once has an adviser of mine said, “Man, if we use that phrase, we are going to turn this whole thing around,” not once.

So someone seriously thinks that we don’t know who we are fighting?

If there is anyone out there who thinks we are confused about who our enemies are — that would come as a surprise to the thousands of terrorists who we have taken off the battlefield.

If the implication is that those of us up here and the thousands of people around the country and around world who are working to defeat ISIL aren’t taking the fight seriously? That would come as a surprise to those who spent these last 7.5 years dismantling Al Qaida in the FATA, for example — including the men and women in uniform who put their lives at risk, and the special forces that I ordered to get bin Laden and are now on the ground in Iraq and in Syria.

They know full well who the enemy is. So do the intelligence and law enforcement officers who spend countless hours disrupting plots and protecting all Americans — including politicians who tweet and appear on cable news shows.

They know who the nature of the enemy is. So, there is no magic to the phrase “radical Islam.” It is a political talking point. It is not a strategy.

And the reason I am careful about how I describe this threat has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with actually defeating extremism.

Groups like ISIL and Al Qaida want to make this war a war between Islam and America, or between Islam and the West. They want to claim that they are the true leaders of over a billion Muslims around the world who reject their crazy notions.

They want us to validate them by implying that they speak for those billion-plus people, that they speak for Islam. That’s their propaganda, that’s how they recruit. And if we fall into the trap of painting all Muslims as a broad brush, and imply that we are at war with the entire religion, then we are doing the terrorists’ work for them.

Now, up until this point, this argument of labels has mostly just been partisan rhetoric, and sadly, we have all become accustomed to that kind of partisanship, even when it involves the fight against these extremist groups.

That kind of yapping has not prevented folks across the government from doing their jobs, from sacrificing and working really hard to protect the American people.

But we are now seeing how dangerous this kind of mind set and this kind of thinking can be. We are starting to see where this kind of rhetoric and loose talk and sloppiness about who exactly we are fighting, where this can lead us.

We now have proposals from the presumptive Republican nominee for president of the United States to bar all Muslims from immigrating into America. And you hear language that singles out immigrants and suggests entire religious communities are complacent in violence.

Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer — they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim-Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminate them, because of their faith?

We heard these suggestions during the course of this campaign. Do Republican officials actually agree with this?

Because that’s not the America we want. It does not reflect our Democratic ideals. It won’t make us more safe, it will make us less safe, fueling ISIL’s notion that the West hates Muslims, making Muslims in this country and around the world feel like, no matter what they do, they’re going to be under suspicion and under attack.

It makes Muslim-Americans feel like their government is betraying them. It betrays the very values America stands for.

We have gone through moments in our history before when we acted out of fear, and we came to regret it. We have seen our government mistreat our fellow citizens, and it has been a shameful part of our history.

This is a country founded on basic freedoms, including freedom of religion. We don’t have religious tests here. Our founders, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, are clear about that.

And if we ever abandon those values, we would not only make it a lot easier to radicalize people here and around the world, but we would have betrayed the very things we are trying to protect.

The pluralism and the openness, our rule of law, our civil liberties, the very things that make this country great. The very things that make us exceptional. And then the terrorists would have won and we cannot let that happen. I will not let that happen.

You know, two weeks ago I was at the commencement ceremony of the Air Force Academy and it could not have been more inspiring to see these young people stepping up dedicated to serve and protect this country.

And part of what was inspiring was the incredible diversities of these cadets. We saw cadets who are straight applauding classmates who were openly gay.

We saw cadets born here in America applauding classmates who are immigrants and love this country so much they decided they wanted to be part of our armed forces.

We saw cadets and families of all religions applaud cadets who are proud, patriotic Muslim-Americans serving their country in uniform ready to lay their lives on the line to protect you and to protect me.

We saw male cadets applauding for female classmates who can now serve in combat positions. That’s the American military. That’s America. One team. One nation.

Those are the values that ISIL is trying to destroy and we should not help them do it. Our diversity and our respect for one another, our drawing on the talents of everybody in this country, our making sure that we are treating everybody fairly, that we are not judging people on the basis of what faith they are or what race they are or what ethnicity they are or what their sexual orientation is.

That’s what makes this country great. That’s the spirit we see in Orlando. That’s the unity and resolve that will allow us to defeat ISIL. That’s what will preserve our values and our ideals that define us as Americans. That’s how we are going to defend this nation and that’s how we are going to defend our way of life. Thank you very much.

Clinton Needs to Disavow Superdelegates

Hillary Trump

According to a Washingto Post article: Leading liberals begin new push to unify Democrats around Clinton, liberal groups must rally around Clinton because Trump’s policies would take us back 100 years. California’s Gov. Jerry Brown said, “This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other. The general election has already begun.”

Bullshit, Brown.

I don’t believe Washington’s Hillary Democrats think for a minute that now is the time to unify. This is just part of their strategy to get Hillary Clinton into the White House. They know people are supporting Senator Sanders in huge numbers. They are afraid of losing, afraid that Sanders will somehow win the nomination. They are desperate. In fact, polls are increasingly showing that Trump and Clinton are nearly tied in support. In fact Clinton could lose the general election to Trump as things stand now. They want their candidate to win the primary by acclamation, unopposed, so as to create the illusion that she has massive support, enough to defeat Trump. She does not. How many people are going to be totally disillusioned if she takes the primary only by using superdelegates? She could take the high road now, and appeal to all the Bernie supporters by refusing to use the votes of superdelegates at all. If she does so, she will have the support she wants. If not, then all those people who have been excited to participate, to vote, some of them for the first time, are going to lose heart. If they do have a chance to see their candidate make it to the convention, where, although some my expect miracles, they will accept the will of the voters: unity achieved. This morally bankrupt attempt to dangle Trump as the ultimate evil in order to rally a rebellious electorate will backfire unless Ms. Clinton takes the high road now herself. No, Sanders should not drop out before the primary convention. Get real. Clinton should disavow internal Party politics in order to clinch the nomination.

Even Elizabeth Warren has stopped short of endorsing Hillary Clinton at this point.

//www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/461deee6-2271-11e6-b944-52f7b1793dae

Power-hungry

 

The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism (from @Truthdig)

Now, I found this to be a very rational, but somewhat depressing analysis of current political events, but with enough truth and common sense to it to make it worth reading and pondering, so I urge everyone to read it.

trump-hitler

College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now these elites are being made to pay. Their duplicity has brought them—and the rest of us—Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. – 2016/03/02

Source: The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism (from @Truthdig)

Hillary Dickory Dock, #WhichHillary

Hillary I don’t usually post negative things about people, but sometimes I make an exception for politicians. There’s too much negative about Donald Trump to go into right this moment, except to say that his campaign bears an eerie similarity to the German presidential elction of 1932. However, one of his opponents, Hillary Clinton, is getting on my nerves. I never liked her hawkish stand on the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq, and, although I applauded her attempt to bring about a discussion on universal health care when she was First Lady, I didn’t like her sudden dropping of the issue when she faced heavy Republican criticism for daring to intrude into male-dominated politics. There were those who felt it wasn’t her place to propose policy, both because of her sex – there was a lot of misogynist talk at the time – and because it wasn’t appropriate for a First Lady to engage in politics.

Given that beating she accepted at the time, backing away from the issue completely, many feel like her time has come, and we should elect her now. I don’t think so. Democrats want to win, and they feel she is their best chance, given her celebrity status. However, there is another woman who would be 100 times better than Hillary Clinton, and that is Elizabeth Warren. However, she has chosen not to run, so Democrats are stuck with Hillary. Well, not stuck yet, since someone similar to Senator Warren is running against Hillary to represent the Democratic Party. I like Bernie Sanders, but I think it’s delusional to think that the majority of people in the United States understand the difference between Russian socialism (a military dictatorship with state ownership of the means of production), and a U.S. version of Democratic socialism (a democratic political system alongside a somewhat socialist economic system.) Hell, people accuse President Obama of being a Socialist, when he most definitley is not. He leans slightly left of center on some issues, but really, he’s a standard Democrat, as is Hillary Clinton. Both have come down on the wrong side of the use of military power as a solution to complex problems.

Hillary 2Hillary’s ties to the prison-industrial complex are troubling as well. If she wants to end private prisons, she really shoudn’t be accepting campaign money from them. She seems to like things both ways, and appears always ready to blow with the wind.

I simply don’t trust her, and I think a majority of U.S. voters don’t either. And, just as in the case with the Bush family, it does gall people that we’re often asked to elect someone whose father, or brother, or husband was President. It smacks of royal succession, and the United States was founded on principles firmly opposed to that. Whether the succsessor is elected or appointed makes little difference to my mind. It sucks.

So, although I have been happy with much of Obama’s political views, I am unhappy that things are going to take a turn for the worse. I’m not optimisitic that Bernie Sanders can overcome decades of Cold-War hysteria. I’m not optimistic that any Republican can overcome a wildly popular opportunist like Donald Trump either. So, it’s shaping up to be a contest between a reactionary, backward-thinking populist, and a middle-of-the-road party-faithful Democrat who is not committed to democracy.

So, I’m leaning back towards ennui (a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement).

Again.

Hillary Dickory dock,
“Why scamper?” asked the clock,
“You scare me so
I have to go!
Hillary Dickory – O, fuck.

DIE PATRIOT ACT, DIE. And your little dog, Section 702 too.

Patriot Act poster 1

Several provisions of the Patriot Act — including Section 215, which had been used to conduct bulk surveillance of our phone records — expired on June 1 at midnight.
In a special session on Sunday, the Senate voted to consider a House-passed reform package, the USA Freedom Act, which then passed on Tuesday afternoon. President Obama signed the bill into law on Tuesday night.
Though USA Freedom doesn’t go as far as it should, its passage marks the first time the government has reined in NSA operations since before the 9/11 attacks. It ends unchecked surveillance of everyone’s phone records under the Patriot Act; that data will remain with phone companies, and the government will have to seek a court order to collect it for specific targets: a particular individual, device or account. The government can no longer sweep up details about everyone’s communications without some justification and some specific criteria to gather that information.

patriotactposter2
MORE: There’s a little more: CONTINUE READING

Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Speech (as prepared)

Obama 030715

Sometimes, there are speeches given that are full of boring policy and partisan diatribes. Yet, sometimes there are speeches worth listening to or reading. As I read this, I found myself imaging a different kind of United States of America, and a different world. It’s worth thinking about.

From the Washington Post, here are the words President Obama has put together to say to the United States, and the world on this 20th day of January, 2015:
More: Click here to read the speech