I’ve no idea who this guy is (he seems to be an Egyptian living in Canada), but he’s certainly angry.
He notes that CNN has virtually ignored this week’s mass demonstrations against Morsi and the Brotherhood, while the BBC reported that “thousands” (later “tens of thousands”) had demonstrated in Cairo.
Reuters, this guy says, put it at 25 million (though I’ve checked and not been able to find where Reuters cite that figure: it strikes me as incredibly high, given that the total population of Cairo is 18 million. Still, most credible reports put the numbers in the hundreds of thousands).
Note that he’s emphatically not calling for any kind of western interference:
H/t: Pete Radcliff
I’m bloody glad I don’t live in the USofA.
Because the more I see of, and hear from, this asshole…
…the more I just know that were I a US citizen right now, I’d be chucking overboard the traditional Trotskyist position and voting for Obama.
“It is noteworthy that four of the best decisions that Obama made during his presidency ran against the advice of much of his own administration. Numerous Democrats in Congress and the White House urged him to throw in the towel on health-care reform, but he was one of very few voices in his administration determined to see it through. Many of his own advisers, both economists steeped in free-market models and advisers anxious about a bailout-weary public, argued against his decision to extend credit to, and restructure, the auto industry. On Libya, Obama’s staff presented him with options either to posture ineffectually or do nothing; he alone forced them to draw up an option that would prevent a massacre. And Obama overruled some cautious advisers and decided to kill Osama bin Laden.”
“The founding fathers built a constitution of checks and balances believing reasonable men would agree.; how could they have foreseen Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman or Glenn Beck?” – Polly Toynbee in today’s Graun
Following Obama’s humiliating capitulation to the right-wing loons of the Tea Party, the Graun‘s Polly Toynbee (not one of our usual favourites here at Shiraz) speculates on the likelihood of such a movement arising in the UK and is generally fairly optimistic with regard to mainstream politics:
“Whatever you think of the Tory party, it is not shot through with US craziness,
not on stem cell research and gay marriage, or even really on abortion – though
they will toughen its conditions. Steve
Hilton’s cunning plan to abolish all consumer, employment and maternity
rights got a dusty answer, while his green passions are at least tolerated. Most
Tories are driven by Thatcherism, with its shrink-the-state, on-your-bike thirst
for deregulation. But although Oliver Letwin‘s
parents were Ayn Rand disciples, the American right’s call of the wild is no
closer to Tory core sentiment than is Labour’s ritualistic singing of the Red
Flag once a year. Britain is more rightwing than mainstream Europe, our media
more strident, but we haven’t crossed the Atlantic – yet.”
I think Toynbee’s right about British politics – UKIP and the Tax Payers’ Alliance remain thankfully marginal forces with little popular support and well-deserved reputations for wackiness. That could change, of couirse, but for now I agree with Toynbee that the main arena for irrational, paranoid and reactionary populism in Britain at the moment is science – or, to be precise, anti-science.
Professor Steve Jones’ recent report on BBC coverage of scientific matters showed how even the good ol’ Beeb’s much-vaunted “impartiality” in practice has played into the hands of irrational nutters, flat-earthers and fanatics, by giving their nonsense equal coverage to the overwhelming consensus of scientific opinion.
Jones cites the examples of climate-change, the MMR/autism row and GM crops, as exaqmples of the BBC giving “false balance” between fringe fanatics (or, in the case of climate-change deniers, paid lobbyists) and the overwhelming weight of international scientific opinion. I would add the Green Party’s and CND’s irrational objection to nuclear power to that list.
But the recent story about threats to scientists working on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is, perhaps the most dramatic recent example of at least some people’s paranoid consumerist hostility to rationalism and objectivity in science:
British researchers looking at the causes of chronic fatigue syndrome have received death threats from protesters angry at their focus on possible mental triggers, a report said Friday.
Several scientists researching the condition, which is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), say they are being subjected to a campaign of harassment and abuse, the BBC reported.
Professor Simon Wessely, a scientist based at King’s College London, told BBC Radio that he now scans his mail for suspect devices after receiving “maliciously unfair” threats of violence.
“It’s direct intimidation in the sense of letters, emails, occasional phone calls and threats,” Wessely said, adding that those behind the abuse were also making official complaints to British medical bodies.
“I think sadly some of the motivation here comes from people who really do believe that any connection with psychiatry is tantamout to saying there is nothing wrong with you, you are making this up… That is profoundly misguided.”
A doctor representing sufferers in Britain said there was anger about the way the condition was being probed.
Charles Shepherd, medical adviser to the ME Association, said threats to scientists were “completely unacceptable” but called on the British government to support more research into the possible biological causes.
“I think you need to put this into the context of the fact that we have about 250,000 people with this illness (in Britain). A very, very tiny minority of these people are involved in this sort of behaviour,” he said.
A major US study in 2009 claimed that a mouse virus was the cause but researchers later said its findings were wrong and likely based on contaminated lab samples.
Toynbee closes her piece with a quote from Chief scientist John Beddington, arguing that society must become “Grossly intolerant of pseudo-science, the cherry-picking of the facts and the failure to use scientific evidence and scientific method”. That’s the best – in fact, the only – defence we have against Tea Party thinking, whether from UKIP, the Greens or climate-change deniers.
OK, he’s a bourgeois politician, and he’s not prepared to go all the way and back Palestinian statehood at the UN. But he’s surely right that the pre-1967 borders and two states are the only viable, realistic and just way foward. For that, he deserves our critical support, especially in the face of Netanyahu’s belligerent rejectionism (not to mention the nihilistic, incoherent sub-Chomskyite sneering of the likes of Fisk):
It looks like being a pretty depressing night for those of us who value sanity, common decency and feel generally positive towards America and its people. But it’s worth remembering that the nuts and bigots of the Tea Party movement are not the only voices to be heard at this time. Here’s an admirable piece of sanity from one Ron Rosenbaum, that appearered in Slate.com back in April. You may want to check it out as the results roll in tonight:
“Consider this CNN report, which attempts to give a smiley face to the Tea Party’s underlying ideology. Even Fox News recognizes Tea Party dogma as a seething cauldron of deranged and vicious lies about history. Look at the guy in the photo in this report and how proud he is of his illiterate swastika sign.
“These swastika nuts look ridiculous. But words matter, sometimes in a life-and-death way. Take for instance the Tea Party demonization of “federal regulation” as the instrument of the tyranny that’s been imposed on them. I would like every Tea Partier who has denounced federal regulation to write a letter to the widows and children of the coalminers in West Virginia who died because of the failure of “federal regulation” of mine safety.
“Tell the weeping survivors that such regulation is tyranny, that their husbands and fathers had to die, but for a good cause: lowering federal spending so the T.P.ers could save a few pennies on taxes. That’s worth 29 lives snuffed out in a mine blast, isn’t it? They either don’t see the connection or don’t care.
“Indeed the demonization of ‘federal regulation’ could prevent cowardly legislators from strengthening protections for miners and other workers imperiled by unsafe conditions. But the happy T.P.ers will still go out with their swastika and Hitler-mustache signs, whining about tyranny. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a liberal politician who, in the wake of the mining catastrophe, had the courage to stand up and say that federal regulations are often a very good thing? Don’t hold your breath.
“This is just one example of the toxic effect of Tea Party ignorance on the lives of their fellow citizens. But the damage done by the injection of fraudulent history into the body politic by Tea Party ignoramuses and their enablers will be more profound and lasting than one tragedy.
“That’s because ignorance of this sort isn’t inconsequential. Historical fraudulence is like a disease, a contagious psychosis which can lead to mob hysteria and worse. Consider the role that fraudulent history played in Weimar Germany, where the ‘stab in the back’ myth that the German Army had been cheated of victory in World War I by Jews and Socialists on the home front was used by the Nazis to justify their hatreds…”
Full article here.
So, it has happened. Obama has got his healthcare bill through against heavy odds.
This isn’t as good as our NHS. It is flawed. But it is a start.
The subsidies and mandates take effect in 2014, but insurance regulations and some other provisions kick in right away. Immediately, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to people on the basis of pre-existing conditions. They’ll no longer be able to drop sick people from their policies. They’ll no longer be able to set lifetime caps on payouts. Young adults will be allowed to remain on their parents’ plans until they’re 26. Small businesses will receive tax incentives to provide healthcare to their employees.
It is projected to bring healthcare to 31 million people, covering a total of 95% of Americans, while reducing the deficit by over $100bn over a decade. At its core, the 2,400-page package comprises tough insurance regulations to protect consumers, subsidies to extend coverage to low-income individuals, and mandates to broaden the risk pool and contain the rise of costs.
This legislation was enacted despite the presence of a noisy Palinite rabble on Capitol Hill, waving their placards and shouting bigoted epithets at congressmen as they walked into the building.
Preceding the president’s speech to a gathering of House Democrats, thousands of protesters descended around the Capitol to protest the passage of health care reform. The gathering quickly turned into abusive heckling, as members of Congress passing through Longworth House office building were subjected to epithets and even mild physical abuse.
A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a ‘ni–er.’ And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a ‘faggot,’ as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president’s speech, shrugged off the incident.
But Clyburn was downright incredulous, saying he had not witnessed such treatment since he was leading civil rights protests in South Carolina in the 1960s.
‘It was absolutely shocking to me,’ Clyburn said, in response to a question from the Huffington Post. ‘Last Monday, this past Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Claflin University where fifty years ago as of last Monday… I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit ins… And quite frankly I heard some things today I have not heard since that day. I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus.’
‘It doesn’t make me nervous as all,’ the congressman said, when asked how the mob-like atmosphere made him feel. ‘In fact, as I said to one heckler, I am the hardest person in the world to intimidate, so they better go somewhere else.’
It’s not that hard to work out whose side you’re on, is it?
Some racist losers yesterday
Comrade Denham’s post got me thinking. A few months ago I wrote about Blinded by the Right, David Brock’s memoir about his time on the conservative attack machine in the 1990s. He wrote for a variety of conservative publications and worked with senior Republicans towards the goal of bringing Clinton down. He portrays an American right that was corrupt, conspiratorial and deranged.
Here are the examples I quoted; the second one refers to Clinton’s friend and associate Vince Foster, who committed suicide in 1993.
Of all the ‘Clinton crazies’ I would meet – the term was one that Ambrose [Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph correspondent] and many others openly embraced – Ambrose was the least cynical of the bunch, and perhaps the craziest… I visited Ambrose at his home in the Maryland suburbs to hear about his latest scoop. This one involved Clinton’s alleged abuse of the penal system in Arkansas, where Ambrose said that he compelled prison warders to make inmates available to him for his sexual gratification…. Ambrose drew the shades and asked if we had been followed. The CIA, he was sure, had tapped his phones, and he believed his house was under surveillance by the Clintons’ ‘death squads’. A few minutes into the conversation, it was apparent to me that poor Ambrose had lost his grip on reality.
As a mark of how effective disinformers like Ambrose were in drawing the leadership of the Republican Party into their conspiracy-mongering, the leader of the House inquiry, Dan Burton, became preoccupied with the notion that the position of [Foster's] wounds showed that they could not have been self-inflicted. To test the theory, Burton, who publicly referred to Clinton as a ’scumbag’, reenacted the Foster death [at an official dinner] by firing a .38 caliber revolver into a watermelon.
Reading what I’ve already written, it’s clear I went wrong in describing Blinded by the Right as a period piece. It appears that whenever the American right is in opposition it descends into a state of paranoid frenzy. Brock is now the head of a watchdog, Media Matters for America, and he must be feeling like history’s repeating itself. The birth certificate thing is pure Evans-Pritchard. The frenzy is more intense because the crazies have more and better media outlets and organisational techniques. Plus, they have lost: and to a black man!
There are many more.
It’s a campaign of disbelief, of incredulous fury, and also denial. Johann Hari explains the psychological roots:
The election of Obama – a centre-left black man – as a successor to George W. Bush has scrambled the core American right’s view of their country. In their gut, they saw the US as a white-skinned, right-wing nation forever shaped like Sarah Palin. When this image was repudiated by a majority of Americans in a massive landslide, it simply didn’t compute. How could this have happened? How could the cry of ‘Drill, baby, drill’ have been beaten by a supposedly big government black guy? So a streak that has always been there in the American right’s world-view – to deny reality, and argue against a demonic phantasm of their own creation – has swollen. Now it is all they can see.
It’s been said in the comments that Obama will not highlight the racism. In fact he can’t highlight it. Political incorrectness means that a victim of racist taunts can’t point out the offence for fear of being accused of playing the race card.
Harry’s Place has a guest post from Andrew Murphy who appears to have taken a similar political journey to Brock’s. In his piece, ‘Why I am no longer a Republican’, Murphy explains his disillusionment with the GOP:
Additionally I become alarmed with the blog I was writing for when they started denouncing Obama as a National Socialist and began peddling the birther mythology that Obama was actually not a US citizen. (At first I was intrigued by the birther idea until I investigated it and found it hopelessly silly, in an Oliver Stone film sort of way). The comparisons of Obama to Hitler did not start with the health care debate. I saw it peddled even before Obama won the Democratic nomination. And shamefully, while I privately protested to the editorial staff of the blog, I did not resign nor was I allowed by the editor-in-chief to write an alternative editorial disputing the birther claims. That was the editorial line, love it or leave it.
Like Brock, Murphy came to feel that modern conservatism had betrayed the classic Republican ideals of personal responsibility, the rule of law and individual liberty. Being a conservative was no longer about intellect, reason, pragatism and honesty. It was about being a stupid, self-pitying, immature arsehole.
American patriot Horatio Alger said that: ‘if you ever expect to do anything in the world, you must know something of books’. It’s a sentiment that would be shouted down on Fox News today.
From Murphy’s article:
Can you imagine Alexander Hamilton barking like a seal at a Sarah Palin rally as she explains that the only real Americans are rural and small-town Americans? The same Hamilton who was for an urban, manufacturing America?
Or John Adams, one of the champions of the American Philosophical Society, egging on the conservative movement’s war on science and its hostility toward the educated ‘elites’?
It is hard to imagine that Benjamin Disraeli, the author of Sybil, would be indifferent to the millions of Americans without health insurance.
This is a US phenomenon but you can detect similar aspects of self-pity, immaturity and conspiracism on the British right, particularly when it talks about immigration and multiculturalism.
It’s a pleasure to know that the Fox ghouls are on the losing side and that Obama probably doesn’t let the bastards bring him down.
I know I’m a naive optimist but aren’t the general public getting pissed off with inequality? The spectacle of incompetent businessmen walking off with pensions equal to the GDP of a developing nation while hardworking families are forced into the black market at sub minimum wage is so glaring an injustice that it is making an inroad into the UK’s normally servile working class.
I used to rant about executive pay during the boom years and people would tell me, ‘Well, maybe he’s worked hard for that money’. You can’t imagine that defence being used now. The boom years carried a deferential faith in the wisdom and benevolence of the aristocracy of wealth that has, like the bubble, burst.
Studies are showing that unregulated freemarket capitalism is perhaps not the best way to run societies: moreover, people tend to be happier and more successful in societies run along egalitarian lines.
Gaze across the pond and you realise what we’re missing and what a chronicle of wasted time the last decade has been. Barack Obama has repealed several of Bush’s anti-labour laws plus the religious conscience law, he has legalised stem cell research, he has ordered the closure of Guantanamo and the secret CIA prisons, he has ended rendition, he has lifted Bush’s restrictions on funding for family planning NGOs, he has expanded state health insurance, he has made it legal for women to sue for equal pay, he has capped executive pay, he has scrapped Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy… and the guy was only elected in, like, January. Radical journalist Greg Palast looked on in astonishment:
Then came Obama’s money bomb. The House bill included $125 billion for schools (TRIPLING federal spending on education – yes!), expanding insurance coverage to the unemployed, making the most progressive change in the tax code in four decades by creating a $500 credit against social security payroll deductions, and so on.
Look, don’t get your hopes up. But it may turn out the new President’s … a Democrat!
It’s been argued on Shiraz Socialist that Obama has achieved more ’in the course of the past few weeks than the free-market lackeys of our so-called ‘Labour Party’ have managed in nearly twelve years’.
All this is registering. As Will Hutton says:
[W]hile a clear majority do not like current levels of inequality, support for doing anything about it is falling, at least through the tax and benefit system. Rather than doing as we would be done by, the British have a keener-than-ever awareness of being cheated by benefit frauds and unjust claimants and are not minded to pay up for more redistribution.
This isn’t ‘troubling’. It’s common sense. The Great Crunch has shown us that the tax burden falls overwhelmingly on the middle and working classes. Why should they pay to sort out the mess that the rich have got us into? People hate benefit fraudsters but also, now, billionaire tax dodgers. Labour’s best chance of winning the next election is to assume that it will lose and to go down fighting on a honourable programme of redistribution of wealth.
Of course my optimism could be misplaced – as David Toube pointed out, hard times make for ugly politics and ‘there is every reason to believe that the defining themes of the present economic downturn will be xenophobic, anti-immigrant and racist’. We have to be ready to challenge and fight this when it appears but, overall, I think there’s scope for hope as well as hate.
Having read Jim’s short piece below,I thought it was worth looking a little more closely at John Pilger’s article “The Politics of Bollocks” in this week’s New Statesman. One of the things which I’ve never understood is the way that Pilger seems to be heralded as some sort of 19th-Century style Great Authority on whatever happens to be his chosen subject of the moment. Whether it’s Obama, Palestine, capitalism, or doubtless the beaches of Bognor or the price of fish that is the topic, you can guarantee that someone on the left will be swooning over Pilger’s Brilliantly Insightful Article Which Shows What’s Really Going On about that subject. So, let us take a look at what he actually writes here.
The article is essentially a vinegary dig at people who have been bowled over by Barack Obama’s victory in the US Presidential Elections, who now seem to think that the President is a cross between Jesus, Gandhi and Che Guevara, preparing to perform impeccably progressive miracles the world over. Now, doubtless such people exist, but they are not quite so thick on the ground as Pilger appears to think. Many of us, including myself, advocated critical support for Obama last November, and were absolutely delighted to see him win the White House, at the same time as seeing a Democratic surge flatten the Republican Party in Congress. How anyone could fail to see that on balance as a good thing does not make sense to me, unless that person is merely parroting a party line about the Democrats not being a “bourgeois workers’ party” like… err… New Labour apparently is. Of course though, the Left will always need its Big Yankee Imperialist Baddie and in the absence of anyone more obvious, it seems that mantle now falls to Barack Obama.
After opening with a rambling anecdote about how he first came to hear the term “bollocks” (gosh, how Brilliantly Insightful), Pilger’s article reads like one long stream of “yeah buts” on a variety of policy areas, ranging from Obama’s executive order to close Guantanamo Bay (“yeah but he hasn’t dismantled the entire US secret state apparatus”) to his stance on Israel-Palestine (“yeah but Zionist advisors, yeah but he’ll be talking to the Israeli right” etc). If anyone can show me a single statement, anywhere, at any time in the last election, either by the Democratic campaign or by Obama himself, where he said he would institute a socialist foreign policy, then please let me know because I haven’t seen it. However, to claim that his actions in the weeks since he was elected don’t mark a symbolic break with the Bush years is just asinine, as is the claim that his administration’s stance towards the international community is not qualitatively better than Bush’s. Indeed, even on the one overseas issue where Obama is arguably more hawkish than Bush (Afghanistan), the new president is doing exactly what he said he would do when people elected him. I don’t agree with his position, but the idea that this is a question of a hidden truth beneath obfuscatory “bollocks” is a nonsense.
One very interesting sentence in the course of the passage about Israel-Palestine is this:
What the childish fawning over Obama obscures is the dark power assembled under cover of America’s first “post-racial president”.
What “dark power”? And what relevance does Obama’s positioning as a “post-racial president” have to do with it? Pilger doesn’t elaborate on this statement, but instead launches straight into lambasting the new administration for being too pro-Israeli. What are we to deduce from this? Well I suppose either that Pilger has discovered that the Obama administration is secretly run by Cylons, or else that the “dark power” concerned is that favourite of wingnuts from Infowars to Maoist loony toons, “The Zionists Who Secretly Run Things”. I don’t propose to go into depth here with a very obvious and well-rehearsed debunking of claims that Israel lobbyists run the US government as though by remote control, but suffice to say that such statements on Pilger’s part don’t look Brilliantly Insightful to me, so much as paranoid. He also makes a point of saying, as though it reinforces his argument, that Richard Falk (the UN special rapporteur who described Israel’s policies a genocidal), is Jewish. This is unnecessary at best: the question is presumably whether Falk’s statement is correct or not. Whether he is a Jew, a Muslim or a Hare Krishna is entirely irrelevant.
A final highlight for me was Pilger’s de-contextualised claim about Hillary Clinton:
Under Obama, the “sense of a new era abroad”, declared the Observer, “was reinforced by the confirmation of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state”. Clinton has threatened to “entirely obliterate Iran” on behalf of Israel.
Is Clinton then champing at the bit to launch Shock and Awe against Tehran, or perhaps to nuke a few Iranian cities? Perhaps she secretly hopes to slip a mickey into Obama’s coffee and give the order herself?
Pilger’s use of this quote is in fact shockingly misleading. Clinton made the statement about “obliterating Iran” in April last year, during the heat of the Democratic primary campaign. It was one of a string of stupid things to say, which candidates are wont to do in US elections when bashing each other around in the scrabble for electors. Whatever I may think of Clinton – which isn’t very much – I simply don’t believe that she is plotting an apocalyptic war on Iran, and I very much doubt that the Tehran government disagrees with me. Furthermore, Pilger has cut her statement short, to make it look more bonkers even than it was. What Clinton actually said during the course of a TV interview, was this:
“I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran (if it attacks Israel).“In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,“That’s a terrible thing to say but those people who run Iran need to understand that because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish and tragic,”
Still an utterly stupid thing to say? Yes. One of the many reasons why I was delighted she didn’t get the Democratic nomination? Most certainly. Evidence that she’s planning a unilateral strike on Iran? Is it bollocks.
Overall, Pilger’s article has the air of a desperate, quixotic search for an evil enemy to rail against, when actually what he finds himself faced with is a liberal Democratic administration. Such administrations are warts-and-all things, and they do things that are downright offensive to most people on the left. Obama’s Afghanistan strategy for example is something which (as I have said) I completely disagree with, and which I’ll be first on the protests against as and when they inevitably happen. But how one is supposed to perceive the hidden hand of a “dark power” underlying an administration which has taken bigger progressive steps in many ways (capping executive pay on Wall Street, the closure of Guantanamo, backing the use of unionised labour for federal construction prjects) in the course on the past few weeks than the free-market lackeys of our so-called “Labour Party” have managed in nearly twelve years, is simply beyond me. Obama’s administration, with all its flaws, represents a clear and obvious step away from a Bush era where CEOs simply called the shots on economic policy, and where foreign policy was governed by a coalition of empire-building neocons and religious-right fruitcakes who believed in the divine fate of Israel at the Apocaypse. Obama’s people aren’t socialists, but then they don’t pretend to be. And they’re not the boogeyman who comes to get you in the night either.
At worst, for me, the piece suggests a really feeble and paranoid view of politics which I am assured did not characterise his writing in his earlier days. At best, it’s just pish.
Congratulations, PRESIDENT Obama!