Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hedges, Dionne, Starbucks...all weighing in on U.S. crisis

By Chris Hedges, from truthdig.com, September 29, 2011
There are no excuses left. Either you join the revolt taking place on Wall Street and in the financial districts of other cities across the country or you stand on the wrong side of history. Either you obstruct, in the only form left to us, which is civil disobedience, the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil. Either you taste, feel and smell the intoxication of freedom and revolt or sink into the miasma of despair and apathy. Either you are a rebel or a slave.

To be declared innocent in a country where the rule of law means nothing, where we have undergone a corporate coup, where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger, where war, financial speculation and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state, where even habeas corpus no longer exists, where you, as a citizen, are nothing more than a commodity to corporate systems of power, one to be used and discarded, is to be complicit in this radical evil. To stand on the sidelines and say “I am innocent” is to bear the mark of Cain; it is to do nothing to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet. To be innocent in times like these is to be a criminal.
Choose. But choose fast. The state and corporate forces are determined to crush this. They are not going to wait for you. They are terrified this will spread. They have their long phalanxes of police on motorcycles, their rows of white paddy wagons, their foot soldiers hunting for you on the streets with pepper spray and orange plastic nets. They have their metal barricades set up on every single street leading into the New York financial district, where the mandarins in Brooks Brothers suits use your money, money they stole from you, to gamble and speculate and gorge themselves while one in four children outside those barricades depend on food stamps to eat. Speculation in the 17th century was a crime. Speculators were hanged. Today they run the state and the financial markets. They disseminate the lies that pollute our airwaves. They know, even better than you, how pervasive the corruption and theft have become, how gamed the system is against you, how corporations have cemented into place a thin oligarchic class and an obsequious cadre of politicians, judges and journalists who live in their little gated Versailles while 6 million Americans are thrown out of their homes, a number soon to rise to 10 million, where a million people a year go bankrupt because they cannot pay their medical bills and 45,000 die from lack of proper care, where real joblessness is spiraling to over 20 percent, where the citizens, including students, spend lives toiling in debt peonage, working dead-end jobs, when they have jobs, a world devoid of hope, a world of masters and serfs.

The only word these corporations know is more. They are disemboweling every last social service program funded by the taxpayers, from education to Social Security, because they want that money themselves. Let the sick die. Let the poor go hungry. Let families be tossed in the street. Let the unemployed rot. Let children in the inner city or rural wastelands learn nothing and live in misery and fear. Let the students finish school with no jobs and no prospects of jobs. Let the prison system, the largest in the industrial world, expand to swallow up all potential dissenters. Let torture continue. Let teachers, police, firefighters, postal employees and social workers join the ranks of the unemployed. Let the roads, bridges, dams, levees, power grids, rail lines, subways, bus services, schools and libraries crumble or close. Let the rising temperatures of the planet, the freak weather patterns, the hurricanes, the droughts, the flooding, the tornadoes, the melting polar ice caps, the poisoned water systems, the polluted air increase until the species dies.
Who the hell cares? If the stocks of ExxonMobil or the coal industry or Goldman Sachs are high, life is good. Profit. Profit. Profit. That is what they chant behind those metal barricades. They have their fangs deep into your necks. If you do not shake them off very, very soon they will kill you. And they will kill the ecosystem, dooming your children and your children’s children. They are too stupid and too blind to see that they will perish with the rest of us. So either you rise up and supplant them, either you dismantle the corporate state, for a world of sanity, a world where we no longer kneel before the absurd idea that the demands of financial markets should govern human behavior, or we are frog-marched toward self-annihilation.

Those on the streets around Wall Street are the physical embodiment of hope. They know that hope has a cost, that it is not easy or comfortable, that it requires self-sacrifice and discomfort and finally faith. They sleep on concrete every night. Their clothes are soiled. They have eaten more bagels and peanut butter than they ever thought possible. They have tasted fear, been beaten, gone to jail, been blinded by pepper spray, cried, hugged each other, laughed, sung, talked too long in general assemblies, seen their chants drift upward to the office towers above them, wondered if it is worth it, if anyone cares, if they will win. But as long as they remain steadfast they point the way out of the corporate labyrinth. This is what it means to be alive. They are the best among us.
Click here to access OCCUPY TOGETHER, a hub for all of the events springing up across the country in solidarity with Occupy Wall St.
By E.J. Dionne, truthdig.com, October 2, 2011 (Dionne asks, "Can the Left stage a Tea Party?")
(But) the absence of a strong, organized left made it easier for conservatives to label Obama himself as a left-winger. His health care reform is remarkably conservative—yes, it did build on the ideas implemented in Massachusetts that Mitt Romney once bragged about. It was nothing close to the single-payer plan the left always preferred. His stimulus proposal was too small, not too large. His new Wall Street regulations were a long way from a complete overhaul of American capitalism. Yet Republicans swept the 2010 elections because they painted Obama and the Democrats as being far to the left of their actual achievements.

This week, progressives will highlight a new effort to pursue the road not taken at a conference convened by the Campaign for America’s Future that opens Monday. It is a cooperative venture with a large number of other organizations, notably the American Dream Movement led by Van Jones, a former Obama administration official who wants to show the country what a truly progressive agenda around jobs, health care and equality would look like. Jones freely acknowledges that “we can learn many important lessons from the recent achievements of the libertarian, populist right,” and says of the progressive left: “This is our ‘tea party’ moment—in a positive sense.”
What’s been missing in the Obama presidency is the productive interaction with outside groups that Franklin Roosevelt enjoyed with the labor movement and Lyndon B. Johnson with the civil rights movement. Both pushed FDR and LBJ in more progressive directions while also lending them support against their conservative adversaries.
The question for the left now, says Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America’s Future, is whether progressives can “establish independence and momentum” while also being able “to make a strategic voting choice.” The idea is not to pretend that Obama is as progressive as his core supporters want him to be, but to rally support to him nonetheless as the man standing between the country and the right wing.
A real left could usefully instruct Americans as to just how moderate the president they elected in 2008 is—and how far to the right conservatives have strayed.
E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is ejdionne(at)washpost.com.

The frustration of millions of well qualified workers, recent graduates, coupled with millions of middle-aged workers who have seen their jobs evaporate, under a veil of economic terms like "out-sourcing" or "union-busting" or "globalization" or....is showing in the kind of instant "city" in a park near Wall Street, and in many other cities across the U.S. and potentially other countries like Canada as well.
The owner of Starbucks, Howard Shultz, the upscale latte chain is making a corporate attempt to address the situation by asking for a $5 donation from his customers to create a lending source for new entrepreneurs to fill a hole left by the large banks. It may seem like a drop in the bucket, given the size of the need, but it is a beginning.
From the Starbucks website, October 3, 2011 (posted by Howard Shultz)
Supporting thriving communities – inside our stores and in the neighborhoods where we live and work – is at the heart of our mission. And being a good neighbor has never been more important as the global economy continues to weather a painful and challenging period.

Here in the U.S., we are starting to help fuel the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. Starbucks is teaming up with the Opportunity Finance Network® (OFN) to help create and sustain jobs through a program we are calling Create Jobs for USA, which will provide loans to underserved community businesses. The Create Jobs for USA program will be seeded with a $5 million contribution from the Starbucks Foundation.
On behalf of the Create Jobs for USA fund, Starbucks is introducing the “Indivisible” wristband in our U.S. stores and online starting Nov. 1 for donors who contribute $5 or more to OFN’s Create Jobs for USA fund. One hundred percent of donations go directly to OFN to provide grants to community development financial institutions for underserved community businesses committed to creating and sustaining jobs.
Together, we can create opportunity, inspire confidence and help build our collective economic future. To learn how you can get involved, please join us at createjobsforUSA.org.
ABC  NEWS is on an extended campaign to alert American consumers to "buy American" whenever they can, with some startling results, especially on U.S. campuses, where university administrators were embarrassed to learn that many of their so-called "welcoming kits" contain goods manufactured off-shore.
All the while these initiatives are happening, the Republican Party (read Tea Party) is holding the U.S. government hostage to their publicly stated pledge to "make Obama a one-term president." So successful have they been in their subversive politics that yesterday ABC released a poll indicating that 55% of Americans believe Obama will indeed be a one-term president, with only 37% believing he will gain a second term.
The stakes are very high, not only for the U.S. itself, but for the world economy. Retrenchment, failing to engage with the rest of the world community except with missiles, drones and military personnel, pledging to raise no taxes...and of course, enhancing both the death penalty and restrictions on abortion...these do not make a responsible, mature and innovative nation, taking its place as a leader on the current global stage.
Obama has some big choices to make: either to continue (what is now considered by many) "to pander" to the right, or to declare unequivocally his true colours as a Democrat and lead a movement to restore  the U.S. balance sheet to respectability, and the U.S. reputation among world leaders to a balanced, and an integral and supportive position where long-range thinking and policy development trump short-term political gamesmanship. And such a courageous purpose will include higher taxes on the wealthy individuals and corporations. The political crisis that is holding the U.S. economy hostage to the narrow, mean-spirited, and self-righteous political ambitions of a few power-hungry right-wing narcissists has to be ended. And only the White House can do anything conclusive to bring that about.
And while doing so, the Obama administration can and will be emboldened by the authentic energies of all of those disaffected citizens who know the Tea Party plans are a ticket to more "99% working for only 1%"....and that is not sustainable.

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