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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Presidential rhetoric assessed as contradictory, dismissive, mendacious

Endless USA UAVs kill while claiming end of war; USA policies kill worker chances while claiming pro-labor values
Excerpts, editing, end comment by 
Carolyn Bennett

Flashback briefly to a significant presidency: One of America’s founders, James Madison Jr. (b. 1751 in Port Conway, Virginia, d. 1836 in Montpelier, Virginia) was the fourth president of the United States (1809–1817). He influenced the planning and ratification of the U.S. Constitution and collaborated with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in the publication of the Federalist papers. As a member of the new House of Representatives, James Madison sponsored the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution, commonly called the Bill of Rights. He was secretary of state under US President Thomas Jefferson when the Louisiana Territory was purchased from France. The War of 1812 was fought during Madison’s presidency [Britannica note]. 

S Domestic affairs—Ralph Nader on the US president’s latest State of the Union rhetoric 

Destruction, rights abuse, corruption 

The President “stressed civil liberties and never mentioned what he’s going to do about the renewal of the notorious USA PATRIOT Act provisions. 

“He said there should be more oil and gas production and then he warned about climate change. 

“He said there should be a strengthening of unions and voices of workers and then he took it away with the Trans-Pacific trade agreement
[Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)], which exports jobs, and he wants to ram through Congress a voiceless fast track that prohibits amendments and labor from having a role in that deliberation.”

The President “didn’t even mention the hundreds of billions of dollars of commercial fraud on Medicare and Medicaid and patients in the private sector—hundreds of BILLIONS of dollars of corporate crime.”

The President “could have done a convergence with the Republicans on auditing the Pentagon, which … is a huge issue supported by the rank and file on both sides of the isle.” The grounds for this is that when the president was a US Senator, “he teamed up with Republican Senator Coburn to put the full text of hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate contracts online so that competitors, taxpayers, media and academia could analyze and prune the huge waste, fraud and corruption.” 

Oklahoma physician and politician Thomas Allen (Tom) Coburn arrived in the US Senate at the same as Barack Obama and reportedly the two became friends, despite ideological differences. Before his election to the Senate, Coburn was a member of the US House of Representatives. Again, in his final years in office, the president missed an obvious opportunity for making common cause.

Torture, illegal detention

Nader continues. The President “said, again, ‘Close down Gitmo’” [the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba], a “song … we have heard before. Also the president again in this speech failed entirely to address the heart of the Middle East struggle, “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

The President failed to mention where money would come from for programs he mentioned and failed to mention a critical source of lost or uncollected funds: the Internal Revenue Service budget being squeezed by the Republicans to the extent that the agency cannot “begin collecting what the IRS says is $300 billion of evaded (not avoided but evaded) taxes every year.”

In sum, Nader says, the President’s speech lacked essential specifics. It was insufficiently coherent and failed to articulate convergence with the other major political party. The President, he said, “missed a lot of opportunities.”

endacious rhetoric: Foreign relations “values” soaked with the blood of millions— Institute for Policy Studies Fellow Phyllis Bennis also today on Democracy Now

The United States under the current president is “in at least five or six separate wars that may not involve large numbers of ground troops.

“[However] There are troops on the ground” and more not fewer are being deployed; but “there are primarily air wars.”

Values licensing to kill

Phyllis Bennis said, “Closing Guantánamo [the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba] is easier if you just kill all the people that your predecessor arrested. So there’s something very disturbing about this framework in [the President’s] speech where he spoke so much of values.

“This is about the values of our country [but] what values are we talking about here? What does the rest of the world—what do people in Iraq, people in Syria, people in Gaza—what are they seeing of our values as they watched the speech last night?”

Unconscionable killing by remote

“It was extraordinary… -- this notion of constraining drone strikes, which means that we only have a ‘kill meeting’ at the White House once a week; not every day. Only on Tuesdays does the White House staff meet, literally, to decide who should be on the so-called ‘kill list’.

Repeating an astonishing yet true statement, Bennis continued, “When I said earlier that this is a scenario where closing Guantánamo becomes easier if you have fewer people—it is not because they are not going after people.…

They are simply assassinating people—at far higher numbers. There has been a serious escalation in the drone war.

“…To say that instead of going to war, we are pulling back, we are doing something else… belies the reality of what the drone war looks like on the ground.” 

n my view, there should be no tribal politics of any kind, no taking of one or another side—whatever the color, cast or ideology of the side—when faced with such barefaced betrayal and utter mendacity on the part of public officials against the public good. 

Sources and notes

“Ralph Nader on What was Missing in President Obama’s State of the Union Address,” Democracy Now, January 21, 2015, http://www.democracynow.org/2015/1/21/ralph_nader_on_what_was_missing

“Phyllis Bennis: As Obama Hails ‘Turning Page’ on Wars, U.S. Drone Strikes Continue Across Globe,” Democracy Now January 21, 2015, http://www.democracynow.org/2015/1/21/phyllis_bennis_as_obama_hails_turning

Ralph Nader

Veteran consumer advocate, author, critic, and former candidate for the US presidency, Ralph Nader, his latest book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.

Phyllis Bennis

U.S. journalist, activist, and political commentator Phyllis Bennis is Director of New Internationalism at the Institute for Policy Studies.  The New Internationalism project “works to challenge U.S. domination of the UN and to help democratize and empower the global organization,” according to its website. It works primarily on Middle East and United Nations issues with key areas of interest including U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Instrumentally, the NI project focuses on “education and activism to change the failed and failing U.S. policies and retool those policies to meet the goals of peace with justice” [http://www.ips-dc.org/projects/new-internationalism/]

Madison, James. (2013). Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Deluxe Edition.  Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica.

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Proposed as a regional regulatory and investment treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) implementation “has been one of the primary goals of the trade agenda of the Obama administration.… The proposed agreement began in 2005 as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4) and participating countries set 2012 as the goal for wrapping up negotiations.” However, “contentious issues such as agriculture, intellectual property, and services and investments have caused negotiations to continue past that deadline. … Global health professionals, internet freedom activists, environmentalists, organized labor, advocacy groups, and elected officials have criticized and protested the negotiations, in large part because of the proceedings’ secrecy, the agreement's expansive scope, and controversial clauses in drafts leaked to the public.” As of 2014, twelve countries throughout the Asia-Pacific region have participated in negotiations on the TPP: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-Pacific_Partnership

A lifelong American writer and writer/activist (former academic and staffer with the U.S. government in Washington), Dr. Carolyn LaDelle Bennett is credentialed in education and print journalism and public affairs (PhD, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan; MA, The American University, Washington, DC). Her work concerns itself with news and current affairs, historical contexts, and ideas particularly related to acts and consequences of U.S. foreign relations, geopolitics, human rights, war and peace, and violence and nonviolence. Dr. Bennett is an internationalist and nonpartisan progressive personally concerned with society and the common good. An educator at heart, her career began with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Since then, she has authored several books and numerous current-affairs articles; her latest book: UNCONSCIONABLE: How The World Sees Us: World News, Alternative Views, Commentary on U.S. Foreign Relations; most thoughts, articles, edited work are posted at Bennett’s Study: http://todaysinsightnews.blogspot.com/ and on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/carolynladelle.bennett. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2014/08UNCONSCIONABLE/prweb12131656.htm http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-000757788/UNCONSCIONABLE.aspx Her books are also available at independent bookstores in New York State: Lift Bridge in Brockport; Sundance in Geneseo; Dog Ears Bookstore and Literary Arts Center in Buffalo; Burlingham Books in Perry; The Bookworm in East Aurora


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