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Barack Obama could have been Abdulrahman al-Awlaki

20 Jul
This image comparing the response Trayvon Martin's death with response to Abdulrahman al-Awlaki's death has gotten a lot of circulation through social media.

This image comparing the response to Trayvon Martin’s death with the response to Abdulrahman al-Awlaki’s death has gotten a lot of circulation through social media.

In a moving speech this week, Obama said “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”  If he extended this empathy to teenagers like Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year old US citizen killed by a drone strike, this world would be a better place. 

Obama making statements that are ironic in context is an established theme of his second term. Last December, speaking about the massacre at Sandy Hook, Barack Obama wiped a tear as photographers snapped away and peace activists asked “what about the hundreds of innocent children massacred by your foreign policy?”

In Northern Ireland for the G8 summit last month, Obama told a group of children “to those who choose the path of peace, I promise you the United States of America will support you every step of the way.”  In Dublin soon after, parliament member Clare Daly asked “Is this person going for the hypocrite of the century award?” and pointed out “that by any serious examination, this man is a war criminal.”

Now it’s this matter of Trayvon Martin. Friday, Obama made an unscheduled appearance at a White House briefing.  He seemed to enjoy having surprised reporters, then launched into somber reflections on last weekend’s verdict which declared George Zimmerman not guilty of murder, or even of manslaughter, in the death of 17-year old Trayvon.  As usual, the president’s speech hit all the right notes.

Obama started with a few words about Trayvon’s family and remarked on “the incredible grace and dignity with which they’ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what they’re going through…it’s remarkable how they’ve handled it.”  That’s certainly true, and it’s good to hear it said. The way Trayvon’s family has handled this is inspiring.

Then Obama talked about the “professional manner” in which the trial was conducted.  He said “reasonable doubt was relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury’s spoken, that’s how our system works.”  Okay, it’s the president’s job to tell us the system works.  We should forgive him for that if he wasn’t doing so much to actually make the system worse.  But here’s the words that made the most headlines:

You know, when Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago. And when you think about why, in the African- American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.

Obama then explained some stuff that a lot of white people don’t want to hear.  He said there are “very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.”  He gave more examples and said, “I don’t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida. And it’s inescapable for people to bring those experiences to bear.”

He said a lot more, and it’s poignant. You can read the transcript.  But that’s what makes Obama so dangerous. He’s an amazing speaker, even his opponents admit to that.  What he said about Sandy Hook was moving.  His speech to the children of Northern Ireland was expertly crafted.  Every time he opens his mouth, it’s awesome and inspirational if you ignore the reality of what Barack Obama’s administration actually does.  For example, murdering Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki.

Abdulrahman was a 16-year old American citizen born in Denver, Colorado.  He was killed by a US drone strike in Yemen on October 14, 2011 along with his 17-year old cousin and eight other people said to be on their way to a barbecue.  His father, an “alleged terrorist” had been killed two weeks prior.  Some people wondered why the US is dropping bombs on a country it isn’t at war with.  Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary, defended the teenager’s murder and said he should have had “a more responsible father.”

Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki had a brown complexion, just like Obama’s hypothetical son.  And like that 16-yeat old killed by a drone, Obama was born in the United States (well, we think) but he moved to a Muslim majority country while still a minor.  One might hope that parallel would engender as much empathy for Abdulrahman as Obama seems to have for Trayvon.  Some say Obama cries crocodile tears.  No one can see inside his heart, but there are good arguments for that.

The fact is, through the policies of his administration, Barack Obama has murdered thousands of innocent people.  Hundreds of children are among that number.  A study released last year by Stanford Law School and New York University’s School of Law looked at drone strikes in Pakistan and said “from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562 – 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474 – 881 were civilians, including 176 children.”

That’s 176 human children who are dead because Barack Obama plays the role expected of him by the financial-military complex that paid for both his campaigns.  That’s just the number on the books, in one country, in one period of time, killed by drones.  It doesn’t enumerate this administration’s death toll in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or anywhere.  It doesn’t look at the people shot in the head with bullets or even killed by bombs dropped by planes that have pilots.

George Zimmerman killed one boy and he’s one of the most hated men in the America.  So is Dzohar Tsarnaev, suspected of killing three people and injuring many more in a terrorist attack at the 2013  Boston Marathon.  But what do people hate Obama for?  Conservatives hate him for his healthcare plan, their worry about increased gun laws and, in too many cases, the color of his skin.  But every week there’s evidence that Democrats still love Barack Obama.

Let’s hope the era of liberal Obamadolotry is ending.  Some realized our president is a villain when Bradley Manning went to jail or when Edward Snowden joined him.  Some got the message as cops beat unarmed protestors affiliated with the Occupy movement and Obama said nothing.  Some saw the truth when they lost their jobs and homes to banksters awarded billions by Obama’s bailouts.  And for certain people in the military who once supported Obama, participating in the carnage of US government sponsored terrorism has changed their minds.

Barack Obama is a confidence man.  He’s just like a handsome cad who bilks an old widow out of her fortune.  He knows the words and gestures to make people feel good, and hopeful, and alive again.  But well-chosen words doesn’t erase a death toll.  Sympathy for Trayvon Martin doesn’t bring  Abdulrahman al-Awlaki or anyone else back to life.  Here’s a video from Abdulrahman’s grandfather: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQlbnulmnEw

Hey Jimmy Carter, let’s do some anarchist shit together

19 Jul
Jimmy Carter speaks at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in 2011 photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

Jimmy Carter speaks at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. 2011 photo by John Stephen Dwyer.

The United States is an evil empire and presidents are bad people that do really terrible things.  Mass murdering war criminals Bush and Obama should be sharing a jail cell. We might throw Bill Clinton and Reagan’s corpse in there too.  But I got to be honest.  I like Jimmy Carter.

No, 88-year old Carter isn’t a radical. Don’t expect to see him chilling at the Lucy Parsons Center or talking theory at the Center for Marxist Education.  But it’s obvious this dude is ten miles left of the the average politicized Democrat on Facebook with their war apologetics and Obamadolotry.

“America has no functioning democracy at this moment.” Jimmy Carter said that three days ago, according to Der Spiegel, and it’s certainly spot on.  And a while back, he told CNN that Edward Snowden’s NSA leak “has probably been, in the long term, beneficial” to the United States.

And check this.  Last summer, Carter wrote an article called “A Cruel and Unusual Record” that was published in the New York Times.  Other media outlets remarked about it, and people shared the links, then it was forgotten.  But it says a lot.  Here’s how it starts:

The United States is abandoning its role as the global champion of human rights.  Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended. This development began after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has been sanctioned and escalated by bipartisan executive and legislative actions, without dissent from the general public.

Carter goes on to criticize “the president’s right to detain a person indefinitely…a broad, vague power that can be abused without meaningful oversight from the courts or Congress.”  He describes how recent laws “allow unprecedented violations of our rights to privacy through warrantless wiretapping and government mining of our electronic communications.”  And here’s Carter’s take on Obama’s foreign policy:

Despite an arbitrary rule that any man killed by drones is declared an enemy terrorist, the death of nearby innocent women and children is accepted as inevitable. After more than 30 airstrikes on civilian homes this year in Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai has demanded that such attacks end, but the practice continues in areas of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen that are not in any war zone. We don’t know how many hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed in these attacks, each one approved by the highest authorities in Washington. This would have been unthinkable in previous times.

He’s said that unchecked campaign contributions are “legal bribery.”  He’s called for the close of Guantánamo Bay and says US policy is violating the “basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”  Even looking at it strategically, he says “instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.” 

Good.  Jimmy Carter knows what’s up.  Maybe he’s our Great White Hero.  Maybe he has some plan to give power to the people and take it away from the plutarchs and sociopaths in Washington and Wall Street.  So what should we do, Jimmy Carter?

As concerned citizens, we must persuade Washington to mentions course and regain moral leadership according to international human rights norms that we had officially adopted as our own and cherished throughout the years. 

Persuade?  How, by sending perfumed valentines to our senators?  Damn it, Jimmy Carter.  I guess you got a lot of criticisms and zero plan to change anything.  But we can still chill together.  I got zero plan too.  And maybe we can work on your delusions that this country was ever moral.

Jill Stein on running to lose, being too political, and whether justice is possible under capitalism

14 Jun

Marisa Egerstrom, Jill Stein and Rene Perez in the space shared by UNregular Radio and DigBoston

Our guest on “Banned in Boston” last night was Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate in 2012. We discussed the protests in Turkey this month centered in Gezi Park and what Stein calls “a general outbreak of justice and democracy.” Then, addressing the question “how do we turn public will into political will?” Stein described being excluded from a recent rally against tar sands in which she was deemed “too political” too speak. After that, we turned to a statement by Slavoj Žižek, perhaps the most high-profile philosopher of our time, in which he alleges far-left candidates run to lose. Before wrapping up, we wrestled out an answer for the big question, “are peace and justice are possible under a capitalist system?”

Along the way we touched upon austerity, the Black Agenda Report, breaking up the banks, eviction blockades, the Economic Bill of Rights, fair trade, the Forward on Climate rally, Greece and Latin America, fracking, the Green Shadow Cabinet, the Green New Deal, Left Forum, lesser evils, Noam Chomsky, Occupy Wall Street, parliamentarianism, police brutality and intimidation, predator politics, presidential elections, suppression of free speech, tar sands blockades against TransCanada, tree hugging, wars for oil, unions and the labor movement, Barack Obama, local Socialist candidate Seamus Whelan (misidentified as “Sean Whelan”), Chuck Turner of the Green-Rainbow Party of Massachusetts, Elizabeth May of the Green Party of Canada, the perceived lack of ethnic diversity in the Green Party, and even FDR’s New Deal.

This episode was co-hosted by Marisa Egerstrom of the Protest Chaplains, Rene Perez who is known to some as the “man in the Yellow Hat,” and me, John Stephen Dwyer. Thanks to Noah Evans, Chris Faraone, Liam Leahey, and Jeff Nunes for submitting questions , Evan Greer (our guest on next week’s show) for the music, and to Occupy Boston for their support . To stream or download the mp3 file for this episode click here.

“Banned in Boston,” a weekly radio show that delivers radicalism with a local accent, is broadcast live every Thursday night, 8 pm on UNregular Radio and as repeats on Metacomet Radio. John Stephen Dwyer, author of this blog, is one of the hosts.

Political protest as an “adults only” activity

9 Mar

To all the parents out there? How can protests and movements better cater to you? What would you like to see at rallies, meetings, marches, etc.?”

That was a question asked today on the Facebook page of Occupy Boston. “Kids corner…lots of juice, diapers, non-MSG and non-sugar snacks” was among the typical responses. I disagree and don’t think the presence of children is appropriate at a real protest.

The purpose of a protest isn’t recreation, or socializing, or fresh air and exercise, or spending quality time with children, or making us feel a false sense of “having made a difference.” These needs can be better filled by other activities.

The purpose of a protest should be to create a shock that demands a response. Political will isn’t created until people without power do something that makes people with power break a sweat and say “oh damn, either we react or this will get worse for us.” Shock and response is the pattern of history.

Are you sad now because I said you shouldn’t take your kids to protest? Don’t be. You can still attend pseudo-protests like the “Forward on Climate” rally held on February. They called it a protest, but it was nothing but a polite, permitted march through the deserted streets of DC on a freezing Sunday afternoon. Vis-à-vis the false sense of accomplishment it created, it was literally worse than if people stayed home.

If you want take your kids to a parade disguised as a protest, be my guest. They’ll be plenty of them in 2013, organized by well-scrubbed, college-educated folk with plenty to lose. Tear away the social and recreational aspect of one of these farces and there’s almost nothing left. They are fun, however, for those who think you can make an omelet without breaking any eggs.

How do you know if you’re at a real protest or not? Ask yourself if civil disobedience is involved, and if it feels like someone might be pepper sprayed by the police. If the answer is “no” to both of these questions, then I hope you and the kids enjoy playing your theater roles. If the answer is “yes,” then congratulations. You’re probably at a real protest. Now get your kids the hell out of there as fast as possible.

Cognitive Dissonance, Hillary Clinton, and empire

23 Jan

Hillary Clinton said something today that made my head spin:

“The United States is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the world has ever known”

“Cognitive dissonance” is a term that’s been losing its meaning due to misuse as a popular stand-in term for illogical activity in general. But what it refers to, per the original coinage, is the unpleasant experience of having a core belief challenged by contrary evidence. The frequent result is that people ignore the contrary evidence (even if overwhelming), invalidate that evidence through mental gymnastics, or otherwise make excuses that allow them to keep their core belief and feel good about it.

The core belief that Hillary Clinton articulates in the quote above is refuted by such a mountain of evidence that it’s hard to believe an educated, neutral observer wouldn’t consider this a classic case of cognitive dissonance and its result.

The Empire is the most extraordinary force for peace and progress the galaxy has ever known. ~ Darth Vader

Everyone in the United States, with few exceptions, has been bombarded with nationalistic propaganda since before they could walk.  Some of this propaganda arises “organically” from people who naturally want to believe that the big, sexy, powerful nation to which they feel attached is good.  More of it is the product of a multi-billion dollar propaganda machine that does its job much better than I do mine.  I’ve spent hundreds of hours trying to convince people, mostly Democrats, that cheerful support of leaders like Obama and Clinton is, in effect, support of what they do.  Does that seem like it would be difficult? It’s almost impossible.

The reason it’s almost impossible, I think, is because it would mean abandoning the core belief “the US is mostly good, except when Republicans are in charge.”  In order to hold a core belief like this, people will say grass is blue, the sky is green and the moon is made of cheese.  They will say anything rather than the truth.

I don’t know how to work around this.  I wish I did.  I’ve been studying methods of debate and persuasion but it hasn’t helped. I often feel ineffective and frustrated.  I’d do anything to stop these wars.

But frankly, I have no idea what to do.  I’m wondering if I should just shut up and enjoy the perks of this evil empire I’ve been born into rather than continue to struggle and accomplish nothing.  Comments?

Transcript: Cornel West on Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Bible

21 Jan

Today is the US federal holiday called “Martin Luther King, Jr.  Day.”  Also today, Barack Obama was sworn in for a second term as President of the United States using a Bible that Martin Luther King, Jr. once owned.  Cornell West has a problem with this particular Bible being used in this particular way, and he said so in an expressive monologue last Thursday.

The forum was “Vision for a New America: A Future without Poverty,” a symposium in Washington, DC hosted by Tavis Smiley.   Newt Gingrich and Marcia Fudge were among the other panelists, but Cornell West definitely made the comments that have attracted the most attention.  Presented below is both the video that has become so popular and my transcript of West’s words.

What do you think of what Cornell West had to say?  Was it a moving speech?  Was it over-inflated rhetoric?  Was it both?  Please share your comments below.

Transcript of Cornel West’s January 17, 2013 statements regarding the use of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Bible during the inauguration of Barack Obama:

Now, when I got the news that my dear brother Barack Obama, President Obama, was going to put his precious hand on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Bible, I got upset.  And I got upset because you don’t play with Martin Luther King, Jr. and you don’t play with his people.  And by his people, what I mean is people of good conscience, fundamentally committed to peace, and truth and justice.  And especially the black tradition that produced it.

All the blood, sweat and tears that went into producing a Martin Luther King, Jr. generated a brother of such high decency and dignity that you don’t use his prophetic fire as just a moment in a presidential pageantry, without understanding the challenge that he presents to all of those in power no matter what color they are.  No matter what color they are!

So, the righteous indignation of a Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes a moment in political calculation and that makes my blood boil. Why? Because Martin Luther King, Jr., he died knowing the three crimes against humanity he was wrestling with. Jim Crow – traumatizing, terrorizing, stigmatizing black people, lynching, insultful – not just segregation the way the press wants to talk about.

Second, carpet bombing in Vietnam, killing innocent people especially innocent children.  Those are war crimes Martin Luther King, Jr. was willing to die for.  And thirdly, was poverty of all colors.  He said it’s a crime against humanity for the richest nation in the history of the world to have so many of its precious children of all colors living in poverty, and especially on the chocolate side of the nation, in Indian reservations, in brown barrios, in yellow slices, and black ghettos, then.  We call them hoods now, but ghettos then.

So I said to myself, “ok nothing wrong with putting your hand on the Bible.” Even though the bible talks about justice and Jesus is talking bout “the least of these.”  But when you put in Martin’s bible?  I said, “this is personal for me. This is the tradition I came out of. This is the tradition that is connected to my grandmothers prayers, and my grandfathers sermons, and my mothers tears, and my fathers smile, and it’s over against all of those in power who refuse to follow decent policies.”

So I say to myself, “Brother Martin Luther King, Jr., what would you say about the new Jim Crow? What would you say about the prison industrial complex? What would you say about the invisibility of so many of our prisoners? So many of our incarcerated, especially when 62% of them are there for soft drugs, but not one executive of a Wall Street bank gone to jail?  Not one!”  Martin doesn’t like that. Not one wiretapper. Not one torturer under the Bush administration, at all.

Then, what you say about the drones bring dropped on our precious brothers and sisters in Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen? Those are war crimes, just like war crimes in Vietnam. Martin Luther King, Jr., what would you say? “My voice hollers out,” and don’t tame it with your hand on his bible.  Allow his prophetic voice to be heard.  Martin, what would you say about the poverty in America now, beginning with the children, then the elderly, then our working folk, and all colors not just here, around the world.  Don’t hide and conceal his challenge. Don’t tame his prophetic fire.

So, that as much as I’m glad that Barack Obama won – I think that brother Mitt Romney would have been a catastrophe, and I understand my brother Newt told the truth about fat vampire capitalism but that’s true for the system as a whole not just Mitt Romney in that regard – but when Barack Obama attempts to use that rich tradition of Frederick Douglas and Ida B. Wells-Barnett?  Use the tradition of A. Phillip Randolph?  Use the tradition of Rabbi Joshua Heschel?  Use the tradition of Tom Hayden and so many others struggling to produce that voice that pushed Martin in the direction that it did?  I get upset.

People say, “Oh brother West, there’s Smiley and West, hating Obama.”  No, no.  We just loving the tradition that produced Martin Luther King, Jr. and were not going to allow it to be in any way sanitized, deodorized and sterilized,  we want the subversive power to be heard.  That’s what made me think, when you said he was gonna put in his hand on that bible. And I’m praying or him.  I’m praying for him. As is Newt – both of us Christians, you Catholic, I’m Holy Ghost funkygut gutbucket Baptist – but we’re praying for him. Putting pressure on. 

Want to read more on this subject? 

Check out “MLK’s Vehement Condemnations of US Militarism” by Glenn Greenwald.

Inauguration Day 2013

21 Jan

I won’t watch this inauguration

I won’t watch you crown the conqueror

I won’t get drunk on flags and trumpets

I won’t put that American dick in my mouth

I don’t want your wool scarfs and trenchcoats

I don’t want your Carters and Clintons and Kerrys

I don’t want the Georges or Joe Biden

I don’t want Sasha and Malia in pretty dresses

Because I don’t believe in killing for capitalism

So I won’t watch you crown the conqueror

And I won’t get high on speeches and smiles

And I won’t go along with it, even for a day

Even for warm January day

Cooler than those ahead