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CounterPunch Diary

The Greater Traitor

by ALEXANDER COCKBURN

As an Irish-American, I ask myself, Which of the two is the greater Judas to his nation: the Irish prime minister, Brian Cowen, or the American president, Barack Obama?

Both of them are carrying out the same mission? plunging the bulk of the citizenry of their nations into debt peonage, so that bankers and the rich can prosper.

There’s no need to choOse, though in terms of sheer magnitude of the disaster, Obama would carry the prize.  No one has described his sellout on taxes  last week better than  Michael Hudson  who turned in an acrid resume of Obama’s “compromise” on this site last Wednesday. The highlights:

“Monday’s deal to re-instate the Bush era tax cuts for two more years sets up a 1-2-3 punch?enabling the Republicans to legislate the cuts in perpetuity in 2012 ? an estimated $4 trillion to the rich over time?.

“To ‘save the dollar’ the Republicans will propose to replace progressive income taxation with a uniform flat tax (the old Steve Forbes plan) falling on wage earners, not on wealth or on finance, insurance or real estate income. A VAT will be added as an excise tax to push up consumer prices.

“Third, the tax giveaway includes a $120 billion reduction in Social Security contributions by labor ? reducing the FICA wage withholding from 6.2 per cent to 4.2 per cent. Obama has ingeniously designed the plan to dovetail neatly into his Bowles-Simpson commission pressing to reduce Social Security as a step toward its ultimate privatization and subsequent wipeout grab by Wall Street?.

“The bottom line is that after the prolonged tax giveaway exacerbates the federal budget deficit ? along with the balance-of-payments deficit ? we can expect the next Republican or Democratic administration to step in and ‘save’ the country from economic emergency by scaling back Social Security while turning its funding over, Pinochet-style, to Wall Street money managers to loot as they did in Chile?.

“Welcome to debt peonage. This is worse than what was meant by a double-dip recession. It will be with us much longer.”

The 2012 battlefield could turn out to offer the voters a choice not of three but of four serious candidates. The last time this happened was in 1948, which saw a fierce contest between the Democrat Harry Truman and the Republican Thomas Dewey, and also, on the left, the Progressive Party’s Henry Wallace (formerly FDR’s vice president) and on the right the pro-segregation Dixiecrats, led by Strom Thurmond.

The wild card for the Republicans is Sarah Palin. She has made it clear she’s contemplating a run for the nomination, and not a week goes by but that the Republican high command gnashes its teeth at her enduring popularity with the party base, which is unfazed by Palin’s gaffes with which the pundits and late-night comedians have such sport. She took even longer to slaughter that poor moose on her “reality”show than the official executioners  in US prisons with their lethal needles.

If Palin does make a strong showing in the early primaries and the frantic Republican leadership cannot find an opponent tasked with overwhelming her and beating Obama, then we could see another independent making a challenge for the Republican/independent constituency.

And who would that be? The man with the money and the ambition for the role is the present mayor of New York, 68-year old Michael Bloomberg, the tenth richest man in the United States, who quit the Republican Party in 2007.

Last month, the Committee to Draft Michael Bloomberg announced it was renewing efforts to persuade Bloomberg to wage a presidential campaign in 2012. Bloomberg’s repeated denials of any intention to run are not taken as gospel.

An Obama-Feingold-Palin-Bloomberg donneybrook would make the 2011-2012 political season one to look forward to. "I don’t think about Sarah Palin," Obama told Barbara Walters a few  weeks ago when she asked him if he felt he could beat the Alaskan, who had earlier told Walters she could beat the President in 2012.

Mr President, you lie! Of course you think about Palin. Each night, as you and Michelle kneel at the bedside in prayer to the Disposer Supreme, you jointly implore him to ensure Palin wins the Republican nomination. Obama knows who came from behind in that 1948 four-way race: the Democrat, Harry Truman. 

The Empire Strikes Back

The WikiLeaks sites have vanished?though more than 1,400 mirror sites still carry the disclosures. Amazon, Visa, MasterCard, PayPal and the organization’s Swiss bank have shut it down, either on their own initiative or after a threat from the US government or its poodles in London and Geneva. Attorney General Eric Holder is cooking up a stew of new gag stipulations and fierce statutory penalties against any site carrying material the government deems compromising to state security. Commercial outfits like Amazon are falling over themselves to connive at the shutdowns, actual or threatened.

As I outline at greater length in my Beat the Devil column in the current Nation, one of the biggest lessons for us all  comes in the form of a wake-up call on the enormous vulnerability of our prime means of communication to swift government-instigated, summary shutdown. 

So here we have a public “commons”?the Internet?subject to arbitrary onslaught by the state and powerful commercial interests, and not even the shadow of constitutional protections. The situation is getting worse. The net itself is going private. As I write, Google and Facebook are locked in a struggle over which company will control the bulk of the world’s Internet traffic. Millions could find that the e-mail addresses they try to communicate with, the sites they want to visit, the ads they may want to run are all under Google’s or Facebook’s supervision and can be closed off without explanation or redress at any time.

Here in the US certainly, we need a big push on First Amendment protections for the Internet: one more battlefield where the left and the libertarians can join forces. But we must do more than buttress the First Amendment. We must also challenge the corporations’ power to determine the structure of the Internet and decide who is permitted to use it. 

What the Hell Happened to Sweden? 

Remember how it used to be? Swedish social democracy, Gunnar Myrdal, Smiles on a Summer’s Night,  sitting in the Partisan coffee bar on Carlisle St, Soho, arguing about Ingmar Bergman, (not to forget Ingrid Bergman,)  Saabs and Volvos bolted together by circles of workers discussing the finer points of design and manufacture with management, the Palme Commission, Anita Ekberg in the fountain.

And now? The poodle of US empire, the deepening corruption of the Nobel industry, Anna Ardin. Where did it all go wrong?

Hope Flowers in the Graveyard

Our latest newsletter is now going out to subscribers and is available to new subscribers.

From Jerusalem Jeff Halper files an exciting report on what he sees as positive opportunities in 2011 for escape from the dead-end of a dead peace process. “ And yet,” writes Halper, who the Director of The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, “ I’m optimistic that 2011 will witness a game-changing ‘break’ that will create a new set of circumstances in which a just peace is possible. That jolt which smashes the present dead-end paradigm must come from outside the present ‘process.’ 

Don’t miss Halper’s important and exciting analysis of ways forward to a just, workable and lasting peace.

Also in this latest newsletter: What’s really happening in North and South Korea? How real is the danger of war? Peter Lee unearths the real game plans of the leaders of both Koreas, of China and of the United States.

For those newsletter readers who may have missed it on our website we feature Pam Martens’ stunning “Citizen’s Counter Strategy ? Ten Ideas to Starve the Wall Street Beast”.

And Larry Portis sends us from Montpellier an amazing report and interview with director Serge Avedikian about his film Barking Island, about the way thousands of dogs in Constantinople were slaughtered as an experimental overture to the Armenian genocide.

All this in our latest newsletter. Subscribe now and have it your inbox, prontissimo, as a pdf, or ? at whatever speed the US Postal Service first-class delivery system may muster ? in your mailbox.

I urge you strongly to subscribe now!

ALEXANDER COCKBURN can be reached at alexandercockburn@asis.com.