Monday, February 9, 2009

Will Obama Spend The Political Capital We Gave Him?

Gadfly
by Mort Malkin

Will Obama Spend The Political Capital We Gave Him?

The Gadfly Revelry & Research gang (GRR) lives and plays amidst a politically right-wing population. Many of them who voted against Obama for President now have their arms folded across their chests and say, “Let’s wait and see.”

The Gadfly gang, too, casts a jaded eye on coming events, except that they are going to wait and see how progressive the Obama Administration will be. We are hopeful, maybe more so than those who last voted for Rick Santorum.

Oh, Obama says nice words — the very words Bush could have used for taking apart safeguards that: protect the poor, keep greed-motivated hands off Mother Nature, and prevent a free-for-all in financial markets. Bush & Cheney employed such all-purpose words as “reform” and “modernize” to retranslate the Constitution from its original quaint, irrelevant form.

In his Inaugural Address, the new President spoke of “hope over fear,” “peace and dignity,” “unity of purpose,” and “a new era of responsibility.” Was it all “have a nice day” rhetoric? On his first day in office he said “I really mean it.” He signed an executive order closing Guantanamo — within a year anyway. He stopped torture, requiring the CIA to follow the Army Field Manual. [Why not the Geneva Convention?] He met with the generals re: leaving Iraq. [But, what about closing the “enduring” US bases there?] He brought transparency to government by restoring the Presidential Records Act and removed exceptions from the Freedom Of Information Act. He signed an order restoring funding to the UN Population Fund and other organizations that include abortion in their compendium of women’s and children’s services. Bush’s Global Gag Rule was consigned to history. Lobbyists were sharply restricted, and happily he stopped short of declaring satirists to be lobbyists. It’s a fairly good beginning, but now we will have to watch what else our Number One Public Servant does in coming months.
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Gadfly here presents a list that will measure Obama’s will (and won’t) to bring us change:
• Will he establish a Department of Peace, a Peace College, and a couple of Peace Academies to balance the Department of War (ah, Defense), the War College, and the Military Academies at West Point, Annapolis, and Colorado Springs?
• OK, so he’ll close the prison at Guantanamo (on Cuban soil). Will he also close Baghram in Afghanistan and those in Romania & Poland? Will he replace them with the watering halls in Belarus?
• What about the 737 US military bases around the world, way more than the membership of the UN? The presence of US citizens carrying guns instead of cameras & credit cards has created hatred everywhere.
• Will he forbid extraordinary rendition to places such as Saudi Arabia where the corrections department cuts off hands for burglary convictions and executes murderers by beheading?
• Will he replace 21 gun salutes (such as at his inauguration) with a pealing of the bells of a carillon?
• Will he establish a Department of History and nominate Howard Zinn as its first Secretary?
• Will he pardon Leonard Pelletier, the Indian activist who says he is innocent but who has already served 33 years in federal prisons? Amnesty International, after going through the case, agrees he is innocent. The federal Appeals Courts that have reviewed the original trial, say there are holes in the government case, including the disappearance of FBI documents favoring Leonard. [How convenient.] He was recently transferred to the new federal high security prison at S Canaan PA where he was attacked by two other inmates who did not know him. It appears that the security is not high enough. Barack, don’t wait until the end of your presidency to pardon him.
• During the election campaign, Obama was accused by McCain & Palin of planning to spread the wealth around. No wonder he was elected — there are precious few voters who think the obscenely rich CEOs, derivatives brokers, and hedge fund managers should not share a little of their wealth. Now that Obama is President, will he make those who made out like bandits in the growing ownership society bubble, from the 1990s through 2006, give back their ill gotten commissions. Those nouveau riche include the mortgage brokers, the investment brokers who packaged derivatives into collateralized debt obligations and created credit default swaps, and the managers of the rating companies such as Moody’s and Standard & Poors.

The GRR gang is also waiting to see what Obama does about education, health care, and guaranteed maternity leave with child care thereafter. You, dear readers, are invited to add to the wait-and-see list.

A last matter that has been going on for at least sixty years, perhaps since the Exodus around 1300 BCE, is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Israel feels threatened by Hamas rockets. Hamas, legally elected, complains that Israel has been restricting entry of not only rockets but also food, water, oil, medical supplies, books, and CDs. The Israeli blockade — air, sea, and land — is even keeping Palestinians from their olive groves, adversely affecting their martinis. Israel says Hamas is a terrorist group that fires rockets at their civilian population. So, in fair and proportionate response,Israel sends F16s (made in USA), tanks, and troops into Gaza to shoot up the place. Of course they were targeting only secret military installations. Casualty figures tell the story of who was a terrorist. The total Israeli deaths were 10, 7 military and 3 civilian. Palestinian dead total well over 1000, mostly civilians. Israel didn't let any foreign journalists in during the fireworks, but the Israeli attacks on hospitals, schools, the Red Cross, and the UN couldn’t be kept secret. It was as if Fallujah was a model. Now we will wait to see what Obama will do. He has plenty of leverage, what with all the military goods the US sends to Egypt and Israel. Maybe his Envoy, George Mitchell, will convince the belligerents that they are both Semites and both worship Abraham as their Patriarch. Peace, brothers!

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