|Hold Him to His
Friday, 16 November 2012
By Marjorie Cohn and Jeanne Mirer,
Counterpunch | Op-Ed
President Obama declared in his victory address on election night,
“Democracy in a nation of 300 million can be noisy and messy and
complicated . . . We want our children to live in an America that
isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that
isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”
Those were powerful words. But they must be followed with action.
When he thanked his campaign workers, the former community organizer
spoke emotionally from the heart. He ran an incredible grassroots
campaign, which must now be turned into a movement to work with
Occupy and other progressive groups to effect real change.
Glenn Greenwald warned in The Guardian that progressives are bound to
be disappointed again in Obama because we will be under pressure to
conform when our demand that he not agree to cut Social Security or
Medicare as part of a “grand bargain” does not succeed.
But recall that in 1940, the great labor leader A. Philip Randolph prevailed
upon FDR to improve the conditions of blacks and workers. The President
responded, “I agree with everything you have said. Now make me do it.”
It is up to us to make Obama do it. How we get the President to do the
right things are the challenges we face. What we do know is that those
who mobilized to defeat Romney and Ryan should not demobilize. Those
progressive constituencies that supported the President must come
together to speak with one voice on key issues.
During the presidential election, many progressives were hesitant to vote
for Barack Obama. They could not forget that he bailed out the huge
banks with no accountability for the white-collar criminals who wreaked so
much havoc on our economy while at the same time providing no relief for
those whose homes were being foreclosed. Nor could they countenance
Obama’s use of drones to summarily execute untold numbers of people,
including many civilians. Progressives were upset that Obama failed to
close Guantanamo, continuing
to hold many people in indefinite detention without criminal charges. We
were outraged that the President wanted to look forward and not hold any
of those who authorized and committed torture accountable. He
neglected to mention poverty during the campaign, despite the fact that
42.6 million people live below the poverty line in the United States. Obama
also deported record numbers of undocumented immigrants and
continued the Bush policy of warrantless eavesdropping.
Before the election, Marjorie Cohn joined Daniel Ellsberg, Cornel West,
Frances Fox Piven, Barbara Ehrenreich, Jim Hightower, Norman Solomon
and Jeff Cohen in issuing a call to progressive voters who were conflicted
to ensure that we make defeating Romney a priority: “If you live in a close
state, defeat Romney and his right-wing policies by voting Obama/Biden.
If you live in a state where the outcome will be lopsided, you’re in a
position to send a loud and clear vote of protest against Obama policies
We “consistently challenged Obama policies (on civil liberties, war and
bloated military spending, environment, potential cuts to Social Security
and Medicare, to name a few)” but we knew “that the policies of a
Romney/Ryan administration would be worse on many issues and better
Consider Romney’s recent vow to ‘change course’ toward even more war-
mongering in the Middle East. Or their profound differences on abortion
rights and Supreme Court picks.”
The rest is history. President Obama was reelected handily, the only
Democrat besides Franklin D. Roosevelt to win two terms with a majority
of the popular vote. Women, gays, African-Americans, Asian-Americans,
Latinos, youth, and poor people understood the greater dangers of a
Romney presidency. Obama prevailed in eight of the nine swing states.
Although efforts to suppress the vote in communities of color in those
swing states backfired, we know voter suppression is very real. Karl Rove
& Co. used millions of dollars thanks to Citizens United to defeat Obama;
luckily those dollars turned out to be ill-spent – on ads and not a
comparable “ground game.”
Maureen Dowd put it well: “Last time, Obama lifted up the base with his
message of hope and change; this time the base lifted up Obama with the
hope he will change.” With Obama’s reelection, we must do more than
hope that Obama will change. We have a unique opportunity to demand
Obama move in a progressive direction.
The Affordable Care Act has survived so we can keep our kids on our
health insurance policies until they turn 26, people with pre-existing
conditions will not be denied insurance, and many who could not afford
insurance before will be covered. But we must push for universal health
Romney cannot pack the Supreme Court with more radical right-wingers.
But we should pressure Obama to appoint true progressives to the
highest court in the land.
Romney cannot inflate military spending even more than the 20 percent of
the U.S. budget it currently occupies. But we can demand a reduction in
military spending, which adds significantly to the deficit, makes us no
safer, and leeches money from education and health care.
Whereas Romney sees workers as expendable when it comes to
maximizing profit, Obama must see to it that union rights are
strengthened. He must also acknowledge the major role unions, union
members and union households played in organizing the ground game
and for his reelection. The President must commit himself to finding ways,
including using his executive authority, to create good jobs.
Instead of Obama’s unprecedented targeting of whistleblowers, we must
urge him to abandon the policies that led to the commission of war crimes
that people like Julian Assange and Bradley Manning have exposed.
It is one thing to be pro-choice. Obama must push to make coverage for
abortion available in all federal health insurance programs.
Obama took an important step when he issued an executive order
preventing the deportation of young people who came to the United
States before they were 16 and have lived here continuously for five
years. In his second term, Obama should end discrimination and racial
profiling by the Department of Homeland Security and the mass arrests
and detentions of immigrants. He should also work on comprehensive
immigration reform that includes a reasonable pathway to citizenship.
We must hold Obama to his pledge to protect Medicare and Social
Security no matter how tempting it may be to weaken them in the
impending deal to prevent us from going over the proverbial but not real
“fiscal cliff.” Obama should also be pressured to stick to his self-
proclaimed mandate to make the rich pay higher taxes.
To help prevent another economic meltdown, Obama ought to push for
strong regulation, especially in the banking and financial sectors of the
A financial transactions tax on Wall Street, hedge funds, etc., targeted to
job creation and infrastructure must be seriously considered.
The United States is a key player in the global economy. But the free
trade regimes we have followed have only promoted growing inequality in
this country and countries with whom we trade. We need fair trade that
includes protections for workers, human rights and the environment.
In order to work seriously to protect our environment, Obama must push
for a heavy tax on carbon emissions and major regulation of coal, oil and
gas companies. He must demand transition to renewables before it is too
late to stop the ravages of storms like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
During his first campaign, Obama pledged to immediately “let folks know”
whether the products they consume contain genetically modified
organisms (GMO’s) by proper labeling. He has not yet made good on that
promise despite overwhelming public support for labeling GMO’s. Large
corporations, including Monsanto, spent $50 million to defeat Proposition
37 in California, which would have required such labeling.
Although Obama has resisted Benjamin Netanyahu’s demands that the
United States draw a red line to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear
weapons capability, Obama has imposed punishing sanctions that are
devastating to the Iranian people, and not necessarily targeted to the
nuclear program, while not saying a word about Israel’s nuclear arsenal.
He must not pander to the right-wing Israeli government on Iran or
sacrifice the rights of Palestinians.
After the election, Bill O’Reilly noted, “The white establishment is now the
minority.” He was not talking about the white working class, but rather the
white elite that has run our institutions since the country’s founding. O’
Reilly continued, “And the voters, many of them, feel that this economic
system is stacked against them, and they want stuff.” These comments
betray his racism and racial stereotypes because it was clear that the
people he claimed “wanted stuff” were people of color. We need to
reaffirm that all people have a right to live in a society in which the
economy serves their interests, and that people are entitled to basic
human rights. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
human rights include economic rights – the right to a decent job, to
organize and join unions, to a good education and quality health care,
adequate housing, and to economic security when people become aged
While the President can always blame an obstructionist Congress for the
need to “compromise,” the way he sets the terms of the debate will
invariably determine the outcome.
We know that President Obama, like any president of the United States,
faces immense pressures from Wall Street (bankers), the Chamber of
the Military Industrial (Congressional) Complex, the Prison Industrial
Complex, and the insurance, fossil fuel and gun industries. All of these
lobbies seek to promote their own interests – including the rights of capital
over labor, criminalization of broad segments of society, reliance on
carbon-based energy sources and wars to obtain them. They aim to profit
from health care and privatize as much as possible, and to ensure that
people do not believe they have any entitlements to health care or social
These are the many reasons to organize to make Obama do the right
But the burden is not only on the President. The burden is on us to
organize the counter-pressure through all of the progressive
It is a challenge we must embrace.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.
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to achieving common goals. Real change comes from the bottom up.
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|WAR IS OVER
|Palast's newest book,
includes a 48-page comic book
by Ted Rall, and a foreword by
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Palast investigates Karl Rove,
the Koch Gang and
Oct 26th, '12 Excerpt from interview
with Noam Chomsky by Amy
Goodman of Democracy Now.
NOAM CHOMSKY: In a few weeks,
we’ll be commemorating the 50th
anniversary of "the most dangerous
moment in human history."
Now, those are the words of
historian, Kennedy adviser, Arthur
Schlesinger. He was referring, of
course, to the October 1962 missile
crisis, "the most dangerous moment
in human history." Others agree.
Now, at that time, Kennedy raised
the nuclear alert to the second-
highest level, just short of launching
weapons. He authorized NATO
aircraft, with Turkish or other pilots,
to take off, fly to Moscow and drop
bombs, setting off a likely
At the peak of the missile crisis,
Kennedy estimated the probability of
nuclear war at perhaps 50 percent. It’
s a war that would destroy the
Northern Hemisphere, President
Eisenhower had warned. And facing
that risk, Kennedy refused to agree
publicly to an offer by Kruschev to
end the crisis by simultaneous
withdrawal of Russian missiles from
U.S. missiles from Turkey. These
were obsolete missiles. They were
already being replaced by
invulnerable Polaris submarines.
But it was felt necessary to firmly
establish the principle that Russia
has no right to have any offensive
weapons anywhere beyond the
borders of the U.S.S.R., even to
defend an ally against U.S. attack.
That’s now recognized to be the
prime reason for deploying missiles
there, and actually a plausible one.
Meanwhile, the United States must
retain the right to have them all over
the world, targeting Russia or China
or any other enemy. In fact,
in 1962, the United—we just recently
learned, the United States had just
secretly deployed nuclear missiles
to Okinawa aimed at China. That
was a moment of elevated regional
All of that is very consistent with
grand area conceptions, the ones
I mentioned that were developed
by Roosevelt’s planners.
Well, fortunately, in 1962, Kruschev
backed down. But the world can’t be
assured of such sanity forever. And
particularly threatening, in my view,
is that intellectual opinion,
and even scholarship, hail Kennedy’
s behavior as his finest hour.
My own view is it’s one of the worst
moments in history. Inability to face
the truth about ourselves is all too
common a feature of the intellectual
culture, also personal life, has
Well, 10 years later, in 1973, during
the Israel-Arab War, Henry Kissinger
called a high-level nuclear alert. The
purpose was to warn the Russians
to keep hands off while he was—so
we’ve recently learned—he was
secretly informing Israel that they
were authorized to violate the
ceasefire that had been imposed
jointly by the U.S. and Russia. When
Reagan came into office a couple of
years later, the United States
launched operations probing
Russian defenses, flying in
to Russia to probe defenses, and
simulating air and naval attacks,
meanwhile placing Pershing
missiles in Germany that had a five-
minute flight time to Russian targets.
They were providing what the CIA
called a "super-sudden first strike"
capability. The Russians, not
surprisingly, were deeply concerned.
Actually, that led to a major war
scare in 1983. There have been
hundreds of cases when human
intervention aborted a first-strike
launch just minutes before launch.
Now, that’s after automated systems
gave false alarms. We don’t have
but there’s no doubt that their
systems are far more accident-
prone. Actually, it’s a near miracle
that nuclear war has been
avoided so far.
Meanwhile, India and Pakistan have
come close to nuclear war several
times, and the crises that led to that,
especially Kashmir, remain. Both
India and Pakistan have refused to
sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty,
along with Israel, and both of them
have received U.S. support for
development of their nuclear
weapons programs, actually,
until today, in the case of India,
which is now a U.S. ally.
War threats in the Middle East, which
could become reality very soon, once
again escalate the dangers. Well,
a way out of this, a simple way.
There’s a way to mitigate, maybe
end, whatever threat Iran is alleged
to pose. Very simple: move towards
establishing a nuclear-weapons-
free zone in the Middle East. Now,
the opportunity is coming again this
December. There’s an international
conference scheduled to deal with
this proposal. It has overwhelming
international support, including,
incidentally, a majority of the
population in Israel. That’s
fortunately. Unfortunately, it’s
blocked by the United States and
Israel. A couple of days ago, Israel
announced that it’s not going to
participate, and it won’t consider the
matter until there’s a general
regional peace. Obama takes the
same stand. He also insists that any
agreement must exclude Israel and
even must exclude calls for other
nations—meaning the U.S.—to
provide information about Israeli
The United States and Israel can
delay regional peace indefinitely.
They’ve been doing that for 35 years
on Israel-Palestine, virtual
international isolation. It’s a long,
important story that I don’t have time
to go into here. So, therefore, there’s
no hope for an easy way to end what
the West regards as the most
severe current crisis—no way
unless there’s large-scale public
But there can’t be large-scale public
pressure unless people at least
know about it. And the media have
done a stellar job in averting that
danger: nothing reported about the
conference or about any of the
background, no discussion, apart
from specialist arms control journals
where you can read about it.
So, that blocks the easy way to end
the worst existing crisis, unless
people somehow find a way to
break through this.
World-renowned political dissident,
linguist, author, and professor
emeritus at the Massachusetts Inst
of Technology, Noam Chomsky
Finish piece by entering link below
New York Times-bestselling
Author...Freelance journalist for the
British Broadcasting Corporation and
the British newspaper The Observer.
His work frequently focuses on
corporate malfeasance but has also
been known to work with labor unions
and consumer advocacy groups.
Notably, he has claimed to have
uncovered evidence that Florida
Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Secretary of
State Katherine Harris,
and Florida Elections Unit Chief Clay
Roberts, along with the ChoicePoint
corporation, rigged the ballots during the
US Presidential Election of 2000 and
again in 2004 when, he argued, the
problems and machinations from 2000
continued, and that challenger John
Kerry actually would have won if not for
disproportional " spoilage" of
|Must reads. Scroll down for.
Vietnam Veteran Mike Hastle
Arrested at Vietnam Veterans
Hold Him to His Progressive
Pledges. Make Obama Do It
You can Vote But Can You Vote
for Democracy? Robt Shetterly
Afghanistan: The Who Cares
War? (Not Exactly, But It Fails the
Real Definition of a Just War)
Kevin Martin, Truthout|
|"No matter how cynical you
get, it's almost impossible
to keep up." - Lily Tomlin
in New York
|A Law Unto Itself -
Decades of Political Tyranny at the IRS
by KARL GROSSMAN May 16, 2013
President Barack Obama got it right and wrong Monday when he stated,
“If you’ve got the IRS operating in anything less than a neutral and
nonpartisan way, then that is outrageous, it is contrary to our traditions.”
He was right in declaring it was “outrageous” for the IRS to target
conservative organizations for tough tax treatment.
But he was incorrect in saying “it is contrary to our traditions.”
For the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has for decades gone after
organizations and individuals that take stands in conflict with the federal
government at the time. This has been a tradition, an outrageous tradition.
It is exposed in detail by David Burnham, longtime New York Times
investigative reporter, in his 1991 book A Law Unto Itself: The IRS and the
Abuse of Power. He relates how President Franklin D. Roosevelt likely “set
the stage for the use of the tax agency for political purposes by most
subsequent presidents.” Burnham writes about how a former U.S. Treasury
Secretary, banker Andrew Mellon, was a special IRS target under FDR.
During the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, he recounts,
the focus of the IRS’s efforts “at political control” were civil rights
organizations and those against the U.S. engaging in the Vietnam War.
Nixon’s “enemies list” and his scheme to use the IRS against those on it is
what the current IRS scandal is being most compared.
History Professor John A. Andrew III in his 2002 book Power to Destroy:
The Political Uses of the IRS from Kennedy to Nixon—its title drawn from U.S.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall’s dictum “The power to tax is the
power to destroy”—focuses further on this tradition. He tells of how John F.
Kennedy administration’s “Ideological Organizations Project” investigated,
intimidated and challenged the tax-exempt status of right-wing groups
including the John Birch Society. Then, with a turn of the White House
to the right with Nixon came investigations, he writes, of such entities
as the Jerry Rubin Foundation, the Fund for Investigative Journalism and
the Center for Corporate Responsibility.
During the Reagan administration, I had my own experience with the IRS—
ostensibly because of a book I wrote. Nicaragua: America’s New Vietnam?
involved reporting from what was then a war zone in Nicaragua and in
Florida—where I interviewed leaders of the contras who were working with the
CIA to overthrow Nicaragua’s Sandinista government—and Honduras, being
set up as a tarmac for U.S. intervention in Nicaragua. I visited a U.S. military
base there. The book warned against a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua
(subsequently decided against by the Reagan White House after the Iran-
contra scandal). The book was published in 1985 and soon afterwards I was
hit with an IRS audit. It would be more, I was informed, than my showing up at
an IRS office. The IRS was to come to my house for a “field audit.”
The investigator sat on one side of our dining room table and on the other
side was me and my accountant, Peter Berger of Shelter Island. What would
be an all-day event started with the investigator asking me to detail how much
my family spent on food each week and then, slowly, methodically, going
through other expenses. Then he went through income. He obviously was
seeking to determine on this fishing expedition whether income exceeded
expenses. He went through receipts for business expenses including
restaurant receipts, asking who I ate with. He sorted through receipts for
office supplies. By mid-afternoon, he had gotten nowhere. At that point,
having been hours together, a somewhat weird relationship had been
formed. And he began to tell me how his dream in college was to become
a journalist. He expanded on that, and then asked:
“Have you ever faced retaliation?”
“What do you think this is?” I responded.
He was taken back—insisting my name had come up “at random.”
In the end, all he did was trim some of what was listed as business
use of my home phone.
Was I being retaliated against for the book I had written? One would never
know. Recently, I ran into accountant Berger, now retired, and he commented
about how that day at my house was the strangest IRS audit he had ever
been involved in.
The IRS has been beyond reform. Burnham writes in A Law Unto Itself:
The IRS and the Abuse of Power that a “political imperative of not messing
with the IRS” has become “close to being a law of nature almost as
unbending as the force of gravity.” It is “rarely examined by Congress.”
President Obama announced yesterday that the acting commissioner of the
IRS was asked and agreed to tender his resignation as a result of the
scandal. That’s a small start. Far more important is somehow ending the
tradition of IRS political tyranny. Fundamental change in the IRS is called for.
Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New
York/College of New York, is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff:
The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet.
Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy
in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama
and the Politics of Illusion.