Saturday, March 28, 2009

Welcome Back to Bush Country

This morning, I read Alexander Cockburn's latest entry at Counterpunch, and was pleased to see that his take on Geithner is a lot like mine.
Obama wouldn’t be the first president to realize that it does no harm to have public odium pleasantly deflected onto a subordinate. Year after year George Bush watched the mud getting hurled at Karl Rove and Dick Cheney. It was the late great historian Walter Karp who argued that the most politically adept of all Presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, conceived his notorious court-packing proposal – up to six new Justices on the Supreme Court – to deflect attention from serious difficulties on other fronts.

So Geithner gets pelted with mouldy cabbages, while Obama -- entirely responsible for the basic economic strategy of bailing out the banks rather than taking them over – charms the nation....

For now, Obama sails smoothly on, transferring wealth upward to the bankers from the rest of us.
Cockburn also mentions that while Obama's approval ratings remain high in general, they took "one spectacular dip into the low 40s, reflecting the public’s low opinion of his handling of the AIG bonuses." The low 40s, of course, are Bush Country.

And Whatever It Is, I'm Against It detects "the Bushian echo" in Obama's allegedly new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan:
Sometimes not even an echo, but a direct quote: “Al Qaeda’s offers the people of Pakistan nothing but destruction. We stand for something different.”
Riiiiight. I think I need to be more confident in my judgments, and feel free to hurl more cybercabbages at the Man Behind the Curtain.

Compared to the mainstream US media, the BBC looks comparatively skeptical of American propaganda. But when you compare it to other British media, the BBC's careful moderate-ness becomes clear. Here we have the opening of the Beeb's online story on the G20 summit, and the international protests that anticipate it.
US Vice-President Joe Biden has called for G20 protesters to give governments a chance to tackle the economic crisis.

At a G20 warm-up meeting in Chile, Mr Biden said heads of state would agree proposals [sic] to remedy the crisis at next week's meeting in London....

At a news conference in Vina del Mar, Mr Biden said he hoped the protesters would give the politicians a chance.

"Hopefully we can make it clear to them that we're going to walk away from this G20 meeting with some concrete proposals," he said.

Why should the protesters "give the politicians a chance", given the latter's solid record of collaboration with the elements responsible for the crisis? But Biden is missing the point of the protests. Since non-elites and non-collaborationists are denied direct input into the meetings, they have no real alternative but to make themselves heard in the streets. Though the article also quotes President Da Silva of Brazil, who said "that everyone was suffering from the recklessness of those who had turned the world economy into 'a gigantic casino'", it goes on to cite "reports that banks and other financial institutions could be targeted in violent protests," so "British officials have put a huge security operation in place."

Compare the Guardian's report:
Yesterday, the Metropolitan police was understood to have contacted a number of protest groups warning that the main day of protest, Wednesday, 1 April would be "very violent", and senior commanders have insisted that they are "up for it, and up to it", should there be any trouble.

The force has refused to rule out the use of anti-terror legislation, with Sir Paul Stephenson, the Met commissioner, conceding that the week ahead, in which President Barack Obama will lead a cortege of other world leaders to the UK, will be the Met's greatest challenge.

Senior officers insist there is intelligence that some activists demonstrating against climate change, capitalism, war and globalisation are intent on violence and will try to disrupt the summit. They say that some troublemakers who were active in the 1990s have emerged once more, and that chatter between groups shows they are forging alliances to take their message to world leaders. Some protesters have also promised to storm buildings, taking out their anger over the collapse of the capitalist economy with direct action designed to bring London to a standstill.

However, David Howarth, a Liberal Democrat MP who is leading a parliamentary group of observers at the protests next week, said: "I am increasingly worried that what the police are saying about the protests will end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy. By talking up the prospect of violence they will put off peaceful demonstrators and start to attract other sorts."

Andrew Dismore MP, who chairs the joint common human rights, said police language in recent days had been "not very helpful".

Or, as Richard Seymour put it at Lenin's Tomb (where he linked to the Guardian piece), what we have here is a promise of state terror. But it's understandable, since the recent unrest in Europe and elsewhere has shaken the complacency of corporatist politicians and media everywhere.

(Image at top from OhMyNews, illustrating protests against the Korean government's arrest of union leaders at the cable news network YTN after wage negotiations broke down and a strike was being planned.)