Tag Archives: Tunisia

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Obama Destroyed Libya

Barack Obama destroyed Libya.

What he did to Libya is as bad as what Bush did to Iraq and Afghanistan. He doesn’t deserve a historical pass.

When Obama took office in 2009, Libya was under the clutches of longtime dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. But things were looking up.

Bush and Gaddafi had cut a deal to lift Western trade sanctions in exchange for Libya acknowledging and paying restitution for its role in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. In a rare triumph for Bush, Libya also agreed to give up its nuclear weapons research program. Libyan and Western analysts anticipated that Gaddafi’s dictatorship would be forced to accept liberal reforms, perhaps even free elections and rival political parties, in order to attract Western investment.

Libya in 2009 was prosperous. As citizens of a major oil- and natural gas-exporting nation, Libyans enjoyed high salaries, low living expenses, generous social benefits, not to mention law and order. It seems like a mirage today.

Looking back, many Libyans miss their former tyrant. “Muammar Gaddafi inherited one of the poorest nations in Africa,” notes Garikai Chengu of the Du Bois Institute for African Research at Harvard University. “However, by the time he was assassinated, Libya was unquestionably Africa’s most prosperous nation. Libya had the highest GDP per capita and life expectancy in Africa and less people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands.”

As a dictator, Gaddafi was guilty of horrendous human rights abuses. But life was better then than now. Women enjoyed more rights in Libya than in any other Arab country, particularly after the United States overthrew Saddam Hussein in Iraq. By regional standards, Libya was a relatively sweet place to live.

In February 2011, militant Islamists based in the eastern city of Benghazi launched an armed insurgency against Gaddafi’s central government in the capital of Tripoli. The rebels were linked in the imaginations of American newsmedia and U.S. foreign policy officials to the Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt’s Tahrir Square. But the Benghazi-based rebels, with close ties to Al Qaeda, were ideologically closer to the Free Syrian Army fighters who eventually metastasized into ISIS.

Within the CIA and Defense Departments, no one was sure who the insurgents were or what they wanted. Nonetheless the Obama administration covertly supplied them with at least $1 billion in cash and weapons. CIA agents and U.S. Special Forces served as “boots on the ground,” training opposition fighters how to use sophisticated new weapons.

Obama threw Gaddafi, whose regime was secular and by all accounts had been cooperative and held up his end of the deals with U.S., under the bus.

American forces jammed Libyan military communications. The U.S. fired missiles to intercept Libyan missiles fired at rebel targets. The U.S. led numerous airstrikes against units loyal to Gaddafi. U.S. intervention turned the tide in favor of the Benghazi-based rebels.

In October 2011, one of Obama’s killer robot drones participated in Gaddafi’s assassination. Game over.

Before invading Iraq, then Secretary of State Colin Powell warned Bush about his “Pottery Barn rule“: if you break it, you own it.

Obama has broken the hell out of Libya.

The New York Times describes Libya as “veer[ing] toward complete chaos.”

In 2015, the UK Guardian reports, Libya is in danger of meeting the official international definition of a failed state: “Libya is wracked by violence, factionalism and political polarization – and by the growing menace of jihadi extremism. Two rival governments, parliaments, prime ministers and military forces claim legitimacy. One side is the Islamist-dominated Libya Dawn coalition in Tripoli, the capital. The other camp, Dignity, which is recognized internationally, is based in Tobruk and Bayda. Hundreds of rival militias exist across the country. In recent months the homegrown fighters of Ansar al-Sharia have been challenged by Islamic State (Isis), who released a video showing the beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians. Oil production, the source of most state revenues, has declined massively. Cash is running out and basic services are facing collapse as the financial situation deteriorates. Hopes for change generated by the Arab spring and the demise of Gaddafi’s dictatorship have faded into despair and dysfunction.”

“Libya is falling apart. Politically, financially, the economic situation is disastrous,” says UN envoy Bernardino León.

To Obama’s credit, he admits that he screwed up in Libya. Unfortunately, he drew the wrong lesson. In 2014, he told an interviewer that a large ground invasion force might have helped Libya’s post-Gaddafi government succeed. Because that worked so well in Iraq and Afghanistan. But if he really believes that, why doesn’t he order in the troops?

Obama’s real mistake was to depose a secular socialist autocrat and allow him to be replaced by a bunch of crazy religious fundamentalist militias whose factionalism ensured they’d never be able to govern.

Bush committed this error in Iraq. Obama made it in Libya. And now he’s doing it again in Syria.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist for The Los Angeles Times, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)

COPYRIGHT 2015 TED RALL, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

 

AL JAZEERA COLUMN: Libya: The triumphalism of the US media

Obama and the US media are taking credit for Gaddafi’s downfall, but it was the Libyan fighters who won the war.

The fall of Moammar Gaddafi was a Libyan story first and foremost. Libyans fought, killed and died to end the Colonel’s 42-year reign.

No doubt, the U.S. and its NATO proxies tipped the military balance in favor of the Benghazi-based rebels. It’s hard for any government to defend itself when denied the use of its own airspace as enemy missiles and bombs blast away its infrastructure over the course of more than 20,000 sorties.

Still, it was Libyans who took the biggest risks and paid the highest price. They deserve the credit. From a foreign policy standpoint, it behooves the West to give it to them. Consider a parallel, the fall 2001 bombing campaign against the Taliban. With fewer than a thousand Special Forces troops on the ground in Afghanistan to bribe tribal leaders and guide bombs to their targets, the U.S. military and CIA relied exclusively on air power to allow the Northern Alliance to advance. The premature announcement that major combat operations had ceased, followed by the installation of Hamid Karzai as de facto president—a man widely seen as a U.S. figurehead—set the stage for what would eventually become America’s longest war.

As did the triumphalism of the U.S. media, who treated the “defeat” (more like the dispersing) of the Taliban as Bush’s victory. The Northern Alliance was a mere afterthought, condescended to at every turn by the punditocracy. To paraphrase Bush’s defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. went to war with the ally it had, not the one it would have liked to have had. America’s attitude toward Karzai and his government reflected that in many ways: snipes and insults, including the suggestion that the Afghan leader was mentally ill and ought to be replaced, as well as years of funding levels too low to meet payroll and other basic needs, thus limiting its power to metro Kabul and a few other major cities. In retrospect it would have been smarter for the U.S. to have graciously credited (and funded) the Northern Alliance with its defeat over the Taliban, content to remain the power behind the throne.

Despite this experience in Afghanistan “victory” in Libya has prompted a renewal of triumphalism in the U.S. media.

Like a slightly drunken crowd at a football match giddily shouting “U-S-A,” editors and producers keep thumping their chests long after it stops being attractive.

When Obama announced the anti-Gaddafi bombing campaign in March, Stephen Walt issued a relatively safe pair of predictions. “If Gaddafi is soon ousted and the rebel forces can establish a reasonably stable order there, then this operation will be judged a success and it will be high-fives all around,” Walt wrote in Foreign Policy. “If a prolonged stalemate occurs, if civilian casualties soar, if the coalition splinters, or if a post-Gaddafi Libya proves to be unstable, violent, or a breeding ground for extremists…his decision will be judged a mistake.”

It’s only been a few days since the fall of Tripoli, but high-fives and victory dances abound.

“Rebel Victory in Libya a Vindication for Obama,” screamed the headline in U.S. News & World Report.

Read the full article at Al Jazeera English.

AL JAZEERA COLUMN: The US’ War of Words Against Syria

The US war of words against Syria is marred by hypocrisy and a lack of realism.

You’d need a team of linguists to tease out the internal contradictions, brazen hypocrisies and verbal contortions in President Barack Obama’s call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power.

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but…”

The “but” belies the preceding phrase—particularly since its speaker controls the ability and possible willingness to enforce his desires at the point of a depleted uranium warhead.

“The future of Syria must be determined by its people, but President Bashar al-Assad is standing in their way. His calls for dialogue and reform have rung hollow while he is imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering his own people,” Obama continued. One might say the same thing of Obama’s own calls for dialogue and reform in Iraq and Afghanistan. Except, perhaps, for the fact that the Iraqis and Afghans being killed are not Obama’s “own people”. As you no doubt remember from Bush’s statements about Saddam Hussein, American leaders keep returning to that phrase: “killing his own people”.

Now the Euros are doing it. “Our three countries believe that President Assad, who is resorting to brutal military force against his own people and who is responsible for the situation, has lost all legitimacy and can no longer claim to lead the country,” British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a joint statement.

If you think about this phrase, it doesn’t make sense. Who are “your” own people? Was Hitler exempt because he didn’t consider his victims to be “his” people? Surely Saddam shed few tears for those gassed Kurds. Anyway, it must have focus-grouped well back in 2002.

“We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way,” Obama went on. “He has not led. For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Here is US foreign policy summed up in 39 words: demanding the improbable and the impossible, followed by the arrogant presumption that the president of the United States has the right to demand regime change in a nation other than the United States.

Read the full article at Al Jazeera English.

AL JAZEERA COLUMN: The Emperor Has No Economy

Corporate Profits Up, Consumer Income Down, Orwellian Talking Points Soar

The Associated Press’ Paul Wiseman had one of the snappier headlines last week: “The Economic Recovery Turns Two—Feel Better?”

“After previous recessions, people in all income groups tended to benefit,” Wiseman wrote. “This time, ordinary Americans are struggling with job insecurity, too much debt and pay raises that haven’t kept up with prices at the grocery store and gas station. The economy’s meager gains are going mostly to the wealthiest…A big chunk of the economy’s gains has gone to investors in the form of higher corporate profits.”

Wiseman quoted David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates in Toronto: “The spoils have really gone to capital, to the shareholders.”

Karl Marx, call your office.

More than at any previous time in their lives, Americans looking for answers and facts are forced to read between the lines of press and broadcast accounts that bear little resemblance to reality “on the ground,” as they say on cable news. Truth, when it can be coaxed out of propaganda so patently ridiculous that it has become indiscernible from the standard-issue “everything is great, our leaders know best” nonsense of the world’s autocracies, is revealed in sloppy contradictions. Wiseman, though flying on the side of the agenda-busting angels, is no exception: is the U.S. economy generated “meager gains” or “spoils”? Hm.

On its face the official narrative is false to a laughably Orwellian extreme. The recession is over; the recovery is well underway, they say. However, as The Wall Street Journal reports, the recovery is slow and mainly benefiting big business. “While the U.S. economy staggers through one of its slowest recoveries since the Great Recession,” the paper wrote July 5th, “American companies are poised to report strong earnings for the second quarter—exposing a dichotomy between corporate performance and the overall health of the economy.”

The same “dichotomy” afflicts every industrialized nation except for Germany and Luxembourg, both of which have seen unemployment return to the levels before the global fiscal crisis that began in September 2008.

Logical holes in the argument gape so wide you could drive a truck through it—if it was worth putting it out on the road without goods to fill it with, or consumers to buy them.

First, high bottom lines don’t necessarily reflect healthy companies. A company can suffer declining sales and market share yet still increase profits by laying off workers, thus reducing payroll expenses. For example, the Internet search giant Yahoo! saw revenues decline 12 percent in late 2010 yet doubled its profits. How’d they do it? They fired one percent of their workforce. If Yahoo! were to continue this trend, it would soon cease to exist.

Second, First World economies are two-thirds reliant on consumer spending. Consumers in the United States, as well as those throughout the world, are in big trouble. The official U.S. unemployment rate is 9.1 percent but the “real rate”—the one calculated the way most other countries do theirs, which includes people whose unemployment benefits have lapsed—is closer to 20 percent, higher than those of Tunisia and Egypt at the start of the Arab Spring. People who still have jobs have suffered pay cuts both visible and invisible, the latter from galloping inflation in fuel and other costs that government agencies intentionally omit from calculations of consumer price indices.

Question one: Can an economy “recover” without its people?

Airports and shopping malls throughout the United States are empty. Advertising space on billboards and newspapers go begging. Storefronts from Fifth Avenue in New York to the Las Vegas Strip to small towns in the Midwest are boarded up. The price of homes, which for middle-class Americans are often their sole substantial form of savings, continues to decline after the real estate bubble burst in 2008. Consumer confidence, the measure of people’s willingness to part with cash to buy goods and services, is in the tank.

When 60 percent of Americans rate the economy as poor, don’t count on them to buy stuff.

They’re not.

“Workers’ wages and benefits [now] make up 57.5 percent of the economy, an all-time low,” wrote the AP’s Wiseman. “Until the mid-2000s, that figure had been remarkably stable—about 64 percent through boom and bust alike.”

Corporate CEOs may be whistling past the graveyard, raking in huge bonuses and pay raises approved by compliant boards of directors, but the overall state of the economy is a disaster. Recovery? Forget it—there isn’t one. Are we still in a recession? That would be an improvement. By most measures—unemployment, collapsing gross domestic product, falling incomes—this is a global depression. But the government won’t even admit that there’s a problem—except for unemployment and falling wages.

“Who are you going to believe?” the comedian Groucho Marx asked. ” Me, or your lying eyes?”

In the role of Mr. Marx is one Barack Obama. Like his outgoing predecessor George W. Bush, Obama’s response to the 2008 meltdown was to transfer trillions of dollars out of the U.S. treasury into the portfolios of investment banks, insurance companies, airlines and automobile manufacturers, no questions asked. This corporate-based approach relied upon Reagan-style trickle-down economics, the repeatedly failed theory that wealth transferred to the highest echelons of the ruling classes eventually “trickles down” in the form of increased spending, economic activity and hiring to the middle- and working classes. Not surprisingly, this non-response response succeeded in one area: increasing the salaries and perks of corporate executives. Job growth has been non-existent.

When Bush’s invading armies failed to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, his administration’s answer was to claim that, in fact, they had. Obama’s economic strategy takes the same tack, repeatedly “talking up” the economy despite the hard evidence right before his listeners—in their paychecks or lack thereof—that there is little to brag about. Back in April 2009, Obama claimed that his pseudo-stimulus banker-enrichment program was “starting to generate signs of economic progress.”

The president stayed the course in 2010. “Make no mistake, we are headed in the right direction,” Obama said in July, while allowing: “We are not headed there fast enough for a lot of Americans. We’re not headed there fast enough for me either.”

January 2011: “We know these numbers can bounce around from month to month, but the trend is clear…The economy added 1.3 million jobs last year, and each quarter was stronger than the previous quarter, which means that the pace of hiring is beginning to pick up.”

Obama omitted the fact that the U.S. economy must add a net of 1.2 million jobs annually just to keep up with the increasing size of the labor force due to immigration and population growth.

June 2011: “There will be bumps on the road to recovery.”

Question two: What happens when you try to convince people who are suffering that, in fact, they are just fine?

Either Obama’s powers of persuasion are lacking or the American people have wised up. Whatever the reason, they don’t believe him. According to the Gallup poll, which asks whether respondents think the economy is improving or getting worse, the mood has become increasingly pessimistic along the bumpy road to recovery.

The Department of Labor announced this week that the U.S. economy had added a mere 18,000 jobs in June, a net loss of 82,000. Eight million jobs were lost during the 2008-09 debacle; some two to three million more since the “recovery” began.

The respected website Shadow Government Statistics currently places the real unemployment rate at 22.8 percent—equivalent to the worst months of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

With nearly one out of four Americans jobless and countless more underemployed, tensions are emerging between classes in this traditionally “classless” society in which both the rich and poor identify themselves as “middle class.” Though the wealthy always do better during tough times (well, during any times!), the gap is widening at an astonishing rate. “U.S. workers averaged $46,742 in 2010, up 2.6 percent from 2009,” according to USA Today. Bear in mind, with a real inflation rate (calculated the same way as inflation is calculated by other Western countries) of 11.2 percent, these workers are losing ground. Meanwhile, the paper noted, “average compensation among S&P 500 CEOs rose to $12 million in 2010, up 18 percent from 2009—and that’s not counting the potential multimillion-dollar value of stock or stock options, which are granted at set prices and provide holders profits as stock values rise.”

The numbers are jaw-dropping. John Hammergren, CEO of the McKesson healthcare services firm, received $150.7 million in 2010. Fashion maven Ralph Lauren paid himself $75.2 million. “Some of the gains are humongous,” said Paul Hodgson of GovernanceMetrics.

To the citizens of countries for whom $46,000 a year would seem like a king’s ransom, Americans’ resentment of CEOs who receive annual salaries on par with the gross domestic products of some nations no doubt seems petty if not a little silly. Yet they (and the CEOs) should ignore the prosperity chasm at their own peril. American politics, already more divisive as seen through such phenomena as the nativist Tea Party movement on the far right and the anarcho-libertarians of the left, will fracture further until the center (what center?) no longer holds.

Americans may be better off than most people on the planet. But they don’t feel like it. Perception becomes reality when people are scared.

The world cannot feel safe when its sole remaining superpower is falling apart at the seams. If patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel, militarism is the desperate last act of an oppressive government in a state of economic collapse.

At the core of the when-is-a-recovery-not-a-recovery question is vocabulary. What is a recession? How do we know when it’s over?

Beginning in the 1970s American economists began to define recession as being in effect when GDP falls during two consecutive fiscal quarters.

One result of this definition is that a recession is often not officially “declared” by mainstream economists until it is over—i.e., when GDP begins to rise again. This contributes to a strange reality gap: We are not in a recession until we are in a recovery. Effectively, then, it is rare for the American news media to state at any given time that the U.S. economy is then in a recession. Naturally, this contributes to the perception that newspapers and TV stations lie to them, and that they do so on behalf of an uncaring regime.

The 2008 collapse was exceptionally long. Nevertheless, this rule of the undeclared recession held. On December 1, 2008 the National Bureau of Economic Research declared that a recession head begun on December 1, 2007. They later declared it over as of June 2009. Thus a recession that had lasted one and a half years was only officially acknowledged for six months.

Moreover, the definition of recession is obviously faulty.

For most ordinary people, unemployment is the leading economic indicator. A secondary indicator is income.

Do I have a job?

Can I find a job?

How much can I earn?

The answers to those questions provide the most accurate indicators of economic health. When two-thirds of the economy (or 59 percent now) relies on consumer spending, who gives two figs about whether GDP goes up or down during two consecutive quarters? The fact that the press takes this non-people-based definition of recession seriously provides strong insight into its mindset: People are irrelevant.

“The average American does not view the economy through the prism of GDP or unemployment rates or even monthly jobs numbers,” top presidential advisor David Plouffe says, nearly sounding human. “People won’t vote based on the unemployment rate. They’re going to vote based on: ‘How do I feel about my own situation? Do I believe the president makes decisions based on me and my family?'”

Based on that assessment, Obama should start packing. He has not done anything that might have helped the unemployed: extending jobless benefits, forcing banks to renegotiate mortgages for homeowners, imposing national commercial and residential rent control, substantial tax credits for the poor and working class. And it shows: the consumer who lays the golden egg has no money to spend—and economic activity has all but ceased.

People are furious. But they are angrier at the thought that the rich are getting richer and that the president isn’t actively searching for solutions than they are about the fact that they can’t pay their bills.

Two years into Obama’s presidency “we are still treading water at the bottom of a deep hole,” summarizes economist Heidi Shierholz.

In the not-so-long run, however, things could get a lot uglier than the Democrats taking a beating in America’s November 2012 elections. The R-word—not recession, but revolution—could be in the offing.

Ted Rall is an American political cartoonist, columnist and author. His most recent book is The Anti-American Manifesto. His website is rall.com.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Zero Salary for Congress

Why Not Link Pols’ Pay Level to Ours?

Most Americans don’t like Moammar Kadafi or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. But that might change if they knew their paychecks. The leaders of Libya and Iran get $9,516 and $3,000 a year annually, respectively.

Obama collects $5,505,509—a whopping $22,022 per day.

Who’s the real out-of-touch dictator?

As the U.S. enters its third year of economic collapse, real unemployment has surged past levels that triggered revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Yet neither the President nor members of Congress seem worried. They’re not even discussing the possibility of a bailout for the one-third of the workforce that is in effect structurally unemployed. Do you wonder why?

Maybe they don’t know what’s going on. As the saying goes, it’s a recession when you’ve gotten laid off. For members of Congress, who are raking it in, these are boom times.

Congressmen and Senators are insulated by huge salaries—$174,000 and up—that put them out of touch with and unaware of the problems of the 97 percent of Americans who earn less. Out of 535 members of Congress, 261 are millionaires.

It can’t be easy for Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, to feel our pain. According to campaign disclosure documents filed in 2010, her net worth is somewhere between $46 million and $108.1 million—and she’s only the 10th richest member of Congress. The top honor goes to Representative Darrell Issa, also from the Golden State but a Republican. Estimates of Issa’s net worth range between $156.1 million and $451.1 million.

Years ago the SEC floated the idea of a maximum wage for the CEOs of publicly traded corporations. If their pay was capped at, say, 20 times that of the lowest-paid employee, it wouldn’t be long before the whole pay scale went up.

The SEC pay cap didn’t go anywhere. But there’s the germ of a smart—and fair—idea there, one that could help Congressmen feel what it’s like to be an ordinary American during a time of poverty and mass layoffs.

Our elected representatives set the minimum wage, work standards, healthcare benefits, union organizing rules and thousands of regulations that determine the salaries and working conditions for tens of millions of American workers. As things stand now, the president and members of Congress have no personal incentive to improve those things for us. After all, they’re all set. They’re rich.

Paul Abrams writes: “Many Republicans ran for office declaring they would run the government ‘like a business’…

If they are serious, however, there is one way [Congress] can operate like a business. Cut their base pay and provide large incentive bonuses should the economy hit certain goals.” A nice thought, but why not follow this line of thinking to its logical conclusion?

It is high time to set a Maximum Wage for Congress, the president and other high-ranking elected representatives. The Maximum Wage for Congress should be set at the lowest pay received by an American citizen.

As long as one American citizen is homeless and unemployed, the Maximum Wage would be zero.

Similarly public officials ought to receive a Maximum Benefit set at the lowest/worst level received by an American citizen. If one U.S. citizen receives no healthcare benefits, so it would go for members of Congress. If one U.S. citizen does not have free access to a gym, members of Congress would lose theirs.

I have a hunch that our lives would get better in the blink of an eye.

Of course I could be wrong. Perhaps it’s really true that America somehow can’t afford socialized healthcare (even though there’s always plenty of cash for wars). If that’s the case, personal incentives won’t convince Congress.

Still, that’s OK. It’s only fair that our leaders be forced to tough it out as much as we do.

We’re all familiar with the arguments for paying six-figure salaries to politicians:

They have to maintain two homes, one in D.C. and one in their home district. It reduces the temptations of corruption. They should focus on their jobs, not how to pay their kids’ college tuition. People who are not wealthy ought to be able to afford to serve. The best and brightest won’t want the job if the pay is terrible.

To which I say:

Live modestly. Couchsurf. If you take a bribe, you’ll be jailed—so don’t. Everyone worries about bills; shouldn’t Congressmen? The current salary structure has resulted in a Congress full of millionaires. As for attracting the best and brightest—look at the fools we’ve got now.

Besides, there is no reason why the president and his congressional cronies shouldn’t be able to keep their current wonderful salaries and perks under a Maximum Wage. All they’d have to do is create an economy that shared those bounteous treats with everyone else.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Hope and Change? Not for Americans

Turmoil from Mideast to Midwest

If irony were money we’d be rich.

“You’ve got to get out ahead of change,” President Obama lectured a week ago. “You can’t be behind the curve.” He was, of course, referring to the Middle East. During the last few weeks there has been a new popular uprising every few days: Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Libya.

And now, Wisconsin.

In Madison, where a new Republican governor wants to gut the rights of state workers to form unions and negotiate for higher wages, tens of thousands of protesters have filled the streets and sat in the State Capitol for days. “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison these days,” said Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI).

Revolutionary foment is on the march around the globe, but Mr. Hopey Changey is nowhere to be found now that it’s here in the U.S. Whatever happened to “get ahead of change?” What’s good for the Hosni isn’t good for the Barry.

Deploying his customary technocratic aloofness in the service of the usual screw-the-workers narrative, President Obama sided with the union-busters: “Everybody has to make some adjustments to the new fiscal realities,” he scolds.

“Everybody,” naturally, does not include ultrarich dudes like our multi-millionaire president. Obama, who declared a whopping $5.5 million in annual income for 2009 (the last year available), has neither reduced his salary nor donated a penny of his $7.7 million fortune to the Treasury to help adjust to those “new fiscal realities.”

Hard times, doncha know, are for the little people. “We had to [my italics] impose a freeze on pay increases for federal workers in the next two years as part of my overall budget freeze,” said Obama. “I think those kinds of adjustments are the right thing to do [in Wisconsin].”

“Had to.” Interesting pair of words. They imply that there was no other choice. What a brazen lie.

Three more words: Tax. The. Rich. Rich people and corporations are making out like bandits. If they paid their fair share, there’d be no need to cut budgets.

“Adjustments.” How bloodless. For normal people, Herr President, losing two percent of one’s pay is not a mere adjustment. It hurts.

Obama’s grandstanding had-to freeze on federal pay will save $5 billion over two years. Which is nothing. That’s what the Pentagon chucks down the Iraq and Afghanistan ratholes in a single week.

The federal deficit is $14 trillion. That’s $14,000 billion. Obama’s federal pay freeze, which amounts to a piddling four hundredths of one percent, is empty symbolism.

As the striking members of the PATCO air traffic controllers union learned in 1981, higher wages and working conditions are for foreigners, not Americans. Ronald Reagan had nothing but praise for Solidarity in Poland (declaring that “the right to belong to a free trade union” was “one of the most elemental human rights”).

At the same time he was defending Polish workers Reagan fired all of America’s 11,345 striking air traffic controllers and ordered their union decertified.

All political systems are built on contradictions that eventually lead to their downfall. The U.S. relies on a whopping chasm between soaring rhetoric (freedom, democracy, individual rights) and brutish reality (preemptive war, supporting dictators, torture, spying on citizens)—a gap that is so wide and so glaring that it is amazing anyone ever takes the propaganda seriously.

A recent report in The New York Times slathers on a rich quadruple serving of syrupy irony. The Obama Administration asked the CIA to prepare a secret memo about the revolutions in the Middle East, specifically analyzing “how to balance American strategic interests and the desire to avert broader instability against the democratic demands of the protesters.”

What, exactly, are those “strategic interests”? Business. Dictators cut sweetheart deals with big corporations that donate to the Democratic and the Republican parties.

Democracy—real democracy, the kind people are fighting for in Bahrain and Madison, is incompatible with free-market capitalism.

Which is what union members in Wisconsin, as well as those of us who don’t belong to unions but understand that we would be working 100-hour weeks in death-trap factories without them, see clearly. The American Dream is just that— a dream. And it’s not for Americans.

Obama’s statement about the Arab autarchies is astonishingly tone deaf to realities here at home. “I think that the thing that will actually achieve stability in that region is if young people, if ordinary folks, end up feeling that there are pathways for them to feed their families, get a decent job, get an education, aspire to a better life,” he said. “And the more steps these governments are taking to provide these avenues for mobility and opportunity, the more stable these countries are.”

Well, yes.

According to a recent Bloomberg National poll, most American adults believe that their children will have worse lives than they do.

That’s true even about those who have all the so-called advantages.

At this writing the unemployment rate for recent college graduates is 80.3 percent.

How will they pay their loans?

The rate is even higher for other young adults.

In a way, the unemployed and underemployed should thank Obama and the plutocrats he helps protect. The ruling classes’ shortsighted refusal to give up some of the loot they’ve stolen will soon bring about the real changes Americans require and deserve.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL

SYNDICATED COLUMN: The New Face of Revolution

After Tunisia and Egypt, the World

From the British newspaper the Independent: “Like in many other countries in the region, protesters in Egypt complain about surging prices, unemployment and the authorities’ reliance on heavy-handed security to keep dissenting voices quiet.”

Sound familiar?

Coverage by U.S. state-controlled media of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt is too dim by half: they say it’s an Arab thing. So it is. But not for long. The problems that triggered the latest uprisings, rising inequality of income, frozen credit markets, along with totally unresponsive government, span the globe. To be sure, the first past-due regimes to be overthrown may be the most brutal U.S. client states—Arab states such as Yemen, Jordan and Algeria. Central Asia’s autocrats, also corrupted by the U.S., can’t be far behind; Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov, who likes to boil his dissidents to death, would be my first bet. But this won’t stop in Asia. Persistent unemployment, unresponsive and repressive governments exist in Europe and yes, here in the U.S. They are unstable. The pressure is building.

Global revolution is imminent.

The first great wave of revolutions from 1793 through 1848 was a response to the decline of feudal agrarianism. (Like progressive historians, I don’t consider the 1775-1781 war of American independence to be a true revolution. Because it didn’t result in a radical reshuffling of classes, it was little more than a bunch of rich tax cheats getting theirs.)

During the 19th century European elites saw the rise of industrial capitalism as a chance to stack the cards in their favor, paying slave wages for backbreaking work. Workers organized and formed a proletariat that rejected this lopsided arrangement. They rose up. They formed unions. By the middle of the 20th century, a rough equilibrium had been established between labor and management in the U.S. and other industrialized nations. Three generations of autoworkers earned enough to send their children to college.

Now Detroit is a ghost town.

The uprisings we are witnessing today have their roots in the decline of industrial production that began 60 years ago. As in the early 1800s the economic order has been reshuffled. Ports, factories and the stores that serviced them have shut down. Thanks to globalization, industrial production has been deprofessionalized, shrunken, and outsourced to the impoverished Third World. The result, in Western countries, is a hollowed-out middle class—undermining the foundation of political stability in post-feudal societies.

In the former First World industry was supplanted by the knowledge economy. Rather than bring the global economy in for a soft landing after the collapse of industrial capitalism by using the rising information sector to spread wealth, the ruling classes chose to do what they always do: they exploited the situation for short-term gain, grabbing whatever they could for themselves. During the ’70s and ’80s they broke the unions. (Which is one reason average family income has steadily declined since 1968.) They gouged consumers in the ’90s and ’00s. (Now their credit cards are maxed out.) Now the banks are looting the government.

Now that the bill is due, they want us to pay. But we can’t. We won’t.

It’s bad enough during a cyclical recession, when millions of Americans are losing their jobs and getting evicted from their homes. When the government’s response to an economic holocaust is not to help these poor people, but instead to dole out hundreds of billions of dollars to the giant banks and insurance companies causing the firings and carrying out the foreclosures, it’s crazy.

And when the media tells the one in four adults who is “structurally” (i.e. permanently) unemployed that he and she doesn’t exist—the recession is over! recovery is underway!—it’s obvious that the U.S. is cruising for revolution. Not the Tea Party kind, with corny flags and silly hats.

American Revolution, Tunisian/Egyptian style.

Late last year I wrote a book, The Anti-American Manifesto, which calls for Americans to revolt against our out-of-control plutocracy and the corrupt political biarchy that props it up. I expected the Right to react with outrage. To the contrary. While the desire for revolution is hardly universal among Americans, it is widespread and distributed across the political spectrum. Revolution, when it occurs here, will be surprisingly popular.

Criticism of my Manifesto centers not on its thesis that the status quo is unsustainable and ought to go, but on my departure from traditional Marxist doctrine. Old-school lefties say you can’t (or shouldn’t) have revolution without first building a broad-based popular revolutionary movement.

“We are still in a time and place where we can and should be doing more to build popular movements that can liberate people’s consciousnesses and win reforms necessary to lay the foundation for a transformed society without it being soaked in blood,” Michael McGehee wrote in Z magazine. “All this talk about throwing bricks and Molotov cocktails is extremely premature and reckless…”

Maybe that used to be true. I think things have changed. Given the demoralized state of dissent in the United States since the 1960s and the co-opting of radical activists by the cult of militant pacifism, it would be impossible to create such an organization.

As I argue in the book, anyone who participates in the Official Left as it exists today—the MoveOns, Michael Moores, Green Party, etc.—is inherently discredited in the current, rapidly radicalizing political environment. Old-fashioned liberals can’t really help, they can’t really fight, not if they want to maintain their pathetic positions—so they don’t really try. America’s future revolutionaries—the newly homeless, the illegally dispossessed, people bankrupted by the healthcare industry—can only view the impotent Official Left with contempt.

Revolution will come. When it does, as it did in Tunisia and Egypt, it will follow a spontaneous explosion of long pent-up social and economic forces. We will not need the old parties and progressive groups to lead us. Which is good, because they aren’t psychologically conditioned to create revolution or midwife it when it occurs. New formations will emerge from the chaos. They will create the new order.

In my Manifesto I argue that old-fashioned ideologies are obsolete. Left, Right, Whoever must and will form alliances of convenience to overthrow the existing regime. The leftist critic Ernesto Aguilar is typical of those who take issue with me, complaining that “merging groups with different political goals around an agenda that does not speak openly to those goals, or worse no politics at all, is bound for failure.”

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt may well be destined for failure—but it doesn’t look that way now. So far those popular insurrections have played out exactly the way I predict it will, and must, here in the United States: set off by unpredictable events, formed by the people themselves, as the result of spontaneous passion rather than organized mobilization.

In Egypt, an ad hoc coalition composed of ideologically disparate groups (the Muslim Brotherhood, secular parties, independent intellectuals), has coalesced around Mohamed ElBaradei. “Here you will see extremists, moderates, Christians, Muslims, all kinds of people. It is the first time that we are all together since the revolution of Saad Zaghloul,” a rebel named Naguib, referring to the leader of the 1919 revolution against the British, told Agence France-Press. ElBaradei’s popularity, said Tewfik Aclimandos of the College de France, is due to the fact that “he is not compromised by the regime; he has integrity.”

This is how it will go in Greece, Portugal, England, and—someday—here. There is no need to organize or plan. Scheming won’t make any difference. Just get ready to recognize revolution when it occurs, then drop what you’re doing and then organize.

What will set off the next American Revolution? I don’t know. Nevertheless, the liberation of the long-oppressed peoples of the United States, and the citizens of nations victimized by its foreign policy, is inevitable.

(Ted Rall is the author of “The Anti-American Manifesto.” His website is tedrall.com.)

COPYRIGHT 2011 TED RALL