Obama’s careful NOT to hail “democracy” in Egypt

President Obama, Say the ‘D-Word’
by Mark LeVine

It’s incredible, really. The president of the United States can’t bring himself to talk about democracy in the Middle East. He can dance around it, use euphemisms, throw out words like “freedom” and “tolerance” and “non-violent” and especially “reform,” but he can’t say the one word that really matters: democracy.

How did this happen? After all, in his famous 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world, Obama spoke the word loudly and clearly – at least once.

“The fourth issue that I will address is democracy,” he declared, before explaining that while the United States won’t impose its own system, it was committed to governments that “reflect the will of the people… I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.”

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You reap what you sow: USA created the worldwide Islamist menace

Fear Extreme Islamists in the Arab World? Blame Washington
by: Jeff Cohen, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

In the last year of his life, Martin Luther King Jr. questioned US military interventions against progressive movements in the Third World by invoking a JFK quote: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Were he alive to witness the last three decades of US foreign policy, King might update that quote by noting: “Those who make secular revolution impossible will make extreme Islamist revolution inevitable.”

For decades beginning during the Cold War, US policy in the Islamic world has been aimed at suppressing secular reformist and leftist movements. Beginning with the CIA-engineered coup against a secular democratic reform government in Iran in 1953 (it was about oil), Washington has propped up dictators, coaching these regimes in the black arts of torture and mayhem against secular liberals and the left.

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On Tuesday evening, Feb. 1, Edward Morgan will coming to McNally-Jackson to discuss his new book, What Really Happened to the Sixties? How Mass Meda Culture Failed American Democracy.

The book is a must-read, so please be there.

7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Feb. 1
McNally-Jackson Bookstore
52 Prince St. (b/t Lafayette & Mulberry)


What Really Happened to the 1960s: How Mass Media Culture Failed American Democracy
by Edward P. Morgan

Wherever we turn these days, we encounter reminders of the sixties. They’re invoked in presidential campaigns, American military actions, and outbursts of mass protest. We’re bombarded with media-saturated anniversaries of iconic events, from JFK’s inauguration (and assassination) to urban riots and Woodstock. But as Edward Morgan suggests, these references offer little more than an endless stream of distracting imagery that has more to do with today’s politics and economics than with the reality of yesterday’s social movements.

In his provocative look at mass media’s connection with those turbulent years, Morgan simultaneously seeks to explain what happened in the 1960s and what happened to how we remember it. His comprehensive overview and critical analysis reveal how the mass media have shaped the popular image of a raucous decade in ways that have curtailed its promise of democracy.

Morgan’s in-depth study of sixties social movements and their depictions in corporate America’s print media, film, and television helps to explain why the past still provokes deep emotions–even antagonism–half a century later. He blends history, sociology, political science, media and cultural studies, and critical theory to explain why the 1960s have been so virulently targeted, particularly by critics on the right who blame today’s self-indulgent culture on baby boomers and “sixties permissiveness” instead of the real culprits: consumer-driven capitalism and neoliberal politics.

Emphasizing the tensions between capitalism and democracy, Morgan investigates the fate of democracy in our media-driven culture, first by examining the ways that the 1960s were represented in the media at the time, then by exploring how popular versions of the sixties have glossed over their more radically democratic qualities in favor of sensationalism and ideological constructions. He reminds us of what really happened–then shows us how the media trivialized and satirized those events, co-opting and commercializing the decade’s legacy and, in doing so, robbing it of its more radical, democratic potential.

By revisiting this chapter of the past, Morgan shows that it has much to tell us about where we are today and how we got here. Whether you lived through the sixties or only read about them–or only saw Hollywood’s version of them in Forrest Gump–this book will put their lessons in clearer perspective.

ALL must now join the fight against Monsanto’s GE foods! (2 items)

ALL must now join the fight against Monsanto’s GE foods!
Fighting a Common Enemy on the GMO Battlefield

Yesterday’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that it will once again allow unlimited, nation-wide commercial planting of Monsanto’s genetically-engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa, despite the many risks to organic and conventional farmers, is deeply disturbing, but not surprising.

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Why You Can Now Kiss Organic Beef, Dairy and Many Vegetables Goodbye
By Ari LeVaux, AlterNet
Posted on January 28, 2011, Printed on January 29, 2011

Monsanto has been trying for years to gain approval for its genetically modified Roundup-Ready alfalfa seed. On January 27, 2011, it finally got the green light in the form of “deregulation.” This means that farmers are free to plant GE alfalfa, and the USDA won’t even be keeping track of who plants it where. There will be no tracking, no notification system, and no responsibility on the part of Monsanto for any business that is lost as a result of the genetic contamination that is certain to result. If the ruling stands, we can kiss organic dairy and beef goodbye, and many organic vegetable growers will have to switch the cover crops they use on their fields.

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Whole Foods condemns USDA’s surrender to Monsanto

Whole Foods condemns USDA’s surrender to Monsanto
USDA Disappoints: No Regulations on GE Alfalfa
by Walter Robb & Margaret Wittenberg, January 28th, 2011

It is difficult to express how disappointed we are by the USDA’s decision to completely deregulate genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa without restrictions. This news means farmers will now be able to plant Roundup Ready GE alfalfa without restrictions, beginning as soon as this spring.

The USDA had been considering two potential decisions on this issue – either full deregulation or deregulation with restrictions. The latter would have set rules to protect non-GE crops from contamination. While Whole Foods Market and other advocates for non-GE and organic foods feel the USDA’s deregulation decision is a setback, we will continue the fight for the protection of non-GE food, as we have ever since genetically engineered crops first appeared in the marketplace.

Whole Foods Market advocated strongly for deregulation with restrictions to preserve the ability of non-GE and organic growers to avoid contamination. It seemed that the USDA was finally recognizing that cross-contamination of GE alfalfa could potentially impact organic and non-GE farmers and consumers, both domestically and for our export markets. In fact, by inviting non-GE industry members to D.C. to discuss this issue, it appeared as though the USDA was acknowledging that organic and non-GE agriculture has the right to not only survive, but to thrive alongside GE agriculture.

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Stonyfield Farms did NOT sell out to Monsanto

Stonyfield Farms did NOT sell out to Monsanto
We Can’t Let GE Alfalfa Destroy Organic Dairy – A Letter from Gary ยป
The Organic Community Must Come Out Swinging at the Right Opponents

Dear Stonyfield friends,

On Thursday the USDA announced a policy that supports the interests of Monsanto and big biotech and deals a major blow to organic farming. They decided to “deregulate” genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa, meaning to allow its unrestricted use. In the months leading up to this decision, a coalition of us has been working ceaselessly to fight for any and all alternatives. I’ve personally spent days, nights, weekends and vacations as we worked right though the holidays along with our colleagues to try to prevent this chemical giant from steamrolling over farmers, consumers and organic foods supporters. So, it is particularly sad for me to report to you that in this latest round, which is surely just one chapter, they won and we lost.

Making matters worse, on the day of the decision, the Organic Consumers Association distributed an inaccurate, irresponsible and frankly appalling letter that attempted to pin the blame for the USDA’s decision squarely on Stonyfield, Organic Valley and Whole Foods. OCA’s letter is blatantly untrue and dangerously misleading, but also deeply divisive at a time when we all need to be focused on immediate actions necessary to stop this new policy from going into effect.

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Michelle Obama’s garden is a propaganda masterpiece

Back when Ronald Reagan was union-busting, gutting workers’ rights and trashing the environment, his White House propaganda team was smartly crafting visuals that gave the very opposite impressions: Reagan the Regular Guy, hoisting brown ones with blue-collar workers in a Boston tavern; Reagan the Outdoorsman, in a hardy flannel jacket, posing solemnly beside a Great Sequoia; and so on

Thus were the effects of Reagan’s policies deliberately obscured by Michael Deaver, Keeper of the Presidential Image. He was a master of his craft (they called him “the Vicar of Visuals”); and yet he never could have managed that vast snow-job if the corporate press did not collaborate by running those narcotic images day after day.

So what’s the difference between Reagan and Obama? In this respect (and others), nothing whatsoever. To pick just one example, consider the “organic garden” planted by Michelle Obama on the White House grounds. Officially–that is, according to the New York Times (in a piece that ran in March, 2009)–the purpose of that tasty bit of cropland is to get America’s children “eating healthy.”

“While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.”

To reconfirm the garden’s “message,” the Times quotes a righteous foodie:

“Dan Barber, an owner of Blue Hill at Stone Barns, an organic restaurant in Pocantico Hills, N.Y., that grows many of its own ingredients, said: ‘The power of Michelle Obama and the garden can create a very powerful message about eating healthy and more delicious food. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it could translate into real change.'”

And that’s how the First Lady’s garden played not long after her husband was inaugurated. But now it’s time to cut the crap: Barack Obama having pledged to make us all eat GE foods–for it is ultimately his USDA, not Tim Vilsack’s–I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Michelle’s garden was a deft stroke of diversionary propaganda, meant to make our ruthlessly Monsanto-friendly president* look just as “green” as Johnny Appleseed, or Michael Pollan.

In any case, Monsanto’s domination of our nation’s food supply will make the term “organic” meaningless, regardless of how pretty all those veggies, herbs and berries look in that nice plot on the Obamas’ heavily-guarded lawn.


*Nor is that epithet a stretch, as Obama has been working hard to serve Monsanto’s interests all along. Last spring, for example, he dispatched a delegation to a WTO meeting to propose revisions in a document, the Codex Alimentarious, that defines the international standards for food labelling. The delegation was instructed to push for restrictions on the labelling of GE foods.


Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House
Published: March 19, 2009

WASHINGTON – Michelle Obama will begin digging up a patch of the South
Lawn on Friday to plant a vegetable garden, the first at the White House
since Eleanor Roosevelt’s victory garden in World War II. There will be
no beets – the president does not like them – but arugula will make the cut.

While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals
and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to
educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at
a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.

“My hope,” the first lady said in an interview in her East Wing office,
“is that through children, they will begin to educate their families and
that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities.”

Read more.

GOP lawyers STAGED that “voter intimidation” by the New Black Panthers in ’08

Poll Watcher To New Black Panther Party Videographer: ‘Don’t F**k Up The Story’ (VIDEO)
Ryan J. Reilly

Stephen Robert Morse was a freelance journalist and videographer working as a poll watcher for the local Republican Party in Philadelphia in 2008 when he got the call of his lifetime.

Members of the New Black Panther Party, he was told, were standing outside a polling place in an overwhelmingly African-American section of the city.

He shot a few minutes of video that day. One of the videos, showing two New Black Panther Party members standing outside of the polling place — and one of them holding a nightstick — went viral and was the underpinning of a voter intimidation case brought in the waning days of the Bush administration. That case has since exploded into a political controversy for the Obama Justice Department.

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Pete Tucker responds re: Wal-Mart, Rhee & DC schools

From Pete Tucker:

I take issue with the anonymous response to my interview with Tabrian Chas Joe, a talented youth organizer in Detroit who works with B.A.M.N. Tabrian discussed Robert Bobb’s performance as the Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit Public Schools and how Bobb has partnered with private corporations like Walmart. My written piece discussed the possible impact of Bobb’s returning to the District of Columbia, where Walmart has been throwing serious money around and is looking to locate four new stores. Below are three areas of disagreement.

1. The anonymous respondent states, “I don’t see how [Tabrian] is an expert on any of this.”

Who is an “expert”? Are the “experts” only those who carry out “school reform,” but not those who are subjected to it? This will certainly lead to a skewed point of view of “school reform,” like that which can be found in both the local and national media, and nowhere more glaringly than in the pages of the Washington Post, which either owns or is an education company.

By defining “expert” so narrowly, it effectively silences any critique coming from those at the target end of these policies. That’s a shame. We all benefit from hearing different points of view. Critical to any meaningful discussion of this subject is hearing from students such as Tabrian who can offer insight into what it’s like to endure “school reform.”

It’s not just students who have been silenced, but parents and teachers as well. In D.C., you can’t be an “expert” on “school reform” unless you toe the party line put forward by the Washington Post and carried out by the mayor (first Adrian Fenty, now Vincent Gray) and schools chancellor (first Michelle Rhee, now her number two, Kaya Henderson).

“School reform” in the District of Columbia – and Tabrian described Detroit similarly – has, in fact, resulted in the disenfranchisement of huge numbers of (black) DCPS students, while benefitting some of the highest achieving (white) public school students in the country. Unfortunately, it seems that anyone who says this is, by definition, not an “expert.”

2. The anonymous respondent states, “Rhee was, according to many DC families (including us)…

quite good for the city’s schools.”

This sentence would be accurate if one word is added: “Rhee was, according to many white DC families, quite good for the city’s schools.” The recent mayoral election bore this out. The white wards went overwhelmingly for Fenty (and Rhee), while the black wards went overwhelmingly for Gray.

Unfortunately, Gray is now carrying out many of the Rhee/Fenty education policies. This is surprising since it was Gray’s opposition to these policies which resonated so strongly with voters and helped him defeat an incumbent mayor who had the backing of the Washington Post and a war chest of more than $4 million.

3. The anonymous respondent states that many teachers felt Rhee was quite good for D.C. schools.

I have found DCPS teachers to be overwhelmingly opposed to Rhee. The latest indication of this can be seen in a recent report showing 40 percent of teachers offered “bonuses” by Rhee turned them down. Why would a teacher turn down a bonus? After dealing with Rhee for three years, many DCPS teachers no longer trusted her and were worried about what rights Rhee would take away in exchange for such generosity.

In turns out, the teachers were correct to be skeptical. Just four days before the election, in her address to the award-winning teachers at an upscale event at Union Station, Rhee made no mention of the fact that teachers would have to give up certain rights in order to receive their “bonuses.” The “bonuses” were partially funded by $64.5 million in private donations, including $25 million from Walmart’s charitable foundation.