Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Chickens come home to roost

Various critics from both the political left and the political right have taken aim at the Reverend Jeremiah Wright for his so-called "incendiary" remarks. It seems some of the critics are now convinced that he is trying to back off from his rhetoric imputing his words onto comments former Ambassador Peck in a Fox news interview from September, 2001.

I've read and re-read the transcript of Wright's interview with Bill Moyers, and also read the transcript of an appearance before the Press Club.

A lot of shrillness is in the air, but little worthwhile analysis. A fair amount of work is required to develop a meaningful context. Reverend Wright is serious, intelligent, thoughtful, plain spoken, out-spoken, focused, direct, honest, passionate and compassionate and unwavering in his integrity.

Sing a Psalm of vengeance (we all need a little context):

Psalm 137:

8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator!b
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!

9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!

This text of this Psalm lay at the core of Jeremiah Wright's sermon the Sunday following 11 September 2001. Wright uses this Psalm to try to explain to his congregation just where God was in all this carnage. He provides Bill Moyer with some background:

September 11th, I was in Newark. September 11th, I was trapped in Newark 'cause when they shut down the air system I couldn't get back to Chicago. September 11th, I looked out the window and saw the second plane hit from my hotel window.

Alright, I had members who lost loved ones both at the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center. So, I know the pain. And I had to preach to them Sunday. I had to preach. They came to church wanting to know where is God in this.

And so, I had to show them using that Psalm 137, how the people who were carried away into slavery were very angry, very bitter, moved and in their anger from wanting revenge against the armies that had carried them away to slavery, to the babies. That Psalm ends up sayin' "Let's kill the baby-let's bash their heads against the stone."

So, now you move from revolt and revulsion as to what has happened to you, to you want revenge. You move from anger with the military to taking it out on the innocents. You wanna kill babies. That's what's going on in Psalm 137.

And that's exactly where we are. We want revenge. They wanted revenge.

God doesn't wanna leave you there, however. God wants redemption. God wants wholeness. And that's the context, the biblical context I used to try to get people sitting again, in that sanctuary on that Sunday following 9/11, who wanted to know where is God in this?

What is God saying? What is God saying? Because I want revenge.

The Moyers interview then cuts to sermon tape from which the 20 second sound bites have been looped round and round - clever propaganda to promote a talking point. We owe it to ourselves to be better informed, to be slow to judgment.

REVEREND WRIGHT (SERMON TAPE): The people of faith have moved from the hatred of armed enemies, these soldiers who captured the king, those soldiers who slaughtered his son and put his eyes out, the soldiers who sacked the city, burned the towns, burned the temples, burned the towers, and moved from the hatred for armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents, the babies, the babies .

"Blessed are they who dash your baby's brains against a rock."

And that my beloved is a dangerous place to be.

Yet, that is where the people of faith are in 551 BC and that is where far too many people of faith are in 2001 AD.

We have moved from the hatred of armed enemies to the hatred of unarmed innocents. We want revenge. We want paybacks and we don't care who gets hurt in the process.

Wright now explains what further led him to this sermon, what inspired the words that are soon to be spoken:

I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday. Did anybody else see him or hear him? He was on Fox news. This is a white man and he was upsetting the Fox news commentators to no end. He pointed out. You see him John? A white man he pointed out -an Ambassador!

He pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true. America's chickens are coming home to roost!

Reverend Wright's thoughts flow seamlessly from one event to another, events separated by 2550 years (the Hebrew Diaspora by the Babylonians of 551 BC and 9-11-2001).

And they flow to the truth known to W. H. Auden and to Malcolm X.

I and the public know
What all school children learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.

Malcolm X responded to a request to say something about the assassination of President Kennedy: "America's chickens are coming home to roost!" In response to the ensuing public/editorial outrage, Elijah Muhammad ordered Malcolm to be silent for 90 days.

Fox News advises us that they have looked at the transcripts of the Peck interview and nowhere find the phrase "chickens are coming home to roost". While telling us exactly what was not said, they fail to tell us what in fact WAS said.

Following the flow of thought, Reverend Wright is NOT crediting former Ambassador Peck with having made the "chickens coming home to roost" comment. But that Peck enumerated U.S. policy decisions in Iraq, Panama, Granada, and Haiti that resulted in the deaths of many innocents.

The closest documentation to what the Peck statements that resonated with Wright appears in a yahoo.com discussion group email dated Sept . 15, 2001:

Did anyone else catch this on Sat.?

Peck has served as U.S. ambassador to Iraq, I don't recall when.

Channel 5 made the mistake of bringing him on as a talking head.

He said the U.S. never slammed a plane into thousands of innocent civilians because the U.S. didn't have to.

He said the U.S. in its war against terror had better start respecting others' rights.

He said the no-fly zone in Iraq was not in the UN agreement that ended Desert Storm; it was simply imposed by the U.S. and "the former Great Britain."

He said the U.S. lawlesly imposed its will on Panama, Granada and Haiti.

The Ch. 5 guy got on his high horse and said people like Chamberlain in WW II had followed the letter of the law and let the madman Hitler go on, but Peck stuck to his guns. He must figure he's old now and will risk his life to speak the truth -- a sentiment I well understand.

In an essay entitled "Nothing Will Ever be the Same" Paul Krassner paraphrases from Ambassador Peck's Fox news appearance, noting that Peck was unceremonious dismissal. Krassner makes note of a list of examples Peck had given:

On the Fox News Network, Edward Peck, former ambassador to Iraq,

was an unusually outspoken guest. He said the terrorists acted as

they did not because America is a freedom loving country, but because

they feel the U.S. has been treating them the same way throughout

the years--bombing Iraq for the last ten years whenever they felt

like it--and adding to the list (Take Panama, take Haiti, take Cambodia)

before he was cut off and dismissed.

Some who saw the Peck interview were outraged:

It is difficult to believe that Mr. Peters and I heard the same Fox News interview with the former ambassador to Mauretania, Edward Peck ("Tilting at Windmills," October 2001). Instead of the mentioned contempt exhibited by David Asman, the interviewer, I felt that Mr. Peck was treated with admirable restraint, considering that his views could be considered highly inimical to the U.S., particularly in the aftermath of the atrocities at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Mr. Peck blamed the U.S. for perceived transgressions against Iraq. His claim that the U.S. constantly violates Iraqi territory by monitoring flights over that nation ignores the conditions of the agreement that ended the Persian Gulf conflict allowing such overflights.

Silver Spring, Md.

Washington Monthly – Dec 2001

Reverend Wright now continues with his own jeremiad, recitations of terrorist U.S. government acts against a raft of peoples, over centuries, and across continents. These are NOT identical to the instances cited by Peck. They are however, illustrations depicting a pattern of violent aggression, death, and destruction.

We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, the Arawak, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism!

We took Africans from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism!

We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenagers and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard-working fathers.

We bombed Gadafi's home and killed his child.

"Blessed are they who bash your children's head against a rock!"

We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living.

We bombed a plant in Sudan to payback for the attack on our embassy. Killed hundreds of hard-working people; mothers and fathers who left home to go that day, not knowing that they would never get back home.

We bombed Hiroshima! We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye! Kids playing in the playground, mothers picking up children after school, civilians - not soldiers - people just trying to make it day by day.

We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and Black South Africans, and now we are indignant?

Because the stuff we have done overseas has now been brought back into our own front yards! America's chickens are coming home to roost!

Violence begets violence.

Hatred begets hatred and terrorism begets terrorism.

A White Ambassador said that y'all not a Black Militant. Not a Reverend who preaches about racism. An Ambassador whose eyes are wide open, and who's trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised--

Ambassador Peck has been consistent in his criticisms of U.S. foreign policy. In an interview with Amy Goodman, he reiterated the theme of U.S. government terrorism:

Speaking in July 2006 to syndicated US radio news programme Democracy Now!, Peck said that:

“In 1985, when I was the Deputy Director of the Reagan White House Task Force on Terrorism, they asked us — this is a Cabinet Task Force on Terrorism; I was the Deputy Director of the working group — they asked us to come up with a definition of terrorism that could be used throughout the government. We produced about six, and each and every case, they were rejected, because careful reading would indicate that our own country had been involved in some of those activities.

So what is it that the White Ambassador (and not a Black militant) said? An ambassador who's trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised?

Violence begets violence.

Hatred begets hatred and terrorism begets terrorism; (or in other words)

Those to whom evil is done

Do evil in return; (or in other words)

America's chickens are coming home to roost!

(added June 30, 2008): Sometimes one picture is worth one thousand words.

Monday, April 28, 2008

When does a "recession" become a "depression"?

The New York Times reports on another U.S. "surge"

The price of household necessities has surged, with milk topping $4 a gallon in many stores and regular gasoline closing in on $3.60 a gallon nationwide.

Home prices are sliding, wages are stagnant, job losses are growing and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index, a broad measure of stock performance, is down 6 percent in the last year. So consumers are going on a recession diet.

Burt Flickinger, a longtime retail consultant, said the last time he saw such significant changes in consumer buying patterns was the late 1970s, when runaway inflation prompted Americans to “switch from red meat to pork to poultry to pasta — then to peanut butter and jelly.”

It hasn’t gotten to human food mixed with pet food yet,” he said, “but it is certainly headed in that direction.”

The consumer market for the following products looks lots different from that market that buys human foods, cereals, peanut butter, and spaghetti:

By no means has the economic downturn been bad for all product categories. For instance, sales of big-ticket electronics, like $1,000 flat-panel televisions and $300 video game systems, are on the rise, according to retailers and research firms.


(In a survey conducted this month by the NPD Group, a research firm, consumers suggested that they would sooner cut spending on clothing, furniture and eating out than on video games.)


Smile, Holly, you're on candid camera:

As the compromises mount, people are even coming up with clever schemes to hide their cost-cutting.

Holly Levitsky, a 56-year-old supermarket cashier in Cleveland, buys a brand of steak sauce called Briargate for 85 cents and surreptitiously pours it into an A1 steak sauce bottle she keeps at home.

“My husband can’t even tell the difference,” she said.

[Until somebody shows him your name in a NYT article, Holly]

Evading basic American realities

Paradox, blogging at The Left Coaster, posts a jeremiad which cuts deeply to many truths

The gross evasion to many basic realities in American politics has been much on my mind lately, ... the implacable insistence for denial and fantasy so pervasive in our politics.


First and foremost in our denial and fantasy is our great crushing militarism. We are a nation of weapons, wars and death, an amazingly wealthy nation spending half its discretionary spending on instruments of maiming and destruction! Not only is this insanity robbing us of desperately needed social investment, it’s perverted our planetary morals and goals.

... the disastrous fantasy of American militarism will rage on unabated in 2009


Our second great happy whistle in the dark is the irrevocable fact that the current Executive leadership of the United States is rankly criminal. ... yet none of these plain facts are ever openly stated anywhere, save liberal blogs.

... If Clinton or Obama were brave enough to press the fight for prosecutions right now, would the American propaganda machine ... strangle them for it? We’ll never know, understandably neither of them are going to take the catastrophic risks necessary for such truth, so our march of oblivion under terribly harmful criminals grinds on unabated.

The third great tier of denial for modern America is her new Gilded Age, through forty years of fanatic Republican lying about taxation and quack economics we now have a super-class of incredible wealth, the top 1% now hoard a crushing load of resources that should be shared but no one ever talks about.


Clinton or Obama will win the general election, when American troops are dead for lies in losing wars with an economy gone to hell not even all the denial of the universe could elect John McCain. How much of our current public fantasy of militarism, criminality and inequality will be yanked back to reality once President Clinton or Obama is elected? A lot more than they let on now, it is fervently hoped.

There is no certainty of a democratic candidate winning the general election in 2008 (nor winning the electoral college). Should a democratic candidate win the presidency - one hopes that current and long held fantasies would be returned to reality - but such hope rests on the assumption of top-down change.

Top-down change requires more than one sector from the powers that direct national policy - international corporate elites, international financial elites, wealthy elites, and their minions (the political elites and the TV/Radio/Newspaper opinions makers, the military and law-enforcement apparatus) to believe that the threat of bottom-up change (which historically has been quite violent) must be fended off with sufficient cosmetic alterations to provide the appearance of "change".

Which reminds me of Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. navy (retired) recent sage observation that for ONCE this President has gotten something right, that al-Qaeda and Iran are America's biggest foreign threats:

... as significant foreign enemies go, Iran and al-Qaeda are about it: a country with a gross domestic product and defense budget barely six percent of America’s, and an “organization” with no economy or navy or air force at all, and no proper army to speak of.

Mr. Bush was telling us, in the Freudian fashion he so often utilizes, that the enemies we really need to worry about are of the domestic variety.

The more likely top-down change to be wrought is an evermore encompassing 21st century witch hunt/inquisition to save "US" from the domestic enemies (commies <--> liberals; fags <--> intellectuals; pinkos <--> women; and of course, terrorists <--> peoples of color [which, since one can't be sure if they are citizens or not, for safety's lock 'em all up [in a less enlightened time, it would have been kill them all as preventative, since God would know His own] and put 'em to work, slave labor devolving into the ultimate capitalist goal: maximize profits by minimizing labor costs.)

The mechanisms are in place. Just remember to pay the phone bills to re implement FISA to spy on "domestic enemies." The judges have been appointed (as was the President in 2000) to spare corporations and police the legal consequences of their crimes.

It is in dealing with "domestic enemies" that the recent verdict to acquit of all charges the three New York City police officers who killed the unarmed Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets makes complete "sense":
Before announcing the verdict, the judge made a statement indicating that the police officers' version of events was more credible than the victims' version. "The people have not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that each defendant was not justified" in shooting the victims, Cooperman said.
Shooting 31, 10 and 4 bullets apiece, having opened fire, the officers believed that they themselves were under fire.

The witnesses for the prosecution had criminal records, and thus was the officers' testimony more credible to the judge. The officers did not take the stand.