Barack Obama may as well have delivered his 5th State of the Union address to and for the Superstate Oceania, the fictional empire mired in perpetual war from George Orwell’s 1984.
No, Obama did not come directly out and tell us that war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength so much as he embodied those ideas in a nuanced, measured performance that inspired the political pundits like Chris Matthews to wax poetic like a theatre critic praising an aging stage actor who was able to find the old magic one last time.
Lee Camp and I discuss the (actual) state of the union, Obama’s “all of the above” energy policy as it relates to jobs, corporate profits and the climate crisis, and how blindly “supporting for the troops” is unhealthy for children and all other living things.
Lee Camp (bio)
Lee is comedian, writer, and activist. He is the host of the popular Moment of Clarity, which is now a video series, a book, and a full show. His stand-up comedy has garnered praise from a who’s who of comedians and activists alike.
Responding to the Oxfam report that concluded that the world’s 85 richest people own the same amount as the bottom half of the entire global population, self appointed spokesperson for the global elite, and celebrity Judge on the reality show The Shark Tank Kevin O’Leary,applauded the news, stating that is “fantastic news (…) the motivation everybody needs (…) it inspires everyone to want to be like the 1%” and scoffing at the idea of “re-distribution of wealth” stated, “ I celebrate Capitalism.”
His remarks inspire this open letter to the 85 Richest People In The World.
Dear 85 Richest People In The World,
Thank you for your time.
I’m well aware that time, in your world, is money. Given that one member of your peer group, Warren Buffett, made $37 million per day in 2013, breaking down to a mind blowing $1.5 million an hour, I image the value of the 5 minutes or so you are granting me now, depending on where you rank in your elite group of 85, is somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000.
So thank you. It means a lot.
We know that some of Mr. Buffett’s public statement’s show the possibility for a worldview, even among the rarefied air of your little 85 club, can be a little more compassionate and nuanced that the remarks of Mr. O’Leary.
In the interest of time, I’ll respond to Mr. O’Leary’s outlandish remarks in three broad areas: equity, sustainability, and wealth redistribution.
Mr. O’Leary dismisses the notion of wealth redistribution. Here in the United States, we live in one of the most unequal countries in the world, when measured in terms of wealth inequity. Are we to believe that this well documented and growing wealth divide is a random force of nature? A statistical glitch? Because you deserve it? Or is it possible, that billionaire Stanley Druckenmiller had it right in a television interview called the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program:
“[T]he biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich ever. … I mean, maybe this trickle-down monetary policy that gives money to billionaires and hopefully we go spend it is going to work. But it hasn’t worked for five years.”
Given this, help me understand how the global elite differs from pirates?
Kevin O’Leary sells us the lie that if we all just fight hard to get up to the top, we could be in your little club. Is it really your opinion that you all really work harder than the rest of us in a manner quantifiable to the skewed amount of wealth you have amassed? Can Mark Zuckerberg, or Sergei Brin any one of the Walton’s work much harder than an 11 year old kid who work 14 hour shifts in some rat infested tin shed of a factory in Bangladesh making the clothes that find their way onto the backs of every 11 year old American kid who wants to grow up to be the next Zuckerberg? You clearly cannot answer yes in good conscience. The system that requires millions of poor people working 70 hours a week to feed the fire of constant economic growth is, for this reason and scores more, not only unfair, but morally unjustifiable.
The furnace that feeds the global Corporate capitalist system is also, I think you might have heard, heating up the planet. The human species, according to 98% of climate scientists are in dire straights. Imagine yourself strapped to a conveyor belt moving slowly towards a giant band saw, while the forces of darkness are shoving cyanide coated in fruit flavored mentos down your throat and chasing it with diet coke. You see, capitalism and carbon dioxide are a lot like mentos and diet coke. The main difference is that the latter gives you viral videos; the former is accelerating the extinction of the human species.
Fear not, you notorious 85, though you are now recognized for the pirates that you are, no one I know is demanding that you walk the plank. What we do demand, however, is a system that is sustainable, and equitable that does in fact re-distribute much of the wealth you have stolen from us.
I look forward to you response. You can reach me on twitter.
Segment 1: Mid-East Mission Creeping The horrific suffering of the Syrian people must end. The United States government should have our full support in doing what it can to help ease or end the suffering. However, granting President Obama authorization to wage war with Syria, (even if you call that war an intervention, a limited strike with no boots on the ground, or simply a “strong message”) will not end the suffering in Syria, it will increase it significantly. We look at the crisis, and the alternatives, from multiple points of view outside of the binary lose-lose choice President Obama has presented to Congress, the American people, and the global community.
Segment 2: Walmart Strikes in 15 Cities Thousands of Walmart employeesplanned to strike today in cities across the United States, demanding better pay and to protest the firing of workers who previously demonstrated against the company, which, with 1.3 million workers, is the largest private employer in the country.
Segment 3: The History of the Syrian Civil War (by Joel Northam)
So now that the mainstream media has the crisis in Syria fresh in the minds of western viewers after 2 plus years of brutal and bloody conflict between a hodgepodge of forces, including Syrian popular resistance, the Syrian Army, foreign sectarian death squads, and all of their foreign backers operating vicariously through them, it’s important to quell the ever pervasive confusion among the western left that has left some virtually arguing in favor of US imperialism.
Segment 4: Was War With Syria Always in the Cards? (by Lee Camp) Perhaps the reason that John McCain was playing poker on his smart phone during the recent Senate foreign relations committee hearings as John Kerry made the case for war is that McCain knew that war with Syria was always in the cards. Comedian Lee Camp joins the Resistance Report to explain.
Segment 5: Back To School: Get Your Counter-Recruitment Kit
Rising college costs and wage stagnation in the marketplace make college a risky choice for some, and completely out of reach for many others. One group that will promise the class of 2014 a path to prosperity is the Military. Recruiters will be out in force, and like any salesperson with a quota, their pitch should is filled with myths, half-truths and lies. The National Network opposing the Militarization of Youth has assembled an impressive back to school toolkit designed, as their press release states, to provide community activists, concerned teachers, parents, and students, an up-to-date catalog of materials to counter the increasing efforts of the U.S. Department of Defense to militarize our youth in the public schools.
In defeating the grandfatherly Ken doll with the heart of a blood sucking vampire squid and his religiously radical running mate who claimed that a child conceived in the act of rape is a blessing from God, you might not want to gloat too much. To use a sports analogy, you did not so much win as the other guy lost. Even so, you never in your entire life have to run for public office again. What a weight off of your shoulders that must be!
So forgive me for being obtuse, but now that you have nothing to lose, why do you –- in the guise of this Grand Bargain you are talking about — want to author a plan that will gut social security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits while simultaneously protecting corporate welfare? That hardly seems like a bargain; that seems more like theft.
If you ditch this grand bargain idea of yours and adopt some of the principles outlined in the extraordinary document entitled The 99%’s Deficit Proposal, you will expose just how little our elected officials serve our interests. You will enjoy a popular support like never before — and even if you make a few enemies with the Wall Street crowd, who cares? Remember, you never have to run for office again.
Ditch The Grand Bargain and commence with Operation Trojan Horse!
On taxes: A tax of ½ percent on the sale of stocks bonds and derivate, is much less than the tax we pay on underwear, and yet this speculation tax would raise about $800 billion over the next decade. Want to add a trillion to that? Tax capitol gains at the same rates as income? Why should the profits from stocks that Mitt and Ann had to sell just to scrape by in college be taxed at a lower rate than the guy working construction to get himself through college?
On Social Security: We can have a fully funded social security for its 75-year planning period if we removed the outdated cap on wages subject to the social security tax of $107,000. Tax all wages and social security is fully funded. No bargain. No debate. You’re welcome.
On Medicare and Medicare: Dude, you don’t want to go down in history as undoing Medicare, do you? How about we cut the waste in Medicare and Medicaid. The for-profit middle man health insurance industry has created a pervasive culture of -– as Ralph Nader points out — over diagnosed, over-treated and erroneous or unnecessary procedures that come with a price tag in the hundreds of billions of dollars per year.
A single-payer, full Medicare for all system would cut present administrative costs in half. Canada’s system, which allows patients to freely choose their doctor and hospital, covers everyone for half of the $9000 per capita that Americans will pay this year. Our system leaves 50 million people uncovered of whom 45,000 will die this year alone due to lack of coverage, according to a peer-reviewed study by Harvard Medical School researchers.
You supported single-payer, President Obama, before your meteoric ride through the corrupted electoral process. But you’re done with that now. No more elections. So ditch your grand bargain and lead us to a grand new deal: one that reverses the decades long upward re-distribution of wealth. Don’t bargain with the elites who want to take away food stamps from 47 million Americans, and drive even more than the into poverty — a group that now numbers 30% of Americans now and yet shockingly, was not courted at all in the election cycle.
The effect of your Grand Austerity bargain will be this: more and more people will realize that graphs showing the wealth divide will continue to widen, their debt load will continue to grow and once the American Dream is revealed as a hoax, our streets will look like those of Spain, Greece, or worse. While I know you have a rainy day plan for this potential outcome in the form of a hyper-militarized police force and constitution busting laws like the NDAA in place, I don’t want to believe that that is part of your grand bargain.
There has been a class war going on in this country for decades, waged by the elite against the rest of us.
Now that you no longer have to raise money from those blood sucking vampire squids ever again, we are asking, President Obama, which side are you on?
Setting aside the statistically significant portion of those who would defend Israel’s Rumsfeldian named “Pillar of Defense” who think that the Old Testament is a real estate deed, those attempting to answer the question of whether Israel should be considered a terrorist state fall into roughly 3 categories:
1. Those who support Israel’s right to um, “defend” itself.
2. Those who think Israel should vacate their occupations and settlements and allow Palestinians the right to self-determination
3. Those who just think that violence is all so awful and it should just all go away.
A central premise of US media coverage of the Israeli attack on Gaza — beyond the claim that Israel is justifiably ‘defending itself’ — is that this is some endless conflict between two foreign entitles, and Americans can simply sit by helplessly and lament the tragedy of it all. The reality is precisely the opposite: Israeli aggression is possible only because of direct, affirmative, unstinting US diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel and everything it does.
Should you swim against the main stream and sympathize with the people in Gaza, Gilad Sharon, the son of former prime minister Ariel Sharon, wants you to consider this:
We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too. There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing.
One must tip their cap to the sophisticated rhetorical device Sharon employees in equating the way forward for Isreal with the grandest and most dramatic expression of US foreign policy. How can flattening Gaza be wrong, if Hiroshima and Nagasaki were so right? Flattening Gaza could even be viewed as humane, the way one kills a horse with a broken leg, by the portion of the world’s population that already accepts as matter of fact and morally justified the slow asphyxiation imposed on the 1.6 million Palestinians by Israel.
In the new global landscape, as in Israel’s occupied territories and the United States’ own imperial projects in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, massacres of thousands of defenseless innocents are labeled wars. Resistance is called a provocation, terrorism or a crime against humanity. The rule of law, as well as respect for the most basic civil liberties and the right of self-determination, is a public relations fiction used to placate the consciences of those who live in the zones of privilege.
What is happening in Gaza is not a war. You can call it apartheid, genocide, and you could certainly, and correctly in my book, call Israel, as they defy International law and almost 100 UN security resolutions calling for them to withdraw from occupied land — a terrorist state.
You could, and perhaps you should, go further in labeling the United States as not only as the Alpha terrorist state herself, but as a sponsor of the state terrorism of Israel for supplying military arms, aid, and a philosophy of Imperialism that gives birth to a double speak turning offense into defense quicker than the Israeli defense forces turn Palestinian children into corpses.
This morning, a federal appeals court in Boston ruled that the 1996 law that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman – the Defense of Marriage Act, is unconstitutional because it deprives gay couples of the rights and privileges granted to heterosexual couples.
Oh, how I do enjoy the culture wars where victories mean we don’t have to kill people – like in actual wars – we just get to kill knuckle dragging, regressive ideas.
If you are among the minority of people who feels that marriage (as defined legally) should consist of a union between a man and a woman, know that public opinion is shifting so fast on this issue that soon enough you’ll be forced into the closet with your views.
And in the closet you can stay.
If it gets too lonely in the closet, you might occasionally venture out, under the cover of night where maybe you can cruise the park and find other hate mongers to commiserate with, and the anonymous, fleeting nature of your exchange might save you from the ridicule of your peers, who have jumped onto the wave of progress and are threatened not by the intimate acts and lifelong commitments between consenting adults.
If your argument for denying rights to homosexuals rests on any scholarship found in a book of laws written by an all knowing creator of the universe, then fine- bully for you- I’m sure there is a club of like people in your neighborhood where a man in a dress who has taken a vow of celibacy (alter boys don’t count!) will join you and yours in holy matrimony- and that is just great- nobody is taking that blessed event away from you.
But after you do your thing in the church, it isn’t legal until you go to court and sign a contract.
The argument that if Adam and Steve can be openly and legally married will somehow tarnish the integrity of their neighbors hetero marriage is part of a broader picture wherein people cling to an idealized picture of the world that recalls Norman Rockwell, LEAVE IT TO BEAVER and the smell of moth balls. It was a simpler time, right before the 1st season of MAD MEN, where women did what they were told, and men did whatever they wanted and gay people did their best to become invisible. Sure, some of had an aunt Edna, who moved away and lived with her “friend” Alice but they never went anywhere as a couple, did they?
There are many who were killed because they were gay. Matthew Sheppard was beaten, tortured and strung up on a fence and left there to die because a real man was so enraged that he was gay. The defenders of the defenders of marriage act may never give physical agency to that kind of rage, but their brand of hatred springs from the same putrid, poisoned well. If you are infected with this rage, if you are foolish enough to defend the defense of marriage act my advice to you is keep it in the closet.
The state of the Union is like the Super Bowl for political junkies, and in this, a presidential election year, it drew a high percentages of viewers whose blood pressure does not rise and fall with the results of the latest Rasmussen poll because they have better things to do than spend the rest of their year combing through the blogosphere searching for inaccuracies, redundancies and conspiracies.
It is for that audience then, that I created the following list: The top 10 sub textual Themes in Obama’s 2012 State of the Union. Remember, these are things that you will NOT hear spoken, or read in any transcript, but these are the sub textual messages between the lines that came clearly out of President Obama’s mouth:
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