Change will come from us, when and where it comes…

It’s 19° here in DC this morning, where I will be joining some six or seven digit number of people outside for the inauguration. Washington is an old hometown to me, but it does have a different feel when it’s claimed as a front yard by people from across the country. Walking around last night, I saw more people on the street than I ever have, black folks selling “I was there” sweatshirts, and other black folks dressed to the nines out partying, a big time reception or three in different night spots, people dressed to be dropped off in limos (and clearly used to that too) walking through the cold because of the security perimeter, and a cleared out and brightly lit Pennsylvania Ave. surrounded by security fencing but nonetheless open to the public.

And in the past month, I’ve seen a disastrous war, bought, paid for, armed, and endorsed by my country but carried out in Gaza. I’ve called my black, Democratic Congressman from Brooklyn, Ed Towns, only to hear the exact Israeli line from his legislative aide, calling the deadliest assault in Palestine in three decades an act of “self defense.” Now over 1300 people are dead, and 50,000 are homeless.

I’ve also seen on video a black man shot in the back in Oakland, while waiting to be cuffed by BART police. And Oakland was my city, and New Year’s is my holiday in the Bay, and I had helped break up a fight earlier in the week, so I can sure imagine being swept up when the cops arrived. Oscar Grant could have been me.

These causes for despair can be healed, but it will be us, our actions that heal them by standing up and challenging injustice. I’m proud of so many people for standing up to these two in recent weeks (on Gaza | on Oscar Grant). They are what I have to celebrate today.

A couple months ago, I signed on to a call for a Bloc to be present at today’s inauguration called “Celebrate People’s History, Build Popular Power.” Given today’s mega-concert like feel, it might not be the action with the greatest impact. But I’m grateful for a way to set myself a bit apart today, to say the words “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” in a way that can never be the same as listening to the same words. To make the future we want, we all need to produce rather than consume our politics. See you in the streets, celebrating and fighting.

The dangers of financial shock therapy…

A week ago Saturday, when the preparation of Sarah Palin to be vice president seemed like the central political issue, I heard Naomi Klein, among others talk about the presidential campaign. Like any good writer with a recent book, she offered a capsule summary of the shock doctrine. Instead of getting into the detail, I let the amazing director Alfonso Cuarón do it for you.

Whether or not you’ve caught up with the details of the crisis in the financial markets or the Wall Street bailout, keep one eye on the political game being played here. After a week of downtown Manhattan traders whipsawing the market (with a net loss of less than 1%), an emergency measure is proposed, on a scale larger than anything we’ve ever seen in our lifetime (think the full price of the Iraq war being proposed up front). This is classic shock politics. And it doesn’t end today, it transfers the risk and the loss from Wall Street banks to the US Treasury in the form of new debt. Klein argues on Real Time with Bill Maher:

The disaster is far from over. They’ve actually just relocated the disaster. The disaster was on Wall Street and they have moved the disaster to Main Street by accepting those debts. … The bomb has yet to detonate, the bomb is the debt that has now been transferred to the taxpayers. So it detonates when — if John McCain becomes president, in the midst of an economic crisis, and says, “Look, we’re in trouble, We’ve got a disaster on our hands. We have to privatize social security; we can’t afford healthcare; we can’t afford food stamps. We need more deregulation, more privatization. You know the thesis of the Shock Doctrine is that you need a disaster to rationalize putting through these policies.”

And it’s not just McCain who might try some kind of emergency pullback around the debt. Those of us who were hopefully watching the president from Hope, Arkansas, saw this whole story in 1992:

It was in the two and a half months between winning the 1992 election and being sworn into office that Bill Clinton did a U-turn on the economy. He had campaigned promising to revise NAFTA, adding labor and environmental provisions and to invest in social programs. But two weeks before his inauguration, he met with then-Goldman Sachs chief Robert Rubin, who convinced him of the urgency of embracing austerity and more liberalization. Rubin told PBS, “President Clinton actually made the decision before he stepped into the Oval Office, during the transition, on what was a dramatic change in economic policy.”

The narrative is from Klein again, who warns that Barack Obama has his own Chicago Boys advising his economic policies. And right on cue, Mr. Hope is announcing the bailout “will likely postpone his sweeping proposals on healthcare, education, alternative energy, and other priorities.”