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TLogan's Political Blog





Updated: 2014-10-04T20:05:07.521-07:00

 



Subprime Suspects

2008-10-10T07:59:27.222-07:00




The Obama I Know

2008-10-05T09:17:06.994-07:00




Moyers interviews Bacevich

2008-10-04T09:27:21.026-07:00




Ronald Reagan: Fiscal Disaster

2008-09-17T06:55:11.081-07:00

Hale "Bonddad" Stewart BIO Become a Fan Get Email Alerts Similar Bloggers Ronald Reagan: Fiscal Disaster Posted January 20, 2008 | 12:14 PM (EST) Read More: Balanced Budget, Economy, Fiscal Responsibility, Reagan, Reaganomics, Ronald Reagan, Breaking Business News There's been a great deal of back of forth about Clinton and Obama and what they have said about Reagan. Personally, I've missed most of it. Being a stock market person I've been a little preoccupied over the last few weeks. But, I think it's time to chime in on the debate because the underlying facts -- those pesky things -- aren't very flattering to Reagan. In fact, the facts -- again, those pesky annoying things -- indicate that Reagan was a complete and total fiscal disaster. EmailPrintComment | posted 02:06 pm on 01/21/2008 Garvagh (See profile | I'm a fan of Garvagh) Great piece! St. Ronnie was a shill for the armaments manufacturers, and wanted a 600 capital ship navy when it was clear the Soviet Union was heading toward collapse and the vastly expensive fleet would be largely useless.Ditto with the ABM system (which Bush wants). [...]



Why We're Losing the War on Terror

2007-09-11T21:45:01.044-07:00

Why We're Losing the War on Terror By David Cole and Jules Lobel The Nation September 24, 2007 Issue President George W. Bush is fond of reminding us that no terrorist attacks have occurred on domestic soil since 9/11. But has the Administration's "war on terror" actually made us safer? According to the July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate, Al Qaeda has fully reconstituted itself in Pakistan's northern border region. Terrorist attacks worldwide have grown dramatically in frequency and lethality since 2001. New terrorist groups, from Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia to the small groups of young men who bombed subways and buses in London and Madrid, have multiplied since 9/11. Meanwhile, despite the Bush Administration's boasts, the total number of people it has convicted of engaging in a terrorist act since 9/11 is one (Richard Reid, the shoe bomber). Nonetheless, leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton claims that we are safer. Republican candidate Rudy Giuliani warns that "the next election is about whether we go back on defense against terrorism ... or are we going to go on offense." And Democrats largely respond by insisting that they, too, would "go on offense." Few have asked whether "going on offense" actually works as a counterterrorism strategy. It doesn't. The Bush strategy has been a colossal failure, not only in terms of constitutional principle but in terms of national security. It turns out that in fighting terrorism, the best defense is not a good offense but a smarter defense. "Going on offense," or the "paradigm of prevention," as then-Attorney General John Ashcroft dubbed it, has touched all of us. Some, like Canadian Maher Arar, have been rendered to third countries (in his case, Syria) to be interrogated by security services known for torture. Others have been subjected to months of virtually nonstop questioning, sexual abuse, waterboarding and injections with intravenous fluids until they urinate on themselves. Still others, like KindHearts, an American charity in Toledo, Ohio, have had their assets frozen under the USA Patriot Act and all their records seized without so much as a charge, much less a finding, of wrongdoing. In the name of the "preventive paradigm," thousands of Arab and Muslim immigrants have been singled out, essentially on the basis of their ethnicity or religion, for special treatment, including mandatory registration, FBI interviews and preventive detention. Businesses have been served with more than 100,000 "national security letters," which permit the FBI to demand records on customers without a court order or individualized basis for suspicion. We have all been subjected to unprecedented secrecy about what elected officials are doing in our name while simultaneously suffering unprecedented official intrusion into our private lives by increased video surveillance, warrantless wiretapping and data-mining. Most tragically, more than 3,700 Americans and more than 70,000 Iraqi civilians have given their lives for the "preventive paradigm," which was used to justify going to war against a country that had not attacked us and posed no imminent threat of attack. The preventive paradigm had its genesis on September 12, 2001. In Bush at War, Bob Woodward recounts a White House meeting in which FBI Director Robert Mueller advised that authorities must take care not to taint evidence in seeking 9/11 accomplices so that they could eventually be held accountable. Ashcroft immediately objected, saying, "The chief mission of US law enforcement ... is to stop another attack and apprehend any accomplices.... If we can't bring them to trial, so be it." Ever since, the "war on terror" has been characterized by highly coercive, "forward-looking" pre-emptive measures-warrantless wiretapping, detention, [...]



The New Vision

2007-08-09T07:20:25.701-07:00

The New Vision: The Speech I Want the Democratic Nominee to Give By Theodore C. Sorensen The Washington Monthly July/August 2007 Issue On the 15th of July, 1960, Senator John F. Kennedy accepted his party's presidential nomination at the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. In his remarks, made at a moment of high tension in the cold war, Kennedy asserted that the United States was at "a turning point in history" and called on his listeners to be "pioneers" in a "New Frontier" of "uncharted areas of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus." Collaborating with Kennedy on the speech was a thirty-two-year-old aide named Theodore C. Sorensen, to whom Kennedy was known to refer as his "intellectual blood bank." With Sorensen's help, Kennedy would earn a reputation as one of American history's great orators and provide a bold new vision for the nation. Today, we are at another moment of high tension, the result of a disastrous war abroad and division and drift at home. Like Kennedy, the next Democratic nominee, whoever he or she might be, will have a similar opportunity to form a new vision for America and to reestablish its moral leadership in the world. To encourage such boldness of thinking, we, too, tapped Kennedy's intellectual blood bank. We called Theodore C. Sorensen and asked him to write the speech he would most want the next Democratic nominee to give at the party convention in Denver in August 2008. We requested that he proceed with no candidate in mind and that he give no consideration to expediency or tactics-in other words, that he write the speech of his dreams. Here is the speech he sent us. My fellow Democrats: With high resolve and deep gratitude, I accept your nomination. It has been a long campaign - too long, too expensive, with too much media attention on matters irrelevant to our nation's future. I salute each of my worthy opponents for conducting a clean fifty-state campaign focusing on the real issues facing our nation, including health care, the public debt burden, energy independence, and national security, a campaign testing not merely which of us could raise and spend the most money but who among us could best lead our country; a campaign not ignoring controversial issues like taxation, immigration, fuel conservation, and the Middle East, but conducting, in essence, a great debate-because our party, unlike our opposition, believes that a free country is strengthened by debate. There will be more debates this fall. I hereby notify my Republican opponent that I have purchased ninety minutes of national network television time for each of the six Sunday evenings preceding the presidential election, and here and now invite and challenge him to share that time with me to debate the most serious issues facing the country, under rules to be agreed upon by our respective designees meeting this week with a neutral jointly selected statesman. Let me assure all those who may disagree with my positions that I shall hear and respect their views, not denounce them as unpatriotic as has so often happened in recent years. I will wage a campaign that relies not on the usual fear, smear, and greed but on the hopes and pride of all our citizens in a nationwide effort to restore comity, common sense, and competence to the White House. In this campaign, I will make no promises I cannot fulfill, pledge no spending we cannot afford, offer no posts to cronies you cannot trust, and propose no foreign commitment we should not keep. I will not shrink from opposing any party faction, any special interest group, or any major donor whose demands are contrary to the national interest. Nor will I shrink from calling myself a[...]



The Way to Go in Iraq

2007-07-19T09:19:16.542-07:00

The Way to Go in Iraq By Peter Galbraith TomDispatch.com Tuesday 17 July 2007 This essay appears in the August 16th, 2007 issue of the New York Review of Books and is posted here with the kind permission of the editors of that magazine. 1. On May 30, the Coalition held a ceremony in the Kurdistan town of Erbil to mark its handover of security in Iraq's three Kurdish provinces from the Coalition to the Iraqi government. General Benjamin Mixon, the U.S. commander for northern Iraq, praised the Iraqi government for overseeing all aspects of the handover. And he drew attention to the "benchmark" now achieved: with the handover, he said, Iraqis now controlled security in seven of Iraq's eighteen provinces. In fact, nothing was handed over. The only Coalition force in Kurdistan is the peshmerga, a disciplined army that fought alongside the Americans in the 2003 campaign to oust Saddam Hussein and is loyal to the Kurdistan government in Erbil. The peshmerga provided security in the three Kurdish provinces before the handover and after. The Iraqi army has not been on Kurdistan's territory since 1996 and is effectively prohibited from being there. Nor did the Iraqi flag fly at the ceremony. It is banned in Kurdistan. Although the Erbil handover was a sham that Prince Potemkin might have admired, it was not easily arranged. The Bush administration had wanted the handover to take place before the U.S. congressional elections in November. But it also wanted an Iraqi flag flown at the ceremony and some acknowledgement that Iraq, not Kurdistan, was in charge. The Kurds were prepared to include a reference to Iraq in the ceremony, but they were adamant that there be no Iraqi flags. It took months to work out a compromise ceremony with no flags at all. Thus the ceremony was followed by a military parade without a single flag - an event so unusual that one observer thought it might merit mention in Ripley's Believe it or Not. Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi national security adviser, attended the ceremony alongside Kurdistan's prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, but the Iraqi government had no part in supervising the nonexistent handover. While General Mixon, a highly regarded strategist with excellent ties to the Kurds, had no choice but to make the remarks he did, Mowaffak al-Rubaie acknowledged Kurdistan's distinct nature and the right of the Kurds - approximately six million people, or some 20% of Iraq's population - to chart their own course. On July 12, the White House released a congressionally mandated report on progress in Iraq. As with the sham handover, the report reflected the administration's desperate search for indicators of progress since it began its "surge" by sending five additional combat brigades to the country in February 2007. In recent months the Bush administration and its advocates have been promoting the success of the surge in reducing sectarian killing in Baghdad and achieving a turnaround in Anbar province, where former Sunni insurgents are signing up with local militias to fight al-Qaeda. Although reliable statistics about Iraq are notoriously hard to come by it does appear that the overall civilian death toll in Baghdad has declined from its pre-surge peak, although it is still at the extremely high levels of the summer of 2006. Moreover, the number of unidentified bodies - usually the victims of Shiite death squads - has risen in May and June to pre-surge levels. How much of the modest decline in civilian deaths in Baghdad is attributable to the surge is not knowable, nor is there any way to know if it will last. The developments in Anbar are more significant. Tribesmen who had been attacking U.S. troops in support of the insurgency are now taking U.S. weapons to fight al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremists. Unfortunately, the Sunni fundamentalists are not the only enemy of these new U.S.-spo[...]



0 Comments

2007-07-12T08:46:17.966-07:00

Planet Pentagon: How the Pentagon Came to Own the Earth, Seas, and Skies By Nick Turse TomDispatch.com Wednesday 11 July 2007 Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on a proposal, championed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq in exchange for bipartisan Congressional support for the long-term (read: more or less permanent) garrisoning of that country. The troops are to be tucked away on "large bases far from Iraq's major cities." This plan sounded suspiciously similar to one revealed by Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt in the New York Times on April 19, 2003, just as U.S. troops were preparing to enter Baghdad. Headlined "Pentagon Expects Long-Term Access to Four Key Bases in Iraq," it laid out a U.S. plan for: a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to…. perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north. Shortly thereafter, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, denied any such plans: "I have never, that I can recall, heard the subject of a permanent base in Iraq discussed in any meeting…" – and, while the bases were being built, the story largely disappeared from the mainstream media. Even with the multi-square mile, multi-billion dollar, state-of-the-art Balad Air Base and Camp Victory thrown in, however, the bases in Gates' new plan will be but a drop in the bucket for an organization that may well be the world's largest landlord. For many years, the U.S. military has been gobbling up large swaths of the planet and huge amounts of just about everything on (or in) it. So, with the latest Pentagon Iraq plans in mind, take a quick spin with me around this Pentagon planet of ours. Garrisoning the Globe In 2003, Forbes magazine revealed that media mogul Ted Turner was America's top land baron - with a total of 1.8 million acres across the U.S. The nation's ten largest landowners, Forbes reported, "own 10.6 million acres, or one out of every 217 acres in the country." Impressive as this total was, the Pentagon puts Turner and the entire pack of mega-landlords to shame with over 29 million acres in U.S. landholdings. Abroad, the Pentagon's "footprint" is also that of a giant. For example, the Department of Defense controls 20% of the Japanese island of Okinawa and, according to Stars and Stripes, "owns about 25 percent of Guam." Mere land ownership, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. In his 2004 book, The Sorrows of Empire, Chalmers Johnson opened the world's eyes to the size of the Pentagon's global footprint, noting that the Department of Defense (DoD) was deploying nearly 255,000 military personnel at 725 bases in 38 countries. Since then, the total number of overseas bases has increased to at least 766 and, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service, may actually be as high as 850. Still, even these numbers don't begin to capture the global sprawl of the organization that unabashedly refers to itself as "one of the world's largest ‘landlords.'" The DoD's "real property portfolio," according to 2006 figures, consists of a total of 3,731 sites. Over 20% of these sites are located on more than 711,000 acres outside of the U.S. and its territories. Yet even these numbers turn out to be a drastic undercount. For example, while a 2005 Pentagon report listed U.S. military sites from Antigua and Hong Kong to Kenya and Peru, some countries with significant numbers of U.S. bases go entirely unmentioned - Afghanistan and Iraq, for example. In Iraq, alone, in mid-2005, [...]



Canadian Health Care System

2007-07-07T13:07:07.949-07:00

Worldbusiness, September/October 1995, 19 All Better Now U.S. lobbies notwithstanding, Canada’s health care is superior By Diane Francis Among the health care systems of the world’s wealthiest industrialized countries, the United States’ is the most expensive; even worse, it fails to provide health care for all Americans. Canada, on the other hand, provides excellent, comprehensive coverage to all of its citizens. Its system, administered jointly by the federal government and the twelve provincial governments, provides Canadian business with an enormous competitive advantage. And yet vested interests in the United States-including doctors, privately owned health care facilities, and insurance companies-have lobbied against government systems such as Canada’s. They say that Canadians must wait months for procedures. This is simply not the case. They would also have Americans believe that Canadian hospitals are second-rate, and that Canadian physicians are poorly trained. These are also not so. The same type of lobbying took place in Canada in the late 1960s, when the government-run plan was first implemented. It is interesting to note that Vice President Al Gore became a fan of Canada’s health system after his seriously brain-injured son was successfully operated on in Toronto by one of the world’s best neurosurgical pediatrics teams. A look at the facts leaves little doubt that the Canadian system is superior. An average of 6.3 out of every 1,000 babies born die before the age of 1 in Canada, as opposed to 8.3 in the United States. Life expectancies in Canada are 81 years for women and 74.5 for men, compared with 78.9 and 72.1 years, respectively, in the United States. Yet the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international monitoring group, reports that while Canada spends just 10.2 percent of its gross domestic product on health care services for all its citizens, the United States spends 14.1 percent and still has millions of citizens with inadequate or nonexistent coverage. It isn’t just the individual that benefits from Canada’s comprehensive health program. The Canadian system affords business many advantages, including reduced employee costs and an expanded, healthier labor pool. According to a March 1995 study by KPMG Peat Marwick called “A Comparison of Business Costs in Canada and the United States,” Canadian employers spend less on employersponsored benefits than their American counterparts. “Costs for hospital, surgical, medical and major medical insurance premiums are the prime reason for the difference in costs,” the study says. “These insurance premiums represent a cost of 8.2% of gross pay in the United States compared with 1.0% in Canada.” Unlike in the United States, Canadian health coverage is not tied to welfare benefits; unskilled workers can take low-paying entry-level jobs without fear of losing access to government-paid health care. This removes the possibility of creating an entrenched underclass with health problems who are handcuffed to welfare because of medical-cost issues. Businesses in Canada are also able to hire workers regardless of their health history. This is particularly important when it comes to using the talents and efforts of senior citizens, or people with chronic illnesses. Canadian workers aren’t trapped in dead-end or unsatisfactory jobs because they are afraid of losing company-provided health benefits. Reduced labor costs are not the only corporate benefit of the Canadian system. Individuals rarely file the type of highstakes personal injury lawsuits commonly seen in the United States. Because all citizens are guaranteed quality medical care, catastrophic medical expenses, generally the largest component of a settlement, are usually not sought when such suits are filed. In the United Stat[...]



The Case for Universal Health Care, 2006

2007-07-06T08:08:58.745-07:00

http://www.amsa.org/uhc/CaseForUHC.pdf



What Tenet Knew: Unanswered Questions

2007-06-30T07:36:23.628-07:00

What Tenet Knew: Unanswered Questions By Thomas Powers TomDispatch.com Thursday 28 June 2007 This essay, which considers At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA by George Tenet with Bill Harlow (HarperCollins, 549 pp., $30.00) appears in the July 19th, 2007 issue of the New York Review of Books and is posted here with the kind permission of the editors of that magazine. How we got into Iraq is the great open question of the decade but George Tenet in his memoir of his seven years running the Central Intelligence Agency takes his sweet time working his way around to it. He hesitates because he has much to explain: the claims made by Tenet's CIA with "high confidence" that Iraq was dangerously armed all proved false. But mistakes are one thing, excusable even when serious; inexcusable would be charges of collusion in deceiving Congress and the public to make war possible. Tenet's overriding goal in his carefully written book is to deny "that we somehow cooked the books" about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. If he says it once he says it a dozen times. "We told the president what we did on Iraq WMD because we believed it." But repetition is not enough. Tenet's problem is that the intelligence and the war proceeded in lockstep: no intelligence, no war. Since Tenet delivered the (shockingly exaggerated) intelligence, and the President used it to go to war, how is Tenet to convince the world that he wasn't simply giving the boss what he wanted? Tenet naturally dislikes this question but it is evident that the American public and Congress dislike it just as much. Down that road lie painful truths about the character and motives of the President and the men and women around him. But getting out of Iraq will not be easy, and the necessary first step is to find the civic courage to insist on knowing how we got in. Tenet's memoir is an excellent place to begin; some of what he tells us and much that he leaves out point unmistakably to the genesis of the war in the White House - the very last thing Tenet wants to address clearly. He sidles up to the question at last on page 301: "One of the great mysteries to me," he writes, "is exactly when the war in Iraq became inevitable." Hans Blix, director of the United Nations weapons inspection team, did not believe that war was inevitable until the shooting started. In Blix's view, reported in his memoir Disarming Iraq, the failure of his inspectors to find Saddam Hussein's WMD meant that a US invasion of Iraq could certainly be put off, perhaps avoided altogether. For Blix it was all about the weapons. Tenet's version of events makes it clear that WMD, despite all the ballyhoo, were in fact secondary; something else was driving events. Tenet's omissions begin on Day Two of the march to war, September 12, 2001, when three British officials came to CIA headquarters "just for the night, to express their condolences and to be with us. We had dinner that night at Langley,….as touching an event as I experienced during my seven years as DCI." This would have been an excellent place to describe the genesis of the war but Tenet declines. We must fill in the missing pieces ourselves. The guests that night were David Manning, barely a week into his new job as Tony Blair's personal foreign policy adviser; Richard Dearlove, chief of the British secret intelligence service known as MI6, a man Tenet already knew well; and Eliza Manningham-Buller, the deputy chief of MI5, the British counterpart to the FBI. Despite the ban on air traffic, Dearlove and Manningham-Buller had flown into Andrews Air Force Base near Washington that day. But David Manni[...]



Bush, Mideast Wars, and End-time Prophecy

2007-06-30T07:36:57.966-07:00

Bush, Mideast Wars and End-Time Prophecy By JP Briggs II, Ph.D., and Thomas D. Williams t r u t h o u t | Special Report Friday 29 June 2007 "Religious institutions that use government power in support of themselves and force their views on persons of other faiths, or of no faith, undermine all our civil rights. Moreover, state support of an established religion tends to make the clergy unresponsive to their own people, and leads to corruption within religion itself. Erecting the 'wall of separation between church and state,' therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society." - Former US President Thomas Jefferson President George W. Bush has become dangerously steeped in ideas of Armageddon, the Apocalypse, an imminent war with Satanic forces in the Middle East, and an urgency to construct an American theocracy to fulfill God's end-of-days plan, according to close observers. Historians and investigative journalists following the "end-time Christian" movement have grown alarmed at the impact it may be having on Bush's Middle East policies, including the current war in Iraq, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the strife in Lebanon and the administration's repeated attempts to find a cause for war against Iran. Many people are aware that Bush is "the most aggressively religious president in American History," as eminent historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. described him, (Schlesinger, "War and the Presidency," 143) but most remain without a clue to what this actually means. One piece of evidence is Bush's funneling billions of dollars to "faith-based" organizations. Faith offices making grants are now so widespread inside government agencies that federal watchdog officials have serious difficulties accounting for how much money has actually been spent. (Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming" 121). Marvin Olasky, a devotee of end-time theology, designed Bush's faith-based welfare concept. See also Goldberg, "Kingdom Coming," 110. Further evidence is the Bush administration's transformation of the military. Until complaints forced its removal, a religious recruitment video made by a group called the Christian Embassy appeared on the Department of Defense web site. The video included interviews made inside the Pentagon with seven high-ranking military officers, congressmen, other federal officials and even the Christian Ethiopian ambassador to the US about their personal relationship with Christ. Army Lt. General William "Jerry" Boykin made headlines in 2003 when he said he believed America was engaged in a holy war as a "Christian nation" battling Satan. Adversaries can be defeated, he said, "only if we come against them in the name of Jesus." Despite his highly publicized rhetoric, Boykin remains Bush's deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence. Beneath Bush's benign-sounding words, "faith" and "Christian," lies the deeper reality of the authoritarian, doomsday religious beliefs of the ministers and spiritual counselors that surround him, say experts. Officially he has been at pains to show an openness traditionally expected of an American president. Typical is his assertion in a speech at a National Prayer Breakfast found on the White House website: "There's another part of our heritage we are showing in Iraq, and that is the great American tradition of religious tolerance. The Iraqi people are mostly Muslims, and we respect the faith they practice." However, experts point out the particular brand of Christianity that permeates Bush's environment is anything but tolerant. For example, Bush's own personal minister, Franklin Graham, has called Islam "evil and very wicked." He has said, "Let's use the weapons we have, the weapons of mass destruction if need be, and destroy the enemy." Respected[...]



SAIC and the Military-Industrial Complex

2007-06-22T07:20:27.494-07:00

Washington's $8 Billion Shadow Mega-contractors such as Halliburton and Bechtel supply the government with brawn. But the biggest, most powerful of the "body shops"—SAIC, which employs 44,000 people and took in $8 billion last year—sells brainpower, including a lot of the "expertise" behind the Iraq war. by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele March 2007 The McLean, Virginia, offices of Science Applications International Corporation, a "stealth company" with 9,000 government contracts, many of which involve secret intelligence work. Photograph by Coral von Zumwalt. One of the great staples of the modern Washington movie is the dark and ruthless corporation whose power extends into every cranny around the globe, whose technological expertise is without peer, whose secrets are unfathomable, whose riches defy calculation, and whose network of allies, in and out of government, is held together by webs of money, ambition, and fear. You've seen this movie a dozen times. Men in black coats step from limousines on wintry days and refer guardedly to unspeakable things. Surveillance cameras and eavesdropping devices are everywhere. Data scrolls across the movie screen in digital fonts. Computer keyboards clack softly. Seemingly honorable people at the summit of power—Cabinet secretaries, war heroes, presidents—turn out to be pathetic pawns of forces greater than anyone can imagine. And at the pinnacle of this dark and ruthless corporation is a relentless and well-tailored titan—omniscient, ironic, merciless—played by someone like Christopher Walken or Jon Voight. To be sure, there isn't really such a corporation: the Omnivore Group, as it might be called. But if there were such a company—and, mind you, there isn't—it might look a lot like the largest government contractor you've never heard of: a company known simply by the nondescript initials SAIC (for Science Applications International Corporation), initials that are always spoken letter by letter rather than formed into a pronounceable acronym. SAIC maintains its headquarters in San Diego, but its center of gravity is in Washington, D.C. With a workforce of 44,000, it is the size of a full-fledged government agency—in fact, it is larger than the departments of Labor, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development combined. Its anonymous glass-and-steel Washington office—a gleaming corporate box like any other—lies in northern Virginia, not far from the headquarters of the C.I.A., whose byways it knows quite well. (More than half of SAIC's employees have security clearances.) SAIC has been awarded more individual government contracts than any other private company in America. The contracts number not in the dozens or scores or hundreds but in the thousands: SAIC currently holds some 9,000 active federal contracts in all. More than a hundred of them are worth upwards of $10 milli[...]



Ralph Nader as Mad Bomber

2007-06-16T07:49:42.385-07:00

_______________________________________________ RALPH NADER AS MAD BOMBER _______________________________________________ Harry G. Levine Department of Sociology, Queens College, City University of New YorkMarch 2004 / hglevine@hereinstead.com In the year 2000, Ralph Nader strapped political dynamite onto himself and walked into one of the closest elections in American history hoping to blow it up. He wanted to punish the Clinton-Gore Democrats for having betrayed him and the causes he believes in. His primary campaign mission was defeating Al Gore, but Nader concealed this from his supporters, even as he went after votes in swing states like Florida. On the day after election day, when everyone else was grim, and many Democrats were furious at him, Ralph Nader was a happy man. The following essay presents evidence for this large claim and describes how I first learned this in the fall of 2000. Since the election, political discussions about Nader's campaign have often focused on its electoral effect. Did Nader's 97,000 votes in Florida defeat Al Gore making George W. Bush president? Most observers seem to agree that they did, but others insist that many factors defeated Gore. However, independent of the effect of the Nader campaign on the election results, one can ask about what Nader wanted to have happen. Now that he has decided to run again, in what promises to be another very close election, it is worth examining what Ralph Nader intended the last time. The Nader Campaign Before October 2000, I regarded Ralph Nader as a heroic public figure. I'd used his book The Big Business Reader in a class and heard him speak on campus in the 1980s. In the summer and fall of 2000, like many people, I was quite worried about the chance that Nader's small percentage of the vote in one or more of about ten close states could switch the election to Bush. I felt somewhat reassured by Molly Ivins's faith in Nader. In a widely circulated column in July of 2000, she called him "the sea-green incorruptible, the truest, purest, best, smartest, longest-standing, hardest-working, never-sold-out Good Guy in the whole country." Like me, she also proudly identified herself as committed to "lesser-evilism." She regarded Bush and Cheney as much the Greater Evil and wrote a campaign book (Shrub) about Bush's awful right-wing political views. Given Ivins' politics, her long career as a savvy observer, and her apparent knowledge of Nader, it seemed to me that she gave reason to hope Nader might withdraw, at least in the close states. I was not the only person in America longing for this. Nader's "super rallies" in September brought him new attention and followers. The biggest one of the campaign was scheduled for New York City. Two friends invited me to a Nader fund-raiser party the day after. One had known the Nader family for many years and arranged for me to talk with Tarek Milleron, Nader's top campaign aide. On Friday October 13, 2000, I went to Madison Square Garden with hope, dread, and my teenage son. It was a great event in many ways, silly in others. Fifteen thousand people cheered old-fashioned radical truths about wealth and power in America. There were songs, jokes, skits, brief speeches. People seemed delighted to be among so many others who agreed with them about corporate power, health insurance, the environment, and so much more. The organizers created a moving, inspiring, radical political rally evoking the best in America's political and cultural traditions. And then Nader came out. He was in every way the low point of the evening. His hour or more speech circulated, almost randomly it seemed, through a series of riffs about corporate power, the lives of [...]



U.S. military industrial complex

2007-05-22T08:14:14.559-07:00

We're # 1!: A Nation of Firsts Arms the World By Frida Berrigan TomDispatch.com Sunday 20 May 2007 They don't call us the sole superpower for nothing. Paul Wolfowitz might be looking for a new job right now, but the term he used to describe the pervasiveness of U.S. might back when he was a mere deputy secretary of defense - hyperpower - still fits the bill. Face it, the United States is a proud nation of firsts. Among them: First in Oil Consumption: The United States burns up 20.7 million barrels per day, the equivalent of the oil consumption of China, Japan, Germany, Russia, and India combined. First in Carbon Dioxide Emissions: Each year, world polluters pump 24,126,416,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the environment. The United States and its territories are responsible for 5.8 billion metric tons of this, more than China (3.3 billion), Russia (1.4 billion) and India (1.2 billion) combined. First in External Debt: The United States owes $10.040 trillion, nearly a quarter of the global debt total of $44 trillion. First in Military Expenditures: The White House has requested $481 billion for the Department of Defense for 2008, but this huge figure does not come close to representing total U.S. military expenditures projected for the coming year. To get a sense of the resources allocated to the military, the costs of the global war on terrorism, of the building, refurbishing, or maintaining of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and other expenses also need to be factored in. Military analyst Winslow Wheeler did the math recently: "Add $142 billion to cover the anticipated costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; add $17 billion requested for nuclear weapons costs in the Department of Energy; add another $5 billion for miscellaneous defense costs in other agencies…. and you get a grand total of $647 billion for 2008." Taking another approach to the use of U.S. resources, Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard Business School lecturer Linda Bilmes added to known costs of the war in Iraq invisible costs like its impact on global oil prices as well as the long-term cost of health care for wounded veterans and came up with a price tag of between 1 trillion and $2.2 trillion. If we turned what the United States will spend on the military in 2008 into small bills, we could give each one of the world's more than 1 billion teenagers and young adults an Xbox 360 with wireless controller (power supply in remote rural areas not included) and two video games to play: maybe Gears of War and Command and Conquerwould be appropriate. But if we're committed to fighting obesity, maybe Dance Dance Revolution would be a better bet. The United States alone spends what the rest of the world combined devotes to military expenditures. First in Weapons Sales: Since 2001, U.S. global military sales have normally totaled between $10 and $13 billion. That's a lot of weapons, but in fiscal year 2006, the Pentagon broke its own recent record, inking arms sales agreements worth $21 billion. It almost goes without saying that this is significantly more than any other nation in the world. In this gold-medal tally of firsts, there can be no question that things that go bang in the night are our proudest products. No one makes more of them or sells them more effectively than we do. When it comes to the sorts of firsts that once went with a classic civilian manufacturing base, however, gold medals are in short supply. To take an example: Not First in Automobiles: O[...]



Tenet-Bush Pre-9/11 "Small Talk" by Robert Parry

2007-05-08T12:13:46.079-07:00

Tenet-Bush Pre-9/11 "Small Talk" By Robert Parry Consortium News Sunday 06 May 2007 In late August 2001, when aggressive presidential action might have changed the course of US history, CIA Director George Tenet made a special trip to Crawford, Texas, to get George W. Bush to focus on an imminent threat of a spectacular al-Qaeda attack only to have the conversation descend into meaningless small talk. Alarmed CIA officials already had held an extraordinary meeting with then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice on July 10 to lay out the accumulating evidence of an impending attack and had delivered on Aug. 6 a special "Presidential Daily Brief" to Bush entitled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." "A few weeks after the Aug. 6 PDB was delivered, I followed it to Crawford to make sure the President stayed current on events," Tenet wrote in his memoir, At the Center of the Storm. "This was my first visit to the ranch. I remember the President graciously driving me around the spread in his pickup and my trying to make small talk about the flora and the fauna, none of which were native to Queens," where Tenet had grown up. Tenet's trip to Crawford - like the July 10 meeting with Rice and the Aug. 6 briefing paper for Bush - failed to shock the administration out of its lethargy nor elicit the emergency steps that the CIA and other counterterrorism specialists wanted. While Tenet and Bush made small talk about "the flora and the fauna," al-Qaeda operatives put the finishing touches on their plans. It wasn't until Sept. 4 - a week before 9/11 - when senior Bush administration officials, including Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, "finally reconvened in the White House Situation Room" to discuss counter-terrorism plans "that had been lingering unresolved all summer long," Tenet wrote. Tenet's memoir also provided new details about the emergency July 10 meeting that Tenet had demanded with Rice to lay out the startling new evidence of an impending al-Qaeda attack. By July 10, senior CIA counterterrorism officials, including Cofer Black, had collected a body of intelligence that they first presented to Tenet. "The briefing [Black] gave me literally made my hair stand on end," Tenet wrote. "When he was through, I picked up the big white secure phone on the left side of my desk - the one with a direct line to Condi Rice - and told her that I needed to see her immediately to provide an update on the al-Qa'ida threat." "Significant Terrorist Attack" After reaching the White House, a CIA briefer, identified in the book only as Rich B., started his presentation by saying: "There will be a significant terrorist attack in the coming weeks or months!" Rich B. then displayed a chart showing "seven specific pieces of intelligence gathered over the past 24 hours, all of them predicting an imminent attack," Tenet wrote. The briefer presented another chart with "the more chilling statements we had in our possession through intelligence." These comments included a mid-June statement by Osama bin Laden to trainees about an attack in the near future; talk about decisive acts and a "big event"; and fresh intelligence about predictions of "a stunning turn of events in the weeks ahead," Tenet wrote. Rich B. told Rice that the attack will be "spectacular" and designed to inflict heavy casualties against U.S. targets, Tenet wrote. "Attack preparations have been made," Rich B. sa[...]



Increasing National Debt

2007-03-21T08:46:52.321-07:00

Think the Nation's Debt Doesn't Affect You? Think Again By John F. Ince AlterNet Tuesday 20 March 2007 In addition to borrowing from the world's poorest countries, Bush & Co. are secretly confiscating your hard-earned dollars to support their out-of-control spending habits. Sometime in the next year, Congress will start going through their periodic rituals and related public relations charades in an effort to absolve themselves of any blame for raising of the federal government's debt ceiling. With Bush and cronies having added over $3 trillion dollars to the national debt, the country's credit card tab now stands at $8.8 trillion. This represents an astounding increase of over 45 percent since Bush came into office in January of 2001. And all this fiscal profligacy took place during the years when the CBO originally forecasted record surpluses of approximately $2.5 trillion. And there is no end in sight to the deficits. More alarmingly we now rely on foreigners to finance over 40 percent of this debt with the lion's share coming from the Asian central banks. In FY 2006 the current account trade deficit is on track to set yet another record, on the order of $700 billion. To put this in perspective, billionaire investor Warren Buffet points out that, "15 years ago, the U.S. had no trade deficit with China. Now, it's 200 billion dollars." He says if the country does not change course, the rest of the world could end up owning 15 trillion-dollars worth of the United States. That's equal to the value of all American stock. Is it a natural state of affairs for the world's richest nation to be borrowing from the world's poorest nations, to the tune of over 6 percent of its GDP? Harvard Economic Professor and former Chief Economist at the International Monetary Fund, Kenneth Rogoff doesn't think so. Rogoff goes on camera in the recently released documentary film, TIME-BOMB: America's Debt Crises, Causes, Consequences and Solutions and says, "This is not a normal state of affairs. And it's certainly not something we expect to see from the world's richest country. Back when Britain was on top they were lending money to the world, but we're borrowing from the rest of the world. Our current account trade deficit is now more than our defense spending and incredibly we've been borrowing from the rest of the world like this for several years now. I think we're going to reach a point where the rest of the world decides that they don't want to lend to us. And that can be kind of traumatic." America's high deficit strategy is due for a critical review, but the review won't be coming from Congress, the media or the American electorate, because these issues just don't rank high on a national agenda dominated by war, sports, celebrity worship, and scandal. But like it or not, Bush's deficit strategy will be getting critical review from the people who matter most: global investors. There are renewed signs that global investors may be getting concerned about the level of U.S. borrowing. Recently the Chinese, holders of about $1 billion in U.S. Treasuries, recently set up a new agency of their central bank to take a hard look at their investments overseas, and their continued financing of U. S. deficits may come under close scrutiny. If global investors were to begin to balk at picking up the tab for American excesses, it would be a monumental embarrassment to the United States. More palpably it would force the Fed to raise interest rates to make th[...]



The Last Days of the American Republic

2007-03-06T08:15:02.733-08:00

Chalmers Johnson: "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic" Democracy Now Tuesday 27 February 2007 In his new book, CIA analyst, distinguished scholar, and best-selling author Chalmers Johnson argues that US military and economic overreach may actually lead to the nation's collapse as a constitutional republic. It's the last volume in his Blowback trilogy, following the best-selling "Blowback" and "The Sorrows of Empire." In those two, Johnson argued American clandestine and military activity has led to un-intended, but direct disaster here in the United States. Chalmers Johnson is a retired professor of international relations at the University of California, San Diego. He is also President of the Japan Policy Research Institute. Johnson has written for several publications including Los Angeles Times, the London Review of Books, Harper's Magazine, and The Nation. In 2005, he was featured prominently in the award-winning documentary film, "Why We Fight." Chalmers Johnson joined me yesterday from San Diego. I began by asking him about the title of his book, "Nemesis." Amy Goodman: Today, we spend the hour with the former CIA consultant, distinguished scholar, best-selling author, Chalmers Johnson. He's just published a new book. It's called Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. It's the last volume in his trilogy, which began with Blowback, went onto The Sorrows of Empire. In those two, Johnson argued American clandestine and military activity has led to unintended but direct disaster here in the United States. In his new book, Johnson argues that US military and economic overreach may actually lead to the nation's collapse as a constitutional republic. Chalmers Johnson: Nemesis was the ancient Greek goddess of revenge, the punisher of hubris and arrogance in human beings. You may recall she is the one that led Narcissus to the pond and showed him his reflection, and he dove in and drowned. I chose the title, because it seems to me that she's present in our country right now, just waiting to make her - to carry out her divine mission. By the subtitle, I really do mean it. This is not just hype to sell books - "The Last Days of the American Republic." I'm here concerned with a very real, concrete problem in political analysis, namely that the political system of the United States today, history tells us, is one of the most unstable combinations there is - that is, domestic democracy and foreign empire - that the choices are stark. A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can't be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system was modeled, like the old Roman Republic, it will lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship. I've spent some time in the book talking about an alternative, namely that of the British Empire after World War II, in which it made the decision, not perfectly executed by any manner of means, but nonetheless made the decision to give up its empire in order to keep its democracy. It became apparent to the British quite late in the game that they could keep the jewel in their crown, India, only at the expense of administrative massacres, of which they had carried them out often in India. In the wake of the war against Nazism, which had just ended, it became, I think, obvious to the British that in order to retain their empire, they would have to become a tyranny, and they, therefore, I believe, [...]



War is a Racket (1933)

2007-02-23T09:04:40.036-08:00

War Is A Racket A speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC. Smedley Butler WAR is a racket. It always has been It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes. In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows. How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle? Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few – the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill. And what is this bill? This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations. For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out. Again they are choosing sides. France and Russia met and agreed to stand side by side. Italy and Austria hurried to make a similar agreement. Poland and Germany cast sheep's eyes at each other, forgetting for the nonce [one unique occasion], their dispute over the Polish Corridor. The assassination of King Alexander of Jugoslavia [Yugoslavia] complicated matters. Jugoslavia and Hungary, long bitter enemies, were almost at each other's throats. Italy was ready to jump in. But France was waiting. So was Czechoslovakia. All of them are looking ahead to war. Not the people – not those who fight and pay and die – only those who foment wars and remain safely at home to profit. There are 40,000,000 men under arms in the world today, and our statesmen and diplomats have the temerity to say that war is not in the making. Hell's bells! Are these 40,000,000 men being trained to be dancers? Not in Italy, to be sure. Premier Mussolini knows what they are being trained for. He, at least, is frank enough to speak out. Only the other day, Il Duce in "International Conciliation," the publication of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said: "And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace... War alone brings up to[...]



Victory Is Not an Option

2007-02-23T08:58:21.026-08:00

Victory Is Not an OptionThe Mission Can't Be Accomplished -- It's Time for a New StrategyBy William E. OdomSunday, February 11, 2007; B01 The new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq starkly delineates the gulf that separates President Bush's illusions from the realities of the war. Victory, as the president sees it, requires a stable liberal democracy in Iraq that is pro-American. The NIE describes a war that has no chance of producing that result. In this critical respect, the NIE, the consensus judgment of all the U.S. intelligence agencies, is a declaration of defeat. Its gloomy implications -- hedged, as intelligence agencies prefer, in rubbery language that cannot soften its impact -- put the intelligence community and the American public on the same page. The public awakened to the reality of failure in Iraq last year and turned the Republicans out of control of Congress to wake it up. But a majority of its members are still asleep, or only half-awake to their new writ to end the war soon. Perhaps this is not surprising. Americans do not warm to defeat or failure, and our politicians are famously reluctant to admit their own responsibility for anything resembling those un-American outcomes. So they beat around the bush, wringing hands and debating "nonbinding resolutions" that oppose the president's plan to increase the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. For the moment, the collision of the public's clarity of mind, the president's relentless pursuit of defeat and Congress's anxiety has paralyzed us. We may be doomed to two more years of chasing the mirage of democracy in Iraq and possibly widening the war to Iran. But this is not inevitable. A Congress, or a president, prepared to quit the game of "who gets the blame" could begin to alter American strategy in ways that will vastly improve the prospects of a more stable Middle East. No task is more important to the well-being of the United States. We face great peril in that troubled region, and improving our prospects will be difficult. First of all, it will require, from Congress at least, public acknowledgment that the president's policy is based on illusions, not realities. There never has been any right way to invade and transform Iraq. Most Americans need no further convincing, but two truths ought to put the matter beyond question: First, the assumption that the United States could create a liberal, constitutional democracy in Iraq defies just about everything known by professional students of the topic. Of the more than 40 democracies created since World War II, fewer than 10 can be considered truly "constitutional" -- meaning that their domestic order is protected by a broadly accepted rule of law, and has survived for at least a generation. None is a country with Arabic and Muslim political cultures. None has deep sectarian and ethnic fissures like those in Iraq. Strangely, American political scientists whose business it is to know these things have been irresponsibly quiet. In the lead-up to the March 2003 invasion, neoconservative agitators shouted insults at anyone who dared to mention the many findings of academic research on how democracies evolve. They also ignored our own struggles over two centuries to create the democracy Americans enjoy today. Somehow Iraqis are now expected to create a constitutional order in a country with no conditions favoring it. This is not to say that Arabs cannot become liberal democrats. When they immigrate to the United States, many do so quickly. But it is to say that Arab countries, as well as a large major[...]



Medicare for All, by Guy T. Saperstein

2007-02-05T08:00:52.326-08:00

Medicare for All: The Only Sound Solution to Our Healthcare CrisisBy Guy T. Saperstein, AlterNet. Posted January 16, 2007.Our $2 trillion healthcare industry is not only unhealthy, it is unsustainable. Why universal Medicare is the way to get universal healthcare without collapsing the system.Toolsemail EMAILprint PRINT97 COMMENTS01162007storyShare and save this story:Digg iconDelicious iconReddit iconFark iconYahoo! iconNewsvine! iconAlso in Top StoriesWho's Funding Global Warming?Tara Lohan, AlterNetThe Man Who Might Make Obama PresidentChristopher Hayes, The NationNonprofits in a Time of WarMark Rosenman, AlterNetFrom Afghanistan to Iraq: Connecting the Dots with OilRichard W. Behan, AlterNetIsrael's Economic Stranglehold of Palestine Is a Silent KillerNora Barrows-Friedman, IPS NewsMore stories by Guy T. SapersteinRSS icon Main AlterNet RSS FeedGet AlterNet inyour mailbox! AdvertisementWe all know that America's healthcare system is collapsing. Andy Stern has written that America's employer-based health insurance system is "dead." Auto executives troop to the White House complaining that they are not competitive with foreign automakers because they pay $1,500 per car for health insurance. Some of the biggest laughs in movies come when America's healthcare system is ridiculed. Politicians, even Republicans, are offering solutions.In the Greenberg Quinlin poll of November 2006 voters, 22 percent ranked healthcare as the most important issue; likewise, MoveOn.org recently polled its members, received over 100,000 responses, and healthcare ranked as the No. 1 concern.To add substance to these observations, consider the following: Not only are 47 million Americans uninsured (approximately 18.5 percent of the insurable market), 41 percent of Americans with incomes of $20,000 to $40,000 did not have health insurance for at least part of 2005, up from 28 percent in 2001; 53 percent with incomes under $20,000 lack health insurance.The number of people without health insurance rose 16.6 percent from 2001 to 2005; average health insurance premiums for a family of four are $10,880, which exceeds the annual gross income of $10,712 for a full-time, minimum-wage worker; lack of insurance causes 18,000 excess deaths a year; people without health insurance have 25 percent higher mortality rates; and, 59 percent of uninsured people with chronic conditions such as asthma or diabetes skip medicine or go without care.There are additional costs to the haphazard U.S. healthcare system: More than 50 percent of the U.S. population has medical debt problems; between 1981 and 2001, medical-related bankruptcies increased an astounding 2,200 percent and 55 percent of personal bankruptcies are now caused by illness or medical debts, despite the fact that over 75 percent of the bankrupts had health insurance at the onset of bankruptcy and illness.Contrary to popular conceptions, the average medical bankrupt was a 41-year old woman with children, some college education; over half owned homes and over 80 percent were in the middle or working classes.But for the insured, the United States has the best quality healthcare in the world, right? Wrong.A Second-Rate SystemThe World Health Organization ranks healthcare systems based on objective measures of medical outcomes: The United States' healthcare system currently ranks 37th in the world, behind Colombia and Portugal; the United States ranks 44th in the world in infant mortality, behind many impoverished Latin American countries. While infant mortality in the Unit[...]



Sen. Webb's response to State of Union speech

2007-01-25T09:45:04.016-08:00

Democratic Response of Senator Jim Webb to the President's State of the Union Address t r u t h o u t | Statement Wednesday 24 January 2007 Good evening. I'm Senator Jim Webb, from Virginia, where this year we will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Jamestown - an event that marked the first step in the long journey that has made us the greatest and most prosperous nation on earth. It would not be possible in this short amount of time to actually rebut the President's message, nor would it be useful. Let me simply say that we in the Democratic Party hope that this administration is serious about improving education and healthcare for all Americans, and addressing such domestic priorities as restoring the vitality of New Orleans. Further, this is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. We are looking for affirmative solutions that will strengthen our nation by freeing us from our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring a wave of entrepreneurial growth in the form of alternate energy programs. We look forward to working with the President and his party to bring about these changes. There are two areas where our respective parties have largely stood in contradiction, and I want to take a few minutes to address them tonight. The first relates to how we see the health of our economy - how we measure it, and how we ensure that its benefits are properly shared among all Americans. The second regards our foreign policy - how we might bring the war in Iraq to a proper conclusion that will also allow us to continue to fight the war against international terrorism, and to address other strategic concerns that our country faces around the world. When one looks at the health of our economy, it's almost as if we are living in two different countries. Some say that things have never been better. The stock market is at an all-time high, and so are corporate profits. But these benefits are not being fairly shared. When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did; today, it's nearly 400 times. In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day. Wages and salaries for our workers are at all-time lows as a percentage of national wealth, even though the productivity of American workers is the highest in the world. Medical costs have skyrocketed. College tuition rates are off the charts. Our manufacturing base is being dismantled and sent overseas. Good American jobs are being sent along with them. In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace. In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy - that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exi[...]



Bush's War on the Republic, by Robert Parry

2007-01-25T09:41:03.790-08:00

Bush's War on the Republic By Robert Parry Consortium News Wednesday 24 January 2007 From the beginning of the "war on terror," George W. Bush has lied to the American people about the goals, motivation and even the identity of the enemy - a propaganda exercise that continued through his 2007 State of the Union Address and that is sounding the death knell for the Republic. Since 2001, rather than focusing on the al-Qaeda Sunni fundamentalist terrorists behind the 9/11 attacks, Bush has expanded the conflict exponentially - tossing in unrelated enemies such as Iraq's secular dictator Saddam Hussein, Shiite-led Iran, Syria and Islamic militants opposed to Israel, like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. In effect, Bush has transformed what began as a definable military objective - the defeat of "terrorist groups with global reach" - into an endless war against what he regards as evil, a conflict so vague that it is claiming as collateral damage America's "unalienable rights" and the Founders' checks and balances on the powers of the Executive. In Bush's State of the Union speech on Jan. 23, there could be heard a requiem for the Republic. "The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at work in the world. And so long as that's the case, America is still a nation at war," Bush told Congress. But that "evil" will always be "at work in the world," so America will always be "a nation at war" and thus, under Bush's theories of unlimited Commander-in-Chief powers, the American Republic will be banished permanently. Bluntly put, Bush and his neoconservative legal advisers don't believe in the "unalienable rights" guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, including ones as fundamental as the habeas corpus right to a fair trial and protections against warrantless searches and seizures. [See, for instance, Consortiumnews.com's "Gonzales Questions Habeas Corpus."] The Bush administration may make grudging concessions in these areas when faced with determined opposition in the courts or from the public, but they hold these liberties to be subordinate to Bush's "plenary" - or unlimited - powers as Commander in Chief. Beyond this disdain for fundamental American liberties, Bush has contempt for any meaningful public debate. Though he talks about compromise and consultation, his view of national unity is to have everyone shut up and get in line behind him, "the Decider." Since the 9/11 attacks, Bush has overseen a bare-knuckled political strategy of bullying anyone who disagrees with him and marginalizing their voices. From the Dixie Chicks to former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, from France to United Nations weapons inspectors, those who have dared to cross the President have faced ridicule and reprisals. These ugly attacks have become so much a part of the American political landscape that the news media treats them as unexceptional, as if it's normal for a President to coordinate with powerful media allies to silence dissent. For instance, there was no media outcry in April 2003 when Bush gave a wink and a nod to a retaliatory boycott against the three-woman Dixie Chicks band because the lead singer, Natalie Maines, had criticized the President. "They shouldn't have their feelings hurt just because some people don't want to buy their records when they speak out," Bush said. "Freedom is a two-way street." So, instead of encouraging a full-and-free debate about an issue as important as war and [...]



The Urge to Surge, by Paul Craig Roberts

2007-01-09T12:56:20.173-08:00

January 6 / 7, 2007Political Cover or Escalation?The Urge to SurgeBy PAUL CRAIG ROBERTSThe new year began on the hopeful note that Bush's illegal war in Iraq would soon be ended. The repudiation of Bush and the Republicans in the November congressional election, the Iraq Study Group's unanimous conclusion that the US needs to remove its troops from the sectarian strife Bush set in motion by invading Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld's removal as defense secretary and his replacement by Iraqi Study Group member Robert Gates, the thumbs down given by America's top military commanders to the neoconservatives' plan to send more US troops to Iraq, and new polls of the US military that reveal that only a minority supports Bush's Iraq policy, thus giving new meaning to "support the troops," are all indications that Americans have shed the stupor that has given carte blanche to George W. Bush.When word leaked that Bush was inclined toward the "surge option" of committing more troops by keeping existing troops deployed in Iraq after their replacements had arrived, NBC News reported that an administration official "admitted to us today that this surge option is more of a political decision than a military one." It is a clear sign of exasperation with Bush when an administration official admits that Bush is willing to sacrifice American troops and Iraqi civilians in order to protect his own delusions.The American establishment, concerned by Bush's egregious mismanagement, moved to take control of Iraq policy away from him.However, recent news reports and analysis suggest that Bush has turned his back to the American establishment and his military advisers and is throwing in his lot with the neoconservatives and the Israeli lobby. This will further isolate Bush and make him more vulnerable to impeachment.In the January 5 issue of CounterPunch John Walsh gives a good description of the struggle between the American establishment and the neocons.Peter Spiegel, the Pentagon correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, reported on January 4 that the neocons have used the failure of the administration's policy in Iraq to convince Bush to launch an aggressive counterinsurgency requiring the buildup of troop levels by extending deployments beyond the agreed terms.Raed Jarrar (CounterPunch, January 4) suggests that the Shi'ite militias, such as the one led by Al-Sadr, are the intended targets of the "surge option." There seems no surer way to escalate the conflict in Iraq than to attack the Shi'ite militias. For longer than the US fought Germany in WW II, 150,000 US troops in Iraq have been thwarted by a small insurgency drawn from Iraq's minority population of Sunnis. It hardly seems feasible that 30,000 additional US troops, demoralized by extended deployment, can succeed in a surge against the Shi'ite militias when 150,000 US troops cannot succeed against the minority Sunnis.The reason the US has not been driven out of Iraq is that the majority Shi'ites have not been part of the insurgency. The Shi'ites are attacking the Sunnis, who are forced to fight a two-front war against US troops and Shi'ite militias and death squads.The US owes its presence in Iraq, just as the colonial powers always owed their presence in the Middle East, to the disunity of Arabs. Western domination of the Muslim world succeeded by not picking a fight with all of the disunited Arabs at the same time.Attacking the Shi'ite militias while fighting a Sunni insurgenc[...]



Improving Medicare Now

2007-01-06T09:07:10.440-08:00

st, Do Less Harm By Paul Krugman The New York Times Friday 05 January 2007 Universal health care, much as we need it, won't happen until there's a change of management in the White House. In the meantime, however, Congress can take an important step toward making our health care system less wasteful, by fixing the Medicare Middleman Multiplication Act of 2003. Officially, of course, it was the Medicare Modernization Act. But as we learned during the debate over Social Security, in Bushspeak "modernize" is a synonym for "privatize." And one of the main features of the legislation was an effort to bring private-sector fragmentation and inefficiency to one of America's most important public programs. The process actually started in the 1990s, when Medicare began allowing recipients to replace traditional Medicare - in which the government pays doctors and hospitals - with private managed-care plans, in which the government pays a fee to an H.M.O. The magic of the marketplace was supposed to cut Medicare's costs. The plan backfired. H.M.O.'s received fees reflecting the medical costs of the average Medicare recipient, but to maximize profits they selectively enrolled only healthier seniors, leaving sicker, more expensive people in traditional Medicare. Once Medicare became aware of this cream-skimming and started adjusting payments to reflect beneficiaries' health, the H.M.O.'s began dropping out: their extra layer of bureaucracy meant that they had higher costs than traditional Medicare and couldn't compete on a financially fair basis. That should have been the end of the story. But for the Bush administration and its Congressional allies, privatization isn't a way to deliver better government services - it's an end in itself. So the 2003 legislation increased payments to Medicare-supported H.M.O.'s, which were renamed Medicare Advantage plans. These plans are now heavily subsidized. According to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent federal body that advises Congress on Medicare issues, Medicare Advantage now costs 11 percent more per beneficiary than traditional Medicare. According to the Commonwealth Fund, which has a similar estimate of the excess cost, the subsidy to private H.M.O.'s cost Medicare $5.4 billion in 2005. The inability of private middlemen to win a fair competition against traditional Medicare was embarrassing to those who sing the praises of privatization. Maybe that's why the Bush administration made sure that there is no competition at all in Part D, the drug program. There's no traditional Medicare version of Part D, in which the government pays drug costs directly. Instead, the elderly must get coverage from a private insurance company, which then receives a government subsidy. As a result, Part D is highly confusing. It's also needlessly expensive, for two reasons: the insurance companies add an extra layer of bureaucracy, and they have limited ability to bargain with drug companies for lower prices (and Medicare is prohibited from bargaining on their behalf). One indicator of how much Medicare is overspending is the sharp rise in prices paid by millions of low-income seniors whose drug coverage has been switched from Medicaid, which doesn't rely on middlemen and does bargain over prices, to the new Medicare program. The costs imposed on Medicare by gratuitous privatization are almost certainly higher [...]