Archive for August, 2009

Tuesday August 25, 3009 – “I never cease being dumbfounded by the unbelievable things people believe.” – Leo Rosten [that goes for me too]

Tuesday, August 25th, 2009

Congress Deadlocked Over How To Not Provide Health Care

August 18, 2009
Issue 45•34

Leaders on both sides of the aisle try to hammer out an agreement on fucking over Americans.

TheOnion – Congress Deadlocked Over How To Not Provide Health Care

WASHINGTON—After months of committee meetings and hundreds of hours of heated debate, the United States Congress remained deadlocked this week over the best possible way to deny Americans health care.

“Both parties understand that the current system is broken,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday. “But what we can’t seem to agree upon is how to best keep it broken, while still ensuring that no elected official takes any political risk whatsoever. It’s a very complicated issue.”

“Ultimately, though, it’s our responsibility as lawmakers to put these differences aside and focus on refusing Americans the health care they deserve,” Pelosi added.

The legislative stalemate largely stems from competing ideologies deeply rooted along party lines. Democrats want to create a government-run system for not providing health care, while Republicans say coverage is best denied by allowing private insurers to make it unaffordable for as many citizens as possible.

“We have over 40 million people without insurance in this country today, and that is unacceptable,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said. “If we would just quit squabbling so much, we could get that number up to 50 or even 100 million. Why, there’s no reason we can’t work together to deny health care to everyone but the richest 1 percent of the population.”

“That’s what America is all about,” he added.

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said on Meet The Press that Republicans would never agree to a plan that doesn’t allow citizens the choice to be denied medical care in the private sector.

“Americans don’t need some government official telling them they don’t have the proper coverage to receive treatment,” Boehner said. “What they need is massive insurance companies to become even more rich and powerful by withholding from average citizens the care they so desperately require. We’re talking about people’s health and the obscene profits associated with that, after all.”

Though there remain irreconcilable points, both parties have reached some common ground in recent weeks. Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) point to Congress’ failure to pass legislation before a July 31 deadline as proof of just how serious lawmakers are about stringing along the American people and never actually reforming the health care industry in any meaningful way.

“People should know that every day we are working without their best interests in mind,” Reid said. “But the goal here is not to push through some watered-down bill that only denies health care to a few Americans here and a few Americans there. The goal is to recognize that all Americans have a God-given right to proper medical attention and then make sure there’s no chance in hell that ever happens.”

“No matter what we come up with,” Reid continued, “rest assured that millions of citizens will remain dangerously uninsured, and the inflated health care industry will continue to bankrupt the country for decades.”

Other lawmakers stressed that, while there has been some progress, the window of cooperation was closing.

“When you get into the nuts and bolts of how best not to provide people with care essential to their survival, there are many things to take into consideration,” Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) said. “I believe we can create a plan for Americans that allows them to not be able to go to the hospital, not get the treatment they need, and ultimately whither away and die. But we’ve got to act fast.”

For his part, President Barack Obama claimed to be optimistic, even saying he believes that a health care denial bill will pass in both houses of Congress by the end of the year.

“We have an opportunity to do something truly historic in 2009,” Obama said to a mostly silent crowd during a town hall meeting in Virginia yesterday. “I promise I will only sign a clear and comprehensive health care bill that fully denies coverage to you, your sick mother, her husband, middle-class Americans, single-parent households, the unemployed, and most importantly, anyone in need of emergency medical attention.”

“This administration is committed to not providing health care,” Obama added. “Not just for this generation of Americans, but for many generations to come.”

Complete article at:

How To Not Provide Health Care

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WHY IS GANG OF SIX DECIDING HEALTH CARE FOR THREE HUNDRED MILLION OF US?

By Robert Reich, Huffington Post

Why has it come down to these six? Who anointed them?

GANG OF SIX

Wallace crops VHA doc to falsely suggest Obama administration pressuring vets to end their lives

On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace repeatedly cropped quotes from a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) document to falsely suggest that the Obama administration is pressuring veterans to end their lives prematurely and to accuse Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth of lying about it. In fact, contrary to Wallace’s false assertions, the document he referred to does not require doctors to direct veterans to what conservatives have labeled the “Death Book for Veterans.”

Read More

Wallace crops VHA doc

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The Upside of Down Times

Ed Wallace
Saturday, Aug 22, 2009
Special to the Star-Telegram

If the Long Depression of 1873 had never happened, Karl Benz’s first construction supply company might well have been a success; and he might never have gotten desperate enough to take the long shot he did on the automobile. The same supposition could also be true for both Ford and Olds. Independently, surrounded by poverty, each intentionally set out to improve the life of the average person once the downturn had ended.

If history has proven anything, it is the fact that out of the worst times — be it war or economic calamity — something good, possibly revolutionary, will also have emerged when it’s over. Of course, it’s just part of human nature to do our best work and most critical thinking during periods of social upheaval. Threats to survival may simply make a company seek ways to survive, or it may look for more customers by branching out into new areas. But sometimes a visionary will recognize the failures and failings of the past, expose the entrenched bureaucracies that haven’t been able to adapt, and rewire society so that everyone can see the good old days as nothing more than old days and old ways.

For example, the Long Depression of 1873 contributed to the invention of the automobile. That particular depression’s cause and effect most mirrored those of the current economic crisis, in that European banks were lending far too much money indiscriminately; this prompted an unsustainable real estate bubble, which collapsed catastrophically. But in Mannheim, Germany, Karl Benz had launched a workshop with August Ritter; they hoped to supply the construction firms booming at the peak of the real estate bubble. Just after Benz married Berta Ringer the following year, Europe and the world’s economy bit the dust.

So did the Benz family’s. But it was in these impoverished circumstances that Benz, relinquishing his goal of becoming a construction supplier, revisited an old dream he’d had of motorized vehicles.

Can’t Afford It? Make It Yourself!

Realizing that he couldn’t afford to buy the patent rights for the Otto four-stroke engine recently invented in France, Benz set out to build his own internal combustion engine, using what little money he could save each month. There is little doubt that, in spite of their position in life, had Benz been married to anyone but Berta he undoubtedly would have given up his tinkering and instead focused on saving his family financially. But, urged on by his biggest supporter, Berta, he kept working on his dream. It would take five long years to perfect, but his new two-stroke engine roared to life on December 31, 1878.

Even in the ongoing depression Benz’s engine had real commercial value, but to enter into full-scale production he needed bank financing. In order to get it, he was forced to bring in partners of his bankers; they would contribute equity to the company and, the bankers hoped, some stability to their brilliant inventor. That hope would prove unfounded. When Benz casually mentioned to the bankers that in his next invention he would mate his engine to a carriage and create the automobile, they thought he’d gone mad and strongly recommended he be institutionalized.

History has long forgotten the names of his bankers, but Karl Benz’s name lives on. Obviously his bankers, appalled at the idea of making sizable loans for a concept as radical as automobiles for the public, were worried about reliving past financing failures. In these worst of times, Benz was imagining and working toward a better and more productive future.

Inventing Things Must Be Catching in a Crisis

The Panic of 1893 was certainly misnamed, for it too was a full-blown American depression. And once again, what caused it was an economic collapse — again, because an unrealistic bubble had been oversold and over-financed; this bubble burst because America’s railroads had been overbuilt. As may happen with the one we’re living through now, that depression finally ended when a massive increase in government spending revived the economy. Only it wasn’t cash for clunkers or tax rebates that did the trick, it was spending for the Spanish American War of 1898.

Unlike poor Karl Benz, Henry Ford had been made chief engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company of Detroit just as the Panic set in: He had a strong and secure income. But Detroit in that period was not the city that we would recognize today. When serious economic conditions hit in those days, it was not uncommon for despairing parents to send their kids out to play and then move, abandoning them to their fate. Ford’s wife, Clara, often fed the children who knocked on their door, begging for whatever food could be spared; and, like Berta Benz, Clara was her husband’s biggest supporter.

She was also a big help; Ford often sent his wife around to mechanical shops to pick up parts for the motorized vehicle he was building in the shed behind their home. Certainly Ford had a full-time job, but it has been written that he was also embarrassed to ask for the parts he needed on credit — and Clara Ford had no such problem.

On June 6, 1896, Ford drove his first motorized vehicle around the city of Detroit. He barely beat Ransom E. Olds, who had just finished building his own first automobile.

Demand Spurs Supply

So, while the world dealt with not one but two major economic collapses in a 25-year period, these “unstable” visionaries gave the world the automobile. It is fair to say that if the Long Depression of 1873 had never happened, Karl Benz’s first construction supply company might well have been a success; and he might never have gotten desperate enough to take the long shot he did on the automobile. The same supposition could also be true for both Ford and Olds. Independently, surrounded by poverty, each intentionally set out to improve the life of the average person once the downturn had ended.

Likewise, airlines had already been created by the time of the Great Depression, but the uncertain economic times created a boom era for advances in aircraft design. Airlines desperately needed larger aircraft that could be operated safely and economically; their goal was not only to survive but also to change the public’s perception of airline safety. That’s why and how, in one decade, aircraft went from having fabric-covered wings to the threshold of modern, all-metal aircraft — and in 1937 ended up with Frank Whittle’s invention, the jet engine.

Seven years later the B-29 ushered in the pressurized cabin, which meant planes could finally fly above bad weather. Spurred by desperation and inspired by burgeoning innovations around the world, the aircraft industry took only 14 years to get all the critical ingredients of the modern jet aircraft firmly in place.

Remember When We Were Non-PC?

The personal computer came along during America’s three recessions from 1974 – 1975 and went from do-it-yourself creations to the earliest modern computer during our twin recessions in the early eighties.

That eight-year slump also forced automakers around the world, no longer able to make exceptional profits with high styling and low fuel economy, to reconsider the vehicles they were building. Yes, there was legislation forcing higher fuel efficiency, just as legislation in the early seventies had forced automakers to use cleaner engines in automobiles. But it took legislation plus truly dire economic times to force the world’s auto industry into its second great age of engineering.

This is not to say that inventors and corporations don’t improve the average person’s quality of life with brilliant new ideas in good times. They do. But sometimes it does seem as if the things that the average person sees as quantum leaps in technology are born in the worst possible economic times.

Some were already in the process of being created by personal vision and drive; the hard times simply forced their premature birth, as it were. Others were survival moves, prompted by the need to improve reliability, lower costs and expand markets. But maybe some of them came from individuals defying fear: When you’re deep in a financial hole, you don’t have much to lose by going for the big dream. And some people simply hear in crisis the clarion call of a suffering citizenry, and can’t help but rise and find a solution.

For the corporation, the fear might be that things will never get better. CEOs must work out daring, unexpected ways to survive in case good times never return.

The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Dawn

Of course, the good times do return — often to a changed world.

From two depressions we bounced back with automobiles. From a World War we emerged with the modern jet aircraft, microwaves, atomic power and the beginnings of modern trauma medicine. From three major recessions in our lifetime we now have personal computers; and soon we will have trebled the fuel efficiency of our automobiles from just three decades ago.

Sometimes it seems the worse the financial weather, the greater the leaps in technology introduced when the economic sky lightens up.

When the current financial winter warms, one thing is certain: Some things we cherished in the past will be thrown out as old and outdated. As we embrace new technologies, inventions and improvements, we will wonder why no one thought of them earlier.

We often don’t get why an invention that was so obvious once it came to market took so long to get there. It’s because a visionary’s brain sees the problems of today and invents the future.

Ed Wallace is a recipient of the Gerald R. Loeb Award for business journalism, given by the Anderson School of Business at UCLA, and is a member of the American Historical Association. He reviews new cars every Friday morning at 7:15 on Fox Four’s Good Day, contributes articles to BusinessWeek Online and hosts the top-rated talk show, Wheels, 8:00 to 1:00 Saturdays on 570 KLIF. E-mail: wheels570@sbcglobal.net, and read all of Ed’s work at his own highly respected news site, www.insideautomotive.com .

Complete article at:

The Upside of Down Times

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Goldman’s new ‘American Socialism Manifesto’

Paul B. Farrell
Marketwatch, August 9th, 2009 4:57 PM

Warning: Behavioral economics means one thing to Wall Street and Washington and something quite different to Main Street. It depends on whether you’re the nudger or nudgee, the manipulator or the manipulated, the guys making lots of money or the folks being scammed.

Average folks erroneously believe behavioral economics helps them. But behavioral nudgers just want to help themselves.

And both political parties are guilty. Behavioral economics is all the rage since the new president hired some academic behaviorists. That also helped the GOP, made average folks forget the former president had his nudgers, too, like former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Moreover, his party recently hired 350 lobbyists, many former Senators and Congressmen, to kill the new guy’s health-care reform.

The truth is, folks, behavioral economics, nudging, manipulation and lobbying, whatever you call it, has been a part of American politics for a long time under many names, though neither party publicly admits their nudging strategies.

Puzzled? Ask yourself: Why is the GOP so aggressively demonizing Obama’s health-care reform as “socialism?” Why? Yes, something smells fishy, especially since the GOP created the biggest “socialized medicine” program ever with Medicare drugs.

Then suddenly the “why” hit me. Here’s why … All the fear-mongering about health-care “socialism” is actually a strategic smoke screen, a brilliant counterattack, a sneaky political cover-up of the GOP’s recent historic takeover of America using taxpayer-funded bailout money against us. Get it? The Right’s making Left turns into “socialism.”

You heard me. In “Bailout Nation,” money manager Barry Ritholtz summarizes this clandestine takeover of the great American democracy, led by Paulson and the Goldman Conspiracy juggernaut. In less than a year America has become “Socialism for the Rich! Capitalism for the Rest,” says Ritholtz.

It all began last October, just before the elections. Paulson, Goldman’s Trojan Horse inside a GOP-controlled White House, moved with the lightning speed of a special-ops team attacking behind enemy lines. Paulson took command of the meltdown, before our clueless Congress knew what happened.

Back then, the Goldman Conspiracy was near bankruptcy as the stock bubble crashed. But Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine: Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” warned: “When those bubbles burst” Wall Street’s “ideology becomes a hindrance and goes dormant while big government rides to the rescue.” Klein then predicted: Free-market “ideology will come roaring back when the bailouts are done. The massive debts the public is accumulating to bail out the speculators will then become part of a global budget crisis.”

Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi also warned of an attack brewing in “The Big Takeover, how Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution.”

Yes, that “revolution” took less than a year. Except we did not return to the old Reganomics capitalism Klein warned of. Instead, the Goldman Conspiracy created a new American “Socialist-Capitalism.” As Ritholtz aptly describes it, America now has “socialization of risk” [with trillions of toxic bailout debt dumped on taxpayers] versus “privatization of profits” [for Wall Street insiders like the Goldman Conspiracy].

Democracy is dead in Wall Street’s new ‘Socialism for The Rich’

This is a historic government coup: The GOP created a new “American Socialism” that resembles Russia under Putin, with its bizarre blend of socialism plus just enough hint of capitalism to keep a steady flow of kickbacks to a corrupt dictator and his moneyed cronies.

At high levels the game reminds me of Bush looking deep into the Putin’s eyes and getting “a sense of his soul” (the “soul” of a former KGB agent and communist enemy of America?) Just as Bush failed to see the true “soul” of Russia’s boss, Congress and today’s Main Street America cannot see the hidden “soul” of the new “American Socialism” being created by the Goldman Conspiracy, banks and their political pawns.

We’ve written often about the many sides of this takeover. We’ve also reviewed endless critiques in Harper’s, Rolling Stone, New Yorker and others. Here are eight principles for a new “Socialist Manifesto” emerging out of our dying democracy, a profile of the new “American Socialism” that will rule your life … till it self-destructs our way of life:

1. Always elect a figurehead president

Putin skirted term limits by getting Medvedev elected president. Then Putin was appointed party leader and prime minister, the real power behind the throne. That’s one way power stays in power playing the game. Wall Street is a master at playing this game, as the single largest money donor to political campaigns. Donations assure continued control behind an illusion of democracy, where all politicians are mere pawns.

2. Greed is great in the new ‘Socialist-Capitalism’

In his blog, Matt Taibbi asks “what’s wrong” with Goldman’s $3.44 billion second-quarter profits on top of setting aside $11.4 billion for insiders? “What’s wrong is that this is not free-market earnings but an almost pure state subsidy” as Congress steals our tax dollars giving them “to the same guys who had just blown up the financial world.”

3. Too-stupid-to-fail big banks will always get bailed out

In the New Yorker Joe Haggen described their arrogant culture: “The god is Goldman. You subjugate yourself to that god, and in return we will make you a gazillionaire.” But as recently as last fall “not a single Wall Street executive” Haggen interviewed “believed Goldman would have survived an overall collapse of the financial system. A large loss would have been inevitable as lending evaporated, and Goldman Sachs would have struggled to shrink the company to a fraction of its size overnight.”

Taibbi adds: “AIG owed Goldman about $20 billion at the time it went into a death spiral.” Thanks to Paulson’s $13 billion gift, tax dollars went through AIG straight into Goldman’s pockets.

4. Pretend to be a commercial bank, risk like an investment bank

Wall Street still gambles as investment banks. Worse: Taibbi says when Goldman converted they became “eligible for a new program that gives commercial banks FDIC backing for unsecured debt … a free AAA rating to the big banks and allows them access to mountains of cheap money.” No wonder “Goldman took full advantage of this deal, issuing $28 billion in FDIC-backed debt after its conversion. Exactly how hard is it for a bank to make a profit when it has unlimited access to virtually free money?”

5. American taxpayers are Wall Street’s personal piggy bank

Taibbi notes that Goldman got $10 billion TARP money, claims they’re now paid off. But the Treasury still has warrants which Goldman wants to renegotiate below market prices, and the juicy low-interest loans help them increase their profit margin.

6. High-risk leveraging guarantees high-paid insider bonuses

After converting into a commercial bank Reuter’s reported that Wall Street was “taking steps to reduce leverage.” But since then “Goldman has been emboldened by all its state backing to borrow more and gamble more than ever,” says Taibbi. “This is the equivalent of a regular casino gambler who hears that the house has doubled down on his credit line and decides to stay up at the tables all night, instead of going home and sobering up.”

Meanwhile, “Goldman’s VaR, or Value at Risk, which measures the amount of money the bank puts at risk on any given day” has “soared since last year.”

7. Government-approved CIA-style silence hides ‘The Game’

The TARP Inspector General estimates total new debt for all bailout programs will be a staggering $23.7 trillion. But the Fed Chairman refuses to disclose vital information, even to Congress. Bernanke learned that trick from the CIA, so they can’t be audited.

Taibbi warns that taxpayers are stuck with piles of Wall Street’s “worthless crap assets they acquired while they were playing roulette the past 10 years or so. We just have no idea how much crap they unloaded on the Fed, or how much they borrowed.”

8. New laws secure perpetual power for new ‘Socialist Conspiracy’

Wall Street, under the command of the Goldman Conspiracy, can further consolidate power over the American people forever by making sure Congress and the President (no matter which party wins elections) passes other new laws:

Kill the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Kill “public option” competition in the health-care reform. Kill all efforts to revive Glass-Steagall. Pass a “cap and trade” law so Wall Street can start gambling trillions in a new derivatives bubble. Pass laws to guarantee Wall Street’s “too-stupid-to-fail” big banks unlimited access to taxpayer funds in the future, as they’ve enjoyed since October.

Final comment: More demands will naturally follow to empower this banana republic dictatorship disguised as the new “American Socialism.”

Complete article at:

American Socialism Manifesto

The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion ~ Matt Taibbi

Spanking the Donkey: Dispatches from the Dumb Season ~ Matt Taibbi

==========

Common Sense 2009

By Larry Flynt
20 Aug 2009

The American government — which we once called our government — has been taken over by Wall Street, the mega-corporations and the super-rich. They are the ones who decide our fate. It is this group of powerful elites, the people President Franklin D. Roosevelt called “economic royalists,” who choose our elected officials — indeed, our very form of government. Both Democrats and Republicans dance to the tune of their corporate masters. In America, corporations do not control the government. In America, corporations are the government. This was never more obvious than with the Wall Street bailout, whereby the very corporations that caused the collapse of our economy were rewarded with taxpayer dollars

At:

Common Sense 2009



From: CLG News

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ICE Criminal Prosecutions Continue to Rise Under Obama

Friday, August 21, 2009

Greetings from TRAC.

The latest available data from the Justice Department show that during May 2009 the government reported 2,147 new prosecutions that had been referred by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the case-by-case information analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), this number is up 18.9% over the previous month. These data suggest that at least through the first five months of the Obama Administration there has been no let up in the increase in criminal prosecutions as a result of ICE’s enforcement activities.

ICE is the largest investigative agency within DHS, which also includes the Border Patrol (BP), the Transportation and Security Administration (TSA), the Secret Service (SS) and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

For more details, go to

ICE Criminal Prosecutions

TRAC continues to provide additional free reports on current enforcement trends. Go to

TRAC reports

for information on May 2009 convictions and prosecutions in the areas of drugs, white collar crime, immigration, official corruption and more. You can also find free reports on the enforcement activities of selected government agencies such as the IRS, FBI, DHS and DEA.

David Burnham and Susan B. Long, co-directors
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Syracuse University
Suite 360, Newhouse II
Syracuse, NY 13244-2100
315-443-3563
trac@syr.edu

http://trac.syr.edu

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Iraq Violence and Occupation

August 20, 2009

As violence in Iraq increases, the Washington Post reports: “U.S. troops could be forced by Iraqi voters to withdraw a year ahead of schedule under a referendum the Iraqi government backed Monday.”

CHRIS HEDGES, hedgesscoop@aol.com, http://www.truthdig.com/about/staff/70
LAILA AL-ARIAN, laila_alarian@yahoo.com

Hedges and Al-Arian are co-authors of the book “Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians.” A Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, Hedges has written extensively on U.S. policy in Iraq as well as Afghanistan and other critical foreign policy issues. Al-Arian said today: “As the U.S. escalates its war in Afghanistan, let it look no further than Iraq. More than six years after we invaded and destabilized that country, the violence continues unabated, and it’s always the civilians who suffer most. Given the latest violence, there are calls for U.S. troops to reverse their withdrawal from major Iraqi towns and cities. But as U.S. troops themselves have said, as long as the occupation continues, so too will these brutal attacks.”

From: Institute for Public Accuracy

Collateral Damage: America’s War Against Iraqi Civilians ~ Chris Hedges

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New articles at Iraq Oil Report

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Iraq Oil Report has posted new articles.

Oil insecurity

http://www.iraqoilreport.com/security-conflict/oil-insecurity-2160/

Iraqi officials worry oil export terminals are vulnerable with British Navy gone, but Americans assure vital export routes are safe for now.

New articles at Iraq Oil Report

Monday, August 17, 2009 Iraq Oil Report has posted new articles.

Mixed review

http://www.iraqoilreport.com/economy/mixed-review-2166/

UN watchdog over Iraq’s oil revenue says Iraq can take over the job, but worries ministries are lagging in necessary safeguards.

New articles at Iraq Oil Report

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Iraq Oil Report has posted new articles.

Interview: Sabah Shabeeb al-Sa’idi

http://www.iraqoilreport.com/the-biz/interview-sabah-shabeeb-al-sa%e2%80%99idi-2171/

Top Oil Ministry official negotiates contracts, talks to Iraq Oil Report about
the BP deal for Rumaila, gives details of the second bidding round process and
contract, and hints at the Nassiriya winner.

Northern opposition

http://www.iraqoilreport.com/politics/northern-opposition-2177/

Kurdish opposition points to potential rapprochement with Baghdad.

Op-Ed: Why Kurdish Media Must Reform

http://www.iraqoilreport.com/life/op-ed-why-kurdish-media-must-reform-2180/

The recent election in Iraqi Kurdistan ushered in a new era for the region’s
media, posing fresh challenges for news organisations, the government and the
parliament.

Black Basrawis claim discrimination

http://www.iraqoilreport.com/life/black-basrawis-claim-discrimination-2183/

Descendents of slaves say they want more political rights.

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National Security Archive Update, August 20, 2009 – The Mexican Army and the 1997 Acteal Massacre

Breaking the Silence:
The Mexican Army and the 1997 Acteal Massacre

For more information contact:
Kate Doyle – kadoyle@gwu

In Guatemala (until Monday, August 24): 502 4408-9899
New York office: 646-613-1440, ext. 238

Breaking the Silence

Washington, DC, August 20, 2009 – As Mexicans debate last week’s Supreme Court ruling vacating the conviction of 20 men for the Acteal massacre, newly declassified documents from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency describe the Mexican Army’s role in backing paramilitary groups in Chiapas at the time of the killings. The secret cables confirm reporting about military support for indigenous armed groups carrying out attacks on pro-Zapatista communities in the region and add important new details. They also revive a question that has lingered for almost 12 years: when will the Army come clean about its role in Acteal?

Mientras los mexicanos debatían sobre el dictamen de la Suprema Corte la semana pasada, que anula la condena de 20 hombres por la masacre de Acteal, documentos recién desclasificados de la Agencia de Inteligencia de la Defensa (DIA según sus siglas en inglés) de EU describen el papel del Ejército en el apoyo a los grupos paramilitares en Chiapas, al momento de los asesinatos. Los cables secretos confirman los reportes sobre el apoyo militar a los grupos indígenas armados que llevaron a cabo ataques contra comunidades pro zapatistas de la región y añaden importantes detalles nuevos. También reviven un asunto que ha estado latente por casi 12 años: ¿cuándo dirá la Sedena la verdad sobre su papel en Acteal?

Please visit the National Security Archive Web site for more information.

Breaking the Silence

==========

And now for the important news ….

By Argus Hamilton

The NFL issued stadium drinking rules Friday limiting fans to two twenty-ounce beers, or two six-ounce glasses of wine, or two shots of hard liquor. This is outrageous. Health care reform hasn’t even been passed yet and already it’s led to rationing.

Argus Hamilton

==========

three thousand words

Victor Harville
Stephens Media Group
Aug 24, 2009

Bill Day: obama is a racist
(www.cagle.com)

Steve Benson: pot calling the kettle whacked
(www.cagle.com)

Monday August 24, 2009 – The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you.” — David Foster Wallace

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Pulling Granny’s Plug

Political Humor
By Will Durst
Pulling Granny’s Plug

What is it with the crazies with the guns at the town halls complaining about the health care reform death panels? There are no health care reform death panels. Is this what constitutes legitimate dissent now? Just making stuff up? Okay. Fine. I want to protest the black capsules the government plans to shove down our throats at age 30 to tamp Social Security costs down and honor Michael York in Logan’s Run. Come on everybody: “Black Capsules Bad.”

The high decibel human wailing walls call themselves grass roots activists while opponents dispute their provenance as being more from the Astoturf side of the nursery. Interestingly, before any of this started, late in the spring, the GOP circulated internal memos determined to “go for the kill,” on health care. But as they say on “Law & Order,” “any resemblance to actual persons or events is strictly co- incidental.” KON- KONK.

The pissed off masses seem to be an amalgam. Skinheads and Obama is Hitler proponents. The distilled residue dried at the bottom of the Teabagger saucer. Some are free radical LaRouchies who don’t want the government involved in anything including roads and policing. But it is easy to understand why all of them are so leery of public health care. It’s painfully obvious they’re intimate with the failures of public education.

The programs that are the focus of everyone’s tizzyment, are end of life consultations. Known variously as palliative care, and: “They’re pulling the plug on granny.” No. They’re just talking about pulling the plug on granny. Besides, if the participants at these protests are any sampling of what home life is like, maybe granny isn’t that anxious to extend her existence ad infinitum. Maybe granny wants her plug pulled. Ever think of that? Anybody bother asking granny?

Well, that’s what these consultations are about. Maybe granny doesn’t relish the prospect of spending a couple of decades impersonating a large fleshy bedsore bedeviled antiseptic log with a feeding tube up her butt. Maybe granny would like to harvest her epidermis. (Stretchy skin has to come in handy for something.) This is an opportunity to inform her of choices. The choice of leaving her body to science. Or her teeth to Art History. Or her cherry 76 Ford Pinto to PETA. This is where you can get stuff like that out in the open. Living will time.

People die. That’s what they do. All of them. You. Me. Uncle Fred. Aunt Hoogolah. Walter Cronkite. Granny and Gramps. And no offense, but granny is probably going to beat most of us to the finish line. And it doesn’t freak her out as much as it does you just thinking about her thinking about it. Hell, I bet she’s already gone down the rabbit hole with her own granny. And she don’t look too worse for wear (except for the stretchy skin part.)

Unfortunately, in our culture, death is a lot like sex. Books are written about it and movies revel in it, but in the real world, you will please have the common human decency to refrain from speaking about it. Or looking at it. And if someone talks about it, don’t listen. Quick, stick your head in the sand. And hands over both ears. Now repeat after me: La. La. La. La. La. La. La.

Note: No Ostriches were hurt during the writing of this column. KON- KONK.

Will Durst is a San Francisco based political comic who writes sometimes. This is one of them.

Will Durst five-time Emmy nominee and host/co-producer of the ongoing award winning PBS series “Livelyhood” is also a regular commentator on NPR and CNN, and has appeared on every comedy show featuring a brick wall including Letterman, Comedy Central, HBO and Showtime, receiving 7 consecutive nominations for the American Comedy Awards Stand Up of the Year. mwcnews.net/Will-Durst

Complete article at:

Pulling Granny’s Plug

==========

The Guns of August

August 23, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
The Guns of August
By FRANK RICH

“IT is time to water the tree of liberty” said the sign carried by a gun-toting protester milling outside President Obama’s town-hall meeting in New Hampshire two weeks ago. The Thomas Jefferson quote that inspired this message, of course, said nothing about water: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” That’s the beauty of a gun — you don’t have to spell out the “blood.”

The protester was a nut. America has never had a shortage of them. But what’s Tom Coburn’s excuse? Coburn is a Republican senator from Oklahoma, where 168 people were murdered by right-wing psychopaths who bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Their leader, Timothy McVeigh, had the Jefferson quote on his T-shirt when he committed this act of mass murder. Yet last Sunday, when asked by David Gregory on “Meet the Press” if he was troubled by current threats of “violence against the government,” Coburn blamed not the nuts but the government.

“Well, I’m troubled any time when we stop having confidence in our government,” the senator said, “but we’ve earned it.”

Coburn is nothing if not consistent. In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, he was part of a House contingent that helped delay and soften an antiterrorism bill. This cohort even tried to strip out a provision blocking domestic fund-raising by foreign terrorist organizations like Hamas. Why? The far right, in league with the National Rifle Association, was angry at the federal government for aggressively policing America’s self-appointed militias. In a 1996 floor speech, Coburn conceded that “terrorism obviously poses a serious threat,” but then went on to explain that the nation had worse threats to worry about: “There is a far greater fear that is present in this country, and that is fear of our own government.” As his remarks on “Meet the Press” last week demonstrated, the subsequent intervention of 9/11 has not changed his worldview.

I have been writing about the simmering undertone of violence in our politics since October, when Sarah Palin, the vice-presidential candidate of a major political party, said nothing to condemn Obama haters shrieking “Treason!,” “Terrorist!” and “Off with his head!” at her rallies. As vacation beckons, I’d like to drop the subject, but the atmosphere keeps getting darker.

Coburn’s implicit rationalization for far-right fanatics bearing arms at presidential events — the government makes them do it! — cannot stand. He’s not a radio or Fox News bloviator paid a fortune to be outrageous; he’s a card-carrying member of the United States Senate. On Monday — the day after he gave a pass to those threatening violence — a dozen provocateurs with guns, at least two of them bearing assault weapons, showed up for Obama’s V.F.W. speech in Phoenix. Within hours, another member of Congress — Phil Gingrey of Georgia — was telling Chris Matthews on MSNBC that as long as brandishing guns is legal, he, too, saw no reason to discourage Americans from showing up armed at public meetings.

In April the Department of Homeland Security issued a report, originally commissioned by the Bush administration, on the rising threat of violent right-wing extremism. It was ridiculed by conservatives, including the Republican chairman, Michael Steele, who called it “the height of insult.” Since then, a neo-Nazi who subscribed to the anti-Obama “birther” movement has murdered a guard at the Holocaust museum in Washington, and an anti-abortion zealot has gunned down a doctor in a church in Wichita, Kan.

This month the Southern Poverty Law Center, the same organization that warned of the alarming rise in extremist groups before the Oklahoma City bombing, issued its own report. A federal law enforcement agent told the center that he hadn’t seen growth this steep among such groups in 10 to 12 years. “All it’s lacking is a spark,” he said.

This uptick in the radical right predates the health care debate that is supposedly inspiring all the gun waving. Nor can this movement be attributed to a stepped-up attack by Democrats on this crowd’s holy Second Amendment. Since taking office, Obama has disappointed gun-control advocates by relegating his campaign pledge to reinstate the ban on assault weapons to the down-low.

No, the biggest contributor to this resurgence of radicalism remains panic in some precincts about a new era of cultural and demographic change. As the sociologist Daniel Bell put it, “What the right as a whole fears is the erosion of its own social position, the collapse of its power, the increasing incomprehensibility of a world — now overwhelmingly technical and complex — that has changed so drastically within a lifetime.”

Bell’s analysis appeared in his essay “The Dispossessed,” published in 1962, between John Kennedy’s election and assassination. J.F.K., no more a leftist than Obama, was the first Roman Catholic in the White House and the tribune of a new liberal order. Bell could have also written his diagnosis in 1992, between Bill Clinton’s election and the Oklahoma City bombing. Clinton, like Kennedy and Obama, brought liberals back into power after a conservative reign and represented a generational turnover that stoked the fears of the dispossessed.

Complete article at:

The Guns of August

David Horsey: what message are you trying to send …
(www.seattlepi.com)

==========

Misconceptions over key issues in health care debate

San Francisco Chronicle

Misconceptions over key issues in health care debate

Victoria Colliver, Chronicle Staff Writer

August 17, 2009

Somewhere amid the noise and rancor of town hall meetings and political ads over the government’s effort to overhaul the nation’s health care system lies a rational debate.

But in recent weeks the noise has challenged the issues, widening the distance between Washington, D.C., and the town halls and putting words like “mobs” and “death panels” in the same conversation as “pre-existing conditions” and a “public plan option.”…

“If somebody is going to say the public plan option is socialism, then that person is the same person who would think Medicare is socialism,” said MELISSA RODGERS, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF THE BERKELEY CENTER ON HEALTH, ECONOMIC & FAMILY SECURITY, explaining that Medicare retains the same hybrid of a plan administered by the government but delivered by private enterprise as the public option….

Matt Davies: I Can’t Hear You.
(davies.lohudblogs.com)

==========

Fox News continues to falsely claim Dems considering “changing the rules” to pass health care reform

Fox News anchor Jamie Colby falsely characterized Senate Democrats passing health care reform legislation with a simple majority through a process known as reconciliation as “potentially changing the rules with the nuclear option.” In fact, Democrats are not considering “changing the rules” — reconciliation is already part of Senate procedure and Republicans have used it repeatedly in the past, while the term “nuclear option” was coined by then-Republican Sen. Trent Lott in 2005 to refer to a possible Republican attempt to change Senate filibuster rules.

Read More

Fox News continues to falsely claim

==========

USGAO: Health Insurance: Enrollment, Benefits, Funding, and Other Characteristics of State High-Risk Health Insurance Pools.

GAO-09-730R, July 22.

PDF:
USGAO: Health Insurance

==========

Showdown with Russia and China: U.S. Advances First Strike Global Missile Shield System

Sunday, August 23, 2009
Showdown with Russia and China: U.S. Advances First Strike Global Missile Shield System

By Rick Rozoff

Global Research, August 19, 2009
Stop NATO

On August 13th the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Chicago-based Boeing International announced a test of their joint Airborne Laser (ABL) missile defense system, which “successfully tracked and hit the mark earlier this month during its first in-flight test against an instrumented target missile.” [1]

Employing a modified Boeing 747-400F prototype airplane, on August 10 the Missile Defense Agency had the adapted commercial airliner use infrared sensors against a missile launched from San Nicolas Island, California and “found, tracked, engaged and simulated an intercept with a missile seconds after liftoff. It was the first time the Agency used an ‘instrumented’ missile to confirm the laser works as expected. Next up this fall will be the first live attempt to bring down a ballistic missile….” [2]

A newspaper from Alabama, the state where the MDA headquarters is based, mentioned that “The news came today [August 13], just a few days before the 12th annual Space and Missile Defense Conference opens next week in Huntsville.” [3]

The Wall Street Journal waxed enthusiastic about the advanced missile interceptor test, stating that “Along with space-based weapons, the Airborne Laser is the next defense frontier. The modified Boeing 747 is supposed to send an intense beam of light over hundreds of miles to destroy missiles in the ‘boost phase,’ before they can release decoys and at a point in their trajectory when they would fall back down on enemy territory….The laser complements the sea- and ground-based missile defenses that keep proving themselves in tests.

“Never has Ronald Reagan’s dream of layered missile defenses – Star Wars, for short – been as….close, at least technologically, to becoming realized.” [4]

The Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet was launched as a civilian airliner in 1970 and versions of the plane are in use throughout the world, especially in the Middle East. There is no technical reason why 747 commercial airliners cannot be similarly configured to carry Airborne Laser weapons and track and destroy ballistic missiles while camouflaged as strictly civilian passenger planes.

The MDA has revealed that it plans to upgrade Airborne Laser weapons for use against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) during their boost phase, thereby giving them a strategic character.

As an increasingly vital component of U.S. and allied worldwide, integrated missile interceptor systems, which as will be seen may advance to more than intercepting other nation’s missiles and be capable of destroying them in their silos and launching pads before being fired, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said of its latest Airborne Laser operation that “this test marks the third successful ABL missile engagement in just over two months and the first time laser performance data was collected at the target missile. Plans call for ABL to engage progressively more difficult targets in coming months, culminating with a lethal demonstration against a boosting threat-representative ballistic missile target later this year.” [5]

The ABL is slated to play a progressively more important role in an expanding network of international 21st Century Star Wars and space war projects and deployments which includes short- to medium-range, theater missile defense of the Patriot variety, with the latter recently upgraded to the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC-3) Missile.

Last October the German Air Force conducted a PAC-3 Missile test at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and a news report at the time contained this description of the low-end range of U.S. and allied nations’ layered interceptor missile plans: “The Patriot air defence system is a long-range, high to medium altitude missile system and Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor on the PAC-3 Missile Segment upgrade. The PAC-3 Missile will increase the Patriot’s firepower from an output of four to 16.” [6]

This February U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed Washington’s plans to deploy a Patriot missile battery in Poland, not far from Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave, with a garrison of at least 100 troops to man it in addition to plans to base 10 interceptor missiles in the country.

On August 17 Japan announced that it was going to station American Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) surface-to-air interceptor missiles at all six of its anti-aircraft facilities. Patriots were deployed to Israel on the eve of the Operation Desert Storm war against Iraq in 1991 and again, with NATO invoking its Article 5 military assistance provision, to Turkey in 2003 before the Operation Iraqi Freedom invasion. They are intended to prevent retaliation against aggressive military operations.

The global and more than global – exoatmospheric, space – system also includes Ground Based Interceptor (GBI), Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD), Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV), Aegis combat system (destroyers carrying interceptor radar and missiles) and Forward Based X-Band Radars (FBXB) components.

Disarmament advocates and top Russian officials alike have warned for years that the missile interceptor and related space war programs are not, as claimed by the Pentagon and its military allies in Europe and the Asia Pacific, aimed at so-called rogue states but have a far more dangerous purpose.

In June Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao announced that their two nations were drafting a joint treaty to ban the deployment of weapons in outer space and to present it to the United Nations General Assembly.

Regarding the true intent of missile interceptor plans both on earth and in space, a recent news item detailed that “The White House says the plan is aimed at countering what it terms as ‘threats’ from countries such as Iran, which has no existing or planned missiles which can reach the US. The Kremlin, meanwhile, believes that the real aim of the system is to neutralize Russia’s nuclear deterrent and therefore sees it as a threat to Russia’s national security.” [7]

An influential Russian news source stated: “[T]he strategic importance of these interceptor missiles would increase were the U.S. to deliver a
first nuclear strike against Russia.

“In this scenario, interceptor missiles would have to take on the limited number of missiles surviving the first strike, which would allow the U.S. to hope for success and, for the first time since the 1950s, for a victory in a nuclear war.” [8]

Lest this perspective be seen as a uniquely Russia concern, in the March/April 2006 edition of Foreign Affairs, a publication of the American Council on Foreign Relations, authors Keir A. Lieber and Daryl G. Press contributed a study called “The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy” which stated, inter alia, that “It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike.

“The U.S. Air Force has finished equipping its B-52 bombers with nuclear-armed cruise missiles, which are probably invisible to Russian and Chinese air-defense radar. And the air force has also enhanced the avionics on its B-2 stealth bombers to permit them to fly at extremely low altitudes in order to avoid even the most sophisticated radar.” [9]

Deploying short-, medium- and long-range interceptor missile batteries, sophisticated and mobile missile radar stations, long-range super-stealth nuclear bombers, Aegis-class destroyers equipped to sail the world’s seas to hunt down and neutralize conventional and nuclear missiles, and surveillance satellites and weapons in space is hardly designed to target non-existent intercontinental ballistic missile threats from Iran or Syria, or even from North Korea, but to blackmail Russia and China and prepare the groundwork for surviving and “triumphing” in a first strike nuclear war.

On August 11 the commander of the Russian Air Force, Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin, warned that “By 2030…foreign countries, particularly the United States, will be able to deliver coordinated high-precision strikes from air and space against any target on the whole territory of Russia,” adding “That is why the main goal of the development of the Russian Air Force until 2020 is to create a new branch of the Armed Forces, which would form the core of the country’s air and space defenses to provide a reliable deterrent during peacetime, and repel any military aggression with the use of conventional and nuclear arsenals in a time of war” [10] and “We are building new missiles that will be capable of defending not only against air-defense systems but space-based systems.” [11]

The following day Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told the 65-nation Conference on Disarmament in Geneva “Outer space is now facing the looming danger of weaponization. Credible and effective multilateral measures must be taken to forestall the weaponization and arms race in outer space.”

Yang demanded that “Countries should neither develop missile defense systems that undermine global strategic stability nor deploy weapons in outer space.” [12]

The Western news report in which the quotes appeared added “China and Russia have been vocal advocates of a global treaty against space-based weapons and argue for this to be included in future Conference of Disarmament negotiations,” but that “United States has dismissed the criticism as designed to block its plans for a missile interceptor system….” [13]

Undeterred by Chinese and Russian concerns, the U. S. is forging ahead with expanding its Star Wars and space wars dyad in both depth and breadth.

Two days ago the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency commenced its 12th annual Space and Missile Defense Conference in Huntsville, Alabama where its headquarters is situated, and which includes a new Von Braun Center named after the father of Nazi Germany’s missile project and one of the creators of the US ICBM program who with several German colleagues was sent to Huntsville in 1950 (Operation Paperclip) to work on the first live nuclear ballistic missile tests conducted by the Pentagon.

This year the Von Braun Center hosts over 2,000 participants and 230 exhibitors and speakers including Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden Jr., Army Lt. Gen. Kevin Campbell, commanding general of the Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, and Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly.

“The conference also includes receptions and special events sponsored by a number of the exhibitors, which include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman….” [14]

As was seen earlier, the Pentagon’s most advanced Airborne Laser missile interception test to date was conducted in advance of the conference.

The MDA is also accelerating the pace of full spectrum air, sea, land, cyber and space missile shield developments in addition to laser weapons.

On August 1 it announced it had completed a successful sea-based missile interception from Hawaii. A ballistic missile was fired from the island of Kauai and “shot down by a three-stage interceptor missile from the USS Hopper.” [15]

A report that appeared before the interception quoted the MDA as saying that “The test, conducted by the Navy and the Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Agency, will mark the 23rd firing by ships equipped with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system. There have been 18 successes, including the shooting down of a dead U.S. spy satellite from space last year.

“While the Hopper fires and guides an SM-3 Block IA missile to intercept the target missile in the upper atmosphere, the USS O’Kane will simulate engagement and the USS Lake Erie will detect and track the target….” [16]

“USS Lake Erie’s recently installed Aegis upgrade will enable it to engage increasingly longer range, more sophisticated ballistic missiles, according to the Missile Defense Agency.” [17]

The disabled satellite mentioned above, the USA-193 spy satellite, was shot down in space in February of 2008 by the same USS Lake Erie, an Aegis-class Guided Missile Cruiser, that participated in the above-described test.

At the time of the satellite’s destruction China registered a complaint and “Russia’s Defense Ministry said the U.S. plan could be used as a cover to test a new space weapon.” [18]

In fact Russian State Duma deputy Andrei Kokoshin, former Secretary of the Russian Security Council, said at the time that “The US-193 spy satellite shooting by a U.S. missile may result in a new stage in space
militarization.”

“[T]he satellite was shot down as an act of political demonstration of America’s capacities and confirmation of the American ‘free hand’ policy of the use of force in outer-space and the development of anti-satellite weaponry.” [19]

Last month the Pentagon announced plans to integrate its latest generation drone, the Reaper – “one of several projects aimed at monitoring enemy missiles just after launch” [20] – into the global missile shield system.

In the words of a Defense Department official, “It gives you a great capability from hundreds and hundreds of kilometers away to be able to view a missile launch and actually track it and provide data to our shooters to intercept.”

According to the new head of the Missile Defense Agency, Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, “By studying the missile in its early stage of flight, the drones could provide data that would allow the incoming weapon to be destroyed.” [21]

Also in July it was reported in a news story called “Tomahawk Being Re-tooled as Ship-killer” that “Raytheon Missile Systems wants to turn its land-attack Tomahawk missile into a ship killer that can do something never done before: Hit a cruising warship from a thousand miles away,” with one of the intended targets being China.

“The Chinese…began producing a lot of mobile ballistic missile launchers about a decade ago….[T]hese tactical missiles are deployed in bunkers close enough to the coast to be destroyed by a longer-range, more powerful Tomahawk. U.S. Navy missile that cruises hundreds of miles over land to blow up buildings is being redesigned in Tucson to chase down moving targets.” [22]

On July 22 Israel tested its Arrow II interceptor missile, jointly developed with the U.S., off the coast of California and “In a test involving three U.S. missile interceptors, Arrow tracked a target missile dropped from a C-17 aircraft.” [23]

The various stages of the layered interceptor missile system depend upon radar and surveillance facilities and satellites on earth and in space. Missile shield deployments – missiles and radar – already exist in Alaska and its Aleutian Islands, Greenland, Britain, Norway, Japan, South Korea and Australia and are planned for Poland (missiles) and the Czech republic (radar).

But those sites only represent the beginning phases of a far most ambitious grid around the world as well as in space.

Last September the U.S. Senate allocated $89 million for “the activation and deployment of the AN/TPY-2 forward-based X-band radar [the same type to be deployed in the Czech Republic] to a classified location.”

A Russian news source commented on this move:

“The ‘classified location’ is not a complete secret.

“Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, [then] director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), has said more than once that Turkey, Georgia and even Ukraine could be future locations for ballistic missile defense systems.

“[T]he Pentagon will most likely choose Turkey or, some Western analysts say, Israel or Japan.

“Russia has told Washington more than once that no fence of antimissiles near its border would save the United States from a retaliatory strike by missiles capable of evading ABM as well as by air and naval systems.” [24]

Washington has in fact chosen all of the above-named nations and others as well.

Last March Pentagon chief Robert Gates visited Turkey to hold consultations on missile shield plans. A Turkish report on the meeting stated “A powerful, ‘forward based’ X-band radar station could go in southeastern Europe, possibly in Turkey, the Caucasus or the Caspian Sea region, Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, head of Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency, told a defense conference in Washington on Feb. 12.” [25]

Two months later it was revealed that “the United States may deploy a high-frequency X-band radar in Georgia.” [26]

In 2008 the U.S. also substantially boosted its interceptor plans for Japan and it was announced that “Japan and the United States are erecting the world’s most complex ballistic missile defense shield, a project that is changing the security balance in Asia and has deep implications for Washington’s efforts to pursue a similar strategy in Europe….” [27]

The Pentagon and the Japanese military are working on an early warning system “of the kind provided by the Joint Tactical Ground Station, or JTAG [which the U.S. also operates in Germany, Qatar and South Korea], and another state-of-the-art X-band radar station recently deployed” to Japan. [28]

The preceding month, December of 2007, Japan became the first nation after the U.S. to shoot a missile out of the air with an Aegis-linked Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) in a test off Hawaii.

In June of 2008 the U.S. Strategic Command completed a study on the deployment of Forward-Based X-band Radars.

A U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command spokesman said of the study that it would “coordinate and recommend to [Office of the Secretary of Defense-policy] a strategy for AN/TPY-2 radar employment, supporting worldwide ballistic missile defense capabilities in the period 2008-2012.” [29]

In 2006 the U.S. deployed Forward-Based X-band [FBX] radar to a Japanese Air Self-Defense Force base northeast of Tokyo and as of last year additionally planned to “deploy an FBX radar to Europe” and Juneau, Alaska and is “working to integrate tracks from the FBX radar into the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense system….”

“All Ballistic Missile Defense System radars – including the upgraded early warning radars at Beale Air Force Base, CA, Fylingdales Royal Air Base in the United Kingdom, Thule Air Base in Greenland and the Cobra Dane radars in Alaska – the Sea-Based X-band radar, and all AN/TPY-2 radars (both forward-based and THAAD Fire Units) will now be managed under one program office.” [30]

The Pentagon is also still planning to modify its X-band radar on the
Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific and relocate it to the Czech Republic in conjunction with the deployment of ten interceptor missiles in Poland.

An Israeli daily newspaper recently reported that the U.S. and the Israeli Defense Forces will hold a joint missile defense exercise in October, Juniper Cobra, “during which the American-made Aegis and THAAD defense systems will deploy in Israel for the first time.” [31]

Earlier exercises were held at the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

“Israel received the advanced X-Band radar in October as a farewell gift from the Bush administration to beef up Israeli defenses….The radar is deployed in southern Israel near the Nevatim Air Force Base and is reportedly capable of tracking small targets from thousands of kilometers away.” [32]

Thousands of kilometers away means surveillance of not only Syria and Iran but a large swathe of southern Russia.

This January the U.S. Air Force established a provisional Global Strike Command which was fully activated on August 7. It has subsumed the Air Combat Command and the Air Force Space Command and in the words of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz it will “organize, train and equip America’s ICBMs and nuclear-capable bombers….”

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said the new command will “bring together the Air Force bomber force and intercontinental ballistic missiles under a single commander.” [33]

Reacting to this consolidation, streamlining and upgrading of American global nuclear strike potential, on August 11 the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force, the same Alexander Zelin cited earlier on the threat of U.S. strikes from space on all of his nation, said that the “Russian Air Force is preparing to meet the threats resulting from the creation of the Global Strike Command in the U.S. Air Force” and that Russia is developing “appropriate systems to meet the threats that may arise.” [34]

A change in the American White House, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s and the mounting costs in both dollars and lives of the war in Afghanistan have not slowed down the U.S.’s plans for military domination of the planet and in outer space; nor have they lessened the threat of an unprecedented catastrophe resulting from the designs by the United States and its allies in Europe and Asia to establish an impenetrable international missile shield that would leave two of the world’s nuclear powers, Russia and China, targets for coercion and first strike conventional and nuclear attacks.

Notes

1) Alabama.com, August 13, 2009
2) Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2009
3) Alabama.com, August 13, 2009
4) Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2009
5) Ibid
6) The Engineer (Britain), October 17, 2008
7) Press TV, August 15, 2009
8) Russian Information Agency Novosti, November 10, 2008
9) Foreign Affairs, March/April 2006
10) Russian Information Agency Novosti, August 11, 2009
11) Agence France-Presse, August 11, 2009
12) Associated Press, August 12, 2009
13) Ibid
14) Huntsville Times, August 17, 2009
15) Associated Press, July 30, 2009
16) Ibid
17) Honolulu Advertiser, July 29, 2009
18) Reuters, February 17, 2008
19) Interfax, February 21, 2008
20) Global Security Network, July 17, 2009
21) Ibid
22) Arizona Daily Star, July 17, 2009
23) Reuters, July 22, 2009
24) Russian Information Agency Novosti, September 12, 2008
25) Turkish Daily News, March 12, 2008
26) Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 14, 2008
27) Associated Press, January 28, 2008
28) Ibid
29) Inside Defense, June 18, 2008
30) Ibid
31) Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2009
32) Ibid
33) U.S. Department of Defense, American Forces Press Service,
August 7, 2009
34) Interfax-Military, August 11, 2009

Complete article at:

Showdown with Russia and China

==========

Delta House Missile Defense

Volume XIV No. 34: August 21, 2009

Faced with proposed budgetary terminations, in a move that would make Bluto and his Animal House fraternity brothers proud, missile defense program boosters threw a big ‘ol party this week.

Okay, so they weren’t wearing togas, but military brass, scientists, and academics descended by the hundreds on Huntsville, Alabama, for the annual Space and Missile Defense Conference. As the home of the Army Space and Missile Command, Missile and Space Intelligence Center, and scores of related government agencies and defense contractors, Huntsville is the perfect venue for what amounts to a pep rally (trade show) for our country’s most expensive weapons systems.

The event was well-timed to remind Congressional Appropriators that decisions about missile defense funding await them after the August recess when they take up the fiscal year 2010 Defense Appropriations bill. Specifically, they must decide whether to defy the White House and reinstate funding for programs shrunk by the Pentagon—including the Airborne Laser and Ground-Based Missile Defense—or terminated outright, such as the Multiple-Kill Vehicle and Kinetic Energy Interceptor (KEI). House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha has already spared KEI the knife, giving the program based in his home district $80 million in the House version of the bill.

In another example of fortuitous timing, the Missile Defense Agency reported Wednesday a successful test of the Airborne Laser, a Boeing creation that would shoot ballistic missiles out of the sky with a laser mounted on the nose of a 747 aircraft. MDA had conducted a similar test the previous week, and will attempt to actually shoot down a missile by the end of the year.

But even if the system passes that test, the fact is the laser is still too weak to allow the large planes to shoot down missiles from a safe distance. The planes would have to practically hover above their targets in order to destroy them—hardly an invulnerable position. Defense Secretary Gates said as much when he testified before the House Armed Services Committee in May. “There’s nobody in uniform I know who thinks this is a workable concept,” he said.

The Defense Department has in fact budgeted plenty of money for continued development of directed-energy lasers and weapons—just not ones mounted on aircraft that invite enemy target practice. Yet in Huntsville this week, the ABL seemed the belle of the ball: TV cameras lingered over models of laser-packin’ 747s that, according to the DOD budget, will never be built.

Meanwhile, Huntsville’s Representative Parker Griffith (D-AL) hit the dance floor to defend the wasteful weapons. “Did we make a policy decision and then place a budget? Or did we make a budget decision and then develop a policy?” he asked Thursday afternoon during a presentation titled “The Politics of Missile Defense and the Adversarial Influences.” “It should not have been a budget issue. The defense of the United States is going to be expensive,” he said. Too late. It already is expensive – as Secretary Gates has pointed out. We should be able to defend our country on the more than half a trillion dollars we are currently spending.

We surely agree that strategy and security should guide defense spending before parochial concerns about jobs, votes, and dollars. But military leaders, scientists and the preponderance of evidence agree that missile defense programs like the Airborne Laser have failed on that score, and other investments—including many other missile defense programs—are more deserving of our limited dollars. The party has to end some time and we have to make tough budgetary choices. The easiest choice should be to spend our precious cash on defense programs that will actually work.

Let us know what you think.

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Going on at Taxpayer.net This Week

Watchdogs Release Database Detailing Earmarks and Campaign Contributions

FY08 & FY09 Earmarks and Related Campaign Contributions

TCS Earmark Analysis and Proposal for Reform

Fiscal Year 2010 Earmark Databases

Bailout Bank Bios

TCS Staff are compiling profiles of all financial institutions receiving funds under the 2008 Emergency Economic Stabilization Act. See all completed bios here.

TCS in the News

TCS was cited in dozens of stories this past week. Check them all out in the Headlines About TCS section of our redesigned website.

Notable Quote

“The security of the American people and the efficacy of missile defense are not enhanced by continuing to put money into programs that…in terms of their operational concept are fatally flawed, or research programs that are essentially sinkholes for taxpayer dollars.”

–Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, testifying before House lawmakers in May.

the weekly wastebasket at the weekly wastebasket

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Brand New Trailer for Michael Moore’s ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’

Friday, August 21, 2009
Brand New Trailer for Michael Moore’s ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’

It’s here! Check out the brand new trailer for Michael Moore’s ‘Capitalism: A Love Story.’

Capitalism: A Love Story

Mike is premiering the film at the oldest film festival in the world, the Venice International Film Festival.

Next he heads to the Toronto International Film Festival where ‘Roger & Me’ won the festival’s People’s Choice award 20 years ago.

‘Capitalism: A Love Story’ opens nationwide October 2nd.

Can’t wait for you to see it!

Webmaster
MichaelMoore.com
webguy@michaelmoore.com

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Ridge: Osama Terror Tape Was Actually Cheney in Beard

Andy Borowitz
BorowitzReport.com

August 21, 2009

Former Department of Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge unleashed another bombshell today, revealing that a terror tape of Osama bin Laden that was released just prior to the 2004 election was actually Dick Cheney in a beard.

According to Mr. Ridge, in October of 2004 he was called into a “secret meeting” at the White House which “turned out to be a fashion show, basically, with Dick Cheney trying on a series of Osama bin Laden beards.”

Mr. Ridge said that President George W. Bush “personally selected” the beard that Mr. Cheney went on to wear in the chilling video.

The former Homeland Security secretary said that he was “shocked” that Mr. Cheney would try to hoodwink the American people by dressing as Osama bin Laden, but said “I decided to bite my tongue because I realized that if I ever a book this would be really good for sales.”

Follow Andy Borowitz on Twitter: Borowitz Report

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three thousand words

Glenn Foden
BusinessandMedia.Org
Aug 23, 2009

Jack Ohman : first, do no harm …
(images.ucomics.com)

John Sherffius: fox news
(www.cagle.com)

Sunday August 23, 2009 – All thinking men are atheists. — Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

WARRIORS FOR CHRIST: IS PROMISE KEEPERS MAKING A COMEBACK?

By J. Terry Todd, Religion Dispatches

Promise Keepers has repackaged its muscular Christianity and evangelical nationalism for a post-9/11 world.

Complete article at:

WARRIORS FOR CHRIST

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Believers Invest in the Gospel of Getting Rich

New York Times

Mrs. Biellier said some friends and relatives would say the preacher just wanted their money. She explained that the Copelands did not need the money for …

Complete article at:

Getting Rich

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ANTI-CHOICE ZEALOTS MAKE BANK PROMOTING THE “PERSONHOOD” OF ZYGOTES

By Wendy Norris, RH Reality Check

The ‘egg-as-person’ crusade is driving big money to anti-choice groups.

Complete article at:

ANTI-CHOICE ZEALOTS

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MSNBC’S MADDOW SHOW PROPELS GROWING SCANDAL OVER WASHINGTON’S “CHRISTIAN MAFIA”

By Bruce Wilson

Are Leadership Lessons of Hitler, Lenin, and Mao Compatible with Democracy ?

Complete article at:

CHRISTIAN MAFIA

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COMING OUT ATHEIST

Kate Shellnutt

Young non-believers come out of the shadows and embrace secular identities.

Complete article at:

COMING OUT ATHEIST

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AU Press Release :: AU Praises Appeals Court Decision Upholding Separation Of Church And Post Office

Friday, August 21, 2009

Press Release

American United Praises Appeals Court Decision Upholding Separation Of Church And Post Office
Decision Says Connecticut Church Cannot Display Proselytizing Materials In Contract Postal Unit

August 21, 2009

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today commended a federal appeals court decision requiring a church to separate its religious outreach from the activities at a church-run postal unit.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Full Gospel Interdenominational Church must separate its preaching and proselytizing from the work it does on a contract basis for the U.S. Postal Service.

Said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director, “Americans look to houses of worship if they need religious counsel, not post offices. We expect Uncle Sam, and those he contracts with, to deliver the mail, not preach or pass the plate.”

Read the full press release at au.org

AU Press Release

Americans United for Separation of Church and State au.org

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AU Press Release :: Illinois May Not Fund Religion, AU Warns State Officials

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Press Release

Illinois May Not Fund Religion, Americans United Warns State Officials
Church-State Watchdog Group Questions $40 Million In Grants To Religious Groups
August 19, 2009

Americans United for Separation of Church and State today challenged Illinois state government’s plan to distribute millions of dollars in state funds to religious organizations.

In a letter to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Americans United insisted that the Constitution clearly forbids the use of public funds to subsidize religion.

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn recently signed an infrastructure-improvement bill allocating $40 million in grants to at least 97 religious organizations within the state. The bill fails to place any restrictions on these organizations’ use of the funds.

Read the full press release at au.org

AU Press Release

Americans United for Separation of Church and State au.org

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Court records on sex abuse by priests near release And More …

WRCB-TV

(AP) – Thousands of pages of court records about allegations of child sexual abuse by Memphis Catholic priests could be released by the end of the summer. …

http://www.wrcbtv.com/Global/story.asp?S=10935850

AP source: Ex-priest called before grand jury

The Associated Press

Mahony did not notify police but sent Baker to a residential facility that treated priests for sexual abuse problems. In the years that followed, …

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jA-HURgaE8BFz76KPUhO1w-A2EAQD9A2V9HG0

$600G settlement puts spotlight on sex-abuse priest at a Jersey …

The Jersey Journal – NJ.com

Carmine Sita,a Catholic priest who pleaded guilty to molesting a teenage boy while at a Jersey City parish more than 25 years ago is at the center of a …

http://www.nj.com/hudson/index.ssf/2009/08/600g_settlement_puts_spotlight.html

Former deaf-school student sues archdiocese

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

He was placed on the archdiocese’s list of priests with substantiated claims of sexual abuse in 2004. Weakland, a central figure in the lawsuits,

http://www.jsonline.com/features/religion/53174097.html

Big settlement in church abuse case disclosed

Kansas City Star

Howard had pleaded guilty in a sex abuse case in New Jersey in 1982, received treatment, then was placed in Boonville in the Diocese of Jefferson City. …

http://www.kansascity.com/news/breaking_news/story/1381530.html

Child sexual abuse complaint against priest is ‘credible,’ Madison …

Wisconsin State Journal

By DOUG ERICKSON

The Madison Catholic Diocese said Wednesday its sexual abuse review board has found an allegation of child sexual abuse against the Rev. …

http://www.madison.com/redirect.php?type=newstool&id=461878

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The Evolution Controversy in America, written by historian George Webb

The Evolution Controversy in America ~ George Webb

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three thousand words

Signe Wilkinson
Philadelphia Daily News
Jan 14, 2009

God hates figs
(www.flickr.com)

MIKHAELA B. REID
(americanhumanist.org)

Saturday August 22, 2009 – Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of facts. – Henry Adams.

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Parrots and Protectionism: Healthcare Reform and American Society

by Amori Johnson
August 20, 2009

View Amori Johnson’s blog

Amori Johnson’s blog

“Most people would rather die than think; in fact, most do so”
Bertrand Russell

Critical is not something that my closest friends would consider me. Today I will contradict that sentiment.

The realities of healthcare reform are still not clear to most Americans. While the factions that have emerged from each pole from Universal Coverage to Anti-Reform (aka “keep things like they are they are good/comfortable for ME right now”) the clarity on either side and even for those who desire a more middle of the road approach has been murky. This morass of confusion has at times been calculated and intentional. More so, it has been the result of many people on Twitter and through various blogs and other social networks and media parroting the sentiments of a faction of people and in some cases a particular person whom they feel is a reflection of who they are.

Human nature is what human nature is. We gravitate towards that which makes us feel safe and protects the values that we have come to know as most beneficial to our survival. However, the caveat to this reality is that things inevitably change. If we are lucky and thoughtful, change can be the precursor to transformation; however, transformation is rare. The result that arises when transformation is necessary but is resisted based on an unconscious reaction to that which is beyond the scope of consciousness, is decline.

The healthcare reform conversation is reflective of the decline of the United States and it will not cease declining until this conversation and people having it transform, starting with a change (if only for a moment).

Changes will need to come in one or two forms. For those who are aware that they are in fact spouting un-truths or half-truths (same thing–see Beware of Half Truths About Healthcare Reform)
Half Truths based purely on self-interest will have to realize that a mind set based on selfishness and motivated primarily by material gain will not be rewarded in the long-term.

Of course, some people are aware that it is the case. They are clear that the material growth of the U.S. is in the process of decline and that while we will potentially/eventually get to a place where suffering is mitigated, riches “beyond belief” will rarely be seen and for that matter, valued like many value them currently.

The rich will stay rich and what we consider the middle class will shift significantly and the gap between all social-economic strata will broaden. Nonetheless, although they have this awareness they are not willing to do what it takes to consider a broader interest beyond themselves. Some of these voices perpetuating a divide of the people (the “socialist healthcare” “killing off seniors” “making you pay for other people who don’t want to work” and “all those immigrants bringing down our country” stuff) will experience severe negative consequences to their fortunes and their lives. This mind-set is dying and if you have a dying mind-set you will eventually. . .well, you get the picture.

Now on the other hand, my opinion is that there are droves of people who simply react or parrot the sentiments of others. They liberally react with the “We Are the World” conversation that Universal Healthcare is a must and all people opposed in any fashion are racist, fascist, separatist, selfish humans who don’t care about all of those people in need.

Or, conversely they parrot the Rush Limbaugh’s, Glenn Beck’s, Sean Hannity’s, etc. of the world and simply repeat their self-interested rhetoric that is so clearly one-sided that one actually has to intentionally not think to believe that their perspective is balanced or even remotely speaking to the entirety of interests of those that they have influenced to duplicate their misdirection and misinformation.

So, we are stuck between the selfish, parroting, and extremists. Where do we go from here?

First, I think we have to recognize that healthcare reform is about more than just healthcare/health insurance reform. In fact, the topic is simply a microcosm of the dynamics of American society and an opportunity for us to enter into a new era where transformation from an “I” to “We” consciousness is created. I have said and will always say:

“The difference between Illness and Wellness is ‘I’ and ‘We’.” and I am not just talking about our physical illness and wellness.

What is at stake is a reflection of the myriad challenges that face us and that we will have to take on together, not divided to ever have a chance at improving. Whether it is education, energy, the environment, healthcare or any other vital issue, we are now at a time that leads us toward evolution or self-destruction. ALL of us are in this space. Extremes of thought, reaction, and rhetoric in either direction will perpetuate the decline.

Second, we can’t make this process we are in with healthcare reform about win or loss. If there is win and loss, there is loss–all of us lose. Whether you are affected directly or indirectly, if there are sides and any side is adversely affected by the choices made to the point that their suffering creates greater suffering for others, we all are harmed–the United States is harmed–the world is harmed.

If you are considering dismissing what I am saying because it is uncomfortable, so be it. My intention is simply to state what I see and what I think is inevitable if we do nothing or do less than we are capable of as a very capable United States of greatness.

The discussion we are in now is VERY very big. Very big conversations lead to very big consequences when subsequent actions or non-actions are taken. This time WE choose. We, the People, are the government and our elected officials are extensions of us. WE choose the rise or fall this time by our words and our thoughts. This has always been the case but the quickening of information exchange and the speed of the times exacerbates it.

Third, parrots are some of the most intelligent of animals on the planet. They can be trained, not just to mimic voices and repeat words, but also to speak in context and solve puzzles. The parroting that I am talking about is devoid of real thought and is dominated by emotional reaction, not rational contemplation.

Don’t be fooled by a small faction stating small-minded perspectives without thoroughly examining all sides of the situation. Otherwise, you will think others are “drinking the koolaid” while you are actually unaware of the reality that the “others” in fact, are you. Voluntarily parroting incomplete sentiments of manipulation is reflective of how deeply one is being manipulated without awareness. Teach/require yourself to think.

We are a thinking country, it is what brought forth what we have created, the good, the bad, and the ugly. We have stopped thinking deeply, we rather choose to repeat the thoughts of others. It cannot continue, it will not help you, it will not help your family, it will not help our country.

So protect the greatness that we have created in this country. If you must repeat the thoughts of others solely because you are only worried about yourself, let people know. At least we will be clear about your intention.

In the space and place we are in now, the time couldn’t be more critical. We absolutely must open our minds, deepen our consideration, and learn the intentions and necessity of transformation. Healthcare reform and its dialog can be a platform for us to make this a reality. Let’s create what we truly want to see in the world.

Make it a great day!

Complete article at:

Parrots and Protectionism

Town Hall Smackdown
(bigfatwhale.com)

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Myths and falsehoods about health care reform

Media Matters for America identifies and debunks 14 myths and falsehoods surrounding the health care reform debate.

Read More

Myths and falsehoods

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At 59, GOP Congressman says he couldn’t get a hip replacement in Canada or England

The Truth-O-Meter Says:

“I’m 59. In either Canada or Great Britain, if I broke my hip, I couldn’t get it replaced.”
Roy Blunt on Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 in an editorial board meeting with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

At 59, GOP Congressman says he couldn’t get a hip replacement in Canada or England

Bookmark this story:
Buzz up!ShareThisCritics of President Barack Obama’s health care plan have often cited problems with government-run health care in Canada and Great Britain to make a point that there could be long lines or inadequate care under the Democratic plan.

During a meeting with with reporters and editors at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in early August 2009, Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said he was living proof about the drawbacks of the Canadian and British systems.

“I’m 59. In either Canada or Great Britain, if I broke my hip, I couldn’t get it replaced,” he told them, to make the point that he was too old to be eligible for the expensive surgery.

Our friends at the Post-Dispatch checked the assertion and found it to be false. We did our own fact-checking and verified their work.

In an Aug. 16 editorial challenging Blunt’s assertion, the newspaper wrote that “at least 63 percent of hip replacements performed in Canada last year and two-thirds of those done in England were on patients age 65 or older. More than 1,200 in Canada were done on people older than 85.”

Let’s take those numbers individually.

On the question of Canadian hip replacements, the Post-Dispatch cited a report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), which describes itself as “an independent, not-for-profit organization that provides essential data and analysis on Canada’s health system and the health of Canadians.” The report draws on information from several databases, including nationwide figures on medical procedures undertaken in hospitals. Using those statistics, it found that in all of Canada (except for the province of Quebec, for which information was unavailable), 63 percent of all hip replacements in 2006-2007 were performed on patients 65 and older. So Blunt was wrong, and the newspaper was right.

As for the the number of Canadian hip replacements for the 85-and-older demographic, the newspaper actually underestimated how many there were. The number for 2006-2007, according to the same report, was 1,577.

Just to make sure these numbers were valid, we checked with Shirley Chen, a senior analyst at the Canadian Joint Replacement Registry, a project of CIHI and orthopedic surgeons in Canada that collects statistics on hip and knee joint replacements. She confirmed the numbers reported here.

For Britain, the Post-Dispatch got its figures from a 2000 report by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, a group that determines whether particular treatments are covered by the British National Health Service. The report said that “the over 65-year age group accounts for two in every three” hip replacements.

When we called Britain’s National Health Service’s Information Centre for Health and Social Care — the NHS’ hub for medical statistics — they provided new numbers showing that 87 percent of hip replacements were performed on people age 60 or over. That’s a different age bracket than what the newspaper used, but it still means Blunt was wrong.

Blunt acknowledged his mistake to the Post-Dispatch and promised to do better. “I’m glad you pointed that out to me,” he told the newspaper. “I won’t use that example any more.” He blamed the bad information on testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, given by “some people who are supposed to be experts on Canadian health care.” We looked through past Congressional testimony using both Congressional Quarterly and Google but we couldn’t find a reference that fit the description. Blunt’s office did not respond to our request for an explanation.

Unlike others who have been caught in falsehoods in the health care debate, it’s notable that Blunt has acknowledged his mistake and said he was sorry. But still, he was wrong about both countries and would be eligible for hip replacements for many years to come.

Public officials have a duty not to get things wrong, especially when it has the potential to frighten people. (You may recall we gave Vice President Joe Biden a Pants on Fire for saying during the swine flu scare that when you sneeze, it travels through the whole plane.) Likewise, this claim could scare many senior citizens. So we have to set the meter ablaze and give Blunt a Pants on Fire!

Complete article at:

couldn’t get a hip replacement

Jack Ohman: what’s “cooperate,” jerk?
(images.ucomics.com)

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State-by-State Analysis Finds Rapidly Rising Health Insurance Premiums Across the U.S.

Nationally, family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance increased 119 percent between 1999 and 2008, and they could increase another 94 percent by 2020 if the current pace of cost growth continues, according to a new Commonwealth Fund analysis.

The new data brief, Paying the Price: How Health Insurance Premiums Are Eating Up Middle-Class Incomes, finds that the increase in employer-based premiums for family coverage from 2003 to 2008 averaged 33 percent, ranging from a high of 45 percent in Indiana and North Carolina to an average low of 25 percent in Michigan, Texas, and Ohio. By 2008, average family premium costs were highest in Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Hampshire—topping out at more than $13,500. Idaho, Iowa, and Hawaii had the lowest average family premiums, around $11,000.

Health-Insurance-Premiums

Commonwealth Fund researcher say national reforms that slow health care cost increases by 1 to 1.5 percent per year would yield substantial savings for families and businesses across the country. By 2020, slowing the annual rate of growth by 1 percent would yield more than $2,500 in reduced premiums for family coverage, and slowing growth by 1.5 percent would yield more than $3,700 in premium savings compared to projected trends.

“Employers and employees share premium costs, but we know that take-home pay and retirement savings are being sacrificed to maintain health benefits,” says Cathy Schoen, the lead author of the analysis and a senior vice president at the Fund. “Reforms that slow the growth of health care costs could go a long way toward health and financial stability for working families.”

From: The Commonwealth Fund” commonwealthfund@cmwf.org

The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation that aims to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency

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The Greenback Effect – This article by Warren Buffett

Slowing them down will require extraordinary political will. With government expenditures now running 185 percent of receipts, truly major changes in both taxes and outlays will be required. A revived economy can’t come close to bridging that sort of gap.

Legislators will correctly perceive that either raising taxes or cutting expenditures will threaten their re-election. To avoid this fate, they can opt for high rates of inflation, which never require a recorded vote and cannot be attributed to a specific action that any elected official takes. In fact, John Maynard

Keynes long ago laid out a road map for political survival amid an economic disaster of just this sort: “By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens…. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

I want to emphasize that there is nothing evil or destructive in an increase in debt that is proportional to an increase in income or assets. As the resources of individuals, corporations and countries grow, each can handle more debt. The United States remains by far the most prosperous country on earth, and its debt-carrying capacity will grow in the future just as it has in the past.

But it was a wise man who said, “All I want to know is where I’m going to die so I’ll never go there.” We don’t want our country to evolve into the banana-republic economy described by Keynes.

Our immediate problem is to get our country back on its feet and flourishing – “whatever it takes” still makes sense. Once recovery is gained, however, Congress must end the rise in the debt-to-G.D.P. ratio and keep our growth in obligations in line with our growth in resources.

Unchecked carbon emissions will likely cause icebergs to melt. Unchecked greenback emissions will certainly cause the purchasing power of currency to melt. The dollar’s destiny lies with Congress.

Complete article at:

Greenback Effect

==========

Confidential Informants: A Double-Edged Sword

By By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton | August 19, 2009

Police in El Paso, Texas, announced Aug. 11 that they had arrested three suspects in the May 15 shooting death of Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana, a Juarez cartel lieutenant who had been acting as a confidential informant (CI) for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. It was an activity that prompted the Juarez cartel to put out a hit on him, and Gonzalez was shot multiple times outside his home in an upscale El Paso neighborhood. A fourth suspect was arrested shortly after the Aug. 11 announcement. Among the suspects is an 18-year-old U.S. Army soldier stationed at nearby Fort Bliss who the other suspects said had been hired by one of the leaders of the Juarez cartel to pull the trigger on Gonzalez. The suspects also include two other teenagers, a 17-year-old and a 16-year-old.

The man who recruited the teenagers, Ruben Rodriguez Dorado — also a lieutenant in the Juarez cartel — has also been arrested, and the emerging details of the case paint him as a most interesting figure. After receiving orders from his superiors in the Juarez cartel to kill Gonzalez, Rodriguez was able to freely enter the United States and conduct an extensive effort to locate Gonzalez — he reportedly even paid Gonzalez’s cell phone bill in an effort to obtain his address. Armed with the address, he then conducted extensive surveillance of Gonzalez and carefully planned the assassination, which was then carried out by the young gunman he had recruited.

The sophistication of Rodriguez’s investigative and surveillance efforts is impressive, and the Gonzalez hit was not the first time he undertook such tasks. According to an affidavit filed in state court, Rodriguez told investigators that he also located and surveilled targets for assassination in Mexico. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this case is that the entire time Rodriguez was plotting the Gonzalez assassination he, too, was working as a CI for ICE.

While it is unclear at this point if ICE agents played any part in helping Rodriguez find Gonzalez, at the very least, Rodriguez’s status as an ICE informant would certainly have been useful in camouflaging his nefarious activities and could have given him some level of official cover. Although Rodriguez was a legal permanent resident of the United States, having friends in ICE would allow him to cross the border repeatedly without much scrutiny and help deflect suspicion if he were caught while conducting surveillance.

Without having access to the information Rodriguez was providing to ICE, it is very difficult for us to assess if Rodriguez’s work with ICE was sanctioned by the Juarez cartel, or if he was merely playing both ends against the middle. However, when one examines the reach, scope and sophistication of the Mexican cartels’ intelligence efforts, it is clear that several of the cartels have demonstrated the ability to operate more like a foreign intelligence service than a traditional criminal organization. This means that it is highly possible that Rodriguez was what we refer to in intelligence parlance as a double agent — someone who pretends to spy on an organization but is, in fact, loyal to that organization.

Whether Rodriguez was a double agent or just an out-of-control CI, this case provides a clear example of the problems encountered when law enforcement agencies handle CIs — problems that become even more pronounced when the informant is associated with a sophisticated and well-financed organization.

Choir Boys Need Not Apply

While CIs can be incredibly valuable sources of information, running a CI is a delicate operation even under the best of circumstances, and poses a wide array of problems and pitfalls. The first and most obvious issue is that most people who have access to the inner workings of a criminal organization, and therefore the most valuable intelligence, are themselves criminals. Upstanding, honest citizens simply do not normally have access to the plans of criminal gangs or understand their organizational hierarchy. This means that authorities need to recruit or flip lower-level criminals in order to work their way up the food chain and go after bigger targets. In the violent world of the Mexican drug cartels, sending an undercover agent to infiltrate a cartel is extremely dangerous. Therefore, using CIs is even more important in such investigations than it is while working against other types of criminals.

The fact that many CIs are criminals means that not only do they frequently come with a heavy load of psychopathic and sociopathic baggage, but in order to stay in good standing within their organization, they often need to continue to commit illegal acts while working for the government, though the type of criminal activity permitted is often carefully delineated by the government. Not infrequently, these illegal acts can come back to haunt the agency operating the CI, so maintaining control of the CI is very important.

CIs can also come with a host of motivations. While some informants are motivated by money, or promises to have charges dropped or reduced, other informants will provide information to the authorities out of revenge or in order to further their own criminal schemes either by using law enforcement as a way to take out rival gangs or even a rival within their own organization. Because of these varying motivations, it can be very difficult to tell when CIs are fabricating information or when they are trying to manipulate the authorities. In fact, it is not at all uncommon for inexperienced or vulnerable handlers to lose control of a CI. In extreme cases, it is even possible for a smooth and sophisticated CI to end up controlling their handler. And this is not just confined to ICE or small-town police departments; there have been instances of FBI and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents being manipulated and controlled by their CIs.

Out-of-control CIs can do things like refuse to follow orders, shut off recorders or edit recordings, tape meetings and calls with handlers, or even commit murders and other serious crimes while working with authorities. There have also been cases of handlers getting involved in sexual relationships with CIs, providing drugs to CIs, and even committing crimes with CIs who were manipulating them.

At the high end of the threat scale, there is also the possibility that informants will be consciously sent to the authorities in order to serve as double agents, or that the criminal organization they work for will double them back once it is learned that they have decided to begin cooperating with the authorities. Many federal agencies polygraph sources, but polygraph operators can be fooled and polygraphs are of limited utility on people who have no moral compunction about lying. Therefore, while agencies take efforts to vet their CIs, such efforts are often ineffective.

Double agents are particularly useful for the criminal organization because they can intentionally feed very specific information to the authorities in order to manipulate enforcement activities. For example, in the case of the Juarez cartel, they could tip off authorities to a small shipment of narcotics in one part of the sector in order to draw attention away from a larger shipment moving through another part of the sector. Of course, the fact that the CI provided accurate information pertaining to the smaller shipment also serves to increase his value to the authorities. In the case of a double agent, almost everything he provides will usually be accurate — although this accurate information is pretty much calculated to be harmless to the criminal organization (though organizations have used double agents to pass on information to the authorities that will allow them to take action against rival criminal gangs). The outstanding accuracy of the intelligence reported will cause the double agent to be trusted more than most regular CIs, and this makes double agents particularly difficult to uncover.

Not Typical Criminals

When considering the Mexican drug cartels, it is very important to remember that they are not typical criminal gangs. The cartels are billion-dollar organizations that employ large groups of heavily armed enforcers, and many of the cartels have invested the time and resources necessary to develop highly sophisticated intelligence apparatuses.

Such intelligence apparatuses are perhaps best seen in the realm of public corruption. Some of the Mexican cartels have a long history of successfully corrupting public officials on both sides of the border. Groups like the Beltran Leyva Organization (BLO) have recruited scores of intelligence assets and agents of influence at the local, state and even federal levels of the Mexican government. They even have enjoyed significant success in recruiting agents in elite units such as the anti-organized crime unit of the Mexican attorney general’s office. The BLO even allegedly recruited Mexico’s former drug czar, Noe Ramirez Mandujano, who reportedly was receiving $450,000 per month from the organization. This recruitment also extends to all levels of government in the United States, where Cartels have recruited local, state and federal officials. Many of the assassination operations the cartels have launched against one another and against senior Mexican officials have also demonstrated the advanced intelligence capabilities of the Mexican cartels.

With the money to buy foreign expertise and equipment, the Mexican cartels have been able to set up counterintelligence branches that can administer polygraph examinations, signals intelligence branches that can intercept the authorities’ communications and even elaborate (and well-funded) units designed to identify and bribe vulnerable public officials. The Mexican cartels also assign people to infiltrate law-enforcement agencies by applying for jobs. According to a report released last week, in a 10-month period, four applicants for U.S. border law enforcement positions were found through background checks and polygraph examinations to be infiltrators from drug-trafficking organizations. It is important to remember that these four were only those who were caught, and not all agencies submit applicants to the same scrutiny, so the scope of the problem is likely much larger. In light of this history of cartel intelligence activity, it is not unreasonable to assume that the cartels possess the sophistication and skills to employ double agents.

Alphabet Soup

Running a CI against a Mexican cartel is also greatly complicated by the number of agencies involved in the struggle against them. Among local, state and federal entities there are scores of agencies in El Paso alone with some sort of jurisdiction working against the cartels. The agencies range from obvious ones such as the DEA, FBI, Texas Rangers, El Paso Police and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to the less obvious such as the Internal Revenue Service, the Union Pacific Railroad Police and the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command at Fort Bliss.

This jumble of jurisdictions creates a very difficult environment for working with CIs. Not only are agencies legitimately concerned about protecting the identities of their CIs due to the possibility of corruption in other agencies, but there is also the issue of competition. Agencies are afraid of other, better-funded agencies stealing their informants. If a local police detective has developed a very good dope source, the last thing in the world he wants is for ICE or the DEA to take control of his source, which would in all likelihood mean that he will lose all the information the CI was providing. Likewise, if an ICE agent has developed a good Mexican cartel source, the last thing he wants is for the DEA or FBI to take control of the source.

In the human intelligence world, there is a lot of jealousy and suspicion. This not only means that information is not fully shared across agencies but also that agencies are very reluctant to run checks on their CIs through other agencies for fear of divulging their identities. This insulation results in some CIs double- or even triple-dipping, that is, working with other agencies and providing the same information in exchange for additional payments. This fragmentation also results in the agency running the CI not being able to learn of critical information pertaining to the past (or even current) activities of their CI. It means, too, that the agency that recruits the CI in some cases is simply not in the best position to take full advantage of the information provided by the CI, or that agency competition and institutional rivalries prevent the CI from being turned over to a more capable agency. Certainly, on its face, ICE would not be the best, most logical agency to handle a source like Rodriguez, who was a lieutenant in the Juarez cartel tasked with conducting assassination operations.

The fear associated with the potential compromise of CI identities inside an agency or task force due to corruption can also affect the operational effectiveness of law enforcement operations. It is hard to get much of anything done when people are worried about who may be a mole on the cartel payroll.

Nowhere to Hide

One last thing to consider in the Gonzalez assassination is that it highlights the fact that even though targets will seek shelter inside the United States, Mexican drug cartels will follow them across the border in order to kill them, something we have discussed for several years now. Moreover, incidents like the Gonzalez hit will likely cause high-value cartel targets to move even deeper into the United States to avoid attack — and their enemies’ brazen and sophisticated assassins will likely follow.

Rodriguez’s use of teenage assassins to kill Gonzalez is also in keeping with a trend we have seen in Laredo and elsewhere, that of the cartels recruiting young street-gang members and training them to be assassins. Young gunmen working for Los Zetas in Laredo, Houston, San Antonio and elsewhere have been given the nickname “Zetitas,” or little Zetas. In is not surprising to see the Juarez cartel also employing young gunmen. Not only are the young gunmen easily influenced, fearless and hungry for money and respect, but the cartels believe that the younger offenders are expendable if caught or killed, and will also do less time than an adult if they are arrested and convicted. These young killers are also not given much information about their employers in the event they are captured and interrogated by police.

In the final analysis, CIs are a necessary evil and can be a very effective weapon in the law enforcement arsenal. Like any weapon, however, CIs must be carefully managed, maintained and employed to make sure they are not used against the law enforcement agencies themselves.

If you repost this article on a website, include a link to STRATFOR

==========

Sites pulling sneaky Flash cookie-snoop

Academics fret over privacy threat
The Register [UK]
cookie-snoop
By John Leyden

August 19, 2009

Many websites are using Flash-based cookies to track users, but often omit to mention this in their privacy policies.

US academics have documented the little-known tracking technology and its use in practice in a paper called Flash Cookies and Privacy (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1446862). Browser-based cookies constitute a well understood and widely deployed technology that poses serious questions about privacy, depending on its usage….

A significant percentage of websites including federal government sites use this Flash-based technology to track users, the researchers discovered. The technology is sometimes used as a means to “undelete” the information in browser-based cookies that a user might have thought they had cleared from their system when they deleted their browsing history, the academics explain….

The researchers call for incorporation of Flash-cookie deletion into browsers and the inclusion of discussions about Flash cookies in the wider online privacy debate, which has recently concentrated on behavioural-targeting technology.

The research was carried out by a team of five researchers including ASHKAN SOLTANI FOR THE COMPUTING DEPARTMENT AT UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY AND CHRIS JAY HOOFNAGLE FROM BERKELEY’S SCHOOL OF LAW. Shannon Canty from Clemson University, Quentin Mayo from Jacksonville State University and Lauren Thomas from Louisiana State University made up the remaining three members of the team.

==========

National Security Archive Update, August 16, 2009

Brazil Conspired with U.S. to Overthrow Allende

Declassified U.S. Documents Show Richard Nixon and Brazilian President Emilio Medici Discussed Coordinated Intervention in Chile, Cuba, and other Latin American nations “to prevent new Allendes and Castros”

Secret Back Channel established between Presidents

Brazilian General Accused U.S. of Asking Brazil to “do its dirty work”

For more information contact:
Peter Kornbluh – 202/994-7000

www.nsarchive.org

Washington, DC, August 16, 2009 – In December 1971, President Richard Nixon and Brazilian President Emilio Garrastazu Medici discussed Brazil’s role in efforts to overthrow the elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile, formerly Top Secret records posted by the National Security Archive today reveal. According to a declassified memorandum of conversation, Nixon asked Medici whether the Chilean military was capable of overthrowing Allende. “He felt that they were,” Medici replied, “and made clear that Brazil was working toward this end.”

According to the Top Secret “memcon” of the December 9, 1971, Oval Office meeting, Nixon offered his approval and support for Brazil’s intervention in Chile. “The President said that it was very important that Brazil and the United States work closely in this field. We could not take direction but if the Brazilians felt that there was something we could do to be helpful in this area, he would like President Medici to let him know. If money were required or other discreet aid, we might be able to make it available,” Nixon stated. “This should be held in the greatest confidence.”

The U.S. and Brazil, Nixon told Medici, “must try and prevent new Allendes and Castros and try where possible to reverse these trends.”

During the same meeting, President Medici asked Nixon if “we” should be supporting Cuban exiles who “had forces and could overthrow Castro’s regime.” Nixon responded that “we should, as long as we did not push them into doing something that we could not support, and as long as our hand did not appear.”

The documents were declassified in July as part of the State Department’s Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series.

The memcon records Nixon telling Medici that he “hoped we could cooperate closely, as there were many things that Brazil as a South American country could do that the U.S. could not.” Indeed, the documentation reveals that Nixon believed that a special relationship with Brazil was so important that he proposed a secret back-channel between the two presidents “as a means of communicating directly outside of normal diplomatic channels.” Médici named his private advisor and foreign minister Gibson Barbosa as his back-channel representative, but told Nixon that for “extremely private and delicate matters” Brazil would use Col. Manso Netto. Nixon named Kissinger as his representative for the special back channel.

Communications between Nixon and Medici using the special back-channel remain secret.

Peter Kornbluh, who directs the National Security Archive’s Chile and Brazil projects, noted that “a hidden chapter of collaborative intervention to overthrow the government of Chile” was now emerging from the declassified documentation. “Brazil’s archives are the missing link,” he said, calling on President Ignacio Lula da Silva to open Brazil’s military records on the past. “The full history of intervention in South America in the 1970s cannot be told without access to Brazilian documents.”

Please visit the National Security Archive Web site for more information.

www.nsarchive.org

==========

Fox News, Sci Fi Channel to Merge

Andy Borowitz
BorowitzReport.com
August 20, 2009

In what is being described as a masterstroke of media synergy, Fox News Channel and the Sci Fi Channel, also known as SyFy, announced today that they would merge their operations.

Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corporation owns Fox, said the merger would achieve significant cost savings: “We will be sharing content, which, quite frankly, we were already doing.”

Roger Ailes, chairman of the new combined network known as SciFox, said that it would roll out a slate of new shows in the fall, including Bill O’Reilly’s “Galactica Factor.”

Mr. Ailes said that he was also looking to sign the woman whom Rep. Barney Frank excoriated at a health care town hall this week: “We want to find out what planet she spends most of her time on and have her do a show from there.” More here.

Follow Andy Borowitz on Twitter: Borowitz Report

==========

three thousand words

David Horsey
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Aug 21, 2009

Jeff Danziger: Linbaugh, Nazis, GOP
(danzigercartoons.com)

Lloyd Dangle, Troubletown:don’t you appreciate our spirit of compromise?
(www.cagle.com)

Friday August 21, 2009 – “Nothing is so good for an ignorant man as silence; and if he was sensible of this he would not be ignorant.” – Saadi

Friday, August 21st, 2009

UBS Money Laundering: What Did Phil Gramm Know?

Phil Gramm

Posted on Aug 18, 2009
By Robert Scheer

In recent days yet another wealthy private customer of the Swiss-based banking conglomerate UBS admitted to criminal fraud in a growing parade of perp walks that could extend into the thousands. It is a case that threatens to ensnare former Sen. Phil Gramm, the Texas Republican who is vice chairman of UBS’ investment banking business. Given the widespread involvement of UBS in what the Justice Department alleges were systematic efforts to violate U.S. tax laws, it must be asked: Did Gramm as a top executive have no inkling about what was going on?

Perhaps, but for Gramm this has to be a moment that at the very least tests his ideological commitment to the radical deregulation of banking that he championed during his 24 years in Congress. He joined UBS soon after the bank acquired Enron, a company that had gone bankrupt after jumping through the “Enron loophole” in the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which Gramm had pushed though Congress. Gramm’s wife, Wendy, had been an Enron board member and head of its audit committee but failed to sound the alarm before the Houston-based company collapsed. Then UBS itself ran into big trouble because of $37 billion in bad mortgage debt made possible by derivatives market deregulation engineered by then-Sen. Gramm. U.S. taxpayers have had to pony up money to heal UBS’ self-inflicted wound. But the bank’s involvement with tens of thousands of secret accounts tied to allegations of tax evasion raises starker issues—of possible criminal fraud through practices that Gramm as a senator helped keep opaque.

In his last years in the Senate, Gramm succeeded in blocking legislation that, as The New York Times editorialized, would have made it easier “to crack down on offshore tax havens” and “would have expanded rules that require banks to find out more about individuals and foreign jurisdictions they are dealing with.” The Times noted, “The legislation won bipartisan support but was blocked by Senator Gramm of Texas, a foe of government regulation. …”

Following that victory, Gramm stepped into a top position at UBS, stating: “It will provide me with an opportunity to practice what I’ve always preached. … I have a strange combination of experiences that a lot of people don’t have … knowledge of economics, a knowledge of government policy.” Given that knowledge, it is legitimate to ask just how Gramm could have been unaware of the extensive efforts of his new employer, UBS, to thwart the IRS. In court cases involving UBS over the past year, witnesses have provided extensive details of the bank’s alleged practices in abetting tax avoidance.

As The Wall Street Journal said of the federal government’s campaign against UBS clients evading U.S. tax laws, “plea agreements … are providing a clearer picture of UBS’s sophisticated efforts to help Americans hide income or the existence of foreign bank accounts.”

In agreeing in a U.S. district court last week to plead guilty, Los Angeles businessman John McCarthy disclosed how UBS facilitated his defrauding of the U.S. government through secret offshore accounts set up by the bank. “While banking with UBS Cayman Islands, the defendant was advised by UBS representatives that a lot of United States’ clients don’t report their income and just take it off the top,” according to the court filing. Now that the Swiss-based bank has agreed to turn over the names of upward of 10,000 secret account holders, the arraignment of those charged with breaking U.S. tax laws could extend very high into the ranks of the affluent.

As The Wall Street Journal reported, “The U.S. crackdown on clients of UBS AG is widening into a global hunt, with the government detailing in court documents how the Swiss bank and outside advisers helped Americans hide money using enterprises set up in Hong Kong.”

Was Gramm truly unaware of the widespread efforts at UBS to defraud the U.S. Treasury? Did extreme ideologically driven naiveté lead him to believe that the bank would never engage in such chicanery? In the past he was the first to deny any hint of business naiveté and indeed defended his being hired by a bank that benefited from his legislation. Deflecting any suggestion of a conflict of interests, Gramm told a reporter: “You know, there is something to be said for not hiring people who just came in off a turnip truck. I have always believed that when I left the Senate that I would go into financial services as something that I know something about.”

Well, what exactly did he know about those offshore tax shelters that caused a revenue shortfall of at least $100 billion that honest taxpayers have to make up?

AP / Dean Cox
Former Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, attends a party at the Anthem Gallery in New York in 2004.

From: “Truthdig” newsletter@truthdig.com

==========

Goldman’s new ‘American Socialism Manifesto’

Paul B. Farrell
Marketwatch, August 9th, 2009 4:57 PM

Socialism for the rich …
(www.thepeoplesvoice.org)

Warning: Behavioral economics means one thing to Wall Street and Washington and something quite different to Main Street. It depends on whether you’re the nudger or nudgee, the manipulator or the manipulated, the guys making lots of money or the folks being scammed.

Average folks erroneously believe behavioral economics helps them. But behavioral nudgers just want to help themselves.

And both political parties are guilty. Behavioral economics is all the rage since the new president hired some academic behaviorists. That also helped the GOP, made average folks forget the former president had his nudgers, too, like former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Moreover, his party recently hired 350 lobbyists, many former Senators and Congressmen, to kill the new guy’s health-care reform.

The truth is, folks, behavioral economics, nudging, manipulation and lobbying, whatever you call it, has been a part of American politics for a long time under many names, though neither party publicly admits their nudging strategies.

Puzzled? Ask yourself: Why is the GOP so aggressively demonizing Obama’s health-care reform as “socialism?” Why? Yes, something smells fishy, especially since the GOP created the biggest “socialized medicine” program ever with Medicare drugs.

Then suddenly the “why” hit me. Here’s why … All the fear-mongering about health-care “socialism” is actually a strategic smoke screen, a brilliant counterattack, a sneaky political cover-up of the GOP’s recent historic takeover of America using taxpayer-funded bailout money against us. Get it? The Right’s making Left turns into “socialism.”

You heard me. In “Bailout Nation,” money manager Barry Ritholtz summarizes this clandestine takeover of the great American democracy, led by Paulson and the Goldman Conspiracy juggernaut. In less than a year America has become “Socialism for the Rich! Capitalism for the Rest,” says Ritholtz.

It all began last October, just before the elections. Paulson, Goldman’s Trojan Horse inside a GOP-controlled White House, moved with the lightning speed of a special-ops team attacking behind enemy lines. Paulson took command of the meltdown, before our clueless Congress knew what happened.

Back then, the Goldman Conspiracy was near bankruptcy as the stock bubble crashed. But Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine: Rise of Disaster Capitalism,” warned: “When those bubbles burst” Wall Street’s “ideology becomes a hindrance and goes dormant while big government rides to the rescue.” Klein then predicted: Free-market “ideology will come roaring back when the bailouts are done. The massive debts the public is accumulating to bail out the speculators will then become part of a global budget crisis.”

Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi also warned of an attack brewing in “The Big Takeover, how Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution.”

The Big Takeover

Yes, that “revolution” took less than a year. Except we did not return to the old Reganomics capitalism Klein warned of. Instead, the Goldman Conspiracy created a new American “Socialist-Capitalism.” As Ritholtz aptly describes it, America now has “socialization of risk” [with trillions of toxic bailout debt dumped on taxpayers] versus “privatization of profits” [for Wall Street insiders like the Goldman Conspiracy].

Democracy is dead in Wall Street’s new ‘Socialism for The Rich’

This is a historic government coup: The GOP created a new “American Socialism” that resembles Russia under Putin, with its bizarre blend of socialism plus just enough hint of capitalism to keep a steady flow of kickbacks to a corrupt dictator and his moneyed cronies.

At high levels the game reminds me of Bush looking deep into the Putin’s eyes and getting “a sense of his soul” (the “soul” of a former KGB agent and communist enemy of America?) Just as Bush failed to see the true “soul” of Russia’s boss, Congress and today’s Main Street America cannot see the hidden “soul” of the new “American Socialism” being created by the Goldman Conspiracy, banks and their political pawns.

We’ve written often about the many sides of this takeover. We’ve also reviewed endless critiques in Harper’s, Rolling Stone, New Yorker and others. Here are eight principles for a new “Socialist Manifesto” emerging out of our dying democracy, a profile of the new “American Socialism” that will rule your life … till it self-destructs our way of life:

1. Always elect a figurehead president

Putin skirted term limits by getting Medvedev elected president. Then Putin was appointed party leader and prime minister, the real power behind the throne. That’s one way power stays in power playing the game. Wall Street is a master at playing this game, as the single largest money donor to political campaigns. Donations assure continued control behind an illusion of democracy, where all politicians are mere pawns.

2. Greed is great in the new ‘Socialist-Capitalism’

In his blog, Matt Taibbi asks “what’s wrong” with Goldman’s $3.44 billion second-quarter profits on top of setting aside $11.4 billion for insiders? “What’s wrong is that this is not free-market earnings but an almost pure state subsidy” as Congress steals our tax dollars giving them “to the same guys who had just blown up the financial world.”

3. Too-stupid-to-fail big banks will always get bailed out

In the New Yorker Joe Haggen described their arrogant culture: “The god is Goldman. You subjugate yourself to that god, and in return we will make you a gazillionaire.” But as recently as last fall “not a single Wall Street executive” Haggen interviewed “believed Goldman would have survived an overall collapse of the financial system. A large loss would have been inevitable as lending evaporated, and Goldman Sachs would have struggled to shrink the company to a fraction of its size overnight.”

Taibbi adds: “AIG owed Goldman about $20 billion at the time it went into a death spiral.” Thanks to Paulson’s $13 billion gift, tax dollars went through AIG straight into Goldman’s pockets.

4. Pretend to be a commercial bank, risk like an investment bank

Wall Street still gambles as investment banks. Worse: Taibbi says when Goldman converted they became “eligible for a new program that gives commercial banks FDIC backing for unsecured debt … a free AAA rating to the big banks and allows them access to mountains of cheap money.” No wonder “Goldman took full advantage of this deal, issuing $28 billion in FDIC-backed debt after its conversion. Exactly how hard is it for a bank to make a profit when it has unlimited access to virtually free money?”

5. American taxpayers are Wall Street’s personal piggy bank

Taibbi notes that Goldman got $10 billion TARP money, claims they’re now paid off. But the Treasury still has warrants which Goldman wants to renegotiate below market prices, and the juicy low-interest loans help them increase their profit margin.

6. High-risk leveraging guarantees high-paid insider bonuses

After converting into a commercial bank Reuter’s reported that Wall Street was “taking steps to reduce leverage.” But since then “Goldman has been emboldened by all its state backing to borrow more and gamble more than ever,” says Taibbi. “This is the equivalent of a regular casino gambler who hears that the house has doubled down on his credit line and decides to stay up at the tables all night, instead of going home and sobering up.”

Meanwhile, “Goldman’s VaR, or Value at Risk, which measures the amount of money the bank puts at risk on any given day” has “soared since last year.”

7. Government-approved CIA-style silence hides ‘The Game’

The TARP Inspector General estimates total new debt for all bailout programs will be a staggering $23.7 trillion. But the Fed Chairman refuses to disclose vital information, even to Congress. Bernanke learned that trick from the CIA, so they can’t be audited.

Taibbi warns that taxpayers are stuck with piles of Wall Street’s “worthless crap assets they acquired while they were playing roulette the past 10 years or so. We just have no idea how much crap they unloaded on the Fed, or how much they borrowed.”

8. New laws secure perpetual power for new ‘Socialist Conspiracy’

Wall Street, under the command of the Goldman Conspiracy, can further consolidate power over the American people forever by making sure Congress and the President (no matter which party wins elections) passes other new laws:

Kill the proposed Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Kill “public option” competition in the health-care reform. Kill all efforts to revive Glass-Steagall. Pass a “cap and trade” law so Wall Street can start gambling trillions in a new derivatives bubble. Pass laws to guarantee Wall Street’s “too-stupid-to-fail” big banks unlimited access to taxpayer funds in the future, as they’ve enjoyed since October.

Final comment: More demands will naturally follow to empower this banana republic dictatorship disguised as the new “American Socialism.”

Complete article at:

American Socialism

Bailout Nation: How Greed and Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy ~ Barry Ritholtz

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism ~ Klein Naomi

==========

UPDATED REPORT: Conservative media push 75-year-old “socialized medicine” smear against health care reform

In discussing health care reform this year, conservative media figures have revived the “socialized medicine” smear to undermine the efforts of President Obama and congressional Democrats, most recently by promoting Ronald Reagan’s 1961 attacks on a legislative precursor to Medicare. In light of this trend, Media Matters for America is updating and republishing its March 5 report documenting that health care reform opponents have baselessly smeared at least 16 previous progressive reform proposals as “socialized medicine” over the last 75 years.

Read More

“socialized medicine” smear

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Political Paranoia

The Psychopolitics of Hatred
Robert S. Robins and Jerrold Post

Reviews

“A very important study of a crucial subject, one that has been at the root of the most phenomenal destruction visited by man on man.”—Marvin Zonis

“A first-class, fascinating, fast-moving study of how hatred can disable world leaders. Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot are just a few of the despicable characters that Robins and Post evaluate with cool objectivity in this truly landmark book.”—Douglas Brinkley

“A brilliant excursion into the territory that has never before been plumbed to such depths. The toxic mix of unsublimated aggression and paranoid thinking challenges our social order and democratic foundations.”—Herbert S. Sacks, M.D.

“A monumental book which is an outstanding contribution to this flourishing field of human nature and the political personality. In their insightful and provocative new book, Robins and Post cite the existence of the paranoid personality and interpret the prevalence of paranoia in human evolutionary history, mass movements, and genocidal violence of the twentieth century. . . . [The authors] triumph by captivating their audience with provocative insights into the minds of political personalities and illumination of the most controversial developments of the twentieth century.”—Dale Ann Zumbroski, Yale Political Monthly

“An important book that sheds light on many of the irrational aspects of political life and international relationships. The authors convincingly illustrate how a leader’s innate suspiciousness and wish to protect his or her followers from dangerous others can sometimes overshoot benevolent objectives with disastrous results. This lucid book will be valuable to a wide spectrum of readers.”—Vamik D. Volkan, M.D.

“A pathfinding study of paranoidal conspiracy thinking and of many political movements in which it has manifested itself in twentieth-century history down to the present time along with instances in which men of paranoidal disposition have achieved dictatorial power.”—Robert C. Tucker, author, Stalin in Power

“Political Paranoia contains, in addition to some significant insights, a great deal of valuable information.”—Richard Webster, Times Literary Supplement

“Every psychiatrist who is also interested in world affairs outside his or her work in the office should read this book as an excellent example of how psychiatric insights illuminate dark sides of human interaction.”—Vamik Volkan, M.D., Psychiatric Times

“With case histories drawn from today’s headlines, “Political Paranoia” is a timely, valuable book.”—Dennis Persica, The Times-Picayune

“Political Paranoia is an extraordinary book. It moves through the psychology and politics of paranoia with richly argued concepts and historical detail and deftly treats history and theory with a readability that highlights the crucial importance of this often neglected concept in political theory. . . . A must-read book for those who see an intimate and real connection between how the self functions and how political life works. Students of politics will be enriched by the book’s psychological and psychodynamic contributions, and students of the self, psychopathy, mental illness, and group behavior will find their theories broadened by the book’s insightful grasp of political reality and political history.”—James M. Glass, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease

“Political Paranoia is a big work, one that brings together many historical, psychological, and political threads. The authors excel at delineating the similarities amid the differences that unavoidably distinguish political situations. Students of political psychology and political ideologies will find [it] indispensable.”—Cynthia Burack, Psychoanalytic Books

“This book is very much worth reading. . . . Given the universality of paranoid thinking, cutting across time and culture, this volume would be found timely regardless of when it was picked up. It could prove useful to instructors in clinical psychology, sociology, and political science, as it would certainly provoke energetic debate.”—Psychological Reports

Yale Press

Political Paranoia: The Psychopolitics of Hatred ~ Professor Robert S. Robins

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This Week in Petroleum (TWIP)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

This Week in Petroleum (TWIP) has been updated to the EIA website:

TWIP

==========

The 2008 oil price “bubble”

Peterson Institute for International Economics.
Mohsin S. Khan

Washington : Peterson Institute for International Economics, August 2009. (Policy brief ; no. PB09-19)

oil price “bubble”

==========

GLENN BECK’S 912 FOLLOWERS IN DESPERATE SCRAMBLE TO STOP HEMORRHAGE OF SPONSORS FROM HIS SHOW

By Tana Ganeva, AlterNet

Beck’s 912 website has started a petition to counter the Color of Change protest.

Beck

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Feature: Opening the Window on Foreign Lobbying:

A new project by the Sunlight Foundation and ProPublica has for the first time digitized one year’s worth of FARA records, making them accessible in a searchable database that allows users to easily follow the money and connect the dots. With the Foreign Lobbying Influence Tracker, anyone can quickly learn what governments are lobbying whom, how often and about what.

Foreign Lobbying

From: One Foreign Agent We Didn’t Expect To Discover

ProPublicam

ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. We are located at 1 Exchange Plaza, 23rd Floor, New York, NY 10006

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Obama on Verge of Telling Health Care Opponents to Go F**k Themselves

Andy Borowitz
BorowitzReport.com

Frustrated by the persistent opposition to his health care proposals by people who have done little to no research on the subject, President Barack Obama apparently is ready to pursue a new approach: telling his opponents to go fuck themselves.

For the usually mild-mannered Mr. Obama, the decision to tell his opponents that they can eat him represents a stunning break with tradition.

But according to those close to the President, Mr. Obama seems ready to ask the health care reform opposition to blow him — and political fallout be damned.

“The President has been patient and tried to listen to people’s concerns,” one aide said today.

“But if they think this whole debate is going to end up with some kind of happy-horseshit beer summit, they can totally go f**k themselves.” More here.

Follow Andy Borowitz on Twitter: Borowitz Report

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three thousand words

Paul Fell
Artizans Syndicate
Aug 20, 2009

Rob Rogers: dancing with the indicted
(www.cagle.com)

Joel Pett: If you can’t beat ‘em, confuse ‘em!
(politicalirony.com)

Thursday August 20, 2009 – Frankly, I?m suspicious of anyone who has a strong opinion on a complicated issue.” – Scott Adams

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

You Can’t Blame Obama For American Stubbornness – The Hartford Courant

I think the president is simply too decent. Washington is not a nice town, and the American public is intolerant and too many know little more than what they are told by Fox News and by talk radio (William Pfaff, 8/18).

You Can’t Blame Obama for American Stubbornness

Pfaff, William
August 18, 2009

PARIS – There was a telling caption to a recent French commentary on the American political situation. It read: “Obama, the man who thinks he’s president.”

The writer, Yves de Kerdrel, of the newspaper Le Figaro, said that Barack Obama has proven to be a shooting star, the trail in the sky where he has passed still visible, but the star falling toward the horizon.

His popularity, this conservative writer said, has on the evidence of the polls, in just six months fallen to a level below that of France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has already spent two years in office, confronting crises, fighting for change and making enemies.

Kerdrel credits the team in place under George Bush for America’s provisional success in saving the banking system from collapse. Obama has since wasted time trying to win from Congress additional regulatory power for the Federal Reserve, exactly the institution whose past ideological illusions about self-regulating markets, and whose laissez-faire treatment of Wall Street bankers, were responsible for the crisis in the first place.

The Figaro columnist thinks that by the time of the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh in late September, Obama may be the only leader among the 20 countries present who still has not succeeded in imposing essential fiscal regulation on his national financial community.

Is this really the fault of the “mediocrity” of Barack Obama’s team of advisers, and Obama’s “astonishing conformism”? I would say that if his economic counselors are mediocre, then it is a judgment on the American economic profession as a whole. There are distinguished dissident economists whose advice Obama seems to have ignored, such as Joseph Stiglitz and James K. Galbraith, but the people he has used in Washington are mainstream leaders of the profession.

However, the economy aside, I would make the same criticism of the president’s foreign policy. He is doing what the mainstream analysts and the Pentagon are telling him to do about his war — the top people. Regrettably they are wrong, as will eventually be discovered.

Barack Obama came to office as the candidate of reconciliation and bipartisan cooperation, which he has tried to practice in dealing with the three generally agreed current national crises: the financial crisis and threat of international depression; the condition of the American health-care system; and two unresolved wars of choice in the Middle East and Central Asia, both currently being conducted by simple continuation of Bush administration policies.

I think the president is simply too decent. Washington is not a nice town, and the American public is intolerant and too many know little more than what they are told by Fox News and by talk radio, which means that they haven’t a clue as to what really is going on in the world.

Obama campaigned by offering change, and in practice has provided continuity. He campaigned as a man who would bring Americans together and has constantly striven to do so, but most of the Republican leadership seems to believe compromise contemptible, whatever the cost to the country, and that blocking health-care reform, as well as any other initiatives Obama proposes, will get the Republicans re-elected in next year’s congressional vote. They are also gambling on violence, demagogy and threat as legitimate in national debate.

They are exploiting two of the most pervasive American illusions, the first one that of the iniquity of “socialized medicine” — an epithet that has for seven decades been attached to every form of government-regulated or government-organized effort to deliver universal health care to citizens, with the exception of certain categories of Americans: the elderly, who receive Medicare (which large numbers of them seem convinced is not a government program at all, but is delivered through the benevolence of hospitals and doctor, or by divine providence).

There is the care provided by the Veterans Administration to Americans who have served in American wars. There is government-provided health care to military personnel and their families, considered part of the enlistment contract. And there is the health care given to federal employees, and notably to members of Congress and the Senate (the latter, with rare exceptions, a club of millionaires).

The final great obstacle to reform of national health care is the stubborn belief of Americans, whatever the evidence, that the American system is superior to all others on earth, that Americans live better and richer lives than anyone else; and that if employment, working conditions, wages and health care are bad in the United States they must be worse everywhere else. If not, why does everyone in the world want to come to live in the United States?

Can anything be done about this? I doubt it. The combination of prejudices concerning socialism and the supremacy of the American system that Americans seem to acquire in the womb, with Republican electoral nihilism, is probably impossible to overcome. Thank you, Barack Obama, for trying.

Visit William Pfaff’s Web site atPfaff.

Complete article at:

American Stubbornness

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Right-Wing Populism and Health Care Town Halls

August 17, 2009

CHIP BERLET, c.berlet@publiceye.org

Berlet is senior analyst of Political Research Associates and co-author of “Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort.” He said today: “The town meeting confrontations over health care are an example of right-wing populist protests that periodically sweep across the United States. The anger, fear and resentment are often mobilized by cynical political elites as part of an orchestrated response. This does not mean, however, that the persons currently disrupting the town meetings have no right to participate in the public square.

“Calling these protestors ‘extremists’ or ‘wingnuts’; suggesting they are mere puppets of elite rightist spinmasters; or demanding they be silenced, undercuts the basic concepts of the democratic process. At the same time, being aware of how historic right-wing populism has played out in ways that promote scapegoating of immigrants, people of color, and Jews is vital to protect the democratic process. This is a difficult balancing act, but a necessary skill set for those who want to defend and extend democracy as a system built on informed consent.

“What to do? In the short run, people scheduling public meetings need to set the ground rules for participation up front, and enforce them with courtesy and without political bias.

“In the long run, the Obama administration and the Democratic Party need to learn how to rebut false and misleading statements and beliefs without name-calling; calmly rebuke those spreading the misinformation as harming civil society; and develop strong and clear arguments to defend their proposed programs.

“These are the Three R’s of Civil Society: Rebut, Rebuke, Re-Affirm. The tendencies found within right-wing populism are toxic to democracy, but the solution is not to short-circuit the democratic process, but to ensure that questions are fully answered and all voices are heard.”

From: Institute for Public Accuracy

Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort ~ Chip Berlet

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Tort Reform Doesn’t Cut Health Costs The Lexington Herald-Leader

But states that have enacted curbs on what McConnell calls “junk lawsuits” have yet to see the cost savings promised by McConnell and other proponents of tort reform (8/16).

Opinion – Editorial

Sunday, Aug. 16, 2009Comments (25) | Recommend (4)
Tort reform doesn’t cut health costsSen. Mitch McConnell’s No. 1 idea for fixing what ails our health care system is to limit the rights of those maimed by medical malpractice.

But states that have enacted curbs on what McConnell calls “junk lawsuits” have yet to see the cost savings promised by McConnell and other proponents of tort reform.

On the contrary, Texas capped malpractice damages in 2003 only to experience a steep rise in health insurance premiums and medical costs.

Medicare spending rose 24 percent in the three years after punitive damages were capped at $250,000, according to the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy.

One of the most expensive health-care markets in the country is the Texas city of McAllen. Only Miami, which has much higher labor and living costs, spends more per person on Medicare.

Boston surgeon Atul Gawande visited McAllen and wrote an account for The New Yorker, “The Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care” that’s required reading for anyone trying to understand this admittedly baffling topic.

One night at dinner with six local doctors he asked why the average cost per Medicare enrollee had soared from $4,891, about the national average in 1992, to almost twice the national average of $15,000 per enrollee in 2006.

For perspective, the per capita income in McAllen is only $12,000.

Several of the physicians said doctors practiced defensive medicine to protect themselves from the city’s especially aggressive lawyers; they ordered extra tests and procedures which drive up costs.

But what about the strict limits on malpractice damages. Haven’t lawsuits gone down?

“Practically to zero,” one of the docs said.

What’s finally revealed is that doctors in McAllen are heavily invested in medical technology and imaging and surgery centers. They order lots of tests and procedures because they directly profit from them. They think of what they do as a business.

The critical choice facing this country is whether health care will continue to go the way of McAllen or whether it can be guided toward a Mayo Clinic model in which doctors work together to deliver the best care with the fewest tests and procedures.

We should all hope the Mayo model wins because the outcomes for patients are far better. Also, at the current rate, health care costs will soon eat up so much of the federal budget that this country will no longer be able to afford to defend itself.

The Texas experience with malpractice is not unique. Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham surveyed 27 states that have limits on non-economic damages and discovered no savings for health care consumers.

McConnell is offering a few other of what he calls “common sense” ideas. He favors some insurance reforms, such as covering pre-existing conditions, and incentives for living a healthful lifestyle.

He also says individuals buying insurance should be entitled to the same tax deductions as companies buying insurance for their employees.

McConnell acknowledges that health care reform is necessary, but his prescription is mostly a placebo.

Complete article at:

Tort Reform Doesn’t

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Swiftboating Health Care Reform

Aug 18, 2009
The liars are winning:

…Majorities in the poll believe the plans would give health insurance coverage to illegal immigrants; would lead to a government takeover of the health system; and would use taxpayer dollars to pay for women to have abortions — all claims that nonpartisan fact-checkers say are untrue about the legislation that has emerged so far from Congress.

Forty-five percent think the reform proposals would allow the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care for the elderly. That also is untrue…

Do we blame ineffective messaging, effective liars, or an ineffective and complicit press? All bear responsibility, but it’s not clear that even the best messaging effort can penetrate the cloud of disinformation and untruths that is allowed to persist so long as it is good for ratings. Tell lies to scare people, then when the other side howls, count on the press turning it into a circus that is more of a series of gotchas than anything resembling a debate or a search for the truth. The press needs to take a long, hard look at it’s role in destroying public debate. But it won’t.

Posted by Mark Thoma on Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Complete article at:

Swiftboating

Health care mobs = Swift Boat Vets. And the press plays dumb, again
Here we go again.

Read More

Health care mobs

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Congressman Paul’s Texas Straight Talk

Tuesday, August 18, 2009 The Free Market as Regulator

“Since the bailouts last fall, lawmakers have been behaving as quasi-owners of the bailed-out banks and businesses, leading to calls for increased regulation of executive compensation and other wasteful expenditures. We have heard much about bonuses and executive pay packages that sound more like lottery winnings than an honest salary…”

Click here to read the full article:

Congressman Paul

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Iraq Endgame

By George Friedman
August 18, 2009

Though the Iraq war is certainly not over, it has reached a crossroads. During the course of the war, about 40 countries sent troops to fight in what was called “Multi-National Force-Iraq.” As of this summer, only one foreign country’s fighting forces remain in Iraq — those of the United States. A name change in January 2010 will reflect the new reality, when the term “Multi-National Force-Iraq” will be changed to “United States Forces-Iraq.” If there is an endgame in Iraq, we are now in it.

The plan that U.S. President Barack Obama inherited from former President George W. Bush called for coalition forces to help create a viable Iraqi national military and security force that would maintain the Baghdad government’s authority and Iraq’s territorial cohesion and integrity. In the meantime, the major factions in Iraq would devise a regime in which all factions would participate and be satisfied that their factional interests were protected. While this was going on, the United States would systematically reduce its presence in Iraq until around the summer of 2010, when the last U.S. forces would leave.

Two provisos qualified this plan. The first was that the plan depended on the reality on the ground for its timeline. The second was the possibility that some residual force would remain in Iraq to guarantee the agreements made between factions, until they matured and solidified into a self-sustaining regime. Aside from minor tinkering with the timeline, the Obama administration — guided by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, whom Bush appointed and Obama retained — has followed the Bush plan faithfully.

The moment of truth for the U.S. plan is now approaching. The United States still has substantial forces in Iraq. There is a coalition government in Baghdad dominated by Shia (a reasonable situation, since the Shia comprise the largest segment of the population of Iraq). Iraqi security forces are far from world-class, and will continue to struggle in asserting themselves in Iraq. As we move into the endgame, internal and external forces are re-examining power-sharing deals, with some trying to disrupt the entire process.

There are two foci for this disruption. The first concerns the Arab-Kurdish struggle over Kirkuk. The second concerns threats to Iran’s national security.

The Kurdish Question

Fighting continues in the Kirkuk region, where the Arabs and Kurds have a major issue to battle over: oil. The Kirkuk region is one of two major oil-producing regions in Iraq (the other is in the Shiite-dominated south). Whoever controls Kirkuk is in a position to extract a substantial amount of wealth from the surrounding region’s oil development. There are historical ethnic issues in play here, but the real issue is money. Iraqi central government laws on energy development remain unclear, precisely because there is no practical agreement on the degree to which the central government will control — and benefit — from oil development as opposed to the Kurdish Regional Government. Both Kurdish and Arab factions thus continue to jockey for control of the key city of Kirkuk.

Arab, particularly Sunni Arab, retention of control over Kirkuk opens the door for an expansion of Sunni Arab power into Iraqi Kurdistan. By contrast, Kurdish control of Kirkuk shuts down the Sunni threat to Iraqi Kurdish autonomy and cuts Sunni access to oil revenues from any route other than the Shiite-controlled central government. If the Sunnis get shut out of Kirkuk, they are on the road to marginalization by their bitter enemies — the Kurds and the Shia. Thus, from the Sunni point of view, the battle for Kirkuk is the battle for the Sunni place at the Iraqi table.

Turkey further complicates the situation in Iraq. Currently embedded in constitutional and political thinking in Iraq is the idea that the Kurds would not be independent, but could enjoy a high degree of autonomy. Couple autonomy with the financial benefits of heavy oil development, and the Kurdish autonomous region of Iraq becomes a powerful entity. Add to that the peshmerga, the Kurdish independent military forces that have had U.S. patronage since the 1990s, and an autonomous Kurdistan becomes a substantial regional force. And this is not something Turkey wants to see.

The broader Kurdish region is divided among four countries, Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria. The Kurds have a substantial presence in southeastern Turkey, where Ankara is engaged in a low-intensity war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), members of which have taken refuge in northern Iraq. Turkey’s current government has adopted a much more nuanced approach in dealing with the Kurdish question. This has involved coupling the traditional military threats with guarantees of political and economic security to the Iraqi Kurds as long as the Iraqi Kurdish leadership abides by Turkish demands not to press the Kirkuk issue.

Still, whatever the constitutional and political arrangements between Iraqi Kurds and Iraq’s central government, or between Iraqi Kurds and the Turkish government, the Iraqi Kurds have a nationalist imperative. The Turkish expectation is that over the long haul, a wealthy and powerful Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region could slip out of Baghdad’s control and become a center of Kurdish nationalism. Put another way, no matter what the Iraqi Kurds say now about cooperating with Turkey regarding the PKK, over the long run, they still have an interest in underwriting a broader Kurdish nationalism that will strike directly at Turkish national interests.

The degree to which Sunni activity in northern Iraq is coordinated with Turkish intelligence is unknown to us. The Sunnis are quite capable of waging this battle on their own. But the Turks are not disinterested bystanders, and already support local Turkmen in the Kirkuk region to counter the Iraqi Kurds. The Turks want to see Kurdish economic power and military power limited, and as such they are inherently in favor of the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government. The stronger Baghdad is, the weaker the Kurds will be.

Baghdad understands something critical: While the Kurds may be a significant fighting force in Iraq, they can’t possibly stand up to the Turkish army. More broadly, Iraq as a whole can’t stand up to the Turkish army. We are entering a period in which a significant strategic threat to Turkey from Iraq could potentially mean Turkish countermeasures. Iraqi memories of Turkish domination during the Ottoman Empire are not pleasant. Therefore, Iraq will be very careful not to cross any redline with the Turks.

This places the United States in a difficult position. Washington has supported the Kurds in Iraq ever since Operation Desert Storm. Through the last decade of the Saddam regime, U.S. special operations forces helped create a de facto autonomous region in Kurdistan. Washington and the Kurds have a long and bumpy history, now complicated by substantial private U.S. investment in Iraqi Kurdistan for the development of oil resources. Iraqi Kurdish and U.S. interests are strongly intertwined, and Washington would rather not see Iraqi Kurdistan swallowed up by arrangements in Baghdad that undermine current U.S. interests and past U.S. promises.

On the other hand, the U.S. relationship with Turkey is one of Washington’s most important. Whether the question at hand is Iran, the Caucasus, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Arab-Israeli conflict, Afghanistan, Russia or Iraq, the Turks have a role. Given the status of U.S. power in the region, alienating Turkey is not an option. And the United States must remember that for Turkey, Kurdish power in Iraq and Turkey’s desired role in developing Iraqi oil are issues of fundamental national importance.

Now left alone to play out this endgame, the United States must figure out a way to finesse the Kurdish issue. In one sense, it doesn’t matter. Turkey has the power ultimately to redefine whatever institutional relationships the United States leaves behind in Iraq. But for Turkey, the sooner Washington hands over this responsibility, the better. The longer the Turks wait, the stronger the Kurds might become and the more destabilizing their actions could be to Turkey. Best of all, if Turkey can assert its influence now, which it has already begun to do, it doesn’t have to be branded as the villain.

All Turkey needs to do is make sure that the United States doesn’t intervene decisively against the Iraqi Sunnis in the battle over Kirkuk in honor of Washington’s commitment to the Kurds.

In any case, the United States doesn’t want to intervene against Iraq’s Sunnis again. In protecting Sunni Arab interests, the Americans have already been sidestepping any measures to organize a census and follow through with a constitutional mandate to hold a referendum in Kirkuk. For the United States, a strong Sunni community is the necessary counterweight to the Iraqi Shia since, over the long haul, it is not clear how a Shiite-dominated government will relate to Iran.

The Shiite Question

The Shiite-dominated government led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is no puppet of Iran, but at the same time, it is not Iran’s enemy. As matters develop in Iraq, Iran remains the ultimate guarantor of Shiite interests. And Iranian support might not flow directly to the current Iraqi government, but to al-Maliki’s opponents within the Shiite community who have closer ties to Tehran. It is not clear whether Iranian militant networks in Iraq have been broken, or are simply lying low. But it is clear that Iran still has levers in place with which it could destabilize the Shiite community or rivals of the Iraqi Shia if it so desired.

Therefore, the United States has a vested interest in building up the Iraqi Sunni community before it leaves. And from an economic point of view, that means giving the Sunnis access to oil revenue as well as a guarantee of control over that revenue after the United States leaves.

With the tempo of attacks picking up as U.S. forces draw down, Iraq’s Sunni community is evidently not satisfied with the current security and political arrangements in Iraq. Attacks are on the upswing in the northern areas — where remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq continue to operate in Mosul — as well as in central Iraq in and around Baghdad. The foreign jihadists in Iraq hope such attacks will trigger a massive response from the Shiite community, thus plunging Iraq back into civil war. But the foreign jihadists would not be able to operate without some level of support from the local Sunni community. This broader community wants to make sure that the Shia and Americans don’t forget what the Sunnis are capable of should their political, economic and security interests fall by the wayside as the Americans withdraw.

Neither the Iraqi Sunnis nor the Kurds really want the Americans to leave. Neither trust that the intentions or guarantees of the Shiite-dominated government. Iraq lacks a tradition of respect for government institutions and agreements; a piece of paper is just that. Instead, the Sunnis and Kurds see the United States as the only force that can guarantee their interests. Ironically, the United States is now seen as the only real honest broker in Iraq.

But the United States is an honest broker with severe conflicts of interest. Satisfying both Sunni and Kurdish interests is possible only under three conditions. The first is that Washington exercise a substantial degree of control over the Shiite administration of the country — and particularly over energy laws — for a long period of time. The second is that the United States give significant guarantees to Turkey that the Kurds will not extend their nationalist campaign to Turkey, even if they are permitted to extend it to Iran in a bid to destabilize the Iranian regime. The third is that success in the first two conditions not force Iran into a position where it sees its own national security at risk, and so responds by destabilizing Baghdad — and with it, the entire foundation of the national settlement in Iraq negotiated by the United States.

The American strategy in this matter has been primarily tactical. Wanting to leave, it has promised everyone everything. That is not a bad strategy in the short run, but at a certain point, everyone adds up the promises and realizes that they can’t all be kept, either because they are contradictory or because there is no force to guarantee them. Boiled down, this leaves the United States with two strategic options.

First, the United States can leave a residual force of about 20,000 troops in Iraq to guarantee Sunni and Kurdish interests, to protect Turkish interests, etc. The price of pursuing this option is that it leaves Iran facing a nightmare scenario: e.g., the potential re-emergence of a powerful Iraq and the recurrence down the road of age-old conflict between Persia and Mesopotamia — with the added possibility of a division of American troops supporting their foes. This would pose an existential threat to Iran, forcing Tehran to use covert means to destabilize Iraq that would take advantage of a minimal, widely dispersed U.S. force vulnerable to local violence.

Second, the United States could withdraw and allow Iraq to become a cockpit for competition among neighboring countries: Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria — and ultimately major regional powers like Russia. While chaos in Iraq is not inherently inconsistent with U.S. interests, it is highly unpredictable, meaning the United States could be pulled back into Iraq at the least opportune time and place.

The first option is attractive, but its major weakness is the uncertainty created by Iran. With Iran in the picture, a residual force is as much a hostage as a guarantor of Sunni and Kurdish interests. With Iran out of the picture, the residual U.S. force could be smaller and would be more secure. Eliminate the Iran problem completely, and the picture for all players becomes safer and more secure. But eliminating Iran from the equation is not an option — Iran most assuredly gets a vote in this endgame.

If you repost this article on a website, include a link to STRATFOR

The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century ~ George Friedman

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Talk of the Nation: Is The U.S. Economy Recovering Or Not?

NPR
Economy Recovering

August 17, 2009

…Rebecca Roberts, host: …There’s some positive news on the economic front: Fewer people filed for unemployment in July than analysts predicted. More people are buying cars, spurred on by the government’s Cash for Clunkers program, and home sales are rising. There’s also, well, less positive news. In July, 360,000 homeowners defaulted on their mortgages, more people declared personal bankruptcy, and to the disappointment of retailers around the country, many Americans are still watching their wallets. So what to make of this economic split personality? Does the good news signal the recession’s easing, or does the bad news mean recovery is still a ways off? We’ll hear two view this hour…

We’re joined now by ROBERT REICH. He served as secretary of labor for President Bill Clinton. HE’S A PROFESSOR OF PUBLIC POLICY AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA AT BERKELEY. He joins us from a studio on campus there. Welcome to the program….

Roberts: … You’re looking at all the data and figures we’ve been talking about, and to you, none of this points to a recovery. Why not?

Mr. Reich: Well, not so much a recovery, Rebecca. The good news, obviously, is that things are getting worse more slowly. That may not seem like good news, but that is good news – 247,000 jobs lost last month is certainly better than the 400,000 or so we’ve been losing. But the fact of the matter is that I don’t see enough consumer demand out there to really turn things around, at least for a very long time. Because consumers, after all, not only do they have to worry about jobs – one out of seven is under-employed, they’re unemployed or under-employed in terms of the amount of work they are actually doing versus what they’d like to do – but also banks are not lending. Consumers have a huge debt load that they have to get out from under, an unusually huge debt load, including one-third of homeowners being underwater. I mean, they owe more on their homes than the homes are worth. And you have baby boomers, many who have not saved for retirement, who have got to start saving quite seriously.

So put this all together, and there’s just not enough consumer demand to actually sell all the things that people and businesses could sell if the economy were nearly back to normal. I don’t see where the demand is going to come from, quite frankly….

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Plant closings

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bronx Stella D’Oro Cookie Factory Closing Down

WCBS-TV New York

Workers at the Stella D’Oro plant in the Bronx rallied Saturday to fight for their jobs. They say the owners’ decision to close the factory this fall is a …

http://wcbstv.com/topstories/stella.doro.factory.2.1130387.html

Monterey Gourmet Foods closing Oregon plant

The Salinas Californian

Monterey Gourmet Foods will close its Eugene, Ore., plant, the manufacturer of fresh gourmet and organic refrigerated products announced Friday. …

http://www.thecalifornian.com/article/20090814/NEWS01/90814024an.com/article/20090814/NEWS01/90814024&hl=en>

Pratt & Whitney considers closing Conn. facilities

NECN

On July 26th the company told the union here that they are looking at closing this plant and a smaller one in East Hartford and shipping the jobs to Georgia …

http://www.necn.com/Boston/Business/2009/08/14/Pratt-Whitney-considers/1250283050.html

CooperVision closing Va. contact lens molding plant

Plastics News

CooperVision announced the plant closing Aug. 13. CooperVision, a contact lens maker with plants around the world, is a unit of Cooper Cos. …

http://www.plasticsnews.com/headlines2.html?id=16449

Homegrown Salsa Plant Leaving Oregon – Money News Story – KPTV …

The company determined that closing the Eugene plant and shifting production to Kent would be the best use of company facilities and provide customers with more flexible production runs, he said. Eugene employees
were notified in person …

http://www.kptv.com/money/20413905/detail.html

Spartanburg plant closing, 101 employees losing jobs

GoUpstate …

The businesses were merged with Tokyo-based Teijin Monofilament Limited, creating a three-pronged network of production bases in Europe, …

http://www.goupstate.com/article/20090804/ARTICLES/908041041/1112?Title=Spartanburg-plant-closing-101-employees-losing-jobs

Columbus plant closing costing 220 jobs

COLUMBUS – Appleton EGS’s Columbus plant will close by October 2010, leaving about 220 workers without jobs.

http://www.journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/nebraska/article_23468f66-83d3-11de-b47d-001cc4c03286.html

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And now for the important news ….

By Argus Hamilton

ABC’s Dancing with the Stars said Monday former GOP leader Tom DeLay will dance on the show this fall. He started out in life as a pest exterminator. In his audition tape Tom DeLay stomped on cockroaches to the tune of Dixie and the producers thought it’s the best thing they’ve seen since Gene Kelly danced with a cartoon mouse

JewishWorldReview

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three thousand words

Lisa Benson
Victor Valley Daily Press
Aug 19, 2009

Cartoon du Jour – By Khalil: happy days are here again!
(www.bendib.com)

David Horsey: what have you got to say to THAT, senator?! …
(www.seattlepi.com)