Thursday, January 27, 2011

US Chamber Attacks FCIC as "Job-killing" Wikileakers

US Chamber Attacks FCIC as "Job-killing" Wikileakers

by Mary Bottari
In a response to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission releasing its final report on the financial crisis today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pitched a classic hissy fit calling the report an “abuse of the process” that would create “more job-killing lawsuits.” (So much for the new tone in Washington.)
FCIC the New Wikileaks?
The Chamber quickly goes to the heart of the matter:

“The commission’s final report and its pledge to post raw materials – apparently including information obtained from companies as well as other government agencies – is an astounding abuse of process that would effectively create a government-sanctioned Wikileaks,” said Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform.
This is what the Chamber fears most of all, the FCIC's planned release of those reckless, imprudent and downright ugly emails from the masters of the universe crowing about how well they do their jobs -- fleecing America.
A stack of these emails were just released by Atlantic Monthly:
Bear Stearns deal manager Nicolas Smith wrote an e-mail on August 11th, 2006 to
Keith Lind, a Bear Stearns Managing Director on the trading desk, referring to a
particular bond, SACO 2006-8, as "SACK OF SHIT [2006-]8" and said, "I
hope your [sic] making a lot of money off this trade."
The Real Job Killers
The U.S. Chamber is in panic mode for two reasons. One, the FCIC report details in its 576 page report who the real job killers are, reckless Wall Street financial firms and negligent government officials who took a series of specific actions that resulted in 30 million unemployed and underemployed Americans who are right now barely scraping by.
They are also panicked because the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law is kicking in to high gear. Federal banking agencies are issuing new rules under the act that will clamp down on some of the reckless behavior in the big banks, mortgage services and other financial firms. Unbelievably, the Chamber is fighting hard to protect the lucrative shadow banking industry from being dragged into the sunlight, rigorously protesting the new transparency, capital and margin requirements for all over the counter derivatives traders.

This week the Chamber released an amusing art work, placing the array of Dodd Frank rules into a graphic chart full of polka dots. Our friends at U.S. Chamber Watch noted: “ Although the Chamber has unveiled this pointless pointillist masterpiece, (probably being secretly funded by the big banks that, left unregulated, led to the recession in the first place), it still has yet to release a substantive plan for jobs or avoiding future financial meltdowns."
Buy the FCIC report today, and call the U.S. Chamber of Commerce toll-free and tell them what you think of their foray into modern art. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Customer Service: 1-800-638-6582.
Mary Bottari is the Director of the Center for Media and Democracy's Real Economy Project and editor of their site.
by Mary Bottari
In a response to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission releasing its final report on the financial crisis today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pitched a classic hissy fit calling the report an “abuse of the process” that would create “more job-killing lawsuits.” (So much for the new tone in Washington.)
FCIC the New Wikileaks?
The Chamber quickly goes to the heart of the matter:

“The commission’s final report and its pledge to post raw materials – apparently including information obtained from companies as well as other government agencies – is an astounding abuse of process that would effectively create a government-sanctioned Wikileaks,” said Lisa Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform.
This is what the Chamber fears most of all, the FCIC's planned release of those reckless, imprudent and downright ugly emails from the masters of the universe crowing about how well they do their jobs -- fleecing America.
A stack of these emails were just released by Atlantic Monthly:
Bear Stearns deal manager Nicolas Smith wrote an e-mail on August 11th, 2006 to
Keith Lind, a Bear Stearns Managing Director on the trading desk, referring to a
particular bond, SACO 2006-8, as "SACK OF SHIT [2006-]8" and said, "I
hope your [sic] making a lot of money off this trade."
The Real Job Killers
The U.S. Chamber is in panic mode for two reasons. One, the FCIC report details in its 576 page report who the real job killers are, reckless Wall Street financial firms and negligent government officials who took a series of specific actions that resulted in 30 million unemployed and underemployed Americans who are right now barely scraping by.
They are also panicked because the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law is kicking in to high gear. Federal banking agencies are issuing new rules under the act that will clamp down on some of the reckless behavior in the big banks, mortgage services and other financial firms. Unbelievably, the Chamber is fighting hard to protect the lucrative shadow banking industry from being dragged into the sunlight, rigorously protesting the new transparency, capital and margin requirements for all over the counter derivatives traders.

This week the Chamber released an amusing art work, placing the array of Dodd Frank rules into a graphic chart full of polka dots. Our friends at U.S. Chamber Watch noted: “ Although the Chamber has unveiled this pointless pointillist masterpiece, (probably being secretly funded by the big banks that, left unregulated, led to the recession in the first place), it still has yet to release a substantive plan for jobs or avoiding future financial meltdowns."
Buy the FCIC report today, and call the U.S. Chamber of Commerce toll-free and tell them what you think of their foray into modern art. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Customer Service: 1-800-638-6582.
Mary Bottari is the Director of the Center for Media and Democracy's Real Economy Project and editor of their site.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Genevieve Fraser Touts Local Produce in Schools

Might other Town Energy Committees hire food coordinators too?  Or perhaps they could be coordinated with town Agricultural Commissions that are being set up throughout the state?
I'm currently heading an ad hoc committee for the Franklin County School Committee Caucus to bring local produce to schools throughout the region in coordination with the Farm to School Initiative.  If each town had a Local Food coordinator, it would help make the task of bringing local food to our schools  a whole lot easier.
Wendell hires Local Food Coordinator
Elizabeth Carter
Elizabeth Carter

WENDELL -- Elizabeth K. Carter of Turners Falls started her job Monday as the official Wendell Local Food Coordinator. In her position she will work to encourage a more local food system via more in-town and nearby growing activity, as well as greater use of that produce by Wendell residents.
Local Food Subcommittee chair Paul Costello said, "I'm very excited to have her on board with us."
Carter, a UMass graduate in soils science with a broad range of farming and organizing experience, said she considers "a thriving, sustainable food culture...essential to the economic vitality of rural communities."
Carter has worked on farms in Washington, New York and Massachusetts, pruned fruit trees in Belchertown, and cared for a small herd of dairy goats in Ireland. She founded a farm of several acres to supply the Mason Square Farmers' Market in Springfield.
She left college after Hurricane Katrina to try to be of help in New Orleans. There she soon found herself organizing over 2,000 volunteers in the gutting of homes in previously abandoned parts of the city's Lower Ninth Ward.
She called food production "an occupation [that is] both creative and collaborative."
The commitment of a town's money directly to increase its food security appears to be virtually unprecedented.
Last October, voters approved the appropriation of $5,000 to the Energy Committee for a two-year pilot program. The Wendell Energy Task Force, in its 2010 report, recommended the program, portraying New England as being at the tail end of a long food supply line and at the mercy of cheap, plentiful energy for growing and delivering (an average of 1,500 miles) its supermarket food.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


The Brother-In-Law


In The End, "Much To Do In Life Besides Running For Political Office."

Written by DON PRIDE. Last updated Wednesday January 19th, 2011
Three generations of Kennedys dangled in small, oval-shaped photos from a family tree published in the New York Times seventeen months ago when Sen. Edward Kennedy died. With Joe and Rose Kennedy atop the tree, the next branch depicted their children - including sons John, Robert and Ted.
DON PRIDE - 86.7 kb
One of their five daughters, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, smiled out at Times readers from the center of the family tree. The entry appropriately credited her with helping “found the Special Olympics” and then described her husband as the “first director of the Peace Corps” and “George McGovern’s running mate in 1972.”
True enough. But Sargent Shriver, who died yesterday (JAN. 18, 2011), had also run for president himself - in a forgettable 1976 campaign that seemed doomed from the start. Shriver was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which was announced publicly in 2003. I had a close-up view of that presidential campaign, serving as his press secretary and bunking out in the Shrivers’ guesthouse during the summer and fall of ’75.
In the wee hours of the September day he announced his candidacy, Shriver tossed and turned in bed until suddenly remembering a thoughtful letter he’d once received from his close friend and former Peace Corps deputy Bill Moyers. He bolted to his dresser and pulled a worn piece of paper from a wallet containing far more personal notes than money. It contained a single paragraph Shriver had torn from the letter.
“There is no conservative or liberal remedy for the sickness of the national spirit,” Moyers had written. “The cure will come from honest, truthful leadership that summons the best in us - as we remember John Kennedy once did. His legacy awaits the leader who can claim it.”
With a blue felt-tip pen, Shriver scratched out the original ending of his announcement speech, typed for delivery on a handful of 5- by 8-inch cards. In its place, he copied the lines about JFK’s legacy - carefully enclosing Moyer’s words in quote marks but not identifying the source. He then added: “I intend to claim it, not for myself alone, but for the family that first brought it into being, for the millions who joyfully and hopefully entered public service in those days in order to produce a better life for all, and for those billions of unknown, uncounted human beings whom I have seen all over the world - in Asia, South America, Western Europe and the Soviet Union - for whom the memory of those days and of John Kennedy is still an inspiration to their minds and a lift to their hearts. That’s what we must all be proud of once again.”
He could hardly wait to show his changes to Eunice, whose opinion he sought on almost everything. When she awoke, she liked the revised ending to her husband’s speech. Later, over breakfast, he read the passage aloud for my reaction. I thought it sounded good, a moving windup to his announcement. Indeed, it later brought tears to the eyes of supporters crowded into the ballroom of Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, with John Kennedy Jr. and Bobby Kennedy’s widow Ethel up front with the Shriver family. It also provided the news peg for surprisingly strong television and newspaper coverage of the long-expected Shriver announcement.
Tactically, though, it proved disastrous.
The next day, on “Meet the Press,” NBC reporter Bill Monroe was the first to question Shriver. “You said you are claiming the legacy of John F. Kennedy,” he said. “Isn’t the logical claimant of the legacy Sen. Ted Kennedy, and why isn’t he supporting you?”
Shriver acknowledged his brother-in-law was the logical claimant but said Kennedy had assured him he wasn’t going to enter the 1976 presidential race. The senator had also pledged neutrality to other Democrats lining up for a shot at their party’s nomination, Shriver tried to explain.
The news panel persisted. What exactly was the Kennedy legacy and by what right did Shriver claim it, moderator Lawrence Spivak wanted to know. Wouldn’t voters thirst for the “real thing” instead of “Near Beer,” said Martin Nolan of the Boston Globe. Conservative columnist Robert Novak, cocking his head sideways, asked why the liberal George McGovern’s former running mate wasn’t claiming the “McGovern legacy.”
The same line of questioning dogged Shriver on the campaign trial, which he initially traveled mostly on commercial airliners accompanied by just this writer - a journalist/flack from Florida with no national experience. Wasn’t Shriver merely a stalking horse? Might Teddy change his mind? Or maybe accept a draft at the convention?
Asked at an Atlanta press conference whether he’d eventually get Kennedy’s endorsement, Shriver simply replied, “Yes.” The next day I showed him the resulting headline in an Atlanta newspaper as we flew in a small twin-engine Cessna from Montgomery, Ala., to Gulfport, Miss. It said, “Shriver Expects Kennedy Help.” Stories like that could force the senator to deny he had any such intention, I warned Shriver, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat in front of me. “Well, ultimately he will endorse me,” he said over his shoulder.
He peered out the side window at a cloudy sky, and then, with a sigh, added, “It may be at the inaugural.”
Despite the assassinations of President and Robert Kennedy, Shriver didn’t want secret service protection in the early months of the campaign. He thought he could get closer to voters by refusing protection during the Democratic Party primaries. Arriving home one day he found a handwritten note from Eunice reporting that campaign finance director Bill Kelly had phoned, cautioning “don’t make a mistake about protection. The campaign is going too well.”
She had also run the question by Dick Drane, Senate press secretary to her last surviving brother, Ted. “Dick Drane says your view is intriguing,” she jotted in her note to Shriver. “My view is if you are certain there is a heaven, OK.”
Sargent Shriver, a Catholic descendant of Maryland gentry stung by the Great Depression, had worked his way through Yale, graduating cum laude and going on to law school and the editorship of the Yale Daily News. He earned a Purple Heart serving as a naval officer in the Pacific during World War II, then managed Joe Kennedy’s giant Chicago Merchandise Mart. When Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed during the 1960 presidential campaign, it was Shriver who picked up the telephone and insisted that candidate John Kennedy say a few consoling words to King’s wife. He then helped President Kennedy launch the Peace Corps and, after the tragedy in Dallas, stayed on to head up Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty and later serve as U.S. ambassador to France. “I have never run into anyone more efficient at getting something new started, at firing other people’s imaginations,” said Bill Moyers, who became a top Johnson aide before pursuing his distinguished career in print and television journalism.
At age 60, Shriver was a successful international lawyer, deeply religious and squeaky clean. But, in running for the nation’s highest office, he was making the first bid on his own for elective office. And it showed. A born back-slapper, bursting with energy and enthusiasm, he sometimes seemed more super salesman than serious presidential contender. For all his intelligence and knowledge, he frequently gave rambling, unfocused answers to reporters’ questions.
On her way from Hyannis Port to the Kennedy winter home in Palm Beach, Rose Kennedy visited Timberlawn - the Maryland estate that had been home to Sargent and Eunice Shriver and their five children since the days of Camelot. As the family gathered for dinner one evening, she asked her son-in-law why he was running and what his candidacy offered that others did not.
Once more, Shriver rambled.
But the 85-year-old family matriarch listened intently for the gist of his words, and abruptly responded with a brief, punchy speech of her own. Addressing 19-year-old Maria Shriver across the dinner table and an imaginary audience of women across the land, she spoke in clean, crisp sentences in her familiar clipped Boston accent. She said Sargent Shriver had “always worked for ordinary people”; he “knows how to bring grocery prices down, you women will see”; he “knows how to get your husbands back to work, your children in good schools.”
Her right forefinger jabbed the air in true Kennedy style as she went on, and efficiently concluded, “You can help. It’s your vote that will count.”
After dinner Rose Kennedy took her nightly walk and retired early to the small guesthouse behind the sprawling, wood-sided Shriver home. But she was wide-awake, her mind racing. Shortly after midnight, she bundled herself in her robe, returned to the big house and called to “Sarge” from the foot of the stairs. He came down in his robe and fetched a glass of milk for her from the refrigerator. “I couldn’t sleep,” she explained, as he walked her arm in arm back to the guesthouse. “Speeches kept running in my head.”
Shriver folded his campaign in early ’76, after disappointing losses in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Illinois. “The family is used to winners,” Barbara Walters asked him in Chicago. “Do you feel awful?”
“No,” he said bravely. “I’m not psychologically down at all. I’m still a hero at home. There’s much to do in life besides running for political office.”
(Don Pride retired to Lakeland, Florida in 2002 after a long career in journalism including a stint as the editor of The Recorder in Greenfield Massachusetts during the 80's. Don was also involved in Florida state government. He adapted this column from a story he wrote that was published in The Ledger on August 28, 2009, shortly after the deaths that month of Eunice Kennedy Shriver and U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.)
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

FCC Rolls Over For Comcast/NBC Merger

Comcastrophe: Comcast/NBC Merger Approved

by Josh Silver
Today, the Federal Communications Commission blessed the merger of Comcast, the nation's largest cable and residential Internet provider, with NBC-Universal. The Justice Department is expected to follow suit right away, removing the last obstacle to the unprecedented consolidation of media and Internet power in the hands of one company.
You should be afraid and mad as hell.
The new Comcast will control an obscene number of media outlets, including the NBC broadcast network, numerous cable channels, two dozen local NBC and Telemundo stations, movie studios, online video portals, and the physical network that distributes that media content to millions of Americans through Internet and cable connections.
Culmination of the deal, combined with the FCC's recent, loophole-ridden "Net Neutrality" rules, sets the table for Comcast to turn the Internet into cable television, where it has the ability to speed up its content, slow down or block its competitors such as Netflix, and hike the rates for its programming and services. We'll all end up paying more -- whether you're a Comcast subscriber or not.
More Broken Promises
The merger further squeezes what's left of independent, diverse voices from the television dial, laying waste to President Barack Obama's promise to reign in runaway media consolidation. As a candidate in June 2008, he said:
"I strongly favor diversity of ownership of outlets and protection against the excessive concentration of power in the hands of any one corporation, interest or small group. I strongly believe that all citizens should be able to receive information from the broadest range of sources."
Where's that Barack Obama today? He's on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal announcing an executive order that will "make sure we avoid excessive, inconsistent and redundant regulation," focusing on rules that "stifle job creation and make our economy less competitive." Given the president's long list of massive compromises to corporate lobbyists during his first two years, today's gesture to Wall Street is galling.
This is the same Obama who promised to "take a backseat to no one" on Net Neutrality before applauding the FCC's AT&T-approved Internet rule. It's the same Obama who promised to provide the public option on health care and to end the massive bonuses to Wall Street titans...the list of broken promises is far longer than space allows.
And it's the same Obama who, in the same 2008 interview about media consolidation, said,
"There is a clear need in this country for the reinvigoration of antitrust enforcement. ... to step up review of merger activity and take effective action to stop or restructure those mergers that are likely to harm consumer welfare."
So much for that one, too.
President Obama is being squeezed by a corrupt Washington that is run by industry lobbyists, fake grassroots groups, massive political spending and PR machines that make the most basic public interest protections impossible to advance. But rather than tell that story, dig in, and fight like a true leader would, Obama has chosen to hire corporate-friendly advisors, compromise on the most crucial substance, and attempt to eke out weak, symbolic, half-victories gift-wrapped in flowery oratory and spin. It's a losing strategy that has become brutally transparent.

Opening Pandora's Box
Why should you care about a business deal between a couple of companies?
This merger will touch all corners of the media market, and you won't be immune. Comcast will jack up the prices that other cable and online distributers pay for NBC content, and those prices will be passed to you. That means higher cable and Internet bills, even if you don't subscribe to Comcast.
Comcast and the FCC Chairman argue that there are "conditions" applied to the merger that protect the public, but they fail to mention that the key provisions are either voluntary (no, that's not a typo), or expire after a few years. Then, all bets are off, as the merger squeezes out what's left of independent, diverse voices from television dials, and forever changes the Internet as we know it.
As television, radio, phone and other services become Internet-based, cable internet service is becoming the only connection that's fast enough to handle streaming video and cutting-edge applications. That means you're stuck with whatever Comcast and their cable buddies dish out. And thanks to Obama FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, it's gonna be some nasty gruel.
While pushing through this deal, the FCC chair completely ignored the lack of competition in the Internet service provider market. As former Obama White House technology adviser Susan Crawford writes, "In 2011, as the telcos continue to sink, we're going to need to confront this natural monopoly problem head-on. How do we ensure a nationwide, affordable, better-than-all-the-competition high-speed Internet service...?"
And it will only be a matter of time before more companies follow Comcast's lead and start pursuing new mergers. The FCC's blessing of Comcast and NBC will embolden companies like AT&T or Verizon, to try to gobble up content providers such as Disney and CBS, creating a new era of media consolidation where even fewer companies control the content you watch and all the ways you want to watch it.
If I sound a little bitter, it's because the Comcast-NBC merger is truly a disaster for anyone who hopes the American public might someday emerge from the propaganda morass that is embodied by cable television, and now threatens to consume the internet.
Our democracy is certain to fail if we cannot figure out a way to foster media that is less sensational and superficial, and more thoughtful and informative. That's a goal that is antithetical to the programming you can expect from a merged Comcast/NBC, where profit pressures and blind corporate ideology will ensure substandard fare.
In the credit-where-it's due category, Democratic FCC Commissioner and public interest stalwart Michael Copps is expected to vote against the merger in a demonstration of principle that is all too rare in Washington. My hat is off to you, Commissioner.
But you, Mr. Obama. You said you "strongly believe that all citizens should be able to receive information from the broadest range of sources," yet your agencies are approving this deal while you watch quietly, and use the merger to demonstrate your corporate street cred.
Does the strength of your beliefs mean nothing? If so, keep doing what you're doing, and watch your administration fall ever farther out of favor with real people across the country, both left and right.
Today, you can chalk up another victory for the K Street lobbyists whose approval you seek, and another crushing defeat for the American people whose interests you are supposed to protect.
Josh Silver is the Executive Director of Free Press a national, nonpartisan organization that he co-founded with Robert McChesney and John Nichols in 2002 to engage citizens in media policy debates and create a more democratic and diverse media system.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dan Brown Column. A Difference in Leadership: The Civil Rights and Tea Party movements

Prominent figures of the African-American Civi...Image via Wikipedia

A Difference in Leadership
The Civil Rights and Tea Party movements

Behold this dreamer cometh. Come now, and let us slay him and we shall see what will become of his dreams” – Genesis 37:19

As the young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walked towards the Holt Street Baptist Church on the evening of December 5, 1955, he had no idea what to expect. A local seamstress named Rosa Parks had just been arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger, thus violating the Montgomery, Alabama bus segregation laws. While this was not the first case of such civil disobedience, it was the one upon which the local black activists had decided to make a stand. What would soon be known to the world as the Montgomery Bus Boycott got its start at a mass meeting with Dr. King chosen to be one of its primary organizers and speakers.

King left his wife and new-born daughter and hurried over to the gathering with an old college chum. They was amazed to find the Holt Street church overflowing with and surrounded by nearly 10,000 people who created a massive traffic jam several blocks long. In one of the greatest understatements in American history, King turned to his friend and observed, “You know something, Finley, this could turn into something big”.

Such an outcome was not a foregone conclusion. The South of the 1950’s was still a dangerous place for African-Americans who challenged the white power structure and King and his cohorts were planning to do just that. Unless the black population stood behind them, their movement could peter out and they would suffer the consequences. Lynching; remorseless and unpunished, was still a common occurrence.

Standing at the podium, Reverend King started his speech slowly, searching for the correct language, using all the elocution skills that his profession excelled at. Stating the reason for the assembly and its obvious unfairness, his logic was agreeable but failed to yield any visible emotions. The crowd waited, measuring both King and his message. He continued, stating with growing passion, “And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression…..”

King barely finished as the rest of his soliloquy was lost in a volcanic explosion of cheers, foot stomping and applause that rocked the church to its foundations. It was an abrupt unleashing of all the anger, sorrow, frustration and resolve, accumulated over the centuries and finally given full voice. From that moment on, there would be no turning back. The thunderous response King ignited was the true beginning of the American Civil Rights movement and it launched the process that would culminate 53 years later with the election of Barack Obama to the office of the presidency.

Revolutions born in blood and rage are nothing new in world history. Bastilles fall, leaders are overthrown, and the opponents of each new regime disappear into some far-off wilderness Gulag. What made the Civil Rights saga unique was its dedication to non-violence, particularly what King himself described as the Christian principles of love, moral courage and justice.

Over the past year, pundits on the Conservative Right have tried to label the Tea Party insurgency as another civil rights movement, going so far as to schedule their own march on Washington D. C. on the anniversary of King’s legendary 1963 “I Have a Dream” rally. Both crusades were born from popular anger, they argue, and both are the result of a groundswell against oppressive tyranny.

Not quite.

While originally proclaiming its populist roots, the Tea Party has since revealed its true colors, namely as a mouthpiece for the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party and one that seems determined to bring out the reactionary worst in the American people. Far from exemplifying equality, Tea Party Nation is about saving nickels. As one party stalwart recently expressed to me, “I’ll be damned if the government is going to take my money and give it to the homeless!” God forbid. Tax breaks for billionaires, on the other hand, seem to be just fine.

And “oppressive tyranny”? According to the Tea Party, we are suffering such by being forced to buy health insurance. That’s it. And maybe such a definition makes sense in the alternate universe that their supporters inhabit. After all, what could be more tyrannical than a government interfering with your finances. In the real world, however, oppressive tyranny has a more sinister connotation. It means that security forces come to your house in the wee hours and haul your family off to some secretive dungeon, There, they torture your wife and children and eventually murder all of you, after which they deposit the bodies at the local garbage dump as a warning to others. All because you dared express differing politics.

In the United States for too many years, tyranny translated as denying citizenship and basic human rights to a significant portion of the population. That Dr. King could right such grievous wrongs while refusing to hate, places him light-years ahead of the mean-spirited, divisive and manipulative “leaders” of the Tea Party movement who would take American back to a time when injustice was not only the law of the land but considered the birthright of a corrupt and selfish status quo. Fortunately, the igniting of that emotional spark in 1955 which propelled the Civil Rights era to glory was rooted in the purest of American principles. During the coming years, it will be up to the citizens of this nation to decide whether they will uphold those same ideals or give in to shameless, fearful, and ultimately dangerous, demagoguery.

Dan Brown lives in Greenfield Massachusetts. This was first printed in the Recorder.
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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bringing the 'Bush Six' to Justice

PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 27:  President of the ...Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Bringing the 'Bush Six' to Justice

If those responsible for the Bush administration's torture policy will not face charges in the US, then in Spain it must be

by Michael Ratner
Today, the Centre for Constitutional Rights filed papers encouraging Judge Eloy Velasco and the Spanish national court to do what the United States will not: prosecute the "Bush Six". These are the former senior administration legal advisors, headed by then US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who violated international law by creating a legal framework that materially contributed to the torture of suspected terrorists at US-run facilities at Guantánamo and other overseas locations.
Friday's filing provides Judge Velasco with the legal framework for the prosecution of government lawyers – a prosecution that last took place during the Nuremberg trials, when Nazi lawyers who provided cover for the Third Reich's war crimes and crimes against humanity were held accountable for their complicity.
CCR would prefer to see American cases tried in American courts. But we have joined the effort to pursue the Bush Six overseas because two successive American presidents have made it clear that there will be no justice for the architects of the US torture programme, or any of their accomplices, on American soil.
Thanks to the US diplomatic cables recently released by WikiLeaks, we now know why seeking justice abroad has also been fraught with difficulty – why there have been so many delays and even dismissals. The same US government that will not pursue justice at home, not even when the CIA destroys 92 videotapes that show detainees being tortured, has put a heavy thumb on the scales of justice in other countries as well.
During the Bush presidency, the US intervened to derail the case of German citizen Khaled el-Masri, who was abducted by the CIA in 2003 and flown to Afghanistan for interrogation as part of the U.S. "extraordinary rendition" program—until they realized they had kidnapped the wrong man and dumped el-Masri on the side of an Albanian road. A leaked 2007 cable reveals the extent both of U.S. pressure and German collusion. In public, Munich prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA operatives while Angela Merkel's office called for an investigation. In private, the German justice ministry and foreign ministry both made it clear to the US that they were not interested in pursuing the case. Later that year, then Justice Minster Brigitte Zypries went public with her decision against attempting extradition, citing US refusal to arrest or hand over the agents.
Will this toxic combination of American pressure and a European ally's acquiescence derail justice in Spain, as well?
This 1 April 2009 cable, released 1 December 2010, shows Obama administration officials trying their best to stop the prosecution of the Bush Six. They fret that "the fact that this complaint targets former administration legal officials may reflect a 'stepping-stone' strategy designed to pave the way for complaints against even more senior officials" and bemoan Spain's "reputation for liberally invoking universal jurisdiction". Chief Prosecutor Javier Zaragoza reassures the US that while "in all likelihood he would have no option but to open a case", he does not "envision indictments or arrest warrants in the near future", and will "argue against the case being assigned to Garzon" (a notoriously tough judge, who has since been removed from the case).
Judge Velasco, who has since been assigned to the case, has been scrupulous in his oversight. The Spanish court has thrice asked the US, in accordance with international law, "whether the acts referred to in this complaint are or are not being investigated or prosecuted", and if so, "to identify the prosecuting authority and to inform this court of the specific procedure by which to refer the complaints for joinder". Of course, no response to any of these requests has been received, because the Obama administration has no intention whatsoever of pursuing justice on this matter.

Democracy demands a fully functioning legal system – one that does not bend to hidden pressures and political agendas. We have faith that Judge Velasco will justify the US officials' concerns about Spain's independent judiciary, and its respect for international law, and move forward with the Bush Six case.
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Saturday, January 8, 2011

How Many Dead Arizonians?

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer meeting with Presi...Image via Wikipedia

How Many Dead Arizonians?

by Donna Smith
The budget crisis in Arizona means the Republican Governor Jan Brewer and her Republican legislature have decided some death is preferable to more debt.  Human life has a very measureable price in Arizona, and those who look the other way as folks who might be saved die in Arizona can expect the same to come to their states sometime soon.
Many Republicans like to frame themselves as the party that protects human life from the moment of conception, no matter what.  Many Democrats like to frame themselves as the party that protects the downtrodden and the working class folks. 
So, where are any of these people when the sick in Arizona are preparing to die?
Here's one take on the news stories of recent days:
From that report: 
On Oct. 1, the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System stopped paying for seven types of transplants that the state's GOP governor, Jan Brewer, and GOP-led legislature said they could no longer afford. The state faces a projected $1 billion program deficit by July 2011.
They eliminated heart transplants for non-ischemic cardiomyopathy, lung transplants, pancreatic transplants, some bone marrow transplants, and liver transplants for patients infected with hepatitis C. Arizona also restricted coverage of prosthetics, eliminated podiatric services, preventive dental services, and wellness and physical exams for adult Medicaid enrollees"
So, we've decided in Arizona that the expendables are to be defined as adult Medicaid enrollees.  The poor, often the working poor, are our expendables.
I didn't hear anyone cry for them.  I didn't hear anyone cry out for them.  Two are dead already as they were denied transplants and 96 more are in the queue.  And it does not lead the news even among those who advocate for universal healthcare or the public option or the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or repeal or replace or whatever.  The dead are expendable to all of us.
We fought immigration discrimination in Arizona, but dead poor people are acceptable?  Where are the protests?  There are no protests today in Arizona because no one we care about is dead yet. 
If your liver stops working tomorrow, God forbid, do you think your own life is worth saving?  Your child's?  Your neighbor's?  How about a little cancer that needs bone marrow treatment?
If we had a progressively financed, single standard of care for all in this nation -- the kind of government protected care that, say, Senator John McCain of Arizona has enjoyed for all but four years of his life, it isn't that every treatment would automatically be covered and appropriate.  But those kinds of choices would be determined based on medical necessity and effectiveness rather than being automatically not available to one group of adults -- like these adult Medicaid enrollees in Arizona.
This is a travesty and a horror all at once playing out in Arizona.  The only question we need ask ourselves is how many dead poor people are acceptable to us?  We've finally gotten to the point of watching a bi-partisan killing field played out in full public view, and I don't know if we care enough to act.  How many activists have booked their travel for Arizona to hold rallies and chain themselves to the governor's mansion gates or the hospital entrances where the dying have been given their death sentences?  How many of Arizona's leaders will step up?  Any national leaders?
This doesn't bode well for our future ability to transform our healthcare system from one that values money over human life.  If we cannot even gather our collective voice and courage to this trauma, we are more desperately selfish and greedy than we have accused those on Wall Street of so boldly displaying.  We're just playing at healthcare justice.
Donna Smith is a community organizer for National Nurses United (the new national arm of the California Nurses Association) and National Co-Chair for the Progressive Democrats of America Healthcare Not Warfare campaign.
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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

War is a Drug: Washington's 30-Year High

War is a Drug: Washington's 30-Year High

The Urge to Surge

by Tom Engelhardt
If, as 2011 begins, you want to peer into the future, enter my time machine, strap yourself in, and head for the past, that laboratory for all developments of our moment and beyond.
Just as 2010 ended, the American military's urge to surge resurfaced in a significant way.  It seems that "leaders" in the Obama administration and "senior American military commanders" in Afghanistan were acting as a veritable WikiLeaks machine.  They slipped information to New York Times reporters Mark Mazzetti and Dexter Filkins about secret planning to increase pressure in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, possibly on the tinderbox province of Baluchistan, and undoubtedly on the Pakistani government and military via cross-border raids by U.S. Special Operations forces in the new year.
In the front-page story those two reporters produced, you could practically slice with a dull knife American military frustration over a war going terribly wrong, over an enemy (shades of Vietnam!) with "sanctuaries" for rest, recuperation, and rearming just over an ill-marked, half-existent border.  You could practically taste the chagrin of the military that their war against... well you name it: terrorists, guerrillas, former Islamic fundamentalist allies, Afghan and Pakistani nationalists, and god knows who else... wasn't proceeding exactly swimmingly.  You could practically reach out and be seared by their anger at the Pakistanis for continuing to take American bucks by the billions while playing their own game, rather than an American one, in the region.
If you were of a certain age, you could practically feel (shades of Vietnam again!) that eerily hopeful sense that the next step in spreading the war, the next escalation, could be the decisive one.  Admittedly, these days no one talks (as they did in the Vietnam and Iraq years) about turning "corners" or reaching "tipping points," but you can practically hear those phrases anyway, or at least the mingled hope and desperation that always lurked behind them.
Take this sentence, for instance: "Even with the risks, military commanders say that using American Special Operations troops could bring an intelligence windfall, if militants were captured, brought back across the border into Afghanistan and interrogated." Can't you catch the familiar conviction that, when things are going badly, the answer is never "less," always "more," that just another decisive step or two and you'll be around that fateful corner?
In this single New York Times piece (and other hints about cross-border operations), you can sense just how addictive war is for the war planners. Once you begin down the path of invasion and occupation, turning back is as difficult as an addict going cold turkey.  With all the sober talk about year-end reviews in Afghanistan, about planning and "progress" (a word used nine times in the relatively brief, vetted "overview" of that review recently released by the White House), about future dates for drawdowns and present tactics, it's easy to forget that war is a drug.  When you're high on it, your decisions undoubtedly look as rational, even practical, as the public language you tend to use to describe them.  But don't believe it for a second.
Once you've shot up this drug, your thinking is impaired.  Through its dream-haze, unpleasant history becomes bunk; what others couldn't do, you fantasize that you can.  Forget the fact that crossing similar borders to get similar information and wipe out similar sanctuaries in Cambodia and Laos in the Vietnam War years led to catastrophe for American planners and the peoples of the region.  It only widened that war into what in Cambodia would become auto-genocide.  Forget the fact that, no matter whom American raiders might capture, they have no hope of capturing the feeling of nationalism (or the tribal equivalent) that, in the face of foreign invaders or a foreign occupation, keeps the under-armed resilient against the mightiest of forces.
Think of the American urge to surge as a manifestation of the war drug's effect in the world. In what the Bush administration used to call "the Greater Middle East," Washington is now in its third and grimmest surge iteration.  The first took place in the 1980s during the Reagan administration's anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan and proved the highest of highs; the second got rolling as the last century was ending and culminated in the first years of the twenty-first century amid what can only be described as delusions of grandeur, or even imperial megalomania.  It focused on a global Pax Americana and the wars that extend it into the distant future.  The third started in 2006 in Iraq and is still playing itself out in Afghanistan as 2011 commences.
In Central and South Asia, we could now be heading for the end of the age of American surges, which in practical terms have manifested themselves as the urge to destabilize.  Geopolitically, little could be uglier or riskier on our planet at the moment than destabilizing Pakistan -- or the United States.  Three decades after the American urge to surge in Afghanistan helped destabilize one imperial superpower, the Soviet Union, the present plans, whatever they may turn out to be, could belatedly destabilize the other superpower of the Cold War era.  And what our preeminent group of surgers welcomed as an "unprecedented strategic opportunity" as this century dawned may, in its later stages, be seen as an unprecedented act of strategic desperation.
That, of course, is what drugs, taken over decades, do to you: they give you delusions of grandeur and then leave you on the street, strung out, and without much to call your own.  Perhaps it's fitting that Afghanistan, the country we helped turn into the planet's leading narco-state, has given us a 30-year high from hell.
So, as the New Year begins, strap yourself into that time machine and travel with me back into the 1980s, so that we can peer into a future we know and see the pattern that lies both behind and ahead of us.
Getting High in Afghanistan
As 2011 begins, what could be eerier than reading secret Soviet documents from the USSR's Afghan debacle of the 1980s?  It gives you chills to run across Communist Party General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev at a Politburo meeting in October 1985, almost six years after Soviet troops first flooded into Afghanistan, reading letters aloud to his colleagues from embittered Soviet citizens ("The Politburo had made a mistake and must correct it as soon as possible -- every day precious lives are lost."); or, in November 1986, insisting to those same colleagues that the Afghan war must be ended in a year, "at maximum, two." Yet, with the gut-wrenching sureness history offers, you can't help but know that, even two years later, even with a strong desire to leave (which has yet to surface among the Washington elite a decade into our own Afghan adventure), imperial pride and fear of loss of "credibility" would keep the Soviets fighting on to 1989.
Or what about Marshal Sergei Akhromeev offering that same Politburo meeting an assessment that any honest American military commander might offer a quarter century later about our own Afghan adventure: "There is no single piece of land in this country that has not been occupied by a Soviet soldier.  Nevertheless, the majority of the territory remains in the hands of the rebels." Or General Boris Gromov, the last commander of the Soviet 40th Army in Afghanistan, boasting "on his last day in the country that ‘[n]o Soviet garrison or major outpost was ever overrun.'"
Or Andrei Gromyko, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, emphasizing in 1986 the strategic pleasure of their not-so-secret foe, that other great imperial power of the moment: "Concerning the Americans, they are not interested in the settlement of the situation in Afghanistan.  On the contrary, it is to their advantage for the war to drag out." (The same might today be said of a far less impressive foe, al-Qaeda.)
Or in 1988, with the war still dragging on, to read a "closed" letter the Communist Party distributed to its members explaining how the Afghan fiasco happened (again, the sort of thing that any honest American leader could say of our Afghan war): "In addition, [we] completely disregarded the most important national and historical factors, above all the fact that the appearance of armed foreigners in Afghanistan was always met with arms in the hands [of the population]... One should not disregard the economic factor either.  If the enemy in Afghanistan received weapons and ammunition for hundreds of millions and later even billions of dollars, the Soviet-Afghan side also had to shoulder adequate expenditures.  The war in Afghanistan costs us 5 billion rubles a year."
Or finally the pathetic letter the Soviet Military Command delivered to the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan on February 14, 1989, arguing (just as the American military high command would do of our war effort) that it was "not only unfair but even absurd to draw... parallels" between the Soviet Afghan disaster and the American war in Vietnam.  That was, of course, the day the last of 100,000 Soviet soldiers -- just about the number of American soldiers there today -- left Afghan soil heading home to a sclerotic country bled dry by war, its infrastructure aging, its economy crumbling.  Riddled by drugs and thoroughly demoralized, the Red Army limped home to a society riddled by drugs and thoroughly demoralized led by a Communist Party significantly delegitimized by its disastrous Afghan adventure, its Islamic territories from Chechnya to Central Asia in increasing turmoil.  In November of that same year, the Berlin Wall would be torn down and not long after the Soviet Union would disappear from the face of the Earth.
Reading those documents, you can almost imagine CIA director William Webster and "his euphoric ‘Afghan Team'" toasting the success of the Agency's 10-year effort, its largest paramilitary operation since the Vietnam War.  The Reagan administration surge in Pakistan and Afghanistan had been profligate, involving billions of dollars and a massive propaganda campaign, as well as alliances with the Saudis and a Pakistani dictator and his intelligence service to fund and arm the most extreme of the anti-Soviet jihadists of that moment -- "freedom fighters" as they were then commonly called in Washington.
It's easy to imagine the triumphalist mood of celebration in Washington among those who had intended to give the Soviet Union a full blast of the Vietnam effect.  They had used the "war" part of the Cold War to purposely bleed the less powerful, less wealthy of the two superpowers dry.  As President Reagan would later write in his memoirs: "The great dynamic of capitalism had given us a powerful weapon in our battle against Communism -- money.  The Russians could never win the arms race; we could outspend them forever."
By 1990, the urge to surge seemed a success beyond imagining.  Forget that it had left more than a million Afghans dead (and more dying), that one-third of that impoverished country's population had been turned into refugees, or that the most extreme of jihadists, including a group that called itself al-Qaeda, had been brought together, funded, and empowered through the Afghan War.  More important, the urge to surge in the region was now in the American bloodstream.  And who could ever imagine that, in a new century, "our" freedom fighters would become our sworn enemies, or that the Afghans, that backward people in a poor land, could ever be the sort of impediment to American power that they had been to the Soviets?
The Cold War was over.  The surge had it.  We were supreme.  And what better high could there be than that?
Fever Dreams of Military Might
Of course, with the Soviet Union gone, there was no military on the planet that could come close to challenging the American one, nor was there a nascent rival great power on the horizon.  Still, a question remained: After centuries of great power rivalry, what did it mean to have a "sole superpower" on planet Earth, and what path should that triumphant power head down? It took a few years, including passing talk about a possible "peace dividend" -- that is, the investment of monies that would have gone into the Cold War, the Pentagon, and the military in infrastructural and other domestic projects -- for this question to be settled, but settled it was, definitively, on September 12, 2001.
And for all the unknown paths that might have been taken in this unique situation, the one chosen was familiar.  It was, of course, the very one that had helped lead the Soviet Union to implosion, the investment of national treasure in military power above all else.  However, to those high on the urge to surge and now eager to surge globally, when it came to an American future, the fate of the Soviet Union seemed no more relevant than what the Afghans had done to the Red Army.  In those glory years, analogies between the greatest power the planet had ever seen and a defeated foe seemed absurd to those who believed themselves the smartest, clearest-headed guys in the room.
Previously, the "arms race," like any race, had involved at least two, and sometimes more, great powers.  Now, it seemed, there would be something new under the sun, an arms race of one, as the U.S. prepared itself for utter dominance into a distant, highly militarized future.  The military-industrial complex would, in these years, be further embedded in the warp and woof of American life; the military expanded and privatized (which meant being firmly embraced by crony corporations and hire-a-gun outfits of every sort); and the American "global presence" -- from military bases to aircraft-carrier task forces -- enhanced until, however briefly, the United States became a military presence unique in the annals of history.
Thanks to the destructive acts of 19 jihadis, the urge to surge would with finality overwhelm all other urges in the fall of 2001 -- and there would be a group ready for just such a moment, for (as the newspaper headlines screamed) a "Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century."
To take full stock of that group, however, we would first have to pilot our time machine back to June 3, 1997, the day a confident crew of Washington think-tank, academic, and political types calling themselves the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) posted a fin de siècle "statement of principles." In it, they called for "a military that is strong and ready to meet both present and future challenges; a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad; and national leadership that accepts the United States' global responsibilities."  Crucially, they were demanding that the Clinton administration, or assumedly some future administration with a better sense of American priorities, "increase defense spending significantly."
The 23 men and two women who signed the initial PNAC statement urging the United States to go for the military option in the twenty-first century would, however, prove something more than your typical crew of think-tank types.  After all, not so many years later, after a disputed presidential election settled by the Supreme Court, Dick Cheney would be vice president; I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby would be his right-hand man; Donald Rumsfeld would be Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Zalmay Khalilzad, head of the Bush-Cheney transition team at the Department of Defense and then the first post- invasion U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, as well as ambassador to Iraq and UN ambassador; Elliot Abrams, special assistant to the president with a post on the National Security Council; Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs; Aaron Friedberg, Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs and Director of Policy Planning in the office of the vice president; and Jeb Bush, governor of Florida.  (Others like John Bolton, who signed on to PNAC later, would be no less well employed.)
This may, in fact, be the first example in history of a think tank coming to power and actually putting its blue-sky suggestions into operation as government policy, or perhaps it's the only example so far of a government-in-waiting masquerading as an online think tank.  In either case, more than 13 years later, the success of that group can still take your breath away, as can both the narrowness -- and scope -- of their thinking, and of their seminal document, "Rebuilding America's Defenses," published in September 2000, two months before George W. Bush took the presidency.
This crew of surgers extraordinaires was considering a global situation that, as they saw it, offered Americans an "unprecedented strategic opportunity."  Facing a new century, their ambitions were caught by James Peck in his startling upcoming book, Ideal Illusions: How the U.S. Government Co-opted Human Rights, in this way: "In the [Reagan] era, Washington organized half the planet; in the [Bush era] it sought to organize the whole."
"Rebuilding America's Defenses," if remembered at all today, is recalled mainly for a throwaway sentence that looked ominous indeed in retrospect: "Further, the process of transformation [of the military], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event -- like a new Pearl Harbor."  It remains, however, a remarkable document for other reasons.  In many ways canny about the direction war would take in the near future, ranging from the role of drones in air war to the onrushing possibility that cyberwar (or "Net-War," as they called it) would be the style of future conflict, it was a clarion call to ensure this country's "unchallenged supremacy" into the distant future by military means alone.
In 1983, in an address to the National Association of Evangelicals, President Ronald Reagan famously called the Soviet Union an "evil empire."  It wanted, as he saw it, what all dark empires (and every evildoer in any James Bond film) desires: unchallenged dominion over the planet -- and it pursued that dominion in the name of a glorious "world revolution."  Now, in the name of American safety and the glories of global democracy, we were -- so the PNAC people both pleaded and demanded -- to do what only evil empires did and achieve global dominion beyond compare over planet Earth.
We could, they insisted in a phrase they liked, enforce an American peace, a Pax Americana, for decades to come, if only we poured our resources, untold billions -- they refused to estimate what the real price might be -- into war preparations and, if necessary, war itself, from the seven seas to the heavens, from manifold new "forward operating bases on land" to space and cyberspace.  Pushing "the American security perimeter" ever farther into the distant reaches of the planet  (and "patrolling" it via "constabulary missions") was, they claimed, the only way that "U.S. military supremacy" could be translated into "American geopolitical preeminence."  It was also the only that the "homeland" -- yes, unlike 99.9% of Americans before 9/11, they were already using that term -- could be effectively "defended."
In making their pitch, they were perfectly willing to acknowledge that the United States was already a military giant among midgets, but they were also eager to suggest as well that our military situation was "deteriorating" fast, that we were "increasingly ill-prepared" or even (gasp!) in "retreat" on a planet without obvious enemies.  They couldn't have thought more globally.  (They were, after all, visionaries, as druggies tend to be.)  Nor could they have thought longer term.  (They were twenty-first century mavens.)  And on military matters, they couldn't have been more up to date.
Yet on the most crucial issues, they -- and so their documents -- couldn't have been dumber or more misguided.  They were fundamentalists when it came to the use of force and idolaters on the subject of the U.S. military.  They believed it capable of doing just about anything.  As a result, they made a massive miscalculation, mistaking military destructiveness for global power.  Nor could they have been less interested in the sinews of global economic power (though they did imagine our future enemy to be China).  Nor were they capable of imagining that the greatest military power on the planet might be stopped in its tracks -- in the Greater Middle East, no less -- by a ragtag crew of Iraqis and Afghans.  To read "Rebuilding America's Defenses" today is to see the rabbit hole down which, as if in a fever dream, we would soon disappear.
It was a genuine American tragedy that they came to power and proceeded to put their military-first policies in place; that, on September 12th of the year that "changed everything," the PNAC people seized the reins of defense and foreign policy, mobilized for war, began channeling American treasure into the military solution they had long desired, and surged.  Oh, how they surged!
That urge to surge was infamously caught in notes on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's comments taken on September 11, 2001.  "[B]arely five hours after American Airlines Flight 77 plowed into the Pentagon... Rumsfeld was telling his aides to come up with plans for striking Iraq," even though he was already certain that al-Qaeda had launched the attack. ("'Go massive,' the notes quote him as saying. 'Sweep it all up. Things related and not.'")
And so they did.  They swept up everything and then watched as their dreams and geopolitical calculations were themselves swept into the dustbin of history.  And yet the urge to surge, twisted and ever more desperate, did not abate.
The Soviet Path
To one degree or another, we have been on the Soviet path for years and yet, ever more desperately, we continue to plan more surges.  Our military, like the Soviet one, has not lost a battle and has occupied whatever ground it chose to take.  Yet, in the process, it has won less than nothing at all.  Our country, still far more wealthy than the Soviet Union ever was, has nonetheless entered its Soviet phase.  At home, in the increasing emphasis on surveillance of every sort, there is even a hint of what made "soviet" and "totalitarian" synonymous.
The U.S. economy looks increasingly sclerotic; moneys for an aging and rotting infrastructure are long gone; state and city governments are laying off teachers, police, even firefighters; Americans are unemployed in near record numbers; global oil prices (for a country that has in no way begun to wean itself from its dependence on foreign oil) are ominously on the rise; and yet taxpayer money continues to pour into the military and into our foreign wars.  It has recently been estimated, for instance, that after spending $11.6 billion in 2011 on the training, supply, and support of the Afghan army and police, the U.S. will continue to spend an average of $6.2 billion a year at least through 2015 (and undoubtedly into an unknown future) -- and that's but one expense in the estimated $120 billion to $160 billion a year being spent at present on the Afghan War, what can only be described as part of America's war stimulus package abroad.
And, of course, the talk for 2011 is how to expand the American ground war -- the air version of the same has already been on a sharp escalatory trajectory -- in Pakistan. History and common sense assure us that this can only lead to further disaster.  Clear-eyed leaders, military or civilian, would never consider such plans.  But Washington's 30-year high in the region, that urge to surge still coursing through its veins, says otherwise, and it's not likely to be denied.
Sooner than later, Washington, the Pentagon, and the U.S. military will have to enter rehab.  They desperately need a 12-step program for recovery.  Until then, the delusions and the madness that go with surge addiction are not likely to end.
[Note on sources:  The National Security Archive, filled to bursting with documents from our imperial and Cold War past, is an online treasure.  I have relied on it for both the Soviet documents quoted on the Afghan war of the 1980s and an analysis of the American version of that war.  For those who are interested in reading PNAC's "Rebuilding America's Defenses," click here and then on the link to the pdf file of the document.]
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's He is the author of The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing. His most recent book is The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's (Haymarket Books).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Musings, for New Year by Opeyemi Parham

Musings, for  New Year

Wow, do I appreciate that Hopi elder prophesy when it gets to the part:

"there are those who will be afraid... they will try to cling to the shore.  they will feel that they are being torn apart...
and they will suffer greatly...
But the elders say--
we must let go of the shore... push out to the middle of the river...keep our eyes open... our heads about the water--
see who is with you and CELEBRATE.  We are the ones we have been waiting for."

It was TEN YEARS AGO that I stood with my son and my partner in the Hynes Convention Center, with Earth Drum Council on stage before me, with our marvelous vision of a dreamed world above us, waiting for that "Y2K" moment.

It was 11:59.  We drummed. We prayed.  Then it was midnight, and we were still drumming. No blackout. No panic.

I remember how beautiful it was to walk the cold streets of downtown Boston over the next half hour.  Everyone there was an optimist.  Everyone there had believed in themselves, their spirits, the heart of the planet, technology or WHATEVER we needed to believe in, enough to Create a Miracle.

Yes I know that now, 10 years later, you will hear folks talk about the HYPE around Y2K.  But I was there; it wasn't "hype". As a reminder let me mention that one of the smartest presidents we have ever had-- Jimmy Carter-- chose to weather this particular storm out in Costa Rica, in a hotel where rich Americans had shown up in droves, paying up to $400 a night for their rooms.

They had all abandoned ship, and took shelter in a third world country where the collapse wouldn't be so vertiginous a vertical drop. Sheepishly and quietly, they came "back home" and acted as if nothing had ever happened.

10 years post Y2K, I enjoyed a solitary night in the company of many strangers, at Northampton's First Night.  I traveled alone through the day.  I attended 10 events, in 12 hours.  I had no one to negotiate with over which event we'd go to next. WHAT A BLESSING!  I bumped into folks I knew all day long and loved the greetings, the hugs, the catching up,and the moving on...I drummed, I chanted kirtan (, I danced to Pangea, I was enraptured by flamenco dancers, I listened to a twenty something (Seth Glier   sing with more heart than I have heard coming out of a guy in many many years.

This is the nature of our lives, in times of crisis. Crisis as dangerous opportunity. Being In The Moment.

 I hope that whatever you all did on New Years fed your hearts and souls.

                        Opeyemi  413-336-1291
                        P.O. Box 264
                        Hadley, MA. 01035
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