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Corporatism and Fascism


Corporatism and Fascism

Free Trade, Loss of Support Systems Crippling Food Production in Africa

ScienceDaily (Feb. 15, 2010) — Despite good intentions, the push to privatize government functions and insistence upon "free trade" that is too often unfair has caused declining food production, increased poverty and a hunger crisis for millions of people in many African nations, researchers conclude in a new study.

Market reforms that began in the mid-1980s and were supposed to aid economic growth have actually backfired in some of the poorest nations in the world, and just in recent years led to multiple food riots, scientists report Feb 15 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Jon Karl & ABC Give Cheney A Sunday Valentine

By Linda Milazzo

This Sunday morning (Valentine's Day, 2010), Jonathan Karl auditioned to replace George Stephanopoulos on ABC's Sunday morning show, This Week. Karl's exclusive "get" for his host debut was former Vice President Dick Cheney, who Karl last interviewed on December 16, 2008 - a month before Barack Obama took the helm as President and Joe Biden replaced Mr. Cheney.

ABC News Exclusive: Dick Cheney Critical of Biden, Obama National Security Policies

Exclusive: Dick Cheney Critical of Biden, Obama National Security Policies
Former Vice President Says Bush-Era Policies Deserve Credit for Successes
By Devin Dwyer | ABC News

Cheney said he disagrees with Obama administration's decision not to use so-called enhanced interrogation techniques and said he argued for them within the administration during the Bush years.

"I was a big supporter of waterboarding," Cheney said. "I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques...I think you ought to have all of those capabilities on the table."

...Cheney said he was "deeply offended" by attempts to investigate and prosecute Bush administration and CIA officials who helped construct and justify their counterterrorism policy....

The former vice president plans to see his former boss, President George W. Bush, at an administration reunion in the coming weeks, he said.

Former vice president Dick Cheney, in an exclusive appearance on ABC News' "This Week," offered a sharp critique of the Obama administration's handling of national security and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying any achievements over the past year largely stemmed from policies implemented under President George W. Bush. Read more

Federal Lobbying Climbs in 2009 as Lawmakers Execute Aggressive Congressional Agenda


Federal Lobbying Climbs in 2009 as Lawmakers Execute Aggressive Congressional Agenda | Open Secrets
Efforts by Health, Business Industries Help Push Influence Peddling to New Heights

At nearly $266.8 million, the pharmaceutical and health products industry’s federal lobbying expenditures not only outpaced all other business industries and special interest areas in 2009, but stand as the greatest amount ever spent on lobbying efforts by a single industry for one year....In 2009, this sector spent nearly $544 million on federal lobbying efforts, up almost 12 percent from its 2008 total of about $487 million.

The economy stunk. Corporations slashed jobs. And some firms, once juggernauts of American industry, simply ceased to exist.

But for federal lobbyists, 2009 proved to be a year of riches unlike any other, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis indicates.

In all, federal lobbyists’ clients spent more than $3.47 billion last year, often driven to Washington, D.C.’s power centers and halls of influence by political issues central to the age: health care reform, financial reform, energy policy.

That figure represents a more than 5 percent increase over $3.3 billion worth of federal lobbying recorded in 2008, the previous all-time annual high for lobbying expenditures. And it comes in a year when a recession persisted, the dollar’s value against major foreign currencies declined and joblessness rates increased....

To explore the Center for Responsive Politics' full lobbying database, go here.

The database now includes a new feature, available here, which allows users to easily see how lobbying activity among sectors and industries has changed from quarter to quarter. Read more.

It's Official: 2009 Was Record Year For Lobbying, Despite Recession

It's Official: 2009 Was Record Year For Lobbying, Despite Recession
By Arthur Delaney | Huffington Post

Every big sector spent more, first and foremost the pharmaceutical and health products industry, which spent $266.8 million -- "the greatest amount ever spent on lobbying efforts by a single industry for one year," according to CRP. Business associations spent $183 million, oil and gas interests spent $168.4 million and the insurance industry shelled out $164.2 million.

The final reports are in and we can now officially say that 2009 was the most profitable year ever for the lobbying industry.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics tallied lobbying income data from tens of thousands of disclosure filings, and the data show that special interests of all stripes spent $3.47 billion lobbying the federal government in 2009, up from $3.3 billion the previous year.

How did the influence industry manage such a banner year despite a battered economy? The simple answer is that the Obama administration's aggressive change agenda has prompted businesses to open their wallets to an unprecedented degree in the hope of preventing reform. Read more.

Outside View: Vietnam 1963 and Afghanistan 2010

Outside View: Vietnam 1963 and Afghanistan 2010
By Col. Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. | UPI

McChrystal, NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, admits that the Afghan national army and the Afghan national police are not sufficiently effective to take ownership of Afghanistan's security. He has recommended that the ANA accelerate growth to a new level of 134,000 by fall 2010, with required additional growth to 240,000. McChrystal has also requested ANP growth to a total strength of at least 160,000.

According to McCaffrey, the United States and its allies are unlikely to achieve the political and military goals in the 18 months as set out by President Barack Obama when he announced his troop surge of 30,000 additional U.S. forces. McCaffrey noted that "this will inevitably become a 3-to-10 year strategy to build a viable Afghan state with their own security force that can allow us to withdraw. It may well cost us an additional $300 billion and we are likely to suffer thousands more U.S. casualties."

Ten years after NIE 53-63 was published, the United States finally left South Vietnam.

According to a strategic assessment of security operations in Afghanistan prepared by U.S. Army Gen. Barry McCaffrey (Ret.) on Dec 9, 2009, the Taliban believe they are winning.

Additionally, the Afghan people do not know whether the current government or the Taliban will prevail. The population, particularly the majority Pashtuns, are hedging their bets. Most Afghans are dismayed by the injustice and corruption of the central government, in particular, the Afghan National Police, McCaffrey said.

Such observations follow closely those of U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal in his Aug. 30, 2009, report: "Many indicators suggest the overall situation is deteriorating. We face not only a resilient and growing insurgency; there is also a crisis of confidence among Afghans -- in both their government -- and the international community -- that undermines our credibility and emboldens the insurgents. Further, a perception that our resolve is uncertain makes Afghans reluctant to align with us against the insurgents." Read more.

NATO Expansion, Missile Deployments And Russia's New Military Doctrine

NATO Expansion, Missile Deployments And Russia's New Military Doctrine
By Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site | February 12, 2010

"NATO´s eastward expansion and its push for a global role are identified as the number one threat to Russia....The U.S. is the source of other top threats listed in the doctrine even though the country is never mentioned in the document. These include attempts to destabilise countries and regions and undermine strategic stability; military build-ups in neighbouring states and seas; the creation and deployment of strategic missile defences, as well as the militarisation of outer space and deployment of high-precision non-nuclear strategic systems."

Developments related to military and security matters in Europe and Asia have been numerous this month and condensed into less than a week of meetings, statements and initiatives on issues ranging from missile shield deployments to the unparalleled escalation of the world's largest war and from a new security system for Europe to a new Russian military doctrine.

A full generation after the end of the Cold War and almost that long since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the past week's events are evocative of another decade and another century. Twenty or more years ago war in Afghanistan and controversial missile placements in Europe were current news in a bipolar world.

Twenty years afterward, with no Soviet Union, no Warsaw Pact and a greatly diminished and truncated Russia, the United States and NATO have militarized Europe to an unprecedented degree - in fact subordinating almost the entire continent under a Washington-dominated military bloc - and have launched the most extensive combat offensive in South Asia in what is already the longest war in the world.

Toward A Progressive Tea Party Movement

Toward A Progressive Tea Party Movement
By Stephen Crockett | Host of Democratic Talk Radio | Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com

The American government is not the enemy if it is actually controlled by the American public instead of by the rich and powerful elite who make up the corporatists power structure. The American government needs to provide a check and balance against corporate power. We must recapture our government from corporate interests. This will never be done by Republicans. It will never be done by the small corporatist faction of the Democratic Party. It can be done with an alliance of progressives, real Tea Party reformers, economic populists and grassroots Democrats.

Most progressives have little respect for the Fox News generated “Tea Party” movement. However, it has tapped into a very real populist anger with the direction the country is headed in at this point in our history.

Progressives should see a real opportunity in the emergence of the “Tea Party” movement to educate the public and re-direct the anger to the real villains whose actions and policies created the many problems faced by the citizens of the United States of America. Our government has failed the American public by serving corporate interests and private profit instead of the public good....

Suing corporations act as a check and balance to corporate power. Fox News and the Republican Right corporatists are trying to eliminate the effectiveness of this check and balance under the disguise of “tort reform.”

Campaign finance laws slightly reduced the ability of corporations to buy elections, smear reformers and defeat reforms. While in power, the Republican Right corporatists packed all our federal courts with corporatists. This is why the Republican Right corporatists on the Supreme Court have recently overturned over 60 years of established law to give corporations unlimited power to spend shareholders’ money to advance their corporatist political goals. Read more.

It Never Ends: Health Insurance Profits Soar

It Never Ends: Health Insurance Profits Soar | Press Release | February 12, 2010

WASHINGTON, February 12 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today blasted the country’s five largest health insurance companies that posted $12.2 billion in profits last year, 56 percent more than in 2008.

“In the midst of the worst recession in memory, with working families struggling to keep their heads above water, insurance companies are siphoning more and more profits out of American consumers,” said Sanders, a member of the Senate health committee.

“These horrendous rate increases will not only impact millions of individuals, but make our entire economy less competitive,” he added. “This outrage is more evidence, as if any were needed, that we cannot stop fighting to reform the health care system in the United States.”

Health Care for America Now conducted a study of public records and found that WellPoint Inc., UnitedHealth Group, Cigna Corp., Aetna Inc. and Humana Inc. covered 2.7 million fewer people than they did the year before. Some of the insurers actually cut the proportion of premiums that went to medical care and put more into salaries and profits.

The companies' 2009 profits soared while insurers raised premiums and denied coverage to millions of Americans.

WellPoint's profit margin of 7.2 percent was the highest of the five big insurers. Anthem Blue Cross, a California subsidiary of WellPoint, has come under fire for jacking up premiums by as much as 39 percent this year on some individual health policies.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius insisted that the company justify the rate increase in detail. "Look," Sen. Sanders said, "insurance companies are ripping off the American people from coast to coast. It is absolutely appropriate for the secretary of Health and Human Services to call them out on that."

CBS Attempts To Silence IndictBushNow Movement!

CBS attempts to silence IndictBushNow movement! | Indict Bush Now!

The IndictBushNow movement has captured the imagination and support of hundreds of thousands of people.

This is a grassroots movement and it is a classic example of the people acting together to defend democracy and the Constitution from government law-breakers.

The struggle for government accountability has entered a new phase. This movement needs your active participation.

Powerful corporate forces who have bowed in the past to pressure from the Bush-Cheney gang are now trying to block this movement from getting our message out.

IndictBushNow had spent weeks communicating with CBS representatives for the launch in Washington, D.C., for our wrap-around bus ads that read: "TORTURE is not just wrong ... it is ILLEGAL. Because NO ONE is above the law," followed by our organization's website address.

But now, CBS officials have suddenly changed their tune. In a communication we have just received from CBS Outdoor (which has the contract for the placement of bus ads in the nation's capital), the advertising media giant rejected our bus ad, suddenly claiming it constituted "attack advertisement." Read more, take action.

Hookers and Mercenaries on the Taxpayer Dime: Get Your 21st Century War On


Hookers and Mercenaries on the Taxpayer Dime: Get Your 21st Century War On
By Jane Hamsher | FireDogLake

Carol Leonig of the Washington Post has this headline today:

2 ex-employees say Blackwater billed government for prostitute

Two former employees of Blackwater Worldwide have accused the private security contractor of defrauding the government for years with phony billing, including charging for a prostitute, alcohol and spa trips. Read more.

“Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment by the United States Authorities”...BEFORE the Bybee Memo


“Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment by the United States Authorities”...BEFORE the Bybee Memo

So this is not just proof that the US was engaging in torture before they got their CYA memo authorizing such torture. But it was proof that they were using Mohamed, in addition to Abu Zubaydah, as guinea pigs to test out that torture.

This proves the entire myth told to explain the torture memos (and Abu Zubaydah’s treatment) to be a lie.

As Bill Egnor has reported (and Jim White mentioned here) a court in the UK has forced the government to release a passage of an earlier court ruling that it had fought to suppress. Assuming the passage has been released in complete form, the key passage concludes that the sleep deprivation that Americans subjected Binyam Mohamed to while held incommunicado in Pakistan was “at the very least cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by the United States authorities.”

Now, this revelation is critical not just because it shows British Courts concluding that, at the very least, the United States violated the Convention Against Torture. As Jim White notes in his diary on this, the US is now obligated by the Convention Against Torture to investigate this act. Read more.

Cynthia McKinney: My Country Has Been Hijacked

My Country Has Been Hijacked
Munich Peace Rally Speech

By Cynthia McKinney

Thank you for allowing me to come from the United States and participate in this rally for peace.

My country has been hijacked by a criminal cabal intent on using the hard-earned dollars of the American people for war, occupation, and empire.

As a result, the national leadership of my country, both Democratic and Republican, became complicit in war crimes, torture, crimes against humanity, and crimes against the peace.

As a Member of Congress from the Democratic Party, I drafted Articles of Impeachment against George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Condoleezza Rice. Later, when Democrats voted to support more war rather than take care of the needs of the people, I declared my independence from them and all national leadership; the Green Party nominated me to run for President, which I did on a platform of truth, justice, peace, and dignity.

I watched as Candidate Barack Obama came here to Germany to speak. I saw tears on the faces of many in the crowd who believed that, finally, there was something worth believing in again. That America had turned a page from its evil playbook that had so outraged and disappointed the world. That good was finally about to triumph over evil.

I know that beleaguered people all over the world, victims of cruel and deadly military, economic, imperial policies finally could believe in hope and change. And America could be believed in again.

Everywhere I went all over the world there were pictures of Barack Obama, slogans "Yes, We Can," and the words "Hope" and "Change" plastered everywhere.

And after eight years of George W. Bush, Barack Obama seemed to be the man the world was waiting for.

So when the Candidate became the President, we held our breath in anticipation.

That torture and rendition; spying on innocent, dissenting Americans; war and occupation; crimes against the U.S. Constitution and crimes against the peace would end and that the United States would finally join the community of nations.

Sadly, one year into the Presidency of Barack Obama, that is not the case.

Guantanamo Detainee Deaths: Responding to the Defense Department's Whitewash

Guantanamo Detainee Deaths: Responding to the Defense Department's Whitewash
By Stephen Lendman

On December 7, 2009, under the direction of Professor Mark Denbeaux, Seton Hall University School of Law's Center for Policy & Research (CP&R) published its 15th GITMO report titled, "Death in Camp Delta," covering three simultaneous deaths on June 9, 2006 in the maximum security Alpha Block. The detainees were found hanged in separate cells shortly after midnight on June 10, unobserved for at least two hours, rags stuffed down their throats, despite constant surveillance by five guards responsible for 28 inmates in a lit cell block monitored by video cameras. One of them was scheduled for release in 19 days, so why would he commit suicide?

The report found "dramatic flaws in the government's investigation (and) raise(s) serious questions about the security of the Camp (and) derelictions of duty by officials of multiple defense and intelligence agencies," who either let them die or killed them, then whitewashed the investigation to suppress it.

DOD responded, adding to the coverup, CP&R saying:

"The Center has found DOD's defense contradictory to, and inconsistent with, DOD's prior statement in its Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) report."

According to Professor Mark Denbeaux:

"Amazingly, some of DOD's statements purporting to defend the NCIS investigation actually impeach it; others are irrelevant or misdirected. The inflated number of statements supposedly supporting the NCIS Report are not as important as the statements omitted from the NCIS Report."

Obama Takes a Blue Pencil to the Bill of Rights

Obama Takes a Blue Pencil to the Bill of Rights
By A Barton Hinkle | Leagle

No more illegal wiretapping of American citizens....This administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not. - Barack Obama, Aug. 1, 2007

On second thought, never mind.

With the world's attention riveted by the earthquake in Haiti, few noticed when, late last month, a federal judge took a pair of sharp scissors to the Bill of Rights. But on Jan. 22, federal district judge Vaughan Walker agreed to dismiss a lawsuit over warrantless wiretapping, as the administration - the current one - had requested.

The suit was the second of its type to get tossed out. The first suit was filed against AT&T, and it accused the company of forking over to federal agents the calls and e-mails of customers in the United States. But Walker dismissed that suit last June, after Congress passed legislation granting retroactive immunity to telecom compa-

nies for cooperating with federal surveillance efforts.

The second suit was filed against the National Security Agency. Walker threw it out on the grounds that the plaintiffs could not show they had been individually harmed, because they could not "differentiate themselves from the mass of telephone and Internet users in the United States." They needed a "direct, personal stake" to claim standing for the right to sue, not merely "a right to have the government follow the law."

This seems to suggest that as long as the government is hoovering up vast amounts of communications records from many thousands of Americans - "dragnet surveillance," as the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls it - no harm done: The more people the government wiretaps, the more authority the federal government has to do so.

That is...interesting. Because the Obama administration had asked to have the case dismissed on entirely different grounds - the state- secrets doctrine: Litigating the dispute would require the government to disclose "a range of facts concerning whether, when, how, why, and under what authority the NSA may have utilized certain intelligence sources and methods," it argued, which could lead to "exceptionally grave harm to national security."

"Congress has not waived sovereign immunity," says the administration's brief, "and summary judgment for the Government on all of plaintiffs' remaining claims against all parties...is required because information necessary to litigate plaintiffs' claims is properly subject to and excluded from use in this case by the state secrets privilege."

This is precisely the position taken by the Bush administration. Indeed, by some lights the Obama position is even worse, since the Bush program was created while the country was in full panic mode after 9/11. Obama not only has had time to reflect from a distance; having reflected, he concluded the Bush position was wrong. Then he turned around and embraced it. Read more.

Iraq Orders Former Blackwater Security Guards Out

Iraq orders former Blackwater security guards out
By Qassim Abdul-Zahra | Washington Post

Iraq has ordered hundreds of private security guards linked to Blackwater Worldwide to leave the country within seven days or face possible arrest on visa violations, the interior minister said Wednesday.

The order comes in the wake of a U.S. judge's dismissal of criminal charges against five Blackwater guards who were accused in the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad.

It applies to about 250 security contractors who worked for Blackwater in Iraq at the time of the incident, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told The Associated Press.

Some of the guards now work for other security firms in Iraq, while others work for a Blackwater subsidiary, al-Bolani said. He said all "concerned parties" were notified of the order three days ago and now have four days left before they must leave. He did not name the companies.

Blackwater security contractors were protecting U.S. diplomats when the guards opened fire in Nisoor Square, a busy Baghdad intersection, on Sept. 16, 2007. Seventeen people were killed, including women and children, in a shooting that inflamed anti-American sentiment in Iraq.

"We want to turn the page," al-Bolani said. "It was a painful experience, and we would like to go forward." Read more.

Lawyers Petition Court To Hold Yoo Accountable

Lawyers petition court to hold Yoo accountable
By Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer | SF Gate

[Padilla] claimed that Yoo, as a Justice Department lawyer and self-described member of the Bush administration's "war council," approved his detention and wrote legal opinions that justified his treatment.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White refused to dismiss the suit in June. It was the first time a court had held a Justice Department attorney potentially responsible for the abuse of prisoners.

Yoo has appealed, saying the suit would interfere with presidential war-making authority. The Obama administration has taken his side, arguing that courts should not meddle in questions of national security.

But in filings over the last 10 days, groups of constitutional law professors, legal ethics scholars and former government attorneys urged the court to keep Padilla's suit alive.

They argue that this is not a dispute over legal advice, as Yoo contends, but the case of a lawyer who allegedly stepped out of his role to take part in planning detention and interrogation policies, and then devised legal opinions to justify those policies.

As reports circulate that the Justice Department has softened its criticism of attorney John Yoo for memos approving the Bush administration's treatment of terrorism suspects, several prominent lawyers are urging a federal appeals court in San Francisco to hold Yoo accountable. Read more.

Obama Administration Hired Nation's Top Anti-Labor Law Firm

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION HIRED NATION’S TOP ANTI-LABOR LAW FIRM — Lawsuit to Find Out How Much Union-Busting Firm Is Paid and From What Funds | Press Release

Washington, DC — A federal agency has hired the nation’s top union-busting law firm but refuses to say for how much money or whether stimulus funds were used to pay the retainer, according to a summary judgment motion filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) in its lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act. Normally a labor union ally, the Obama administration is paying a firm specializing in what is euphemistically called “union avoidance” or “preventive labor relations.”

This strange bedfellows arrangement arises out of an obscure federal agency called the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) which retained the high-priced law firm Jackson Lewis LLP this summer to defend it against charges that the IBWC fired its own general counsel in retaliation for reporting agency waste, fraud and abuse. PEER represents the now ex-general counsel, Robert McCarthy, in his whistleblower complaint before the U.S. Merit System Protection Board (MSPB).

In November, 2009 PEER submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the retainer agreement IBWC signed with Jackson Lewis and the source of funds for payment. Initially, IBWC refused the PEER request on the grounds that it would reveal “trade secrets” about Jackson Lewis which counts Halliburton among its corporate clients. A month and a half later in response to a PEER administrative appeal, IBWC added a new reason, claiming it is covered by “attorney-client privilege.”

In early January PEER filed a federal suit to force release of the information. Last week, the U.S. Justice Department failed to answer the complaint within the required 30-day deadline. PEER is asking for an immediate court ruling in its favor. “There are no legitimate grounds for withholding this very basic data about how taxpayer funds are being spent,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Federal regulations require every agency to publicly report how much each is spending on outside private counsel and for precisely what reason.” Read more.

Democrats Suggest Ways To Curb Companies' Campaign Spending

Democrats suggest ways to curb companies' campaign spending
By Dan Eggen | Washington Post

"If we don't act quickly, the court's ruling will have an immediate and disastrous impact on the 2010 elections," said Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate.

Democratic leaders in Congress unveiled proposals Thursday that would limit the impact of a Supreme Court decision allowing unfettered corporate spending on political campaigns.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) called for a ban on companies with more than 20 percent foreign ownership, government contractors and bank bailout recipients from participating in U.S. elections. They also want to require companies to inform shareholders about political spending, and to mandate that corporate chief executives to appear in any political advertising funded by their companies.

Schumer told reporters that the proposals will be introduced later this month. Read more.

The U.S. is Now a Police State

The U.S. is Now a Police State
By Paul Craig Roberts | Counter Punch

Americans have been losing the protection of law for years. In the 21st century the loss of legal protections accelerated with the Bush administration’s “war on terror,” which continues under the Obama administration and is essentially a war on the Constitution and U.S. civil liberties.

The Bush regime was determined to vitiate habeas corpus in order to hold people indefinitely without bringing charges. The regime had acquired hundreds of prisoners by paying a bounty for “terrorists.” Afghan warlords and thugs responded to the financial incentive by grabbing unprotected people and selling them to the Americans.

The Bush regime needed to hold the prisoners without charges because it had no evidence against the people and did not want to admit that the U.S. government had stupidly paid warlords and thugs to kidnap innocent people. In addition, the Bush regime needed “terrorists” prisoners in order to prove that there was a terrorist threat.

As there was no evidence against the “detainees” (most have been released without charges after years of detention and abuse), the U.S. government needed a way around U.S. and international laws against torture in order that the government could produce evidence via self-incrimination. The Bush regime found inhumane and totalitarian-minded lawyers and put them to work at the U.S. Department of Justice (sic) to invent arguments that the Bush regime did not need to obey the law. Read more.

Mr. President: Bankers and Pro Athletes are Fundamentally Different

By Dave Lindorff

President Barack Obama is a relative newbie to Washington. He didn’t even complete one term in the senate, and now he’s just finished his first year in the White House, so it’s stunning to see how quickly this one-time “community organizer” has lost his moorings in the marbled halls of power in Washington.

In an interview reported in the Bloomberg news service, Obama expresses no concern with the latest huge bonuses that CEOs Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase ($17 million) and Lloyd Blankenfein of Goldman Sachs (9 million) paid themselves, saying not only that they are “savvy businessmen” and that “success and wealth” are “part of the American system,” but equating them with professional baseball players who “are making more than that who don't get to the World Series either.”

Talk about being out of it!

Kucinich Right, Greenwald Wrong

By David Swanson

On Democracy Now! on Tuesday, Congressman Dennis Kucinich said he was working on a Constitutional Amendment to address both "Citizen's United" and "Buckley v. Valejo," meaning the Supreme Court decisions giving corporations outrageous and destructive powers of "free speech" and defining the spending of money as "speech."

Glenn Greenwald replied to the Congressman that the First Amendment forbids making laws about free speech, even to limit free speech to human beings. But Kucinich, and so many others, including the campaigns at http://freespeechforpeople.org and http://movetoamend.org , are not proposing to pass laws. They are proposing to amend the Constitution. Greenwald can prefer the current Constitution with corporations holding almost limitless "rights" to buy off elected officials. But he cannot argue that the new Constitution, following an amendment process, would be unconstitutional.

Wars Spending US Into Ruin

Wars sending U.S. into ruin
Obama the peace president is fighting battles his country cannot afford
By Eric Margolis, QMI Agency | Toronto Sun

U.S. President Barack Obama calls the $3.8-trillion US budget he just sent to Congress a major step in restoring America’s economic health.

In fact, it’s another potent fix given to a sick patient deeply addicted to the dangerous drug — debt.

More empires have fallen because of reckless finances than invasion. The latest example was the Soviet Union, which spent itself into ruin by buying tanks.

Washington’s deficit (the difference between spending and income from taxes) will reach a vertiginous $1.6 trillion US this year. The huge sum will be borrowed, mostly from China and Japan, to which the U.S. already owes $1.5 trillion. Debt service will cost $250 billion.

To spend $1 trillion, one would have had to start spending $1 million daily soon after Rome was founded and continue for 2,738 years until today.

Obama’s total military budget is nearly $1 trillion. This includes Pentagon spending of $880 billion. Add secret black programs (about $70 billion); military aid to foreign nations like Egypt, Israel and Pakistan; 225,000 military “contractors” (mercenaries and workers); and veterans’ costs. Add $75 billion (nearly four times Canada’s total defence budget) for 16 intelligence agencies with 200,000 employees.

The Afghanistan and Iraq wars ($1 trillion so far), will cost $200-250 billion more this year, including hidden and indirect expenses. Obama’s Afghan “surge” of 30,000 new troops will cost an additional $33 billion — more than Germany’s total defence budget.

No wonder U.S. defence stocks rose after Peace Laureate Obama’s “austerity” budget. Read more.

"Brownbaggers Not Teabaggers!" Vigils Against War Funding Spread Across Nation

"Brownbaggers Not Teabaggers!" | Press Release
Vigils Against War Funding Spread Across Nation

Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) organized "brownbag" lunch vigils against war funding at noon on Wednesday, January 20th, at the district offices of 22 members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

On February 17th, PDA will be joined by CODEPINK, AfterDowningStreet, Democrats.com, the California Nurses Assn./National Nurses United, and United for Peace and Justice in holding brownbag vigils outside (or inside) at least 36 congress members' offices.

Brownbaggers are demanding commitments to vote against more money for war. Slogans on their posters include: "Healthcare not Warfare," "Corporations out of Politics," "Bailout Main Street not Wall Street," and "Brownbaggers not Teabaggers".

Vigils have been planned in the following districts: AZ-5, CA-6, CA-9, CA-10, CA-18, CA-22, CA-23, CA-40, CA-42, CA-45, CA-46, CA-48, CA-50, CA-53, FL-9, FL-10, FL-17, ID-01, IN-9, MA-1, MA-2, MA-3, MA-10, MI-9, NY-18, NY-28, OH-13, OH-17, PA-02, PA-7, PA-15, WA-2, WA-3, WA-6, WI-3, WI-7. These are almost all at noon on Wednesday the 17th, but a few are at odd times, so check the details: http://tinyurl.com/brownbagvigil

Brownbaggers are asking members of the House to publicly commit to voting No on any bills that fund wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Yemen, and to publicly urge their colleagues and the House leadership to make the same commitment. As lesser steps in the same direction, PDA is encouraging congress members to cosponsor HR 2454, calling for an exit strategy from Afghanistan, and HR 3699, prohibiting any increase in the number of U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan. Congress members' commitments are tracked at http://defundwar.org

"We have to choose between jobs and wars," said PDA's national director Tim Carpenter. "The American people are on one side, but our so-called representatives in Congress are on the other. The Supreme Court is busy increasing corporate control of our elected officials. We need to be busy enforcing the people's control before it is too late."

"Without wasteful war and military spending," said PDA's deputy director Laura Bonham, "we could have healthcare, jobs, housing, education, retirement security, environmental sustainability, diplomacy and foreign aid. No longer will we take seriously anyone's claim to support these things while voting to fund more war."

Progressives and the Democratic Party Pt.4

Jeff Cohen is a media critic and lecturer, founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, where he is an associate professor of journalism. Cohen founded the media watch group FAIR in 1986.

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2015

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August 27, Chicago

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