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Corporatism and Fascism


Corporatism and Fascism

Corporatocracy and Its Discontents

By David Swanson

The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression has given out its 2010 Muzzle awards for those blocking freedom of speech, and the awards are all for particular petty instances of censorship. Stanley Fish muses in the New York Times about the conflict between valuing free speech and valuing democracy. What these two thoughtful, well-intended endeavors -- the awards and the op-ed -- seem to miss is that the greatest threat to free speech is the monopolization of speech by some vociferous defenders of free speech. The Supreme Court that ruled on "Citizens United vs. FEC" should not have gone without a Muzzle.

StopTheChamber.com Campaign Calls For Criminal Charges Against U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Director Don Blankenship For Homicide


No More Business As Usual

Our StopTheChamber.com Campaign Today Called For Criminal Charges Against U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Director Don Blankenship For Homicide Of 29 West Virginia Miners

We Also Called For Congress Members To Order Halt Contact With Chamber Lobbyists

YOU CAN HELP BY JOINING AND SUPPORTING OUR CAMPAIGN TO STOP THE CHAMBER!

Our StopTheChamber.com campaign has been warning for months about the devastating effect of U.S. Chamber of Commerce policies on the well being of Americans. Specifically, we have condemned the Chamber for spending hundreds of millions to fight regulation of its dues paying members and regulation of pollution caused by those members. These actions have been led by Chamber CEO Tom Donohue and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, the latter who runs vast coal mining operations in West Virginia, including the serial offending Upper Big Branch mine where 29 miners were killed last week.

In a recent press release, attorney and campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese said: “The convergence of the Chamber’s policies against regulation of workplace safety and the disaster of mining coal without regard for the environmental impact resulted in the death of 29 hard working West Virginian miners. This was not an accident, but rather the result of deliberate and intentional decisions and actions of Don Blankenship, a director of the United States Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Blankenship and Chamber CEO Tom Donohue must be held accountable for these deaths. What is it going to take for Congress and the President to stop coddling criminals, masquerading as legitimate businessmen, who cause the death of our loved ones? Blankenship, with the lobbying army of the Chamber to back him up, has thumbed his nose at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, ignoring or appealing every violation, including the scores that resulted in coal mine evacuations and the hundreds of other serious violations. As the Washington Post pointed out in a Saturday editorial, these 29 deaths would not have occurred absent this intentional conduct of Blankenship. He is just as criminally culpable as any mass murderer.”

Today we called on federal law enforcement officials to charge Don Blankenship with homicide, and for a complete criminal investigation of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its CEO Tom Donohue to determine what policies and practices led to the death of these miners, and whether Chamber lobbyists and lawyers were used to cover-up or avoid compliance with safety regulations. Criminal prosecution of the perpetrators of this terrible crime will ensure accountability, expose the Chamber’s criminal conduct and pave the way for real worker safety across the nation.

We also called on all Congress Members to immediately issue a standing order to their staff to cease all communication and contact with U.S. Chamber of Commerce lobbyists. Now that the Chamber and its directors have been directly implicated in the homicide of 29 workers, there can be no more business as usual. Congress Members must stand up for working people by refusing to meet with and do the bidding of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an organization whose directors, policies and practices have killed and will kill again if they are not stopped.

The Accomodationists: Memo to Liberals on the White House Death Warrants

The Accomodationists: Memo to Liberals on the White House Death Warrants
By Chris Floyd | Empire Burlesque

Let us hear no more excuses for Barack Obama. Let us hear no more defenses, no more special pleading, no more extenuations. Let us have no more reciting of the "pressures" he is under, of the "many obstacles" that balk him in his quest to do us good, of the "bad advisors" who are swaying him to unworthy acts against his will. Let us be done at last with all these wretched lies, these complicitous self-deceptions that are facilitating atrocity and tyranny on a monstrous scale.

Barack Obama has ordered the murder of an American citizen, without trial, without due process, without the production of any evidence. All it takes to kill any American citizen in this way is Barack Obama's signature on a piece of paper, his arbitrary designation of the target as a "suspected terrorist." In precisely the same way -- precisely the same way -- Josef Stalin would place a mark by a name in a list of "suspected terrorists" or "counterrevolutionaries," and the bearer of that name would die. This is the system we have now, the same as the Soviets had then: a leader with the unchallengeable power to kill citizens without due process.

That this power has not been used on the same scale in the American system as in the Stalinist state -- yet -- does not alter the equivalence of this governing principle. In both cases, the leader signs arbitrary death warrants; the security services carry out the task; and the 'great and good' of society accept this draconian power as necessary and right.

This is what you support when you support Barack Obama. It does not matter if you think his opponents in the factional infighting to control a bloodsoaked empire and its war machine are "worse" than he is in some measure. When you support him, when you defend him, when you excuse him, it is arbitrary murder that you are supporting. It is the absolute negation of every single principle of enlightenment and human rights professed by liberals, progressives -- indeed, by honorable people of every political stripe -- for centuries. Read more.

Greenspan’s 15% Survival Formula

Greenspan’s 15% survival formula
By Rolfe Winkler | Capital Zoo | Click here for large graph.

I believe that during the past 18 months, there were very few instances of serial default and contagion that could have not been contained by adequate risk-based capital and liquidity. I presume, for example, that with 15% tangible equity capital, neither Bear Sterns nor Lehman Brothers would have been in trouble. Increased capital, I might add parenthetically, would also likely result in smaller executive compensation packages, since more capital would have to be retained in undistributed earnings.

-Alan Greenspan*
FCIC Testimony, 4/7/10

It’s a question on everyone’s mind: how much capital must banks be made to hold? No other regulatory change can do as much to prevent another financial collapse. A bigger equity cushion not only buffers bank creditors from losses — preventing cascading bank runs — it by definition would reduce frothy lending that inflates bubbles in the first place.

The issue has new immediacy today, in the wake of revelations published by WSJ that major banks are masking their leverage. Because balance sheets are reported at a single point in time, i.e. the last day of the quarter, there’s an incentive to reduce risk around that particular day in order to present a pretty face to the world. Meanwhile, during the quarter banks are jacking up leverage in order to boost profits. While Lehman actually hid leverage (with Repo 105), other banks are temporarily reducing it, “understating debt levels used to fund securities trades by lowering them an average of 42% at the end of each of the past five” quarters.

This is just another reason that, when setting new capital standards, regulators should err on the high side. Not only are banks sitting on large embedded losses with the help of extend and pretend accounting, there’s now strong evidence they’ll game whatever standards are set. Read more.

How the CIA is Welcoming Itself Back Onto American University Campuses

How the CIA is Welcoming Itself Back Onto American University Campuses
Silent Coup
By David Price | Counter Punch

Throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, independent grassroots movements to keep the Central Intelligence Agency off American university campuses were broadly supported by students, professors and community members. The ethos of this movement was captured in Ami Chen Mills’ 1990 book, C.I.A. Off Campus. Mills’ book gave voice to the multiple reasons why so many academics opposed the presence of the CIA on university campuses: reasons that ranged from the recognition of secrecy’s antithetical relationship to academic freedom, to political objections to the CIA’s use of torture and assassination, to efforts on campuses to recruit professors and students, and the CIA’s longstanding role in undermining democratic movements around the world.

For those who lived through the dramatic revelations of the congressional inquiries in the 1970s, documenting the CIA’s routine involvement in global and domestic atrocities, it made sense to construct institutional firewalls between an agency so deeply linked with these actions and educational institutions dedicated to at least the promise of free inquiry and truth. But the last dozen years have seen retirements and deaths among academics who had lived through this history and had been vigilant about keeping the CIA off campus; furthermore, with the attacks of 9/11 came new campaigns to bring the CIA back onto American campuses.

Henry Giroux’s 2007 book, The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial Academic Complex, details how two decades of shifts in university funding brought increased intrusions by corporate and military forces onto university. After 9/11, the intelligence agencies pushed campuses to see the CIA and campus secrecy in a new light, and, as traditional funding sources for social science research declined, the intelligence community gained footholds on campuses.

Post-9/11 scholarship programs like the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (PRISP) and the Intelligence Community Scholarship Programs today sneak unidentified students with undisclosed links to intelligence agencies into university classrooms (both were first exposed by this author here in CounterPunch in 2005). A new generation of so-called flagship programs have quietly taken root on campuses, and, with each new flagship, our universities are transformed into vessels of the mili­tarized state, as academics learn to sub­limate unease. Read more.

Democracy Between Myth And Reality

Democracy between myth and reality
By Zafar Bangash | Crescent Online

...What is the reality of democracy in practice? Political systems in all Western societies are tightly controlled by the elites. People with money manipulate the system to their advantage. The masses are simply used as a vote bank to endorse whatever policies are put forward by competing elites belonging to the same class. In the past, feudal elites controlled the system and used it to advance their landed interests; with industrialization and development of the banking sector, a new class of people emerged. Now multinational corporations manipulate the system so that their interests are protected and advanced. People are asked to choose between the same set of elites that represent elite interests, not those of the masses. This has been compared to mice being asked to choose between different colors of cats to rule them: black, white, brown or other....

...An entire industry of lobbyists has also emerged. Lobbying is an expensive undertaking. A small group of people with money is able to manipulate the political system to their advantage. In the US, the Zionist lobby, the armaments industry and more recently the banking industry have all shown how the system is controlled and manipulated. No US leader has the courage to oppose the demands of the Zionist lobby. While millions of Americans are deprived of the right to a decent job, housing and healthcare, billions of dollars are funnelled to the Zionist State of Israel each year. America’s global wars are waged on the backs of ordinary Americans whose sons and daughters die in distant lands so that the armaments industry barons can make tidy profits. The gnomes of banking lost billions of dollars in Ponzi schemes but then demanded that the government bail them out otherwise the entire system would collapse. Nearly $1 trillion were handed to them while millions of people lost their jobs and homes. How were people’s interests safeguarded? The banking executives should have been put on trial for fraud and handed long prison sentences. Instead, in America’s democratic utopia, they gave themselves billions of dollars in bonuses while ordinary people were thrown out of their homes and forced to live in tents.

This is how democracy works. One must express sympathy with ordinary people but this does not put bread on their plates. Read more.

Conservatives and Progressives Agree: Rethink Afghanistan

Conservatives and Progressives Agree: Rethink Afghanistan

The Huffington Post’s Arianna Huffington gets it. Conservative columnist George Will gets it. Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) gets it. U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) gets it. U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) gets it. Judge Napolitano of FOX News’ “Freedom Watch” gets it.

All of these people understand that it’s time to rethink the Afghanistan war.

It’s long past time for President Barack Obama to get it.

The deep costs of the Afghanistan war are not a matter of partisan bickering, which is remarkable given the climate in America’s politics today. When the health care reform debate degenerates into cries of “death panels” and “baby killer!” it’s incredible that a war that’s gone on for 9 years and cost us almost a thousand U.S. troops and hundreds of billions of dollars hasn’t seen similar bipartisan bickering. Read more.

Thought for April 15: More than 53% of Your Tax Payment Goes to the Military

By Dave Lindorff

If you’re like me, now that we’re in the week that federal income taxes are due, you are finally starting to collect your records and prepare for the ordeal. Either way, whether you are a procrastinator like me, or have already finished and know how much you have paid to the government, it is a good time to stop and consider how much of your money goes to pay for our bloated and largely useless and pointless military.

The budget for the 2011 fiscal year, which has to be voted by Congress by this Oct. 1, looks to be about $3 trillion, not counting the funds collected for Social Security (since the Vietnam War, the government has included the Social Security Trust Fund in the budget as a way to make the cost of America’s imperial military adventures seem smaller in comparison to the total cost of government). Meanwhile, the military share of the budget works out to about $1.6 trillion.

Writing About The Unspeakable (AIDS, The CIA and Bio-Warfare)


WRITING ABOUT THE UNSPEAKABLE (AIDS, the CIA and bio-warfare)
By H.P. Albarelli Jr. | TVNewsLIES

I don’t like having to write this article. I don’t like even thinking about it, but over the past few months its subject has come up repeatedly. Many television and radio hosts who have interviewed me about my new book, A TERRIBLE MISTAKE: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIA’s Secret Cold War Experiments, have, on their own, brought up the subject of AIDS and Fort Detrick and the connection between the two. Nearly the entire ten years I worked on the book, this subject consistently loomed in the background like some malevolent poltergeist, and was essentially considered unspeakable by practically everyone I interviewed. Now things are different.

Just a few days ago, one radio host, who had actually read my entire book, asked about the many trips various Fort Detrick bacteriologists and biochemists took throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and beyond to locations in Africa. Trips were to locations like the Belgian Congo and Burundi and French Equatorial Africa. A few media hosts have remarked about the thousands of rhesus monkeys and chimpanzees that Fort Detrick went through in their countless experiments during these same years; resulting in so many mutilated and dead primates that one former Army scientist, Dr. Henry Eigelsbach, told me that sometimes their bodies had to be “scooped up with a back-hoe and loaded into dump trucks” and then carted off for disposal and incineration.

Only yesterday, a very well informed radio host in California, Cary Harrison, at KPFK-FM, asked me about well-documented reports concerning the 1969 testimony of a high-level Pentagon biological warfare official before the U.S. House of Representatives.

Nobody in their right mind wants to think or believe that the American government had a hand in producing the dreadful disease AIDS, certainly not me. My father, as a dedicated and conscientious histologist, worked for the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in the 1950s, and went on to devote his life to helping people in any way he could. He would have never done anything to hurt anyone, yet now there is strong evidence that other scientists with the U. S. Army may have done just that. Before his recent death, I asked my father about these reports. He sadly shook his head, and said, “I don’t know what’s happened to this country. I don’t understand it at all. It’s not the country I went to war for; it’s not the same country I was willing to die for.” My father was always a confident man. It distressed me to see him bewildered, but I too was bewildered. I didn’t at all like thinking about Fort Detrick and AIDS. Read more.

Watchdog Groups Call For Criminal Charges Against U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Director Don Blankenship For Homicide

29 Dead In West Virginia Mine Because Of Chamber Policies
Congress Members Must Order Halt To Contact With Chamber Lobbyists

Washington, D.C. -- StopTheChamber.com, a coalition of NGOs dedicated to corporate and government accountability, has been warning for months about the devastating effect of U.S. Chamber of Commerce policies on the well being of Americans. Specifically, the Chamber has spent hundreds of millions to fight any regulation of its dues paying members and any regulation of pollution caused by those members. These actions have been led by Chamber CEO Tom Donohue and Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, the latter who runs vast coal mining operations in West Virginia, including the serial offending Upper Big Branch mine where 29 miners were killed last week.

Bill Moyers Journal Features Col. Andrew Bacevich on the Long War in Afghanistan

Bill Moyers' Journal

Historian, international relations expert and former US Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich returns to the JOURNAL to discuss America's long war in Afghanistan.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal. The war in Afghanistan has claimed more than one thousand American lives and in the last two years alone the lives of more than four thousand Afghan civilians. It's costing American taxpayers over three-and-a-half billion dollars every month—a total of some $264 billion so far. But for all that, in the words of one policy analyst quoted by the New York Times this week, "there are no better angels about to descend on Afghanistan."

The news from that torturous battleground continues to dismay, discourage and enrage. America's designated driver there, Hamid Karzai, is proving increasingly unstable behind the wheel. The United States put Karzai in power and our soldiers have been fighting and dying on his behalf ever since. Despite widespread corrupton in his government. Now he's making threats against the western coalition that is shedding blood and treasure on his behalf.

Even more disturbing,for the moment, are the civilian deaths from nighttime raids andaerial bombings by American and other NATO troops. Just this week, we learned of an apparent cover-up following a Special Forces raid in February that killed five civilians, including three women, two of whom were pregnant. It's believed bullets were gouged from the women's bodies to conceal evidence of American involvement.

This slaughter of innocents has led the pro-American "Economist" magazine to question whether ourentire effort in Afghanistan" has been nothing but a meaningless exercise of misguided violence."

With me is a man with first-hand experience of war. Andrew Bacevich served 23 years, some of them in Vietnam, before retiring from the Army. He's now professor of history and international relations at Boston University. Just this week he was at a US Army War College symposium on the highly pertinent question, "How do we know when a war is over?" His book, "The Limits of Power," was a best-seller and his latest, "Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War," comes out this summer. Andrew Bacevich, welcome back to the Journal. Watch the video, read the transcript.

Gawker Exclusive: Reuters Chief Spikes Story on Killing of His Own Staffers In Baghdad

Gawker Exclusive: Reuters Chief Spikes Story on Killing of His Own Staffers In Baghdad

David Schlesinger, the editor in chief of Reuters, declined to run a story by one of his own reporters containing claims that the 2007 killings of two Reuters staffers in Baghdad by U.S. troops may have been war crimes.

Reuters staffers Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh were killed by U.S. helicopter gunships in Baghdad in 2007. Video of the attack, which shows the journalists standing next to unidentified armed men on a Baghdad street and records the destruction of a van attempting to retrieve a wounded Chmagh, was published this week by Wikileaks.

The video has launched a debate about the legality of the attack, which also wounded two children (you can read our take here). Yesterday, Reuters' deputy Brussels bureau chief Luke Baker filed a muscular story repeating allegations from several human rights and international law experts that the killings may have constituted war crimes. But Reuters chief David Schlesinger, a tipster says, spiked the story because "it needed more comment from the Pentagon and U.S. lawyers." It never ran, but you can read it in full below.

Exclusive: Reuters Chief Spikes Story on Killing of His Own Staffers In BaghdadReuters' response to the disclosure of the video has been relatively muted. Schlesinger issued a statement on Tuesday calling the video "disturbing" but declining to assign blame or accuse the U.S. military of improper behavior: Read more.

Child Soldiers Give New Meaning to "Baby Killers"

Child Soldiers give new meaning to ‘baby killers’
By William Crain

I sat with my grand kids awaiting the St. Patty’s Day Parade. It was a little behind schedule but a nice enough day, nobody minded. Then it began for us; family friends, their kids and people lined the block in all directions. It was about the 2nd or 3rd entry after the official “Color-Guard”...I could not believe my eyes, my whole body flushed with anger, young boys in camouflaged fatigues and combat boots marching, Billings Child Soldiers, and cadre were enabling another Reich to fashion itself, my stomach churned...the people cheered...I shouted “Child Soldiers!” “Child Soldiers!!”

FDA, VA Approve Drug Despite Its Link To Soldiers’ Deaths

FDA, VA approve drug despite its link to soldiers’ deaths
By Martha Rosenberg | Nieman Watchdog

Seroquel is a widely-prescribed medication, with almost $5 billion in sales last year. But survivors of dead servicemen, torn and angry, question its use as part of a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sgt. Eric Layne's death was not pretty.

A few months after being prescribed a drug cocktail with the antidepressant Paxil, the mood stabilizer Klonopin and AstraZeneca's controversial antipsychotic drug Seroquel, the Iraq war veteran was "suffering from incontinence, severe depression [and] continuous headaches," according to his widow, Janette Layne, at FDA hearings for new Seroquel approvals last year.

Soon he had tremors. " … [H]is breathing was labored [and] he had developed sleep apnea," said Janette Layne, who served in the National Guard during Operation Iraqi Freedom along with her husband. On the last day of his life, she testified, Eric stayed in the bathroom nearly all night battling acute urinary retention. He died while his family slept.

Sgt. Layne had just returned from a seven-week inpatient program at the VA Medical Center in Cincinnati where he was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A video shot during that time, played by his wife at the FDA hearings, shows a dangerously sedated figure barely able to talk.

Sgt. Layne was not the first healthy veteran to die after being prescribed medical cocktails including Seroquel for PTSD.

In the last two years, Pfc. Derek Johnson, 22, of Hurricane, West Virginia; Cpl. Andrew White, 23, of Cross Lanes, West Virginia; Cpl. Chad Oligschlaeger, 21, of Roundrock, Texas; Cpl. Nicholas Endicott, 24, of Pecks Mill, West Virginia; and Spc. Ken Jacobs, 21, of Walworth, New York, have all died suddenly while taking Seroquel cocktails. Read more.

Iraq War Vet: "We Were Told to Just Shoot People, and the Officers Would Take Care of Us"

Iraq War Vet: "We Were Told to Just Shoot People, and the Officers Would Take Care of Us"
By Dahr Jamail | Truthout

On Monday, April 5, Wikileaks.org posted video footage from Iraq, taken from a US military Apache helicopter in July 2007 as soldiers aboard it killed 12 people and wounded two children. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency: photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and driver Saeed Chmagh.

The US military confirmed the authenticity of the video.

The footage clearly shows an unprovoked slaughter, and is shocking to watch whilst listening to the casual conversation of the soldiers in the background.

As disturbing as the video is, this type of behavior by US soldiers in Iraq is not uncommon.

Truthout has spoken with several soldiers who shared equally horrific stories of the slaughtering of innocent Iraqis by US occupation forces. Read more.

Take This Empire and Shove It!


Take This Empire and Shove It!
By Cindy Sheehan | Cindy Sheehan's Soapbox

“Listen, I can't get involved. I've got work to do. It's not that I like the Empire; I hate it. But there's nothing I can do about it right now... It's all such a long way from here.”

Luke Skywalker in Star Wars

Dear Reader — Raise your hand if you don’t know that atrocities happen in war. Now put your hands in the air like you just don’t care.

Psychologist, Robert Jay Lifton, who is a pioneer in the study of what drives otherwise “normal” human beings to commit war crimes calls war: “an atrocity-producing situation.” Atrocities have been committed in every war since the beginning of time, and the sad thing is the barbarity hasn’t decreased. Recently a US soldier tried to justify to me committing atrocities because the "British did it to the Native Americans" in the French-Indian War. This soldier was essentially agreeing with Lifton.

Since war is an atrocity in the first place, war crimes will be committed, period. In many of my speeches soon after Casey was killed, I used to call war “a failure of imagination.” Now I know that’s crap—war is imagined by and for the war machine and gladly perpetrated by its toady elected officials and promoted by its toady media.

This week, several things have upset me about our genocidal foreign policy, but I can’t decide what upsets me more—the genocidal foreign policy or the fact that most of my fellow USAins are sheeple who blindly follow (or not follow) whoever is infecting the Oval Office depending on whether that person has a (D) or an (R) behind his name. Read more.

U.S. Sues KBR On Security Costs

U.S. Sues KBR On Security Costs
By Thomas Catan | WSJ

The Justice Department on Thursday filed a civil suit against KBR Inc., accusing one of the U.S. military's largest contractors of improperly charging taxpayers for the cost of private security guards in Iraq.

The government's suit alleges that between 2003 and 2006 KBR executives used three private security companies to provide armed security details for KBR executives as they traveled around Iraq, even though the costs were prohibited under its contract. Read more.

Big Business, GOP Complain That Health Reform Slashes Corporate Welfare

Big Business, GOP Complain That Health Reform Slashes Corporate Welfare
By Ryan Grim | Huffington Post

The Republican Party and major corporations have joined forces in the first major rearguard attack on health care reform, charging that the cost of complying with "Obamacare" is resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in added business expenses.

The crime that reform is guilty of: Slashing corporate welfare.

Under the previous system, major corporations were subsidized by the government to provide prescription drug coverage to their retired employees. At the same time, corporations could claim on their tax returns that it was they -- not the taxpayers -- who paid for the drug coverage, and could write the expense off as a tax deduction.

Health care reform cuts out that fat. The corporations still get taxpayer money to help pay for their drug coverage, but they can no longer continue the fiction that they're using their own money to do it. Read more.

Note: Although this topic was previously published, this article explains how corporations benefit while taxpayers pay much more clearly, especially toward the bottom of Ryan's article.

Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil and Gas Drilling for First Time; That is Not a Misprint

Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil and Gas Drilling for First Time; That is Not a Misprint
By Dave Lefcourt | OpEd News

Just because you're smarter, more erudite and articulate than "Dubya" if your policies are essentially unchanged from his, that is not "change", it is just new "packaging" of the same damaged goods.

Obama must be calculating that his "constituency" has nowhere else to go, believing they certainly won't embrace Republicans (or the "tea baggers") so he feels he can do as he pleases and embrace right wing ideas like increased offshore drilling and nobody on the left will notice or just ignore it.

Americans have to wake up (and go beyond the rants of the screaming wack jobs on the right). We're at the 11th hour and the clock is ticking. Our two party system is dysfunctional and broken and there is little difference between them. The people are being stiffed as neither party acts in its interests. Both parties are beholden to their corporate backers and our office holders are mostly sycophants and dutiful water carriers doing their bidding.

And that includes the current occupant in the White House.

The headline read, "Obama to Open Offshore Areas to Oil Drilling for First Time"[1]

After a stunned double take (and hardly believing what one was reading ), there it was, Obama is going to "open vast expanses of water along the Atlantic coastline, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the north coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling, much of it for the first time."[2]

George W. (oops!), Barack Obama is going to do EXACTLY what his predecessor vowed to do!

That it was (and is) completely unnecessary and will do nothing to seriously reduce our dependence on foreign oil or make us any closer to reaching energy independence apparently was lost on the "current occupant" in the White House. Read more.

Negligent Homicide Charges in the Salt Pit Killing

How CIA Avoided Negligent Homicide Charges in the Salt Pit Killing
By emptywheel | FireDogLake

Since the AP story on the Salt Pit death, reporters have focused a lot of attention to a particular footnote in Jay Bybee’s second response to the OPR Report and what it claims about intent (and, to a lesser degree, what it says about Jay Bybee’s fitness to remain on the 9th Circuit). In it, Jay Bybee references a memo CIA’s Counterterrorism Center wrote in response to Gul Rahman’s death at the Salt Pit; the memo argued that the CIA officer in charge should not be prosecuted under the torture statute because he did not have the specific intent to make Rahman suffer severe pain when he doused him with water and left him exposed in freezing temperatures.

Notably, the declination memorandum prepared by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Section regarding the death of Gul Rahman provides a correct explanation of the specific intent element and did not rely on any motivation to acquire information. Report at 92. If [redacted], as manager of the Saltpit site, did not intend for Rahman to suffer severe pain from low temperatures in his cell, he would lack specific intent under the anti-torture statute. And it is also telling that the declination did not even discuss the possibility that the prosecution was barred by the Commander-in-Chief section of the Bybee memo.

As Scott Horton noted the other day, analysis of the torture statute should not have been the only thing in the declination memo. Prosecutors should have analyzed whether or not Rahman’s killing constituted negligent homicide, among other things. Read more.

Insurance Industry Already Finding Ways To Game New System

Insurance Industry Already Finding Ways To Game New System
By Dan Froomkin | Huffington Post

The insurance industry's attempt to weasel out of one of the few provisions of the new health care reform law that took effect immediately is a harbinger of what's to come.

In this case, the companies that were balking at covering sick children quickly relented under media, congressional and White House pressure.

But far from being satisfied with a windfall of new customers and massive government subsidies, the nation's insurance companies appear to already be busy devising ways to game the new system. Their goal, as ever: Maximizing profits by paying out as little on actual health care as possible.

And next time they start to weasel, Congress and the White House -- and the media -- may not be paying attention anymore.

"This is what you're going to see as each element in this plan comes up for implementation," said Marcia Angell, a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine who now teaches at Harvard Medical School. "This insurance industry is going to give up nothing."

In the short run, companies are expected to keep doing what they've been doing, which means, among other things, jacking up their rates. "There's nothing to stop them from raising their premiums, and that's what they're going to do," said Angell, a supporter of "single-payer" health insurance.

The new law's ban on discriminating against adults with preexisting conditions doesn't kick in until 2014. Read more.

Top Fed Official Wants To Break Up Megabanks, Stop The Fed From Guaranteeing Wall Street's Profits

Top Fed Official Wants To Break Up Megabanks, Stop The Fed From Guaranteeing Wall Street's Profits [Huffington Post Exclusive]
By Shahien Nasiripour | Huffington Post

The U.S. should bust up its megabanks and impose strict laws curbing the size and complexity of financial institutions, a top Federal Reserve official told the Huffington Post.

In a 45-minute interview this week, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Thomas M. Hoenig, who's emerged as one of the few influential voices calling for a fundamental redesign of a broken U.S. financial system:

  • Lambasted the tilted playing field that benefits Wall Street banks over Main Street banks;
  • Called the idea that the U.S. needs megabanks to compete globally a "fantasy";
  • Said Congress should mandate simple, easily understood and enforceable rules -- rather than guidelines -- so regulators can restrain financial firms and rein in the financial system;
  • Prodded the Senate to get tougher on permanently ending Too Big To Fail by enacting laws that would take away much of the discretion currently held by policymakers (who bailed out financial firms when confronted with these decisions in late 2008);
  • And criticized the Federal Reserve's ongoing policy to keep the main interest rate near zero because it "guarantee[s] a spread to Wall Street", enabling unearned profits and "encourag[ing] speculation."

Hoenig's criticisms echo those made by reformers pushing to remake a financial system that melted down in 2008 after years of excessive risk-taking and loose regulation finally took its toll, causing the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression and costing the nation more than 8 million jobs. Read more.

Mrs Albright, Beyond Creepy

Mrs Albright, Beyond Creepy
By Missy Comley Beattie

Madeleine K. Albright, a member of the war criminals club, this week, infringed on my cyberspace with repudiations directed at a political party indistinguishable from what is supposed to be the opposition party and, then, requested a donation? Her e-mail with the subject “Enough” is that, and more.

“The Republican strategy of delay and obstruct is hurting America and our standing in the world. It has to stop,” wrote MKA. Many of you probably received the same message from the 64th secretary of state. You know, the Clintonite female-like object who said, when asked about the more than 500,000 Iraqi children dead from our sanctions, “It’s a hard choice, but I think, we think, it’s worth it.”

Bogus Washington-Proposed Financial Reform


Bogus Washington-Proposed Financial Reform
By Stephen Lendman

In Washington, the more things change, the more they stay the same, or usually get worse. It's true each election cycle, and when Congress enacts "reform," watch out.

Exhibit A:

Obamacare: legislation that rations care and enriches corporate providers.

Exhibit B:

Financial reform, shaping up to be more business as usual, masquerading as change, and leaving what's needed unaddressed and papered over.

What Real Reform Looks Like - Abolish or Nationalize the Fed

For many years, Ron Paul waged a lonely struggle to abolish the Fed, trying and failing in the 106th, 107th, 108th, and 110th Congresses. Numerous times he explained what he said on the House floor on September 10, 2002, namely:

"Since the creation of the Federal Reserve, middle and working-class Americans have been victimized by a boom-and-bust monetary cycle. In addition, most Americans have suffered a steadily eroding purchasing power because of the Federal Reserve's inflationary policies. This represents a real, if hidden, tax imposed on the American people," a 1913 dollar (when the Fed was created) today worth about a nickel and continues to erode.

Under the Fed, we've also had rising consumer debt; record budget and trade deficits; an unsustainable national debt; a high level of personal and business bankruptcies; millions of lost homes; high unemployment; loss of the nation's manufacturing base; soaring poverty levels; an unprecedented wealth gap between the rich and most others; and a hugely unstable economy lurching from one crisis to another, the current one near-catastrophic with years more pain and suffering ahead for growing millions.

Yet the 1913 Federal Reserve Act violates the Constitution's Article I, Section 8 giving Congress sole power to coin (create) money and regulate the value thereof. In 1935, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress can't constitutionally delegate it to another body.

Discharged Soldiers Sue For Millions Over Anthrax Experiment

Discharged soldiers sue for millions over Anthrax experiment
By Vered Luvitch | Ynetnews

Dozens of soldiers who took part in experiment in early 1990s aimed at determining efficacy of Anthrax vaccine demand $80,000 each in damages. 'Physical harm was passed down to our children,' plaintiff says

Sixty-four former IDF soldiers are suing the Defense Ministry for NIS 18 million ($4.8 million) over what they claim is damage caused to them during Anthrax vaccine experiments in the early 1990s.

The experiments, which were meant to determine the efficacy of an Anthrax vaccine, were carried out in light of what was then defined at the time as the "strategic threat of a surprise biological attack facing Israel."

Nicknamed "Omer 2," the experiments included 716 IDF soldiers picked out of a pool of 4,000.

The lawsuit, filed with the Petah Tikva District Court, is based on the principle according to which anyone who decides to take part in an experiment must do so willingly and after considering the risks involved.

As part of the lawsuit the soldiers are demanding that the state reveal the ingredients of the serum that was given to them, in addition to NIS 300,000 (about $80,000) in damages to each plaintiff for mental anguish and emotional distress resulting from the involuntary use of one's body and medical negligence.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs cited an Israel Medical Association (IMA) report according to which the experiments were unjustifiable. Read more.

Zero Public Option + One Mandate = Disaster


Zero Public Option + One Mandate = Disaster
Progressive critics of the new healthcare law have been demonized
By Norman Solomon | Washington Free Press

Not long ago, the most prominent supporters of the public option were touting it as essential for healthcare reform. Now, suddenly, it’s incidental.

In fact, many who were lauding a public option as the key to a better healthcare future are now condemning just about anyone who insists that the absence of a public option makes the new law unworthy of support.

Consider this statement: “If I were a senator, I would not vote for the current healthcare bill. Any measure that expands private insurers’ monopoly over healthcare and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real healthcare reform.”

That statement is as true today as it was when Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, made it three months ago in a Washington Post op-ed. But now, a concerted political blitz is depicting anyone who takes such a position as a menace to “real healthcare reform.”

After devoting vast amounts of time, money, energy and political capital to banging the drum for the public option as absolutely vital during 2009 and through this winter, countless liberal organizations and prominent Democrats in Congress have made a short-order shift.

You are now to understand that the public option isn’t essential—it’s expendable. And all of the sudden, people who assert that a public option is a minimal requirement for meaningful healthcare reform are no longer principled—they’re pernicious. Read more.

Speaking Events

David Swanson at St. Michael’s College, Colchester, VT, October 5, 2016.

David Swanson in Fairbanks, Alaska, October 22, 2016.

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