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Corporatism and Fascism

Corporatism and Fascism

Feingold: Obama Responsible For Loss Of Public Option

Feingold: Obama Responsible For Loss Of Public Option
By Sam Stein | Huffington Post

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) formally announced on Sunday that he would support the Senate's final version of health care reform. But in doing so he cast blame for the loss of a public option for insurance coverage partially on the president's shoulders and urged House and Senate negotiators to re-insert the government-run plan back into the legislation during conference committee.

From the Wisconsin Democrat's press office came the following statement:

I've been fighting all year for a strong public option to compete with the insurance industry and bring health care spending down. I continued that fight during recent negotiations, and I refused to sign onto a deal to drop the public option from the Senate bill. Unfortunately, the lack of support from the administration made keeping the public option in the bill an uphill struggle. Removing the public option from the Senate bill is the wrong move, and eliminates $25 billion in savings. I will be urging members of the House and Senate who draft the final bill to make sure this essential provision is included. [Ed. Note: Emphasis ours.] Read more.

10 Reasons to Kill the Senate Bill

10 Reasons to Kill the Senate Bill
By Jane Hamsher | FireDogLake

FDL has become the go-to place for coverage of the health care bill due to the work of our incredible team. Jon Walker’s second-to-none knowledge of the health care bill has made the policy and political analysis he offers up at FDL Action a driving force. Dave Dayen’s reporting at the FDL News Desk, Marcy Wheeler ’s research and in-depth analysis at Emptywheel, Laura Flanders’ interviews at GritTV, our FDL team of writers and editors, and our community members at The Seminal provide the most independent and comprehensive picture of what’s happening moment-by-moment on the health care debate to be found anywhere.

So, I asked them to help make it simple: how do we let people know what’s going to happen to them if the Senate bill passes? Everyone put their heads together and came up with a list:

Top 10 Reasons to Kill Senate Health Care Bill

1. Forces you to pay up to 8% of your income to private insurance corporations — whether you want to or not.
2. If you refuse to buy the insurance, you’ll have to pay penalties of up to 2% of your annual income to the IRS.
3. Many will be forced to buy poor-quality insurance they can’t afford to use, with $11,900 in annual out-of-pocket expenses over and above their annual premiums.
4. Massive restriction on a woman’s right to choose, designed to trigger a challenge to Roe v. Wade in the Supreme Court.
5. Paid for by taxes on the middle class insurance plan you have right now through your employer, causing them to cut back benefits and increase co-pays.
6. Many of the taxes to pay for the bill start now, but most Americans won’t see any benefits — like an end to discrimination against those with preexisting conditions — until 2014 when the program begins.
7. Allows insurance companies to charge people who are older 300% more than others.
8. Grants monopolies to drug companies that will keep generic versions of expensive biotech drugs from ever coming to market.
9. No re-importation of prescription drugs, which would save consumers $100 billion over 10 years.
10. The cost of medical care will continue to rise, and insurance premiums for a family of four will rise an average of $1,000 a year — meaning in 10 years, your family’s insurance premium will be $10,000 more annually than it is right now. Click to take action now! Upper right corner!

Obama Year One: Betrayal and Failure (Part I)

Obama Year One: Betrayal and Failure (Part I)
By Stephen Lendman | Blog

Promising change after eight George Bush and Republican dominated years, Barack Obama won the most sweeping non-incumbent victory in over 50 years along with congressional Democrats gaining large House and Senate majorities. In addition, at 56.8%, voter turnout was the highest since Richard Nixon's "secret plan" to end the Vietnam war and his "Southern" and "law and order" strategies beat Hubert Humphrey and independent George Wallace in 1968.

On election night, the mood celebrated hope for progressive change, an end to imperial wars, and a new day for America. When word came around 10PM, expectant thousands in Chicago's Grant Park erupted with chants of "yes we can," hoping Obama would make a difference at a time of deepening economic duress.

In its November 4, 2008 editorial titled, "The Next President," The New York Times called it "one of those moments in history when it is worth pausing to reflect on the basic facts," then listed some:

  • for the first time, Americans elected a black president;
  • his triumph was "decisive and sweeping, because he saw what is wrong with this country, (and will change direction) to regulate the economy fairly, keep the air clean and the food safe, ensure that the sick have access to health care, and educate children to compete in a globalized world;"
  • he "committed to ending a bloody and pointless (Afghan) war (and) restore Americans' civil liberties and (the nation's) reputation around the world;"
  • he must now "prevent an economic collapse fed by greed and an orgy of speculation (by) impos(ing) control, coherence, transparency and fairness," in contrast to George Bush; and
  • he "now needs the support of all Americans (to help him deal with the) many other urgent problems that must be addressed."

Endorsing his candidacy early on for a socially liberal new beginning, Nation magazine editor, Katrina vanden Heuvel, looked for a "transformational presidency, (a) new era of possibility, a historic opportunity for a progressive governing agenda and a mandate for bold action....Tonight we celebrate," she said.

Campaigning, he offered change, a new course, sweeping government reforms, addressing people needs, and "ensur(ing) that the hopes and concerns of average Americans speak louder in Washington than the hallway whispers of high-priced lobbyists," the same ones he said wouldn't run his administration, but would "have a seat at the table," and why not given their large contributions to him and other Democrats.

Little wonder that a year later hope is now disillusion, frustration, and anger over promises made, then broken with an awakening knowledge that change won't come unless growing millions demand it.

A Man of the People or Machine Politics

One Cheer for Howard Dean

One cheer for Howard Dean
By Rich Lowry, The National Review | Salt Lake Tribune

Howard Dean's constant refrain now is that the bill isn't reform. He's right. It is an incoherent grab bag that doesn't improve on the current system -- it just adds to it. As Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center writes, "What's left of the bill compels universal participation in a system that everyone agrees is a failure without reforming that system, and even exacerbates its foremost problem -- the problem of exploding costs."

The individual mandate is what barely holds the bill together, and tellingly, invokes the ire of both sides. The right and independents already hated the bill. With the left starting to hate it, too, it's almost unanimous. A new Wall Street Journal /NBC poll found support at 32 percent. How long before some poll finds it in the 20s?

Keith Olbermann is ready to go to jail over it. Markos Moulitas is prepared to see the health-care bill die over it. Howard Dean is assaulting the White House over it.

It's the individual mandate, the source of rare cross-ideological agreement in the health-care debate. The provision to force everyone to buy health insurance long labored in obscurity, overshadowed by the more glamorous and controversial public option. No more.

The death of the public option left the individual mandate exposed. Disappointed liberals now confront in the cold light of day a provision that will, by force of law, make people hand over money -- and a lot of it, as a percentage of their total income -- to the insurance companies. Should they fail to do so, they face fines that could total billions of dollars a year, or even jail time. Read more.

Obama Approves $30 Billion in Military Aid to Israel Over Next Decade

Obama Approves $30 Billion in Military Aid to Israel Over Next Decade
$500 Million in Aid Also to Go to Palestinian Authority
by Jason Ditz |

As the single largest expense of the 2010 foreign aid budget, President Obama approved $2.775 billion in military aid to Israel, the first payment in a decade-long commitment that will reach at least $30 billion.

Last year, Israel’s military budget amounted to $13.3 billion, so the US funding is a significant portion of their overall expenditure. The US formerly provided both military and civilian aid, but it has since been folded entirely into military aid, at Israel’s request.

The money is not a blank check, however. The US requires that Israel spend at least 75% of the money given in military aid with US military contractors, effectively using the foreign aid budget to subsidize domestic weapon-makers. Read more.

Shaker Aamer: UK Government Drops Opposition To Release Of Torture Evidence

Shaker Aamer: UK Government Drops Opposition To Release Of Torture Evidence
By Andy Worthington |

Last week, as I explained in a recent article, Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who was seized in Afghanistan in 2001 after traveling to Afghanistan with his friend Moazzam Begg (and their families) to establish a girls’ school in Kabul, won a significant victory in the British High Court. Lord Justice Jeremy Sullivan ruled that evidence in the possession of the British government, regarding his torture in US custody in Kandahar, Afghanistan, before his transfer to Guantánamo, must be made available to lawyers working on his behalf in the United States, so that they can make representations to the Obama administration’s interagency Task Force, which is currently reviewing the cases of the remaining prisoners in Guantánamo, and is expected to reach a decision sometime next month.

The documents include claims that British agents were, on occasion, present during brutal interrogations that punctuated a regime in which Aamer was “subjected to weeks of torture including sleep deprivation over nine days, cold water torture which led to frostbite, ‘hog tying’ and regular beatings along with threats that he would be sent to be tortured in Egypt, Jordan, or Israel.” As a result of this treatment, Aamer has claimed that he made false confessions, which are being used against him, even though a military review board under the Bush administration cleared him for release from Guantánamo in 2007.

On Wednesday, the legal action charity Reprieve, which represents Aamer in the US, announced that, at a hearing on Thursday, the British security services would argue that they are not required to release the information to Aamer “because he has not been formally charged with a crime.” This prompted Reprieve’s director, Clive Stafford Smith, to exclaim, “Essentially, MI5 are saying they would owe Shaker this evidence if the Americans would bother to charge him. But because Shaker will have no charge and no trial, they say he has no right to any evidence at all and must continue to face indefinite detention with no end in sight. What kind of down-the-rabbit-hole argument is this?” Read more.

Afghanistan: World's Lengthiest War Has Just Begun

Afghanistan: World's Lengthiest War Has Just Begun
By Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site | December 18, 2009

The higher number of Defense Department contractors, 160,000, added to over 100,000 troops - with the likely prospect of both numbers climbing yet more - will result in over a quarter of a million U.S. personnel serving under the Pentagon and NATO. The latter has 42,000 non-U.S. troops fighting under its command currently and pledges of 8,000 more to date, with thousands in addition to be conscripted after the London conference on Afghanistan next month. Approximately 35,000 U.S. soldiers are also assigned to NATO's ISAF and if the 33,000 new American troops are similarly deployed the North Atlantic bloc will have over 120,000 forces fighting a land war in Asia. Along with a Pakistani army of 700,000 active duty troops fighting on the other side of the border and an Afghan army of 100,000 soldiers, there will soon be well over a million military personnel engaged in a war with a few hundred al-Qaeda and a few thousand Taliban forces.

Despite U.S. President Barack Obama's pledge in his December 1 address at the West Point Military Academy that deploying 30,000 more of his nation's troops to Afghanistan would be coupled with "a goal of starting to withdraw forces from the country in July 2011," everything else he has said and all the facts on the ground suggest that the war will continue into the indefinite future.

At a press conference a week before the West Point troop surge announcement he said "it is my intention to finish the job," and in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on December 10 he affirmed: "We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth: We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes."

History establishes that it is easier to deploy to than to withdraw from an active war zone.

The White House has already increased U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan from 32,000 at the beginning of the year to over twice that amount - 68,000 - currently, with the first contingent of even more reinforcements arriving this week. The 30,000 additional troops headed to the war front and the 3,000 more support forces pledged by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will push American military personnel in Afghanistan to over 100,000.

That number, likely to be increased yet further and accompanied by a veritable invasion of private military contractors and State Department operatives, will be augmented by over 10,000 more non-U.S. troops serving under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), bringing combined American and NATO regular military forces to well over 150,000 and total Western personnel to over 300,000 with an estimated surge of as many as 56,000 new U.S. contractors. With the addition of assorted security, intelligence, private contracting and other military camp followers from NATO nations, the figure could top a third of a million.

An occupation and warfighting force of those dimensions is not designed for a limited mission or a short stay.

Obama Campaigned AGAINST Two Major Provisions In This Health Care Bill

Obama campaigned AGAINST two major provisions in this health care bill
By thesquanderer | Democratic Underground

As David Zephyr pointed out in this thread, the current heath care bill has a provision allowing people to buy insurance across state lines (as described in the LA Times article here). The problem is that, once insurance can be sold across state lines, insurance companies will gravitate to the states that most favor them and least favor the consumer.

In fact, before the election, this is exactly what McCain wanted, and Obama opposed.

From the second Obama-McCain debate (transcript here):

Don't we go across state lines when we purchase other things in America? Of course it's OK to go across state lines because in Arizona they may offer a better plan that suits you best than it does here in Tennessee.

Obama's response?

And the reason that it's a problem to go shopping state by state, you know what insurance companies will do? They will find a state -- maybe Arizona, maybe another state -- where there are no requirements for you to get cancer screenings, where there are no requirements for you to have to get pre-existing conditions, and they will all set up shop there. Read more.

Obama's Million Dollar Gift To Anti-War Organizing

Obama's Million Dollar Gift To Anti-War Organizing
By Lao Hong Han | Daily Kos

A million dollars a year!

That's what it costs to put one--that's right, one--soldier or Marine on the ground in Afghanistan and to house and supply him or her there. This figure comes directly from the White House and was widely quoted in in the flurry of PR around President Obama's West Point speech announcing his 30,000+ escalation of the occupying force in Afghanistan.

A million bucks a year. That's a nice round figure. A more useful tool for those of us working to revive the anti-war movement is hard to imagine.

This struck me yesterday when the Transit Authority here in NYC, faced with a severe budget crunch, decided to eliminate passes for kids going to and from school, to close whole subway lines and bus routes, to cut services and crowd trains more, and to limit the Access-A-Ride program for seniors and the disabled. All of this, one report said, would save $139 million in the first year.

The math is easy--simply don't send 139 troops to Afghanistan next year. That would cover the cost of averting brutal cuts to a public transit system used by more than 5 million people every day.

You get the idea. Call it what you want--a "troop year" perhaps. Anytime some government agency grappling with revenue collapse caused by the economic meltdown announces an increase in fees or a cutback in services, just figure how many troops not being shipped into harm's way in Helmand Province it would take to make that budget good.

Then spread the word! Use the fact in conversations, letters to the editor, emails to friends and family, leaflets, faxes to Congresscritters who are about to vote to appropriate more money for the war.

People in this country may not like thinking about the war, but they sure can't help thinking about the economy. This is a nice clear way to help them make the connection. Read more.

CCR Lawyers Ask Judge to Apply Ruling from Last Week to New ACORN De-Funding

CCR Lawyers Ask Judge to Apply Ruling from Last Week to New ACORN De-Funding | Press Release
President Signed New Budget Yesterday; Government Seeks Reconsideration of Injunction in Bill of Attainder Case

December 17, 2009, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) asked a federal judge to amend her decision granting an injunction against Congress’ unconstitutional de-funding of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) to apply it to the new federal budget provisions signed into law by President Obama yesterday. Some provisions of the new budget include prohibitions on ACORN receiving federal funds, provisions CCR argues are unconstitutional. The United States has also filed papers asking the judge to reconsider her December 11 ruling and set it aside. There will be a hearing on these motions Tuesday December 22. The time for the hearing has not yet been set.

Last Friday, CCR won an important preliminary injunction in its case charging Congress with violating the Bill of Attainder provision in the U.S. Constitution, violating the Fifth Amendment right to due process, and infringing on the First Amendment right to freedom of association by targeting affiliated and allied organizations, as well. The U.S. Constitution forbids lawmakers from singling out a person or group for punishment without a fair investigation and trial in order to protect against political retribution without due process.

On Sunday, Congress passed a new budget that included three specific references targeting ACORN for de-funding. President Obama signed the budget into law yesterday.

Said CCR Legal Director Bill Quigley, “A federal judge has already ruled that Congress cannot act unconstitutionally as judge, jury, and executioner in the case of ACORN, yet they passed a budget doing precisely that just days later, and President Obama signed it. There should be no place for political retribution and grandstanding in the law.”


Guess Who's Getting A Lump of Coal This Year

Guess who's getting a lump of coal this year
By John Caruso | A Tiny Revolution

The ACLU of Northern California wrote me to share this great news:

Dear Mr. Caruso,

The decade is ending with more hope than it began.

The Obama administration has begun to restore some of the fundamental rights this country was founded upon — rights that have been dismantled for too long. Rights that you care so much about.

Yay! I care so much about these rights, and the Obama administration is restoring them! Thank you the Obama administration, for giving us more hope than when it began! And Anthony D. Romero of the national ACLU wrote me another letter with even more good news:

Dear Mr. Caruso,

As 2009 comes to a close, two things have become clear to those of us who work to protect and advance freedom's cause.

The first is that our hopes for progress on civil liberties are brighter than they have been in nearly a decade. The second is that powerful forces are aligning to block the forward momentum that America so urgently needs.

Oh no! Powerful forces aligning to block the forward momentum that America so urgently needs? Who can they be? Spin me a scenario that illustrates their blackhearted no-goodness, Anthony D. Romero! Read more.

Kucinich: 'Class War Is Over, Working People Lost'

Kucinich: 'Class War Is Over, Working People Lost'
By Sahil Kapur | Raw Story

"The separation between the finance economy and the real economy is real. This is not some fake idea. You can’t call that class warfare. That’s a fact."

Reflecting on the growing divide between Wall Street and Main Street, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) on Wednesday offered a powerful critique on the state of the economy in an open committee hearing.

"The class warfare is over -- we lost," Kucinich said before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. "I want to make that announcement today. Working people lost. The middle class lost."

The harrowing comments from Kucinich, who is Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, come amidst a national unemployment rate of 10 percent, one year and several months after the economic collapse of 2008 has marred the livelihoods of many.

"Don't tell me about class warfare," he continued. "Come to my neighborhoods in Cleveland. I will show you class warfare. I’ll show you hollowed out areas. I’ll show you businesses that went down because they don’t have access to capital. And on Wall Street it is fat city. Don’t tell me about class warfare." Read more.

It Takes a Conscience

It Takes a Conscience
By Missy Comley Beattie

In February of 2008, Michelle Obama delivered a speech in which she said about her husband: “He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism.”

I know what cynicism is. I felt it during the eight, long years of the homicidal Bush-Cheney tyranny. And I recognized it, piercingly, when Barack Obama referred to Afghanistan as the “right” war. I experienced it, again and again, before the election, especially, when Obama chose as his running mate the ardent Zionist Joe Biden along with consultants from the corporate sector.

When my youngest son called and told me he wanted to go to DC for the historic inauguration—just to be there—to tell the children he may have someday that he was on the scene, I was aware of my cynicism. I wanted to say to him, “This man is going to disappoint you beyond belief. He’s going to turn off a generation of young people who are inspired by his message of change.”

I hated this cynicism. Because I’ve always been proactive in the face of despair. I would tell you some of the things I’ve done in moments of suffocating negativity, but most examples are too personal for public consumption. Suffice it to say that I’m resourceful and have, almost always, been able to lift myself from the depths to a ledge of optimism.

I’m trying to hang onto this now.

But we are sending at least 30,000 additional troops to a country mangled by corruption whose puppet leader says he’ll need our support for years and years and years, while the people of Afghanistan perceive us as blood-sucking occupiers and want to blow our troops to smithereens. And are.

Plus, Wars R Us, Inc. plans to send between 26,000 and 56,000 additional mercenaries to Afghanistan, swelling the ranks to a possible 160,000.

We have not left Iraq.

Always Controversial Cornel West Disses Obama, Survives Cancer and Almost Spent His Life in Prison

Always Controversial Cornel West Disses Obama, Survives Cancer and Almost Spent His Life in Prison
By Terrence McNally | AlterNet | Submitted by Michael Munk |

I draw a radical distinction between the symbolic and the substantial. As a critical supporter of Barack Obama, engaged in over 50 events for him from Iowa to Ohio, I knew that at a symbolic level something could happen that was unprecedented. And it did happen. At that symbolic level, I can understand the tears, I can understand the jubilation, I can understand the euphoria. But I always knew there was a sense in which he, now heading the American empire, was tied to the shadow government, tied to CIA, FBI, tied to the establishment waiting to embrace him. It was clear when he chose his economic team, when he chose his foreign policy team, he was choosing, of course, the recycled neo-liberals and recycled neo-Clintonites that substantially you're going to end up with these technocratic policies that consider poor people and working people as afterthoughts. Beginning with bankers, beginning with elites.

Symbolically, black man breaks through makes you want to break dance. So, yes, we have to be able to relate to both of these. So I resonate with your dear fiancee, because the hopes that were generated and the call for change, and then we end up with this recycled neo-liberalism. There's no fundamental change at all.

That's very real, but I think we do have to understand we had to bring the age of Reagan to a close. We had to bring the era of conservatism to a close. And then you try to unleash new possibilities. Of course, the question now is, how do we keep our fellow citizens awakened so it goes beyond the campaign for a candidate and really begin engaging in grassroots organizing and mobilizing.

I think even my dear brother Michael Moore tends to put too much confidence in Barack Obama. In his film you get the sense that here comes Barack Obama speaking the language of deep democracy. No, no, no, he's been a liberal all his life. He uses that language to mobilize, but in the end he's going to capitulate and defer to the neo-liberal establishment, which is what he has done so far. Now granted, there's still some possibilities there, even when you talk about just extending unemployment benefits. This is nothing revolutionary at all, but it does alleviate some of the suffering. But if we don't get some restructuring going on, if we don't get some Marshall Plan activity of massive investments in infrastructure here, in this country....You've got four billion dollars every month in Afghanistan. You can come up with that all the time.

[Editor's Note: The following is a transcript of a recent interview with Cornel West by radio host Terrence McNally on KPFK's Free Forum program.]

"The capacity to produce social chaos is the last resort of desperate people. You can't lead the people if you don't love the people. You can't save the people, if you don't serve the people."

There's music in those words as well as pain, wisdom and honesty. Those are the words of Cornel West, who has just written a memoir, "Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud." In it, he writes, "Until now, I've never taken the time to focus on the inner dynamics of my soul."

Educator and philosopher Dr. Cornel West is the Class of 1943 University Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton University. Read more.

News & Background: Leaking Of Dubious Document Spurs New Wave of Anti-Iran Propaganda

News & Background: Leaking of dubious document spurs new wave of anti-Iran propaganda | United for Peace of Pierce County

On Monday the Times of London said "confidential intelligence documents" from Iran, one of which it published in toto, "show that Iran is working on testing a key final component of a nuclear bomb."

  • [1] -- For endorsement of the document the Times cited the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) as its only named expert source. -- The paper published a translation (from Farsi) of the document on its website.
  • [2] -- The New York Times devoted a long piece to the document in its Wednesday edition, emphasizing that the document had not been authenticated by Western intelligence agencies.
  • [3] -- It had nothing to say about the provenance of the undated two-page document either. -- The Washington Post also devoted a long article to the document, and also said nothing about where it came from, noting, however, for some reason, that it was "creased."
  • [4] -- Like the Times of London, the Post cited ISIS as its only named expert commentator. -- Finally, on Wednesday, Robert Burns and Pamela Hess of the Associated Press hinted that Israel was the source of what it bizarrely called a "reportedly-secret document" -- bizarrely, since on Sunday a photograph of the original was published on the website of the Times of London along with a complete translation.
  • [5] -- COMMENT: In short, there would appear to be every reason to be suspicious both of the authenticity of this document and of the timing of the leak.

-- Last year Scott Ritter said of ISIS's director: "David Albright has a history of being used by those who seek to gain media attention for their respective claims." -- Ritter believes that Albright's organization, whose funding has never been explained, serves the function of "imprinting a negative image in the psyche of public opinion." -- Mohammad Sahimi has also written an extensive piece on David Albright and his organization; see here. -- Sahimi noted that ISIS does not involve itself in analysis of Israel's nuclear weapons program.... Read more.

Stunning Statistics About the War Every American Should Know

Stunning Statistics About the War Every American Should Know
Contrary to popular belief, the US actually has 189,000 personnel on the ground in Afghanistan right now—and that number is quickly rising.
By Jeremy Scahill | Rebel Reports

A hearing in Sen. Claire McCaskill’s Contract Oversight subcommittee on contracting in Afghanistan has highlighted some important statistics that provide a window into the extent to which the Obama administration has picked up the Bush-era war privatization baton and sprinted with it. Overall, contractors now comprise a whopping 69% of the Department of Defense’s total workforce, “the highest ratio of contractors to military personnel in US history.” That’s not in one war zone—that’s the Pentagon in its entirety.

In Afghanistan, the Obama administration blows the Bush administration out of the privatized water. According to a memo [PDF] released by McCaskill’s staff, “From June 2009 to September 2009, there was a 40% increase in Defense Department contractors in Afghanistan. During the same period, the number of armed private security contractors working for the Defense Department in Afghanistan doubled, increasing from approximately 5,000 to more than 10,000.”

At present, there are 104,000 Department of Defense contractors in Afghanistan. According to a report this week from the Congressional Research Service, as a result of the coming surge of 30,000 troops in Afghanistan, there may be up to 56,000 additional contractors deployed. But here is another group of contractors that often goes unmentioned: 3,600 State Department contractors and 14,000 USAID contractors. That means that the current total US force in Afghanistan is approximately 189,000 personnel (68,000 US troops and 121,000 contractors). And remember, that’s right now. And that, according to McCaskill, is a conservative estimate. A year from now, we will likely see more than 220,000 US-funded personnel on the ground in Afghanistan.

The US has spent more than $23 billion on contracts in Afghanistan since 2002. By next year, the number of contractors will have doubled since 2008 when taxpayers funded over $8 billion in Afghanistan-related contracts. Read more.

Gaza Collection Released: Articles, Videos, Blogs, Plus Info About Upcoming Gaza March

Col. Ann Wright (Ret.) wrote:

Here are the new articles added to our massive 50 page list of articles, videos, blogs from our 7 trips to Gaza in 2009, plus articles and videos about the Gaza Freedom March--only 10 days away 27 December - January 2, 2010!!

Please keep everyone in Gaza in your thoughts during the next weeks, the one year anniversary of the Israeli attack on Gaza!!

All 50 pages of our articles are in the attachment--congratulations on what you have done to bring the story of the people of Gaza to the world!

Access the file in the file attachment below.

Surging by the Minute

Tomgram: Jo Comerford, Afghan War Costs 101

Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, put the matter this way recently: “[N]ext to Antarctica, Afghanistan is probably the most incommodious place, from a logistics point of view, to be trying to fight a war... It's landlocked and rugged, and the road network is much, much thinner than in Iraq. Fewer airports, different geography.”  In other words, we might as well be fighting on the moon.  In translation, this means at least one thing: don’t believe any of the figures coming out of the White House or the Pentagon about what this war is going to cost. 

As Jo Comerford, executive director of the National Priorities Project points out below, the president’s $30 billion figure for getting those 30,000-plus new surge troops into Afghanistan is going to prove a “through-the-basement estimate.”  As for the dates for getting them in and beginning to get them out?  Well, it’s grain-of-salt time there, too.  According to Steven Mufson and Walter Pincus of the Washington Post, some of the fuel storage facilities being built to support the surge troops won’t even be completed by the time the first of them are scheduled to leave the country, 18 months from now.

And keep in mind the endless, and endlessly vulnerable, supply lines on which so much of that fuel -- and almost everything else the U.S. military has to have to survive -- travels.  Along those mountainous roads, trucks are “lost,” or Taliban-commandeered, or bribes are paid for passage, or some are simply destroyed in what can only be thought of as an underreported supply-line war.  All of this adds immeasurably to the staggering expense of the project.  According to August Cole of the Wall Street Journal, in fuel terms alone, to support a single soldier in Afghanistan costs between $200,000 and $350,000 a year.  

Surging by the Minute
By Jo Comerford

$57,077.60. That’s what we’re paying per minute. Keep that in mind -- just for a minute or so.

After all, the surge is already on. By the end of December, the first 1,500 U.S. troops will have landed in Afghanistan, a nation roughly the size of Texas, ranked by the United Nations as second worst in the world in terms of human development.

Women and men from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will be among the first to head out. It takes an estimated $1 million to send each of them surging into Afghanistan for one year. So a 30,000-person surge will be at least $30 billion, which brings us to that $57,077.60.  That’s how much it will cost you, the taxpayer, for one minute of that surge.

By the way, add up the yearly salary of a Marine from Camp Lejeune with four years of service, throw in his or her housing allowance, additional pay for dependents, and bonus pay for hazardous duty, imminent danger, and family separation, and you’ll still be many thousands of dollars short of that single minute’s sum. Read more.

Documents Suggest Bush White House Failed to Search for Libby's "Missing" Emails Subpoenaed in CIA Leak Probe

Documents Suggest Bush White House Failed to Search for Libby's "Missing" Emails Subpoenaed in CIA Leak Probe
By Jason Leopold | Truthout

Between late 2005 and January 2006, the Bush administration tried to recover "lost" emails from staffers who worked in the Office of the Vice President (OVP), an effort centered on a critical week - October 1 through October 6, 2003. That same week the Justice Department announced it was investigating the leak that Valerie Plame Wilson was a covert CIA operative.

But one name was missing from the list of 70 individuals whose email accounts White House technicians searched in an attempt to recover and restore missing emails: I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

According to documents obtained by government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), it appears that technicians in the Office of Administration did not attempt to recover from Libby's account emails he either sent or received during the week of October 1 to October 6, 2003. That was a week when emails from the Office of the Vice President were missing for entire days in some instances and were unusually low in others.

It was also during this time that Alberto Gonzales, then White House counsel, enjoined all White House staff members to turn over emails or other documents pertaining to Plame and her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had angered the White House by criticizing Bush's case for invading Iraq. The directive came 12 hours after senior Bush White House officials had been told of the pending Justice Department investigation. Read more.

DOD: Obama's Afghan Surge Will Rely Heavily On Private Contractors

DOD: Obama's Afghan Surge Will Rely Heavily On Private Contractors
By Justin Elliott | TPM

Private contractors will make up at least half of the total military workforce in Afghanistan going forward, according to Defense Department officials cited in a new congressional study.

As President Obama's escalation of the war in Afghanistan unfolds, the number of contractors will likely jump by between 16,000 and 56,000, adding up to a total of 120,000-160,000, according to an updated study from the Congressional Research Service.

DOD officials who spoke with the study's author said contractors would make up 50-55 percent of the total workforce -- troops plus contractors -- in the future. This would actually be a significant reduction from the last two years, when contractors have averaged 62 percent of the total.

Image from CRS Contractors Study 12/09. Read it. Read more.

The War Trap

The War Trap
By Ernest Partridge | The Crisis Papers

Today, twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and nineteen years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the military budget of the United States is larger than at any time during the Cold War and roughly equal to the total of all other military budgets throughout the world.

Why, in the midst of the greatest economic emergency in seventy years, with the public sector of the U.S. economy starved for funds required for economic recovery, and with urgent global climate and energy crises directly before us, have we failed to benefit from a "peace dividend" from the end of the Cold War? Why are we instead engaged in two wars in nations that pose no threat to us?

It appears that Einstein was right: everything has changed except our modes of thinking, and thus, as he warned, "we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe."

The good news is that we have the means to avoid catastrophe. The far worse news is that there is little evidence that the political and economic structures in place will allow us to escape that catastrophe


Last September, President Obama announced that the United States was cancelling plans to establish a ballistic missile defense system (BMD) in Poland and the Czech Republic. This decision, which appalled Republicans and neo-cons in the U.S., along with many Czech and Polish politicians, delighted peace activists both in the U. S. and throughout the world.

Also delighted were the Russians, who had regarded the missile defense shield, first proposed by George Bush (the lesser), as a provocation, aimed at neutralizing the Russian strategic missile capability. The Russians were unconvinced by Bush’s assurance that the BMD was designed as a defense against a missile attack from Iran, a skepticism that was shared by many American critics.

Obama’s decision to cancel the BMD was shortly followed by a Russian announcement that it would not deploy missiles in the Baltic city of Kaliningrad, along with an indication that this decision was in response to Obama’s announcement regarding the bases in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Thus began the first two moves of a de-escalation strategy known to game-theorists and political scientists as "Tit for Tat," whereby an initiation of a conciliatory act is responded to in kind, and so on reciprocally, until one player elects to take advantage of the cooperating opponent (i.e., "defects").

This particular game came to an abrupt halt the following month when Vice President Biden, in a visit to the Czech Republic, assured the Czech President that the U.S. would, after all, install a "modified" missile defense shield.

Mr. Obama Do You REALLY Want A Healthcare Bill?

Mr. Obama Do You REALLY Want A Healthcare Bill?
By Bob Fertik |

President Obama, here's a simple question: Do you really want a healthcare bill?

I'm asking because if you really want one, I can help you. I mean it.

You don't have to meet with your implacable foes, as you promised to meet with Iran. All you have to do is meet with your most thoughtful friends.

Who exactly? Howard Dean. Jane Hamsher. Marcy Wheeler. Markos. Glenn Greenwald. Slinkerwink. Jon Walker. In other words, the healthcare heroes of the Netroots.

Trust me, they won't betray you. They really want to be your friends. If they're still supporting you after all the bad deals you've made, that means they really care.

So all you have to do is meet with them - and make a deal. Just like you did with Joe Lieberman.

Here's the deal: Read more.

Last Week: US Iraq Casualties Rise to 72,548

Last Week: US Iraq Casualties Rise to 72,548
Compiled by Michael Munk |

US military occupation forces in Iraq under Commander-in-Chief Obama suffered 21 combat casualties in the week ending December 15, 2009 as the official total since the 2003 invasion jumped to at least 72,548. The total includes 35,080 dead and wounded from what the Pentagon classifies as "hostile" causes and more than 37,458 (as of Dec. 5, 2009) dead and medically evacuated from "non-hostile" causes.

The actual total is over 100,000 because the Pentagon chooses not to count as "Iraq casualties" the more than 30,000 veterans whose injuries - mainly brain trauma from explosions - were diagnosed only after they had left Iraq.** In addition, ICC names eight service members who died of wounds after they left Iraq and are not counted by the Pentagon.**

US media divert attention from the actual cost in American life and limb by occasionally reporting only the total killed (4,373 as of Dec 15, 2009) but rarely mentioning the 31,603 wounded in combat. To further minimize public perception of the cost, they cover for the Pentagon by ignoring the 36,562* (as of Dec 2, 2009)*** military victims of accidents and illness serious enough to require medical air evacuation, although the 4,373 reported deaths include 896 (up three) who died from those same causes, including at least 18 from faulty electrical work by KBR and 197 suicides through Dec 5, 2009.***

** The number of wounded is updated weekly (usually Tuesday).
** New York Times, Jan 26, 2009

America Needs a Real Wall Street Reform Bill

Below is a transcript of the speech that Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur gave on the House floor opposing H.R. 4173, the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009.

America Needs a Real Wall Street Reform Bill
By Rep. Marcy Kaptur

Real reform means breaking up the big banks. Real reform means empowering community banks and local capital accumulation. Real reform means separating speculation and investment. Real reform means restoring prudent lending. Real reform means restructuring troubled housing mortgages. Real reform means rewarding institutions that play by the rules and don't over-leverage. Real reform means prosecuting financial white-collar criminals and keeping them out of finance permanently.

Real reform means directly connecting executive pay and bonuses to the performance of the company and recouping the $145 billion in unwarranted bonuses for the American taxpayer. Real reform means regulating all derivatives openly and clearly. Real reform means limiting interconnectedness between large financial institutions. Real reform means independent supervisory and regulatory agencies that do their job--independent supervisory and regulatory agencies.

The bill that will be considered tomorrow, as it was today, merely bunts at wrestling casino capitalism to the ground. This bill, like so many before it, will simply lead to more abuse, more risky behavior, and more reward for the most hazardous and imprudent characters.

Wall Street needs our help in rescuing them from their own bad behavior, not because Wall Street deserves it or is worthy; they need to be disciplined because our natural interest is more important than Wall Street.

The Self-Destruction of Barack Obama

The Self-Destruction of Barack Obama
By Bernard Weiner | The Crisis Papers

President Obama has lost his 2012 bid for re-election.

He has made key decisions in three areas that, unless he alters his
approach (not likely), could well guarantee a Republican victory: an embarrassingly
rolled-out, badly-compromised health-care reform bill; his continuing
slavish subservience to those on Wall Street that took the country into the
economic toilet; and his sad imitation of CheneyBush's imperial campaign in

(Obama's only hope for 2012 may depend on Sarah Palin getting the GOP
nomination. Even better if Glenn Beck or Dick Cheney is her running mate --
tickets, I'm appalled to say, that have been mentioned seriously. The Democrats
can only hope to face such Republican candidates.)

If Obama goes down to defeat in 2012, he could take with him any hope for a
major revitalization of American democracy after eight years of wrack and
ruin under CheneyBush. And Obama's own Democratic majority in Congress might
well suffer, perhaps quite badly, at the polls in November of 2010.

Yes, yes, I know that Obama's only been in office for a month shy of one
year, and dumping on the guy may seem way early, especially given the
humongous mess he inherited from his disastrous predecessor, and the vicious,
destructively partisan warfare being waged by the Congressional Republicans.
Still, as we approach the New Year, some summarizing truths need to be spoken
now, and loudly, if we are to gain anything from the current situation in the
way of possible alterations of course that can still be made.

Howard Dean: Health Care Bill 'Bigger Bailout for the Insurance Industry Than AIG'

Howard Dean: Health Care Bill 'Bigger Bailout for the Insurance Industry Than AIG'
Top Democrat Urges Lawmakers to Kill the Bill and Start Over
By Huma Khan and Jonathan Karl | ABC News

The former Democratic presidential candidate argues that in the rush to pass a health care bill, lawmakers have essentially stripped it of true reforms -- mainly the choices it would give to people -- and given too much to special interest groups and insurance companies, the chief executives of which, Dean says, would get 27 percent of the money Americans contribute.

"We've gotten to this stage ... in Washington where passing any bill is a victory, and that's the problem," Dean said. "Decisions are being about the long-term future of this country for short-term political reasons, and that's never a good sign."

He said he also doesn't see cost-control measures but, rather "a whole bunch of bureaucracies and a lot of promises."

President Obama said he likes the Senate health care compromise and wants it passed by Christmas, but he faces a revolt from some liberals who say the health care bill has been gutted to appease insurance companies.

"This is a bigger bailout for the insurance industry than AIG," former Democratic National Committee chairman and medical doctor Howard Dean told "Good Morning America's" George Stephanopoulos today. "A very small number of people are going to get any insurance at all, until 2014, if the bill works.

"This is an insurance company's dream, this bill," Dean continued. "This is the Washington scramble, and I think it's ill-advised." Read more.

Government Accused Over Binyam Mohamed Torture Claims

Government accused over Binyam Mohamed torture claims | BBC

A QC told the court CIA admissions over his treatment would expose the government to "criminal liability for an international war crime"....

But on the second day of the hearing, Dinah Rose QC, appearing for Mr Mohamed, argued: "Admissions of serious international war crimes cannot properly be described as confidential."

She said: "The US must have have understood in sending such information to the UK that the UK is a responsible democracy and must, in some circumstances, come under an obligation further to disclose that material.

"It could never have expected admissions of such serious criminal conduct could be covered up in all the circumstances."

The High Court was entitled to find the material had "no operational intelligence sensitivity at all," she added.

The government has been accused of trying to suppress "embarrassing and shaming" evidence of the UK's role in torture, at a High Court hearing.

It is appealing against a ruling that allegations by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed be made public. Read more.

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