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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
Afghan Lessons from the Iraq War
By Ray McGovern
You don’t have to go back 40 years to the Vietnam War to feel the sting of déjà vu. Returning to the Iraq War just three years ago will suffice.
Last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates summed up the administration’s dilemma on Afghanistan in a single question: “How do we signal resolve and at the same time signal to the Afghans and the American people that this is not open-ended?”
It is the same question that policymakers and generals were grappling with three years ago with respect to Iraq. Let’s hope they learned the right lessons from that experience, but it’s doubtful since the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) has been no help in shedding light on what actually happened.
If you remember, President George W. Bush had been voicing lots of optimism about the Iraq War and Vice President Dick Cheney had claimed the enemy was “in its last throes.” But it was becoming increasingly clear by 2006 that sectarian violence was ripping Iraq apart, that the death toll of American troops was rising, and that U.S. defeat was looming.
But Bush and Cheney were hell-bent on preventing defeat from happening, at least on their watch. Nor did they want the neo-con dream of a U.S.-dominated Iraq to die.
However, many in Washington – especially in the military – recognized that the Bush/Cheney war couldn’t be open-ended and that hard decision would have to be made for a gradual withdrawal to begin.
There is no way of overestimating the challenge that the emergence of ALBA and the overall reawakening of Latin America pose to the role that the U.S. arrogates to itself as lord of the entire Western Hemisphere. The almost two-century-old Monroe Doctrine exemplifies Washington's claim to exclusive influence over all of North, Central and South America and the Caribbean Basin and its self-claimed right to subordinate them to its own interests. Never before the election victories of anti-neoliberal forces throughout Latin America over the past eleven years has the prospect of a truly democratic, multipolar New World existed as it does now.
It is in response to those developments that the U.S. and its former colonialist allies in NATO are attempting to reassert their influence in the Americas south of the U.S. border.
November 28 will mark five months since the coup led by U.S.-trained commanders deposed the president of Honduras, the next day will see a mock election in the same nation designed to legitimize the junta of Roberto Micheletti, and the day following that will be a month since Washington signed an agreement with the Alvaro Uribe government in Colombia for the use of seven military bases in the country.
While intensifying a full-scale war in South Asia, continuing occupation missions in Iraq and the Balkans, maintaining warships off the coasts of Somalia and Lebanon, and deploying troops and conducting war games in most parts of the world, the United States and its NATO allies have not neglected Latin America.
Central and South America and the Caribbean are receiving a degree of attention from the U.S. and its partners not witnessed since the Cold War and in some ways are the targets of even more intense scrutiny and intervention.
How old is old enough for students to be approached by military recruiters?
High school? Junior high? Fourth grade? How about ten weeks into kindergarten?
Last week at the dinner table, my five-year-old son announced blithely, "Soldiers came to school today." He then added, "They only kill bad people. They don't kill good people."
He made the announcement with the same levity he uses in recalling the plot line of Frog and Toad or a Nemo video.
My wife and I looked at each other incredulously.
"Soldiers came to school? What do you mean?" I asked. Read more.
~Chip's Note: Every once in a while, Tom over at Tom's Dispatch writes an intro to an article that is so well-researched and comprehensive that it's difficult to excerpt just a portion as a prelude to the published article. This is one of those times. Both Tom's introduction and Pratap Chatterjee's "Paying Off the Warlords, Anatomy of an Afghan Culture of Corruption" will provoke your outrage at the stark reality of the what is really happening in Afghanistan. Now, on to Tom's introduction.
There is much discussion in the media today about "corruption" in Hamid Karzai's Afghanistan, but remarkably little actual reporting about it. Just back from Kabul, TomDispatch regular Pratap Chatterjee, author of Halliburton's Army, helps to rectify that deficit. He offers a rare, news-making, eye-opening inside look at how that country's system of nepotism and corruption -- involving its old "warlords" from the days of the post-Soviet civil war and its new corporate "reconstruction" raiders -- actually works. His piece is an anatomy of the way the brother of the country's new vice president (and long-time warlord), Mohammed Fahim, is raking in tens of millions of dollars in diesel fuel contracts for an American-built power plant -- even though far cheaper methods of bringing electricity to the Afghan capital now exist.
"Every morning," Chatterjee begins, "dozens of trucks laden with diesel from Turkmenistan lumber out of the northern Afghan border town of Hairaton on a two-day trek across the Hindu Kush down to Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. Among the dozens of businesses dispatching these trucks are two extremely well connected companies -- Ghazanfar and Zahid Walid -- that helped to swell the election coffers of President Hamid Karzai as well as the family business of his running mate, the country's new vice president, warlord Mohammed Qasim Fahim."
He then follows the history of corruption and the path of the money -- both Afghan and American -- as he traces the business dealings of the Afghan elite, including figures connected to Afghan president Hamid Karzai, and well-connected western "reconstruction" companies.
He concludes: "This week, Mohammed Qasim Fahim will be sworn in as the next vice-president of the new government of Afghanistan. Under an agreement with USAID, this new government is required to spend Afghan money to buy yet more diesel for the [U.S.-built] Tarakhil power plant, which in turn will put money exclusively and directly into the vice president's brother's pocket."
From TomDispatch today, a rare, carefully reported, follow-the-money piece from Afghanistan that reveals the corruption and nepotism at the highest levels of the Afghan government -- Pratap Chatterjee, "Paying Off the Warlords, Anatomy of an Afghan Culture of Corruption." This is a devastating look at how Afghaniscam actually works. Read more.
As an Afghan woman who was elected to Parliament, I am in the United States to ask President Barack Obama to immediately end the occupation of my country.
Eight years ago, women's rights were used as one of the excuses to start this war. But today, Afghanistan is still facing a women's rights catastrophe. Life for most Afghan women resembles a type of hell that is never reflected in the Western mainstream media.
In 2001, the U.S. helped return to power the worst misogynist criminals, such as the Northern Alliance warlords and druglords. These men ought to be considered a photocopy of the Taliban. The only difference is that the Northern Alliance warlords wear suits and ties and cover their faces with the mask of democracy while they occupy government positions. But they are responsible for much of the disaster today in Afghanistan, thanks to the U.S. support they enjoy.
The U.S. and its allies are getting ready to offer power to the medieval Taliban by creating an imaginary category called the "moderate Taliban" and inviting them to join the government. A man who was near the top of the list of most-wanted terrorists eight years ago, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has been invited to join the government.
Over the past eight years the U.S. has helped turn my country into the drug capital of the world through its support of drug lords. Today, 93 percent of all opium in the world is produced in Afghanistan. Many members of Parliament and high ranking officials openly benefit from the drug trade. President Karzai's own brother is a well known drug trafficker. Read more.
In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident.
Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.
E-mail messages obtained by The New York Times show that the lobbyists drafted one statement for Democrats and another for Republicans.
The lobbyists, employed by Genentech and by two Washington law firms, were remarkably successful in getting the statements printed in the Congressional Record under the names of different members of Congress.
While President Obama’s decision about sending more troops to Afghanistan is primarily a military one, it also has substantial budget implications that are adding pressure to limit the commitment, senior administration officials say.
The latest internal government estimates place the cost of adding 40,000 American troops and sharply expanding the Afghan security forces, as favored by Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American and allied commander in Afghanistan, at $40 billion to $54 billion a year, the officials said.
Even if fewer troops are sent, or their mission is modified, the rough formula used by the White House, of about $1 million per soldier a year, appears almost constant.
So even if Mr. Obama opts for a lower troop commitment, Afghanistan’s new costs could wash out the projected $26 billion expected to be saved in 2010 from withdrawing troops from Iraq. And the overall military budget could rise to as much as $734 billion, or 10 percent more than the peak of $667 billion under the Bush administration. Read more.
Illinois prison top contender to house Gitmo detainees, official says
By Jessica Yellin | CNN
If the Bureau of Prisons purchases the 1,600-cell site, it would operate primarily as a federal prison and lease a portion of it to the Defense Department to house a limited number of Guantanamo detainees, one Obama administration official said.
There are about 215 men held by the U.S. military at the Guantanamo prison camp. Among the detainees are five suspects with alleged ties to the 9/11 conspiracy, including accused mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who will be transferred to New York to go on trial in civilian court, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday.
A prison in northern Illinois is the leading contender to house some detainees transferred from the federal facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, two Obama administration officials told CNN Saturday.
Officials from the department of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security and federal Bureau of Prisons will be will be visiting the maximum-security Thomson Correctional Center, about 150 miles west of Chicago, on Monday, the officials said.
Earlier Saturday, a statement from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn's office said senior Obama administration officials would be visiting the Thomson prison to see whether the "virtually vacant, state of the art facility" could be of use to the Bureau of Prisons. Read more.
Legal Case Filed Against 4 US Presidents & 4 UK Prime Ministers for War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity & Genocide in Iraq
For Justice For Iraq: Legal Case Filed Against Four US Presidents and Four UK Prime Ministers for War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide in Iraq | Press Release
Madrid: Today the Spanish Senate, acting to confirm a decision already taken under pressure from powerful governments accused of grave crimes, will limit Spain’s laws of universal jurisdiction. Yesterday, ahead of the change of law, a legal case was filed at the Audiencia Nacional against four United States presidents and four United Kingdom prime ministers for commissioning, condoning and/or perpetuating multiple war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in Iraq.
This case, naming George H W Bush, William J Clinton, George W Bush, Barack H Obama, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Anthony Blair and Gordon Brown, is brought by Iraqis and others who stand in solidarity with the Iraqi people and in defence of their rights and international law.
Iraq: 19 years of intended destruction
Wars come home in strange, unnerving ways -- as Americans have just discovered at Fort Hood. Even before Major Nidal Malik Hasan went on his killing spree, that base, a major military embarkation point for our war zones, was already experiencing the after-effects of eight years of war and repeated tours of duty. The suicide rate at Fort Hood was soaring (with 10 on the base in 2009 alone). Divorce rates were on the rise, as were mental health problems, drug and alcohol use, domestic abuse (up 75% since 2001), and murders among war-zone returnees. Even violent crime in Killeen, the town that houses the base, was up 22% (though it was down, according to the New York Times, "in towns of similar size in other parts of the country"). In an era in which our last president urged Americans to support his Global War on Terror by shopping and visiting Disney World, it often seemed that, except for soldiers and their families, our wars abroad affected little in this country.
And yet for an imperial power past its prime, foreign wars, even ones fought thousands of miles from home, have a way of coming back to haunt. Alfred W. McCoy tends to be ahead of the curve in his writing. In the Vietnam era, he had to fight the CIA to get his book, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, published; in the Bush years, he was perhaps the first person to recognize that the photos from Abu Ghraib represented no anomaly but the product of a long history of CIA torture research -- and published a powerful book, A Question of Torture, on the subject.
His latest book, Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State, meets counterinsurgency, another topic direct from today's headlines, head on. It ends on these lines: "...a state, like the United States, that rules a foreign territory through political repression and pervasive policing soon finds many of those same coercive methods moving homeward to degrade its own democracy. Such are the costs of empire." In his latest TomDispatch post, McCoy lays out just how that impulse for repression and policing, so vividly and violently expressed abroad in these last years, is now quietly taking aim at us. Tom
Welcome Home, War!
How America's Wars Are Systematically Destroying Our Liberties
By Alfred W. McCoy
In his approach to National Security Agency surveillance, as well as CIA renditions, drone assassinations, and military detention, President Obama has to a surprising extent embraced the expanded executive powers championed by his conservative predecessor, George W. Bush. This bipartisan affirmation of the imperial executive could "reverberate for generations," warns Jack Balkin, a specialist on First Amendment freedoms at Yale Law School. And consider these but some of the early fruits from the hybrid seeds that the Global War on Terror has planted on American soil. Yet surprisingly few Americans seem aware of the toll that this already endless war has taken on our civil liberties.
Don't be too surprised, then, when, in the midst of some future crisis, advanced surveillance methods and other techniques developed in our recent counterinsurgency wars migrate from Baghdad, Falluja, and Kandahar to your hometown or urban neighborhood. And don't ever claim that nobody told you this could happen -- at least not if you care to read on. Read more.
"The Obama administration is spending upwards of 90 percent of all U.S. funds in Afghanistan on military operations -- and what Eikenberry is seeking would add up to mere drops in the bucket compared to what Afghanistan really needs for “development and reconstruction.” Nor is the U.S. government in any moral or logistical position to effectively supply such aid."
Disputes are raging within the Obama administration over how to continue the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. A new leak tells us that Washington’s ambassador in Kabul, former four-star general Karl Eikenberry, has cautioned against adding more troops while President Hamid Karzai keeps disappointing American policymakers. This is the extent of the current debate within the warfare state.
During a top-level meeting November 11 in the White House, the Washington Post reports, President Obama “was given a series of options laid out by military planners with differing numbers of new U.S. deployments, ranging from 10,000 to 40,000 troops. None of the scenarios calls for scaling back the U.S. presence in Afghanistan or delaying the dispatch of additional troops.”
No doubt there are real tactical differences between Eikenberry and the U.S./NATO commander in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal, the ultra-spun brainy spartan who wants to boost the current U.S. troop level of 68,000 to well over 100,000 in the war-afflicted country. But those policy disputes exist well within the context of a permanent war psychology. Read more.
We've seen corporations use "free trade" agreements to quietly camouflage their push for exploitable labor in broader arguments about globalization. What we haven't seen is corporate special interests openly push for U.S. regulators to openly allow companies to sell goods made with child and slave labor...until now.
Check out this report from Inside U.S. Trade (no link- subscription required) - it's straight from the I Shit You Not File:
Business groups are worried by the potential effects of provisions banning the import of all goods made with convict labor, forced labor, or forced or indentured child labor that were included in a customs bill sponsored by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA)...
These groups are examining the ramifications of the bill's provisions, especially in light of the bill's requirements that a newly created office in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) annually report to Congress on the volume and value of goods made with child labor, forced labor or convict labor that have been stopped at the border.
Business sources say this reporting requirement could cause DHS to more actively seek out imported products made with child labor, forced labor or convict labor...
One source did expect a push from lobbyists closer to the Finance Committee markup of the bill, and speculated that U.S. industry groups and foreign governments could form ad hoc coalitions to help send a united message. Read more.
In the aftermath of the 2007 Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad by operatives working for Blackwater, top company officials including then-president Gary Jackson "authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support," according to the New York Times. Seventeen Iraqis were killed and more than twenty others wounded in the shooting, prompting the Iraqi government to announce it would ban the company from Iraq with officials vowing to prosecute the shooters. Blackwater, however, remains in Iraq to this day.
According to the Times, "Four former Blackwater executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then the company president, had approved the bribes, and the money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where Blackwater maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients." The Times notes that the bribes "would have been illegal": Read more.
Blackwater Said to Pursue Bribes to Iraq After 17 Died
By Mark Mazzetti and James Risen | NY Times
Blackwater’s strategy of buying off the government officials, which would have been illegal under American law, created a deep rift inside the company, according to the former executives.
Top executives at Blackwater Worldwide authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that were intended to silence their criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad, according to former company officials.
Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2007, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nisour Square stoked long-simmering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company’s employees. American and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients, worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Four former executives said in interviews that Gary Jackson, who was then Blackwater’s president, had approved the bribes and that the money was sent from Amman, Jordan, where the company maintains an operations hub, to a top manager in Iraq. The executives, though, said they did not know whether the cash was delivered to Iraqi officials or the identities of the potential recipients. Read more.
For drone freaks (and these days Washington seems full of them), here's the good news: Drones are hot! Not long ago -- 2006 to be exact -- the Air Force could barely get a few armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the air at once; now, the number is 38; by 2011, it will reputedly be 50, and beyond that, in every sense, the sky's the limit.
Better yet, for the latest generation of armed surveillance drones -- the ones with the chill-you-to-your-bones sci-fi names of Predators and Reapers (as in Grim) -- whole new surveillance capabilities will soon be available. Their newest video system, due to be deployed next year, has been dubbed Gorgon Stare after the creature in Greek mythology whose gaze turned its victims to stone. According to Julian Barnes of the Los Angeles Times, Gorgon Stare will offer a "pilot" back in good ol' Langley, VA, headquarters of the CIA, the ability to "stare" via 12 video feeds (where only one now exists) at a 1.5 mile square area, and then, with Hellfire missiles and bombs, assumedly turn any part of it into rubble. Within the year, that viewing capacity is expected to double to three square miles.
What we're talking about here is the gaze of the gods, updated in corporate labs for the modern American war-fighter -- a gaze that can be focused on whatever runs, walks, crawls, or creeps just about anywhere on the planet 24/7, with an instant ability to blow it away. And what's true of video capacity will be no less true of the next generation of drone sensors -- and, of course, of drone weaponry like that "5-pound missile the size of a loaf of French bread" meant in some near-robotic future to replace the present 100-pound Hellfire missile, possibly on the Avenger or Predator C, the next generation drone under development at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. Everything, in fact, will be almost infinitely upgradeable, since we're still in the robotics equivalent of the age of the "horseless carriage," as Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution assures us. (Just hold your hats, for instance, when the first nano-drones make it onto the scene! They will, according to Jane Mayer of the New Yorker, be able to "fly after their prey like a killer bee through an open window.")
And here's another flash from the drone development front: the Navy wants in. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead, reports Jason Paur of Wired's Danger Room blog, is looking for "a robotic attack aircraft that can land and take off from a carrier." Fortunately, according to Paur, the X-47B, which theoretically should be able to do just that, is to make its first test flight before year's end. It could be checking out those carrier decks by 2011, and fully operational by 2025.
Not only that, but drones are leaving the air for the high seas where they are called unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). In fact, Israel -- along with the U.S. leading the way on drones -- will reportedly soon launch the first of its USVs off the coast of Hamas-controlled Gaza. The U.S. can't be far behind and it seems that, like their airborne cousins, these ships, too, will be weaponized.
Taking the Measure of a Slam-Dunk Weapons System
Robot war. It just couldn't be cooler, could it? Read more.
On November 10 President Barack Obama delivered a speech at Fort Hood where five days before 13 soldiers were killed and 29 wounded in a shooting rampage by a U.S. army psychiatrist.
The attack resulted in the largest number of U.S servicemen killed in one day anywhere in the world in almost four and a half year years: 14 Americans were killed in a helicopter crash and a collision in Afghanistan on October 26 of this year but three were Drug Enforcement Agency officials, 11 soldiers. The last day preceding November 5 when military deaths were higher than those at Fort Hood was on June 28, 2005 when 19 troops were killed in Afghanistan.
There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of the sentiments expressed by Obama or to believe that whoever had won the U.S. presidential election last year would not have said something similar.
While mentioning of the dead that "Some had known intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan," Obama's emphasis, as that of the government and the country's media as whole, was on honoring those who defend America. Especially those who die defending America.
Here’s a shocker: Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the only self-described socialist in the Senate, has put forth the most capitalistic proposal yet for banking reform. The senator’s Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Exist Act proposes that if a firm is so big that its failure would threaten the economy or financial system, it should be broken up, not protected by the promise of a bailout.
That sounds simple and logical, yet none of the competing proposals floating around Capitol Hill — those from the White House or the House Financial Services Committee, or others expected this week from Christopher Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee chairman — have been so explicit in calling for an end to government rescues for private companies.
Of course, Senator Sanders’s bill is intended to be provocative. In two pages it outlines sweeping powers for the Treasury secretary to identify banks, hedge funds and insurers that are too big to fail. Read more.
Sign the Petition to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Here's part of the text:
Too Big to Fail is Too Big to Exist
Financial institutions that are “too big to fail” played a major role in undermining the American economy and driving our country into a severe recession.
Financial institutions that are “too big to fail” put taxpayers on the hook for a $700 billion bailout and more than $2 trillion from the Federal Reserve in virtually zero interest loans.
Huge financial institutions have become so big that the four largest banks in America (JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup) now issue one out of every two mortgages; two out of three credit cards; and hold $4 out of every $10 in bank deposits in the country.
Just five banks in America (JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) own a staggering 95% of the $290 trillion in derivatives held at commercial banks. Derivatives are risky side bets made by Wall Street gamblers that led to the $182 billion bailout of AIG, the $29 billion bailout that allowed JP Morgan Chase to acquire Bear Stearns, and the collapse of Lehman Brothers.
The concentration of ownership in the financial services industry has resulted in higher bank fees and interest rates that consumers are forced to pay for credit cards, mortgages and other financial products. Read more, sign the petition.
Read both pages of Sen. Sanders' proposed legislation.
On September 11, 2001, my office building, the World Trade Center, was attacked by al Qaeda, a murder cult of Saudi Arabians, funded by Saudi Arabians. And so, in response to the Saudis' attack, America invaded ... Afghanistan. Like, HUH?
And here we go again. New York Times headline last Friday: "Pakistani Army, In Its Campaign In Taliban Stronghold, Finds A Hint Of 9/11."
Google it and you'll find the Times report repeated and amplified 5,785 times more.
Taliban = 9/11. Taliban = 9/11. Taliban = 9/11.
Your eyelids are getting heavy. Taliban = 9/11. Taliban = 9/11.
It's the latest hit from the same crew that brought you Saddam = 9/11 and its twin chant, Saddam = WMD, Dick Cheney's chimerical tropes which the New York Times' Judith Miller happily channeled to the paper's front page.
And they're at it again.
Every war begins with a lie. Read more.
The Iraqi Oil Ministry on Thursday said it has awarded a consortium led by Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC the right to develop the West Qurna-1 oil field, representing the first American-led team gaining access to the country's oil patch.
The pact is the latest in a series of deals Iraq has recently signed or initialed with some of the world's biggest oil companies. Earlier this week, Iraqi officials completed a final agreement with BP PLC and China National Petroleum Corp. and an initial agreement with a consortium led by Italy's Eni SpA. U.S. oil company Occidental Petroleum Corp. participated as a junior partner in the Eni-led team.
The Exxon-Shell team, combining two of the world's biggest publicly listed oil companies, had been seen as the favorite to win the contract, which calls for the consortium to boost production at the already-pumping field in southern Iraq in exchange for a per-barrel fee. Among the three competitors, it offered the highest production target for the field, the Oil Ministry said. Read more.
The Supreme Court of the United States will soon announce a major decision on our lightly controlled system of campaign funding. Will it retain some limitations on corporate influence or will the court blow the lid off and cause a perpetual flood of unrestricted corporate contributions?
An additional outcome may surprise and shock the public.
If the Supreme Court overturns the lower court's decision, foreign nationals, corporations, and governments with partial ownership of U.S. corporations will, in effect, end up contributing to and influencing U.S. candidates in federal elections.
The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy invites you to read:
Beyond Citizens United v. FEC: Re-Examining Corporate Rights
An Issue Brief by: Jeffrey D. Clements
ACS is pleased to distribute "Beyond Citizens United v. FEC: Re-Examining Corporate Rights," an Issue Brief by Jeffrey D. Clements, an attorney in private practice who specializes in litigation and appeals with the Clements Law Office, LLC. One of the most highly anticipated decisions of the Supreme Court's 2009-2010 term will be the Court's resolution of Citizens United v. FEC. In this campaign finance law case, the Court is considering overruling two of its earlier decisions - Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce and McConnell v. FEC - that upheld the constitutionality of restrictions on corporate political spending at the state and federal levels. Drawing on arguments he made in an amicus brief filed in Citizens United on behalf of five non-profit citizens groups, Mr. Clements argues that, "[w]hether or not the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United explicitly addresses 'corporate rights' under the Constitution, a holding that overrules Austin and McConnell would rest on the remarkable - and erroneous - assumption that the Constitution provides corporations with First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights equivalent to those of people for purposes of political expenditures."
"What!" you say. "By using captives, parent companies undercut the free enterprise system and deprive businesses of the right to compete in the market. That sounds like socialism!"--except that when corporations do it, no one screams that Sweden is taking over.
We could capture the same sweet deal if we cut out the middleman and insure ourselves. Single-payer health insurance, or at least, a public option, is the counterpart to captive insurance for us peons who get cancer instead of billion-dollar bonuses and $2,000 co-pays for ambulance rides instead of junkets on corporate jets. Under a public option, the government would act as our own wholly owned subsidiary--our nonprofit, low-overhead captive insurer....Instead of calling public health insurance pull-the-plug-on-granny socialism, we could take a page from the corporate handbook, and call it captive.
Here's what corporations know, but don't want you to find out: Private insurance is for suckers.
Armies of healthcare industry flacks, lobbyists and bought-and-paid-for legislators rant that nonprofit, public insurance is a slippery slope to socialist hell, will limit your choice of physicians to Doc Watson and Dr. Kevorkian, and bankrupt the country. But, in fact, most U.S. Fortune 500 companies wouldn't touch private insurance with a 10-foot colonoscope.
When they need to insure their financial health against fire, terrorism, and liability lawsuits sparked by defective products and polluting factories that kill people, they don't call State Farm. Instead, corporations routinely insure themselves by creating a "captive" insurance company as a wholly-owned subsidiary. "The parent company is insuring its own risk," says Sandy Bigglestone, of Vermont's Captive Insurance division.
But when we the people need health insurance against the high cost of staying alive, we, or our employers, pay private insurers--corporations that are more devoted to protecting their profits than our health. The premiums we pay go not only for our pills and treatments, but also for lobbyists (on whom the health insurance industry currently spends $1.4 million per day for the U.S. Congress alone), campaign contributions, stratospheric executive salaries, private jets, lawyers hired to fight legitimate claims, and, of course, profits. Read more.
Pentagon pursuing new investigation into Bush propaganda program
By Brad Jacobson | Raw Story
The Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General is conducting a new investigation into a covert Bush administration Defense Department program that used retired military analysts to produce positive wartime news coverage.
Last May, the Inspector General’s office rescinded and repudiated a prior internal investigation’s report on the retired military analyst program, which had been issued by the Bush administration, because it “did not meet accepted quality standards for an Inspector General work product.” Yet in recent interviews with Raw Story, Pentagon officials who took part in the program were still defending it by referencing this invalidated report.
Gary Comerford, Inspector General spokesman for the Defense Department, told Raw Story last week that his office is conducting an investigation into the retired military analyst program and confirmed that the investigation began during the summer. Read more.
America the Betrayed
By Richard Cook
...Whitman a hero to the Beatniks of the 1950s who tried to rediscover an authentic American voice in the streets and on the roads and highways of this great land. The spirit of Whitman was surely present through the rebellion of the 1960s, when America’s young men and women rose up and fought the Establishment to stop the Vietnam War and bring civil rights to racial minorities.
The Establishment fought back with a vengeance and, through the most egregious betrayal in history, reduced the world’s greatest industrial democracy to the pathetic shadow of its former self we are today.
The first thing the Establishment did was destroy the industrial job base by shipping millions of good jobs to China and other Third World nations, where slave laborers could be forced to churn out consumer products at a fraction of the cost of similar work done by American workers. Read more.
ScienceDaily (Nov. 4, 2009) — Nearly half of all American children will reside in a household receiving food stamps at some point between the ages of 1 and 20, according to a report in the November issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Health Care Premiums Also Used for Lavish Salaries, Luxury Items, Underwriters
West Virginia Democrat Wants Transparency in Insurer Health Care Spending
By Kate Snow, Elizabeth Tribolet and Suzan Clarke | ABC News
A significant portion of health insurance premiums go not for actual medical care but for private jets, generous CEO salaries and underwriters who decide when to drop patients who become too expensive, according to a Senate committee report.
Sen. John D. Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, wrote to 15 of the biggest health insurance companies in August, asking them to provide information on how much of policyholders' monthly premiums was spent on medical care versus the amount that went to administrative costs and company earnings.
Such figures are known in insurance industry-speak as "medical loss ratios." But when insurance companies balked, saying the information was confidential and proprietary, Rockefeller's investigators went digging through public documents and found that much of policyholder premiums was going to nonmedical costs.
The insurance industry has long pointed to federal data that says about 87 percent of every dollar that people spend on premiums goes toward actual medical care, but Rockefeller's investigators found the average for the top six insurance companies is closer to 82 cents on the dollar for medical care.
That five-point difference represents billions of dollars.
And when investigators broke down the information by insurance type, they found that people who buy individual insurance from those companies rather than being part of a small or large business, get the least bang for their buck.
On average just 74 cents of every premium dollar for individual coverage goes to medical care. Read more.