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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
A Big Win For PhRMA, Health Insurance Companies, Obama, Reid, Nelson, Lincoln, Lieberman; A Big Loss For The American People...
Today’s vote in the Senate to pass their health care reform bill was a big win for many people. It was a big win for the drug companies, the biologics industry, the hospital companies, and the for-profit health insurance corporations. They will all get billions of government dollars piled on to their ledgers, and and millions of Americans now forced to buy their products. The vote was also a huge win for the lobbyists who just saw their profits jump thanks to this great opportunity to show their clients just how powerful their hold on Washington really is.
This vote was also a political win. It was a big deal for politicians–like Barack Obama, Max Baucus, Rahm Emanuel, and Harry Reid–who cared more about putting up a “W” on the scoreboard than about the policy. It was also a big day for senators like Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, and Joe Lieberman. The incredibly broken rules of the Senate gave them an absurd amount of anti-constitutional power that allowed them to hold reform hostage for pork and industry favors.
It was loss for the country. Our broken health care system will remain broken and costs will continue to rise at an alarming rate. Things like drug re-importation and a robust public option, which would have helped bring down prices for millions of Americans, were stripped from the bill at the request of powerful industry lobbyists.
It was also a big loss for the progressive movement. We were out-gunned by industry lobbyists, and many of our movement “allies” failed us. A woman’s right to choose was thrown under the bus just to get something passed. The supposed “progressives” in the Senate refused to go all-out and use every tool to achieve the most progressive reform. Lawrence O’Donnell is right, most importantly, this bill will give liberalism a very bad name. Read more.
HOLY FAMILY CLOSED TO TALK OF WARS
By Nick Mottern | Church Visit #24
On a grey, chill Sunday morning, December 13, 2009, Martha Conte, Theodora “Ted” de Soyza, Nora Freeman, Debbie Kair and I visited Holy Family Catholic Church in New Rochelle, NY, in the latest of our bannering visits to urge the religious community in Westchester County to become aggressive in opposing the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
We hit a rock, except for two parishioners.
The Holy Family congregation meets in a huge yellow brick ark of a building, Italian in architectural style. The nave of the church, where the congregation sits, has a low flat ceiling of natural wood panels and massive wooden beams, decorated with fine red and green lines and flowers, creating a sense of sanctuary. This feeling is enhanced by large, arched, extremely intricate, stained glass, windows.
On walls are bas-relief sculptures of various scenes leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion known as Stations of the Cross. In one of the walls next to the altar is a sculpture of Mary, Joseph and Jesus - the Holy Family – in a manger scene. On the altar were four, very tall candelabra, and over the altar is a crucifix with, as Nora pointed out, a nearly life-size, very life-like sculpture of Jesus in pain, spiked to a cross.
The sense of the building is that of ancient tradition, a feeling reinforced by the liberal use of incense during the ceremony. The church’s website says the building “is comparable to a basilica.” But the church is not ancient, although, like many, many ancient Catholic churches, it was built out of the devotion of working-class people.
The first of 33,000 more U.S. troops have arrived in Afghanistan for a Christmas surge and they will soon be joined by as many as 10,000 additional non-American troops serving under NATO in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Washington will have over 100,000 uniformed personnel and tens of thousands of new military contractors in the South Asian war zone, and with more than 50,000 other NATO and NATO partner forces present total troop strength will exceed 150,000.
Except for a modest amount of troops assigned to the NATO Training Mission - Iraq in Baghdad, the U.S. with its 120,000 troops is now largely alone in that country. NATO, especially new NATO, member and candidate states were ordered to transfer their forces from Iraq to Afghanistan starting approximately a year ago and are now redeploying soldiers from missions in Kosovo, Lebanon and Chad to the same destination. The Afghan battlefront, then, currently has the largest amount of military forces stationed in any war zone in the world. 
Troops from NATO countries stationed in Bosnia, the Central African Republic, Chad, Lebanon and off the coast of Somalia are currently assigned to European Union missions (European warships also participate in NATO's Ocean Shield naval interdiction in Somali waters and the Gulf of Aden) and their transfer to the South Asian war front indicates the virtual interchangeability of armed units assigned to NATO and the European Union. 
Since the beginning of this year's escalation of the war in Afghanistan and into neighboring Pakistan, Western public figures and media have dwelt frequently and at length on the war being a - or the - test for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, ostensibly the major watershed and crucible in its 60-year history.
When the bloc, the world's only military alliance, invoked its Article 5 mutual assistance clause in September of 2001 to support its leading member, the U.S., in its invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the Alliance was fresh on the heels of its first-ever war: The 78-day bombing campaign against Yugoslavia in early 1999, the first all-out military assault targeting a European nation since Hitler's and Mussolini's attacks and invasions of 1939-1941.
By activating Article 5 - "The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all [and] will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith" - NATO enlisted for its first land war and its first war in Asia.
It also exploited its effective war provision to launch Operation Active Endeavor in early October of 2001, a comprehensive, airtight naval surveillance and interdiction program throughout the entire Mediterranean Sea that monitors all activity in NATO's new mare nostrum (our sea) and dominates all access points into the world's most important sea: The Strait of Gibraltar, the Dardanelles Strait and the Suez Canal, connecting the Mediterranean with the Atlantic Ocean, the Black Sea, the Red Sea and thence to the Indian Ocean, respectively.
The U.S.-led military alliance gained control over that vast stretch of strategic waterways by adopting the American post-September 11, 2001 pretexts of combating terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. The first was the rationale for invading Afghanistan, the second for invading Iraq.
As the United States builds up its military presence in Afghanistan, private contractors are flocking there in even greater numbers. And Xe, the company formerly known as Blackwater, is in the hunt to get a share of the new work.
According to a report last week from the Congressional Research Service, there were about 64,000 uniformed U.S. troops in Afghanistan in September and 104,101 military contractors -- 62 percent of the Defense Department work force there.
The Obama administration's planned deployment of 30,000 more troops in the coming months could require as many as 56,000 more contractors, the report estimated.
Xe, the Moyock, N.C.-based private military company, is already on the ground in Afghanistan despite its controversial history in Iraq, and is in the running for additional contracts.
A company executive faced skeptical questioning Friday at a hearing of the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a bipartisan fact-finding panel created by Congress.
Fred Roitz, executive vice president, told the commission that Xe has security and training contracts in Afghanistan. Among other duties, he said, the company trains and mentors the Afghan border police, teaching such things as rifle skills, arrest procedures and narcotics interdiction.
Xe also is one of five pre-qualified companies competing for a new Defense Department contract to train the Afghan national police. Read more.
Gaza's scars have been frozen in place since Israel waged war a year ago to subdue Hamas and stop rockets from hitting its towns. Entire neighborhoods still lie in rubble, and traumatized residents can't rebuild their lives.
A man who lost two daughters and his home can't visit his surviving 4-year-old girl in a Belgian hospital because Gaza's borders remain sealed. A 15-year-old struggles to walk on her artificial limbs, while dozens of other war amputees still await prostheses.
Couples postpone marriage because not enough apartments survived three weeks of bombing and shelling. Thousands are homeless,and damaged systems mean electricity and water are sporadic. Untreated sewage pours into the Mediterranean.
A three-year-old blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt makes any large-scale rebuilding impossible, because the embargo includes steel and concrete.
The unprecedented use of Israeli firepower against the Palestinians has had repercussions far beyond the pain inflicted on Gaza's long-suffering 1.5 million people.
It emboldened Gaza's Hamas rulers by failing to topple them, and weakened their Western-backed Fatah rivals, whom Palestinians increasingly see as subordinate to Israel. It deepened the political split between Hamas-ruled Gaza and the Fatah-governed West Bank, making a unified Palestinian government - a prerequisite for any peace deal - even less likely. Read more.
“Would You Vote for the Senate's Health Legislation?”
Bill Moyers, With Matt Taibbi and Robert Kuttner | PBS
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal.
Something's not right here. One year after the great collapse of our financial system, Wall Street is back on top while our politicians dither. As for health care reform, you're about to be forced to buy insurance from companies whose stock is soaring, and that's just dandy with the White House.
Truth is, our capitol's being looted, republicans are acting like the town rowdies, the sheriff is firing blanks, and powerful Democrats in Congress are in cahoots with the gang that's pulling the heist. This is not capitalism at work. It's capital. Raw money, mounds of it, buying politicians and policy as if they were futures on the hog market.
Here to talk about all this are two journalists who don't pull their punches. Robert Kuttner is an economist who helped create and now co-edits the progressive magazine THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, and the author of the book OBAMA'S CHALLENGE, among others.
Also with me is Matt Taibbi, who covers politics for ROLLING STONE magazine where he is a contributing editor. He's made a name for himself writing in a no-holds-barred, often profane, but always informative and stimulating style that gets under the skin of the powerful. His most recent article is "Obama's Big Sellout," about the President's team of economic advisers and their Wall Street connections. It's been burning up the blogosphere. Welcome to both of you.
BILL MOYERS: Let's start with some news. Some of the big insurance companies, Well Point, Cigna, United Health, all surged to a 52 week high in their share prices this week when it was clear there'd be no public option in the health care bill going through Congress right now. What does that tell you, Matt?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, I think what most people should take away from this is that the massive subsidies for health insurance companies have been preserved while it's also expanded their customer base because there's an individual mandate in the bill that's going to provide all these companies with the, you know, 25 or 30 million new people who are going to be paying for health insurance. So, it's, obviously, a huge boon to that industry. And I think Wall Street correctly read what the health care effort is all about.
ROBERT KUTTNER: Rahm Emanuel, the President's Chief of Staff, was Bill Clinton's Political Director. And Rahm Emanuel's take away from Bill Clinton's failure to get health insurance passed was 'don't get on the wrong side of the insurance companies.' So their strategy was cut a deal with the insurance companies, the drug industry going in. And the deal was, we're not going to attack your customer base, we're going to subsidize a new customer base. And that script was pre-cooked so it's not surprising that this is what comes out the other side. Continue reading transcript, watch video.
Federal War Spending Exceeds State Government Outlays
By Sherwood Ross
The U.S. spends more for war annually than all state governments combined spend for the health, education, welfare, and safety of 308 million Americans.
Joseph Henchman, director of state projects for the Tax Foundation of Washington, D.C., says the states collected a total of $781 billion in taxes in 2008.
For a rough comparison, according to Wikipedia data, the total budget for what the government terms "defense" (i.e., war) in fiscal year 2010 will be at least $880 billion and could possibly top $1 trillion. That’s more than all the state governments collect.
Henchman says all American local governments combined (cities, counties, etc.) collect about $500 billion in taxes. Add that to total state tax take and you get over $1.3 trillion. This means Uncle Sam’s Pentagon is sopping up nearly as much money as all state, county, city, and other governmental units spend to run the country.
If the Pentagon figure of $1 trillion is somewhat less than all other taxing authorities, keep in mind the FBI, the various intelligence agencies, the VA, the National Institutes of Health (biological warfare) are also spending on war-related activities.
A question that describes the above and answers itself is: In what area can the Federal government operate where states and cities cannot tread? The answer is: foreign affairs---raising armies, fighting wars, conducting diplomacy, etc. And so Uncle Sam keeps enlarging this area. His emphasis is not on diplomacy, either.
For every buck spent by the State Department, which gets some $50 billion a year, the Pentagon spends $20. As for the Peace Corps, its budget is a paltry $375 million---hardly enough to keep the Pentagon elephant in peanuts.
New ASVAB Website & Push for MD Law to Protect Students' Privacy
By Pat Elder
Check out this new website on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, ASVAB.
This is a fantastic resource dedicated to everything ASVAB. The site contains an excellent overview of the issue, news articles about military testing, and compelling resources for students, parents and school officials. There is also an impressive collection of military documents pertaining to the administration of the ASVAB program. This is an excellent resource activists can use for reaching out to school administrators and state legislators.
ASVAB legislation will again be introduced in the Maryland General Assembly for the upcoming session. Several activists affiliated with the Maryland Coalition to Protect Student Privacy have launched a state-wide lobbying campaign to pass a bill that would preclude the ASVAB from being used to recruit youth for military service from Maryland's high schools. We'll be calling on you to help! In the meantime, here's the rationale behind the law:
The Case for Legislation Protecting the Privacy of Maryland Public High School Students Who Take the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)
The ASVAB has been administered by the Department of Defense in Maryland's public high schools for nearly 40 years, long before the passage of the Family Educational Rights Protection Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, both of which contain requirements for opt-out notifications in releases of student information. The administration of the ASVAB program in Maryland's schools denies parents the right to stop their child's personal information from being released to a third party, in this case, the Department of Defense.
Legislation designed to protect the privacy of 6,800 students who take the ASVAB in 156 public high schools throughout Maryland will be introduced in the Maryland General Assembly this year.
Protest on the ice at the mansion of United Health Group's CEO, Stepthen Hemsley
On Saturday morning, 12/19/09, eight of us met at the intersection of Shoreline Drive and Ferndale Road West, about ¾ mile from the 7.8 million dollar Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota mansion of United Health Group CEO Stephen Hemsley. We had to spend some time at this location waiting for everyone to find their way to this meeting place. So we put up some of our banners and talked to passers by.
Not shown in these photos was a banner that really upset some of the locals that said, “HOME OF INS. BANDIT S. HEMSLEY”. Some of the people in the neighborhood supported us, but this guy was pretty upset!
Part II concludes an account of Obama's betrayal, not promised change.
Obamacare Plans to Ration Healthcare and Enrich Big Providers
After House passage in November, the Senate is now about to pass a stealth scheme to ration care and enrich insurers, the drug cartel, and large hospital chains, the way Washington always works.
It plans market-based solutions, featuring cost-containing measures, mostly affecting working Americans, the poor, elderly, and chronically ill to make a dysfunctional system worse, under the guise of reform, the most dangerous and deceptive word in the language to take cover from when announced.
Besides enriching providers, Obamacare will force millions to pay more, get less, with millions still uninsured and left out. Employers will be able to opt out of providing coverage, but since insurance for most will be mandated, those without it will have to buy it or face hundreds of dollars in penalties, whether or not they can afford it. Even with a public option, looking less likely, insurers will get to skim off the cream, charge what they wish, profit handsomely at low risk, and leave Washington stuck with ones industry doesn't want. For providers, it's a win-win under any version being considered.
Most disturbing are planned Medicare cuts, around $400 - $570 billion, depending on which numbers are most accurate, and these are for starters, a foot in the door if enacted, toward the long-term aim ending Medicare, then Medicaid and Social Security because, at $106 trillion in unfunded liabilities, budget constraints can't sustain them.
The Congressional Budget Office's June 2009 "Long-Term Budget Outlook" suggests a nation in decline, eventual hyperinflation, possible bankruptcy because of a greater national debt than during the Great Depression and near-surpassing WW II. The administration's solution - end entitlements over 100 million Americans rely on, but it still may be too little, too late given an overstretched budget, a weakening dollar, and foreign investors looking for safer returns on their capital, so are less willing to fund Washington's excesses.
In Obama's America, the least advantaged will carry the load, not privileged elites, but don't expect congressional opposition to stop him or news reports to explain it.
Obama's Permanent War Agenda
Glenn Greenwald, on Democracy Now:
Well, the whole point of the public option originally was that if you’re going to mandate that people buy health insurance, then it is only a legitimate and moral thing to do if you actually provide them with a public-run program, so that the health insurance industry, which is notorious for gouging people and for engaging in all sorts of nefarious business practices, can’t use the mandate to essentially get 30 million new customers and then gouge them for profits while providing them with virtually no services.
And the argument of Howard Dean and others is that this bill actually does more harm than good. The argument is not, well, since it’s not pure enough ideologically or it’s not perfect, it should be defeated; the argument is that it actually does more harm than good, because it reinforces the monopoly status of the private healthcare industry and, at the same time, forces huge numbers of Americans, many of whom will not be able to afford it, to buy products that are inadequate and that they do not want. It perpetuates the very system that supposedly was the impetus in the first place for healthcare reform to pass.
Lithuania's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday rejected a report from lawmakers saying the country had hosted secret CIA prisons as part of the "war on terror."
"There are neither facts nor information that secret CIA detention centers existed in Lithuania," the ministry said in a statement, contradicting Amnesty International statements a day earlier based on a report by Lithuanian lawmakers.
"It has neither concluded that the territory of Lithuania was used to transfer persons under suspicion of terrorism nor that such persons had been brought in or transported from the territory of Lithuania," the Foreign Ministry said of the parliamentary report.
Amnesty International said a day earlier that the former Soviet republic, now a NATO member, had become the first country to admit it hosted secret CIA detention centers for terror suspects. Read more.
Peace Activists to Set Up Encampment in Washington
By Scott Galindez | Truthout
In August of 2005, Cindy Sheehan, who had lost her son in Iraq, set up camp outside George Bush's vacation home in Crawford, Texas. She had a simple question; she wanted to know what the "noble cause" was for which her son had died. Thousands of people joined Cindy in Crawford, and Camp Casey became a national story that breathed new life into the antiwar movement.
In March of 2010, Cindy Sheehan and other activists from a group calling itself "Peace of the Action" will be converging on Washington, DC, to set up a camp on the National Mall.
When asked how long the encampment will last, Sheehan responded, "as long as it takes, that will be up to the government; we are prepared to stay until our demands are met."
Sheehan went on to say that the demands are simple, "troops out of the Middle East, which includes drones, permanent bases, contractors and torture/detention facilities."
Sheehan said that she has known for years that the peace movement needs to take bolder action and that the group's goal will be to hold multiple civil resistance actions daily throughout the nation's capital.
Sheehan said that participants will be asked to adhere to agreed-upon nonviolence guidelines while standing up and resisting against what she called the "robber class."
She said they will also be reaching out to the homeless in DC by providing them food and clothing. "While there are a lot of long time homeless people with mental illnesses, increasingly there are people joining the ranks of the homeless for purely economic reasons stemming from the war economy" said Sheehan.
Senate Republicans, defeated at every turn thus far in their bid to prevent Senate passage of a health care bill before Christmas, are digging into their parliamentary tool chest.
John Ensign, R-Nev., lodged a constitutional point of order against the legislation on Tuesday, claiming its mandate that individuals purchase health insurance or pay a penalty falls outside the scope of congressional powers enumerated in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution. It also violates the Fifth Amendment’s ban on the taking of private property for public purposes “without just compensation,” Ensign asserted.
While the Senate is unlikely to uphold his challenge, Ensign raised points that could very well resurface in litigation if the legislation becomes law.
The Senate will vote on Ensign’s challenge Wednesday. Read more.
The Lithuanian government has concluded that the CIA operated a secret "black site" in Lithuania for high-level Al Qaeda detainees, and that a second secret CIA facility was established in the heart of the capital city of Vilnius. The government began an investigation after an exclusive ABC News report that the CIA operated a secret black site prison for terror suspects in the Baltic country in 2004 and 2005.
In a report released Tuesday, the National Security Committee of the Lithuanian parliament recommended that intelligence officials be criminally investigated for their role in establishing the prisons. In addition to the prison outside Vilnius that was located and revealed by ABC News, the report says that Lithuanian intelligence made a guesthouse in downtown Vilnius available for CIA use as early as 2002, though they could not prove that it had been used.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius criticized the U.S. government for establishing the prisons, saying it had manipulated Lithuanian officials with "essentially Soviet methods" into breaking the law. However, he suggested that the second prison, which could only hold one prisoner in a single cell, had never been used. Read more.
Break the CIA in Two
By Ray McGovern
After the CIA-led fiasco at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961, President John Kennedy was quoted as saying he wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces and scatter it into the winds.” I can understand his anger, but a thousand is probably too many.
Better is a Solomon solution; divide the CIA in two. That way we can throw out the bath water and keep the baby.
Covert action and analysis do not belong together in the same agency—never have, never will. That these two very different tasks were thrown together is an accident of history, one that it is high time to acknowledge and to fix.
The effects of this structural fault became clear to President Harry Truman as he watched the agency at work in its first decade and a half. He was aghast.
Like oil on water, covert action fouls the wellspring of objective analysis—the main task for which Truman and the Congress established the CIA in 1947. The operational tail started wagging the substantive tail almost right away. It has done so ever since—with very unfortunate consequences.
An accident of history? How so?
Covert action practitioners, many of whom showed great courage and imagination in the European and Far Eastern theaters of World War II arrived home wondering whether there was still a call for their expertise. With the Soviet Union taking over large chunks of Europe and the KGB plying its covert-action wares worldwide, the question answered itself; a counter capability was needed.
The big mistake was shoehorning it into an agency being created to fulfill an entirely different mission. As former CIA senior analyst Mel Goodman points out in his most recent book, Failure of Intelligence, there was uncertainty and confusion over where to place responsibility for this capability.
The term “covert action” is a euphemism covering the broad genus of dirty tricks, from overthrowing governments (we now blithely call that particular species “regime change”) to open but nonattributable broadcasting into denied areas.
Secretary of Defense James Forrestal didn’t want the Pentagon to be responsible for covert action in peacetime. And, to their credit, neither did senior leaders of the fledgling CIA. They were no neophytes, and could see that covert operations might easily end up tainting the intelligence product if one Director were responsible for the two incompatible activities.
The experience of the past 62 years has showed, time and time again, that their concern was well founded, as the covert action side has not only polluted substantive analysis but also expanded into high-tech warfare.
Inside the Military Media Industrial Complex: Impacts on Movements for Peace and Social Justice
By Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff | Dissident Voice
The American people face a serious moral dilemma. Murder and war crimes have been conducted in their name. Yet most Americans have no idea of the magnitude of deaths and tend to believe that they number in the thousands and are primarily Iraqis killing Iraqis. Corporate mainstream media are in large part to blame. The question then becomes how can this mass ignorance and corporate media deception exist in the United States and what impact does this have on peace and social justice movements in the country?3
Among the most important corporate media censored news stories of the past decade, one must be that over one million people have died because of the United States military invasion and occupation of Iraq. This, of course, does not include the number of deaths from the first Gulf War nor the ensuing sanctions placed upon the country of Iraq that, combined, caused close to an additional one million Iraqi deaths. In the Iraq War, which began in March of 2003, over a million people have died violently primarily from US bombings and neighborhood patrols. These were deaths in excess of the normal civilian death rate under the prior government. Among US military leaders and policy elites, the issue of counting the dead was dismissed before the Iraqi invasion even began. In an interview with reporters in late March of 2002 US General Tommy Franks stated, “You know we don’t do body counts.”1 Fortunately, for those concerned about humanitarian costs of war and empire, others do.
In a January 2008 report, the British polling group Opinion Research Business (ORB) reported that, “survey work confirms our earlier estimate that over 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have died as a result of the conflict which started in 2003." We now estimate that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been of the order of 1,033,000. If one takes into account the margin of error associated with survey data of this nature then the estimated range is between 946,000 and 1,120,000.”2
The ORB report came on the heels of two earlier studies conducted by Dr. Les Roberts and colleagues at Johns Hopkins University and published in the Lancet medical journal. The first study done from January 1, 2002 to March 18, 2003 confirmed civilian deaths at that time at over 100,000. The second study published in October 2006 documented over 650,000 civilian deaths in Iraq since the start of the US invasion and confirmed that US aerial bombing in civilian neighborhoods caused over a third of these deaths. Over half the deaths were directly attributable to US forces. The now estimated 1.2 million dead six years into the war/occupation, included children, parents, grandparents, cab drivers, clerics and schoolteachers. All manner of ordinary Iraqis have died because the United States decided to invade their country under false pretenses of undiscovered weapons of mass destruction and in violation of international law. An additional four to five million Iraqi refugees have fled their homes. The magnitude of these million-plus deaths and creation of such a vast refugee crisis is undeniable. The continuing occupation by US forces has guaranteed a monthly mass death rate of thousands of people a carnage that ranks among the most heinous mass killings in world history. More tons of bombs have been dropped in Iraq than in all of World War II.2 Six years later the casualties continue but the story, barely reported from the start, has vanished. Read more.
BlackBoxVoting's Bev Harris Walks Us Through the DOJ Anti-Trust Probe of ES&S
By Joan Brunwasser | Op Ed News
Joan Brunwasser reports: I'm happy to have with me Bev Harris, intrepid investigative journalist and founder of the non-profit elections watchdog group, BlackBoxVoting.org. Welcome to OpEdNews, Bev. Interesting developments in the election world these days. Would you care to walk us through the latest regarding the ES&S acquisition of its competitor Diebold (now known as Premier)?
Oh yes. Big things are happening here. The US. Dept. of Justice (USDOJ) has just announced that it has opened an antitrust investigation into the ES&S/Diebold deal.
In September, megamonster voting machine company Election Systems & Software (ES&S) acquired Diebold's Premier Election Solutions. BlackBoxVoting.org prepared a formal complaint to elicit action by the US Department of Justice.
The USDOJ needed specific information in order to ascertain that the acquisition would "overconcentrate" the elections industry. They use a formula called the Herfindahl Index for this. Unfortunately, the only thing the USDOJ can use is precise figures based on official sources, and there are over 5,000 jurisdictions. Getting the data is no picnic, and you can't just use something published on someone's Web site. So Black Box Voting compiled data from our many Freedom of Information documents and produced a sourced, detailed chart proving overconcentration of the industry. Read more.
Voting-machine firm merger investigated
Florida's attorney general is investigating a voting-machine company merger that has voting-rights groups worried that the move will concentrate too much power over democracy in one private company.
By Marc Caputo | Miami Herald
TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is conducting an anti-trust investigation of a voting-machine company merger that would create a near-monopoly over the levers of democracy in Florida and much of the United States.
McCollum's office has issued at least six subpoenas covering every major voting-machine company as part of a civil investigation of Election Systems & Software's $5 million acquisition of Diebold Inc.'s elections division -- a merger that would give a private company too much power over the machines used to castvotes, voting-rights groups say.
``Our office engaged in this issue because anti-competitive behavior can seriously harm consumers,'' McCollum said in a written statement. ``Competitive behavior encourages the best products be available to consumers, including technology, particularly in a market as sensitive as the voting systems market.''
Under the state's 1980 anti-trust law, McCollum could persuade a court to levy fines against ES&S or prevent the company from operating in Florida. By next year, the company is expected to be the exclusive provider of voting machines and services in 65 of the 67 counties in Florida, the nation's most important swing state.
That means, under the acquisition announced Sept. 2, ES&S will provide election services to 92 percent of Florida's 11.2 million voters. Read more.
U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Wins "National Scrooge Of The Year;" CEO Tom Donohue Meets With President Of China To Outsource Jobs
U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Winner of National “Scrooge Of The Year” Award While Its CEO Tom Donohue Meets With President Of China To Outsource American Jobs.If you have not joined our Stop The Chamber campaign, please sign onto it here.
With Christmas right around the corner, we wanted to let all of you know that the focus of one of our campaigns, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, has just been named winner of the “National Scrooge of the Year Award.” Each year, the national organization Jobs with Justice gives an ‘award’ to the greediest, most cold-hearted company or person to be its “Scrooge of the Year.” This year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce won by a large margin.
As Jobs with Justice says, "This Scrooge likes you to think it is the voice of American business. But in reality, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce -- and its CEO Tom Donohue -- are pushing a narrow, radical agenda. The Chamber is the ultimate Scrooge. Not only will Tom Donohue fight hard to put a lump of coal in your stocking at taxpayer expense, but it will claim that the lump of coal represents the voice of American business and is good for you.”
"There was plenty of competition for the award this year," said Jobs with Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta, "but the similarities between Scrooge and the Chamber of Commerce were hard to beat. The ghost of years past would show that the policies they've promoted including deregulation and maximizing profits at the expense of workers are directly connected to the destruction of America's middle class.”
This award coincides with reports that Tom Donohue has been meeting with the president of China in order to promote the outsourcing of American jobs. As Mr. Donohue told the publication Venture Outsource, outsourcing is good for business and the Chamber is “fighting to preserve their right to [outsource].”
Our Stop The Chamber campaign is working to expose the extremist agenda of the Chamber and its CEO. The vast majority of small and large businesses do not support the Chamber’s radical polices against health care for all, environmental protection, and financial regulation. In fact, Chamber polices are determined by a select few big business insiders without any board or membership approval. And we know that those insiders are controlled a mere handful for the worst polluters, robber barons, and failures in modern history. With millions of Americans out of work, it is outrageous that the Chamber is going to Communist China to outsource jobs and spending $100 million to oppose initiatives that will help every American citizen.
We urge all of you to join our call for a federal criminal investigation into the actions of the Chamber and the Chamber CEO, Tom Donohue. When you sign on at www.stopthechamber.com, you are asking member companies to quit the Chamber and Congress to hold hearings on the Chamber’s misrepresentations, controlling donors, and unethical conduct.
Please make a donation to us here so we can continue our campaign to expose the Chamber. And send this alert to your friends asking them to sign on. We need everyone to speak up in order to stop the Chamber’s pay-to-play lobbying. Let's get the Chamber out of our way as we work to clean up the environment, provide health care for all, and have honest and transparent elections.
US forces mounted secret Pakistan raids in hunt for al-Qaida
Former Nato officer reveals secret night operations in border region which America kept quiet
By Declan Walsh | Guardian.co.UK
American special forces have conducted multiple clandestine raids into Pakistan's tribal areas as part of a secret war in the border region where Washington is pressing to expand its drone assassination programme.
A former Nato officer said the incursions, only one of which has been previously reported, occurred between 2003 and 2008, involved helicopter-borne elite soldiers stealing across the border at night, and were never declared to the Pakistani government.
"The Pakistanis were kept entirely in the dark about it. It was one of those things we wouldn't confirm officially with them," said the source, who had detailed knowledge of the operations.
Such operations are a matter of sensitivity in Pakistan. While public opinion has grudgingly tolerated CIA-led drone strikes in the tribal areas, any hint of American "boots on the ground" is greeted with virulent condemnation. Read more.
Most liberals, myself included, have become progressively disenchanted with President Obama since the beginning of his administration. With the recent health care debacle that disenchantment has reached such an intensity that for the first time I consider it unlikely that he will be re-elected. Therefore, barring unforeseen circumstances, I am hoping to see a serious challenge to his re-nomination from the Democratic left.
The main reason for our disenchantment has been Obama's turn to the center or center-right since being elected: His decision to "look forward" rather than prosecute Bush administration officials for their use of arbitrary incarceration, torture, and preemptive war seemed inconsistent with his outspokenness against these crimes as a U.S. Senator; his rhetoric in favor of fair trade during his campaign gave way to following the advice of his free trade advisors as President; his campaign pledges to focus on relief for homeowners gave way to a massive bailout of Wall Street as President; and most recently, his campaign promise to offer public health insurance to all Americans was dropped as President. Read more.
The Chamber’s narrow, radical agenda advocating for anti-worker, profit-focused solutions to the broken health care, labor, and environmental systems garnered them the most votes for the national Jobs with Justice “Scrooge of the Year” award.
Thousands of votes were cast in the Jobs with Justice annual contest to determine which greedy, cold-hearted organization or person deserves the title “Scrooge of the Year.” Voters chose the Chamber of Commerce as their winner this year as it’s became increasingly clear that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has developed into a front group for a few narrow interests, not a membership association that represents the voice of mainstream American businesses. The Chamber has spent millions of dollars lobbying against legislation that would benefit workers and families like the Employee Free Choice Act, health insurance reform, paid sick days, and environmental regulations. Their extreme positions have led some companies and local chapters of the Chamber to disaffiliate from the national group.
This year’s Scrooge contest pitted the Chamber of Commerce against Bank of America, nominated for their role in the sub-prime lending crisis and failure to extend credit to small businesses, Hyatt Hotels for their Scrooge-like firing of 100 housekeepers in Boston and other anti-worker actions, Publix Supermarkets for their resisting the call to be part of the solution to human rights violations in Florida fields by continuing to buy tomatoes from growers prosecuted for modern-day slavery, and student loan lenders Sallie Mae and Citibank for their expensive, variable rate loans for students. An impressive write-in campaign was also waged for United Airlines, for their slashing of workers’ wages and pensions while continuing to award lavish bonuses to top executives.
“There was plenty of competition for the award this year,” said Jobs with Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta. “But the similarities between Scrooge and the Chamber of Commerce were hard to beat. The ghost of years past would show that the policies they’ve promoted including deregulation and maximizing profits at the expense of workers are directly connected to the destruction of America’s middle class.”
Throughout the country, many people remain unemployed and more are working harder and longer than ever before to make ends meet, as highlighted in our recently released report examining the impact of the economic crisis on working people.
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.
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)
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
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.