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Corporatism and Fascism
Corporatism and Fascism
Exclusive: Check Fees, ATM Charges, Monthly Service Fees Hit Record Highs
Public Outrage as Banks Squeeze More and More From Consumers
By Elisabeth Leamy, Vanessa Weber and Suzan Clarke | ABC News
Bounced-check fees, ATM surcharges and monthly checking account service charges have soared to record highs, according to a Bankrate.com study released today in an exclusive story on "Good Morning America."
In a growing trend, bounced-check fees increased 2.1 percent to an average of $29.58 -- and that's just the cost of the first bounced check.
"Banks have become reliant on fee income as a way to diversify their revenue over the last decade or so," said Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com. "That strategy is paying dividends, but it's coming at the cost to consumers who don't have good financial habits."
In the August survey of large, small and online banking institutions across the nation, Bankrate.com found that 26 percent of banks used a tiered structure to impose progressively higher fees for multiple overdrafts during a 12-month period. The average climbs to nearly $34 for the second, third and fourth bounced checks. Read more.
The FBI has released its Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide (DIOG), an internal policy document that explains how FBI agents would implement the unconstitutionally broad surveillance powers of the 2008 Mukasey Attorney General Guidelines (AGGs). One particularly bizarre provision allows the FBI to violate the AGGs without approval from, or notice to, the Attorney General. The DIOG, written on December 16, 2008, was released with heavy redactions late Friday as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Muslim Advocates.
The original Attorney General Guidelines were adopted in the mid-1970’s to limit the FBI’s investigative authority after it was discovered that the agency was engaged in widespread abuses and violations of constitutional rights – including politically-motivated spying on figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. Mukasey’s 2008 AGGs are much broader and allow FBI agents to use paid informants, spy on a person’s activities or engage in other types of intrusive surveillance without “factual predication” – that is, without probable cause or any evidence of wrongdoing.
Majority of Top Contractors Could be Defunded by House Legislation | Press Release
Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
Last week, the House inadvertently took a large step forward in protecting taxpayers from misbehaving contractors. The House passed the "Student Aid" bill (H.R. 3221) that also included a ban on entities receiving any federal contracts or grants if they have "filed a fraudulent form with any Federal or State regulatory agency." Although intended to restrict ACORN, a nationwide community support organization, the language could be interpreted to cover all federal contractors and grantees.
"Without meaning to, the House took a landmark step in holding federal contractors accountable," observed POGO's executive director Danielle Brian. "Last year, we were fighting for a repeat offender provision to protect taxpayers from contractors with a pattern of misconduct. Members must have woken up on the other side of the bed because they revisited the issue and produced an improved accountability provision."
The Senate has yet to propose the broader contractor accountability language despite passing a provision to prevent ACORN from receiving certain housing and urban development appropriations (S. Amend. 2394 to H.R. 2996).
POGO's Federal Contractor Misconduct Database compiles instances of misconduct for the top contractors that have together received over $260 billion in FY 2007. Those same contractors have racked up over 750 instances of misconduct and paid over $27 billion in fines or penalties since 1995. A survey of that data shows that 62 federal contractors (listed below) have been involved in instances that might prohibit them from receiving future federal funds if the "Defund ACORN Act" becomes law. For example:
Boeing: Boeing agreed to pay the United States up to $54 million to settle two lawsuits that alleged it placed defective gears in CH-47D Chinook helicopters sold to the Army.
G20 Media Support & Accountability Project | Press Release
ACTIVISTS, STUDENTS & JOURNALISTS REJECT CITY'S G-20 BOASTS
Excessive Force, Canceled Permits, Police State Conditions Spark Outrage
"It's like martial law, but not." Riot officer caught on film justifying
take over of University of Pittsburgh student dormitory
"It was a huge success because minimizing any of the disruption that
could have happened like other cities, it allowed us continue to get out
the positive message overall." Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan
Onorato at Monday's Post G-2o Press Event
Pittsburgh - On Tuesday, local protest organizers, students and
journalists slammed City of Pittsburgh attempts to white-wash the police
state conditions and abuse of powers in the weeks preceding and during
the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh.
"The issue of G-20 police abuses is not just about Thursday or Friday's
police violence but the systematic shut down and abuse of Constitutional
rights that occurred for weeks leading up to those days," explained
attorney Jules Lobel, a Pittsburgh law professor and Vice President of
the Center for Constitutional Rights.
The banking bust is getting mighty costly.
Bank regulators on Tuesday sharply raised their estimate of the cost of cleaning up after bank failures -- and proposed sending the industry a $45 billion tab to shore up the dwindling deposit insurance fund.
The staff of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said it expects expenses tied to failed banks to surge to $100 billion over five years -- up 43% from the agency's last estimate in May.
As a result of the rising costs and the pressures on the agency's cash position, the FDIC proposed that banks prepay their deposit insurance premiums for the next three years at the end of December.
The move would head off a cash crunch at the fund that stands behind consumers' bank deposits.
The FDIC said the fund, under strain from 95 bank failures this year, will have a negative balance when the third quarter ends Wednesday and will run out of cash by the end of the first quarter next year. Over the past year, the deposit insurance fund balance has dropped to $10 billion from $45 billion. Read more.
Army Prisoners Isolated, Denied Right to Legal Counsel
By Dahr Jamail | Truthout | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
Afghanistan war resister Travis Bishop has been held largely "incommunicado" in the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Lewis, Washington.
Bishop, who is being held by the military as a "prisoner of conscience," according to Amnesty International, was transported to Fort Lewis on September 9 to serve a 12-month sentence in the Regional Correctional Facility. He had refused orders to deploy to Afghanistan based on his religious beliefs, and had filed for Conscientious Objector (CO) status.
Bishop, who served a 13-month deployment to Iraq and was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, was court marshaled by the Army for his refusal to deploy to Afghanistan. Given that he had already filed for CO status, many local observers called his sentencing a "politically driven prosecution."
By holding Bishop incommunicado, the military violated Bishop's legal right to counsel, a violation of the Sixth Amendment to the US Constitution, according to his civil defense attorney James Branum.
The Sixth Amendment is the part of the Bill of Rights that sets forth rights related to criminal prosecutions in federal courts, and reads, "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."
Attorney LeGrande Jones, who practices in Olympia and was designated by Branum as the local counsel for Bishop, was also denied access to Bishop, on the grounds that Jones was on an unnamed and unobtainable "watch-list," which constitutes deprivation of counsel.
Jones was denied entry to Fort Lewis and told he would never be allowed to enter the base. Fort Lewis authorities never gave him a reason for his being denied access to the base and his client. To this, Branum told Truthout, "Fort Lewis authorities have a duty to tell LeGrande the reasons why he is being barred from Fort Lewis, and therefore [barred] from communicating with his client in the Fort Lewis brig."
Until September 18, Bishop's condition was unclear due to his having been completely cut off from the public. Read more.
Coalition Works to Defeat 3 "Health Care" Provisions: "Non-Medical" Care; 1984's "Conscience Clause" & "Abstinence Only" Funds
Sean Faircloth, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of America wrote:
I write to let you know that the Secular Coalition for America is working to defeat three proposed amendments to the Senate Finance Committee's health care bill that would alter public policy to privilege religious people. These amendments are in some House versions as well.
Of great concern is a bipartisan amendment sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and John Kerry (D-Mass.) that would require private and public health plans to cover all "spiritual care" - whether or not the individual has religous objections to medical care. This proposed funding undermines our Constitution and will open up your tax dollars to scam artists.
This amendment will make an existing problem worse. Religious people who object to medical care already have some "spiritual care" covered by Medicare and Medicaid. This "spiritual care" includes reimbursements for payments that Christian Scientists make to members of the Church who pray for them when they are ill. Numerous children have died while receiving this "spiritual care" when modern science would easily have saved their lives. And you helped pay!
Under the new amendment, all health plans would be obligated to cover such expenses. The Hatch-Kerry bill amendment doesn't stop there, expanding this practice to all Americans, regardless of whether or not they object to medical care. Tax payers would help foot the bill for this religion-based care, care offering no scientific evidence of effectiveness. "Care" which, in fact, endangers lives by placing government approval on non-scientific practices.
Should Obama actually change his mind about Afghanistan, our elite journalists -- obsessed as they are with how the game is played -- will almost inevitably characterize this as vacillation and declare it a sign of political weakness. But that really misses the point.
The most important thing to keep in mind here is that over the last several months, what's emerged when it comes to Afghan policy is a sort of consensus of the realists -- from across the political spectrum. The consensus: That our national interests in Afghanistan are pretty limited and that the harder we try to change things over there, the more resistance we face; that Afghanistan, after eight years of U.S. occupation, has become a Vietnam-like quagmire where escalation only leads to more escalation, not victory; and that what little we could possibly accomplish there is not worth more American blood.
Pretty much the only people left supporting a massive sustained military approach (no matter how cleverly retooled) are the neocons, the reflexive Obama supporters, and the military commanders charged with carrying it out. Otherwise, a wide swath of experts and politicians -- not to mention a significant majority of the American public -- have concluded that our interests are best served at this point by getting out and certainly not by sending more troops in.
Alan Grayson, Bernie Sanders, Ron Paul and others keep hammering away at this whole Fed-secrecy issue, and every now and then we get some pretty interesting exchanges. Zero Hedge relates this one between Grayson and Fed counsel Scott Alvarez. It’s becoming abundantly clear that at some point we’re going to start to hear details about monstrous front-running operations involving the major banks on Wall Street. Read more.
Obama’s decision, whichever it is, will demand all the wisdom and political courage he can muster. If he adds combat troops, he’ll be extending a deteriorating eight-year-long war without a majority of his country or his own party behind him. He’ll have to explain why more American lives should be yoked to the Karzai “government.” He’ll have to be honest in estimating the cost. (The Iraq war, which the Bush administration priced at $50 to $60 billion, is at roughly $1 trillion and counting.) He will have to finally ask recession-battered Americans what his predecessor never did: How much — and what — are you willing to sacrifice in blood and treasure for the mission?...
Either way, it’s up to the president to decide what he thinks is right for the country’s security, the politics be damned. That he has temporarily pressed the pause button to think it through while others, including some of his own generals, try to lock him in is not a sign of indecisiveness but of confidence and strength.
The most intriguing, and possibly most fateful, news of last week could not be found in the health care horse-trading in Congress, or in the international zoo at the United Nations, or in the Iran slapdown in Pittsburgh. It was an item tucked into a blog at ABCNews.com. George Stephanopoulos reported that the new “must-read book” for President Obama’s war team is “Lessons in Disaster” by Gordon M. Goldstein, a foreign-policy scholar who had collaborated with McGeorge Bundy, the Kennedy-Johnson national security adviser, on writing a Robert McNamara-style mea culpa about his role as an architect of the Vietnam War.
Bundy left his memoir unfinished at his death in 1996. Goldstein’s book, drawn from Bundy’s ruminations and deep new research, is full of fresh information on how the best and the brightest led America into the fiasco. “Lessons in Disaster” caused only a modest stir when published in November, but The Times Book Review cheered it as “an extraordinary cautionary tale for all Americans.” The reviewer was, of all people, the diplomat Richard Holbrooke, whose career began in Vietnam and who would later be charged with the Afghanistan-Pakistan crisis by the new Obama administration.
Holbrooke’s verdict on “Lessons in Disaster” was not only correct but more prescient than even he could have imagined. This book’s intimate account of White House decision-making is almost literally being replayed in Washington (with Holbrooke himself as a principal actor) as the new president sets a course for the war in Afghanistan. The time for all Americans to catch up with this extraordinary cautionary tale is now. Read more.
Your electronic vote in the 2010 election has just been bought
by Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman | Free Press
Unless US Attorney General Eric Holder intervenes, your electronic vote in 2010 will probably be owned by the Republican-connected ES&S Corporation. With 80% ownership of America's electronic voting machines, ES&S could have the power to shape America's future with a few proprietary keystrokes.
ES&S has just purchased the voting machine division of the Ohio-based Diebold, whose role in fixing the 2004 presidential election for George W. Bush is infamous.
Critics of the merger hope Holder will rescind the purchase on anti-trust grounds.
But only a transparent system totally based on hand-counted paper ballots, with universal automatic voter registration, can get us even remotely close to a reliable vote count in the future.
For even if Holder does void this purchase, ES&S and Diebold will still control four of every five votes cast on touchscreen machines. As the US Supreme Court seems poised to open the floodgates on corporate campaign spending, the only difference could be that those who would buy our elections will have to write two checks instead of one.
And in fact, it's even worse than that. ES&S, Diebold and a tiny handful of sibling Republican voting equipment and computing companies control not only the touchscreen machines, but also the electronic tabulators that count millions of scantron ballots, AND the electronic polling books that decide who gets to vote and who doesn't.
Let's do a quick review:
1) ES&S, Diebold and other companies tied to election hardware and software are owned and operated by a handful of very wealthy conservatives, or right-to-life ideologues, with long-standing direct ties to the Republican Party;
2) As votes will be increasingly cast on optiscans, touchscreens or computer voting machines in the United States in 2010, what scant few so-called paper trail mechanisms that are in place will offer little security against electronic vote theft;
3) The source code on all US touchscreen machines now used for the casting and counting of ballots is proprietary, meaning the companies that own and operate the machines---including ES&S---are not required to share with the public the details of how those machines actually work; Read more.
NLG Observes Improper Use of Force by Law Enforcement at the G-20 | Press Release
PITTSBURGH, PA - September 25 - National Lawyers Guild members witnessed first-hand yesterday the unwarranted display and use of force by police in residential neighborhoods, often far from any protest activity.
Police deployed chemical irritants, including CS gas, and long-range acoustic devices (LRAD) in residential neighborhoods on narrow streets where families and small children were exposed. Scores of riot police formed barricades at many intersections throughout neighborhoods miles away from the downtown area and the David Lawrence Convention Center. Outside the Courtyard Marriott in Shadyside, police deployed smoke bombs in the absence of protest activity, forcing bystanders and hotel residents to flee the area.
So you, as a citizen, want to run for a seat in the House of Representatives? Well, you may be too late. Back in 1990, according to OpenSecrets.org, a website of the Center for Responsive Politics, the average cost of a winning campaign for the House was $407,556. Pocket change for your average citizen. But that was so twentieth century. The average cost for winning a House seat in 2008: almost $1.4 million. Keep in mind, as well, that most of those House seats don't change hands, because in the American democratic system of the twenty-first century, incumbents basically don't lose, they retire or die.
In 2008, 403 incumbents ran for seats in the House and 380 of them won. Just to run a losing race last year would have cost you, on average, $492,928, almost $100,000 more than it cost to win in 1990. As for becoming a Senator? Not in your wildest dreams, unless you have some really good pals in pharmaceuticals and health care ($236,022,031 in lobbying paid out in 2008), insurance ($153,694,224), or oil and gas ($131,978,521). A winning senatorial seat came in at a nifty $8,531,267 and a losing seat at $4,130,078 in 2008. In other words, you don't have a hope in hell of being a loser in the American Congressional system, and what does that make you?
Of course, if you're a young, red-blooded American, you may have set your sights a little higher. So you want to be president? In that case, just to be safe for 2012, you probably should consider raising somewhere in the range of one billion dollars. After all, the 2008 campaign cost Barack Obama's team approximately $730 million and the price of a place at the table just keeps going up. Of course, it helps to know the right people. Last year, the total lobbying bill, including money that went out for electoral campaigns and for lobbying Congress and federal agencies, came to $3.3 billion and almost 9 months into 2009, another $1.63 billion has already gone out without an election in sight.
Let's face it. At the national level, this is what American democracy comes down to today, and this is what George W. Bush & Co. were so infernally proud to export by force of arms to Afghanistan and Iraq. This is why we need to think about the questions that Arundhati Roy -- to my mind, a heroic figure in a rather unheroic age -- raises about democracy globally in an essay adapted from the introduction to her latest book. That book, Field Notes on Democracy: Listening to Grasshoppers, has just been published (with one essay included that originally appeared at TomDispatch). Let's face it, she's just one of those authors -- I count Eduardo Galeano as another -- who must be read. Need I say more? Tom
What Have We Done to Democracy?
Of Nearsighted Progress, Feral Howls, Consensus, Chaos, and a New Cold War in Kashmir
By Arundhati Roy
While we're still arguing about whether there's life after death, can we add another question to the cart? Is there life after democracy? What sort of life will it be? By "democracy" I don't mean democracy as an ideal or an aspiration. I mean the working model: Western liberal democracy, and its variants, such as they are.
So, is there life after democracy?
Attempts to answer this question often turn into a comparison of different systems of governance, and end with a somewhat prickly, combative defense of democracy. It's flawed, we say. It isn't perfect, but it's better than everything else that's on offer. Inevitably, someone in the room will say: "Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia... is that what you would prefer?"
Whether democracy should be the utopia that all "developing" societies aspire to is a separate question altogether. (I think it should. The early, idealistic phase can be quite heady.) The question about life after democracy is addressed to those of us who already live in democracies, or in countries that pretend to be democracies. It isn't meant to suggest that we lapse into older, discredited models of totalitarian or authoritarian governance. It's meant to suggest that the system of representative democracy -- too much representation, too little democracy -- needs some structural adjustment.
The question here, really, is what have we done to democracy? What have we turned it into? What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasized into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the free market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximizing profit? Read more.
On August 30, at “Beyond Guantánamo,” an event organized by Cageprisoners, the British resident Binyam Mohamed, who was subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and torture, and was finally released from Guantánamo in February this year, after nearly seven years in US custody, spoke for the first time in public. Binyam talked about Shaker Aamer, the British resident who is still held in Guantánamo, the establishment of the Guantánamo Justice Centre (which I covered here), and the conditions in Guantánamo, and he also urged those in the audience to look inside themselves to discover what they might be able to give to the campaign against injustice. A video of his talk is available above.
Other speakers, whose talks were also recorded (and can be found on the Cageprisoners site here) include former prisoner Sami al-Haj (El-Hajj), speaking about a number of current and former prisoners (with former prisoner Bisher al-Rawi translating), former Guantánamo guard and Muslim convert Terry Holdbrooks, Ahmed Ghappour (an attorney with Reprieve), journalist Yvonne Ridley, and the poet Amir Sulaiman, reading from the book Poems From Guantánamo. Also included is a recitation by former Guantánamo prisoner Moussa Zemmouri. Read more.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation was founded in 2005 by Mikey Weinstein, a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate and Reagan administration White House counsel, after the harassment his own sons faced as Jewish cadets at the academy led him to discover that the fundamentalist Christian takeover of the Air Force Academy was far from an isolated problem.
It was a militarywide issue that needed to be confronted head on. But it quickly became apparent that MRFF's initial mission of protecting the rights of our men and women in uniform was only addressing part of the problem.
The evangelizing and proselytizing of Iraqi and Afghan Muslims by private religious organizations and U.S. military personnel also had to be exposed and stopped -- particularly the materials and media available via the Internet and television that could be used by Islamic extremists as propaganda for recruiting purposes....
Top Ten Ways to Convince the Muslims We're On a Crusade
10. Have top U.S. military officers, Defense Department officials and politicians say we're in a religious war.
9. Have top U.S. military officers appear in a video showing just how Christian the Pentagon is.
8. Plant crosses in Muslim lands and make sure they're big enough to be visible from really far away.
7. Paint crosses and Christian messages on military vehicles and drive them through Iraq. Read more.
Read more about the Austin Decision: The Citizens United Case: Will the Supreme Court Return America to the 19th Century?
Michael Munk was struck by Burl Ross' Letter to the Editor in the Oregonian satirizing the current political climate in which the content of the Pledge of Allegiance seems almost a historical aberration. Below the Letter is Dr. Baer's Short History of the Pledge of Allegiance.
About that Socialist pledge | The Oregonian
In Letters to the editor
September 24, 2009, 8:00PM
Our schoolchildren should never be instructed by their teachers to quote Socialist propaganda -- even to repeat the eloquent words of President Barack Obama.
Imagine an America where classrooms of indoctrinated young students would be directed to stand together every morning, place their hands over their hearts and recite the liberal proclamations of those like avowed Socialist Francis Bellamy, who wrote, in 1892, "I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Not in this America...
The Pledge of Allegiance
A Short History
by Dr. John W. Baer
Francis Bellamy (1855 - 1931), a Baptist minister, wrote the original Pledge in August 1892. He was a Christian Socialist. In his Pledge, he is expressing the ideas of his first cousin, Edward Bellamy, author of the American socialist utopian novels, Looking Backward (1888) and Equality (1897).
Francis Bellamy in his sermons and lectures and Edward Bellamy in his novels and articles described in detail how the middle class could create a planned economy with political, social and economic equality for all. The government would run a peace time economy similar to our present military industrial complex.
Yet, while bending to Republican demands to speak out against a poor people’s group, Obama continued to resist the notion that powerful Republicans from the Bush administration deserved to be investigated for authorizing the use of torture against prisoners in the “war on terror.”
In recent days, the Washington Post, the New York Times and other major news outlets have recounted the “troubled” history of the poor people’s advocacy group ACORN, but left out the five-year anti-ACORN campaign led by White House adviser Karl Rove and other Republican operatives.
Dropped down the memory hole is the fact that ACORN was at the center of the so-called “prosecutor-gate” scandal, when the Bush administration pressured U.S. Attorneys to bring indictments over the grassroots group’s voter-registration drives and then fired some prosecutors who resisted what they viewed as a partisan strategy not supported by solid evidence.
The latest furor over ACORN was touched off by conservative filmmaker James E. O’Keefe III and a right-wing columnist who posed as a couple planning to buy a house for use as a brothel and getting advice from a few ACORN employees, rather than being turned away.
The pair filmed their meetings at ACORN offices with a hidden-camera, producing a video that brought to a fever pitch the long-simmering Republican war against ACORN. The video was trumpeted by Fox News and other right-wing news outlets, starting a stampede in the mainstream press and in Congress, where a majority of panicked Democrats joined the herd in approving legislation to strip ACORN of federal funds. Read more.
Congressman Jim McGovern Calls for U.S. Exit Strategy in Afghanistan
National Call-in Day: No Exit Strategy! Stop the Funding!
Wednesday September 30
To reach the Washington Switchboard: 202-224-3121
Congress is close to final passage of the $625.8 billion 2010 Defense Budget, which contains approximately $128.2 billion to conduct the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through September 2010.
So far the White House has offered no timetable and no “exit strategy” for Afghanistan. To the contrary, General McCrystal is calling for tens of thousands of additional American troops and a long-term commitment, which could tie the United States down in Afghanistan for years to come.
Hummer Owners Claim Moral High Ground To Excuse Overconsumption, Study Finds
Science Daily (Sep 25, 2009) — Hummer drivers believe they are defending America's frontier lifestyle against anti-American critics, according to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
Authors Marius K. Luedicke (University of Innsbruck, Austria), Craig J. Thompson (University of Wisconsin–Madison), and Markus Giesler (York University, Toronto) researched attitudes toward owning and driving Hummers, which have become symbols to many of American greed and wastefulness.
The researchers first investigated anti-consumption sentiments expressed by people who oppose chains like Starbucks and believe they are making a moral choice by shunning consumerism. To these critics, Hummers represent the ills of contemporary society. As one extreme example, on a website, people have posted thousands of photographs of middle fingers directed at Hummer vehicles.
Over the past week U.S. newspapers and television networks have been abuzz with reports that Washington and its NATO allies are planning an unprecedented increase of troops for the war in Afghanistan, even in addition to the 17,000 new American and several thousand NATO forces that have been committed to the war so far this year.
The number, based on as yet unsubstantiated reports of what U.S. and NATO commander Stanley McChrystal and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen have demanded of the White House, range from 10,000 to 45,000.
Fox News has cited figures as high as 45,000 more American soldiers and ABC News as many as 40,000. On September 15 the Christian Science Monitor wrote of "perhaps as many as 45,000."
Front and center in the debate over the Afghan War these days are General Stanley "Stan" McChrystal, Afghan war commander, whose "classified, pre-decisional" and devastating report -- almost eight years and at least $220 billion later, the war is a complete disaster -- was conveniently, not to say suspiciously, leaked to Bob Woodward of the Washington Post by we-know-not-who at a particularly embarrassing moment for Barack Obama; Admiral Michael "Mike" Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has been increasingly vocal about a "deteriorating" war and the need for more American boots on the ground; and the president himself, who blitzed every TV show in sight last Sunday and Monday for his health reform program, but spent significant time expressing doubts about sending more American troops to Afghanistan. ("I'm not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan... or sending a message that America is here for the duration.")
On the other hand, here's someone you haven't seen front and center for a while: General David Petraeus. He was, of course, George W. Bush's pick to lead the president's last-ditch effort in Iraq. He was the poster boy for Bush's military policies in his last two years. He was the highly praised architect and symbol of "the surge." He appeared repeatedly, his chest a mass of medals and ribbons, for heavily publicized, widely televised congressional testimony, complete with charts and graphs, that was meant, at least in part, for the American public. He was the man who, to use an image from that period which has recently resurfaced, managed to synchronize the American and Baghdad "clocks," pacifying for a time both the home and war fronts.
He never met a journalist, as far as we can tell, he didn't want to woo. (And he clearly won over the influential Tom Ricks, then of the Washington Post, who wrote The Gamble, a bestselling paean to him and his sub-commanders.) From the look of it, he's the most political general to come down the pike since, in 1951 in the midst of the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur said his goodbyes to Congress after being cashiered by President Truman for insubordination -- for, in effect, wanting to run his own war and the foreign policy that went with it. It was Petraeus who brought Vietnam-era counterinsurgency doctrine (COIN) back from the crypt, overseeing the writing of a new Army counterinsurgency manual that would make it central to both the ongoing wars and what are already being referred to as the "next" ones.
Before he left office, Bush advanced his favorite general to the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the former president's Global War on Terror across the energy heartlands of the planet from Egypt to Pakistan. The command is, of course, especially focused on Bush's two full-scale wars: the Iraq War, now being pursued under Petraeus's former subordinate, General Ray Odierno, and the Afghan War, for which Petraeus seems to have personally handpicked a new commanding general, Stan McChrystal. From the military's dark side world of special ops and targeted assassinations, McChrystal had operated in Iraq and was also part of an Army promotion board headed by Petraeus that advanced the careers of officers committed to counterinsurgency. To install McChrystal in May, Obama abruptly sacked the then-Afghan war commander, General David McKiernan, in what was then considered, with some exaggeration, a new MacArthur moment. Read more.
When Barack Obama gave his "civil liberties" speech at the National Archives in May, he advocated a new scheme of preventive detention for detainees whom he claimed "cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people," and he unambiguously vowed to develop a new statutory regime, enacted by Congress, to vest him with the power of what he called "prolonged detention":
I know that creating such a system poses unique challenges. . . . But I want to be very clear that our goal is to construct a legitimate legal framework for Guantanamo detainees -- not to avoid one. In our constitutional system, prolonged detention should not be the decision of any one man. If and when we determine that the United States must hold individuals to keep them from carrying out an act of war, we will do so within a system that involves judicial and congressional oversight. And so going forward, my Administration will work with Congress to develop an appropriate legal regime so that our efforts are consistent with our values and our Constitution. As our efforts to close Guantanamo move forward, I know that the politics in Congress will be difficult. . . . [I]f we refuse to deal with these issues today, then I guarantee you that they will be an albatross around our efforts to combat terrorism in the future.
Obama has now changed his mind about seeking a new law, and instead will continue to detain Terrorism suspects without charges under the current system (the one used by Bush/Cheney as well): Read more.
Classified McChrystal Report: 500,000 Troops Will Be Required Over Five Years in Afghanistan
By Tom Andrews, former member of Congress | Huffington Post
Congress Should Hold Hearings on Alternatives to Major Escalation
Embedded in General Stanley McChrystal's classified assessment of the war in Afghanistan is his conclusion that a successful counterinsurgency strategy will require 500,000 troops over five years.
This bombshell was dropped by NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Wednesday:
The numbers are really pretty horrifying. What they say, embedded in this report by McChrystal, is they would need 500,000 troops - boots on the ground - and five years to do the job. No one expects that the Afghan Army could step up to that. Are we gonna put even half that of U.S. troops there, and NATO forces? No way. [Morning Joe, September 23, 2009]
Mitchell got the figure from an independent source. It was not revealed in the redacted version of the once classified report released by the Pentagon earlier this week. McChrystal has warned the administration that without an infusion of more troops the eight-year war in Afghanistan "will likely result in failure." Read more.
How Did Economists Get It So Wrong? Lead letter to the New York Times Magazine: September 16, 2009 | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com
Paul Krugman's How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?" (September 6, 2009) offers a refreshing, critical assessment of the academic profession of economics and how it missed the recent economic collapse. While addressing the standard textbook issues in mainstream economics, Krugman seems oblivious to one area of the field that has warned of deep, cyclical crises in capitalism since its inception: Marxist economics. You do not have to believe in revolution or the proletarian struggle to appreciate the centrality of secular crises for this economic tradition. Marx was wrong about a lot of things, but he seems to have been on target when pointing out at least two problems: the severity and depth of periodic crises and the rise of financial speculation.
DIEGO VON VACANO
Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences
Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.
Here's the article Diego commented on:
I. MISTAKING BEAUTY FOR TRUTH
It’s hard to believe now, but not long ago economists were congratulating themselves over the success of their field. Those successes — or so they believed — were both theoretical and practical, leading to a golden era for the profession. On the theoretical side, they thought that they had resolved their internal disputes. Thus, in a 2008 paper titled “The State of Macro” (that is, macroeconomics, the study of big-picture issues like recessions), Olivier Blanchard of M.I.T., now the chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, declared that “the state of macro is good.” The battles of yesteryear, he said, were over, and there had been a “broad convergence of vision.” And in the real world, economists believed they had things under control: the “central problem of depression-prevention has been solved,” declared Robert Lucas of the University of Chicago in his 2003 presidential address to the American Economic Association. In 2004, Ben Bernanke, a former Princeton professor who is now the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, celebrated the Great Moderation in economic performance over the previous two decades, which he attributed in part to improved economic policy making.
Last year, everything came apart. Read more.
In May, President Barack Obama began floating the idea that his administration might seek the power to “preventatively detain” terrorism suspects who “are deemed a threat to national security but cannot be tried.” The rationale is: These folks are bad. We can’t tell you how we know this because of national security concerns. So trust us. This is in effect what the Bush administration told us for more than five years, and it is nonsense.
I am an attorney representing one of the 230 remaining Guantanamo detainees who are subject to this preventative detention. Shawali Khan has been imprisoned at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center for more than six years without charges. Khan is a small man with sad eyes, about 40 years old, who comes from a small farming village near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
When the Americans invaded in October 2001, Khan was living in Kandahar City, selling kerosene and gasoline. On Nov. 13, 2002, he was riding his motorcycle from his home to the market when he was arrested by four Afghan men who work for the corrupt warlord Gul Agha Shirzai, who governed Kandahar province. A short while later, Khan was transferred to the Americans.
Khan was no doubt sold to the United States for a cash bounty. Shortly after the U.S. invasion, the U.S. military littered Afghanistan with leaflets offering bounties of up to $20,000 cash in exchange for the capture of al Qaeda or Taliban fighters. One leaflet promised: “Enough money to take care of your family, your village, your tribe for the rest of your life.”
Most fifth-graders would understand that offering cash bounties to the people of one of the poorest and most corrupt countries on earth is unlikely to produce reliable information about terrorists. Read more.
Under the proposed system, the U.S. would pay directly for medical benefits and disability benefits rather than relying upon private insurance providers. The government would hire an outside firm to administer the claims to avoid the expense of training and hiring examiners.
The report makes clear, however, that such a fundamental change to the system would face a battle from the insurance industry. AIG dominates the market for the insurance, which exploded from an $18 million a year business to more than $400 million per year after civilian contractors flooded into war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report said.
AIG controls about 75 percent of the market, followed by Chicago-based CNA and Bermuda-based ACE Group. Together, the three firms collect 97 percent of all premiums paid by defense contractors for the insurance, the cost of which is reimbursed by the government.
Congress could save as much as $250 million a year through a sweeping overhaul of the controversial U.S. system to care for civilian contractors injured in war zones, according to a new Pentagon study.
In the most extensive review ever of the taxpayer-financed system, the Pentagon suggested that the government could issue its own insurance to cover the skyrocketing costs of medical care and disability pay for injured civilians.
Currently, the U.S. pays more than $400 million annually to AIG and a handful of other carriers to purchase special workers' compensation insurance policies required for overseas civilian contractors by a law known as the Defense Base Act, the study found. Read more.
Key among those changes is Mr. Frank's decision to omit the "plain vanilla" mandate from his pending CFPA bill. So-called "exotic" financial products -- particularly subprime mortgages that typically offered low introductory payments that later ballooned in size -- have caused soaring default rates and were considered a major factor in last year's financial crisis. The administration had wanted to ensure that banks and other mortgage lenders give customers the option of less risky fixed-rate and simple adjustable-rate home loans.
Congress appears set to ignore President Obama's proposal that banks be required to offer "plain vanilla" financial products such as 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, giving the banking industry an early victory in its fight with the administration over how to reform the financial-services sector. Read more.