Wednesday, September 30, 2009

FP morning brief 9/30

Top Story:

As diplomats prepare for tomorrow's P5+1 talks in with Iran in Switzerland, the U.S. and its allies are contemplating the possibility of tighter sanctions on the Iranian regime while Iran is insisting that the talks must be a "two-way street" focusing on a variety of issues, rather than a litany of demands on Iran's nuclear program.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad described tomorrow's talks as a "test" of the international community's respect for Iran's rights. The Iranians say they will not discuss the newly-revealed nuclear enrichment facility at Qom in tomorrow's meeting, but the issue seems certain to be raised.

Efforts to impose tougher sanctions on Iran may be hampered by China, which has little enthusiasm for punishing one of its top oil suppliers.

Pivo purge:

Brewery stocks are falling over a Russian proposal to outlaw outdoor beer sales as part of a public morality campaign.

Middle East
Israel will free 20 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for a video proving the captured soldier Gilad Shalit is alive.
The U.S. plans to withdraw 4,000 troops from Iraq in October.
Swiss diplomats will be allowed to visit with the three U.S. hikers detained in Iran since July.

Asia and Pacific
Security is tight in Beijing on the eve of celebrations marking six decades of Communist rule.
Chinese leader Wen Jiabao is planning to sign a new trade agreement with North Korea when he visits Pyongyang next week.
A massive tsunami left dozens dead in Samoa.

Guinea's military ruler has responded to the massacre of 157 demonstrators by his troops by banning demonstrations.
Somalia's Al Shabaab rebels have declared war on a rival Islamist militant group.
Amnesty International warns that Sudanese refugees in Chad are facing extremely high levels of sexual violence.

A U.S. envoy is in Havana for high-level talks with Cuban government officials.
Honduras' interim government will allow a delegation from the Organization of the American States to visit.
The Chilean military has invited Peruvian military observers to a controversial military exercise.

Georgia and Russia are both claiming that a new E.U.-sponsored report on the 2008 war vindicates their position.
Greece appears likely to elect a socialist government in this weekend's elections.
European stocks gained after an upbeat economic recovery report from the International Monetary Fund.

Truthout 9/30

Mahbod Seraji Gambling Ayatollahs
Mahbod Seraji, Truthout: "The revelation of Iran's secret nuclear facility at a military base near the holy city of Qum came at a strangely suspicious time, when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was visiting the US delivering his usual hard-line speech warning the US to treat its long-time adversary with respect, and a week prior to the first scheduled direct negotiations between Iran and the US in thirty years in Geneva. As expected, calls for stricter sanctions were immediately made by high-ranking Republican officials, hawkish Israeli lobbyists and government representatives."

Carmelo Mesa-Lago Lessons on Health Reform From Latin America
Carmelo Mesa-Lago, El Pais (Spanish Translation: Ryan Croken): "One of the most contentious elements of the American health care debate right now is the proposal to create a public agency that would offer the uninsured - especially poor and low-income citizens - a nonprofit alternative to private insurance companies. President Obama has made it clear to the American people that those who already get their insurance through the private system can keep their coverage, and that their freedom of choice will be maintained in all cases at all times."

Public Option Loses Round One
Truthout Newswire: "The Senate Finance Committee engaged in a spirited debate on what is being referred to as the 'public option.' A 'public option' would provide an option for people who can't afford private health care insurance. Two amendments were debated today that would have altered the health care reform legislation offered by Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee."

Mike Ferner Robocops Come to Pittsburgh
Mike Ferner, Truthout: "No longer the stuff of disturbing futuristic fantasies, an arsenal of 'crowd control munitions,' including one that reportedly made its debut in the US, was deployed with a massive, overpowering police presence in Pittsburgh during last week's G-20 protests."

Senators Seek Elimination of Telecom Spying Immunity
Truthout Newswire: " In a move to roll back the grant of retroactive immunity granted to telecommunications companies that were involved in former President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, four Democratic senators have announced the introduction of the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act. The senators sponsoring the legislation are Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut), Pat Leahy (D-Vermont), Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon)."

Guinea Massacre Toll Put at 157
BBC News: "At least 157 people were killed when Guinean troops opened fire on opposition protesters on Monday, a human rights group says. But the country's interior ministry has told the BBC that a total of 57 people have died in the protests."

Laurent Joffrin Paradox
Laurent Joffrin, Liberation (French Translation: Leslie Thatcher): "The crisis demonstrated the bankruptcy of a certain set of right-wing free market policies. But it's the center-right that wins elections. That's the German paradox that we must seek to shed light on."

Scott Galindez The "Public Option" Is Not Dead
Scott Galindez, Truthout: "I would not be honest if I said the 'public option' is alive and well. It is clearly in critical condition, but all hope is not lost."

Ed Kinane Drones and Dishonor in Central New York
Ed Kinane, Truthout: "The drones are coming. Readers of the Syracuse Post-Standard know that the drones (a.k.a. Reapers) are arriving at the local New York Air National Guard Base at Hancock Airport."

A Hidden Denial in the Afghan Election
Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, GlobalPost: "The Afghan election results are finally in and, to no one's surprise, they have inflamed a crisis of credibility. Afghanistan's latest effort in democracy was marred by widespread fraud, violence, and intimidation."

US Is Seeking Tougher Sanctions Against Iran
Mark Landler, The New York Times: "The Obama administration is scrambling to assemble a package of harsher economic sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program that could include a cutoff of investments to the country's oil-and-gas industry and restrictions on many more Iranian banks than those currently blacklisted, senior administration officials said Sunday."

John Feffer Afghanistan: NATO's Graveyard? Is the Transatlantic Alliance Doomed?
John Feffer, "Celebrating its 60th birthday this year, NATO is looking peaked and significantly worse for wear. Aggressive and ineffectual, the organization shows signs of premature senility. Despite the smiles and reassuring rhetoric at its annual summits, its internal politics have become fractious to the point of dysfunction."

Connie Schultz Banning a Book Near You
Connie Schultz, Truthout: "We call them school librarians, but in these contentious times, I'm inclined to call them heroes. Now is as good a time as any to mention that this is Banned Books Week, which is sponsored annually by the American Library Association to celebrate the freedom to read."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

FP morning brief

Top story:

Over 100 people were killed after soldiers began firing on a pro-democracy rally in Guinea yesterday. The demonstrators were protesting over rumors that military leader Moussa Dadis Camara, who took power in a coup last December, plans to run in presidential elections.According to reports from Human Rights Watch, soldiers stripped and raped female protesters in the streets and stabbed others with bayonets.

Moussa that the soldiers were acting without orders. "Even I, as head of state in this very tense situation, cannot claim to be able to control those elements in the military," he said.

The incident has been internationally condemned and the African Union is threatening sanctions against the Guinean junta.


Europe's economic recovery is showing signs of losing momentum.

Middle East
Iranian authorities say they will soon allow inspectors to tour their newly-disclosed uranium enrichment facility.
The U.N. Human Rights Council has begun a debate on the findings of the Goldstone Report on human rights abuses in Gaza.
Anti-government demonstrations broke out at Tehran University.

Two U.S. soldiers were killed in a suspected terrorist bombing in the Philippines.
U.S. drones fired at a Taliban commander's house in South Waziristan, killing five.
The death toll from flooding in the Philippines has hit 240.

China's CNOOC oil company is seeking a major stake in Nigeria's oil output.
A soldier from the U.N./African Union peacekeeping force in Southern Sudan was killed in an ambush.
Zimbabwe's Supreme Court has thrown out terrorist charges against human rights activist Jestina Mukoko.

Ousted Honduran leader Manuel Zelaya addressed the U.N. General Assembly via cell phone.
Former Peruvian leader Alberto Fuimori pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
Meeting in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez and Muammar al-Qaddafi signed an anti-terrorism agreement that seeks to somewhat redefine the term.

Re-elected German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a plan to quickly form a coalition with the Free Democratic Party.
A forthcoming E.U. report is expected to conclude that Georgia is responsible for setting off the 2008 South Ossetia war.
Jailed film director Roman Polanski filed an application with a Swiss court seeking his release.

Truthout 9/29

Bill Quigley Street Report From the G20
Bill Quigley, Truthout: "The G20 in Pittsburgh showed us how pitifully fearful our leaders have become. What no terrorist could do to us, our own leaders did. Out of fear of the possibility of a terrorist attack, authorities militarize our towns, scare our people away, stop daily life and quash our constitutional rights. For days, downtown Pittsburgh, home to the G20, was a turned into a militarized, people-free ghost town. Sirens screamed day and night."

Fears of Blame for Defeat Shadow Afghan War Meetings
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service: "In a remarkable parallel with a similar turning point in the Vietnam War 44 years ago, President Barack Obama will preside over a series of meetings in the coming weeks that will determine whether the United States will proceed with an escalation of the Afghanistan War or adjust the strategy to reduce the US military commitment there. The meetings will take place in the context of a request from Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, for 40,000 additional troops, which reached Washington over the weekend. That would bring the total US troop strength in Afghanistan to 108,000 - nearly a 60 percent increase."

Wilmer Leon Michael Is Not The Man of Steele
Wilmer Leon, Truthout: When President Carter gave a direct, honest and accurate assessment of the impact of race on an issue, Steele opined that Carter was being divisive. When Chairman Steele subtly injects race into an issue, according to Steele 'it's a curiosity.' Now, that is 'stunning ... hypocrisy!' Chairman Steele promised to bring us something different. He promised to '... be a part of building this party in a way we have never seen before.' Steele committed to '... make sure that the values that have made our party the Party of Lincoln, are part of the issues, part of the policies that are reshaping this country."

Violence On the Rise Again in Iraq
Truthout Newswire: "A lull in violence during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in Iraq was shattered by a series of bombings targeting both Shi'ite and Sunni areas across the country. Eighteen people were killed and at least 58 others were wounded in the blasts.

Coup Regime Suspends Constitutional Rights, Closes Media, Threatens Brazil
Tyler Bridges, McClatchy Newspapers: "The de facto government that's in power in Honduras closed down television and radio stations Monday morning that are aligned with ousted President Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya condemned the action in a brief statement and called on foreign governments to show their displeasure."

Alexander Cockburn Insanity Trumps Common Sense in Afghan Policy Fight
Alexander Cockburn, Truthout: "The ripest moment of absurdity last week was the spectacle of Pentagon officials berating The Washington Post for publishing the supposedly confidential assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, prepared by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, America's Man in Charge of that doomed adventure. The Pentagon asked the Post to cut certain passages on the ground that they would compromise national security. Since the document is commonly supposed to have been leaked to Bob Woodward by either McChrystal himself or one of his retinue, it seems silly to start whining about the irresponsibility of the press."

Face It, GOP Doesn't Really Matter When It Comes to Health Care
David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers: "Do Republicans matter as Congress digs more deeply into the details of writing health care legislation? Probably not. The Senate Finance Committee will resume its deliberations Tuesday, when it's expected to consider whether the government should create a 'public option' to compete with the private sector, as well as other issues. The chances are good that the committee will approve key provisions with few, if any, Republican votes."

Obama Team Clears 75 at Guantanamo for Release
Jane Sutton, Reuters: "An Obama administration task force has so far cleared 75 of the remaining 223 Guantanamo prisoners for release as part of its effort to close the detention camp, a military spokesman said on Monday. The review team is examining each prisoner's case to decide who will be held for trial and who can be sent home or resettled in other nations."

Iran Facing Harsh Sanctions, Global Isolation
Truthout NewsWire: "The Obama administration is laying the groundwork to isolate Iran economically from the rest of the world over that nation's nuclear program."

Lt. Col. Barry Wingard It's Not Just About Waterboarding
Lt. Col. Barry Wingard, Truthout: "In a speech earlier this year, former Vice President Dick Cheney said waterboarding and other brutal torture techniques were only used on detainees of the highest intelligence value - the so-called worst of the worst. But Cheney's claims are untrue."

J. Sri Raman Importance of Being Hafiz Saeed
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "He is noticeably short; his figure is as flabby as his apparel and, to go by folklore, his beard is dyed with henna. Bespectacled, he bows his capped head as he walks, looking straight ahead only when addressing a large congregation. Fifty-nine-year-old Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is no arresting personality, but few doubt the mass appeal of the radical cleric and his rhetoric in Pakistan."

Police Use Painful New Weapon on G20 Protesters
Allison Kilkenny, AlterNet: "Pittsburgh police demonstrated the latest in crowd control techniques on protesters when they used 'sound cannons' to blast the ears of citizens near the G-20 meeting of world economic leaders."

Yearning for the Golan Heights: Why Syria Wants It Back
Julien Barnes-Dacey, The Christian Science Monitor: "The US demonstrated its commitment to reengage Syria as a partner for Middle East peace Monday, advancing a process that some Arab countries had declared dead in recent weeks."

Iran Campuses Rocked by Student Protests
Iason Athanasiadis, GlobalPost: "Hundreds of students shouting anti-government slogans took to the streets of Tehran and other cities Monday in another sign that Iran's opposition is still active, despite arrests and allegations of state torture and rape."

Japanese Women: "We Want Greater Gender Equality"
Mutsuko Murakami, Inter Press Service: "'I hope to see a society where women can comfortably work and raise a family ... at the same time.' University student Eri Ochiai's words may well echo the sentiment of many a Japanese woman, hopeful for a change that has eluded them for many years under the previous administration."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Cassandras of climate

New York Times

Every once in a while I feel despair over the fate of the planet. If you’ve been following climate science, you know what I mean: the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it.

And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. These days, dire warnings aren’t the delusional raving of cranks. They’re what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

What’s driving this new pessimism? Partly it’s the fact that some predicted changes, like a decline in Arctic Sea ice, are happening much faster than expected. Partly it’s growing evidence that feedback loops amplifying the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are stronger than previously realized. For example, it has long been understood that global warming will cause the tundra to thaw, releasing carbon dioxide, which will cause even more warming, but new research shows far more carbon dioxide locked in the permafrost than previously thought, which means a much bigger feedback effect.

The result of all this is that climate scientists have, en masse, become Cassandras — gifted with the ability to prophesy future disasters, but cursed with the inability to get anyone to believe them.

And we’re not just talking about disasters in the distant future, either. The really big rise in global temperature probably won’t take place until the second half of this century, but there will be plenty of damage long before then.

For example, one 2007 paper in the journal Science is titled “Model Projections of an Imminent Transition to a More Arid Climate in Southwestern North America” — yes, “imminent” — and reports “a broad consensus among climate models” that a permanent drought, bringing Dust Bowl-type conditions, “will become the new climatology of the American Southwest within a time frame of years to decades.”

So if you live in, say, Los Angeles, and liked those pictures of red skies and choking dust in Sydney, Australia, last week, no need to travel. They’ll be coming your way in the not-too-distant future.

Now, at this point I have to make the obligatory disclaimer that no individual weather event can be attributed to global warming. The point, however, is that climate change will make events like that Australian dust storm much more common.

In a rational world, then, the looming climate disaster would be our dominant political and policy concern. But it manifestly isn’t. Why not?

Part of the answer is that it’s hard to keep peoples’ attention focused. Weather fluctuates — New Yorkers may recall the heat wave that pushed the thermometer above 90 in April — and even at a global level, this is enough to cause substantial year-to-year wobbles in average temperature. As a result, any year with record heat is normally followed by a number of cooler years: According to Britain’s Met Office, 1998 was the hottest year so far, although NASA — which arguably has better data — says it was 2005. And it’s all too easy to reach the false conclusion that the danger is past.

But the larger reason we’re ignoring climate change is that Al Gore was right: This truth is just too inconvenient.

Responding to climate change with the vigor that the threat deserves would not, contrary to legend, be devastating for the economy as a whole. But it would shuffle the economic deck, hurting some powerful vested interests even as it created new economic opportunities. And the industries of the past have armies of lobbyists in place right now; the industries of the future don’t.

Nor is it just a matter of vested interests. It’s also a matter of vested ideas. For three decades the dominant political ideology in America has extolled private enterprise and denigrated government, but climate change is a problem that can only be addressed through government action. And rather than concede the limits of their philosophy, many on the right have chosen to deny that the problem exists.

So here we are, with the greatest challenge facing mankind on the back burner, at best, as a policy issue. I’m not, by the way, saying that the Obama administration was wrong to push health care first. It was necessary to show voters a tangible achievement before next November. But climate change legislation had better be next.

And as I pointed out in my last column, we can afford to do this. Even as climate modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the threat is worse than we realized, economic modelers have been reaching consensus on the view that the costs of emission control are lower than many feared.

So the time for action is now. O.K., strictly speaking it’s long past. But better late than never.

Truthout 9/28

Lt. Ehren Watada Allowed to Resign
Gregg K. Kakesako, The Honolulu Star-Bulletin: "First Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned military officer to refuse deployment to Iraq because he believed it was an illegal war, has won his three-year legal battle with the Army."

US Seeing More Female Homeless Veterans
Thom Patterson, CNN: "When Iraq war veteran Angela Peacock is in the shower, she sometimes closes her eyes and can't help reliving the day in Baghdad in 2003 that pushed her closer to the edge."

Same-Sex Marriage Activists Seek Repeal of California’s Proposition 8
Daniel B. Wood, The Christian Science Monitor: "The battle is on to repeal California’s Prop. 8 — which activists hope starts a national domino effect in the nearly 30 states that have banned same-sex marriage. A coalition of 40 groups has taken the first legal step for voters to be able to overturn the measure in November 2010. Thursday, the groups submitted ballot language that will place the measure on the ballot in the state’s next general election. Within weeks they intend to be canvassing the state to gather 700,000 valid signatures needed by April to qualify the measure for the ballot."

Going Beyond Kyoto
Paul Hockenos, Foreign Policy in Focus: "International negotiators will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark in December to hammer out a new and possibly historic worldwide treaty to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Following up on the expiring Kyoto Protocol, it is widely billed as the last chance to save the planet from a temperature rise of two degrees Celsius or higher. Sascha Müller-Kraenner is the Europe coordinator of The Nature Conservancy, a U.S. environmental group. Paul Hockenos spoke to him in Berlin."

Ilene Durst Denying Health Care to Immigrants Would Be Harmful to America
Ilene Durst, McClatchy-Tribune: "Barring immigrants, irrespective of their status, from purchasing health insurance through whatever plan Congress legislates only endangers the health and the economy of the entire United States."

Pennsylvania Orders Cabot Oil and Gas to Stop Fracturing in Troubled County
Abrahm Lustgarten, ProPublica: "After three chemical spills in the past nine days, and following a history of environmental problems over the last year, Pennsylvania officials have ordered Cabot Oil and Gas, one of the most active natural gas companies in the state, to stop its hydraulic fracturing operations in Susquehanna County pending an intensive review."

Economy Forces Some Families to Work, Live Apart
Suzanne Perez Tobias, The Wichita Eagle: "Bob Handshy talks with his wife, Rebekah, every day — about the weather, the kids' school projects, the new bathroom floor. He chats with the kids. He plays Hangman with his son, Jace. He tells the children "Be good" and "I love you" and "Good night." He just does it from 1,900 miles away."

Dahr Jamail Army Prisoners Isolated, Denied Right to Legal Counsel
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "Afghanistan war resister Travis Bishop has been held largely 'incommunicado' in the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Lewis, Washington ... 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."

Dean Baker Progressives and the Budget Deficit
Dean Baker, Truthout: "The budget situation today looks hugely worse than it did two years ago. The reason for the deterioration is not that the country has suddenly embarked on a massive new round of social spending, undertaken another major military adventure or even emptied the coffers through tax breaks. The reason that the deficit situation looks hugely worse than it did two years ago is that the $8 trillion housing bubble that had been driving the economy finally collapsed and threw the country into the worst downturn since the Great Depression."

Iran Tests Longest-Range Missiles, Adding to Pre-Talk Tensions
David Montero, The Christian Science Monitor: "Iran test-fired several of its longest-range missiles Monday, topping off a dramatic four days in which it also tested medium-range missiles and revealed it has been developing a secret nuclear facility. The developments are adding to the sense of urgency as world powers prepare to meet with the country about its nuclear program on Oct. 1."

Honduran Crisis Explodes: Persecution and Panic Buying Under Coup Crackdown
Fatima Shaik, In These Times: "Four years after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the disaster continues ... According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, about a quarter of the city's pre-Katrina population - more than 175,000 people - has not returned."

Arundhati Roy What Have We Done to Democracy?
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."

Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval Toward a Breakdown of the Capitalist Subject?
Pierre Dardot and Christian Laval, Le Monde: "Perhaps the economic catastrophe is dissipating the most glaring illusions about the self-regulating market, making global capitalism's doctrinarians a bit less arrogant, provoking the spectacular conversions of some 'leaders' who would urgently like to make us forget their previous blindness. But the catastrophe has not yet brought about the blockage of all the apparatuses, all the discourses, all the policies that constitute the present mode of governing men and societies. This mode has a name: capitalism."

Face it, GOP Doesn't Really Matter When It Comes to Health Care
David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers: "Do Republicans matter as Congress digs more deeply into the details of writing health care legislation?"

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Truthout 9/27

The Republican War Against ACORN
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "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 US attorneys to bring indictments over the grassroots group's voter-registration drives, then fired some prosecutors who resisted what they viewed as a partisan strategy not supported by solid evidence."

US to Demand Inspection of New Iran Plant "Within Weeks"
David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, The New York Times: "The Obama administration plans to tell Iran this week that it must open a newly revealed nuclear enrichment site to international inspectors 'within weeks,' according to senior administration officials. The administration will also tell Tehran that inspectors must have full access to the key personnel who put together the clandestine plant and to the documents surrounding its construction, the officials said Saturday."

Report: US-Initiated WTO Rules Could Undermine Regulatory Overhaul of Global Finance
Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now!: "As the G-20 meets in Pittsburgh, a new report from Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch warns that the World Trade Organization has long advanced extreme financial deregulation under the guise of trade agreements and could undermine the current push for increasing regulation. We speak to Lori Wallach, the director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch division."

Dems Regain Electoral Footing Looking Ahead to 2010
Chris Bowers, AlterNet: "Earlier in the week, in my first House forecast for 2010, I looked at generic congressional ballot polling from August 20th through September 17th. At that time, the most recent survey from the nine polling organizations to publish generic congressional ballots conducted entirely since August 20th showed Democrats ahead by 3.5 percent. However, several generic congressional ballots have been released since that time, which cumulatively show the Democratic position improving."

For Mexicans Seeking to Cross the US Border, It's not Just About Jobs Anymore
Sara Miller Llana, The Christian Science Monitor: "New data about Mexican immigration to the United States find that the evaporation of jobs during the US recession has done little to dissuade millions of Mexicans from wanting to move across the border amid growing signs that many Mexicans are motivated to leave home not by the lure of higher wages but by fears for their safety."

Green Recovery: A Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy
Robert Pollin, James Heintz, Heidi Garrett-Peltier and Helen Scharber, Political Economy Research Institute: "As the nation continues to debate its energy future, a new report released today shows that the U.S. can create two million jobs by investing in a rapid green economic recovery program, which will strengthen the economy, increase energy independence, and fight global warming.... Focusing for now on a short-term clean energy and jobs program, Green Recovery reports that a short-term green stimulus package would create two million jobs nationwide over two years."
FOCUS US-Mideast: A Week of Dimming Peace Prospects
Helena Cobban, Inter Press Service: "Eight months after Barack Obama launched his presidency by promising a speedy push for Palestinian-Israeli peace, that effort has stalled badly. And there are now growing fears that the top levels of Obama's peace team are torn by internal disagreements that may undermine the whole peace effort. Some of these problems were on view during two high-level appearances Obama made in New York this week."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Truthout 9/26

US Commander in Afghanistan Submits Request for More Troops
Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers: "Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, hand-delivered his request for as many as 45,000 more troops to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Germany Friday and made his case for why he needs more forces to fight an increasingly unpopular war."

University of California Workers Strike as Faculty, Students Boycott Classes
Seth Sandronsky, Truthout: "University of California faculty, students and workers rallied against state budget cuts and unfair labor practices at 10 campuses and five medical centers from San Diego to Davis on Thursday, September 24. As a boycott of classes to protest teachers' unpaid days off (furloughs) and students' double-digit fee increases unfolded across the state, members of the University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America, Local 9119, AFL-CIO, staged a one-day strike."

Kirk Sworn in as Kennedy's Replacement
Jordan Fabian, The Hill: "Sen. Paul Kirk (D-Mass.) was sworn in on Friday as Massachusetts' junior senator, filling the seat of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). The ceremony officially gives Democrats in the upper chamber their full 60 seat representation as the body prepares to vote on healthcare reform, changes to financial regulations, and other high-priority legislation. Friday also marks the first time since 1962 the Senate will be without a member of the Kennedy family."

Obama Strikes Tough Tone on Iran, but Experts Wary of Sanctions
C.M. Sennott, GlobalPost: "At the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh, President Barack Obama locked arms with the leaders of France and the United Kingdom to warn Iran that it must immediately halt its nuclear program.... But former diplomats and Middle East analysts believe Obama will need more than perfect pitch in the public diplomacy of Iran, which interlocks directly with the profound policy challenges on Afghanistan, Iraq and the wider goal of global nuclear proliferation. This is chess on many levels, not pop music."

Robert Parry Neocon Judge's History of Cover-ups
Robert Parry, Consortium News: "Laurence Silberman, a U.S. Appeals Court judge and a longtime neoconservative operative - part of what the Iran-Contra special prosecutor called 'the strategic reserves' for convicted Reagan administration operatives in the 1980s - is back playing a similar role for the Bush-43 administration. On Sept. 11, the eighth anniversary of the terror attacks on New York and Washington, Silberman issued a 2-to-1 opinion dismissing a lawsuit against the private security firm, CACI International, brought by Iraqi victims of torture and other abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.... But Silberman is not a dispassionate judge when it comes to the crimes of Republicans committed to advance the neocon cause."

Vacant Homes Give Habitat a Leg Up
Pam Kelley, Miller-McCune: "Across the country, Habitat chapters are ... buying vacant, foreclosed-on homes at rock-bottom prices. For most, that's a big departure from their longstanding model of using volunteer labor to build affordable housing from the ground up. But that model was pre-foreclosure crisis. Now, as thousands of homes sit vacant, Habitat officials say they can't pass up this opportunity. With prices depressed, many are finding they can buy and rehab cheaper than they can build."

FOCUS G20: Leaders Agree on Reforms, Poor Still "Out in the Cold"
Eli Clifton, Inter Press Service: "World leaders at the two-day G20 Summit in the U.S. city of Pittsburgh agreed to work cooperatively to recover from the global economic crisis and create structural reforms with long-term growth as the goal.... 'The G20 is more representative than the G8 but there is still no seat at the table for the poorest countries,' said Oxfam senior policy adviser Max Lawson. 'South Africa is the only African country included in this club. That means when the G20 talks about growth and stability, they are leaving the poorest countries in the cold.'"

It's easy being green

New York Times

So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform? Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?

If so, you’ll love the next big debate: the fight over climate change.

The House has already passed a fairly strong cap-and-trade climate bill, the Waxman-Markey act, which if it becomes law would eventually lead to sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. But on climate change, as on health care, the sticking point will be the Senate. And the usual suspects are doing their best to prevent action.

Some of them still claim that there’s no such thing as global warming, or at least that the evidence isn’t yet conclusive. But that argument is wearing thin — as thin as the Arctic pack ice, which has now diminished to the point that shipping companies are opening up new routes through the formerly impassable seas north of Siberia.

Even corporations are losing patience with the deniers: earlier this week Pacific Gas and Electric canceled its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in protest over the chamber’s “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality” of climate change.

So the main argument against climate action probably won’t be the claim that global warming is a myth. It will, instead, be the argument that doing anything to limit global warming would destroy the economy. As the blog Climate Progress puts it, opponents of climate change legislation “keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.”

It’s important, then, to understand that claims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate-change denial. Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either.

How do we know this? First, the evidence suggests that we’re wasting a lot of energy right now. That is, we’re burning large amounts of coal, oil and gas in ways that don’t actually enhance our standard of living — a phenomenon known in the research literature as the “energy-efficiency gap.” The existence of this gap suggests that policies promoting energy conservation could, up to a point, actually make consumers richer.

Second, the best available economic analyses suggest that even deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions would impose only modest costs on the average family. Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the effects of Waxman-Markey, concluding that in 2020 the bill would cost the average family only $160 a year, or 0.2 percent of income. That’s roughly the cost of a postage stamp a day.

By 2050, when the emissions limit would be much tighter, the burden would rise to 1.2 percent of income. But the budget office also predicts that real G.D.P. will be about two-and-a-half times larger in 2050 than it is today, so that G.D.P. per person will rise by about 80 percent. The cost of climate protection would barely make a dent in that growth. And all of this, of course, ignores the benefits of limiting global warming.

So where do the apocalyptic warnings about the cost of climate-change policy come from?

Are the opponents of cap-and-trade relying on different studies that reach fundamentally different conclusions? No, not really. It’s true that last spring the Heritage Foundation put out a report claiming that Waxman-Markey would lead to huge job losses, but the study seems to have been so obviously absurd that I’ve hardly seen anyone cite it.

Instead, the campaign against saving the planet rests mainly on lies.

Thus, last week Glenn Beck — who seems to be challenging Rush Limbaugh for the role of de facto leader of the G.O.P. — informed his audience of a “buried” Obama administration study showing that Waxman-Markey would actually cost the average family $1,787 per year. Needless to say, no such study exists.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Beck. Similar — and similarly false — claims about the cost of Waxman-Markey have been circulated by many supposed experts.

A year ago I would have been shocked by this behavior. But as we’ve already seen in the health care debate, the polarization of our political discourse has forced self-proclaimed “centrists” to choose sides — and many of them have apparently decided that partisan opposition to President Obama trumps any concerns about intellectual honesty.

So here’s the bottom line: The claim that climate legislation will kill the economy deserves the same disdain as the claim that global warming is a hoax. The truth about the economics of climate change is that it’s relatively easy being green.

The Afghan imperative

New York Times

Always there is the illusion of the easy path. Always there is the illusion, which gripped Donald Rumsfeld and now grips many Democrats, that you can fight a counterinsurgency war with a light footprint, with cruise missiles, with special forces operations and unmanned drones. Always there is the illusion, deep in the bones of the Pentagon’s Old Guard, that you can fight a force like the Taliban by keeping your troops mostly in bases, and then sending them out in well-armored convoys to kill bad guys.

There is simply no historical record to support these illusions. The historical evidence suggests that these middling strategies just create a situation in which you have enough forces to assume responsibility for a conflict, but not enough to prevail.

The record suggests what Gen. Stanley McChrystal clearly understands — that only the full counterinsurgency doctrine offers a chance of success. This is a doctrine, as General McChrystal wrote in his remarkable report, that puts population protection at the center of the Afghanistan mission, that acknowledges that insurgencies can only be defeated when local communities and military forces work together.

To put it concretely, this is a doctrine in which small groups of American men and women are outside the wire in dangerous places in remote valleys, providing security, gathering intelligence, helping to establish courts and building schools and roads.

These are the realistic choices for America’s Afghanistan policy — all out or all in, surrender the place to the Taliban or do armed nation-building. And we might as well acknowledge that it’s not an easy call. The costs and rewards are tightly balanced. But in the end, President Obama was right: “You don’t muddle through the central front on terror. ... You don’t muddle through stamping out the Taliban.”

Since 1979, we have been involved in a long, complex conflict against Islamic extremism. We’ve fought this ideology in many ways in many places, and we shouldn’t pretend we understand how this conflict will evolve. But we should understand that the conflict is unavoidable and that when extremism pushes, it’s in our long-term interests to push back — and that eventually, if we do so, extremism will wither.

Afghanistan is central to this effort partly because it could again become a safe haven to terrorists, but mostly because of its effects on the stability of Pakistan. As Stephen Biddle noted in a recent essay in The American Interest, the Taliban is a transnational Pashtun movement active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is part of a complex insurgency trying to topple the Pakistani regime.

Pakistan has a fragile government with an estimated 50 or more nuclear weapons. A Taliban conquest in Afghanistan would endanger the Pakistani regime at best, create a regional crisis for certain and lead to a nuclear-armed Al Qaeda at worst.

A Taliban reconquest would also, it should be said, be a moral atrocity from which American self-respect would not soon recover.

Proponents of withdrawal often acknowledge the costs of defeat but argue that the cause is hopeless anyway. On this, let me note a certain pattern. When you interview people who know little about Afghanistan, they describe an anarchic place that is the graveyard of empires. When you interview people who live there or are experts, they think those stereotypes are rubbish. They usually take a hardened but guardedly optimistic view. Read Clare Lockhart’s Sept. 17 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to get a sense of the way many knowledgeable people view the situation.

Amidst all the problems, the NATO coalition has a few things going for it. First, American forces have become quite good at counterinsurgency. They have a battle-tested strategy, experienced troops and a superb new leadership team.

According to the political scientists Andrew J. Enterline and Joseph Magagnoli, since World War II, counterinsurgency efforts that put population protection at their core have succeeded nearly 70 percent of the time.

Second, the enemy is wildly hated. Only 6 percent of Afghans want a Taliban return, while NATO is viewed with surprising favor. This is not Vietnam or even Iraq.

Third, while many Afghan institutions are now dysfunctional, there is a base on which to build. The Afghan Army is a successful institution. Local villages have their own centuries-old civic institutions. The National Solidarity Program was able to build development councils in 23,000 villages precisely because the remnants of civil society still exist.

We have tried to fight the Afghan war the easy way, and it hasn’t worked. Switching now to the McChrystal strategy is a difficult choice, and President Obama is right to take his time. But Obama was also right a few months ago when he declared, “This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. ... This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”

Friday, September 25, 2009

In Memoriam: Rev. Dr. Forrest Church: Theologian, Author

From the Unitarian Universalist Association

Rev. Forrest Church, acclaimed author of more than two dozen books and longtime minister of the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City, died on September 24, 2009 following a three-year battle with esophageal cancer. He was sixty-one years old. Church is survived by his children, Frank, Nina, Jacob and Nathan, and by his wife, Carolyn Buck Luce.

“I join thousands of Unitarian Universalists and Americans in mourning the loss of Forrest Church,” said Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) President Peter Morales today. “We have lost a brilliant and articulate thinker, a champion of democratic values, and a compelling advocate for liberal religion. More importantly, we have lost a kind, thoughtful, and loving spirit. What courage and grace he showed in his final years. Even as we feel our loss, let us be grateful for his enduring legacy.”

The son of former U.S. Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho) and grandson of former Idaho Governor Chase A. Clark, Forrest Church earned his Ph.D. in early church history from Harvard University in 1978, and began his career at All Souls that same year. Selected from approximately twenty-five applicants for the position, Church was twenty-nine years old. He served All Souls from then until his death.

During Church’s tenure at the congregation, All Souls flourished. Over the past three decades, membership at All Souls has more than tripled. With over 1,400 members, All Souls is one of the largest congregations in the Unitarian Universalist Association today.

As All Souls grew, so too did Church’s prominence as a public voice for Unitarian Universalism and for social justice. He was a strong proponent of both religious and political liberalism. In 1985, he led All Souls Church in learning about AIDS and providing direct services to AIDS sufferers. New York reporter Bernice Kanner wrote that year, “The mobilization of All Souls was among the first religious responses to the disease.”

In 1986, Church told the Boston Globe, “…generally, politicians try to change society for the betterment of the individual. I like to change the individual for the betterment of society.” Through his work as a minister and a public intellectual, Church profoundly influenced both individuals and society.

Church reached a wide audience through the approximately two dozen books that he authored or edited in the course of his career. He published his first book, Father and Son: A Personal Biography of Senator Frank Church of Idaho, in 1985. His other prominent works include Our Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism (1989, co-authored with John Buehrens), The American Creed (2002), So Help Me God: The Founding Fathers and the First Great Battle over Church and State (2007), and Love and Death (2008). Church’s final book, The Cathedral of the World: A Universalist Theology, will be published by Beacon Press in November.

At the UUA’s 2008 General Assembly, Church received the Award for Distinguished Service to the Cause of Unitarian Universalism, the most prestigious award given by the UUA. “Let us never forget what a privilege it is to be part of this great movement and to pronounce its saving faith: one Light (Unitarianism) shining through many windows (Universalism),” Church remarked upon receiving the award. “Let us continue our quest together, with awe and humility, with saving openness and saving doubt, never forgetting to honor those who charted our way.”

New York Times reporter Cara Buckley talked with congregants at All Souls in the fall of 2008. “They spoke of Mr. Church’s gift with words, his ability to connect with others and his seemingly endless capacity for empathy and compassion,” she observes. “Unitarian Universalism is a theologically liberal religion, and to many, Mr. Church embodied the very best of the religion.” His friend, NBC newsman and former Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw said, “Forrest Church made all of our lives so much richer with his friendship, his faith and his optimism. He was a leading citizen in the world of all of God's children.”

Church spent his final years reflecting on the importance of living each day with love and gratitude. He writes in Love and Death, “The goal is to live in such a way that our lives will prove worth dying for…The one thing that can’t be taken from us, even by death, is the love we give away before we go.”

On Life In The Modern World, Or, What If Jesus Was An HMO?

Those among us who are familiar with the Bible will recall that Jesus Christ himself was an active member of the health care community as he travelled about the Holy Land.

It is reported that he practiced within multiple medical specialties, and his works as both an ophthalmologist and a neurologist are recounted within the verses of the Gospels.

But what if Jesus had been practicing medicine in the therapeutic environment we’re familiar with today?

In today’s conversation we’ll be tagging along with Jesus as he takes a few calls at his HMO’s Customer Care Center—and by the time we get done you should be able to bring a whole new take to those discussions you‘ve been having about why reform matters.

“…a blind man, Bartimaeus…was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

…Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.”

Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight…”

--Mark 10:45-52

“Thank you for calling Customer Care. This is Jesus. How may I help you?”

“Hi, I was recently treated by you in Jericho for blindness—“

“Can I get your account number, sir?”


“Oh, yes. Is this Bartimaeus?”

“Yes it is.”

“So what can I do for you today?”

“Well, I went to check my mail, and I found a bill from you for 42,554 shekels for the eye treatment, and I don’t understand why you want me to pay this bill.”

“Well, give me a second while I look that up…ahhh, OK, I understand what happened. You see, I did perform the eye treatment, but your policy requires you to be referred by your Primary Care Physician for any specialist treatment and pre-approved by someone here at Customer Care before we can be liable for any costs of care, and the computer says that you didn’t do any of that first…so, I apologize, but we won’t be able to make any adjustments to this account.

Is there anything else I can do for you today, Bartimaeus?”

“Well, how am I supposed to pay this bill? I don’t have this kind of money. Can’t you perform a miracle or something to help me out here?”

“Well, sir, I can’t do that, but what I can do is transfer you to our Collections Department, who can help you make payment arrangements…”

Needless to say, the call went downhill from there.

“Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed…

One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?"

"Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me."

Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked…”

--John 5:3-8

“…so you say you were lame and I made you walk, and now you’re getting calls from a collections agency that wants to garnish your ass?”

“Yes, Jesus, that’s correct.”

“Well, it says here that that back in Tishri of 12 AD you had severe boils and lesions, which is a preexisting condition. Now when I asked you if you wanted to get well you never disclosed any of this, and I don’t see it anywhere in your application packet, either.

Your policy requires you to inform us of any medical treatments you received before you became a policyholder, and because you failed to make a true and complete statement in your application we have to reject this claim.

I really do apologize, but we won’t be able to make any adjustments to this account.”

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed:

Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

--1 Peter 5:1-4

“We didn’t know what to expect when he came here, but in just a few months Jesus has shown us what can happen when the Son of God is a Customer Care Representative.

His average call volumes are more than double those of any other rep, and when you listen to him take calls…well, when you hear him tell someone that they won’t be getting their benefits…it’s almost like he has some divine power over the customers or something, and that’s why today I’ve gathered you together to announce that Jesus is going to be transferred from the call center to the Executive Training Program.

Additionally, because Jesus did not adjust a single claim in favor of a customer for the last three months we’re also giving him the “Employee of the Quarter” award, which means he gets three days off with pay that he can take anytime he wants, a check for $500, and, of course, Jesus gets to use the parking space right by the front door for his Hummer.

We expect really great things from Jesus in the future, and while we will miss Him here at Customer Care I think we can safely say that with Jesus running the show this company is going to remain profitable for decades to come.”

FP morning post 9/25

Top story:

President Barack Obama will today accuse Iran of building a second nuclear enrichment plant, unknown to U.S. inspectors. U.S. intelligence agencies have reportedly been monitoring this site, inside a mountain near the ancient city of Qum for some time but the administration has chosen to make the news public today after an unspecified intelligence breakthrough. Obama will make an announcement of the news along with the leaders of Britain and France this morning at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.

Iran acknowledged the plant in a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday, saying it had a "pilot plant" whose existence it had not previously revealed. U.S. officials say the plant is not yet operational but could be within a year.

Qaddafi's softer side:

In an interview, the Libyan leader says he understands the anger of victims over the Lockerbie bombing and expresses optimism about President Obama.

Middle East
Fifteen Iraqi soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Northern Iraq.
The corruption trial of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has begun.
Tens of thousands of refugees have been stranded by the violence in Yemen.

China is blocking a visit by Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer.
A group of elderly South Korean were briefly allowed to visit relatives in North Korea.
The Pakistani government and the World Bank announced a new fund to help rebuild the country's infrastructure.

Venezuela will host 20 African leaders for a summit this weekend. President Hugo Chavez says Muammar al-Qaddafi can pitch his tent wherever he likes.
Manuel Zelaya says he will stay in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa for as long as it takes to get back the presidency.
The Mexican Senate confirmed a controversial new Attorney General.

A Somali Website says that one of the suicide bombers who attacked African Union troops last week was from the United States.
Somali pirates have seized a Panama-flagged ship and shot its captain.
Nigeria's two month-old truce with the MEND rebels appears to be holding.

Italian President Silvio Berlusconi called a meeting to repair ties with his coalition partber, Speaker of the Parliament Gianfranco Fini.
A British swine flu vaccine has been approved for use.
Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, who is on trial for slandering President Nicolas Sarkozy, says he will take legal action against Sarkozy for calling him guilty.

Truthout 9/25

William Rivers Pitt The Mess Left Behind
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "Sooner or later, heaving buckets of blame onto George W. Bush for what we as a nation are being forced to endure will become a facile excuse; at some point, the whole kit and caboodle will be the sole property of President Barack Obama, whether he likes it or not and be damned to excuses. Already, his administration has taken enough dramatic measures to ensure that, should something go wrong, a fair share of censure will and rightly should be placed on the present and not the past."

Jeremy Scahill Where Is the Defund Blackwater Act?
Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports: "Republican Congressional leaders are continuing their witch-hunt against ACORN, the grassroots community group dedicated to helping poor and working class people. This campaign now unfortunately has gained bipartisan legislative support in the form of the Defund ACORN Act of 2009 which has now passed the House and Senate."

Eric Haas and Joe Brewer Is Health Care Like a Food Processor?
Eric Haas and Joe Brewer, Truthout: "Health care and food processors are different. When it comes to health care, it is both right and smart for me - and everyone I come into contact with - to have health care. On the other hand, I couldn't care less about my parents' food processor. I should be embarrassed to say the same thing about my parents' health care. It would be both wrong and dumb to say so. Why?"

UN Unanimously Backs Obama's Nuclear Disarmament Goal
Warren P. Strobel, Mcclatchy Newspapers: "With President Barack Obama in the chair at an unprecedented meeting of the U.N. Security Council , major world powers on Thursday endorsed his goal of a nuclear weapons-free world and pledged to strengthen the shaky international system for preventing the spread of nuclear arms."

Tom Engelhardt How to Trap a President in a Losing War
Tom Engelhardt, "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.')"

Administration Won't Seek New Detention System
Peter Finn, The Washington Post: "The Obama administration has decided not to seek legislation to establish a new system of preventive detention to hold terrorism suspects and will instead rely on a 2001 Congressional resolution authorizing military force against al-Qaeda and the Taliban to continue to detain people indefinitely and without charge, according to administration officials."

Bush's Wiretapping Goes to Court in SF
Bob Egelko, The San Francisco Chronicle: "After years of wrangling over legal procedures, the lawyer for a defunct Islamic charity laid out his case Wednesday that former President George W. Bush's secret wiretapping program was illegal - an argument that an Obama administration attorney refused to discuss."

Eric Desrosiers Twenty-Five Million
Eric Desrosiers, Le Devoir: "People are saying that the signs of an economic recovery and of banks' return to profitability remove the pressure on governments to tighten the rules on the financial sector that was the source of the crisis. Yet the continuation of the deterioration in the labor market for many months still ought to constitute a powerful indicator that they should persevere in their efforts."

Iran Reveals Previously Undisclosed Nuclear Plant
Truthout NewsWire: "Iran has revealed the existence of a previously undisclosed uranium-enrichment plant. The disclosure has heightened fears about Iran's nuclear weapons program and threatens to raise diplomatic tensions between that nation and the West."

Alleged Terror Plots Foiled
Truthout NewsWire: "Three separate and apparently unrelated terrorism plots have been foiled by federal authorities this week. On Thursday, the FBI charged two men, one in Texas and the other in Illinois, with attempting to bomb a federal building and a 60-story office building. In both cases, FBI agents were able to pose as al-Qaeda members, meet with the bomb plotters for months, then slip the plotters a dummy explosive device subsequent to their arrests."

NATO: Five US Soldiers Killed in Afghanistan
Lynne O'Donnell, Agence France-Presse: "Insurgents killed another five US soldiers in Afghanistan's southern Taliban stronghold, NATO said Friday, with their commander poised to request more troops to avoid failure in the eight-year war."

Chronically Displaced in NOLA
Fatima Shaik, In These Times: "Four years after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the disaster continues ... According to the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, about a quarter of the city's pre-Katrina population - more than 175,000 people - has not returned."

Jacques Sapir One Year Later the Crisis Still Bites
Jacques Sapir, Marianne2: "So today, the crisis begun at the beginning of 2007 is undergoing a lull. Seeing how banks have reconstituted their profits, and bankers their unlimited appetite, one could even believe it is over. That's not the case at all and the present stabilization risks being temporary. The problems posed by this crisis have not in any way been resolved by the measures taken in the last year."

Miriam Pemberton Want Climate Security? Raise National Security Specter
Miriam Pemberton, Foreign Policy In Focus: "The campaign to salvage the climate bill now has a new buzzword, 'climate security,' and a new ally, the Pentagon. Its security planners have been telling reporters that climate change will loom large in the national security strategy they're working on."

Obama and Nukes: Talking the Talk, Awaiting the Walk
David Krieger, Miller-McCune: "The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council possess over 98 percent of the more than 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Today, President Barack Obama led a session of the council focusing on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. We take that opportunity to present a dialogue between David Krieger, president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation - an organization strident in its opposition to nuclear weapons - and Richard Falk, professor emeritus of International Law and Practice at Princeton University and the chair of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Falk and Krieger have written widely on nuclear dangers and are co-editors of the 2008 book At the Nuclear Precipice: Catastrophe or Transformation?"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

FP morning post 9/24

Top story:

For the first time ever today, a U.S. president will chair a meeting of the U.N. security council. President Barack Obama is expected to use today's meeting to push for a new treaty to control weapons-grade fissile material and strengthen to nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He may also have to contend with Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, whose rambling speech to the General Assembly yesterday was one of the stranger spectacles in U.N. history.

For the first time in a decade, the United States will also attend the U.N. session on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to commit the U.S. to signing the treaty which was defeated in the senate in 1999.

The G-20 summit also kicks off if Pittsburgh today. A major binding agreement seems unlikely at this year's meeting but Obama plans to lobby other world leaders on global trade imbalances and climate change. French President

Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to take a firm stance on banking regulation and tax havens.


A new vaccine has been shown to cut the risk of HIV infection by up to 31 percent.

A group of North Koreans entered the Danish embassy in Vietnam, seeking asylum.
A group of anti-Taliban tribal elders were massacred with Northwest Pakistan.
The U.S. will engage directly with Burma's leaders, but has no plans to lift sanctions.

Middle East
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he will ask for highly-enriched uranium at international nuclear talks next week.
Fifteen prisoners, included several with links to Al Qaeda, escaped from prison in Tikrit, Iraq.
Egypt is condemning the vote that denied the position of Director General of Unesco to Culture Minister Farouk Hosny as "politicized."

The U.S. has threatened to impose travel bans on 15 top Kenyan officials.
The closure of U.S. embassies in South Africa was due to a threat by an Al Qaeda splinter group.
South Korea has agreed to develop 1,000 square kilometers of farmland in Tanzania.

After a meeting with President Obama, President Dmitry Medvedev suggested that Russia may be open to increasing sanctions on Iran.
A Polish resolution criticizing Russia's actions during World War II is straining ties with Moscow.
Britain has clarified its rules on assisted suicide.

One man was shot and killed by police in the escalating standoff between supporters of ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and the interim government.
The Venezuelan government is developing new guidelines for cable television.
75 percent of Mexicans are unhappy with the direction of their country, according to a new poll. Though a majority still support President Felipe Calderon.

Truthout 9/24

Obama Tightens State Secrets Standard
Carrie Johnson, The Washington Post: "The Obama administration on Wednesday announced a new policy making it much more difficult for the government to claim that it is protecting state secrets when it hides details of sensitive national security strategies such as rendition and warrantless eavesdropping. The new policy requires agencies, including the intelligence community and the military, to convince the attorney general and a team of Justice Department lawyers that the release of sensitive information would present significant harm to 'national defense or foreign relations.'"

Ira Chernus Israel's Supporters Ask, "What Sin?"
Ira Chernus, Truthout: "'How do you plan to spend the holidays?' That's the question asked by the mother of Annie Hall, in Woody Allen's film of the same name, to the mother of Woody's alter-ego. 'We fast,' Woody's Brooklyn Jewish mother replies. 'Yeah, no food,' Woody's father adds, trying to explain the ritual observance of Yom Kippur; 'You know, we have to atone for our sins.' 'What sins?' Mom Hall asks, as her ultra-WASPish family sits around their food-laden Wisconsin table. 'I don't understand.' 'Tell you the truth,' comes the punch line, 'neither do we.'"

Lawrence S. Wittner The Weakness of National Military Strength
Lawrence S. Wittner, Truthout: "During 2008, the nations of the world spent nearly $1.5 trillion on their military forces. That is what has been reported by the highly respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which noted that the five biggest spenders were the United States ($607 billion), China ($85 billion), France ($66 billion), Britain ($65 billion) and Russia ($59 billion). Adjusted for inflation, the total represents an increase of 45 percent in military expenditures over the past decade. And so the game of national military 'defense' continues, despite clear indications of its negative consequences."

Deb Price Uncle Sam Should Respect All Marriages
Deb Price: "Listen to the voices crying out for Congress to end the federal government's mistreatment of legally married gay couples. Listen to McKinley BarbouRoske of Iowa. She displayed a confidence well beyond her 11 years when she spoke up for her moms at a recent news conference in front of the US Capitol. McKinley's parents were finally able to wed in their home state two months ago - after nearly two decades as a couple. Now they quite rightly want Uncle Sam to recognize their marriage."

The New York Times The Numbers and Health Care Reform
The New York Times: "Two authoritative surveys in recent days have underscored why all Americans have a stake in successful health care reform. Too many people are being hit with relentlessly rising premiums or are at serious risk of losing their coverage to allow the status quo to continue. A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that, once again, health insurance premiums rose faster last year than either wages or general inflation. A study by the Treasury Department found that almost half of all Americans below Medicare age have gone without insurance at some point over the last decade."

At G-20 in Pittsburgh, Expect Large Agenda, Small Results
Margaret Talev and Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers: "As the leaders of the Group of 20 nations gather Thursday and Friday for an economic summit in Pittsburgh, they'll be testing two themes: How much appetite remains for coordinated economic decision-making among the world's leading and developing nations as the global crisis shifts into recovery mode? And can President Barack Obama , the host of this third meeting of G-20 government heads in a year, persuade his country to help him deliver the financial revisions and climate change initiatives that he's told other nations he wants?"

Act Now or Lose Forever, Climate Summit Told
Thalif Deen, Inter Press Service: "The world's small island developing nations, most of which are threatened with environmental devastation, put the international community on dire notice: either accept ambitious and binding emission reduction targets, or humanity is doomed. The one-day UN summit meeting of world leaders Tuesday came out with a clear message demanding urgent action against the growing threats from climate change. Maldives, one of the world's smallest nation states facing extinction, exposed the political hypocrisy of world leaders pontificating on the dangers of global warming but doing little or nothing towards a resolution of the ecological crisis at hand."

Bill Moyers Journal Obama's War in Afghanistan
Bill Moyers Journal: "With a leaked memo, delayed decisions and calls for more troops in Afghanistan, there's a growing public demand to know what direction President Obama has in mind for the war-torn country. Journal guest host Lynn Sherr sits down with Rory Stewart, who shares his vision for a sustainable policy that could benefit both the United States and Afghanistan, which he has called 'the graveyard of predictions.' Rory Stewart is director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University."

George Lakoff Ending Minority Rule in California
George Lakoff, Truthout: "California is in deep trouble because it has a dysfunctional system of government. Much of the problem can be change by one sentence ... It would change two words in the Constitution, turning 'two-thirds' to 'majority' in two places. It is simple, understandable and it is about democracy."

Census Worker Found Hanged With "Fed" Scrawled on Body
Truthout NewsWire: "A census worker in Kentucky was found hanged to death with the word 'Fed' scrawled on his body, according to unnamed law enforcement officials cited by The Associated Press. Bill Sparkman, age 51, was a part-time census worker and occasional teacher. His body was found September 12 hanged from a tree in a remote section of the Daniel Boone National Forest, located in a rural portion of southeast Kentucky. His truck was parked nearby, and his computer was found inside."

Dylan Blaylock and Beth Adelson Whistleblowers Get No Respect
Dylan Blaylock and Beth Adelson, Truthout: "For nine years, Harry Markopolos tried to tell the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that Bernie Madoff was running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme. Markopolos tried to alert SEC investigators in both Boston and New York, each of which dismissed, transferred, or simply failed to understand his advanced financial analysis. He even tried getting the Wall Street Journal to investigate. But no one listened to Markopolos. Instead, Madoff continued to swindle billions from his investors until his arrest last December. Only in the aftermath did Markopolos' reports emerge. Then people finally began to listen."

Mark Weisbrot Spoiling Manuel Zelaya's Homecoming
Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research: "Now that Manuel Zelaya has returned to Honduras, the coup government - after first denying that he was there - has unleashed a wave of repression to prevent people from gathering support for their elected president."

Saudi Arabia's New University to Let Women Unveil and Study With Men
David Montero, The Christian Science Monitor: "For the first time in Saudi Arabia's history, men attending a university north of Jeddah will have special classmates - women."

The Other Key to Mideast Peace
Ken Shulman, Global Post: "U.N. estimates show the population around the southern Mediterranean basin to be growing at nearly 3 percent a year. Climate models project a regional mean temperature bump of between 35.6 and 42.8 degrees Fahrenheit by 2025. Both Syria and Iraq are experiencing severe droughts that have created hundreds of thousands of refugees."

Robert Borosage The Great Recession: It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over
Robert Borosage, The Campaign For America's Future: "The world economy is growing; stock markets are up; talk of recovery, not world depression, fills the business pages. As the leaders of the 20 leading economies gather in Pittsburgh this week, they might well feel the euphoria of someone who has survived a near-death experience ... Well, hold the champagne. Don't declare victory while the enemy is still advancing."

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Truthout 9/23

Massachusetts Senate Votes On Kennedy Replacement
Truthout NewsWire: "The Massachusetts State Senate on Tuesday passed legislation allowing Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick to name an interim Senate successor to Edward M. Kennedy. The measure was approved by a 24 to 16 vote, and paves the way for an appointment by week's end to fill the seat Kennedy occupied for nearly 50 years before his death last month."

China, US Promise Bold Steps to Protect Climate
Warren P. Strobel and Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers: "Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao of China - the leaders of the two countries that emit the most greenhouse gases - pledged at a United Nations summit Tuesday that their countries would take bold actions to protect the Earth's future climate from irreversible damages."

Carol Becker Forty Years Later Calley Speaks Up
Carol Becker, Truthout: "On August 19, 2009, former Army Lt. William Calley spoke to a Kiwanis Club meeting in Greater Columbus, Georgia, and for the first time publicly admitted his regret for his role in the My Lai massacre. 'There is not a day that goes by,' he said, 'when I do not feel remorse for what happened that day in My Lai. I feel remorse for the Vietnamese who were killed, for their families, for the American soldiers involved and their families. I am very sorry.'"

President Barack Obama: Climate Change Speech at the United Nations
President Barack Obama: "No nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor, can escape the impact of climate change. Rising sea levels threaten every coastline. More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent. More frequent drought and crop failures breed hunger and conflict in places where hunger and conflict already thrive. On shrinking islands, families are already being forced to flee their homes as climate refugees. The security and stability of each nation and all peoples - our prosperity, our health, our safety - are in jeopardy. And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out."

US Pushing Beyond Settlement Freeze
Jerrold Kessel and Pierre Klochendler, Inter Press Service: "At the end of a week of shuttle diplomacy by the special presidential envoy, Senator George Mitchell, the U.S. intermediary was unable to resolve differences between the Israelis and Palestinians and between Israel and the White House. The Palestinian President found himself in a real fix. He had made plain in no uncertain terms that he would not attend such a summit unless Netanyahu recanted on his 'No' to a complete settlement freeze. But after urgent consultations with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II, when Obama phoned him personally to invite him to the meeting, the Palestinian leader found himself constrained to say 'Yes'."

Herve Kempf Magical Thinking
Herve Kempf, Le Monde: "Of course, we - enlightened Westerners of the 21st century - have nothing in common with the pathetic tribes that worshiped the cargo ship or attached supernatural powers to the spirits of the forest. No, we're rational, free, aware, hard-core holdouts against the slightest trace of magical thinking. Magical thinking? The idea that, confronted with an inextricable situation, mysterious forces will intervene - if only one knows how to approach them with the appropriate propitiation - and resolve the dilemma."

Where Are the Women? - Parts 1 and 2
Miren Gutierrez and Oriana Boselli, Inter Press Service: "Four ministers out of 21; 193 parliamentarians out of 952 (upper and lower houses); no party leaders. Why are there so few women in Italian politics?"

Robert Naiman The Real Failure of the Afghan Election
Robert Naiman, Truthout: "The post-election claims about the Afghan election have had the unfortunate effect of obscuring a far more fundamental consequence for evaluating the future of US policy. The fundamental failure was not the attempted theft of votes by some Karzai supporters and some Abdullah supporters. The fundamental failure was the failure of the US and allied forces to provide security for the election, as they had promised to do. If the US and its allies could not establish security for this single event, an event on which they were highly focused, an event for which they had explicitly increased their forces in the country, that suggests that current plans to provide security by increasing foreign forces will fail, absent a broad political process to resolve Afghanistan's conflicts - a political process that must include the 'Taliban' insurgencies to be successful."

Honduras: US Appeals for Calm, Repeats Support for Zelaya
Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service: "Confirming that exiled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has secretly returned to Tegucigalpa, the U.S. State Department Monday appealed for calm and reiterated its recognition that he is the legitimate president."

J. Sri Raman A New Nuclear Debate in India
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "As an anti-nuclear-weapon activist of India, I am abashed to admit this. But the main nuclear debate in the major South Asian country has not been the one between nuclear militarists and their opponents. It has been the one between two schools of nuclear militarism. The debate has acquired a new dimension, with the hawks of all these years suddenly made to appear doves."

Robert Reich Why the Dow Is Hitting 10,000 Even When Consumers Can't Buy and Business Cries "Socialism"
Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog: "So how can the Dow be flirting with 10,000 when consumers, who make up 70 percent of the economy, have had to cut way back on buying because they have no money? Jobs continue to disappear. One out of six Americans is either unemployed or underemployed. Homes can no longer function as piggy banks because they're worth almost a third less than they were two years ago. And for the first time in more than a decade, Americans are now having to pay down their debts and start to save."

States Can Sue Utilities Over Emissions
Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times: "A two-judge panel of a federal appeals court has ruled that big power companies can be sued by states and land trusts for emitting carbon dioxide. The decision, issued Monday, overturns a 2005 District Court decision that the question was political, not judicial."

Michael Klare The Era of Xtreme Energy
Michael T. Klare, "The debate rages over whether we have already reached the point of peak world oil output or will not do so until at least the next decade. There can, however, be little doubt of one thing: we are moving from an era in which oil was the world's principal energy source to one in which petroleum alternatives -- especially renewable supplies derived from the sun, wind, and waves -- will provide an ever larger share of our total supply. But buckle your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride under Xtreme conditions."

FP morning post 9/23

Top story:

After a packed day in New York yesterday in which President Barack Obama addressed a U.N. summit on climate change and chaired a meeting on the Mideast peace process, today he addresses the U.N. General Assembly in a speech expected to focus on the Middle East and non-proliferation.

In the Mideast talks, Obama, finding himself unable to extract concessions on the issue of West Bank settlements, seems to now be setting the issue aside in hopes of restarting talks on other issues.

On climate, the United States and China both vowed dramatic cuts in emissions in speeches that were strong on vision, if somewhat lacking in specifics.

In his speech today, Obama is expected to urge support for a nonproliferation resolution he is introducing to the Security Council on Thursday. He will likely also call for increased international support for the war in Afghanistan.

Palin goes global:

The former Alaskan governor and vice presidential candidate addressed an investor's conference in Hong Kong.

Asia and Pacific
China has indicted 11 people for causing rioting in Xinjiang.
A storm of red dust has shut down Sydney, Australia.
The Philippines military says it has captured the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Middle East
Israel's Foreign Minister Avigodr Lieberman described yesterday's meeting with President Obama and Mahmoud Abbas as a victory for Israel.
Controverisal Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni lost his bid to become director general of UNESCO.
Ahead of their speeches at the U.N. General Assembly, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad urged Barack Obama to see the Iran as a potential friend.

U.S. embassies in South Africa remain closed over an unspecificed security threat.
South African gay activists are welcoming the conviction of a man for raping and killing a lesbian football star.
Ethiopia has signed a deal with three Chinese companies to improve its energy infrastructure.

Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya remains inside the Brazilian embassy in Teguicigulpa as supporters begin to trickle out.
Brazil has asked the U.N. Security council to convene a special meeting on the Honduras crisis.
A U.S.-Mexico border crossing at Tijuana was closed after a shootout between suspected human traffickers and border guards.

The last poll taken before this Sunday's German elections show Chancellor Angela Merkel with a healthy lead.
German police searched the offices of a a far-right party to investigate letters sent to immigrant leaders.
German finance minister Peer Steinbrueck accused Britain of attempting to block tough financial regulations ahead of the G-20 summit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

On Improbable Realities, Part One, Or, “I Want A Jet Car With Frickin’ Lasers…”

When it comes to getting around, Americans love to consider the question of “what if…?”

As a result, our cars have evolved into “land yachts”, our trucks have become “monster trucks”, and the desire to drag our living spaces around with us has morphed into converted busses with rooms that pop out of the side, a Mini-Cooper hidden under the master bedroom floor, and self-tracking satellite dishes that fight for space on the roof with air conditioning equipment.

And for more than a few of us, “what if…?” has even extended to “what if my car…was a jet car?”

In today’s improbable reality I’m here to tell you that Chrysler engineers asked that exact same question, for roughly a quarter of a century, and as a result they actually designed and deployed seven generations of cars with jet engines—and they came darn close to putting the eighth-generation design on sale to the general public.

It’s a story of pocket protectors and slide rules and offices full of guys who look a bit like Drew Carey…but as we’ll see in Part Two, it may also be a story of technology that couldn’t be perfected “back then”, but could be reborn in our own times.

As so often happens, a bit of “setting up” is needed, and to get this story going we need to discuss exactly how jets—particularly gas turbines—work.

In the case of an automotive engine, the idea is that air is drawn into the engine, that air is compressed, fuel is added, and the air/fuel mixture is then set on fire with a spark plug. This rapidly heats the mixture, it expands, and the energy created by that expansion is used to turn a turbine (a variation on a fan) which is connected to the driveshaft that eventually turns the wheels.

Some aircraft and helicopter engines also use this design to turn propellers, but the majority of aircraft jet engines force the expanding air/fuel mixture out the back of the engine in the form of “thrust” that, to put it as simply as possible, “make airplane go fast”.

From an engineering point of view, there are a lot of advantages to a turbine engine.

In contrast to a design that requires pistons and valves and a crankshaft and a cooling system and a system for oil distribution, turbine engines have very few moving parts, are cheaper to manufacture, and require a relatively small amount of maintenance. They also have very long service lives compared to piston engines.

Beyond that, turbines start right up on very cold days. Because jets output lots of heat you never have to wait for the jet car’s heater to “warm up”, and they can burn virtually any combustible liquid or volatile gas as fuel.

Vibration is very low, and you get 100% of available torque at 0 rpm, which means you don’t have to “rev up” the engine to get the wheels to start turning (something that is also true of vehicles powered by electric motors).

“Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines”

--John Benfield

So that’s the why…now how about the “who did what when?”

1954, 1955, and 1956 saw Chrysler rolling out the first-generation CR-1 turbine engine. One vehicle was produced in each of those years; the ’55 version was designated the Plymouth Belvedere Sportone CR-1 Turbine Special. (The 1956 version of the same vehicle was rated at 100 horsepower and 13 MPG.)

By 1959 the CR-2 engine was in service, again only in “testbed” vehicles, and it had achieved ratings of 200 horsepower and, after a 1,200 mile demonstration run from Detroit to Princeton, New Jersey, a far more respectable 18 MPG.

Operating these vehicles had taught Chrysler a few things about the disadvantages of turbine designs:

--the gases that come out the back of the car are really, really hot (temperatures can climb above 1000 degrees F.).

--after you put your foot on the gas, there is an annoying delay before the turbines (and the wheels) start spinning faster.

--because you’re basically dumping fuel into the combustion chamber, fuel economy sucks.

--the CR-1 and CR-2 engines did not offer “engine braking”, which means there would be extra wear and tear on the brakes at the wheels, and, because the driver would be constantly “riding” the brakes, increased potential for a heat-related braking system failure.

An engine was coming along that would address these problems, and in 1961 it was dropped into the visually stunning TurboFlite, which looked like a cross between two famous automotive avians: an early 1960s T-Bird and a late 1960s Plymouth Superbird. This Chrysler-designed and Ghia-built car even featured a clear “bubble” canopy that lifted up to allow passengers to get in and out.

The CR-2A engine featured fancy new engineering that dramatically reduced the acceleration delay and provided engine braking, and in 1962 one of the two Dodge Darts that was fitted with this engine was taken on a 3,000 mile national tour (New York City to Los Angeles) to introduce the concept to the public. (Two other cars, both Plymouth Furies, were also fitted with turbine engines that year.)

At this point we need to talk about the most unusual characteristic of this type of car: its singularly unique sound.

If you can imagine the sound of a Learjet taxiing several hundred feet away you might have a pretty good idea of—well, actually, you don’t have to imagine it if you don’t want to. You can hear it for yourself by watching the film produced by Chrysler to document that 1962 cross-country trip.

By 1963, a fourth-generation engine had deployed new technology that recycled heat from the exhaust to “preheat” the intake air. This dramatically reduced the exhaust temperature while making it easier to set the intake air on fire, which significantly increased both fuel economy and horsepower.

Other improvements further reduced “acceleration lag” and provided better engine performance while idling.

There is just too much story for one day, so we will stop right here and pick up the rest next time. Before we finish, a quick recap of where we’ve been, and a preview of where we’re going:

Chrysler, among other manufacturers, was experimenting with using jet engines to turn turbines; the idea being to replace the piston engines used in virtually every car built from that day until this with something better.

Four generations of engine had already been produced, many of the problems that were associated with the original design had been either partially remediated or fully resolved, and a significant effort was underway to introduce the idea of “jet cars” to the motoring public.

In Part Two, Chrysler puts a turbine car in the hands of 200 lucky families, we continue a history that may not be over yet—and in a most unexpected development, we’ll discover the common heritage that links the 1956 Ford Thunderbird, the 1961 Lincoln Continental, the 1964 Chrysler Corporation Turbine Car, and the 2009 Dodge Challenger.

So how about that? A decade-long story of history, engineering geekery, and conceptualism…and all of it presented in the form of useful objets d’art.

And in Part Two: lots more to come.

What’s not to love?

Reform or bust

New York Times

In the grim period that followed Lehman’s failure, it seemed inconceivable that bankers would, just a few months later, be going right back to the practices that brought the world’s financial system to the edge of collapse. At the very least, one might have thought, they would show some restraint for fear of creating a public backlash.

But now that we’ve stepped back a few paces from the brink — thanks, let’s not forget, to immense, taxpayer-financed rescue packages — the financial sector is rapidly returning to business as usual. Even as the rest of the nation continues to suffer from rising unemployment and severe hardship, Wall Street paychecks are heading back to pre-crisis levels. And the industry is deploying its political clout to block even the most minimal reforms.

The good news is that senior officials in the Obama administration and at the Federal Reserve seem to be losing patience with the industry’s selfishness. The bad news is that it’s not clear whether President Obama himself is ready, even now, to take on the bankers.

Credit where credit is due: I was delighted when Lawrence Summers, the administration’s ranking economist, lashed out at the campaign the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in cooperation with financial-industry lobbyists, is running against the proposed creation of an agency to protect consumers against financial abuses, such as loans whose terms they don’t understand. The chamber’s ads, declared Mr. Summers, are “the financial-regulatory equivalent of the death-panel ads that are being run with respect to health care.”

Yet protecting consumers from financial abuse should be only the beginning of reform. If we really want to stop Wall Street from creating another bubble, followed by another bust, we need to change the industry’s incentives — which means, in particular, changing the way bankers are paid.

What’s wrong with financial-industry compensation? In a nutshell, bank executives are lavishly rewarded if they deliver big short-term profits — but aren’t correspondingly punished if they later suffer even bigger losses. This encourages excessive risk-taking: some of the men most responsible for the current crisis walked away immensely rich from the bonuses they earned in the good years, even though the high-risk strategies that led to those bonuses eventually decimated their companies, taking down a large part of the financial system in the process.

The Federal Reserve, now awakened from its Greenspan-era slumber, understands this problem — and proposes doing something about it. According to recent reports, the Fed’s board is considering imposing new rules on financial-firm compensation, requiring that banks “claw back” bonuses in the face of losses and link pay to long-term rather than short-term performance. The Fed argues that it has the authority to do this as part of its general mandate to oversee banks’ soundness.

But the industry — supported by nearly all Republicans and some Democrats — will fight bitterly against these changes. And while the administration will support some kind of compensation reform, it’s not clear whether it will fully support the Fed’s efforts.

I was startled last week when Mr. Obama, in an interview with Bloomberg News, questioned the case for limiting financial-sector pay: “Why is it,” he asked, “that we’re going to cap executive compensation for Wall Street bankers but not Silicon Valley entrepreneurs or N.F.L. football players?”

That’s an astonishing remark — and not just because the National Football League does, in fact, have pay caps. Tech firms don’t crash the whole world’s operating system when they go bankrupt; quarterbacks who make too many risky passes don’t have to be rescued with hundred-billion-dollar bailouts. Banking is a special case — and the president is surely smart enough to know that.

All I can think is that this was another example of something we’ve seen before: Mr. Obama’s visceral reluctance to engage in anything that resembles populist rhetoric. And that’s something he needs to get over.

It’s not just that taking a populist stance on bankers’ pay is good politics — although it is: the administration has suffered more than it seems to realize from the perception that it’s giving taxpayers’ hard-earned money away to Wall Street, and it should welcome the chance to portray the G.O.P. as the party of obscene bonuses.

Equally important, in this case populism is good economics. Indeed, you can make the case that reforming bankers’ compensation is the single best thing we can do to prevent another financial crisis a few years down the road.

It’s time for the president to realize that sometimes populism, especially populism that makes bankers angry, is exactly what the economy needs.

FP morning post 9/22

Top story:

President Manuel Zelaya's return to Honduras has set off a new political crisis as supporters surrounded the Brazilian embassy where he is hiding out, defying a government curfew. Zelaya says he traveled 15 hours overland in several vehicles to reach the embassy in Teguicigulpa.

Interim President Roberto Micheletti has ordered a shut down of the city and has blocked off roads and airports to keep out more protesters. Micheletti has demanded that Brazil turn Zelaya over for prosecution.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Zelaya called on the people of Honduras, "to come to the embassy to protect me because there is wordthat [the interim government] will arrest me and there is word thatthey will try to assassinate me." Zelaya says he is trying to contact the interim government to begin negotiations, but Micheletti shows no sign of budging.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has backed Zelaya's return to power, said, "It is imperative that dialogue begin, that there be a channel ofcommunication between President Zelaya and the de facto regime inHonduras."


As world leader's meet to discuss climate change at the United Nations, global carbon emissions are expected to have their biggest drop in nearly 40 years this year.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the allied commander in Afghanistan, has been asked to delay his request for more troops as the White House reconsiders its war strategy, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Militants blew up a girls school in Northwest Pakistan.
Seeking to build closer regional ties, new Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama held his first meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Middle East
As Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas meet for talks in New York today, hopes are low for any breakthrough.
Before leaving for New York, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned in a speech that Iran would retaliate against any military attack.
As Iraq's sectarian violence declines, violent crime is on the rise.

French police cleared out a camp in Calais used by migrants trying to make their way to Britain.
Prime minister Gordon Brown says he is working to cut back the number of British troops in Afghanistan.
The Czech Republic may delay the signing of the E.U.'s Lisbon treaty for at least several months.

War crimes trials at Guantanamo Bay have been delayed for another 60 days.
Venezuela opened a tomb to identify the bodies of protesters killed in a riot 20 years ago.
Mexico's attorney general designate has come under fire for failing to solve a series of killings durring the 1990s.

More than 100 people were killed in an ethnic attack in Southern Sudan.
The U.S. embassy in South Africa was closed due to an undisclosed threat.
Rwanda's president said his country and the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo were making "very good progress" toward peace.

Truthout 9/22

Henry A. Giroux The Politics of Lying and the Culture of Deceit in Obama's America: The Rule of Damaged Politics
Henry A. Giroux, Truthout: "In the current American political landscape, truth is not merely misrepresented or falsified; it is overtly mocked. As is well known, the Bush administration repeatedly lied to the American public, furthering a legacy of government mistrust while carrying the practice of distortion to new and almost unimaginable heights. Even now, almost a year after Bush left office, it is difficult to forgot the lies and government-sponsored deceits in which it was claimed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, Iraq was making deals with al-Qaeda and, perhaps the most infamous of all, the United States did not engage in torture."

Dean Baker Can the Townhallers Be Left, Rather Than Left Behind?
Dean Baker, Truthout: "The size and energy at the anti-health care reform protests last weekend were impressive. While some of the leaders are clearly racist nutballs, who can't accept that an African-American is in the White House, many of the tens of thousands who showed up in Washington and elsewhere came out in response to their perception of a government that does not respond to ordinary people. They have a basis for this complaint. It is hardly a secret that President Obama cut deals with the health insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and other powerful interest groups. This may have been necessary for him to get a health package through Congress, but it's hard to blame people for being suspicious."

Obama and Netanyahu Still Tussling Over Priorities
Helena Cobban, Inter Press Service: "As world leaders prepare to gather here for the all-star 'general debate' at the UN General Assembly on Sep. 23, two of them - US Pres. Barack Obama and Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu - are still tussling over whether to prioritise their anti-Iran campaign or the push for a Palestinian-Israeli peace. In recent days, there have been big developments in both areas. On Sep. 11, the Obama administration announced that it will take part, along with the other members of the 'P5+1' group, in a major round of nuclear talks with Iran scheduled for Oct. 1."

The World Arrives in the "City of Bridges"
Cindy Skrzycki, GlobalPost: "This city is not London, Berlin, Beijing or Sao Paolo. But Pittsburgh is a quintessential American city that has come back stunningly from the ashes of steel mills and heavy industry. So, it is an apt place for President Obama to have picked for the meeting of the G20, an assemblage of some of the world's most sophisticated leaders who bunked in the above-mentioned cities for previous G20 gatherings, taking in the international style and flavor of those places. 'Pittsburgh stands as a bold example of how to create new jobs and industries while transitioning to a 21st-century economy,' said President Barack Obama in a statement issued Sept. 8, thanking the 'city of bridges' for opening itself to the upcoming influx of diplomats, press and protesters.

Ann Jones Meet the Afghan Army: Is It a Figment of Washington's Imagination?
Ann Jones, "In Washington, calls are increasing, especially among anxious Democrats, for the president to commit to training ever more Afghan troops and police rather than sending in more American troops. Huge numbers for imagined future Afghan army and police forces are now bandied about in Congress and the media - though no one stops to wonder what Afghanistan, the fourth poorest country on the planet, might actually be like with a combined security force of 400,000. Not a 'democracy,' you can put your top dollar on that."

Latin America Pioneers an Anti-Poverty Program That Works
Tyler Bridges, McClatchy Newspapers: "Denise de Oliveira lost her job as a janitor in June when she had to stay home to care for her 13-year-old son, who had pneumonia. The 45-year-old single mother of four has kept food on the table, however, thanks to a government program that pays her family $70 per month. 'It doesn't give you enough to buy everything you want, but it sure helps,' said de Oliveira, who lives on a dirt street in this impoverished town on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Unlike traditional government handouts, however, this popular anti-poverty program, which has spread throughout Latin America and even to New York City, requires that de Oliveira's children stay in school. The children also must have twice-a-year health exams and be vaccinated against diseases."

Jacques Attali The Empty G
Former EBRD president and French presidential adviser, Jacques Attali, in L'Express: "The Pittsburgh G20 will be a complete replay of last spring's London meeting."

The Road to Zelaya's Return: Money, Guns and Social Movements in Honduras
Benjamin Dangl, Truthout: "Nearly three months after being overthrown by a violent military coup, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya has returned to Honduras. 'I am here in Tegucigalpa. I am here for the restoration of democracy, to call for dialogue,' he told reporters. The embattled road to his return tested regional diplomacy, challenged Washington and galvanized Honduran social movements."

Report: Pentagon Delays Afghan Troop Request
JoAnne Allen and Golnar Motevalli, Reuters: "The Pentagon has told its top commander in Afghanistan not to ask for extra troops until the Obama administration completes a strategy review, The Wall Street Journal reported.... A senior Pentagon official said the administration had asked for the reprieve so it can complete a review of the U.S.-led war effort."

Jason MacLeod Al Jazeera Censors Film About Nonviolent Struggle in West Papua
Jason MacLeod, Truthout: "Van Hest's documentary was inspired by the arrival of 43 West Papuan refugees in Australia in January 2006. Faced with an Indonesian ban on foreign media, van Hest smuggled six video cameras into West Papua. The territory, which is located on the western rim of the Pacific and shares a land border with independent Papua New Guinea, has been controlled by Indonesia since a sham referendum in 1969. Since then, West Papuans have been working to enlarge the prospects of freedom.... These are stories that the Indonesian government does not want you to hear. These are stories that West Papuans want to be told."

Latin America: Food Crisis Must Be Regional Priority
Humberto Marquez, Inter Press Service: "There are 52 million hungry people in Latin America and the Caribbean, six million more than in 2008 - an aspect of the global economic crisis that must be a top priority focus of national policies and development aid, according to a meeting of experts from 27 countries held in the Venezuelan capital."

Adam Parsons The Global Health Debate
Adam Parsons, Foreign Policy In Focus: "With controversy still raging over national health reform in the United States, the media is paying little attention to an international debate on global health policy that is of major importance to the world's poorest people. Both debates revolve around a similar theme, which President Barack Obama neatly summarized in his recent landmark address to Congress as 'the appropriate size and role of government' in the provision of health services."

Judge Orders Obama Administration to Relist Yellowstone Grizzly Bears
Rocky Barker, The Idaho Statesman: "Grizzly bears in eastern Idaho were returned to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy. The ruling reverses a decision made by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007 that transferred control of grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem from the federal government to the states of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks."

Sierra Leone Facing "Human Rights Emergency," Says Amnesty International
David Smith, The Guardian UK: "Amnesty International is warning of a 'human rights emergency' in Sierra Leone, which has one of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. One in eight women in the west African country risk dying during pregnancy or childbirth, compared with one in 4,500 in the developed world, an Amnesty report says."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Truthout 9/21

As ACORN Grew, so Did Its Clout and Its Problems
Barbara Barrett, Mcclatchy Newspapers: "Long before two conservative young activists strode into an ACORN office wearing a hidden camera, the grassroots organization had been racking up kills in its decades-long quest to protect working-class people from what it saw as wrongheaded corporate interests."

HDS Greenway Obama's Move Was Not Appeasement
HDS Greenway, GlobalPost: "When President George W. Bush committed the US to putting up a missile shield in Poland, with radar facilities in the Czech Republic, the Russians raised holy hell. The installations would have made very little difference in the strategic balance between Russia and the West. Russia has enough missiles to overwhelm such a slender defensive reed."

Battle Looms Over the Patriot Act
Charles Savage, The New York Times: "As Congress prepares to consider extending crucial provisions of the USA Patriot Act, civil liberties groups and some Democratic lawmakers are gearing up to press for sweeping changes to surveillance laws."

Activists, Big Business Converge on G20 Meet
Jeb Sprague, Inter Press Service: "As media and government delegates prepare for the G20 Summit to be held Sep. 24-25 in Pittsburgh, local business and activist groups are promoting clashing visions of days to come. Hit hard over the last quarter of the twentieth century with a collapsing steel industry, recession and falling population, Pittsburgh is still a decent place to live - often highly rated because of low housing costs."

Obama "Skeptical" About More Troops for Afghanistan
Josh Gerstein, The Politico: "President Barack Obama is warning US commanders that he’s “skeptical” about whether more troops will make a difference in Afghanistan, saying he’ll approve an upcoming request only if the forces fit into a strategy to beat back al-Qaida and protect the United States."

Court Rules Voter ID Unconstitutional in Indiana
Desiree Evans, Facing South: "The voter ID debate was reeneergized Thursday when the Indiana Court of Appeals struck down the Indiana state law requiring voters to show identification, considered the strictest voter ID law of its kind in the country."

"We Made Them Millions, and They Complain About Insurance"
Lupe Chavez, a housekeeper at the San Francisco Hilton, tells her story to David Bacon: "My hands tingle and ache, and my fingers go numb. Sometimes, my arms start to hurt during the night and I can't sleep. The pain starts about 3 AM and I can't stand it. The doctor said I have carpal tunnel syndrome and gave me two braces, one for each hand. My hands now feel better, but I still use them during the day. I take a Motrin pill before leaving for work in the morning and another one in the afternoon and before going to bed. I don't want to be dependent on them, but it's hard. My doctor told me many housekeepers have the same problem. It's very difficult to work in pain. It's something I cannot get used to. I have to continue working because I need the insurance."

Barack Obama Ready to Slash US Nuclear Arsenal
Julian Borger, The Guardian UK: "Barack Obama has demanded the Pentagon conduct a radical review of US nuclear weapons doctrine to prepare the way for deep cuts in the country's arsenal, the Guardian can reveal. Obama has rejected the Pentagon's first draft of the 'nuclear posture review' as being too timid, and has called for a range of more far-reaching options consistent with his goal of eventually abolishing nuclear weapons altogether, according to European officials."

Ray McGovern CIA Torturers Running Scared
Ray McGovern, Truthout: "For the CIA supervisors and operatives who were responsible for torture, the chickens are coming home to roost. That is, if President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder mean it when they say no one is above the law - and if they have the courage to stand up to brazen intimidation. Unable to prevent Attorney General Eric Holder from starting an investigation of torture and other war crimes that implicate CIA officials past and present, some of those same CIA officials, together with what in intelligence circles are called 'agents of influence' in the media, are pulling out all the stops to quash the Department of Justice's preliminary investigation."

Why Haven't Any Wall Street Tycoons Been Sent to the Slammer?
Kevin G. Hall, McClatchy Newspapers: "More than a year into the gravest financial crisis since the Great Depression, millions of Americans have seen their home values and retirement savings plunge and their jobs evaporate. What they haven't seen are any Wall Street tycoons forced to swap their multi-million dollar jobs and custom-made suits for dishwashing and prison stripes. There are plenty of civil and class-action lawsuits from aggrieved investors angered by the losses in their mortgage bonds, hedge funds or pensions. Regulators have stepped up their vigilance after the fact. But to date, no captain of finance tied to the crisis has walked the plank."

Robert Scheer Obama's Presidency Isn't Too Big to Fail
Robert Scheer, Truthout: "A president has only so much capital to expend, both in tax dollars and public tolerance, and Barack Obama is dangerously overdrawn. He has tried to have it all on three fronts, and his administration is in serious danger of going bankrupt. He has blundered into a deepening quagmire in Afghanistan, has continued the Bush policy of buying off Wall Street hustlers instead of confronting them and is now on the cusp of bargaining away the so-called public option, the reform component of his health care program."

Sheriff Faces Long-Awaited Federal Probe
Valeria Fernandez, Inter Press Service: "The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has slammed its door on a federal investigation into allegations of civil rights violations. But immigrant communities in Arizona have reopened them. Two weeks ago, U.S. Justice Department investigators met with religious and community leaders in Arizona to hear testimony from people impacted by the sheriff's policies outside and within his jails."

Values Voters Summit Promotes "New Masculinity" of Ignorance and Fury
Wendy Norris, RH Reality Check: "The Family Research Council wants you to be manly. So the Values Voter Summit, the annual confab of ultra-conservative political and religious leaders that took place this weekend in Washington tried to be hip with a fundamentalist-inspired reenactment of 'Mad Men,' the popular American television drama that harkens back to the good ol' days when men were in charge and women knew their place."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Truthout 9/20

There's No Denying Obama's Race Plays a Role in Protests
Tony Pugh, McClatchy Newspapers: "The collapse of the housing market, the government bailout of Wall Street, record job losses, long-term unemployment, trillion-dollar deficits, shrinking retirement funds, growing government intervention, foreign economic competition and America's changing demographic landscape left many Americans angry at the direction of the country, confused about the source of their problems and fearful about the future."

Obama to Attempt to Relaunch Israel-Palestine Peace Talks
BBC News: "President Barack Obama will meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday to try to relaunch peace talks."

Is South America in an Arms Race?
Nadja Drost, GlobalPost: "Concerns over a possible arms race on the South American continent have turned the spotlight on who’s buying what and why."

Former Iraq Security Contractors Say Firm Bought Black Market Weapons, Swapped Booze for Rockets
T. Christian Miller and Aram Roston, ProPublica: "Last spring, the US diplomatic mission in Iraq got a makeover,replacing the scandal-plagued Blackwater private security company with a firm named Triple Canopy.... But the company's rise to prominence followed a long, often chaotic route, marked by questionable weapons deals, government bungling and a criminal investigation that was ultimately closed without charges being filed, according to newly released investigative files."

Alexander Cockburn Welcome to the National Asylum
Alexander Cockburn, Truthout: "Was there ever a society so saturated with lunacy as ours? One expects modulated nuttiness from the better element, particularly those inhabiting the corporate and legislative spheres, but these days, insanity is pervasive, spreading through all classes and walks of life. For years, we have been treated to pinstriped fugitives from the asylum like Pete Peterson urging the nation into ruin by slashing the deficit, but on Monday, there in Washington in tens of thousands were the sans-culottes screaming for fiscal propriety as though channeling the ruinous orthodoxies of Montagu Norman or Andrew Mellon."

Connie Schultz Outsourcing Hotel Housekeepers Creates a Real Mess
Connie Schultz, Truthout: "Recently, housekeepers at three Hyatt hotels in Boston thought they were training new workers for vacationing staff. Unfortunately, the housekeepers didn't know they were taking a high road thick with weeds."

Obama Said to Request That Paterson Drop Campaign
Raymond Hernandez and Jeff Zeleny, The New York Times: "President Obama has sent a request to Gov. David A. Paterson that he withdraw from the New York governor’s race, fearing that Mr. Paterson cannot recover from his dismal political standing, according to two senior administration officials and a New York Democratic operative with direct knowledge of the situation."

VIDEO President Barack Obama: Remarks on the Occasion of Rosh Hashanah
President Obama extends his warm wishes for Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah marks the start of a new year - a time of humble prayer, joyful celebration, and hope for a new beginning. September 18, 2009.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Truthout 9/19

Did Bush Continue to Secretly Operate Total Information Awareness?
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "Back in 2001, the Defense Department was briefed about a massive data mining system that officials said was aimed at identifying alleged terrorists who lived and communicated with people in the United States."

Despite Warning, Thousands Rally in Iran
Robert F. Worth, The New York Times: " Tens of thousands of protesters chanted and carried banners through the heart of Tehran and other Iranian cities on Friday, hijacking a government-organized anti-Israel march and injecting new life into the country’s opposition movement."

Eric Boehlert A President Was Killed the Last Time Right-Wing
Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America: "I've been thinking a lot of Kennedy and Dallas as I've watched the increasingly violent rhetorical attacks on Obama be unfurled. As Americans yank their kids of class in order to save them from being exposed to the President of the United States who only wanted to urge them to excel in the classroom. And as unvarnished hate and name-calling passed for health care 'debate' this summer."

Pressure Builds On Pentagon to Investigate Electrocution Death in Iraq
Jeremy Scahill, RebelReports: "Congressional pressure is increasing on the Department of Defense to investigate the apparent electrocution death of Adam Hermanson, a 25 year old DoD contractor who died September 1 in a shower at Camp Olympia inside the Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq."

Sam Ferguson Justice for Latin America's Disappeared?
Sam Ferguson, Truthout: "On September 3, 2009, three aging, retired officials from Argentina's army entered a federal courthouse in Rosario, Argentina. The men - Pascual Guerrieri, Jorge Alberto Fariña and Juan Daniel Amelong - have been charged with the kidnapping, forced disappearance and torture of 29 people, and the murder of 17 of them during Argentina's last dictatorship."

Rising Threat to Aid Agencies in Afghanistan
William Dowell, GlobalPost: "International aid and humanitarian organizations are increasingly under the threat of attack in Afghanistan and are struggling to find ways to operate safely in areas where the U.S. and the Taliban are at war."

Distribution Of Swine Flu Vaccine Will Begin in October
David Brown, The Washington Post: "Vaccine for the H1N1 influenza pandemic will be distributed on a three-day turnaround time from four regional warehouses around the country next month. The vaccine deliveries, expected to equal 20 million doses a week by the end of October, will be distributed among 90,000 immunization "providers," including health departments, hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices and pharmacies."

FOCUS Michael Winship Let's Make a Deal: Beltway Edition
Michael Winship, Truthout: "If you ever needed proof that Washington is governed by the Golden Rule - the one that says, he who has the gold, rules - you only have to look at the wagonloads of cash being dumped by big business into crushing President Obama's domestic agenda."

Friday, September 18, 2009

FP morning post 9/18

Top story:

Supporters of Iran's opposition used an annual rally in support of the Palestinians as an opportunity for new protests against their own government. Witnesses tell news agencies that marchers chanted "death to the dictator" and scuffled with government supporters during the Quds Day march.

Former President Mohammed Khatami and opposition candidates Mir Hossein Moussavi and Mehdi Karrubi were all apparently in attendance but forced to leave after being confronted by counterprotesters. Around 10 people were arrested, according to witnesses.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who delivered the Quds Day keynote address at Tehran University, seemed to be courting new international controversy by again calling the Holocaust "a myth" that is used to justify the occupation of Palestinian land.

In an interview on Thursday, Ahmadinejad said his country would never abandon its controversial nuclear program, but that they "do not see any need" for nuclear weapons.

Environment: A World Health Organization researcher argues that contraception is crucial in the fight against climate change.

A suicide bombing in a crowded market in Peshawar, Pakistan killed at least 25.
North Korea leader Kim Jong-il told visiting Chinese diplomats that he is willing to negotiate an end to his country's nuclear program.
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has appealed her conviction.

Middle East
Turkey has requested an extension of its mandate to attack Kurdish militants in Northern Iraq.
U.S. envoy George Mitchell has left the Middle East with little to show for his latest round of diplomacy.
Saad al-Hariri has been reappointed as Lebanon's prime minister, giving him a second chance to form a parliament.

Another Guantanamo detainee has been ordered released.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe now favors eliminating the country's controversial domestic spy agency.
Ten unregistered drug rehab centers were shut down in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico after a series of recent killings.

The African Union says it will continue its mission in Somalia despite the killing of 14 peacekeepers in a suicide bombing this week.
Gabon's opposition candidates are challenging the results of last month's elections in court.
A prominent former official pleaded guilty to complicity in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.

A Spanish court indicted three alleged former Nazi death camp guards for genocide.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for a new partnership with Russia is his first major foreign-policy address.
Polls show German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a comfortable lead heading into this month's election.

Baucus and the threshold

New York Times

So Senator Max Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has released his “mark” on proposed legislation — which would normally be the basis for the bill that eventually emerges from his committee. And serious supporters of health care reform will soon face their long-dreaded moment of truth.

You see, it has been clear for months that whatever health-care bill finally emerges will fall far short of reformers’ hopes. Yet even a bad bill could be much better than nothing. The question is where to draw the line. How bad does a bill have to be to make it too bad to vote for?

Now, the moment of truth isn’t here quite yet: There’s enough wrong with the Baucus proposal as it stands to make it unworkable and unacceptable. But that said, Senator Baucus’s mark is better than many of us expected. If it serves as a basis for negotiation, and the result of those negotiations is a plan that’s stronger, not weaker, reformers are going to have to make some hard choices about the degree of disappointment they’re willing to live with.

Of course, those who insist that we must have a single-payer system — Medicare for all — won’t accept any plan that tries, instead, to cajole and coerce private health insurers into covering everyone. But while many reformers, myself included, would prefer a single-payer system if we were starting from scratch, international experience shows that it’s not the only way to go. Several European countries, including Switzerland and the Netherlands, have managed to achieve universal coverage with a mainly private insurance system.

And right here in America, we have the example of the Massachusetts health reform, many of whose features are echoed in the Baucus plan. The Massachusetts system, introduced three years ago, has many problems. But as a new report from the Urban Institute puts it, it “has accomplished much of what it set out to do: Nearly all adults in the state have health insurance.” If we could accomplish the same thing for the nation as a whole, even with a less than ideal plan, it would be a vast improvement over what we have now.

So something along the general lines of the Baucus plan might be acceptable. But details matter. And the bad news is that the plan, as it stands, is inadequate or badly conceived in three major ways.

First, it bungles the so-called “employer mandate.” Most reform plans include a provision requiring that large employers either provide their workers with health coverage or pay into a fund that would help workers who don’t get insurance through their job buy coverage on their own. Mr. Baucus, however, gets too clever, trying to tie each employer’s fees to the subsidies its own employees end up getting.

That’s a terrible idea. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, it would make companies reluctant to hire workers from lower-income families — and it would also create a bureaucratic nightmare. This provision has to go and be replaced with a simple pay-or-play rule.

Second, the plan is too stingy when it comes to financial aid. Lower-middle-class families, in particular, would end up paying much more in premiums than they do under the Massachusetts plan, suggesting that for many people insurance would not, in fact, be affordable. Fixing this means spending more than Mr. Baucus proposes.

Third, the plan doesn’t create real competition in the insurance market. The right way to create competition is to offer a public option, a government-run insurance plan individuals can buy into as an alternative to private insurance. The Baucus plan instead proposes a fake alternative, nonprofit insurance cooperatives — and it places so many restrictions on these cooperatives that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, they “seem unlikely to establish a significant market presence in many areas of the country.”

The insurance industry, of course, loves the Baucus plan. Need we say more?

So this plan has to change. What matters now is the direction in which it changes.

It would be disastrous if health care goes the way of the economic stimulus plan, earlier this year. As you may recall, that plan — which was clearly too weak even as originally proposed — was made even weaker to win the support of three Republican senators. If the same thing happens to health reform, progressives should and will walk away.

But maybe things will go the other way, and Mr. Baucus (and the White House) will, for once, actually listen to progressive concerns, making the bill stronger.

Even if the Baucus plan gets better, rather than worse, what emerges won’t be legislation reformers can love. Will it nonetheless be legislation that passes the threshold of acceptability, legislation they can vote for? We’ll see.

Truthout 9/18

Dahr Jamail Afghanistan: Where Empires Go to Die
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "On September 7 the Swedish aid agency Swedish Committee for Afghanistan reported that the previous week US soldiers raided one of its hospitals. According to the director of the aid agency, Anders Fange, troops stormed through both the men's and women's wards, where they frantically searched for wounded Taliban fighters. Soldiers demanded that hospital administrators inform the military of any incoming patients who might be insurgents, after which the military would then decide if said patients would be admitted or not. Fange called the incident 'not only a clear violation of globally recognized humanitarian principles about the sanctity of health facilities and staff in areas of conflict, but also a clear breach of the civil-military agreement' between nongovernmental organizations and international forces. Fange said that US troops broke down doors and tied up visitors and hospital staff."

Joe Conason Joe Wilson's Dixie Partisans
Joe Conason, Truthout: "The stupid misconduct of entertainer Kanye West and politician Joe Wilson demonstrated, if any fresh proof is necessary, that thoughtless rudeness isn't confined by ethnicity, ideology or background. With their highly public episodes of misconduct, both earned sharp public censure. Yet while West has expressed real remorse for his misbehavior at the MTV Music Awards, Wilson has swiftly left behind a quick apology to cash in on his historic insult to the president of the United States. The South Carolina conservative's political consultants have raised upward of a million dollars from donors across the country who want to express solidarity with him for blurting, 'You lie!' on the House floor."

US Military Closes Huge Prison in Southern Iraq
Hannah Allam, McClatchy Newspapers: "The US military on Wednesday announced the closing of the sprawling Camp Bucca prison in southern Iraq, transferring $50 million in infrastructure and custody of all but 180 of the site's detainees to the Iraqi government. Early this year, the US military began emptying the prison, releasing 5,600 detainees and transferring another 1,400 with arrest warrants or detention orders to Iraqi authorities, according to the US military's Task Force 134, which oversees American-run prisons in Iraq."

Mark Weisbrot What Reforms Will the United States Have as a Result of This Recession?
Mark Weisbrot, The Center for Economic and Policy Research: "Corruption takes many forms in different countries and locations. Here in the United States it may not be as common to pay off a judge or a customs official as it is in most low and middle income countries, but we do have quite a bit of legalized bribery, especially in the form of electoral campaign contributions. The most obvious current case is that of health care reform, where the powerful insurance, pharmaceutical and other lobbies are in the process of vetoing some of the most important parts of the health care reform that most Americans want and need."

Tom Engelhardt Is America Hooked on War?
Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch: "What a world might be like in which we began not just to withdraw our troops from one war to fight another, but to seriously scale down the American global mission, close those hundreds of bases - recently, there were almost 300 of them, macro to micro, in Iraq alone - and bring our military home is beyond imagining. To discuss such obviously absurd possibilities makes you an apostate to America's true religion and addiction, which is force."

Egg-as-Person State Law Campaigns Attract New Faces, Old Radicals
Wendy Norris, RH Reality Check: "The so-called 'personhood' movement promoting constitutional rights for fertilized eggs got a fresh shot in the arm in recent days with ballot initiatives gearing up in Florida and renewing efforts in Colorado and Montana. And a host of familiar nationally-known and emerging local activists from hard line anti-abortion groups are leading the new charge to ban abortion, contraception, and other comprehensive reproductive health care."

Laurent Joffrin, Christian Losson and Francois Sergent Joseph Stiglitz: "Our Faith in Markets Blinds Us"
Liberation editor Laurent Joffrin and journalists Christian Losson and Francois Sergent interview Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, leader of a commission charged by the French government with reevaluating economic indicators. Their discussion ranges "over topics from the urgency of reconsidering how to calculate a nation's wealth to that of rethinking the reform of the capitalist system."

Ira Chernus Zionism vs. Zionism
Ira Chernus, Truthout: "It was a telling coincidence that two reports were issued on the very same day. The Geneva Initiative, a group of Israeli and Palestinian diplomats and technical experts, released its updated 400-page plan, spelling out the practical details of a reasonable two-state settlement. But Israeli newspapers barely noticed. They were too busy headlining the other report: a UN fact-finding mission's 575 pages of detail on war crimes committed by both Israeli and Palestinian forces during last winter's war in Gaza.... The coincidence of both documents appearing on the same day cast a bright spotlight on the contest between two different styles of Zionism, a contest that may soon come down to the wire. And the outcome will matter to all of us."

David Sirota Selective Deficit Disorder
David Sirota, Truthout: "Watching the health care debate unfold these days is a little like watching scenes from 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' - the ones showing a collage of strung-out, deranged or otherwise incapacitated patients rotting away in a squalid psychiatric ward.... Clearly, the inmates in America's political sanitarium are each struggling with different maladies. However, they are all suffering from Selective Deficit Disorder - an illness, the symptoms of which can be particularly difficult to detect."

Rising Threat to Aid Agencies in Afghanistan
William Dowell, GlobalPost: "International aid and humanitarian organizations are increasingly under the threat of attack in Afghanistan and are struggling to find ways to operate safely in areas where the U.S. and the Taliban are at war. Amid concerns for security, the United States Agency for International Development has opened an investigation into claims highlighted in a GlobalPost special report that some international contractors may be involved in payments - through local Afghan subcontractors - that end up in the hands of the Taliban in exchange for protection in Taliban-controlled areas."

Rosemary and Walter Brasch Late Breaking - Sometimes Broken - News
Rosemary and Walter Brasch, Truthout: "Joseph Pulitzer, one of America's most respected and powerful publishers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, once said there are three rules of journalism - 'Accuracy! Accuracy!! Accuracy!!!' The media's failure to verify the truth violates not only Pulitzer's three rules for journalists, but also a basic lesson of Newswriting 101, now forgotten in the 24/7 ratings-obsessed news media - it's more important to get it right than to be the first."

Robert Reich Why Olympia Snowe Should Vote Against the Baucus Plan
Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog: "How is it that a decision next week by a single Senator from Maine will almost certainly determine whether America's future healthcare system is still in the hands of private for-profit insurance companies and Big Pharma or enables more Americans to get better health care at lower cost? Bear with me, because you need to know what's likely to happen if she signs on, and if she doesn't. The next few weeks are crucial."

Struggling to Keep Their Land
Ezra Fieser, GlobalPost: "Like thousands of other peasant farmers, Pedro Jaime Neves fled strife in his home village during Guatemala's civil war in favor of a wide tract of land here.... Twenty-five years later, a new type of conflict has found him: Drug traffickers and agribusinesses are buying thousands of small farms - including those that surround Neves' home - in a land grab reshaping Guatemala's largest and most rural department."

Expert: Contraception Vital in Climate Change Fight
Kate Kelland, Reuters: "Contraception advice is crucial to poor countries' battle with climate change, and policy makers are failing their people if they continue to shy away from the issue, a leading family planning expert said on Friday. Leo Bryant, a lead researcher on a World Health Organisation study on population growth and climate change, said the stigma attached to birth control in both developing and developed countries was hindering vital progress."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Truthout 9/17

William Rivers Pitt Back to the Health Care Drawing Board
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "Give some credit to Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who unveiled his $774 billion health care reform bill on Wednesday, for being true to his word about wanting to craft a centrist, compromise piece of legislation. That's exactly what he did, and after revealing his bill, that's exactly where Baucus put us: in the middle of the road, right where all the squashed roadkill can be found lying on top of a long, yellow stripe."

White House Issues Yardsticks for Success in Afghanistan
Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers: "The White House Wednesday presented Congress with eight general yardsticks to measure success in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but didn't say how they'd help the administration determine how well U.S. policy in the region is working."

Suicide Car Bomb Kills 16, Wounds Dozens in Afghan Capital
Mark Magnier, The Los Angeles Times: "A powerful car bomb hit an Italian military convoy here today, killing at least 6 soldiers and 10 Afghan civilians and wounding at least 52 people, according to Italian and Afghan government officials."

US Backs Away From Missile Shield Plan
Jan Lopatka and Gabriela Baczynska, Reuters: "President Barack Obama has told east European states he was backing away from plans for an anti-missile shield there, in a move that may ease Russian-U.S. ties but fuel fears of resurgent Kremlin influence."

Marshall Fitz Fact Check: Health Care and Undocumented Immigrants
Marshall Fitz, The Center for American Progress: "The health care town hall circus this August had a recurrent sideshow: the illegal immigration paper tiger. The well-scripted disruption tactics by antireform activists played up one patently false claim after another. One of the most prevalent was the ungrounded assertion that undocumented immigrants will receive health care benefits in the legislative proposals before Congress."

Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary Dead at 72
Agence France-Presse: "Mary Travers, the female third of the wildly popular folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, whose anthems lent passionate voice to the 1960s protest movement, has died after battling leukemia, her publicist said. She was 72."

Deb Price Obama Invites Gay Americans In
Deb Price, Truthout: "When President Barack Obama wanted to single out Americans whose problems illustrate shortfalls in the health care system, he invited [Blues singer and lesbian Easter] Spencer to sit in the first lady's box for his high-stakes address to a joint session of Congress."

FP morning post 9/17

Top Story:

President Barack Obama informed the governments of the Czech Republic and Poland that he was scrapping U.S. plans to construct a U.S. missile shield in Eastern Europe, according to Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer. Under a deal reached during the Bush administration, the U.S. had planned to construct a radar facility in the Czech Republic and an interceptor base in Poland, a plan that angered Moscow.

The administration has indicated that it will still construct a smaller missile defense system based on ships in the Mediterranean or in Southeastern, Europe. This, it is argued, would more effective at countering the threat of a missile attack from Iran.

The decision has been expected for some time, but could still anger the Czech and Polish governments, who saw the presence of a U.S. facility on their soil as a deterrent against Russia. Moscow is likely to be pleased with the decision, just a week before President Obama is scheduled to meet with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Global economy:

The U.S. plans to push for a deal on global trade imbalances at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh next week.

The Indonesian terrorist leader Noordin Mohammad Top was killed in a police raid.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai defended his country's election against charges of fraud.
The U.S. believes CIA drones have killed two prominent militants in Pakistan.

Middle East
The U.S. military shut down its largest detainee facility in Iraq.
More than 80 people were killed in an air raid on a refugee camp in Yemen.
Israeli government leaders are trying to discredit a U.N. report detailing war crimes committed during last year's war in Gaza.

Ten people were killed in an attack on a drug rehab clinic in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, the second such attack this month.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is accused of using his intelligence services to spy on domestic opponents.
The front-runners in Honduras' presidential election all backed a negotiated solution to the country's political crisis

Suicide car bombers attacked African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Oil has been found off the coast of Sierra Leone.
West African countries have adopted a common policy on climate change.

Italy vowed to keep its troops in Afghanistan after a bombing that killed six in Kabul.
France is shutting down a camp that migrants use to try to reach Britain.
Russia declared the investigation into the hijacked cargo ship Arctic Sea over.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Truthout 9/16

David Bacon A Factory Like a City
David Bacon, Truthout: "Last month, Toyota announced it would close the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plant in Fremont, California, after General Motors announced it was withdrawing from the partnership under which the plant has operated for over two decades. The plant employs 4,500 workers directly, and the jobs of another 30,000 throughout Northern California are dependent on its continued operation. Taking families into account, the threatened closure will eliminate the income of over 100,000 people."

Ray McGovern Torture: The Fault Is Not in Our Stars
Ray McGovern, Truthout: "Unlike many of my progressive friends, for me, the current administration's behavior on torture is a glass half full. In my view, the real scandal is how very few have taken a sip. Sure, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have adopted some of the secrecy habits of the previous administration. But, for heaven's sake, read what Obama and Holder have gone ahead and released - and done - before you grouse any louder about the torture photos and other data still suppressed."

Connie Schultz You Probably Knew Crystal Lee Sutton
Connie Schultz, Truthout: "Last year, a Burlington Times News reporter asked Sutton how she'd like to be remembered. 'It is not necessary I be remembered as anything,' she said, 'but I would like to be remembered as a woman who deeply cared for the working poor and the poor people of the US and the world. That my family and children and children like mine will have a fair share and equality.'"

UN Commission Accuses Israel, Hamas of Gaza War Crimes
Cliff Churgin, McClatchy Newspapers: "After a six-month investigation, the UN's Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict has concluded there's evidence that Israeli forces and Palestinian militants committed war crimes during Israel's recent military operations in Gaza. The mission, headed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, called on the United Nations Security Council to monitor Israeli and Palestinian investigations into these charges and urged that if these aren't taking place in good faith to refer these cases to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands."

Camillo "Mac" Bica The Moral Character of Our Country
Camillo "Mac" Bica, Truthout: "Recently, in a speech to Congress and to the American people regarding health care reform, President Barack Obama, quoting the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, reminded the nation that 'What we face ... is above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country.'"

Elephant in the Room: Race Also Present in Rebuke of Wilson
William Douglas, McClatchy Newspapers: "In their effort to admonish Rep. Joe Wilson, both white and black lawmakers in the House of Representatives voiced deep concern over a string of what they think are racially motivated attacks on the nation's first black president. 'There's no question that if you look at some of the actions and comments being made, there's a fringe element that has staked out a racial position towards African-Americans that never has been open for public display' until now,' said Rep. Henry Johnson, D-Ga., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Wilson 'didn't help the cause of diversity and balance with his remarks.'"

Tom Hastings We Can't Afford Health Care? You Lie!
Tom H. Hastings, Truthout: "We see the spectacle of the US Congress unable to manage decent health care reform that will actually enable the American citizenry to join the rest of the industrialized world in having health care for all. The problems, it is clear, come from those who are lying."

Baucus Releases Health Care Blueprint With No Public Option
David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers: "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus unveiled on Wednesday an $856 billion plan to overhaul the nation's health care system that includes taxes on high-end insurance policies and incentives to create health care co-ops around the nation, but not the public option that President Barack Obama has sought."

Democracy and Action in Afghanistan
James Foley, In These Times: "As gunshots rang out from the mountain tops of the Dewegal Valley in eastern Afghanistan, men voted under the shade of trees next to their village's mosque. Heads turned upward whenever a heavy shell or particularly loud burst echoed, but the voters appeared in no hurry to leave. This was supposed to be their election, after all."

Pentagon Study Proposes Overhaul of Defense Base Act to Cover Care for Injured Contractors
T. Christian Miller, ProPublica: "Congress could save as much as $250 million a year through a sweeping overhaul of the controversial US system to care for civilian contractors injured in war zones, according to a new Pentagon study."

Bertrand Collomb What We Hope for From Pittsburgh
Bertrand Collomb, Les Echos: "If, as seems to be the case once again, trading activity is very lucrative and depends largely on the talent of some, their compensation will probably remain excessive as long as the activity itself is not limited. Must institutions, whether banks or others, that implicitly benefit from taxpayers' guarantee be allowed to develop purely speculative operations? That is the true question."

Zimbabwe: Has Anything Changed in One Year?
Global Post: "It is one year since President Robert Mugabe agreed to a power-sharing deal with his main election challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Tsvangirai is now prime minister, members of his party are in parliament and cabinet. But many Zimbabweans are asking what benefits have emerged from the power-sharing government?"

Peter Laarman A Whiter Shade of Faith: Saturday's Tax Protests and the Religion of Whiteness
Peter Laarman, Religion Dispatches: "When I saw the Confederate flags and angry signs and heard the rhetoric of frustration coming from Dick Armey's protest rally at the Capitol grounds on Saturday, I thought: So now it's come to this - white people having to stake their claim to social space in a culture they think is overrun with foreigners and people of color?"

Bill Moyers Journal Is Conservatism Dead?
Bill Moyers Journal: "In the first days of President Obama's administration, an essay from Sam Tanenhaus entitled 'Conservatism Is Dead' sparked debate over contemporary conservatism and its place in modern American politics."

FP morning brief 9/16

Top Story:

Yukio Hatoyama formally took power as Japan's Prime Minister today, ending the country's decades as a virtual one-party state under the Liberal Democratic Party. Hatoyama was elected overwhelmingly in a special session of parliament.

Prime Minister Hatoyama is promising sweeping changes to Japan's moribund state bureaucracy. "I want to create the kind of politics in which politicians take the lead without relying on bureaucrats," he said.

As his Democratic Party has never held power and many of its members are serving their first terms in parliament, Hatoyama has a limited pool from which to choose his cabinet. Hatoyama has gone with two relatively untested party insiders, Katsuyo Okada and Toshimi Kitazawa, as foreign and defense ministers, respectively. But he has opted for experience in his finance minister Hirohisa Fujii, a veteran lawmaker, former finance ministry bureaucrat, and LDP defector.

Taking charge:

Libyan diplomat Ali Treki took over the year-long presidency of the U.N. General Assembly.

Middle East
Several mortars were fired on Baghdad's Green Zone as Vice President Joe Biden visited.
After another round of U.S.-Israel talks, there's no sign of a deal on settlements.
Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a powerful cleric who supports Iran's opposition, has been barred from delivering prayers on Iran's day of solidarity with the Palestinians.

Adm. Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told congress that more troops would be needed for success in Afghanistan.
The number of drug-related killings in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has reached an all-time high.
Cuba and China are deepening their economic ties.

Pakistan said it has arrested another key Taliban commander in Swat Valley.
Full preliminary election results are expected to be released in Afghanistan today.
South Korea warned against giving too many concessions to North Korea in upcoming nuclear talks without really disarming it.

Somalia's Shabaab rebels issued a call for more foreign militants to come join them.
Nigeria's MEND agreed to extend their ceasefire with the government for another month.
Kenya began a massive project to dismantle Africa's largest slum.

A suicide bombing injured six police in Grozny, Chechnya.
Hungary agreed to accept a detainee from Guantanamo bay.
Jose Manuel Barroso won a second term as European Commission president.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

FP morning brief 9/15

Top Story:

Somalia militants are promising that the United States will "taste the bitterness of our response" after a raid by U.S. special forces that killed one of Africa's most wanted terrorists yesterday.

Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan wanted for the bombing of an Israeli resort in Kenya in 2002, was thought to be a liaison between Somalia's Shabaab militants and Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. Four military helicopters were involved in the attack on a truck convoy carrying Nabhan and and Shabaab members yesterday afternoon. Locals say the militants were quickly killed.

The attack shows that the United States has surprisingly specific intelligence on Shabaab activities. "I think it will certainly make al-Shabab leaders much more cautious when they are operating," said Ernst Jan Hogendoorn of the International Crisis Group.


An unrepentant Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi reporter jailed for throwing a shoe at former President Bush, was released from prison. He claims to have been tortured by senior government officials while in jail.

Middle East
U.S. envoy George Mitchell and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are meeting to discuss Israel's settlement plans.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana says the international nuclear talks with Iran next month will likely take place in Turkey.
Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Nourizad -- thought to be a hardline conservative -- took the unusual step of publicly criticizing the country's Supreme Leader.

Human rights groups are accusing the Pakistani military of involvement in a series of brutal killings in the Swat Valley.
Incoming Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama selected a veteran politician as finance minister.
China's Communist Party began its annual meeting.

Norwegian President Jens Stoltenberg won a second term.
Russia warned that it will detain Georgian ships entering Abkhazian waters.
British polls show Gordon Brown's Labor Party 14 points behind the opposition Conservatives.

Nigeria's MEND rebels says they will end their ceasefire with the government today.
Tribal violence in Kenya claimed 24 lives.
Budget cuts are forcing the World Food Program to cut 12 food centers in Somalia.

Mexico City is on high alert for violence during tomorrow's Independence Day celebrations.
President Barack Obama extended the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba for another year.
Ecuador and Colombia will hold direct talks for the first time since a cross-border raid against the FARC by Colombian troops 1 1/2 years ago.

Truthout 9/15

William Rivers Pitt Ku Klux Klowns
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "How many white, middle-aged, overweight, pissed-off right-wingers does it take to unscrew a light bulb? Depends on who you ask. Organizers for this past weekend's anti-Obama protest in Washington, DC, were slinging around crowd-size estimates of two million people before the curtain was thankfully drawn on the thing, despite the fact that the number was actually in the vicinity of 30,000."

Jeremy Scahill Cheney and Rumsfeld's "Close Friend" Throws Out Suit Against Alleged Abu Ghraib Torturers
Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports: "On September 11, the US appeals court for the District of Columbia announced in a 2-1 decision that it was throwing out a lawsuit against CACI International and L-3 Communications Titan unit, which are being sued by Iraqi civilians for their alleged role in the torture and abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison. The companies provided interrogators at the prison at the height of the abuses there. The suit alleges that employees of the companies conspired with US. Army reservist Charles Graner, who was convicted of prisoner abuse on January 14, 2005 and is currently serving 10 years at Fort Leavenworth, and others to torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Several of the plaintiffs are Iraqis whose torture was depicted in graphic photos revealed over the past several years."

Robert Borosage The Mugging of the Common Good
Robert Borosage, The Campaign For America's Future: "President Obama traveled to Wall Street on the anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers that triggered the worst financial debacle since the Great Depression. His purpose was to challenge Wall Street's barons, telling them: 'We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess ... where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses.' Those days are over, the president said. It's time for comprehensive legislation. Taxpayers won't cover your bets or your bonuses. And we know once more the threat that financial holdings can pose to the nation."

Benjamin Dangl Former Boss of Occupied Chicago Factory Jailed
Benjamin Dangl, Truthout: "Richard Gillman, the former CEO of Chicago's Republic Windows and Doors factory where over 200 workers organized a victorious sit-in last year, has been sent to jail on eight charges including felony theft, fraud and money laundering. After the judge announced the $10 million bail, the shocked and dazed Gillman, dressed in a pinstriped suit, was hauled away to the county jail."

US Peace Activists Call for Near-Term Withdrawal of Foreign Troops From Afghanistan
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!: "The coming weeks hold critical significance for the US occupation of Afghanistan. The Senate is expected to vote on the Obama administration's $128 billion request to fund war operations in Afghanistan and Iraq for the coming fiscal year. Next week, the Obama administration will unveil a report on whether US benchmarks for success in Afghanistan are being achieved. It's widely believed President Obama will receive a military request to escalate the Afghan war with thousands of additional troops. The apparent congressional unease over a troop escalation comes near Friday's eight-year anniversary of the vote authorizing the attack on Afghanistan. We speak to Norman Solomon of the Institute for Public Accuracy on his recent trip to Afghanistan and CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin."

Cut Loose: State and Local Layoffs of Public Employees in the Current Recession
Matt Sherman and Nathan Lane, Truthout: "In the current recession, millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Unemployment has increased nationwide to levels not witnessed since the 1980s. Much of the job loss has occurred in private industries, but the public sector has also felt the sting of layoffs. Decreasing tax revenues and expanding budget deficits have forced public officials to make difficult decisions regarding their payroll."

Andy Kroll Obama vs. the Lobbyists
Andy Kroll, "At the end of this summer of discontent, of death panels and unplugging poor Grandma, of birthers and astroturfers and rifle-toting picketers, the halcyon early days of the Obama administration feel increasingly like hazy, gilt-edged memories. The president's sprawling legislative agenda - a health-care overhaul, financial regulation reform, slashing wasteful military spending, and climate change legislation legislation - is slowly grinding its way through the halls of Congress. Barack Obama's sheen, his administration's unflagging confidence, and all the bipartisan, post-racial aspirations have been replaced by the hard realities of Washington politicking. And with the media's lens more tightly focused than ever on Washington's every move and utterance 24/7, anything said a few months back feels like a lifetime ago."

Henri Gibier Anniversaries
Henri Gibier, writing for France's premier business newspaper, Les Echos: "September 15, 2008 will undoubtedly long remain the date of the greatest bank failure in history. Lehman Brothers vanished from Wall Street's horizon that day with the same abruptness that the World Trade Center's two towers had disappeared from the New York skyline seven years before. On September 11, 2001, within a few hours, all planes, one after the other, stopped flying. This time, it was the banks that suddenly stopped lending."

Sam Ferguson Beating Up Thurgood Marshall
Sam Ferguson, Truthout: "Chief Justice Roberts has gone for the rope-a-dope, and it appears that he just dealt the knock out blow. Based on the tenor of the argument yesterday at the Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC, the Supreme Court is poised to overrule the 1990 decision in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce. If they do, corporations will be allowed to use general treasury funds to run advertisements and campaign on behalf of federal candidates. Corporate cash will flood our elections and special interests will be enshrined in the Constitution."

Jason Leopold CIA Inspector General: Zubaydah's Torture Preceded John Yoo's Torture Memo
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "Bush administration officials have led the public to believe that Abu Zubaydah, the first high-value detainee captured after 9/11, was a senior al-Qaeda leader, who was subjected to waterboarding and other torture techniques after the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) drafted an August 1, 2002, legal memo authorizing the CIA to use brutal methods during his interrogation. But in a little known interview former CIA Inspector General John Helgerson gave to Spiegel magazine two weeks ago, he suggested Zubaydah was tortured 'months' before OLC attorneys John Yoo and Jay Bybee wrote the August 1, 2002 memo.

Real "Norma Rae" Dies of Cancer After Insurer Delayed Treatment
Sue Sturgis, Facing South: "The North Carolina union organizer who was the inspiration for the movie "Norma Rae" died on Friday of brain cancer after a battle with her insurance company, which delayed her treatment. She was 68. Crystal Lee Sutton, formerly Crystal Lee Jordan, was fired from her job folding towels at the J.P. Stevens textile plant in her hometown of Roanoke Rapids, N.C. for trying to organize a union in the early 1970s. Her last action at the plant -- writing the word 'UNION' on a piece of cardboard and standing on her work table, leading her co-workers to turn off their machines in solidarity -- was memorialized in the 1979 film by actress Sally Field."

Dean Baker The Public Plan Option and the Big Government Conservatives
Dean Baker, Truthout: "We all know that there are basic philosophical differences between liberals and conservatives. Liberals believe that the government can be used to improve the lives of ordinary people. Conservatives, on the other hand, believe that the government should redistribute money to the wealthy. This philosophical difference has come through very clearly in the debate over giving people the option to buy into a publicly run health insurance plan."

Robert Reich The Continuing Disaster of Wall Street, One Year Later
Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog: "As he attempted to do with health care reform last week, the President is trying to breathe new life into financial reform. He's using the anniversary of the death of Lehman Brothers and the near-death experience of the rest of the Street, culminating with a $600 billion taxpayer financed bailout, to summon the political will for change. Yet the prospects seem dubious. As with health care reform, he has stood on the sidelines for months and allowed vested interests to frame the debate."

US Court Dismisses Iraqi Contractor Torture Case
James Vicini, Reuters: "A federal appeals court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit against two US defense contractors by Iraqi torture victims, saying the companies had immunity as government contractors. The lawsuit was filed in 2004 on behalf of Iraqi nationals who say they or their relatives had been tortured or mistreated while detained by the US military at the Abu Ghraib prison."

EPA to Take Closer Look at Mountaintop Removal
Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers: "The Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that 79 applications for surface coal-mine permits in Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio and Tennessee might violate the nation's Clean Water Act and require closer scrutiny. Many of the 79 applications would remove mountaintops and dump debris in valley streams. The EPA's action was an abrupt shift from the last big batch of surface mining permits that it's considered during the Obama administration. In May, the agency said it had no concerns with 42 of 48 permits, and blocked six."

Francois Brousseau Reforming the United States
Francois Brousseau, Le Devoir: "With his timid and oh-so-cautious plan for the reform of health care insurance, Barack Obama, very much in spite of himself, unleashed the move in for a kill by an American extreme right that is in the minority, but is also influential and running riot."

Monday, September 14, 2009

FR morning post 9/14

Top story:

Responding to the Obama administration's decision late on Friday to levy tariffs of Chinese tire exports, the Chinese government is now planning to counter with tariffs of its own on U.S. auto parts and chicken exports. China has also called for World Trade Organization talks on the dispute. Both areas are already tightly controlled by China and experts worry about a growing tide of protectionism during a time of rising unemployment around the world.

The U.S. and Chinese governments are under strong domestic pressure in the intensifying dispute. The Obama administration is under pressure from labor unions to deliver on campaign promises to control Chinese imports and growing nationalist sentiment in China has pushed Beijing to respond more forcefully than it might have ordinarily.


Norman Borlaug, the agricultural researcher whose research on crop yields revolutionized the way the world grows food, died at 95.

Middle East
EU foreign-policy chief Javier Solana has arranged a meeting between Iranian representatives and the international community for Oct. 1.
A new audiotape reportedly by Osama Bin Laden accuses Barack Obama of being powerless to stop the war in Afghanistan.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rebuffed U.S. calls for a total settlement freeze on the West Bank.

The three men convicted in the 2006 transatlantic airline terror plot were sentenced to life in prison.
Norwegians head to the polls for national elections this week.
The former spokeswoman for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was found guilty of contempt.

At least 14 people were killed in a stampede for food aid in Karachi, Pakistan.
China began construction of its fourth space center.
White House officials are meeting with the Dalai Lama today to discuss an upcoming visit to the United States.

Russia has agreed to lend Venezuela $2 billion for tanks and an anti-aircraft system.
The U.S. has revoked the visa of interim Honduran president Roberto Micheletti.
Argentina has accused Uruguay of violating international law by constructing a mill on a river that divides the two countries.

After meeting with President Robert Mugabe, an EU delegation ruled out lifting sanctions against Zimbabwe.
The death toll from ethnic rioting in Kampala, Uganda has risen to 21.
Opposition leaders were unsuccessful in calling for a strike to protest the results of Gabon's recent election.

Truthout 9/14

Kelpie Wilson Tom Paine Would Have Loved Van Jones
Kelpie Wilson, Truthout: "It's been a nail-biting time for liberals, wondering if President Obama would have the strength to take on the right-wing bullies who ran amok in our public life throughout August's Congressional recess. It was a relief to hear the president in his health care address confront the lies directly and to hear him stand behind his preference for a public health care option. But Obama's failure to defend Van Jones, his green jobs adviser, is still a big disappointment and we need to understand why it happened."

Obama to Urge Financial Overhaul
Brady Dennis, The Washington Post: "President Obama will head to Wall Street on Monday to try to breathe new life into efforts to overhaul the financial regulatory system, an undertaking he has said is essential to halting the abuses and failures that led to the current crisis."

Mike Elk Escaping the Debt of Wall Street and Building a Green Economy
Mike Elk, Truthout: "We often talk about the bailout in terms of the increase in the national debt and the lack of transparency at major banks. Rarely do we discuss it in terms of the jobs and opportunities lost as a result of it.... With just $30 billion less than the amount the government gave away in the form of executive bonuses, we could create 2.5 million jobs in manufacturing, erasing the nearly two million manufacturing jobs that have been lost since the recession began in 2007."

CBO: Public Option Would Reduce Premiums Across the Board
Jonathan Walker, The Campaign For America's Future: "The CBO recently published a new letter on health care reform. They were asked to evaluate the impact of the weak (level playing field) public option in the Senate HELP committee's bill. Their conclusion was that the competitive pressure from the public option 'would probably lower private premiums in the insurance exchanges to a small degree,' and with a public plan in the exchange, 'the costs and premiums of competing private plans would, on average, be slightly lower than if no public plan was available.' By reducing the cost of buying private insurance on the exchange, a public plan 'would tend to lower federal subsidy payments through the exchanges.'"

Sebelius: No Public Abortion Funding in Health Care Bill
David Lightman, McClatchy Newspapers: "Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius pledged Sunday that President Barack Obama will support barring public funding for abortion in any health care overhaul legislation. 'That's exactly what the president said and I think that's what he intends, that the bill he signs will do,' she said on ABC's 'This Week.'"

Priceless: How the Federal Reserve Bought the Economics Profession
Ryan Grim, The Huffington Post: "The Federal Reserve, through its extensive network of consultants, visiting scholars, alumni and staff economists, so thoroughly dominates the field of economics that real criticism of the central bank has become a career liability for members of the profession, an investigation by the Huffington Post has found. This dominance helps explain how, even after the Fed failed to foresee the greatest economic collapse since the Great Depression, the central bank has largely escaped criticism from academic economists. In the Fed's thrall, the economists missed it, too."

Chip Ward Red Snow Warning: The End of Welfare Water and the Drying of the West
Chip Ward, "All of us have been watching drought in action this summer. When it hits the TV news, though, it usually goes by the moniker of 'fire.' As we've seen, California, in the third year of a major drought, has been experiencing 'a seemingly endless fire that has burned more than 250 square miles of Los Angeles County' (and that may turn out to be just the beginning of another fire season from hell). Southern California has hardly been the only drought story, though. For those with an eye out, the southern parts of Texas, the hottest state in the union this year, have been in the grips of a monster drought. Seven hundred thousand acres of the state have already burned in 2009, with a high risk of more to come."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Truthout 9/13

Review of Henry Giroux's: Youth in a Suspect Society
Tolu Olorunda, The Black Commentator: "It need not be said, though I find it necessary to restate, that Henry Giroux is one of the most important public servants the last 100 years have produced. In his expansive three decade plus academic career, Henry has written over 35 books, contributed to countless scholarly journals, and received numerous educational honors. But perhaps what most makes this former high school basketball star distinct is his tireless advocacy on behalf of the frail, the vulnerable, the disposable."

Afghan Detainees Allowed to Question Detention
Pauline Jelinek, The Associated Press: "The Pentagon has begun putting into place a new program under which hundreds of prisoners being held by the military in Afghanistan will be given the right to challenge their detentions, a defense official said Sunday. Prisoners at Bagram military base are all to be given a US military official to serve as their personal representative and a chance to go before new so-called Detainee Review Boards, to have their cases considered, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to be able to discuss a program that has not been formally announced."

Obama Fires Up Health Care Reform Supporters
Josephine Marcotty, Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, Mike Kaszuba and Pat Doyle, The Mineappolis Star Tribune: "President Obama hit Minneapolis like a political barnstormer Saturday, hammering at a health reform list that includes insurance for people with or without jobs, elimination of coverage caps, and his strongest endorsement yet for a public option. 'The time for games is passed. Now is the time for action. Now is the time to deliver on health care for every American,' Obama said in a speech at Target Center, drawing the loudest cheer of his 42-minute pep talk on overhauling the nation's health care system."

Connie Schultz Shame Is Not a Health Care Strategy
Connie Schultz, Truthout: "We also could have a long conversation about cutbacks in physical education and recess in schools, particularly in neighborhoods that need those things the most. We could talk about depleted energy after a long day at work and a bus ride home. There are also issues of food addiction and genetics. Some people are born to struggle with weight all their lives. Talking about punishing the obese addresses none of the underlying causes of this medical epidemic. Treating them like human beings should never go out of style."

Jim Hightower The Reality of Economic Recovery
Jim Hightower, Truthout: "Great news, America! Having just celebrated Labor Day, we can now bask in the revelation that our long economic nightmare is over. Forget recession, much less a depression, our country is poised to spring into a new era of financial prosperity! We know that this is so because we're being told so by top economists, Wall Street bankers and others in the know. To put the icing on this happy economic cupcake, President Obama even interrupted his Martha's Vineyard vacation late last month to announce that he was reappointing Ben Bernanke to a second term as chairman of the Federal Reserve banking system."

Tensions Flare in Lebanon
Ben Gilbert, GlobalPost: "After a quiet summer in Lebanon, two back-to-back developments have reminded everyone here of the precariousness of the peace. Two rockets launched from southern Lebanon landed in northern Israel Friday afternoon, triggering retaliatory fire from the Israeli side into Lebanon. Israeli warplanes roamed the skies as United Nations peacekeepers cordoned off the launch area near Lebanon's southern port city of Tyre. No casualties were reported on either side."

Obama Administration Appears Poised for Talks With Iran
Dafna Linzer, ProPublica: "Iran’s five-page offer for talks with the Obama administration,appears to have been accepted by the White House. Shortly after the offer was presented Wednesday, a host of anonymous western diplomats were quoted as dismissing the offer in its entirety because it did not address outstanding issues related to Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, some diplomats were quoted as saying that the Iranian proposal included an outright refusal to discuss its ongoing nuclear efforts. But the proposal, which was disclosed by ProPublica Thursday, contained no such claims."

FOCUS Benjamin Dangl: Throwing Bullets at Failed Policies: US Plans for New Bases in Colombia
Benjamin Dangl, Truthout: "It was a winter day in the Argentine city of Bariloche when 12 South American presidents gathered there on August 28. It was so cold that Hugo Chavez wore a red scarf and Evo Morales put on a sweater. The presidents arrived at the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) meeting to discuss a US plan to establish seven new military bases in Colombia. Though officials in Colombia and the US say the bases would be aimed at combating terrorism and the drug trade, US military and Air Force documents point to other objectives."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Truthout 9/12

Winship Marine's Photo Reminds Us of War That Will Not End
Michael Winship, Truthout: "There was a certain ironic and painful symmetry at work last month. As one iconic image of war was called into doubt, another was being created, a new photograph of combat's grim reality that already has generated controversy and anger. When it was first published in 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, Robert Capa's photo was captioned 'Loyalist Militiaman at the Moment of Death.' Better known today as 'The Falling Soldier.'"

Jeff Leys Health Care vs. Warfare: The Future Costs of the Afghanistan War
Jeff Leys, Truthout: "On Wednesday, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on health care. Later this year, he will decide whether to deploy additional troops to the war in Afghanistan on top of the 69,000 troops already deployed. The struggle for health care and the struggle to end warfare are inextricably linked."

Democrats in Congress Wary of Afghanistan Escalation
David Lightman and Warren P. Strobel, McClatchy Newspapers: "Congress will examine next week the future of American military involvement in Afghanistan, a future that many key lawmakers hope won't include sending more US troops than President Barack Obama already has committed. 'There's a significant number of people in the country, and I don't know the exact percentages, that have questions about deepening our military involvement in Afghanistan,' Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said Friday."

Dr. Ron Walters Barack Can't Speak to School Children? Why?
Dr. Ron Walters, The Black Commentator: "President Barack Obama wanted to do what he and his staff probably thought was an innocuous and very positive gesture – send a message to school kids at their institutions that it was a good thing for them to study hard and stay in school because their future and the future of the nation depended on it. The uproar that this has caused has also shocked and embarrassed many people who not understand why the President of the United States cannot even deliver such a positive message to children without the hard politicization of the event."

Book Says Obama's Life Is at Risk
Christopher Moraff, AlterNet: "Most of us have come to accept the worst politics has to offer as a price worth paying for a democratic system in which every voice, no matter how repugnant, has the right to be heard. But lately the level of hostility directed at President Obama and progressive lawmakers from some corners of society has crossed the line from disturbing to downright scary. From 'birther'-led citizen grand juries charging the president with fraud, to gun-toting protesters outside presidential events, organized opposition to the new administration and its policies has taken on a decidedly radical bent, giving rise to the unthinkable."

C.M. Sennott 9/11 Eight Years Later
C.M. Sennott, GlobalPost: "Eight years. On a beautiful September morning not unlike that day in 2001, I watched the loud, dusty construction site that is Ground Zero waking up. Cranes stretched across the sky, dump trucks idled and the construction crews yawned in the early morning light where the World Trade Center once stood. You can’t help but wonder why the hell it's taking so long to build a suitable monument there? Why is this open wound in the island of Manhattan and the heart of the country not stitched up and healed — at least physically — by now?"

Mort Rosenblum In the Real World, Health Is a Human Right
Mort Rosenblum, GlobalPost: "In Beijing, a 50-cent walk-in EKG determined my killer chest pain was no more than a strained muscle complicated by bad dumplings. In Paris, six weeks of hospital tests and enough meds to choke a moose found an ugly lung shadow was only Balkan pneumonia. The bills came to $1,500, doctors included. And if I’d been on Chinese or French national health plans, I would have been spared even those charges. Nearly every society on earth — socialist, fascist or anything in between — regards not dying needlessly for lack of medical care as the most basic of human rights."

Health Reform and Illegal Immigration: The Truth
Froma Harrop, Truthout: "In their tireless efforts to kill health care reform, right-wingers have fanned fears that it would attract illegal aliens. This sideshow is rather twisted because, actually, the reforms would do the opposite. They would help curb illegal immigration. Start with Canada to see how this works. Canadians have universal coverage, a big immigration program and almost no undocumented workers. These things are not unrelated. Government-guaranteed medical care is a big reason why Canada doesn't tolerate illegal immigration. No country can long afford a large subclass of poor workers that pays little in taxes and collects full benefits."

Friday, September 11, 2009

Truthout 9/11

Jason Leopold High Court Urged to Reject White House Appeal to Keep Abuse Photos Secret
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "The American Civil Liberties Union asked the US Supreme Court this week to deny a request by the Obama administration to review and, if justices take up the case, reverse a lower court's ruling ordering the government to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request and release more than four dozen photos depicting US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan abusing prisoners."

David Sirota A Party Is Not a Movement
David Sirota, Creators Syndicate: "The difference between parties and movements is simple: Parties are loyal to their own power regardless of policy agenda; movements are loyal to their own policy agenda regardless of which party champions it. This is one of the few enduring political axioms, and it explains why the organizations purporting to lead an American progressive 'movement' have yet to build a real movement, much less a successful one."

Americans Are Getting Poorer, and It's Going to Get Worse
Tony Pugh, McClatchy Newspapers: "The early impact of the worst recession since the 1930s pushed median incomes down, forced millions more people into poverty and left more Americans without health care in 2008, according to new annual survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau."

Obama's Health Care Speech Helps Unify Democrats
Noam N. Levey, The Los Angeles Times: "A day after President Obama went to Capitol Hill to renew his call for a sweeping healthcare overhaul, Democrats on Thursday rallied behind him, giving important momentum to the push for legislation this year."

Communications Workers T-Shirts Too Much for AT&T; Hundreds Suspended in Connecticut
Mischa Gaus, Labor Notes: "When AT&T demanded Communications Workers (CWA) members in Connecticut take off T-shirts announcing they were the company's 'prisoners,' they took a day's suspension rather than back down."

Doctors at Center of Human Rights Row
Maura R. O'Connor, GlobalPost: "From January to May 15, when they were arrested, the doctors communicated from the war zone almost daily, sending reports of casualties and photographs that often showed dead bodies, shallow bunkers and malnourished children."

A sign you're serious

On Wednesday night, President Obama issued a clarion call for health reform. "Now is the season for action," he said.
Over the last year, you've taken action. You've made thousands of calls to Congress, signed petitions, and written letters. Because of you, Congress knows they cannot wait to enact real health care reform.
Today, I ask you to show your support and help us win at the same time with a shiny Health Care for America Now lawn sign you can proudly display in your yard or window. We'll send you one when you donate $10 or more to our campaign.
Click here to get your lawn sign, and then tell all of your friends.

A lawn sign in your yard means you stand with the majority of Americans for the real reform that President Obama has called for - reform that lowers costs, improves quality, gives us stability, and offers us the choice of a public health insurance option.
With a lawn sign clearly visible in your yard and yards across the country, there will be no doubt that we've built a movement for health care reform, we're in the majority, and we will win.
If you chip in $18, we'll send a lawn sign to one of our volunteers working in communities around the country for health reform to spread the word even further. Donate $25 and we'll ship two signs around the country.
The opposition is spending millions every day to protect the insurance industry's profits and defeat health care reform.2 With your help, we can show Washington that the American people want reform and want it now.

To your health,
Levana Layendecker

Health Care for America Now

FP morning brief 9/11

Top Story:

Former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian and his wife have been sentenced to life in prison on graft and embezzlement charges. Chen, who served from 2000-2008 was Taiwan's second democratically elected leader and the first not from the politically dominant Nationalist Party.
Chen was charged with embezzling $3.15 million and receiving bribes of at least $9 million. However, his supporters believe his prosecution is politically motivated. Chen was a staunch advocate of Taiwanese independence form mainland China, a policy which the Nationalist Party led by current president Ma Ying-jeou feels is reckless and misguided. Ma has made improving ties with Beijing a centerpiece of his policies.


Japan now has more than 40,000 people over the age of 100.

The Pakistani military has arrested Muslim Khan, the leader of the Swat Valley Taliban.
Sri Lanka released nearly 10,000 Tamil civilians to return to their homes from refugee camps.
The Dalai Lama is planning a controversial visit to a Northern Indian state claimed by China.

Middle East
A prisoner riot at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison forced guards to call in Iraqi and U.S. troops.
Leading Friday prayers in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned of harsh retaliation against those who challenge the Islamic state.
After abruptly resigning as Lebanon's prime minister designate, Saad Hariri blamed Syrian and Iranian-backed parties for preventing him from forming a cabinet.

Deadly ethnic rioting has broken out in Kampala, Uganda.
At a summit meeting, South Africa lobbied the European Union to drop sanctions against Zimbabwe.
The United States and four other nations signed on to a new plan for fighting piracy in Somalia.

Colombian police seized more than $55 million in property from drug cartels.
Mexican police arrested a man wanted for the murder of 18 people in Ciudad Juarez.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez wrapped up his nine-country world tour with a stop in Spain.

U.S. President Barack Obama expressed his disappointment over the release of the Lockerbie bomber in a conversation with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Russia will not back any new sanctions against Iran, says Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
German authorities are reviewing the safety of a geothermal plan after it set off an earthquake.

Reversing the roles

I often read (and occassionally post) David Brooks' column in the New York Times. I often disagree with his conclusions, but I find Mr. Brook's assessments to be well thought out and Mr. Brooks himself to be one of the few remaining thoughtful conservatives remaining in the mainstream media. No wonder he has regular gigs on PBS' NewsHour with Jim Lehrer as well as NPR.

Today's column (assessing President Obama's address to Congress) is interesting. But even more interesting was the reaction of a reader. What follows is this man's reaction, followed by a link to Mr. Brooks' piece.

Thank you, Mr. Brooks, for effectively intimating the illusion that real conservative intellectuals are not in hibernation. For the majority of us Americans, who are not committed or aligned with either party, the self-immolation of the Republicans has been painful to watch. You are somewhat refreshing (in complete contrast to the congressional Republicans) because your intelligence is fairly undeniable. However, your editor includes a note at the end of your column explaining that "Paul Krugman is off today," and reading your column highlights his absence in a surprisingly poignant way.

Closer examination of your presentation shows it to be a clever sophistry which subtly continues to fallaciously argue conservative ideology (in fact, the fallacy is termed "begging the question"). Your argument, which feigns a reasonable acceptance of President Obama's presentation last night, presumes conservative conclusions which are, at best, premises which have not been (and, at this time, are far from) proven or sufficiently established. For example, you assume that Republicans will support aspects of Mr. Obama's plans but this ignores the obvious and unanimous intransigence, uncooperativeness, and hostility the American public and the world could not ignore displayed in last night's joint session by Republican legislators. It is more likely that the input or influence of these mostly southern Republican legislators will create something terribly inadequate to the task at hand. Since they cannot actually stop the Democrats from passing some kind of Health Care Reform, they would consider it a win to cripple whatever legislation does go to the President's desk.

Another presumption you have slyly imbedded in this piece is the idea that the Democrats must have input by these serious enemies of President Obama, the Democrats and progresssive ideas. Rep. Wilson, if he were writing this comment, would say "you lie" if you think for one minute that Republican input is required. The Democrats absolutely do not require it. Never the less, thank you again for your stimulating work. You have class (even as other conservatives carelessly parade a lack of it). Perhaps, you can help put a stop to the horrific self-destruction that contemporary Republican leaders and elected officials seemed determined to achieve.

Rev. D McGee
San Francisco

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Truthout 9/10

Scott Galindez Almost Perfect, Mr. President
Scott Galindez, Truthout: "Although at times the pragmatist signaling a willingness to compromise came up for air, for most of the president's 45-minute call to action on health care, the 'Community Activist' took center stage. President Obama left little doubt last night that health care reform to him is a moral issue that needs to rise above the partisan bickering that plagues Washington. The address before Congress would have been perfect if the pragmatist side of Obama did not signal that the public option was not a necessary part of his plan."

US Increasing Personnel in Iraq
Walter Pincus, The Washington Post: "As the United States withdraws its combat forces from Iraq, the government is hiring more private guards to protect U.S. installations at a cost that could near $1 billion, according to the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction. On Sept. 1, the Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I) awarded contracts expected to be worth $485 million over the next two years to five firms to provide security and patrol services to U.S. bases in Iraq."

The Murtha Method
The Center for Public Integrity: "For months, a cloud has swirled around Congressman John Murtha (D-Pa.), chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, and the relationship that Murtha and other subcommittee members had with the PMA Group, a lobbying firm filled with former subcommittee aides. Murtha and fellow panel members Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and Jim Moran (D-Va.) steered a host of earmarks to PMA clients, and those clients and PMA staffers gave campaign contributions to the lawmakers. Aspects of those relationships are the subject of a Justice Department probe, which is thought to be looking at whether there were explicit quid pro quo exchanges of favors for cash, which would make crimes out of relationships that are otherwise legal."

Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III Afghanistan/Pakistan a New Vietnam?
Dr. Wilmer J. Leon III, Truthout: "During the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Obama promised to immediately withdraw troops from Iraq in order to bolster the forces in Afghanistan in order to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda. 'It's time to refocus our attention on the war we have to win in Afghanistan.' This approach was taken in order to placate the anti-Iraq war contingent of the American electorate on the left while not leaving candidate Obama vulnerable to the 'soft on defense' hawkish argument from the right. As a campaign tactic, this proved to be successful. As American foreign policy, this is proving to be one of the greatest miscalculations President Obama has made."

Labor Union and Students Fight California State University Budget Cuts
Seth Sandronsky, Truthout: "Severe spending cuts are battering the California State University system. Furlough days for professors. Double-digit fee increases for students. They are seeking relief. Patricia Mata is a senior sociology major from Watsonville (Santa Cruz County), slated to graduate from Sacramento State University next May. She is paying $2,400 for classes this semester, up from $1,200 in 2006. 'Students are not getting back what we paid for,' Mata said, coping with increased waiting lists for fewer classes due to professors being furloughed two days a month."

Julia Kaye Without Providers, There Is No Choice
Julia Kaye, RH Reality Check: "'The Last Abortion Doctor.' 'The Abortion Evangelist.' 'Abortion Stigma Affects Doctors' Training and Choices.' In the wake of Dr. Tiller's murder last May, news articles are finally trumpeting a steadily emerging reality: the number of abortion providers in the U.S., and particularly providers that perform abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy, is plummeting.... Legality doesn't guarantee access to abortion, even - especially - for women and families in the most desperate and dangerous of situations."

Violence Plagues Indonesia's Restive Province
Peter Gelling, GlobalPost: "Unidentified gunmen opened fire on a military convoy traveling along a road leading to the American-owned Freeport-McMoran Gold and Copper mine in Indonesia's restive West Papua province Wednesday, the latest in a series of shootouts that have rocked the area since July. Wednesday's attack comes one day after about 600 additional troops arrived to help a security force already numbering more than 1,000 guard the road connecting the mine to the nearest city, Timika."

VIDEO President Obama's Speech to a Joint Session of Congress on Health Care
President Obama speaks to Congress about his proposals for health care reform on September 9, 2009.

William Rivers Pitt Eight Years Ago
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "Does anyone even remember the first eight months of the George W. Bush administration? It was an unmitigated train wreck. One of the last nails in our current economic coffin got hammered in when he gave away the Clinton surplus to his one-percenter buddies with a massive tax cut we couldn't afford and they didn't need. Chinese fighters swatted some of our airmen out of the sky, and George made sure they had Bibles."

Financial Sector Compensation: What Will it Take to Bring Sanity?
The authors writing as Favilla for France's premier business paper, Les Echos, evoke the necessity of a "Reign of Terror" to bring responsibility to financial sector compensation, while Jean-Pierre Stroobants reports for Le Monde on the Dutch Bankers Association's newly adopted curbs on compensation.

Rebecca Solnit How 9/11 Should Be Remembered
Rebecca Solnit, "Eight years ago, 2,600 people lost their lives in Manhattan, and then several million people lost their story. The al-Qaeda attack on the Twin Towers did not defeat New Yorkers. It destroyed the buildings, contaminated the region, killed thousands, and disrupted the global economy, but it most assuredly did not conquer the citizenry. They were only defeated when their resilience was stolen from them by clichés, by the invisibility of what they accomplished that extraordinary morning, and by the very word 'terrorism,' which suggests that they, or we, were all terrified. The distortion, even obliteration, of what actually happened was a necessary precursor to launching the obscene response that culminated in a war on Iraq, a war we lost (even if some of us don't know that yet), and the loss of civil liberties and democratic principles that went with it."

Algerians, Freed from Guantanamo, Still Paying the Price
Seema Jilani, M.D., McClatchy Newspapers: "Seven months after his release from Guantanamo Bay, Mustafa Ait Idr cautiously sips coffee in a Sarajevo cafe. His face is still partially paralyzed and numb from when guards pinned him onto gravel and jumped on him. He is nursing a broken finger — punishment for refusing to strip naked in his cell. On another occasion, his head was held in a toilet for prolonged periods of time."

Daniel Strauss What the Death of the F-22 Really Means
Daniel Strauss, Campus Progress: "It’s no accident that the military’s budget has reached $515.4 billion (that makes it 21 percent of the gross domestic product of the United States), because military spending amendments are usually met with little to no opposition. But this July, the Senate voted to cut $1.75 billion for the F-22 fighter. It may seem like a small thing—less than 0.3 percent of the total military budget—but by killing the F-22 program, it gave hope that seemingly impossible-to-kill wasteful or unnecessary military projects are actually beatable."

What the US Can Learn from Health Care Reform in China
Kathleen E. McLaughlin, GlobalPost: "As the United States is once again mired in a debate about health care reform, across the Pacific the world’s largest socialist country is trying to piece together some semblance of universal health care for its 1.3 billion citizens."

Glenda Holste For Wage-Earning Women a 21st Century Answer
Glenda Holste, The Women's Media Center: "The 127th Labor Day in the United States arrives on Monday with women still having the most to gain from belonging to a union. The struggle for fair pay, work-life balance, healthy and safe work conditions, and against discrimination has brought forth women leaders throughout the nation’s history."

FP morning brief 9/10

Top Story:

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Iran now has enough nuclear fuel to create a weapon, but has not yet taken steps to do so. The new intelligence findings were revealed Wednesday by the U.S. ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran's "breakout capacity" is bound to create further friction between U.S. officials -- who believe that there would be substantial warning time before a workable Iranian warhead could be developed -- and their Israeli counterparts who feel a preemptive strike may be necessary to prevent a nuclear weapon from being built.

Iran offered Western officials a set of proposals for restarting negotiations on its nuclear program, but offered essentially no concessions on the program, focusing instead on broader international issues. Despite this, the U.S. still plans to press for further negotiations. "At least now we have a response from Tehran, and we can test what Iran is willing to do going forward," said one U.S. official.

The good news:

Child mortality rates have fallen to a record low, according to new data from UNICEF.

Middle East
Saad Hariri is stepping down as Lebanon's prime minister designate after failing to form a coalition government.
A truck bomb killed 20 people in a Kurdish village in Northern Iraq.
A Turkish media group that was highly critical of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been fined $2.5 billion over tax irregularities.

Asia and Pacific
The U.S. is proposing transferring equipment no longer needed in Iraq to Pakistani security forces.
Three Uighur prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have agreed to resettle in Palau.
Australia agreed to a $60 billion natural gas deal with Japan and South Korea.

Venezuela became just the third country to recognize the breakaway Caucasus regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Guatemala has declared a state of emergency over the country's food crisis.
A Bolivian religious fanatic briefly hijacked a plane in Mexico, demanding to speak to President Calderon.

This week, an EU delegation will visit Zimbabwe for the first time since 2002.
Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi received a standing ovation from a group of visiting African MPs.
Gabon has banned opposition leaders from leaving the country.

France is unveiling a new carbon tax.
A French Air Force general became the first non-American to assume a supreme command post at NATO.
GM is reportedly selling its European Opel unit to Canadian car parts maker Magna.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Truthout 9/9

John Cory Money and Health
John Cory, Truthout: "The media tells me that health reform is a very complicated issue, that it is hard to understand and even harder to explain to simple-minded and politically unsophisticated people like me. It is about money and costs and free-market and big government socialists versus real America, or something like that."

Ronald Reagan's Torture
Robert Parry, Consortium News: "Lost amid the attention given George W. Bush's 'war on terror' torture policies was the CIA's cryptic admission that it also engaged in interrogation abuses during Ronald Reagan's anti-leftist wars in Central America, another era of torture and extra-judicial killings."

"We're Pinned Down": Four US Marines Die in Afghan Ambush
Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers: "We walked into a trap, a killing zone of relentless gunfire and rocket barrages from Afghan insurgents hidden in the mountainsides and in a fortress-like village where women and children were replenishing their ammunition."

Blasts Kill Four US Troops in Northern Iraq
Reuters: "Two roadside bomb attacks killed four U.S. soldiers in northern and central Iraq on Tuesday, the U.S. military said, an unusually bloody day for American soldiers as they curtail their military activities."

President Obama Speaks, and Most Students Listen
Steve Lyttle and Ann Doss Helms, The Charlotte Observer: "President Obama spoke to students across the nation early Tuesday afternoon, encouraging them to make the most of their education and avoid some of the mistakes he made - while avoiding any mention of the controversy that the speech had created in recent days."

Sara Anderson Can Europe Pop the US CEO Pay Bubble?
Sarah Anderson, YES! Magazine: "Ludicrous as they might sound, the financial industry's professed fears about losing their best and brightest seem to have had an impact in Washington. Whether policymakers actually believe these claims or not, they have failed so far to pass meaningful restrictions on executive compensation. Nearly a year into the economic crisis, the CEO pay bubble that was a key cause of the meltdown remains un-popped ... European governments, however, may be about to let some of the air out of the U.S. CEO pay bubble. The French, German, and UK governments have recently adopted regulations on pay in the financial industry that go beyond U.S. restrictions."

NOW Is Obama Tossing Out the Constitution With His New Anti-Terror Plan?
"NOW," PBS: "Closing Guantanamo Bay's prison will do little to close the debate on what we should do with alleged terrorists. 'NOW,' as part of a collaboration with the nonprofit investigative unit ProPublica, investigates the controversial tactic of 'preventative detention,' a government plan that may detain suspects indefinitely without trial or even formal charges."

FP morning post 9/9

Top Story:

A summer of reconciliation between North and South Korea appears to have been swept away this week after a flash flood caused by North Korea releasing water from a dam, killed six South Koreans downstream. It now appears that North Korea released the water intentionally.

North Korea acknowledged the release, saying water levels were too high, but did not apologize for the incident, as the South had demanded. South Korea's reconciliation minister stopped short of calling the incident an attack, though South Korea has long feared that the North could use its dams to unleash a water attack on the South.

Seat at the table:

The Maldives, whose very existence is threatened by rising sea levels, will be able to attend climate change talks in Copenhagen after the Danish government agreed to finance their participation.

Middle East
Flash floods hit Istanbul, killing at least three people.
A new Israeli study shows that a majority of those killed in last year's Gaza war were civilians.
Iranian authorities raided opposition leaders' offices in Tehran.

Japan's newly elected Democratic Party formed a coalition deal with two smaller parties.
The son of late Philippines President Corazon Aquino announced that he will run for president next year.
A New York Times reporter was freed in a raid in Afghanistan, but his translator and a British commando were killed in the fighting.

Colombia's Alvaro Uribe is moving forward with a plan to hold a referendum to extend his term.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon proposed eliminating three government departments as a cost-cutting measure.
Four prison officials were killed in three separate attacks in Guatemala.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights warned of recent war crimes in Congo.
Southern African leaders are calling for international sanctions on Zimbabwe to end.
Kenya has replaced nearly all its top police officers in a sweeping reorganization.

The leaders of Britain, France, and Germany are calling for a UN conference on Afghanistan policy.
The EU is planning to offer only €15 million to held poor countries fight climate change ahead of the Copenhagen conference.

On Understanding Your Market, Or, Mr. Obama, We Need To Talk

So it’s the day of the big speech, Mr. President, and we got trouble with a capital “T” right here in Health Care City.

What are you gonna do? Do we follow the traditional Democratic Party legislative process of any cost, assuming the entire time that the Left and the Netroots will “go along with the program”, or is there a risk that the calculus doesn’t work as well today as it did in 1994 and 1996?

Well, lucky for you, I’m a fake consultant, and I know a few things about your “target market”, so before you answer that question...we need to talk.

So the common sense approach to handling this situation is to make any deal required to get a bill passed, because otherwise your entire Presidency will be tagged as “strong on oratory but unable to govern”. Since the Far Left supports Democrats today and won’t be supporting the Republican Party under any circumstances, they’ll have no choice but to follow the “centrist” (read: “bluedog”) Democratic lead.

What you don’t want to do, common sense tells us, is demand that reform contain elements that simply are too tough to get through Congress. Insisting on a public option is absolutely out of the question, the new “preexisting conditions” requirements would be too onerous on the insurance companies—and requiring everyone to purchase insurance, with no public option competition at all to moderate the prices private insurers charge, and, for that matter, no guarantee of universal coverage, somehow makes perfect sense.

To mollify those who will object, we can hold out “triggers” as a compromise: in other words, Government says “hey, let’s wait a few years, and if the insurance companies still haven’t changed their ways...then we’ll do something.”

If you decide upon this approach, then the speech you want to give is to remind the Far Left and those pesky bloggers that political progress is incremental, you take what you can get, and that we can always come back later and make this whole stew of compromise better than what we propose to cook today.

While that’s a pretty good approach...most of the won’t be this time.

There are two major reasons why, and, ironically, they’re both derived from your success in 2008.

Right off the bat, this strategy assumes the millions of new voters—and even more importantly, donors—that you attracted in 2008 are Democrats, and that, no matter what, they will continue to support Democrats. The problem is, they’re not....and they won’t.

Why? Because the vast majority of those new voters weren’t “redirected” from another Democratic candidate. Instead, they were “political non-participants” who had previously held no political affiliation whatsoever—and other than supporting you personally, the vast majority of those new voters have no long-term political affiliation now, other than, perhaps, “Progressive”.

The only reason they voted for you in the first place was because you were out promoting that whole “change you can believe in” thing. They saw you on TV telling people that universal access to care “ a moral responsibility and a right for our country...”, and saying you would:

“...set up a government plan that would allow people who otherwise don't have health insurance because of a preexisting condition, like my mother had, or at least what the insurance said was a preexisting condition, let them get health insurance”.

At that same evening’s event (the Democratic Presidential Debate of January 31, 2008), they also saw you say this:

“...because my view is that the reason people don't have health care... [w]hat they're struggling with is they can't afford the health care. And so I emphasize reducing costs. My belief is that if we make it affordable, if we provide subsidies to those who can't afford it, they will buy it.

Senator Clinton...believes that we have to force people who don't have health insurance to buy it. Otherwise, there will be a lot of people who don't get it.

...I think that it is important for us to recognize that if, in fact, you are going to mandate the purchase of insurance and it's not affordable, then there's going to have to be some enforcement mechanism that the government uses. And they may charge people who already don't have health care fines, or have to take it out of their paychecks. And that, I don't think, is helping those without health insurance.”

The fact that you said all those things brings us to problem number two: if you don’t live up to your...exceptionally public...campaign promises, you’re gonna get YouTubed.

Forget about the Republicans. The Netroots will dig these quotes up in about two seconds—in multi-part harmony, I suspect—and all of a sudden, all those “new voters” who helped put you over the top last time, instead of seeing change they can believe in, are going to start seeing you as the “same old same old”...and if that happens, they won’t be voting Democratic again (or for anyone else, for that matter) for years to come.

And if they won’t vote for you...they most assuredly won’t be giving money to Democratic causes and candidates...including you in 2012.

You have to understand, it’s a question of trust. We want to believe that you’ll do the right thing, but we have been lied to for eight years straight...and we now fundamentally mistrust our elected representatives...including you.

Not all the news here, however, is bad news.

There is a way to turn all this to your advantage, and it basically involves “leapfrogging” the opposition.

Here’s what you do:

In the speech tonight, you look America in the eye and you tell us that you said all along that we must have a public option if we hope to control costs, you tell us that insurers can’t continue to “exclude” us out of insurance, and that universal coverage is, indeed, a moral obligation for our Nation—and a smart investment to boot.

Tell America that you will fight for them and against the special interests that are trying to hustle us once again. Most importantly—and this will be The Tough Part—tell us that a bad bill is a bill you won’t sign.

You have to tell America that if we don’t get it this year, we’ll have to come back next year and try again. And if we have to, the year after that, and the next, and the next.

You also get to remind America exactly what kind of methods Republicans were wiling to use to advance their position over this past month, and whose interests they’re representing when they do it.

To put it another way, you gave ‘em enough rope, and now it’s time for some noose-tightenin’.

The best part: not only does this approach lay to waste Republican opposition, it reels in the wavering Democrats—and it allows them to go home and tell their constituents that “Barack Obama and I are fighting for people and businesses and jobs while Republicans fight for fat cat insurance companies”.

If it's done correctly, the 2010 midterms will be y’all’s to lose—but as I said earlier, if you are seen as selling a political product everyone’s seen far too many times before, the cost could be brutal...maybe even “President Palin” brutal.

We all have a busy day today, especially you, Mr. President, so let’s wrap it all up:

You made a lot of campaign promises about public options and universal coverage and ending exclusion abuses, and now it’s come time to make good.

A lot of the people who supported you didn’t do it because you’re a Democrat—and not because they are, either. If you don’t make good, you got a problem, and so do the Democrats, possibly for years to come.

YouTube was a fantastic tool for you and the seed of trouble for many Republicans in ’06 and ’08—but if you’re not careful, the tables will turn, and a lot of the people doing the turning will be to your left.

Do it right and you and the Democrats have a superb opportunity to pivot on the opposition and imprint the Democratic “brand” for a new generation of voters—and donors—and an aggressive approach tonight could be the opening salvo of a message barrage that either forces Republicans to become more moderate, or turns them into a crazier political movement that loses seats and Governors in 2010 and carries even fewer states in the 2012 Presidential than they did in 2008.

Screw it up, and even Tina Fey might not be able to save us from the wrath of “Palin/Gingrich 2012”.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Truthout 9/8

Truthout Has Unionized
Maya Schenwar and Matt Renner, Truthout: "On the night of Thursday, August 27, a small group gathered in a quiet, bare room in Pacific Palisades, California, preparing to sign off on the future of an organization and spur the momentum of a movement. Though the meeting was brief and inconspicuous, it made history. A member of Truthout's board of directors had signed a recognition statement, granting Truthout employees membership in The Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers of America. Earlier that evening, Truthout had held the country's first 'virtual card check,' verifying union cards with faxed PDFs of each employee's signature. We became the first online-only news site to successfully unionize."

Tom Hastings Recovering to Death
Tom H. Hastings, Truthout: "Jumbo shrimp. Buy and save. Jobless recovery. Americans are on full oxymoron alert these days, as we read and hear about this 'jobless recovery.' Recovery for whom? The unemployment rate is high and growing higher, nearing an official 10 percent - an estimate which is always lower than the reality of impoverished, underemployed and 'discouraged workers' who have stopped bothering to officially register. Since this recession began, 7 million Americans have lost their jobs. Why aren't 7 million of us 'too big enough to fail'?"

States Ignoring Stimulus Welfare Fund
Michael Grabell and Christopher Flavelle, ProPublica: "The $5 billion emergency fund for needy families can be used to immediately create jobs for the unemployed, pay rent for families facing eviction, even repair someone's car so they can get to work. But many states aren't taking advantage of the windfall because state officials say they can't afford the requirement that they put up 20 percent of the costs. Six months into the stimulus, only 27 states have applied for the money."

UN Warns Afghans Over Poll Fraud
BBC News: "The vote has been overshadowed by claims of mass electoral fraud The UN has called for a crackdown on Afghan poll fraud, amid mounting concerns about irregularities from last month's presidential election. UN envoy Kai Eide says results from all ballot boxes in areas where there is any evidence of fraud must be annulled."

Back to School: Military Recruiters Increasingly Targeting High School Teens
Juan Gonzalez, Democracy Now!: "As millions of students prepare for the start of another school year, we focus on an issue that concerns many parents: the increasing presence of military recruiters in the nation's high schools and the military's ability to gather information about students. We speak with journalist David Goodman about his Mother Jones article 'A Few Good Kids?' and with the New York Civil Liberties Union's Ari Rosmarin, who works on the organization's Project on Military Recruitment and Students' Rights."

UN to Consider New Position for Women
Donald Steinberg, GlobalPost: "The United Nations may soon undergo a shake-up that could affect half the people on the planet. As the U.N. reviews its internal structures for addressing women's interests around the world, surely the most significant changes expected will concern women and armed conflict. The question is - will this reform make a fundamental difference in the lives of women impacted by war?"

Asylum Pitfalls May Await the Transgender Applicant
Victoria Neilson, On the Issues Magazine: "Transgender asylum seekers generally have a higher grant rate than those who seek asylum based on gay or lesbian sexual orientation.... In cases we handle that involve sexual orientation, the most difficult issue may be proving that the applicant really is gay or lesbian. Unlike cases based on political opinion or religion, the applicant won't have a 'membership card' proving that he or she is gay or lesbian. Transgender applicants may have an easier time proving their transgender identity, both because they will have medical evidence of their transition and because they will 'look trans.' Or will they?"
Scott Galindez America Needs Obama the "Community Activist"
Scott Galindez, Truthout: "When President Barack Obama addresses Congress on health care reform, America needs the community activist who fought for displaced workers on the south side of Chicago. What America does not need is the pragmatist known for building consensus."

Robert Naiman Team Obama Divided
Robert Naiman, Truthout: "Top officials of the Obama administration are divided on the expected request of the Pentagon for more troops in Afghanistan, The New York Times reported Friday. 'The military's anticipated request for more troops to combat the insurgency in Afghanistan has divided senior advisers to President Obama as they try to determine the proper size and mission of the American effort there, officials said Thursday.'"

Amid Noisy Health Care Debate, Free Clinics Struggle to Keep Up
Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers: "One recent Monday, the line in the Church of the Brethren parking lot began to form at around 2:30 a.m. when a husband and wife arrived. They came almost 8 hours early in the hope of seeing a dentist - for free."

Tom Engelhardt Afghanistan by the Numbers
Tom Engelhardt, "Here may be the single strangest fact of our American world: that at least three administrations - Ronald Reagan's, George W. Bush's, and now Barack Obama's - drew the US 'defense' perimeter at the Hindu Kush; that is, in the rugged, mountainous lands of Afghanistan. Put another way, while Americans argue feverishly and angrily over what kind of money, if any, to put into health care, or decaying infrastructure, or other key places of need, until recently just about no one in the mainstream raised a peep about the fact that, for nearly eight years (not to say much of the last three decades), we've been pouring billions of dollars, American military know-how, and American lives into a black hole in Afghanistan that is, at least in significant part, of our own creation."

Robert Weiner and Jordan Osserman Is the CIA's Excessive Secrecy Near an End?
Robert Weiner and Jordan Osserman, The Cleveland Plain Dealer: "On May 28, President Obama mandated a 90-day review of classification policy, with the goal of creating an 'unprecedented level of openness' in government. He'll soon let us know how many fewer government secrets we'll have. He has a lot to do."

Norman Solomon Men With Guns in Kabul and Washington
Norman Solomon, Truthout: "For those who believe in making war, Kabul is a notable work product. After 30 years, the results are in: a devastated city. A stale witticism calls Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai 'the mayor of Kabul.' Now, not even. On block after block in the Afghan capital, AK-47s are conspicuous in the hands of men on guard against a near future. Widely seen as corrupt, inept and - with massive election fraud - now illegitimate, Karzai's government is losing its grip along with its credibility."

Noelle Burg The Strike Undone
Noelle Burg, Vacarme: "March 1, 1984: the Thatcher government announces the closing of the Cottonwood mine in Yorkshire. The strike that the miners were to enter into four days later would last a year - but the breach opened in the lines of the labor movement and union organizations would not be closed again. The capitalist paradigm would be able to surge through it and spread worldwide. Review of a strategy and chronology of a disaster."

Big Deficit Bob Rubin and the Strong Dollar
Dean Baker, Truthout: "Robert Rubin's reputation has taken a serious hit in the last couple of years. After getting glowing reviews for his stint as treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, the world has now seen the fallout from the financial deregulation that he engineered and personally profited from to the tune of $110 million for his work at Citigroup. He now ranks only slightly ahead of Reverend Wright and Bill Ayers on the potential guest list at the White House."

FP morning post 9/8

Top story:

Three months after Iran's post-election unrest, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad does not appear to have moderated his tone on domestic or international policy, but his relations with the country's clerical establishment appear more strained.

In a press conference on Monday, the president continued to lambast Iran's opposition, calling them "pollutants."

On the same day, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told Ahmedinejad to be open to "benevolent criticism."

The Society of Militant Clergy, a leading clerical group, agreed saying that the President should "seriously try to solve people's problems and the country's economic and social issues and avoid talking about unnecessary and provocative issues."

In the same press conference, Ahmadinejad ruled out any concessions on Iran's "undeniable right" to a nuclear program, but said he is open to discussions on other issues with U.S. President Barack Obama. As the International Atomic Energy Agency meets in Vienna, Director-General Mohammed el-Baradei says the group has reached a stalemate with Iran over its nuclear program.


Switzerland has overtaken the United States as the world's most competitive economy according to the World Economic Forum.

Afghanistan's UN-appointed election watchdog has ordered a partial recount of last month's presidential election after finding evidence of fraud.
South Korea is demanding that North Korea apologize for releasing water into a river causing a deadly flash flood. Taiwan's premier has resigned over his response to last month's typhoon.

Middle East
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak approved the construction of 450 new housing units on the West Bank.
Lebanon's opposition has rejected Prime Minister-Designate Saad al-Hariri's proposed government.
A roadside bombing in a Northern Iraqi Shiite town killed five, including a police chief.

British courts have convicted three men for involvement in the 2006 transatlantic airliner terror plot.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against "premature judgments" about last week's airstrike, called in by German troops, which killed dozens of Afghan civilians.
Northern Ireland's last pro-British paramilitary groups have agreed to scrap their weapons by the end of February.
Mexico's attorney general -- a major figure in the country's drug war -- has resigned.
Venezuela has reached a deal to export gasoline to Iran.
As part of a campaign to bolster its defenses, Brazil will buy 36 French fighter jets

The Ugandan military has entered the Central African Republic in search of Lord's Resistance Army rebels.
Lubna Hussein -- whose case has stirred international interest -- was sentenced to a month in prison after she refused to pay a fine for wearing pants.
Somaliland's Parliament broke out into a fistfight over a motion to impeach the president.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Truthout 9/7

Dahr Jamail Art as Resistance
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "Soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have tough truths to tell, and it has been well demonstrated that the establishment media does not want to broadcast these. Given the lack of an outlet for anti-war voices in the corporate media, many contemporary veterans and active-duty soldiers have embraced the arts as a tool for resistance, communication and healing. They have made use of a wide range of visual and performing arts - through theater, poetry, painting, writing, and other creative expression - to affirm their own opposition to the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq."

Gerald McEntee A Message for Labor Day
Gerald McEntee, The Huffington Post: "On Labor Day 2009, we honor the tremendous contributions and sacrifices of workers who built this great nation. We must never forget that workers organized, marched, went on strike, and even gave their lives in the struggles that resulted in the 40-hour workweek, safe working conditions, secure retirement benefits and the right to a voice on the job. Workers are the bedrock of this economy and we have been at the heart of every movement for social justice and civil rights in our country.

Matthew Rothschild Unhappy Labor Day
Matthew Rothschild, The Progessive: "It's Labor Day and the American worker doesn't have a lot to celebrate. Unemployment stands at 9.7 percent-that's 15 million people out of work, officially, and millions more unofficially. 'Nearly one in six workers are now unemployed or underemployed,' notes the Economic Policy Institute. Many of those who are lucky enough to still have work have seen their hours and benefits cut back, or have been forced to take unpaid furloughs. Twenty percent of companies have suspended their contributions to 401(k) plans or other pensions. And wages are stagnant, and have been for some time."

Robert Reich The Real News About Jobs and Wages - An Ode to Labor Day
Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog: "This logic is morally and economically indefensible. If we've learned anything from the Great Recession-Mini Depression of the last 18 months, it's that the skewing of income and wealth to the top has made our economy far less stable. When the majority of middle-class and poor Americans are either losing their jobs or feel threatened by job loss, and when those who still have jobs are experiencing flat or declining wages, there's simply no way to get the economy back on track. The track we were on -- featuring stagnant median wages, widening inequality, and job insecurity -- got us into this mess in the first place."

Mark Brenner Recession Over? Depends Who You Ask
Mark Brenner, Labor Notes: "Today's Great Recession should have been the curtain call for an economic model that has left most workers with less buying power than they had in the mid-1970s, swelled the ranks of the uninsured to 46 million, created income inequality not seen since the Great Depression, and left most of us drowning in debt. But apparently no one in Washington got the memo. The government's top economists have been preoccupied with nursing Wall Street back to health so that the speculators can continue on their merry way unchanged."

Chuck Collins and Sam Pizzigati The CEO Pay Debate: Why Reform is Going Nowhere
Chuck Collins and Sam Pizzigati, The Institute For Policy Studies: "Would you let shareholders regulate their CEOs' reckless behavior? Your friendly local Fortune 500 company is dumping toxic chemicals into the river that runs through your town. You want the problem fixed. Who do you expect to do the fixing? The company's shareholders? Of course not. That same Fortune 500 company, you've just learned, is paying a woman who lives next door to you less than a man who does the same work? Who do you expect to end that discrimination? The company's shareholders? That thought would never enter your mind. No sensible American would expect shareholders, and shareholders alone, to fix problems like these. So why do we expect shareholders to fix executive pay?"

New Waves of Displacement in Colombia
Charlie Devereux, GlobalPost: "Carlos Gonzalez still bears the scars of captivity at the hands of Colombian paramilitaries. A left eyebrow disfigured by a rifle butt and the imprints of chains around his wrists are visible reminders of the 28 days he spent imprisoned in a hut in the hills above Cali, Colombia, awaiting execution. Today, he lives in Venezuela, after a four-year journey spent fleeing his captors' vengeance."

UN issues report: Locked In: The Humanitarian Impact Of Two Years Of Blockade On The Gaza Strip

My thanks to groberts33 for the heads up on this.

The US press seems to think this unworthy of our attention, but I suspect those of us capable either of sympathy or empathy would react rather strongly if we were regularly presented with the realities of life within the confines of the Palestinian Territories - particularly Gaza. But maybe that's the idea.

From The Executive Summary:

Following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Israel has imposed an unprecedented blockade on all border crossings in and out of the Gaza Strip. The blockade has ‘locked in’ 1.5 million people in what is one of the most densely populated areas on earth, triggering a protracted human dignity crisis with negative humanitarian consequences. At the heart of this crisis is the degradation in the living conditions of the population, caused by the erosion of livelihoods and the gradual decline in the state of infrastructure, and the quality of vital services in the areas of health, water and sanitation, and education.

The blockade, now in its third year, has takenplace alongside recurrent cycles of violence and human rights violations, stemming from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Hamas’s rule over Gaza. The denial of Palestinians’ right to leave Gaza, or to move freely to the West Bank, particularly when their lives, physical integrity, or basic freedoms are under threat, is another key component of the current human dignity crisis. This denial had a devastating impact during Israel’s “Cast Lead” military offensive, launched on 27 December 2008, contributing to the significant loss of civilian life and the large number of seriously injured and traumatized people as a result.

The three week-long Israeli offensive also involved the widespread destruction of homes, infrastructure and productive assets. The ongoing restrictions on the movement of people and goods to and from Gaza through the crossings has limited the ability of all relevant actors to address the immense needs and challenges that emerged as a result of the most recent military offensive.

Over the past three months, Israel has allowed entry into Gaza of a small number of truckloads carrying goods previously prevented from entering, including limited construction, water, sanitationand education materials. While these are welcome steps, their actual impact when compared to the current level of needs in Gaza remains negligible.

This blockade has been characterized by the UN’s most senior humanitarian official, John Holmes, as a form of collective punishment on the entire Gazan population. The UN, the ICRC, many states and humanitarian organizations have repeatedly urged the Government of Israel to remove the restrictions on Gaza’s borders; to allow free access to agricultural areas within Gaza, and to allow unrestricted fishing in Gaza’s territorial waters. These are the urgent first steps needed to start the reconstruction of homes and infrastructure, the revival of the economy andthe restoration of human dignity in Gaza.

And how about this little statistic:

Approximately 75 percent of Gaza’s population (more than 1.1 million people) is food insecure, up from 56 percent in the first quarter of 2008. The main causes of food insecurity are the increase in poverty, the destruction of agricultural assets and the inflation in prices of key food items.

Since major media outlets have let you down, this is a must read.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Truthout 9/6

William Rivers Pitt With Friends Like These
William Rivers Pitt, Truthout: "People like George Will make this world a very weird place to be sometimes. Will, the conservative Washington Post columnist who appears to actually get paid twenty five cents for every twenty-five cent word he uses in his op-eds, has been the go-to guy for the ever-dwindling cerebral set of the GOP for quite a long time now ... Which is what makes the developments of the last several days so interesting. On September 1st, The Washington Post carried an article by George Will titled 'Time to Get Out of Afghanistan.' Three days later, Will published a second article titled 'Time to Leave Iraq.' Yes, this actually happened."

Pictures of Dying Marine Bring War Home to America
Gaby Hinsliff, The Observer UK: "It is a graphic image of the harsh realities of war: the fatally wounded young marine lying crumpled in the mud, his vulnerable face turned to the camera. And it is one the US defence secretary would rather you did not see."

Executives at Financial Firms Who Received Bailout Funds Get Big Salaries, Report Says
Diane Stafford, The Kansas City Star: "Chief executives of the top 20 financial firms that received taxpayer bailout funds averaged $13.78 million in personal compensation last year, according to a report released today."

White House Adviser Resigns Amid 9/11 Controversy
CNN: "Presidential adviser Van Jones is resigning after coming under fire for signing a controversial petition regarding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks."

Funding the Pakistani Taliban
Shahan Mufti, GlobalPost: "You don't see Taliban foot soldiers - young men with the signature long hair, black turbans and beards - cruising the streets in the backs of pick-up trucks shaking down shop owners like gangsters. But in this bustling town and many others much farther away from the war zones, the Taliban's financial engine is chugging at full force right under the nose of law enforcement."

Joseph L. Galloway Afghanistan Isn't Worth One More American Life
Joseph L. Galloway, McClatchy Newspapers: "The debate over our creeping military mission in distant Afghanistan grows ever hotter, and before we march even deeper into trouble, perhaps it’s time to dig out the old Powell Doctrine and answer the eight questions it poses."

Study Finds More Evidence Rapid Arctic Warming Isn't Natural
Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers: "The Arctic was cooling for 1,900 years because of a natural change in Earth's orbit until greenhouse gas accumulation from the use of fossil fuels reversed the trend in recent decades, according to a study published Friday in Science magazine."

FOCUS Bill Moyers: Uncivil Discourse
Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal: "Bill Maher asked me on his show last week if America is still a great nation. I should have said it's the greatest show on earth. Forget what you learned in civics about the Founding Fathers - we're the children of Barnum and Bailey, our founding con men. Their freak show was the forerunner of today's talk radio."

Pride In The Park 2009

Hello Friends!

The GLBT Resource Center is alive and well and we have some news to share....

Pride in the Park 2009 is coming October 3rd!! Festivities will begin at 1PM and conclude at 6PM (or shortly thereafter).

We will again have vendor booths, food (a little different), games for kids, Bingo w/ Bradley, and LIVE MUSIC from the band Take-A-Bite!

GLBT Resource Center of Michiana, Inc., 1522 Mishawaka Ave., South Bend, IN 46615 is our NEW address. We are still moving into our new location, but planning for a grand opening soon! Stay tuned for more on that please!

Please respond and let us know if you have any questions and/or plan to participate this year. We would also appreciate you passing this information along to others who may be interested.

Thank you for your support in the past! We are looking forward to another great event! Questions? Write to:



Saturday, September 5, 2009

On Fighting The Madness, Or, Send This To A Deather

We are coming down to the home stretch on healthcare, and we have seen the results of the first couple of rounds of crazy that have been sent forth in an effort to stop the process.

In addition to the Town Halls, opponents are flooding the email inboxes of America’s “low information” voters with no end of lies. Those emails are getting passed around and around and around, and by now some of them have probably appeared in your inbox.

But it’s summer...and who has time to respond to this stuff?

Well, guess what, Gentle Reader: I’ve already done the hard work for you.

Today’s story is an email response that you can send right back to your “inbox friends”. It’s a reminder of some of the frustrations that we all share in this country and some explanations of what’s being proposed...and a few words about socialism, to boot.

So get out there and copy and paste and forward and reply, and let’s see if we can’t fight the madness, one email at a time.

There is a whole lot of talk about health care reform these days, and a lot of it is designed to be confusing, instead of helpful.

To cut through some of that confusion, let me ask you a simple question: is your health insurance stressing you out more than it should?

If you worry about paying for drugs you might not be able to afford, if you don’t go to the doctor as much as you should because you recently pawned your last gold bar to cover a margin call on your AIG stock...or if the odds of getting your insurer to take care of what you thought they’d cover are lower than hitting 13 on a double-zero roulette wheel...we need to talk.

This conversation won’t be about death panels or secret camps or black helicopters or any of that silly stuff. Instead, let’s talk about a few things that we’re probably all worried about, and then let’s talk about some ideas that might make things better.

So first off, why do we even need reform?

How about because we pay about twice what the rest of the word pays for health care—and we don't get good value for the money.

The US spends almost three times as much as the UK, and twice as much as Canada, per person, for health care—and of the top 50 countries in life expectancy...we come in 45th.

Canada, the UK, Cuba...and 40 other countries...also have lower infant mortality rates than the US.

That is not good; and over the long term it's killing businesses and, by extension, the larger economy. Not to mention, as consumers, we deserve better.

We also want to provide for the nearly 50 million Americans that have no coverage at all, for a couple of reasons:

First, it's extraordinarily expensive to have uninsured people showing up at the emergency room. For a good example, consider the cost of treating a relatively simple cholesterol problem with drugs instead of a paramedic response, an ambulance ride, and heart surgery followed by a stay in the hospital.

The average family with health insurance is today paying about $1,000 a year in extra premiums that they wouldn't be paying if we could find a way to cover those 50 million people—and if my guess is correct, there are a lot of families that could use the extra $1,000.

And for what it's worth, not having insurance is already killing about 18,000 Americans every year.

So that's the uninsured...but what about the insured?

Right off the bat, here's something you should think about: we can expect the cost of the average family's health insurance premium to double by 2020 to roughly $23,000 a year...which is almost $2,000 a month.

If we can't slow that rate of growth, there's going to be a whole lot fewer people getting health care through work—and for several years now employers have been trying to get workers to bear a larger portion of their health care costs.

Plus, insurance companies are increasing profits by looking for more and more ways to cut off policyholders, or by refusing to renew insurance for those clients who do file claims.

And once you get cut off, no one else is likely to allow you to purchase insurance...which means the number of uninsured is growing all the time.

We have also seen the cost of deductibles go up (with $5,000 to $10,000 deductibles looking like the wave of the future)—and all of this means that insurance companies are doing great, while the customers are getting the short end of the stick.

Did you know that more than 60% of the Americans who filed for bankruptcy in 2007 did so because of medical bills? That's not all: more than ¾ of those 900,000 or so newly bankrupt families had health insurance when they went broke.

What about this whole "putting bureaucrats between me and my doctor" thing?

How many people have health insurance that requires pre-approval for procedures or pre-approval to see specialists, or drug formularies that charge different prices for generic and brand-name drugs?

All of those things exist because of insurance company bureaucrats that at this very moment sit between you and your doctor.

So those are some of the problems.
Here are some ideas about how to make things better:

—We could tell health insurers that they can't use "preexisting conditions" to deny people coverage, and that they can't just cut people off for the crime of needing care. This allows more people to have access to health care, and it also reduces bankruptcies, since insurers wouldn't be allowed to simply deny coverage when claims come in, leaving families to pay both the health insurance premiums and, later, the medical bills.

This is the least controversial part of the reform plans before Congress today.

—There are proposals to create more competition among insurance providers, the idea being to use market forces to keep private insurance companies from drawing so much money out of the system as profit. This would be in the form of one or more insurance plans, operated by some new entity, for which members of the public would be able to "buy in" and get coverage that they can't get today.

The idea here is to create a large new pool of insured persons, which allows the insured group to negotiate for better prices on drugs and procedures and office visits and medical equipment—and if you allow anyone to sign up it can force private insurers to either match the price of the "public option" or lose customers.

Businesses would be required to either pay for coverage for their workers or a tax if they don't. Small businesses would be exempt, but we are not sure how small exactly "small" would be as of today.

This public option proposal is very controversial, and insurance companies are spending over a million dollars a day to shut the idea down before it gets out of Congress.

—The most controversial reform proposal is to create a "single-payer" system, which is what Canada has today. At the moment, this is not likely to be part of the program that comes out of Congress, if any program does.

In the Canadian system, people keep their own doctors and the Province where you live becomes the insurance company. You go to your doctor, who then bills the Province. Everyone is entitled to an insurance card, which means everyone has coverage. All of this is paid for with tax dollars.

That's also how Medicare works, and there are people who suggest the best way to do healthcare reform would be to simply enroll everyone in Medicare.

The catch would be how to control costs while providing care for all, and that's the last thing we'll talk about here.

Right now it looks like it would cost about $1 trillion, over ten years, to provide coverage for roughly 50 million people.

Remember the conversation we had about how treating high cholesterol problems with drugs is cheaper than treating heart attacks? It turns out it's so much cheaper that about $700 billion of that $1 trillion can be found with that change and other similar changes, like treating people before they have diabetes instead of dealing with the disease later.

That leaves us roughly $250 billion short. In 2003 we gave a substantial tax cut to people with especially high incomes, and Obama has proposed ending that tax cut. This would cause people making more than $1.2 million a year to return to the same tax rates they had from the 1990s until 2003.

If the public option is made widely available, the insurers tell us, private industry could never compete...but that's not as certain as insurers would want you to believe.

Consider the electricity market: in Washington State, Puget Sound Energy, a private company, operates side-by-side, literally, with "public options" like Seattle City Light and Snohomish PUD, and seems to be doing just fine—and they've been doing just fine for roughly a century.

A final point: there is a lot of talk about how government providing health care is "socialism".

Maybe it is.

But you know what? In America we also have socialized police and firefighting and EMS, and socialized streets and roads and libraries and sewers and airports and Post Offices...and socialized National Defense.

And if you really want to talk about the Founding Fathers and socialism, consider this: among the original 13 Colonies were the Commonwealths of Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Add in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and four of the 50 stars on our flag today represent places that are known not as States, but instead as "Commonwealths"...which, oddly enough, is both about as American and as socialist as you can get.

How's that for a lot of stuff to digest?
To finish, let's summarize what we have.

There are a lot of reasons we want to do some sort of reform:

—we pay more than anyone else in the world for health care, but lots of other countries have longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates.

—we need to do something about the nearly 50,000,000 Americans who have no access to care outside of the emergency room, both for moral and for economic reasons.

—in 10 years the cost of health insurance will be somewhere around $2,000 a month for the average family. Businesses cannot afford this, so as time goes on more and more people who now have coverage through their jobs...won't.

—if nothing changes those who are able to keep their insurance at work should expect their employers to move to plans with $5,000 to $10,000 deductibles.

—every year, almost 900,000 American bankruptcies are related to health care costs. 3/4 of those people had insurance, but their insurers refused to cover their medical bills, and they went broke.

—if you have a significant claim, or you lose your job, you stand a good chance of losing your insurance, which means you are not very likely to be insurable again.

We talked about some reform ideas, with protections against "preexisting conditions" and cutting people off for having claims being the most likely reforms to be turned into law, a "public option" being less likely, and "single payer" being highly unlikely.

There is money available to pay for this. Roughly 2/3 would come from treating the uninsured in cheaper ways than we do today, and the other 1/3 could be raised by letting a tax cut for very wealthy people expire.

The good news here is that lots of other countries are doing better than we are, and spending half the money we are doing it; which means there are solutions available that do work and do save money.

If we can put some of those solutions to work here, it would probably help us, too.

Truthout 9/5

Michael Winship Coming Soon to a Democracy Near You ...
Michael Winship, Truthout: "In the world of money and politics, 'Hillary: The Movie' may turn out to be the sleeper hit of the year, a boffo blockbuster. Depending on the outcome of a special Supreme Court hearing on September 9, this little piece of propaganda could unleash a new torrent of cash flooding into campaigns from big business, unions and other special interests. 'Hillary: The Movie' may turn out to be 'Frankenstein: The Monster.'"

Could Texas's Gingrich-Based High School History Curriculum Go National?
Justin Elliott, Talking Points Memo: "While Republicans are busy gnashing their teeth over President Obama's imminent indoctrination of the nation's schoolchildren, there's an education story bubbling up in Texas that could have considerably more far-reaching consequences. The GOP-controlled State Board of Education is working on a new set of statewide textbook standards for, among other subjects, U.S. History Studies Since Reconstruction. And it turns out what the board decides may end up having implications far beyond the Lone Star State."

Ashcroft Can Be Sued Over Jailing "Witnesses"
Bob Egelko, The San Francisco Chronicle: "Former Attorney General John Ashcroft can be sued for damages for ordering Muslims jailed as material witnesses in criminal cases, allegedly as a pretext to investigate their possible links to terrorism, a federal appeals court in San Francisco ruled Friday."

NATO Seeks to Calm Afghans After Deadly Airstrike
Maria Golovnina, Reuters: "NATO officers met air strike victims and their families in Afghanistan on Saturday and their commander took to the TV airwaves in a bid to cool anger over an incident that undermines efforts to win hearts and minds."

HMO Claims-Rejection Rates Trigger State Investigation
Lisa Girion, The Los Angeles Times: "California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown is joining state regulators in scrutinizing how HMOs review and pay insurance claims submitted by doctors, hospitals and other medical providers."

Bernie Horn Insist That Democrats Invoke Majority Rule in the Senate
Bernie Horn, The Campaign for America's Future: "It has come to this: Americans cannot get the health care reform we need without using the 'reconciliation' process in the U.S. Senate. We can't get 60 votes. Senator Kennedy's seat will remain vacant for 5 months. Senator Byrd remains very ill. A handful of 'moderate' Democrats and Republicans stand in the way of achieving cloture. It's time to craft and pass a bill that requires a majority vote."

Why "GQ" Doesn't Want Russians to Read Its Story
David Folkenflik, National Public Radio: "For war journalist Scott Anderson, the most confounding part of his recent assignment for GQ magazine to explore the root of terrorist acts in Russia a decade ago wasn't the suggestion of treachery and subterfuge he found. It was the reception his story ultimately received back in the United States."

FOCUS: Ira Chernus Holocaust Still a Political Football
Ira Chernus, Truthout: "Matthew Rothschild and I both thought of Edward Said when we read about two Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council insisting that Gaza's schools should not teach the history of the Nazi Holocaust. Cleric Yunis al-Astal said this would be 'marketing a lie' and a 'war crime.' Jamila al-Shanti commented, "'Talk about the Holocaust and the execution of the Jews contradicts and is against our culture, our principles, our traditions, values, heritage, and religion.'"

Friday, September 4, 2009

John Harwood On Obama School Speech Reaction

Let’s get fundamental

New York Times

If I were magically given an hour to help Barack Obama prepare for his health care speech next week, the first thing I’d do is ask him to read David Goldhill’s essay, “How American Health Care Killed My Father,” in the current issue of The Atlantic. That essay would lift Obama out of the distracting sideshows about this public plan or that cooperative option. It would remind him why he got into this issue in the first place.

Goldhill’s main message is that the American health care system is dysfunctional at the core. He vividly describes how the system hides information, muddies choices, encourages more treatment instead of better care, neglects cheap innovation, inflates costs and unintentionally increases suffering.

The essay is about the real problem: the insane incentives. Goldhill is especially good on the way the voracious health care system soaks up money that could go to education, the environment, economic development and a thousand other priorities. Health care, he writes, “simply keeps gobbling up national resources, seemingly without regard to other societal needs.”

Then I’d ask Obama to go to the Brookings Institution Web site and read a report called “Bending the Curve: Effective Steps to Address Long-Term Health Care Spending Growth.” This report was written by a bipartisan group of battle-tested experts, including Mark McClellan, David Cutler, Elizabeth McGlynn, Joseph Antos and John Bertko.

This report also focuses on the key issue: perverse incentives. It’s got a series of proposals on how to restructure insurance markets, reorganize provider payments, change the way effectiveness-research findings are implemented and cap the employee tax deduction.

These aren’t pie-in-the-sky ideas. The authors have combed through the bills that are already out there. They’ve taken good ideas that are now in embryonic or neutered form. They show how the ideas would work if fully implemented. We’re not going to revolutionize 18 percent of the American economy overnight, but these proposals would put us on the path toward real reform.

We’re not on that path right now. Several months ago, President Obama made a promise: People with health insurance would be able to keep exactly what they have.

We all understand why he made that promise. He wanted to reassure people who are happy with what they’ve got. He wanted to mollify the industries that have a vested interest in the status quo.

But Obama’s promise sent the reform effort off the rails. It meant that efforts to expand coverage marched ahead, but efforts to fundamentally reform the system got watered down.

Instead of true reform we got a series of bills that essentially cement the present system in place. The proposals do not fundamentally challenge the fee-for-service system. They don’t make Americans more accountable for their own health care spending. They don’t reduce costs. They just add more people into the mess we’ve got.

The president made this promise to ease passage. But it ended up hollowing out the substance of the reform. And the political benefits didn’t even materialize. Voters are still spooked by the costs, the centralization and the cuts they are sure will come.

If I had a magic hour with the president, I’d tell him this is his ninth-inning chance. He can stay on the current path. He might be able to pass some incremental bill that extends coverage. But he won’t have tackled the fundamental problems that first drove him to this issue. He won’t have cut health care inflation. He won’t have prevented a voracious system from bankrupting the nation, defunding the schools, pushing down wages and impoverishing the young.

On the other hand, he can shift back to the core issue: the perverse incentives that make this system such a mess. He can embrace proposals—like the Brookings proposals or, more comprehensively, the Wyden-Bennett bill — that address the structural problems instead of simply papering over them.

This remains a politically risky strategy. There are many industries that have an interest in making sure health care spending rises to 20 percent of G.D.P., and then 22 and then 24. But the president’s in political hot water already. He got there trying to dodge the hard issues. He might as well be there because he’s fighting for something real.

There are many people telling him to go incremental. They’re telling him to just enlarge the current system a bit and pay for it by pounding down a few Medicare fees. But did Barack Obama really get elected so he could pass the Status Quo Sanctification and Extension Act?

This is not the time to get incremental. It’s the time to get fundamental. Reform the incentives. Make consumers accountable for spending. Make price information transparent. Reward health care, not health services. Do what you set out to do. Bring change.

FP morning post 9/4

Top News:

Aides to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu say he is open to a settlement freeze but not before the government approves the construction of hundreds of new apartments on the West Bank, in addition to the 2,500 units already under construction.

This new wave of building is a gesture to members of his Likud party who want construction to continue.

Netanyahu is said to be considering a building-freeze of six to nine months in order to restart negotiations with the Palestinians. U.S. officials have reportedly promised Netanyahu an improved relationship with President Obama and gestures from moderate Arab countries in exchange for a settlement freeze.

Netanyahu reportedly told right-wing officials that they would be "pleasantly surprised" by the settlement deal he is in the final stages of negotiating with U.S. envoy George Mitchell.

Reacting to the reports after a meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the new construction "unacceptable." Abbas says the steps taken on a settlement freeze will determine whether he is willing to meet with Netanyahu at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this month.


New research shows that Arctic temperatures have reached their warmest level in 2,000 years.

Afghan officials say at least 80 people were killed in a NATO airstrike in the Ali Abad district today.
North Korea announced that it has entered the "final stage" of uranium enrichment.
Chinese police used tear gas to break up demonstrations by Han Chinese in the city of Xinjiang city of Urumqi.

Middle East
Aid agencies warned that Gaza's overflowing sewage is a threat to the entire region.
Iran's Supreme Leader reportedly lobbied for the parliamentary approval of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's cabinet.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused Syria of sheltering militant groups.

The Belgian government has agreed to take in one Guantanamo detainee.
British Petroleum says it warned the British government two years ago that slow progress with a prisoner transfer agreement was holding up a major oil deal with Libya.
Gordon Brown says Britain's military will remain in Afghanistan until the country can provide for its own security.

The IMF is making $500 million in loans available to Zimbabwe for the first time in a decade.
Gabon has returned to calm after a day of post-election rioting.
The outgoing U.N. Darfur peacekeeping chief says the conflict should no longer be considered a war.

The U.S. announced it has lifted some travel restrictions on Cuban Americans visiting their relatives in Cuba.
The U.S. has halted all non-humanitarian aid to Honduras.
Demonstrations against President Hugo Chavez are planned throughout Venezuela today.

Truthout 9/4

Anne Elizabeth Moore The Invisible Fourth Pillar
Anne Elizabeth Moore, Truthout: "'The Olympics are just another appendage of neo-colonial privatization,' 26-year-old activist Ryne Ziemba explains. He's distilling the arguments of fellow Chicagoans, not usually known for such eloquence. Chicagoans are, however, known to allow a dogged self-interest to guide their politics. That's why they're worried about the host-city bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, a project headed up by a not-for-profit organization called Chicago 2016 - and set to be announced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on October 2."

Whistleblower Out After Embassy Expose
Roxana Tiron, The Hill: "A whistleblower was forced to resign after he helped a government watchdog organization expose the scandalous behavior of security contractors guarding the U.S. Embassy in Kabul."

J. Sri Raman Sri Lanka Continues War on Media
J. Sri Raman, Truthout: "Colombo's war on the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam may have ended. But its war on media freedom is far from over. Unlike the army offensive in the northeast of Sri Lanka, this is a war waged in disregard of the island-state's ethnic divide."

Herve Kempf Rendezvous in Copenhagen
Herve Kempf, Le Monde: "Now if we seriously want to battle climate change, it's necessary that all of society put itself to the task. Whether we like it or not, that means a reduction in material consumption. But it's impossible for the middle classes to agree to move towards sobriety as long as the ruling classes don't agree to seriously reduce their lifestyle."

Ray McGovern Afghanistan for Dummies
Ray McGovern, Truthout: "I'm going to ask for my money back. I've seen this Afghanistan movie before. The first time, Vietnam was in the title. As in an early scene from the Vietnam version, U.S. military officials are surprised to discover that the insurgents in Afghanistan are stronger than previously realized."

William Astore A Seven-Step Program to Return America to a Less Muscular Patriotism
William Astore, "I have a few confessions to make: After almost eight years of off-and-on war in Afghanistan and after more than six years of mayhem and death since 'Mission Accomplished' was declared in Operation Iraqi Freedom, I'm tired of seeing simpleminded magnetic ribbons on vehicles telling me, a 20-year military veteran, to support or pray for our troops."

Bill Moyers Journal Campaign Finance and the Constitution
Bill Moyers Journal: "Next week, the Supreme Court reconvenes early for a special hearing on the constitutionality of campaign finance limits for corporations and unions. To hear the arguments, Bill Moyers sits down with Trevor Potter, president and general counsel of The Campaign Legal Center and a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, and Floyd Abrams, a partner and member of the executive committee at Cahill, Gordon and Reindel."

Ralph Lopez Why the Wars Roll on
Ralph Lopez, Truthout: "As public opinion tips against the US military presence in Afghanistan, and Congress talks about 'doubling down,' as the pullout from Iraq is accompanied by steadily increasing violence, and talk turns to slowing or halting the pull-out, the question the anti-war public must ask itself is: What now? War funding for Iraq continues despite two consecutive Democratic majorities elected expressly to stop it ... Very few people know that on average 80 percent of their Congress members' and senators' campaign funds come from outside the district, and largely from outside the state. They come from industries like defense, telecommunications and financial services. What do they get for these contributions, even in cases when the Congress member votes against those contributors' positions on certain bills?"

NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan Kills Scores
James Sturcke, David Batty and agencies, The Guardian UK: "At least 90 people, including 40 civilians, have been killed in northern Afghanistan after Nato launched an air strike on two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban, officials said today."

US Cuts Aid to Honduras
Paul Richter, The Los Angeles Times: "Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton cut off more than $30 million in aid to Honduras on Thursday in an effort increase pressure on the country's de facto government to restore democratic rule after a coup in June."

Robert Reich What Obama Must Demand From Congress on Health Care
Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog: "Congress returns next week to one of the fiercest and most important debates in recent memory -- whether and to what extent the nation will provide health care to all Americans, and how we will reign in the soaring costs of health care overall. But do not expect unusual courage from this Congress in standing up to demagogic lies and money-toting lobbyists. An unusually large portion is facing close races in 2010, both in primaries and in the general election. Republicans have many primary challenges from the right. A record number of Democrats, who took over Congress in 2006, hail from traditionally Republican or swing states and districts."

House Liberals Write Directly to Obama: No Public Option, No Support
Greg Sargent, The Plum Line: "In a letter delivered to the White House moments ago, the two leaders of the bloc of House progressives bluntly told President Obama that they will not support any health care plan without a public option in it - and demanded a meeting to inform him face to face."

Diebold Selling US Voting Machine Unit
The Associated Press: "ATM maker Diebold Inc. has sold its much-criticized U.S. voting-machine business to its bigger competitor, Election Systems & Software Inc. of Omaha, Neb."

Robert Borosage Obama's September Choice: Charge or Trim?
Robert Borosage, The Campaign for America's Future: "As Congress returns from its summer recess, President Obama, slipping in the polls, assailed on all sides by the carpers, faces a strategic choice: Lead the charge, rally Democrats, and push forward on his agenda, starting with health care reform or trim his sails and adopt a more cautious course."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Truthout 9/2

Jason Leopold CIA Will Continue to Withhold Key Bush-Era Torture Documents
Jason Leopold, Truthout: "The CIA said in court papers late Monday that it intends to withhold hundreds of pages of documents related to the Bush administration's torture and detention policies on grounds that disclosing the information will threaten national security."

Johann Hari Lies, Damned Lies ... and the Doublespeak I Would Expunge
Johann Hari, The Independent UK: "The English language needs periodically to be given a spring-clean, where we scrape off the phrases that have become stuck to the floor and toss out the rotting metaphors that have fallen down the back of the settee. George Orwell warned that language will inevitably become cluttered with phrases that have lost their meaning - or, worse, are actually 'designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.' He advised: 'If one gets rid of these bad habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration.'"

Daniel Cohen A Crisis That Doesn't Settle the Problems It's Created
Daniel Cohen, Le Monde: "It seems that the 1929 crisis will not repeat itself. So good news. But there is bad news: the present crisis is not a bit like that of 1929. It's not a Twentieth Century crisis lost in the Twenty-first Century: it's the first crisis of globalization. And from this standpoint, none of the problems it has created have been settled."

David Swanson Bush's Third Term? You're Living It
David Swanson, "It sounds like the plot for the latest summer horror movie. Imagine, for a moment, that George W. Bush had been allowed a third term as president, had run and had won or stolen it, and that we were all now living (and dying) through it. With the Democrats in control of Congress but Bush still in the Oval Office, the media would certainly be talking endlessly about a mandate for bipartisanship and the importance of taking into account the concerns of Republicans. Can't you just picture it?"

Ex-Countrywide Executives' Firm Modifies Bad Loans for Taxpayer Cash
Alexandra Andrews, ProPublica: "Among the servicers participating in the government's mortgage modification program is a new recruit that's not like the others. PennyMac, a firm founded by the former president and chief operating officer of Countrywide, buys distressed home loans on the cheap with the goal of modifying them and later selling them for a profit. The company, whose top management consists mostly of former Countrywide executives, now stands to receive up to $6.2 million in taxpayer money to modify those loans, through the Making Home Affordable program. The government's incentive payments go primarily to the participating servicer, but some of the money could also go to borrowers and investors."

Engineering Earth "Is Feasible"
Pallab Ghosh, BBC News: "A UK Royal Society study has concluded that many engineering proposals to reduce the impact of climate change are 'technically possible.' Such approaches could be effective, the authors said in their report. But they also stressed that the potential of geo-engineering should not divert governments away from their efforts to reduce carbon emissions."

US Fares Poorly in Child Welfare Survey
Greg Keller, The Associated Press: "America has some of the industrial world's worst rates of infant mortality, teenage pregnancy and child poverty, even though it spends more per child than better-performing countries such as Switzerland, Japan and the Netherlands, a new survey indicates."

Henry A. Giroux Living in a Culture of Cruelty: Democracy as Spectacle
Henry A. Giroux, Truthout: "Under the Bush administration, a seeping, sometimes galloping, authoritarianism began to reach into every vestige of the culture, giving free rein to those anti-democratic forces in which religious, market, military and political fundamentalism thrived, casting an ominous shadow over the fate of United States democracy. During the Bush-Cheney regime, power became an instrument of retribution and punishment connected to and fueled by a repressive state, a bullying rhetoric of war, a ruthless consolidation of economic forces and an all-embracing free-market apparatus and media-driven pedagogy of fear that supported and sustained a distinct culture of cruelty and inequality in the United States."

US Extends Iraq Contract for Blackwater Firm
Matthew Lee, The Associated Press: "State Department officials said Wednesday they have extended a contract with a subsidiary of the security firm once known as Blackwater USA despite the fact the company is not allowed to work in the country. Three officials said the contract with Presidential Airways to provide air support for US diplomats was temporarily extended because the firm chosen to replace it is not yet ready to take over. The contract was due to expire on September 3 and be taken over a day later by DynCorp International."

Obama to Deliver Health Care Address to Congress
Charles Babington, The Associated Press: "President Barack Obama has set a major address on health care for September 9 before Congress. The speech will come a day after lawmakers return from an August recess in which critics of Obama's health proposals have dominated many public forums. Some Democrats feel Obama has been too vague and standoffish in discussing his health care goals so he decided to throw more details into the debate."

US Officials Cancel Contract to Profile Reporters
Richard Lardner, The Associated Press: "US military authorities in Afghanistan have terminated a contract with a company that was producing profiles of reporters seeking to cover a war that's becoming increasingly unpopular with the American public. The media analysis work being done by The Rendon Group had become a 'distraction to our main mission here,' Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, director of communications for US Forces Afghanistan, said Monday in an emailed statement."

SEC Fumbled Five Madoff Probes, Report Finds
Ross Kerber and Rachelle Younglai, Reuters: "US securities regulators missed repeated chances to uncover Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme, a sharply critical review by a federal watchdog said on Wednesday. A summary of a report by the US Securities and Exchange Commission's Inspector General, released by the SEC, described five investigations the SEC launched into Madoff's business because of complaints dating to 1992, and said 'a thorough and competent investigation or examination was never performed.'"

American to Cut 921 Flight Attendants' Jobs
David Koenig, The Associated Press: "American Airlines is cutting 921 flight attendant jobs as it deals with an ongoing downturn in traffic and lower revenue. The airline said Tuesday that the cuts will take effect October 1."

Patrick Apel-Muller Really Sick Work
Patrick Apel-Muller, L'Humanite: "It was to take 21 employee suicides from February 2008 before the management of France Telecom would agree to assess the full scale of the dramas that play out within its walls. Now management mentions 'prevention of psycho-social risks.' What's important in that term is most assuredly the word social."

NOW Lt. Col. Stuart Couch: Guantanamo Justice
NOW on PBS: "On Friday, September 4, at 8:30 pm EDT on PBS, learn how Lt. Col. Stuart Couch, a government prosecutor set on convicting alleged 9/11 conspirator Mohamedou Ould Slahi, changed his mind after getting access to details of Slahi's treatment at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay. Couch, who was friends with a co-pilot of one of the jets hijacked on September 11, 2001, says Slahi was tortured."

FP morning post 9/2

Top story:

A Taliban suicide bomber killed 23 outside a mosque east of Kabul, including Afghanistan's deputy chief of intelligence. Abdullah Laghmani was a key figure in the fight against criminal and insurgent networks and his assassination demonstrates the Taliban's ability to pull off increasingly brazen attacks against senior members of the government. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack.

The National Directorate for Security suffered a second loss today when an agent who was kidnapped several days ago was found hanged in the northern Kunduz province.

Believe it?

International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaradei said he believes the Iranian nuclear threat has been "hyped."

Pakistan's religion minister was wounded in an attack by gunmen.
Taiwan's former first lady was convicted of perjury.
Afghan tribal leaders have accused President Hamid Karzai of forging almost 24,000 votes in the recent election.

Middle East
The Israeli and Palestinian governments are holding high-level economic talks.
Ammar al-Hakim formally replaced his father as head of Iraq's largest Shiite party.
An Iraqi court sentenced four security force members to death for taking part in a bank robbery that left eight people dead.

A van bomb exploded outside the Athens stock exchange. A left-wing terrorist group is suspected.
The breakaway region of Abkhazia has threatened to destroy Georgian ships that enter its "territorial waters."
Newly released internal documents on the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi seem unlikely to quash the controversy.

Baja California was spared as Hurricane Jimena weakened to a category 2 storm before hitting the Mexican coast.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon is reporting progress in the country's drug war.
Chile has issued arrest warrants for 120 former officers of Augusto Pinochet's regime.

Libya celebrated Muammar al-Qaddafi's 40 years in power.
A Nigerian government panel is holding amnesty talks with rebels from the Niger Delta region.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has begun a week-long tour of Africa.

Missing Richard Nixon

New York Times

Many of the retrospectives on Ted Kennedy’s life mention his regret that he didn’t accept Richard Nixon’s offer of a bipartisan health care deal. The moral some commentators take from that regret is that today’s health care reformers should do what Mr. Kennedy balked at doing back then, and reach out to the other side.

But it’s a bad analogy, because today’s political scene is nothing like that of the early 1970s. In fact, surveying current politics, I find myself missing Richard Nixon.

No, I haven’t lost my mind. Nixon was surely the worst person other than Dick Cheney ever to control the executive branch.

But the Nixon era was a time in which leading figures in both parties were capable of speaking rationally about policy, and in which policy decisions weren’t as warped by corporate cash as they are now. America is a better country in many ways than it was 35 years ago, but our political system’s ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable.

As many people have pointed out, Nixon’s proposal for health care reform looks a lot like Democratic proposals today. In fact, in some ways it was stronger. Right now, Republicans are balking at the idea of requiring that large employers offer health insurance to their workers; Nixon proposed requiring that all employers, not just large companies, offer insurance.

Nixon also embraced tighter regulation of insurers, calling on states to “approve specific plans, oversee rates, ensure adequate disclosure, require an annual audit and take other appropriate measures.” No illusions there about how the magic of the marketplace solves all problems.

So what happened to the days when a Republican president could sound so nonideological, and offer such a reasonable proposal?

Part of the answer is that the right-wing fringe, which has always been around — as an article by the historian Rick Perlstein puts it, “crazy is a pre-existing condition” — has now, in effect, taken over one of our two major parties. Moderate Republicans, the sort of people with whom one might have been able to negotiate a health care deal, have either been driven out of the party or intimidated into silence. Whom are Democrats supposed to reach out to, when Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who was supposed to be the linchpin of any deal, helped feed the “death panel” lies?

But there’s another reason health care reform is much harder now than it would have been under Nixon: the vast expansion of corporate influence.

We tend to think of the way things are now, with a huge army of lobbyists permanently camped in the corridors of power, with corporations prepared to unleash misleading ads and organize fake grass-roots protests against any legislation that threatens their bottom line, as the way it always was. But our corporate-cash-dominated system is a relatively recent creation, dating mainly from the late 1970s.

And now that this system exists, reform of any kind has become extremely difficult. That’s especially true for health care, where growing spending has made the vested interests far more powerful than they were in Nixon’s day. The health insurance industry, in particular, saw its premiums go from 1.5 percent of G.D.P. in 1970 to 5.5 percent in 2007, so that a once minor player has become a political behemoth, one that is currently spending $1.4 million a day lobbying Congress.

That spending fuels debates that otherwise seem incomprehensible. Why are “centrist” Democrats like Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota so opposed to letting a public plan, in which Americans can buy their insurance directly from the government, compete with private insurers? Never mind their often incoherent arguments; what it comes down to is the money.

Given the combination of G.O.P. extremism and corporate power, it’s now doubtful whether health reform, even if we get it — which is by no means certain — will be anywhere near as good as Nixon’s proposal, even though Democrats control the White House and have a large Congressional majority.

And what about other challenges? Every desperately needed reform I can think of, from controlling greenhouse gases to restoring fiscal balance, will have to run the same gantlet of lobbying and lies.

I’m not saying that reformers should give up. They do, however, have to realize what they’re up against. There was a lot of talk last year about how Barack Obama would be a “transformational” president — but true transformation, it turns out, requires a lot more than electing one telegenic leader. Actually turning this country around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Truthout 9/1

Dahr Jamail Resisting Homophobia in the Military
Dahr Jamail, Truthout: "Homophobia arguably manifests itself in the worst form of discrimination in the military, surpassing even racism. Instead of enabling recruits to vanquish their prejudices and strengthening the individual and the collective spirit, all military training seems to be geared toward invoking the darkest elements in human nature - fear, hatred, pettiness, insecurity and similar aberrations. Under normal conditions, such an orientation legitimizes unacceptable behavior; under harsh and hostile conditions, it makes beasts of men. It is immaterial whether one is at the perpetrating end or the receiving end of unjust behavior."

Dean Baker Irresponsibly Following the Congressional Budget Office
Dean Baker, Truthout: "Members of Congress are responsible for getting the policy right, not doing what the CBO tells them. This means that if they have reason to believe that a CBO projection in a specific area is wrong, they should act based on their judgment, not on the CBO projection. Constituents have every right to hold their representatives in contempt if they try to blame their mistaken judgments on the CBO projections. Members of Congress get paid for getting the policy right, not listening to the CBO."

Tom Loudon Honduras: Out of the Vortex, Into the Vacuum
Tom Loudon, Truthout: "After returning from an intense two weeks of accompanying international delegations in Honduras, I am just beginning to realize what a vortex we were in. Back in the United States, with a few days of hindsight, I realize that the sustained repression we witnessed, culminating with an unprovoked attack on Wednesday, August 12, with hundreds of people beaten up, wounded, hospitalized, jailed and missing - had socked a powerful punch. This deliberate blow knocked everyone off their feet, which was obviously the intent of those responsible for the coup."

Panel to Weigh Kennedy Request for Interim Senator
Frank Phillips, The Boston Globe: "A state legislative committee will hold a hearing next week on a bill to allow Gov. Deval Patrick to appoint a temporary replacement for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy while a special election is held to fill his seat, a signal that Beacon Hill is moving to accommodate Kennedy's request that Massachusetts maintain two voices in the Senate."

Mexico and Argentina Move Towards Decriminalizing Drugs
Rory Carroll, Jo Tuckman and Tom Phillips, The Guardian UK: "Argentina and Mexico have taken significant steps towards decriminalizing drugs amid a growing Latin American backlash against the US-sponsored 'war on drugs'. Argentina's supreme court has ruled it unconstitutional to punish people for using marijuana for personal consumption, an eagerly awaited judgment that gave the government the green light to push for further liberalization. It followed Mexico's decision to stop prosecuting people for possession of relatively small quantities of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs."

Facts Are First Casualty in Health Care Debate
Joe Garofoli, The San Francisco Chronicle: "People relying on TV advertising or partisan sources for information about health care legislation in Congress have heard that it will 'ration' care to the nation's oldest citizens and hike premiums '95 percent.' Or that Republican voters 'might be discriminated against for medical treatment in a Democrat-imposed health care rationing system.' President Obama, meanwhile, has said don't worry, the plan 'will be paid for.' Such statements, made in what analysts say is likely to be one of the most expensive issue-oriented campaigns ever, are misleading - if not flat-out wrong."

Le Monde Japan, Year One
Le Monde's editorialist: "The Japanese have chosen change. The crushing victory of the (center/left) Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) in the August 30 legislative elections is historic, after over a half-century of the exercise of power being monopolized by the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) conservatives alone and of the 'wooden sword battles' between its different factions. This success should translate into profound changes in the Archipelago."

Norman Solomon A Little Girl in Kabul
Norman Solomon, Truthout: "Yesterday, I met a little girl named Guljumma. She's seven years old, and she lives in Kabul at a place called Helmand Refugee Camp District 5. Guljumma talked about what happened one morning last year when she was sleeping at home in southern Afghanistan's Helmand Valley. At about 5 AM, bombs exploded. Some people in her family died. She lost an arm."

CIA's Black Sites, Illuminated
Greg Miller, The Los Angeles Times: "Their transformations took place in a sensory cocoon: aboard a CIA aircraft, shackled in place, deprived of sight and sound by blindfolds, headsets and hoods. They emerged into an existence that was hidden for most of the last eight years, but now is possible to glimpse through dozens of declassified files released by the Obama administration last week."

Pentagon Worried About Obama's Commitment to Afghanistan
Nancy A. Youssef, Mcclatchy Newspapers: "The prospect that U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal may ask for as many as 45,000 additional American troops in Afghanistan is fueling growing tension within President Barack Obama's administration over the U.S. commitment to the war there."

House Democrats Plot Health Care Comeback
Alex Isenstadt and Martin Kady II, Politico: "Democrats lost the month of August - not just in the polls and at town hall events but also within their own caucus. The question now is whether they can win September ... "

Trumka: "Lawmakers Will Pay Political Price for Abandoning Public Option"
Mike Glover, The Associated Press: "Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley said Monday he remains hopeful a limited health care reform measure can be negotiated, but that a small bipartisan group of senators working on the issue agrees a government-run public option won't be part of the package."

AFL-CIO, Democrats Push New Wall Street Tax
Alexander Bolton, The Hill: "The nation's largest labor union and some allied Democrats are pushing a new tax that would hit big investment firms such as Goldman Sachs reaping billions of dollars in profits while the rest of the economy sputters."

TV: Iran Ready to Hold Nuke Talks With World Powers
Reuters: "Iran has prepared an updated nuclear proposal and is ready to hold negotiations with world powers, Iranian television quoted the Islamic Republic's chief nuclear negotiator as saying on Tuesday."