Published: Tuesday 24 June 2014

Part I -  George W. Bush’s Invasion

 

 

 

Back in November 2003 President George W. Bush told the country that the invasion of Iraq was the part of an effort to “spread democracy throughout the Middle East.” Initially, of course, the president had declared that the U.S. attacked Iraq to fight terrorists who possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). This specific claim could be fact-checked and indeed it was. Bush’s claims, both about terrorists in Iraq and WMDs, turned out to be false. The follow-up claim about spreading democracy could not be fact-checked. We can’t even be sure if Bush and his neoconservative allies themselves believed in this radical goal of spreading democracy by the sword. Given that most of the regimes the U.S. has backed in the Middle East, including at one time that of Saddam Hussein, were autocracies of one sort or another, one can legitimately have doubts. 

 

 

 

However, one thing we can be sure of - the Americans are not the only ones who can launch a crusade based on an age-old idea. Islamic radicals, who may think they are replicating the spread of Islam as it took place in the 7th and 8th centuries, can do it too. And, thanks to the George W. Bush, who opened the floodgates for them, these Islamist radicals are doing just that.

 

 

 

Part II - Saddam Hussein’s Culpability

 

 

 

Bush and the neocons could ...

Published: Tuesday 30 April 2013

 

Last night, from Abu Dhabi, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel revealed certain intelligence assessments of Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons against Syrian rebels and civilians, or at least for a moment it seemed like he did:

"This morning, the White House delivered -- delivered a letter to several members of Congress on the topic of chemical weapons used in Syria. The letter, which will be made available to you here shortly -- as soon as George gets it, we'll get it to you -- states that the U.S. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin." [Italics added; for compete text and accompanying story]

  We absolutely positively without a scintilla of doubt have some degree of varying confidence. Thus we have an official definitive conclusion that Syria's Assad regime may or may not have used deadly chemical weapons on its own people, perhaps as far as we know. 

 

The White House letter Hagel referenced provided more detail about the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime, and included this:

 

"Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experience, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient – only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making..."  [Italics added; for ...

Published: Tuesday 25 December 2012
It was clear the President was a good man and a deeply-committed father of young children.

 

The tendency to identify manhood with a capacity
for physical violence has a long history in America.

- Marshall Fishwick

Violence is as American as cherry pie.
- H. Rap Brown
 
Watching President Barack Obama wipe away a tear as he spoke to the nation on the day a 20-year-old Adam Lanza dressed himself up like a Navy SEAL and took out 20 little kids and six of their teachers, it was clear the President was a good man and a deeply-committed father of young children.

The same day, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted the President’s touching emotions but quickly stressed it was time to strike hard and fast on gun control legislation. The problem of violence in America had gone unaddressed for decades and weapons were becoming more accessible and more lethal.

Meanwhile, Dan Rather told Rachel Maddow he felt President Obama returned to his first term M.O. and caved in to the right on the Susan Rice nomination for Secretary of State. Rather felt the President didn’t like to initiate fights and that when they came or were on the horizon, his first move, before the fight even began, was to concede and seek a centrist compromise.

 

READ FULL POST 16 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 13 December 2012
Why the Formerly Grand Old Party Needs to Change and Won’t

 

Mitt Romney had hardly conceded before Republicans started fighting over where to head next.  Some Republicans -- and many Democrats -- now claim that the writing is on the wall: demography is destiny, which means the GOP is going the way of the Whigs and the Dodo.  Across the country, they see an aging white majority shrinking as the U.S. heads for the future as a majority-minority country and the Grand Old Party becomes the Gray Old Party.  Others say: not so fast.

In the month since 51% of the electorate chose to keep Barack Obama in the White House, I’ve spent my time listening to GOP pundits, operators, and voters.  While the Party busily analyzes the results, its leaders and factions are already out front, pushing their own long-held opinions and calling for calm in the face of onrushing problems.

Do any of their proposals exhibit a willingness to make the kind of changes the GOP will need to attract members of the growing groups that the GOP has spent years antagonizing like Hispanics, Asian Americans, unmarried women, secular whites, and others?  In a word: no.

Instead, from my informal survey, it looks to this observer (and former Republican) as if the party is betting all its money on cosmetic change.  Think of it as the Botox ...

Published: Tuesday 11 December 2012
Obama’s grassroots supporters voted for jobs and social services, not for the budget cuts that Congress is demanding. Now they’re working to make sure that message is not forgotten.

November’s election results showed strong support for progressive values, which are now being attacked in the debate about the so-called “fiscal cliff.” A better name for it would be the “grand disconnect” because, in signaling its willingness to make cuts to essential services, Congress shows that it has already forgotten the message voters sent in November.

The good news is that, across the country, the same grassroots energy that helped deliver record turnout among low-income people, especially low- READ FULL POST 4 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 1 December 2012
Published: Friday 23 November 2012
In Afghanistan, nine journalists have been killed, at least one by US forces, and in that case, the killing was deliberate, though it is unclear whether the victim was known to be a journalist.

 

During the Vietnam War, which US forces fought from 1960 through 1974, and which cost the lives of several million Southeast Asians and 58,000 Americans, eight American journalists died. Not one of them was killed by American fire.

In the Iraq War, 136 journalists were killed. At least 15 of them -- about 11% of the total -- were killed by US forces, sometimes apparently with deliberate intent.

In Afghanistan, nine journalists have been killed, at least one by US forces, and in that case, the killing was deliberate, though it is unclear whether the victim was known to be a journalist.

One thing is clear: it is dangerous in the extreme to be a journalist covering America’s wars, at least beginning with Vietnam.

Why this might be the case is hard to say, but it seems that an antipathy towards journalists within the military may have something to do with it.

Back in 1983, the US, in one of the more ludicrous military actions in its long history of war, invaded the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada, on the pretext that it feared Cubans were building a military airbase there (actually Cuba had sent construction workers to the impoverished isle to help the country build a better commercial airport so as to improve its tourism business). During that invasion, which was conducted with a total media blackout despite almost no opposition (the main “enemy” putting up any resistance was a group of Cuban construction workers!), a group of seven journalists, including a reporter from the New York Times, attempted to reach the island on a small boat. They were blocked by a US destroyer, which warned them over a loudspeaker to turn around or be “blown out of the water.” The journalists gave up and retreated.

That little “war,” which was conducted from beginning to end with no reporters allowed in the battle ...

Published: Sunday 18 November 2012
“The Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), an oil and gas industry front group, CEA Counsel John Northington said he believes a ‘Keystone XL North’ rubber stamp is in the works by the Obama Administration.”

The Tar Sands Blockade of TransCanada Corporation's "Keystone XL South" continues in Texas, but former members of the Clinton and George W. Bush cabinets believe the northern half will soon be green-lighted by President Barack Obama. 

In a Nov. 13 conference call led by the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), an oil and gas industry front group, CEA Counsel John Northington said he believes a "Keystone XL North" rubber stamp is in the works by the Obama Administration. 

“I think the Keystone will be approved in fairly short order by the administration,” Northington said on the call.

Northington has worn many hats during his long career:

[He] served in the Clinton Administration at the Department of the Interior as Senior Advisor to the Director of the Bureau of Land Management. Mr. Northington also served as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management with energy policy responsibility for the former Minerals Management Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Mr. Northington began his government service at the Department of Energy, ...

Published: Wednesday 7 November 2012
“Had any CEO -- especially a bold, venture capitalist and quarter-billionaire who hates high taxes -- plus a Mormon -- ever come closer to seizing the White House?”

Note: Professional ethics, if not bodily safety, entails keeping the source for this putative concession draft as secret as Mitt keeps his top bundlers (fundraisers), tax returns, offshore accounts, et al. Romney deviated from Barack Obama, George W. Bush and John McCain by refusing to identify his deepest pockets, sources so terrified of publicity the details of all meetings remain hush-hush.   

 

My true Americans:

 

Even if we fall short in the end, think what first-time, historic thresholds we've established: a self-made, self-effacing finance guy nearly dislodged Mr. Silver-tongued, Minority-loving, Incumbent Populist. One more week -- and one less darn super-storm -- and who knows?   Even Reagan might have lost if Carter had a hurricane behind him.

 

Of course, hats off it to any hustler who outscores my accomplished operation, even if one idiot advisor brought up Etch-a-Sketching. Heck, we'd have gotten plastered without being all things to all voters. So unselfishly, I agreed that neither my past nor principles would stand in the way of winning. I make no apology, however, for identifying that slothful 47% of yokels. I knew all along Obama only had to patch 3% liberals to the 47% losers to reach his gullible majority.  

 

But look how close we came, an outsider taking on huge odds and the two slickest incumbents to ever come down the pike, Obama and Bill Clinton. Had any CEO -- especially a bold, venture capitalist and quarter-billionaire who hates high taxes -- plus a Mormon -- ever come closer to seizing the White House? Never, and President Ryan in 2016 will acknowledge this breakthrough by naming me ambassador to France, or Treasury secretary, oh, Federal Reserve chiefdom would do.       

 

Published: Tuesday 6 November 2012
The challenge – not only for our president and representatives in Washington but for all of us – is to rediscover the public good.

The vitriol is worse is worse than I ever recall. Worse than the Palin-induced smarmy 2008. Worse than the swift-boat lies of 2004. Worse, even, than the anything-goes craziness of 2000 and its ensuing bitterness. 

It’s almost a civil war. I know families in which close relative are no longer speaking. A dating service says Democrats won’t even consider going out with Republicans, and vice-versa. My email and twitter feeds contain messages from strangers I wouldn’t share with my granddaughter. 

What’s going on? Yes, we’re divided over issues like the size of government and whether women should have control over their bodies. But these aren’t exactly new debates. We’ve been disagreeing over the size and role of government since Thomas Jefferson squared off with Alexander Hamilton, and over abortion rights since before Roe v. Wade, almost forty years ago. 

And we’ve had bigger disagreements in the past – over the Vietnam War, ...

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
It would be insane to compound the damage by raising taxes on the middle class and not on the rich.

 

As we go into the final days of a dismal presidential campaign where too many issues have been fudged or eluded — and the media only want to talk about is who’s up and who’s down — the biggest issue on which the candidates have given us the clearest choice is whether the rich should pay more in taxes. 

President Obama says emphatically yes. He proposes ending the Bush tax cut for people earning more than $250,000 a year, and requiring those with high incomes to pay in taxes at least 30 percent of any income over $1 million (the so-called “Buffett Rule”).

Mitt Romney says emphatically no. He proposes cutting tax rates by 20 percent, which would reduce taxes on the rich far more than anyone else. He also wants to extend the Bush tax cut for the wealthy, and reduce or eliminate taxes on dividends and capital gains. 

Romney says he’ll close loopholes and eliminate deductions used by the rich so that their ...

Published: Tuesday 30 October 2012
This election is not between Obama and Romney, it is between corporate power and us.

 

The November election is not a battle between Republicans and Democrats. It is not a battle between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a battle between the corporate state and us. And if we do not immediately engage in this battle we are finished, as climate scientists have made clear. I will defy corporate power in small and large ways. I will invest my energy now solely in acts of resistance, in civil disobedience and in defiance. Those who rebel are our only hope. And for this reason I will vote next month for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, although I could as easily vote for Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party. I will step outside the system. Voting for the “lesser evil”—or failing to vote at all—is part of the corporate agenda to crush what is left of our anemic democracy. And those who continue to participate in the vaudeville of a two-party process, who refuse to confront in every way possible the structures of corporate power, assure our mutual destruction.

All the major correctives to American democracy have come through movements and third parties that have operated outside the mainstream. Few achieved formal positions of power. These movements built enough momentum and popular support, always in the face of fierce opposition, to force the power elite to respond to their concerns. Such developments, along with the courage to defy the political charade in the voting booth, offer the only hope of saving us from Wall Street predators, the assault on the ecosystem by the fossil fuel ...

Published: Sunday 28 October 2012
“Bush and his neocon coterie recognized the glaring irrelevance of the Cold War era arsenal in the fight against terrorism, and that is why they invaded Iraq instead of focusing on al-Qaida and its supporters in Afghanistan.”

Poor President Obama, as Colin Powell pointed out in endorsing him Thursday, clearly holds what should be a winning hand in the war-on-terror game, and yet Mitt Romney and his neocon speechwriters won’t cut him any slack. Suddenly it’s not Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida that matter, but rather the military threat from Red China that is killing us with slick iPhones and cheap solar panels. 

Throw in some good old Russia baiting, and if Romney has his way, the military-industrial complex will get its beloved Cold War back despite the fact that the communist threat is now one of conquering space on the shelves at Wal-Mart. Obama, the naive community organizer, thinks the foreign policy debate is about national security, but Romney, the quintessential vulture capitalist, knows that it’s always been about maximizing profit. 

That is the problem with the war on terror that Obama inherited from George W. Bush but has successfully reissued as his own product line; it’s got all the patriotic bells and whistles, but as a profit center, it sucks. You just can’t logically justify spending trillions of dollars on building ever more sophisticated weapons to defeat a 9/11 style enemy equipped with weapons that can be purchased at Home Depot for a couple of hundred bucks. Another $2 billion nuclear sub, in addition to the two we already turn out every year, isn’t very useful in hunting down potential hijackers based in some desert outpost or even in an apartment in Hamburg, Germany. 

Bush and his neocon coterie recognized the glaring irrelevance of the Cold War era arsenal in the fight against terrorism, and that is why they invaded Iraq instead of focusing on al-Qaida and its supporters in Afghanistan. As Donald Rumsfeld put it, “there aren’t any good targets in Afghanistan and there are a lot of good targets in Iraq,” meaning that we could pretend it was ...

Published: Saturday 27 October 2012
Obama betrayed many of his campaign promises, not merely by turning over his economic policymaking to corporate-connected insiders, but, as the Washington Post this week documents, by additionally championing more-extreme versions of the Bush-era civil liberties and national security policies that he once criticized from his platform as a venerated “constitutional lawyer.”

A confession: I recently received my Colorado ballot but, even though my state will play a key role in the presidential election, I still haven't voted. Yes, I'm one of the oft-ridiculed undecideds, and here's why:

I am a left-leaner who previously voted for Barack Obama with clear eyes. Having looked at his record, I knew he was no progressive, much less a Marxist, as his conservative detractors claim. He has always been a thumb-to-the-wind politician who shrouds corporate-backed policies in the veneer of altruistic liberalism. But I voted for him because in 2008 he presented the best opportunity for change.

Sadly, that opportunity was missed. Obama betrayed many of his campaign promises, not merely by turning over his economic policymaking to corporate-connected insiders, but, as the Washington Post this week documents, by additionally championing more-extreme versions of the Bush-era civil liberties and national security policies that he once criticized from his platform as a venerated "constitutional lawyer."

Now, four years later, Obama and Democratic Party-affiliated media outlets are demanding that voters ignore this record, or at least believe that a President Mitt Romney will automatically make things worse.

For liberals, that belief certainly has some merit. On economics, Romney proposes punitive trickle-down policies to reward the wealthy "makers" with new tax cuts and punish impoverished "takers" with cuts to public services. Likewise on social issues, he stands against same-sex marriage and a woman's right to choose an abortion.

That said, there are far more similarities between the candidates than differences. They both support entitlement cuts, corporate tax cuts, the Drug War, expanded fossil fuel drilling, privatizing education, warrantless surveillance, ...

Published: Monday 22 October 2012
“This is an economy where people are losing their homes and being evicted from their apartments.”

 

Bill Clinton is undoubtedly the greatest politician of his generation. He is also a thoroughly reprehensible character.

Last week he had the gall to complain to people in Wisconsin about “impatient voters.” According to news account, at an Obama rally in Green Bay he said:

"This shouldn't be a race … The only reason it is, is because Americans are impatient on things not made before yesterday and they don't understand why the economy is not totally hunky-dory again."

This is infuriating for two reasons. First, Clinton uses the term “impatient” like he is describing people waiting for their dinner to be served at restaurant. That’s not the story of the current economy. The story of the economy is people who do not have jobs or do not have jobs that give them enough hours or a high enough wage to allow them to pay their bills each month.

This is an economy where people are losing their homes and being evicted from their apartments. It is one where people can’t afford medical care or decent food and clothes for their kids. That is not story of impatience; it’s a story of real suffering.

It’s perhaps not surprising that Clinton can’t understand this reality. This is a guy who commented about his multi-million dollar book deal and six-figure speaker’s fee that he had never been financially secure until he left the White House.

Of course this is crap by any reasonable definition of “financially secure.” Clinton was guaranteed a pension of almost $200,000 a year, plus health care coverage, the day he left the White House. This would have put him far into the top 1 percent of retirees even if he never earned another ...

Published: Wednesday 17 October 2012
The Post wrote that the “‘new math’” in Romney’s plan “doesn’t add up.” In awarding the claim four Pinocchios — the most untrue possible rating, the Post expressed incredulity at the fact Romney would personally stand behind such a flawed, baseless claim.

 

During the first presidential debate in Denver, Colorado Romney managed to tell 27 myths in his 38 minutes of speaking time. But at his second encounter with Obama in New York, the GOP presidential candidate — who has run a post-truth campaign from day one — outdid himself and crammed 31 myths in 41 minutes:

1) “I want to make sure we keep our Pell grant program growing. We’re also going to have our loan program, so that people are able to afford school.” Paul Ryan’s budget could cut Pell Grants for nearly 1 million college students and even Romney’s white paper on education, “A Chance for Every Child,” suggests that he “would reverse the growth in Pell Grant funding.” It says: “A Romney Administration will refocus Pell Grant dollars on the students that need them most and place the program on a responsible long-term path that avoids future funding cliffs and last-minute funding patches.”

2) “I put out a five-point plan that gets America 12 million new jobs in four years and rising take-home pay.” The Washington Post’s in-house fact checker tore Romney’s claim that he will create 12 million jobs to shreds. The Post wrote that the “‘new math’” in ...

Published: Sunday 14 October 2012
Ever since Bill Clinton appointed Goldman honcho Robert Rubin to be his Treasury secretary, the firm has been the top corporate supporter of the Democrats, according to the authoritative Center for Responsive Politics.

Maybe I have been too harsh in judging Barack Obama’s economic performance. Instead of following George W. Bush’s lead in bailing out the bankers first, I wanted Obama to do more for beleaguered homeowners and less for the Wall Street swindlers who trafficked in toxic mortgages. But the president must have done something right, or the hucksters at Goldman Sachs wouldn’t hate him so. 

Ever since Bill Clinton appointed Goldman honcho Robert Rubin to be his Treasury secretary, the firm has been the top corporate supporter of the Democrats, according to the authoritative Center for Responsive Politics. And the investment paid off big time when Clinton followed Rubin’s lead and teamed up with congressional Republicans to reverse the sensible restraints on Wall Street that had kept the economy sound for six decades. Thanks to that decision, Goldman, a high-rolling investment house, was allowed to suddenly become a commercial bank and avail itself of the cheap money provided by the Federal Reserve to bail out troubled banks.

The financiers thought the fix was in once again when Obama turned to Rubin protégé Lawrence Summers as his key economic adviser in the 2008 campaign. Summers had replaced Rubin as Clinton’s Treasury secretary and had been even more vigorous in destroying the regulations that had maintained a stable financial system for 60 years. Wall Street turned against the GOP and its candidate John McCain, much preferring Obama. It should burnish the president’s reputation in the eyes of ordinary voters that those merchants of greed now feel so betrayed. 

As The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday: “When Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, no major U.S. corporation did more to finance his campaign than Goldman Sachs Group Inc. This election, none has done more to defeat him.”

The high rollers at Goldman have given $900,000 to ...

Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
However, critical as such short-term fact checking is, it misses the much bigger news embedded in all the subterfuge. In short, it misses the genuinely mind-boggling fact that a Republican nominee for president is now campaigning for president on a promise to not cut taxes on the wealthy.

When it comes to tax policy, Mitt Romney is not merely a spinner, an equivocator or a run-of-the-mill dissembler. He's a liar. Hyperbolic and overwrought as that label seems, it is, alas, the only accurate description for someone who would, in February, promote a proposal to cut taxes "on everyone across the country by 20 percent, including the top 1 percent" and then appear at an October debate and insist that the very same proposal "will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans."

For the most part, analyzing such hideous dishonesty is where political reporting has started and stopped. How big a liar is Romney? Was he lying in the first statement or the second one? These are, no doubt, important questions — and to answer but one of them, it's obvious Romney was lying in the most recent one. As the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center reported, the Republican nominee's proposal, if enacted, would "result in a net tax cut for high-income tax payers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers."

However, critical as such short-term fact checking is, it misses the much bigger news embedded in all the subterfuge. In short, it misses the genuinely mind-boggling fact that a Republican nominee for president is now campaigning for president on a promise to not cut taxes on the wealthy.

READ FULL POST 7 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 13 October 2012
As a practical matter, then, negotiations over America’s budget deficit will drag on into the new year, right over and beyond the fiscal cliff. A deal might not be struck until February, or even March.

These are awkward days for deficit hawks who believe the American economy can get back to health only if the nation gets its fiscal house in order. If they get their wish, the economy goes over a cliff.

Regardless of what happens Election Day, at the beginning of next year more than $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts automatically go into effect. That’s equivalent to about 5 percent of the entire U.S. economy, more than the projected growth of the whole gross domestic product next year.

The problem is, if we fall off this fiscal cliff we plunge into recession. That’s because the cliff withdraws too much demand from the economy too quickly, at a time when unemployment is still likely to be high.

The Congressional Budget Office projects real economic growth will drop at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the first half of 2013, and unemployment will rise to 9.1 percent by the end of next year.

As Spain and Great Britain have demonstrated, launching fiscal austerity at a time when a nation’s economic capacity is substantially underutilized causes the economy to contract. This makes the debt even larger in proportion to the size of the economy. Rather than reassure global lenders and investors, it spooks them more.

America is about to fall off the fiscal cliff because Democrats and Republicans in Congress haven’t been able to agree on a plan for long-term deficit reduction – and this failure will trigger automatic spending cuts in January. Meanwhile, the temporary tax cuts enacted by former President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003, and extended for two years by President Obama, will run out December 31st, as will the President’s temporary jobs measures – a payroll-tax holiday and extended unemployment benefits.

In a rational world, deficit reduction on this scale wouldn’t happen until the economy is once again healthy – when unemployment has dropped to below 6 ...

Published: Friday 12 October 2012
“It seems that the first rule of the debate club now is: no disagreeing on what matters most.”

 

We had a debate club back in high school. Two teams would meet in the auditorium, and Mr. Garrity would tell us the topic, something 1970s-ish like “Resolved: Women Should Get Equal Pay for Equal Work” or “World Communism Will Be Defeated in Vietnam.” Each side would then try, through persuasion and the marshaling of facts, to clinch the argument. There’d be judges and a winner.

Today’s presidential debates are a long way from Mr. Garrity’s club. It seems that the first rule of the debate club now is: no disagreeing on what matters most. In fact, the two candidates rarely interact with each other at all, typically ditching whatever the question might be for some rehashed set of campaign talking points, all with the complicity of the celebrity media moderators preening about democracy in action. Waiting for another quip about Big Bird is about all the content we can expect.

But the joke is on us. Sadly, the two candidates are stand-ins for Washington in general, a “war” capital whose denizens work and argue, sometimes fiercely, from within a remarkably limited range of options.  It was D.C. on autopilot last week for domestic issues; the next two presidential debates are to be in part or fully on foreign policy challenges (of which there are so many). When it comes to foreign -- that is, military -- policy, the gap between Barack and Mitt is slim to the point of nonexistent on many issues, however much they may badger each other on the subject.  That old saw about those who fail to understand history repeating its mistakes applies a little too easily here: the last 11 years have added up to one disaster after another abroad, and without a smidgen of new thinking (guaranteed not to put in an appearance at any of the ...

Published: Wednesday 10 October 2012
“September’s jobs report showed unemployment down to 7.8 percent for the first time in more than three years.”

The latest Pew Research Center poll shows Mitt Romney ahead of President Barack Obama among likely voters, 49% to  45%. But the latest Gallup poll shows the President Obama leading Romney among likely voters, 50% to 45%.

What gives? The Pew poll covered the days immediately following last Wednesday’s presidential debate. It didn’t include last weekend. The Gallup poll, by contrast, included the weekend — after September’s jobs report showed unemployment down to 7.8 percent for the first time in more than three years.

So it’s fair to conclude the bump the President received from the jobs report bump made up for the bump Romney got from the debate. No surprise that voters care more about jobs than they do about debate performance.

But don’t be misled. The race has tightened up.

Moreover, polls of “likely voters” are notoriously imprecise because they reflect everyone who says they’re likely to vote – including those who hope to but won’t, as well as those who won’t but don’t want to admit it. 

Remember: The biggest party in America is neither Democrats nor Republicans. It’s the party of non-voters — a group that outnumbers the other two. 

So the real question is which set of potential supporters is more motivated on Election Day (or via absentee ballot) to bother to vote.

The biggest motivator in this election isn’t enthusiasm about either of the candidates. The Republican base has never particularly liked Romney, and many Democrats have been disappointed in Obama.

The biggest motivator is fear of the other guy.

There’s clear reason for Democrats and Independents to fear Romney and Ryan — their reverse Robin-Hood budgets that take from the poor and middle class and reward the rich; their ...

Published: Thursday 4 October 2012
If the President opts for the elite's failed austerity economics, voters are likely to conclude that the real re-election victory went to the one candidate they never wanted in the first place: The plutocracy.

 


The conventional wisdom says that when a President runs for re-election the race becomes a referendum on the economy. Unemployment's still at record highs, poverty has soared, and middle-class Americans are struggling to stay afloat. And yet the President has a commanding lead in the polls.

Why? The polls hold some clues: Voters believe that billionaires and corporations have come to dominate our political process, and they think the President has very little ability to affect their economic future.

They have a point. Both political parties are concentrating on government deficits at a time when they should be focused on jobs and growth the middle class. That's the mark of a plutocracy: government by and for the wealthy.

In many ways, the real incumbent isn't Barack Obama. The real incumbent is the plutocracy. And whose very being screams “plutocrat” more than Mitt Romney's?

READ FULL POST 2 COMMENTS

Published: Thursday 27 September 2012
Confronting the stark contrast between life imagined and life revealed can prove to be a daunting task.

 

Weltschmerz (from German; from Welt (world) + Schmerz (pain) delineates the type of sadness experienced when the world revealed does not reflect the image of the world that one believes, or has been led to believe, should exist. The corporate/consumer state (as well as, its scion, the present day presidential election cycle) has brought us, as a people, into a wilderness of weltschmerz. 

 

Confronting the stark contrast between life imagined and life revealed can prove to be a daunting task. It is an endeavor that has proven particularly difficult for political partisans, both professional and rank and file, who seem unwilling or unable to grasp the sense of futility experienced by significant numbers of their fellow citizens regarding political participation, on any level, including the act of voting under the corrupted to the core structure of the current system. 

 

Such reactions are understandable. Exercises in futility prove enervating. Disenchanted, sizable and increasing numbers of voters have tuned out and walked away from the process, due to the abject refusal of the political class to be responsive to the needs of the populace beyond the elitist-ridden New York/DC nexus of privilege and power.

 

Yet, rank and file political partisans, all too often, resist gaining awareness of the extent of their powerlessness. This is understandable as well. Feelings of powerlessness can engender despair. To avoid despair, one feels as though one must remain active in order to avoid sinking into the muck and mire borne of chronic hopelessness. True enough. But activity towards what end? Does the activity, such as voting along partisan lines, reinforce states of powerlessness by serving the forces of one's oppression?

 

Despite all the cultural cues that we have internalized, one cannot consume, medicate, buy on credit, receive a promotion, vacation, vote, hope, affect a ...

Published: Tuesday 18 September 2012
The CIA, President George W. Bush, and Donald Rumsfield have repeatedly said only 3 people have been waterboarded, but that is no longer true.

For many years, Bush administration officials have said that the CIA waterboarded only three terror suspects. Despite nearly endless revelations and investigations about the U.S.'s treatment of detainees, there has never been evidence contradicting those claims. But that changed earlier this month.

Human Rights Watch recently released a report detailing the accounts of 14 Libyan men who claim they were detained and, in some cases, subject to harsh interrogations by the U.S. before being transferred back to Libyan prisons, where they also faced abuse.

One man, Mohammed Al-Shoreoiya, provided a detailed account of being waterboarded “many times” while in U.S. custody in an Afghan prison between 2003 and 2004. Another man described a similar form of water torture, conducted without a board.

None of the men's accounts could be confirmed, but 

Published: Wednesday 12 September 2012
“Incomes for the middle fifth of American households—the heart of the middle class—would have been an average of $19,000 higher per year by 2007 if the share of growth claimed by the richest households had not grown so much over the past 30 years.”

The latest edition of the Economic Policy Institute's "State of Working America" report, out today, documents in sharp detail what has been for the middle-class economy a "lost decade" in which working people have fallen behind. But what's more disheartening is its prediction that without radical change "nearly two decades likely will pass before American incomes regain lost ground and return to their 2000 levels."

The report makes clear what has been robbed from low- and middle-income people as a result of conservative policies that have their roots in the early 1980s, as the country turned from balanced growth policies in which labor and capital profited more or less in tandem to government policies that advantaged corporations and the wealthy at the expense of workers.

As a result of these policies, the report notes, "the business cycle preceding the recession [of 2008-2009] was already shaping up as a lost decade for American

incomes," with median household incomes falling 6 percent during that period. But when the Great Recession hit, median income of working-age families fell another 7.1 percent between 2007 and 2010.

"This is an underappreciated economic calamity," the report says.

These key slides from the report help tell the story:

From State of Working America Upload by Isaiah J. Poole

The report notes that this calamity is not caused by a lack of overall economic growth. National income, the report notes, has grown enough to substantially improve the fortunes for ...

Published: Monday 10 September 2012
“This is the story of how in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and later in Iraq, I discovered that what I believed to be the full spectrum of reality was just a small slice of it and how that discovery knocked down my Republican worldview.”

 

 

 

 

I used to be a serious Republican, moderate and business-oriented, who planned for a public-service career in Republican politics.  But I am a Republican no longer.

There’s an old joke we Republicans used to tell that goes something like this: “If you’re young and not a Democrat, you’re heartless. If you grow up and you’re not a Republican, you’re stupid.” These days, my old friends and associates no doubt consider me the butt of that joke. But I look on my “stupidity” somewhat differently.  After all, my real education only began when I was 30 years old.

This is the story of how in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and later in Iraq, I discovered that what I believed to be the full spectrum of reality was just a small slice of it and how that discovery knocked down my Republican worldview.

I always imagined that I was full of heart, but it turned out that I was oblivious.  Like so many Republicans, I had assumed that society’s “losers” had somehow earned their desserts.  As I came to recognize that poverty is not earned or chosen or deserved, and that our use of force is far less precise than I had believed, I realized with a shock that I had effectively viewed whole swaths of the country and the world as second-class people.

No longer oblivious, I couldn’t remain in today’s Republican Party, not unless I embraced an individualism that was even more heartless than the one I had previously accepted.  The more I learned about reality, the more I started to care about people as people, and my values shifted.  Had I always known what I know today, it would have been clear that there hasn’t been a place for me in the Republican Party since the Free Soil days of Abe Lincoln.

Where I Came From

Published: Saturday 8 September 2012
“True, the unemployment rate fell to 8.1% from July’s 8.3%, but the size of the workforce continued to drop, according to a Labor Department report Friday.”

 

President Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention was long on uplifting rhetoric but short on specifics for what he’ll do if reelected to reignite the American economy. 

Yet today’s jobs report provides a troubling reminder that the economy is still in bad shape. Employers added only 96,000 non farm jobs in August. True, the unemployment rate fell to 8.1% from July’s 8.3%, But the size of the workforce continued to drop, according to a Labor Department report Friday.

Unfortunately for the President — and the rest of us — jobs gains have averaged only 94,000 over the last three months. That’s down from an average of 95,000 in the second quarter. And well below the average gain of 225,000 in the first quarter of the year And compared to last year, the trend is still in the wrong direction: a monthly average gain of 139,000 this year compared to last year’s average monthly gain of 153,000. 

Look, I desperately want Obama to win. But the one thing his speech last night lacked was the one thing that was the most important for him to offer — a plan for how to get the economy out of the doldrums.

Last week Mitt Romney offered only the standard Republican bromides: cut taxes on the rich, cut spending on programs everyone else depends on, and deregulate. They didn’t work for George W. Bush and there’s no reason to expect they’ll work again.

But the President could have offered more than the rejoinder he did — suggesting, even in broad strokes, what he’ll do in his second term to get the economy moving again. At least he might have identified the scourge of inequality as a culprit, for example, pointing out, as he did last December, that the economy can’t advance when so much income and wealth are concentrated at the ...

Published: Friday 7 September 2012
“Bush did support federal grant programs for community health centers during his presidency. But the specific grant requested by Ryan is funded through Obamacare, which provides $11 billion to expand community health centers.”

 

Earlier this week, the Nation uncovered the fact that Paul Ryan — who has voted with his party to repeal President Obama’s health care law over 30 times — requested Obamacare funds for his Wisconsin district in 2010. However, after the news broke that Ryan sought to fund a new community health center with federal money provided through health care reform, his campaign was quick to retort that grant program has nothing to do with supporting Obamacare because it was created under former President George W. Bush.

Bush did support federal grant programs for community health centers during his presidency. But the specific grant requested by Ryan is funded through Obamacare, which provides $11 billion to expand community health centers. When Ryan requested the funds in 2010, they represented money that Obama approved — under a law that Ryan has referred to as “Washington’s reckless spending spree.”

As the Huffington Post points out, it’s difficult to understand the distinction between Ryan’s support for Bush’s health care spending and his opposition to ...

Published: Friday 7 September 2012
“The platform, released Tuesday, leaves plenty of wiggle room for the administration, eschewing hard numbers or strategic decisions in favor of generalities — a practice typical in platforms released at convention time that are heavy on rhetoric but light on specifics.”

 

The Democratic party platform released this week suggests that national security officials in a second Obama administration will attempt to leave outdated military projects behind, to bolster the country’s international leadership, and to control nuclear weapons materials — policies that match some but not all of the preferences expressed by members of both political parties in a May survey organized by the Center for Public Integrity.

The platform, released Tuesday, leaves plenty of wiggle room for the administration, eschewing hard numbers or strategic decisions in favor of generalities — a practice typical in platforms released at convention time that are heavy on rhetoric but light on specifics.

The 2012 platform is even more general than the Democrats’ 2008 version, which contained highly specific pledges of new aid to Afghanistan ($1 billion) and Israel ($30 billion) and called for increasing “the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000 troops.” Instead of looking forward, the focus of this year’s document is on what the Obama administration has already accomplished. 

But it still provides a starting point to consider how Obama and his team might handle national security issues if he wins a second term. (Our look at the GOP’s platform was published Aug. 30.) While the platform does not specifically call for defense cuts, it mirrors the strategic plan laid out by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who in January called for moving away from heavy land forces and restructuring how the military spends its ...

Published: Wednesday 5 September 2012
Since most of the examination of our President comes from either the daily hypocrasies of Mitt and friends or the coddling progressive left, I thought I would examine “our guy” on a few issues with a bit more scrutiny and fairness.

 

I wrote this a while back after Romney got the nom, and, in light of the blizzard of bullshit that will be coming at us in the next few months, I thought I would put it out now.

Now that the Republican primary circus is over, I began to think about what a vote for Obama would mean.

Since most of the examination of our President comes from either the daily hypocrasies of Mitt and friends or the coddling progressive left, I thought I would examine “our guy” on a few issues with a bit more scrutiny and fairness.

The typical arguments in favor of another Obama presidency are centered around avoiding a fantical rightwing take over of the Oval Office. Obama is perceived as the last line of defense from the corporate barbarians--and, of course, the Supreme Court. There is a cynical logic behind this view, and I tend to agree with Garry Wills' description of the Republican primaries as  “a revolting combination of con men & fanatics, and agree proundly that “the current primary race has become a demonstration that the Republican party does not deserve serious consideration for public office.”

However, there are certain Rubicon lines, as constituational law professor Jon Turley calls them, that Obama has crossed that should not be ignored.

All political questions are not equal no matter how much you pivot. When people die or lose their physical freedom to feed certain economic sectors or ideologies, it becomes a zero sum game for me.

This is not an exercise in bemoaning regrettable policy choices or cheering favorable ones, but rather to ask a couple fundimental questions: Who are we? What are we voting for? And what does it mean?

Three markers — the Nobel prize acceptance speech, the escalation speech at West Point, and the recent speech by Eric Holder — crossed that Rubicon line for me.


During his 2008 campaign, ...

Published: Monday 3 September 2012
“This is a rare case of a lie that the campaign felt obliged to retract.”

 

On Wednesday, Jonathan Cohn asked if Paul Ryan's address was "The Most Dishonest Convention Speech ... Ever?" Now that Mitt Romney had his turn, I decided to answer the question.

After reviewing presidential and vice-presidential nominee acceptance speeches throughout the era of the modern Republican Party, back to 1980, I present to you: the Top 13 Republican Convention Speech Lies.

To make this list, the candidate had to deliver a stone-cold, unequivocal, shameless brazen lie. Being misleading but technically true, or using disingenuous qualifiers wasn't good enough.

For example, Vice-President Dick Cheney does not make the cut for saying in 2004 that "we dealt with a gathering threat and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein" shortly after saying "the president made clear that the terrorists would be dealt with". Sure, he's suggesting a false connection between 9/11 and Iraq, but he didn't explicitly state the lie--at least, not on the convention stage.

With that in mind, here we go.

13. Bush 2000: The Gore Invented The Internet Lie

George W. Bush wrapped the lie in a joke, but it's still a lie.

After riffing about all the inventions in history Gore would call a "risky scheme," -- a way to deflect criticism of his own conservative proposals -- Bush said, "if he'd been there when the Internet was invented ... well, I understand he actually was there for that."

It's about as good as a ...

Published: Sunday 2 September 2012
“You might not remember this, but there once was a woman named Sarah Palin who was nominated for vice-president.”

On Wednesday, Jonathan Cohn asked if Paul Ryan's address was "The Most Dishonest Convention Speech ... Ever?" Now that Mitt Romney had his turn, I decided to answer the question.

After reviewing presidential and vice-presidential nominee acceptance speeches throughout the era of the modern Republican Party, back to 1980, I present to you: the Top 13 Republican Convention Speech Lies.

To make this list, the candidate had to deliver a stone-cold, unequivocal, shameless brazen lie. Being misleading but technically true, or using disingenuous qualifiers wasn't good enough.

For example, Vice-President Dick Cheney does not make the cut for saying in 2004"we dealt with a gathering threat and removed the regime of Saddam Hussein" shortly after saying "the president made clear that the terrorists would be dealt with". Sure, he's suggesting a false connection between 9/11 and Iraq, but he didn't explicitly state the lie ... at least, not on the convention stage.

With that in mind, here we go.

13. Bush 2000: The Gore Invented The Internet Lie

George W. Bush wrapped the lie in a joke, but it's still a lie.

After riffing about all the inventions in history Gore would call a "risky scheme," -- a way to deflect criticism of his own conservative proposals -- Bush said, "if he'd been there when the Internet was invented ... well, I understand he actually was there for that."

It's about as good as a birth certificate joke. And just as much of a lie.

Published: Wednesday 29 August 2012
“Among other favors, Griffin is the top cheerleader in the House for the XL Pipeline--whose approval is vital to the billionaire Kochs making more billions.”

"Tim Griffin should be in jail." That's the conclusion of civil rights attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr. after going through the evidence I asked him to review.

 

But Griffin's not in jail: he's in Congress. And Tuesday, he'll be the first Congressman the Republicans have chosen to bring to their convention podium.

Predictably, I haven't seen one US press report noting that in 2007, Griffin resigned from the Justice Department in disgrace, ahead of what could have been (should have been), his indictment.

 

Kennedy thought a couple of other characters should join Griffin in the lock-up: first, Griffin's boss, the man whom George W. Bush gave the nickname, "Turd blossom": Karl Rove.

 

And there's yet another odiferous blossom, Griffin's assistant at the time of the crime: Matt Rhoades. Rhoades isn't in jail either. He's the campaign director of presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

 

This story is based on the investigations in Palast's new book, Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps - with a forward by Kennedy and comics by Ted Rall.

 

Kennedy had gone over the highly confidential emails we'd gotten from inside Republican National Committee headquarters i Washington. (How we got our hands on private emails from the top dogs in the Republican campaign, well, that's another story. I can say, they were sent directly from the computer of Tim Griffin. Rove, a computer expert, is careful not to have his own).

“What they did was absolutely illegal—and they ...

Published: Tuesday 28 August 2012
The one place Republicans suggest real change is in Medicare.

The name of George W. Bush graces no chair at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. The 43rd president left behind monumental deficits and an economy in tatters. Republicans hold him responsible for the party's straying from its alleged small-government ethic. They want the public to forget the man.

Thing is, the man wasn't the problem. His plan was the problem. And there is very little in the "new" Republican proposals that would change the plan. It's more tax cuts targeting the well-to-do, a bigger defense budget and less regulation. The one place Republicans suggest real change is in Medicare. Mitt Romney's pick for vice president, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, proposes a Medicare voucher system that would save money by making sure that taxpayer subsidies don't keep pace with projected health care costs.

There are less radical ways to curb soaring Medicare costs, but Ryan's idea does deserve half a credit for courage. It doesn't get a full credit for two reasons. One is it would not impose the voucher system on anyone 55 or older — that is, for those who are really paying attention. The second reason is that it privatizes the hard conversations on what Medicare should offer, discussions the public should be having with their government. What privatizing coverage does is move the tough calls to insurance company executive suites, where the profit motive strongly favors denying care.

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Published: Friday 24 August 2012
“Fighting for vital resources is nothing new in history, and nothing new in U.S. history either.”

 

I'm old enough to remember the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and long lines for gasoline in the United States. A joke that circulated among my schoolmates caught the spirit of the moment. It involved calculators, which were fairly new back then for the masses. It went like this: 142 Arabs fight 154 Israelis for control of 69 oil wells for five years. Who wins?

Punch the numbers 142, 154, and 69 into your calculator and then multiply by 5 and you get 71077345. Turn the calculator upside down and those numbers spell out "ShELLOIL," or so we joked. Call it the cynicism of 11-year-olds.

Thirty years later, as an Air Force officer I recall a discussion of what we should name the operation to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein. Wags in my office suggested the obvious: Operation IRAQI LIBERATION, with lots of chuckles about the resulting acronym (OIL). Call it the cynicism of 40-somethings.

 

Fighting for vital resources is nothing new in history, and nothing new in U.S. history either. Smedley Butler, the famous U.S. Marine general who penned War Is a Racket, wrote in the 1930s that "those damned oil companies" should fly their own flag -- perhaps one with a gas pump on it -- over foreign lands that they viewed as their personal property. Call it the cynicism of a retired major-general who twice was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

But is it cynicism -- or just plain honesty? Consider the book by Greg Muttitt on the Iraq war and its fallout, which places oil back where it belongs, front and center, in American motivations and machinations. This is hardly surprising, for recall the words of then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz that Iraq floated on a sea of oil, or the background of then-Vice ...

Published: Friday 24 August 2012
“Fuel is smuggled across the border to the tune of hundreds of tankers a day.”

 

In 2011, after nearly nine years of war and occupation, U.S. troops finally left Iraq. In their place, Big Oil is now present in force and the country’s oil output, crippled for decades, is growing again. Iraq recently reclaimed the number two position in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), overtaking oil-sanctioned Iran. Now, there’s talk of a new world petroleum glut. So is this finally mission accomplished?

Well, not exactly. In fact, any oil company victory in Iraq is likely to prove as temporary as George W. Bush’s triumph in 2003. The main reason is yet another of those stories the mainstream media didn’t quite find room for: the role of Iraqi civil society. But before telling that story, let’s look at what’s happening to Iraqi oil today, and how we got from the “no blood for oil” global protests of 2003 to the present moment.

Here, as a start, is a little scorecard of what’s gone on in Iraq since Big Oil arrived two and a half years ago: corruption’s skyrocketed; two Western oil companies are being investigated for either giving or receiving bribes; the Iraqi government is paying oil companies a per-barrel fee according to wildly unrealistic production targets they’ve set, whether or not they deliver that number of barrels; contractors are heavily

Published: Wednesday 22 August 2012
“Heading up the American Crossroads super PAC and the affiliated non-profit Crossroads GPS, Rove has built up a war chest that has given Mitt Romney a significant cash advantage in the fundraising race with President Obama.”

 

In a new book, author Craig Unger examines the return of Karl Rove, the man who masterminded the rise of George W. Bush from governor of Texas to a two-term presidency, who advised Bush during two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who was at the center of two of the biggest scandals of the Bush administration: the Valerie Plame Wilson affair and the U.S. attorneys scandal. While Rove was almost indicted for the Plame affair, he has reinvented himself to become the most powerful political operative in America. Heading up the American Crossroads super PAC and the affiliated non-profit Crossroads GPS, Rove has built up a war chest that has given Mitt Romney a significant cash advantage in the fundraising race with President Obama. In "Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove's Secret Kingdom of Power," Unger writes that Rove's ambitions are not simply about winning elections, but represent "a far more grandiose vision — the forging of a historic realignment of America's political landscape, the transformation of America into effectively a one-party state."

Published: Wednesday 15 August 2012
Ryan’s version is updated slightly, claiming that if Congress removes enough loopholes and tax expenditures, the resulting spurt of growth will reach 5 percent, 10 percent or even more.

By naming Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential nominee, Mitt Romney has endorsed what used to be known as "voodoo economics" — and restored that special brand of Republican superstition to the center of national debate.

To take Ryan seriously, as all too many pundits and politicians insist we must, requires everyone to behave as if the plans he produced as House Budget Committee chairman represent a meaningful effort to improve the nation's fiscal future. Sooner or later, however, real analysts will scrutinize the Ryan budget using honest math instead of humbug and magic.

In fact, they already have done so — and that is where the myth of Ryan as a serious, scrupulous and bold reformer begins to disintegrate.

As close observers know, the Wisconsin congressman wants to cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans even more sharply than George W. Bush, whose tax policies caused the bulk of the deficits that provoke so much righteous anger among Republicans like Ryan today. In Ryan's budget, his tax cuts leave an enormous revenue gap, even with the absurdly destructive spending cuts he also proposes.

But according to Ryan, we need not worry that his plan will increase fiscal deficits as well as the deficits it will assuredly worsen in infrastructure, education, health care, environmental quality, consumer protection and scientific research. He says that his tax cuts, which naturally favor the wealthiest Americans, will pay for themselves by creating a huge, rapid spurt of economic growth — which will result in higher tax revenues to cover the deficit.

Where have we heard this before? There was the original Reagan version, and then later the Bush version, which relied on a gimmick called "dynamic scoring" to create the same fake equation. Ryan's version is updated slightly, claiming that if Congress removes enough loopholes and ...

Published: Wednesday 15 August 2012
“Much controversy currently surrounds a radical federal budget overhaul designed by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and overwhelmingly backed by House Republicans.”

Generations of Americans have worked together to build our nation's Social Security system. Each citizen contributes through a lifetime of work, and each is entitled to claim an assured benefit to see him or her through retirement and old age, or in the event of a serious disability or the death of a working parent or spouse. The vast majority of Americans support this system, because it works. In an economy where most are dependent on wages, Social Security insures a worker and his or her dependents can continue to get a portion of those wages during old age or if death or disability strikes.

Much controversy currently surrounds a radical federal budget overhaul designed by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and overwhelmingly backed by House Republicans. The Ryan plan calls for trillions of dollars in cuts in Medicaid and other safety-net programs for low-income and disabled Americans. It also goes after Medicare, one of the pillars of middle-class retirement, aiming to turn it into a voucher system that would force the typical retiree to pay about $6,000 more per year just to get the same benefits Medicare now guarantees.

What about Social Security? Ryan would effectively gut that program, too, supposedly to address a looming national fiscal crisis. But in fact Social Security's long-term shortfall is manageable, and we need to invest more not less in this effective system.

How Ryan Plans to Undermine Social Security

Because Social Security is so popular, the 2011 Ryan budget backed by almost all House Republicans tip-toes around planned changes in the program -- and simply includes procedural changes that would "fast track" modifications and make it possible for legislators to accept them without full political accountability. When procedural tricks are put in place, we have to ask why. What changes do Representative Ryan and his colleagues have in mind? In ...

Published: Tuesday 14 August 2012
“What do you give a government program that has everything ... except a secure future of its own?”

Today, August 14, is Social Security's 77th birthday. That presents us with a difficult challenge: What do you give a government program that has everything ... except a secure future of its own?

Let's take a look at the options for this year's celebration.

The Gift Pile

Talk about an embarrassment of riches! Look what Social Security can already list among its gifts. It's got:

Hundreds of millions of people who love it. Polls consistently show that Social Security, along with Medicare, is one of our most popular government programs.

The best balance sheet in the entire government. Despite all the scare talk (which we'll get to shortly), no program in U.S. history is on a firmer financial footing than Social Security. It's a stand-alone program which isn't allowed to contribute to the overall government deficit, and is absolutely solvent until the mid-2030s.

No other program can say that.

A great profile. There's no way to say this delicately, so we'll come right out with it: Social Security has the slimmest, sleekest look in Washington. We don't like to encourage our society's fixation on thinness as the ideal of beauty, but let's face it -- Social Security is so cost-effective in delivering its benefits that it's got the most streamlined chassis around.

The Social Security Administration beats every private benefits program in the country when it comes to low overhead and efficient administrative design. One of the main reasons for that is the fact that everybody who pays into the system receives its benefits at qualification time.

There's no "means testing," no gamesmanship, no trick—just trim, no-overhead service delivery.

Great polls. Time and time again, overwhelming majorities of Americans have made it clear that they don't want this program to be cut. That means a lot: Of all the gifts in the world, the best ...

Published: Saturday 11 August 2012
The GOP is counting on America’s notoriously short-term memory to blot out the last time the nation put a Republican into the Oval Office, on the reasonable assumption that such a memory might cause voters to avoid making the same mistake twice.

As Bill Clinton is resurrected by the Democrats, George W. Bush is being erased by the GOP — as if an entire eight years of American history hadn’t happened.

While Bill Clinton stumps for Obama, Romney has gone out of his way not to mention the name of the president who came after Clinton and before Obama.

Clinton will have a starring role at the Democratic National Convention. George W. Bush won’t even be at the Republican one – the first time a national party has not given the stage at its convention to its most recent occupant of the Oval Office who successfully ran for reelection.

The GOP is counting on America’s notoriously short-term memory to blot out the last time the nation put a Republican into the Oval Office, on the reasonable assumption that such a memory might cause voters to avoid making the same mistake twice. As whoever-it-was once said, “fool me once …” (and then mangled the rest).

Republicans want to obliterate any trace of the administration that told America there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and led us into a devastating war; turned a $5 trillion projected budget surplus into a $6 trillion deficit; gave the largest tax cut in a generation to the richest Americans in history; handed out a mountain of corporate welfare to the oil and gas industry, pharmaceutical companies, and military contractors like Halliburton (uniquely benefiting the vice president); whose officials turned a blind eye to Wall Street shenanigans that led to the worst financial calamity since the Great Crash of 1929 and then persuaded Congress to bail out the Street with the largest taxpayer-funded giveaway of all time.

Besides, the resemblances between George W. Bush and Mitt Romney are too close for comfort. Both were born into wealth, sons of prominent politicians who themselves ran for president; both are closely tied to ...

Published: Thursday 9 August 2012
The agency said it would undertake the study in response to articles published by ProPublica and The Washington Post in December that found white applicants were nearly four times as likely to be pardoned as minorities.

 

The U.S. Department of Justice has issued a request for proposals for its first-ever in-depth study of presidential pardons, providing fresh details on what it envisions the review will entail.

The agency said it would undertake the study in response to articles published by ProPublica and The Washington Post in December that found white applicants were nearly four times as likely to be pardoned as minorities. African American applicants fared the worst: Just 7 of 189 people pardoned by President George W. Bush were African American. So far, President Obama has pardoned 22 people, including 2 minorities.

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Published: Sunday 22 July 2012
“I cannot call Alex a personal friend, as I never got to know him that well, but he was an important mentor of sorts, as well as a writing inspiration.”

ThisCantBeHappening! lost a valued friend Friday night with the death, from cancer, of Alexander Cockburn, 71. Alex and his comrade-in-arms Jeffrey St. Clair at Counterpunch magazine have helped our struggling little online left alternative newspaper mightily by running most of our articles on their site when other allegedly progressive news aggregator sites have rejected stories as being too radical, or in the case of Truthout, have simply barred us from their site.

I cannot call Alex a personal friend, as I never got to know him that well, but he was an important mentor of sorts, as well as a writing inspiration. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I began working as a freelance journalist, Alex and his writing colleague James Ridgeway encouraged me to contribute articles which they sometimes ran as part their own page in the Village Voice in New York, thus sparing me having to deal with the editor and the editorial cliques at the paper, which were not particularly open to newcomers like myself.

I appreciated that Alex, despite having a lot of writing projects of his own going all the time, was always available when I would visit the Voice to discuss a story idea or deliver my copy. He was quick with an incisive comment or a suggestion for a turn of phrase, and while I’ve never developed his rapier-sharp wit, it remains something to which I continually aspire.

Alex was a scourge of the capitalist elites and their fawning apologists in the corporate media, of course, but he also played an important role as a merciless critic of those so-called progressive journalists who lost their courage, sold out or were simply wrong on an issue. If it was just a matter of disagreeing about a specific issue -- say climate change, where Alex remained a skeptic -- he could be courteous and respectful in his dismissal of an argument, but woe to those, like the late Christopher ...

Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
“Pro-cyclical fiscal policy worsens the dangers of overheating, inflation, and asset bubbles during booms, and exacerbates output and employment losses during recessions, thereby magnifying the swings of the business cycle.”

The world’s advanced economies remain divided over whether to strengthen budget balances in the short term or to use fiscal policy to promote recovery. Those worried about the short-run contractionary effects on the economy call the first option “austerity”; those concerned about long-term sustainability and moral hazard call it “discipline.”

Either way, the debate is akin to asking whether it is better for a driver to turn left or right; depending on where the car is, either choice might be appropriate. Likewise, when an economy is booming, the government should run a budget surplus; when it is in recession, the government should run a deficit.

To be sure, Keynesian macroeconomic policy lost its luster mainly because politicians often failed to time countercyclical fiscal policy – “fine tuning” – properly. Sometimes fiscal stimulus would kick in after the recession was already over. But that is no reason to follow a destabilizing pro-cyclical fiscal policy, which piles spending increases and tax cuts on top of booms, and cuts spending and raises taxes in response to downturns.

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Published: Thursday 19 July 2012
Obama Administration looking to reform the presidential pardon.

The Obama administration has asked for a fresh review of an Alabama federal inmate's commutation request and directed the Justice Department to conduct its first ever in-depth analysis of recommendations for presidential pardons, according to several officials and individuals involved.

The Office of Pardon Attorney has been at the center of growing controversy since December, when stories published by ProPublica and The Washington Post revealed a racial disparity in pardons. White applicants were four times more likely to receive presidential mercy than minorities. African Americans had the least chance of success.

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Published: Wednesday 4 July 2012
Indeed, two of the nation’s most respected forecasters predicted that the AJA would add 1.3-1.9 million jobs in 2012 and more than two million jobs by the end of 2013.

The United States has just completed its third year of economic recovery, but the unemployment rate remains above 8%, and there are worrisome signs of a slowdown. So it is no surprise that jobs have become a major focus in the presidential campaign – or that the candidates have very different ideas about how to boost employment.Last autumn, President Barack Obama proposed the American Jobs Act, a $450 billion package of fiscal measures aimed at job creation. The AJA amounted to about 3% of GDP and was designed to take effect in 2012, providing a timely employment boost and insurance for the US recovery against global headwinds. Most of its measures had enjoyed bipartisan support in the past; tax cuts comprised about 56% of the total cost; and the package was paid for in Obama’s long-term deficit reduction plan.

 

Several independent economists concluded that Obama’s plan would provide a significant lift to the job market in 2012-2013. Indeed, two of the nation’s most respected forecasters predicted that the AJA would add 1.3-1.9 million jobs in 2012 and more than two million jobs by the end of 2013. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) also found that most of the AJA’s policies ranked high in budgetary effectiveness, measured by the number of jobs created in 2012-2013 per dollar of budgetary cost.

 

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Laura Tyson, click here.

 

The AJA was filibustered by Senate Republicans, and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives likewise prevented the bill from coming to a vote. Mitt Romney, now the ...

Published: Thursday 28 June 2012
“For someone whose qualifications as a constitutional authority are nil, Rove's comments displayed an impressive degree of contempt for his listeners that is not seen every day, not even on Fox.”

Forever incapable of embarrassment, let alone sober reflection, Karl Rove is very well suited to his current roles as Fox News commentator and Crossroads Super PAC smear sponsor. But he achieved a moment of near-perfection last Thursday when, appearing on a Fox morning news broadcast, he spoke up about President Obama's invocation of executive privilege against a House committee subpoena of Justice Department documents.

“It's one thing to exert executive privilege over the actions of the president, and his aides, and the White House,” he said. “It's another thing to exercise executive privilege with regard to a Cabinet official, seemingly in a matter that — according to the president up until now — had no connections with, no contact with, no communications with the White House ... .”

Rove went on to complain that the president's privilege claim over the “Operation Fast and Furious” documents demanded by Rep. Darrell Issa's oversight committee “is a very long reach. I mean basically, if the president is allowed to take the privilege that goes to the Executive Office of the President and extend it to a Cabinet department, then he can extend it to any branch of the government for any matter, even if there was no presidential or White House involvement. And I'm not certain that that's what the Founders thought about when they talked about executive privilege.”

READ FULL POST 15 COMMENTS

Published: Saturday 23 June 2012
Time and again conservatives characterize those of us on the left as “large government loyalists,” as “tax and spend liberals” who “support the growth of an inefficient and parasitic public sector.”

Many conservatives who stylize themselves as defenders of small government lean precariously on Reagan-era platitudes when pressed to justify their affections. Though Reagan’s alluringly demagogic 1981 decree that “government is not the solution to our problems [but rather], government is the problem” is easy to chew, its arbitrary application has led to a number of misconceptions about the role, size, and scope of “government.”

Time and again conservatives characterize those of us on the left as “large government loyalists,” as “tax and spend liberals” who “support the growth of an inefficient and parasitic public sector.” Unfortunately, the tales that conservatives use to vituperate those of on the left are as shallow as they are tall.

Let’s take a few minutes to debunk three common conservative critiques lodged against supposed “big government” sympathizers.

Myth #1: President Obama has created a “spending inferno.”

Did not Harvard Business School teach you anything, Mitt? In FY 2009—the last of George W. Bush’s presidency — federal spending rose by 18 percent from $2.98 trillion to $3.52 trillion. Then, in FY 2010—the first budget overseen by President Obama—federal government outlays fell by nearly 2 percent. In FY 2011 spending rose 4.3 percent to $3.60 trillion and in FY 2012 spending is scheduled to rise 0.7 percent to $3.63 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) most recent budgetary estimates.  Finally in FY 2013 — the final budget of President Obama’s term — spending is ...

Published: Friday 22 June 2012
Holder says that his office already released thousands of documents, and that the others that Issa wants are internal communications protected by executive privilege

 

Yesterday, the Obama administration invoked executive privilege to prevent the release of certain documents to Congress related to Operation Fast and Furious, the arms-trafficking sting gone awry that came to light last year. (As we've detailed, federal agents lost track of hundreds of guns they sold to suspected gun smugglers, many of which later turned up at crime scenes in Mexico).

The fall-out from the failed operation has been an ongoing battle between Attorney General Eric Holder and congressional Republicans, in particular Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Issa wants documents related to the Department of Justice's investigation of the operation.

The committee voted yesterday to recommend that Holder be held in contempt of Congress for not turning over some documents. Holder says that his office already released thousands of documents, and that the others that Issa wants are internal communications protected by executive privilege.

In the midst of all this back-and-forth, we lay out exactly what the executive privilege is, and what it means in this case.

So what is executive privilege?

The president can invoke executive privilege in order to withhold some internal executive branch communications from the other branches of government. The privilege is based on the separation of powers between the branches.

Executive privilege has been invoked ...

Published: Thursday 21 June 2012
“Instead, three and a half years after George W. Bush left office, his successor continues to insist that Iran surrender to Washington’s diktats or face attack.”


Since talks with Iran over its nuclear development started up again in April, U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that Tehran will not be allowed to “play for time” in the negotiations.  In fact, it is the Obama administration that is playing for time.

Some suggest that President Obama is trying to use diplomacy to manage the nuclear issue and forestall an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear targets through the U.S. presidential election.  In reality, his administration is “buying time” for a more pernicious agenda: time for covert action to sabotage Tehran’s nuclear program; time for sanctions to set the stage for regime change in Iran; and time for the United States, its European and Sunni Arab partners, and Turkey to weaken the Islamic Republic by overthrowing the Assad government in Syria.

Vice President Biden’s national security adviser, Antony J. Blinken, hinted at this in February, explaining that the administration’s Iran policy is aimed at “buying time and continuing to move this problem into the future, and if you can do that -- strange things can happen in the interim.”  Former Pentagon official Michèle Flournoy -- now out of government and advising Obama’s reelection campaign -- told an Israeli audience this month that, in the administration’s view, it is also important to go through the diplomatic motions before attacking Iran so as not to “

Published: Thursday 14 June 2012
“Of all the hypocritical hype resonating through the rhetoric of these Republicans, none is more damaging than the myth of free market and the jive about private-sector job creators.”

Late this summer, August 27-30, the world will once again be treated to the spectacle of a Republic National Convention.  It's only fitting that this one will be held in Tampa, Florida, the state that made it possible for George W. Bush to steal the election in 2000.  The convention is a sure bet to be a theater of the absurd, but this year the candidate it anoints and the speeches that sing his praises will highlight the hypocrisy of the new Grand Old Party like never before.

Of all the hypocritical hype resonating through the rhetoric of these Republicans, none is more damaging than the myth of free market and the jive about private-sector job creators.  A vibrant economy operating without state intervention or regulation is one of the most pernicious, pervasive, and persistent myths in contemporary American politics.

Today even in the aftermath of the wild-assed, credit-crazed, derivative-driven, deliriously leveraged bubble economy that finally triggered the financial meltdown in 2008 – even after the near-collapse of the global economy and the Great Recession that followed (and still lingers), few Republican leaders dare to say a kind word about the need for state regulation or tax reform, and Democrats too often concede in practice what they dare not renounce in principle.  In fact, there is not a country in the world, never has been and never will be, where the economy operates in a political-administrative or legal vacuum.  Which is to say, there is no such thing as a free market or a pure market economy.

Nothing even close.  And while it's true that the state plays a smaller role in some economies than in others, the United States is in no sense exemplary except by one measure:  hypocrisy.

For proof, we can turn to no less an authority than Niall Ferguson, a self-confessed true believer in Adam Smith's "invisible hand".  Earlier this ...

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
But perhaps most interesting is the fifteen months he spent from November 6, 2003 through January 26, 2005 as President George W. Bush’s EPA administrator — a period over which he supported many of the environmental protection efforts Romney has railed against through the campaign.

Mike Leavitt, the man Mitt Romney has tapped to head his transition should he win this November, has held a wide array of public-sector jobs including Governor of Utah and Secretary of Health and Human Services. But perhaps most interesting is the fifteen months he spent from November 6, 2003 through January 26, 2005 as President George W. Bush’s EPA administrator — a period over which he supported many of the environmental protection efforts Romney has railed against through the campaign.

 

Romney’s official campaign website has a prominent section on government regulations entitled “Obama’s Failure,” which blasts the EPA ...

Published: Wednesday 6 June 2012
“Since the launch last month of a major campaign by big business, the Pentagon and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry to gain LOST’s ratification, some two dozen Republican senators have signaled their opposition.”

The fact that it isn't testifies to the degree to which forces of the U.S. far right have maintained or strengthened their hold on the Republican Party and to the abiding strength of the kind of aggressive and unilateral nationalism that dominated the first terms of former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. 

 

Since the launch last month of a major campaign by big business, the Pentagon and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry to gain LOST's ratification, some two dozen Republican senators have signaled their opposition. 

 

Only 34 are needed to kill it. The U.S. constitution requires that two-thirds of the 100-member chamber must vote "aye" to ratify a treaty. 

 

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, has so far been silent. But in his 2008 campaign, the former Massachusetts governor, who was then running as a "moderate", said he had "concerns" about the treaty's "giving unaccountable international institutions more power". 

 

If pressed to take a position before the election, treaty supporters are worried he'll oppose it. 

 

That is one reason why Kerry intends to delay a vote on the treaty in his committee until after the November election when partisan passions - currently on the boil and rising fast - may cool. 

 

The product of some 15 years of negotiations, LOST, which has been ratified by 161 countries and the European Union, sets rules governing most areas of ocean policy, including navigation and over- flight rights, exploitation of the seabed, conservation and research. 

 

Successive administrations – both Democratic and Republican – led negotiations for the treaty from the late 1960s onward. But when completed in 1982, then-President Ronald Reagan, under pressure from big U.S. ...

Published: Tuesday 5 June 2012
“The last two presidents may not have been emperors or kings, but they -- and the vast national-security structure that continues to be built-up and institutionalized around the presidential self -- are certainly one of the nightmares the founding fathers of this country warned us against.”

 

Be assured of one thing: whichever candidate you choose at the polls in November, you aren’t just electing a president of the United States; you are also electing an assassin-in-chief.  The last two presidents may not have been emperors or kings, but they -- and the vast national-security structure that continues to be built-up and institutionalized around the presidential self -- are certainly one of the nightmares the founding fathers of this country warned us against.  They are one of the reasons those founders put significant war powers in the hands of Congress, which they knew would be a slow, recalcitrant, deliberative body.

Thanks to a long New York Times piece by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will,” we now know that the president has spent startling amounts of time overseeing the “nomination” of terrorist suspects for assassination via the remotely piloted drone program he inherited from President George W. Bush and which he has expanded 

Published: Tuesday 22 May 2012
Lobbyists have raised $3 million for Romney’s presidential campaign.

The federal energy loan program that has created headaches for President Barack Obama has a Mitt Romney connection.

Cathy Tripodi of FaegreBD Consulting lobbies on behalf of Abound Solar, a company that was awarded a $400 million loan guarantee through the same Department of Energy program that aided Solyndra, the now-bankrupt California company that included an Obama bundler as an investor.

Tripodi is a bundler for Romney. She raised $27,000 for the presumptive Republican nominee in April, according to documents filed by his campaign with the Federal Election Commission Sunday.

After receiving a federal loan guarantee, Solyndra ultimately went bankrupt, sticking taxpayers with a $535 million bill and providing fodder for Republican attacks against the president and his green energy initiatives.

Many pundits and politicos began uttering Abound’s name in the same sentence as Solyndra this spring, after Abound announced plans to lay off 280 workers from a Colorado plant and delay the opening of a factory in Indiana. Earlier this month, the Government Reform Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives brought in Abound’s president to ...

Published: Friday 18 May 2012
“Polls show Bill Clinton with higher favorability ratings than Obama, so Romney does what any vacuous opportunist politician does — try to associate himself with more popular, and maybe bring along some of those white males who voted for Clinton in ‘92 and ‘96.”

 

Mitt Romney is full of praise for Bill Clinton even as he heaps scorn on Obama.

“Almost a generation ago, Bill Clinton announced that the era of big government was over,” says Romney, “Clinton was signaling to his own party that Democrats should no longer try to govern by proposing a new program for every problem.” By contrast, President Obama has “tucked away the Clinton doctrine in his large drawer of discarded ideas.”

It’s politics at its stupidest. Polls show Bill Clinton with higher favorability ratings than Obama, so Romney does what any vacuous opportunist politician does — try to associate himself with more popular, and maybe bring along some of those white males who voted for Clinton in ‘92 and ‘96.

But it won’t work. It might even backfire.

I was in Bill Clinton’s cabinet. I was in charge of Clinton’s economic transition team even before he became President. I’ve known Bill Clinton since he was 22 years old.

Romney doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Clinton doctrine? As president, Bill Clinton raised taxes. Government receipts as a percent of gross domestic product rose from 17.5 percent in 1992, when Clinton was elected, to 20.6 percent in 2000, when he left office. Supply-siders screamed. They predicted the end of civilization as we know it.

In 2011, President Obama’s third full year in office, government receipts were down to just 15.5 percent of GDP.

Does Romney really prefer Clinton’s approach?

Under Bill Clinton, the top income tax rate was 39.6 percent. It’s now 35 percent, courtesy of George W. Bush. Obama wants to return to the 39.6 percent rate, but he doesn’t want to restore the Clinton rates on the middle class. Obama wants a lower rate on the middle class than the rate under Clinton.

(Romney doesn’t even mention George W. Bush, by the ...

Published: Sunday 29 April 2012
“To grasp just how this country’s first African-American-constitutional-law-professor-liberal Oval Office holder became the most imperial of all recent imperial presidents, it’s necessary to look back to the early years of George W. Bush’s presidency.”

He has few constraints (except those he’s internalized).  No one can stop him or countermand his orders.  He has a bevy of lawyers at his beck and call to explain the “legality” of his actions.  And if he cares to, he can send a robot assassin to kill you, whoever you are, no matter where you may be on planet Earth.

He sounds like a typical villain from a James Bond novel.  You know, the kind who captures Bond, tells him his fiendish plan for dominating the planet, ties him up for some no less fiendish torture, and then leaves him behind to gum up the works.

As it happens, though, he’s the president of the United State, a nice guy with a charismatic wife and two lovely kids.

How could this be?

 

Crash-and-Burn Dreams and One That Came to Be

Sometimes to understand where you are, you need to ransack the past.  In this case, to grasp just how this country’s first African-American-constitutional-law-professor-liberal Oval Office holder became the most imperial of all recent imperial presidents, it’s necessary to look back to the early years of George W. Bush’s presidency.  Who today even remembers that time, when it was common to speak of the U.S. as the globe’s “sole superpower” or even “hyperpower,” the only “sheriff” on planet Earth, and the neocons were boasting of an empire-to-come greater than the British and Roman ones rolled together?

In those first high-flying years after 9/11, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their top officials held three dreams of power and dominance that they planned to make reality.  The first was to loose the U.S. military -- a force they fervently believed capable of bringing anybody or any state to heel -- on the Greater Middle ...

Published: Sunday 29 April 2012
“Looking ahead, strong headwinds imply that it will be difficult to achieve better economic performance in the rest of the year.”

America’s presidential election is now just six months away. If history is a reliable guide, the outcome will depend significantly on the economy’s performance between now and November 6, and on Americans’ perception of their economic future under the two candidates.

At the moment, America’s economy is limping along with slow growth and high unemployment. Output grew by just 1.5% last year, and real GDP per capita is lower now than before the economic downturn began at the end of 2007. Although annual GDP growth was 3% in the fourth quarter of 2011, more than half of that reflected inventory accumulation. Final sales to households, businesses, and foreign buyers rose at only a 1.1% annual rate, even slower than earlier in the year. And the preliminary estimate for annual GDP growth in the first quarter of 2012 was a disappointing 2.2%, with only a 1.6% rise in final sales.

 

The labor market has been similarly disappointing. The March unemployment rate of 8.2% was nearly three percentage points above what most economists would consider a desirable and sustainable long-run level rate. Although the rate was down from 9% a year ago, about half of the change reflected a rise in the number of people who have stopped looking for work, rather than an increase in job creation and the employment rate.

"Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Martin Feldstein, click here."

Indeed, the official unemployment rate understates the weakness of the labor market. An estimated 6% of all employees are working fewer hours per week than they would like, and about 2% of potential ...

Published: Monday 16 April 2012
“It isn’t clear that Bush actually understands the indelible effects of his tax and spending policies.”

When George W. Bush made his first public appearance in many months to discuss economic policy in New York on Tuesday, his utterances may have revealed more than he intended. "I wish they weren't called the 'Bush tax cuts,'" he said of the decade-old rate reductions that bear his name. But does he really believe, as he seemed to suggest, that Americans want to let those cuts expire from a desire to spite him? Or is there a deeper Bush somewhere within who would prefer not to be associated with fiscal profligacy and ideological overreach?

Whatever his motives, Bush's curious remark draws a sharp contrast with his predecessor Bill Clinton — who often speaks proudly of the tax increase that was so central to his first budget as president two decades ago. Clinton, who talks publicly far more often than Bush, often notes that the 1993 tax increase, supported only Democrats, was the first step toward balance and growth after a dozen years of Republican irresponsibility and stagnation.

It isn't clear that Bush actually understands the indelible effects of his tax and spending policies. Someone should explain to him what is so painfully obvious when the numbers are added up: Not only should the tax cuts be named after him, so should the deficit and the debt.

The simple math is worth keeping in mind when Bush turns up to advocate maintaining the cuts he passed and legislating still more, which he claims will stimulate the private sector. "Much of the public debate is about our balance sheet ... or entitlements," he said, but the solution in his view is to focus on private sector growth. "The pie grows, the debt relative to the pie shrinks, and with fiscal discipline you can solve ...

Published: Sunday 26 February 2012
“Can conservatives finally face the fact that they actually want quite a lot from government, and that they are simply unwilling to raise taxes to pay for it?”

When we talk about hypocrisy in politics, we usually highlight personal behavior. The serially-married politician who proclaims “family values” while also having affairs is now a rather dreary stock figure in our campaign narratives.

But the hypocrisy that matters far more is the gap between ideology and practice that has reached a crisis point in American conservatism. This Republican presidential campaign is demonstrating conclusively that there is an unbridgeable divide between the philosophical commitments conservative candidates make before they are elected and what they will have to do when faced with the day-to-day demands of practical governance. Conservatives in power have never been — and can never be — as anti-government as they are in a campaign.

Begin by asking yourself why so many conservative politicians say they’re anti-government but spend long careers in office drawing paychecks from the taxpayers. Also: Why do they bash government largesse while seeking as much of it as they can get for their constituents and friendly interest groups?

Why do they criticize “entitlements” and “big government” while promising today’s senior citizens — an important part of the conservative base — never, ever to cut their Medicare or Social Security? Why do they claim that they want government out of the marketplace while not only rejecting cuts in defense but also lauding ...

Published: Sunday 19 February 2012
“The United States is now in the business of using missile-armed drones and special operations forces to eliminate anyone (not excluding U.S. citizens) the president of the United States decides has become an intolerable annoyance.”

With the United States now well into the second decade of what the Pentagon has styled an “era of persistent conflict,” the war formerly known as the global war on terrorism (unofficial acronym WFKATGWOT) appears increasingly fragmented and diffuse.  Without achieving victory, yet unwilling to acknowledge failure, the United States military has withdrawn from Iraq.  It is trying to leave Afghanistan, where events seem equally unlikely to yield a happy outcome. 

Elsewhere -- in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, for example -- U.S. forces are busily opening up new fronts.  Published reports that the United States is establishing “a constellation of secret drone bases” in or near the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula suggest that the scope of operations will only widen further.  In a front-page story, the New York Times described plans for “thickening” the global presence of U.S. special operations forces.  Rushed Navy plans to convert an aging amphibious landing ship into an “afloat forward staging base” -- a mobile launch platform for either commando raids or 

Published: Saturday 11 February 2012
The tide of red ink, which started under President George W. Bush, has helped define Obama's entire term and will be a key issue in the fall campaign as he seeks a second term.

President Barack Obama expects the federal budget deficit to reach $1.33 trillion this year, administration officials said Friday evening, the fourth straight year of trillion-dollar deficits.

The deficit already was projected to top $1 trillion when Obama took office in January 2009, as tax revenues dropped because of the Great Recession and spending spiked to bail out banks and auto companies. It eventually reached $1.55 trillion for 2009, followed by $1.37 trillion in fiscal 2010 and $1.36 trillion in fiscal 2011.

The tide of red ink, which started under President George W. Bush, has helped define Obama's entire term and will be a key issue in the fall campaign as he seeks a second term.

With that in mind, Obama on Monday will propose a budget he'll use to portray himself as a deficit cutter, one who would combine $1.5 trillion in tax increases on the wealthy with $1.5 trillion in cuts from projected spending increases to slow — but not stop — the rapid increases in the nation's debt.

That $3 trillion would come atop $1 trillion in projected savings over 10 years that he and Congress approved last summer.

His proposed budget will call for a ...

Published: Tuesday 7 February 2012
“As head of the FHFA, DeMarco has a three-part mission: to promote the soundness of Fannie and Freddie, and to support affordable housing and a stable and liquid mortgage market.”

Last week, ProPublica and NPR raised questions about a risky investment strategy at Freddie Mac that would pay off if homeowners stayed trapped in expensive mortgages. It's just the latest example of how government-owned Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have frustrated many by not putting homeowners first.

Fannie and Freddie are required to help homeowners while earning profits so they can pay back the taxpayers who bailed them out. Here is our guide to the little-known federal regulator, Edward DeMarco, ultimately in charge of the two companies. You may have never heard of him, but as The Washington Post put it, he's "the most powerful man in housing policy."

The basics

In the summer of 2008, as part of a larger economic stimulus bill amid the subprime mortgage crisis, President George W. Bush created the Federal Housing Finance Agency, combining several agencies overseeing housing policy, and increasing regulation of government-sponsored enterprises like Fannie and Freddie. When the government bailed out Fannie and Freddie a few months later, the FHFA took charge of them.

DeMarco, a lifelong regulator, was named the acting head of the FHFA roughly a year after the bailout when his Bush-appointed predecessor stepped down. ...

Published: Friday 3 February 2012
“Jobs are created when the economy demands goods and services; and investment from the private sector flows to the market when policy ‘TLC’ (transparency, longevity, and certainty) is strong.”

Another week, another misguided attack on green jobs.

This week, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) is going after the Department of Labor’s green jobs training program. The program, which was signed into law by fellow Republican George W. Bush, was funded for the first time under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 31 January 2012
“Corporate power is global, and resistance to it cannot be restricted by national boundaries.”

What happened to Canada? It used to be the country we would flee to if life in the United States became unpalatable. No nuclear weapons. No huge military-industrial complex. Universal health care. Funding for the arts. A good record on the environment.

But that was the old Canada. I was in Montreal on Friday and Saturday and saw the familiar and disturbing tentacles of the security and surveillance state. Canada has withdrawn from the Kyoto Accords so it can dig up the Alberta tar sands in an orgy of environmental degradation. It carried out the largest mass arrests of demonstrators in Canadian history at 2010’s G-8 and G-20 meetings, rounding up more than 1,000 people. It sends undercover police into indigenous communities and activist groups and is handing out stiff prison terms to dissenters. And Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a diminished version of George W. Bush. He champions the rabid right wing in Israel, bows to the whims of global financiers and is a Christian fundamentalist.

The voices of dissent sound like our own. And the forms of persecution are familiar. This is not an accident. We are fighting the same corporate leviathan.

“I want to tell you that I was arrested because I am seen as a threat,” Canadian activist Leah Henderson wrote to fellow dissidents before being sent to Vanier prison in Milton, Ontario, to serve a 10-month sentence. “I want to tell you that you might be too. I want to tell you that this is something we need to prepare for. I want to tell you that the risk of incarceration alone should not determine our organizing.”

READ FULL POST 10 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 6 January 2012
Among those making $50,000 to $75,000, the average tax cut would be about $1,800.

A new Tax Policy Center analysis finds that Mitt Romney’s tax plan would cut taxes for millions of households but bestow most of its benefits on those with the highest incomes. At the same time, it would significantly cut corporate taxes and add hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit.

Compared to current law (assuming the Bush/Obama tax cuts expire as scheduled at the end of this year), Romney would cut taxes by $600 billion in 2015 alone. Relative to a world where those tax cuts remained in place, he would add about $180 billion to the deficit in that year.

READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“Now, at a nadir moment in the Greater Middle East, perhaps it’s finally time to put an American face on America’s wars, to see them clearly for the imperial debacles they have been -- and act accordingly.”

It was to be the war that would establish empire as an American fact.  It would result in a thousand-year Pax Americana.  It was to be “mission accomplished” all the way.  And then, of course, it wasn’t.  And then, almost nine dismal years later, it was over (sorta).

It was the Iraq War, and we were the uninvited guests who didn’t want to go home.  To the last second, despite President Obama’s repeated promise that all American troops were leaving, despite an agreement the Iraqi government had signed with George W. Bush’s administration in 2008, America’s military commanders continued to lobby and Washington continued to negotiate for 10,000 to 20,000 U.S. troops to remain in-country as advisors and trainers.

Only when the Iraqis simply refused to guarantee those troops immunity from local law did the last Americans begin to cross the border into Kuwait.  It was only then that our top officials began to hail the thing they had never wanted, the end of the American military presence in Iraq, as marking an era of “accomplishment.”  They also began praising their own “decision” to leave as a triumph, and proclaimed that the troops were departing with -- as the president put it -- “their heads held high.”

In a final flag-lowering ceremony in Baghdad, clearly meant for U.S. domestic consumption and

Published: Tuesday 3 January 2012
“Our society must learn to develop a ‘moral economics,’ and morality is often enforced through shame.”

The other day I was asked what one single thing could do the most to save our economy. What one idea or tool might help us create a more just society? My answer was "shame."

Shame isn't always a wasted or negative emotion. On the contrary, it can perform an important and socially useful function. Shame enforces our moral values even when legal and political institutions are too broken or corrupt to do so. Our society must learn to develop a "moral economics," and morality is often enforced through shame.

We live in a society where it's no longer considered shameful to oppose spending $6 billion to save nearly 8 million lives, even though that's less than $800 apiece. This kind of cynicism is so accepted, in fact, that even the more liberal political party doesn't dare suggest it. We live in a society where it's not shameful to let crooked bankers go unpunished while asking everyone else to pay the cost of their illegal enrichment. Nowadays even the lawbreakers aren't ashamed of themselves!

Incredible.

Perhaps no single change to our culture could do more to improve our lives than the rediscovery of the shame we used to attach to vile, greedy, selfish, and corrupt behavior. Consider how far we've fallen:

Not long ago a person would have been ashamed to appear in public if they had shattered the global economy by cheating millions of innocent people, accepted the outstretched hands of the same people they'd cheated by accepting an unconditional bailout, and then cheated them again.

Not long ago a politician who accepted the corrupting dollars of known criminal bankers immediately paid a steep price. (See the Keating Five, for example.)

Not long ago political figures and pundits were ashamed to openly advocate the deaths of millions of people just to provide tax advantages for the wealthy or ensure ...

Published: Monday 2 January 2012
“Ultimately the entities that have to put a stop to this madness are the national Democratic and Republican parties.”

On a two-day trip to New Hampshire last week I attended three campaign events with a total of roughly 600 people. I tried to find an African-American in the audience at all three events, but I couldn’t. To be fair, I did spot two Latinos and five or six Asian-Americans. The U.S., according to the 2010 census is 72.4 percent white. The first two states vote in the presidential primaries, Iowa and New Hampshire, are 91.3 percent white and 93.9 percent white, respectively. 

The Iowa caucuses, which will be dramatically covered by the news media on Tuesday, are especially pernicious. In a caucus instead of a primary the Iowans who get to participate are even smaller in number and less diverse than the state’s already unrepresentative electorate.

Worse still, the Iowa caucuses aren’t subject to the same spending disclosure deadlines as primaries. An obscure 1979  READ FULL POST 24 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 23 December 2011
“Within weeks, the U.S.-directed invasion showed that the French had been right and there were no weapons of mass destruction, just as the dictator had asserted.”

Few journalists have greater influence on U.S. foreign policy, particularly regarding the Middle East, than New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. But his tortured obit of a column this week on the official end of the neocolonialist disaster that has been the Iraq occupation reminds one that the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner often gets it wrong.

Was the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which he did so much to encourage, a “wise choice”? Friedman hides behind one of his trademark ambiguities: “My answer is twofold: ‘No’ and ‘Maybe, sort of, we’ll see.’ I say ‘no’ because whatever happens in Iraq, even if it becomes Switzerland, we overpaid for it.”

Aside from the stunning amorality of assessing the cost of war from the standpoint of the royal “we,” Friedman seems wildly optimistic about what the invasion has wrought. On a day when Iraq’s prime minister, a Shiite, demanded that the leader of the Kurds arrest the Sunni vice president, Friedman celebrated the unity of the three groups as “the most important product of the Iraq war.” He blamed the failure of the U.S. occupation to accomplish more, in roughly equal measure, on “the incompetence of George W. Bush’s team in prosecuting the war,” “Iran, the Arab dictators and, most of all, Al Qaeda,” which he seems surprised to report “did not want a democracy in the heart of the Arab world.”

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Published: Sunday 11 December 2011
In an in-depth investigation of the presidential pardons process, published this week, it was found that white applicants were nearly four times as likely to succeed as minorities, even when factors such as the type of crime and sentence were considered.

If the government wants to correct racial disparity in presidential pardons, it will require a hard look at the standards used to judge applicants and whether there is implicit bias in the way decisions are made, a wide range of experts told ProPublica.

Some suggested that race should become an explicit consideration in assessing pardon applicants, although others said that could open the door to mere scorekeeping.

In an  READ FULL POST DISCUSS

Published: Monday 28 November 2011
Hardly anyone in Congress, regardless of party, wants to end the tax breaks that benefit the middle class.

President George W. Bush's signature tax breaks were never an easy sell. They passed Congress only after Vice President Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Critics called them a giveaway to the rich. They cost the U.S. treasury trillions.

A decade later, those tax cuts continue to loom large, becoming central to almost every budget debate in Washington. Whether to maintain the reduced tax rates for wealthy Americans was a question that deadlocked the congressional "super committee" in its search for a plan to cut the government's long-term deficit. The expiration of the tax cuts at the end of next year will be a major issue in 2012 campaign.

The battle over the Bush-era breaks will determine what happens to almost every part of the federal budget - from the spending cuts that are now mandated as a result of the super committee's failure to the long-term outlook for Medicare and other entitlement programs.

"They've been hanging over the budget," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a fiscal watchdog organization. "If you're talking cuts to middle-class programs - like Social Security and Medicare - it becomes really difficult to argue for upper-income tax cuts. ... We have to resolve that tension between entitlement cuts and tax cuts - clearly we're not there."

The Bush-era breaks, approved in 2001 and accelerated in 2003, are a mix of rate cuts and deductions that benefit households across the income spectrum. The most controversial part of the package is the reduction of taxes for upper-income households; those account for ...

Published: Thursday 10 November 2011
“The move is aimed at improving Perry’s standing in the national polls and overall performance.”

Joe Allbaugh, the no-nonsense campaign manager for George W. Bush in 2000 who now runs an international security consulting firm, has quietly taken over the reins of the beleaguered campaign of Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Allbaugh was brought on with several GOP veterans a few weeks ago to help energize the Perry White House bid. He has now assumed the top manager’s slot, which was held before by Texan Rob Johnson.

Johnson, who ran Perry's last gubernatorial campaign but was new to national politics, will be traveling more with Perry in coming weeks, say Perry fundraisers and strategists.

On Monday, Allbaugh ran conference calls with Perry allies and strategists where he was giving assignments in a forceful way, according to one participant on the call. The abrupt change comes after Allbaugh spent a week on the road with Perry in Iowa and other states. His role was formalized over the weekend.

The move is aimed at improving Perry’s standing in the national polls and overall performance. Perry has fallen from being a top contender who was ahead of Mitt Romney for a while, to single or low double digits in recent surveys. Perry has been criticized in the media for his lackluster debate performances and for a rambling recent speech in New Hampshire where some viewers suggested he was intoxicated.

The Perry campaign raised an impressive $17 million in just under 50 days. Those funds are now being tapped for an aggressive ad drive in Iowa and South Carolina, two states that are critical to Perry’s prospects for winning the GOP nomination.

Allbaugh, who ran the Federal Emergency Management Agency at the start of the Bush administration, left after a couple years to go into international consulting with long-time lobbyist Ed Rogers.

Allbaugh teamed up with Rogers at New Bridge Strategies, which was launched to facilitate business deals in the Middle East not long after the Iraq war started in 2003. The firm ...

Published: Tuesday 8 November 2011
“So hold Bush’s American Dream in your head for a few moments longer and consider the devastation that followed.”

How about a moment of silence for the passing of the American Dream?  M.R.I.C.  (May it rest in carnage.)

No, I’m not talking about the old dream of opportunity that involved homeownership, a better job than your parents had, a decent pension, and all the rest of the package that’s so yesterday, so underwater, so OWS.  I’m talking about a far more recent dream, a truly audacious one that’s similarly gone with the wind.

I’m talking about George W. Bush’s American Dream.  If people here remember the invasion of Iraq -- and most Americans would undoubtedly prefer to forget it -- what’s recalled is kited intelligence, Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent nuclear arsenal, dumb and even dumber decisions, a bloody civil war, dead Americans, crony corporations, a trillion or more taxpayer dollars flushed down the toilet... well, you know the story.  What few care to remember was that original dream -- call it The Dream -- and boy, was it a beaut!

An American Dream

It went something like this: Back in early 2003, the top officials of the Bush administration had no doubt that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, drained by years of war, no-fly zones, and sanctions, would be a pushover; that the U.S. military, which they idolized ...

Published: Wednesday 2 November 2011
“The hard fact is that any suggestion on the part of Ms Rice that there has ever been a time when such a jump from rags to riches was possible for most Americans is as misleading as the stories she spun to help get us into the Iraq war.”

Condoleezza Rice was both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. She was also an administration spokesperson who helped scare the American people into supporting the invasion of Iraq. She accomplished this by invoking the image of “mushroom clouds” incinerating the skylines of America. In doing so she gave credence to the false story that Iraq was a threat to the United States because it possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs).

Rice is presently on a lecture tour promoting her 734 page memoir entitled No Higher Honor (Crown, 1 November 2011). That is what brought her to the Belk Theater on the campus of Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina on 25 October 2011. There she spoke to a packed house of 2000 people. Actually, what made this event notable was not the large numbers who had come to hear her, but rather that, among other things, Condoleezza Rice chose to speak about values.

According to Ms. Rice our present challenge “is not China or Brazil or India, and certainly not Europe. The challenge is the United States gone badly.” Well, she should know. Despite the fact that values are fluid concepts most people esteem the precepts underlying honest government and respect for the law. Most but not all, and it may very well be that Rice is not with the majority on this. There is no living group of individuals who have done more to undermine these sorts of crucial values than those who worked in the Bush Jr. White House. Truth in government, due process in the Justice System, personal protection from official spying, regulating economic greed and corruption, and a general respect for the Constitution and its Bill of Rights, you name it and they managed to trash it. And, of course, Condoleezza Rice was there throughout the entire eight your assault on those sorts of values.

Not surprisingly, in her Charlotte address Rice avoided these topics and instead ...

Published: Sunday 30 October 2011
“In less than three months, Perry has nosedived in the polls and is drawing comparisons with candidates from past races who showed early promise but quickly tanked.”

Bounding into the lead within days after announcing his bid for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, Texas Gov. Rick Perry seemed like he was on a history-making path to follow his predecessor, George W. Bush, all the way to the White House.

In less than three months, Perry has nosedived in the polls and is drawing comparisons with candidates from past races who showed early promise but quickly tanked. Now the question often asked is whether Perry's quest for the presidency is nearing an end or poised for a new beginning and an ultimate rebound.

"The polls go up and down, but when it comes to jobs, conservative record, policy initiatives and resources, Perry is well-positioned to win," insists Ray Sullivan, Perry's communications director. And, to varying degrees, a number of independent analysts share that assessment, saying it's far too early to dismiss Texas' longest-serving governor as a spent force in the national political arena.

Perry's strategy for winning — and rebounding from his slide in the polls — rests on a number of factors, including $17 million in fundraising, aggressive campaigning on television and social media, more selective engagement in debates, magnifying his jobs-oriented economic message, and intense personal campaigning to accent Perry's proven skills at working a crowd.

Another under-the-radar resource is what veteran ...

Published: Tuesday 25 October 2011
“Just as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were focused on securing Iraq’s oil for their Big Oil cronies, U.S. and NATO forces attacked Libya to take out Muammar Gaddafi, who preferred to sell his oil to Russia and China.”

The U.N. Security Council’s mandate, which authorized NATO’s military operations to “protect civilians” in Libya, was just as specious as the one that allowed the Bush administration to invade Iraq to destroy stockpiles of nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Just as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were focused on securing Iraq’s oil for their Big Oil cronies, U.S. and NATO forces attacked Libya to take out Muammar Gaddafi, who preferred to sell his oil to Russia and China.
 

In the wake of Saddam Hussein’s killing, Baghdad was left defenseless to be viciously looted, save for a well-protected oil ministry. In the immediate aftermath of Gaddafi’s fall, amid all of the chaos, the only clear move was made by Tripoli to favor NATO allies as the new customers for Libyan oil.
 

Today, NATO gloats of “no collateral damage” in its Libyan operations. Yet, an estimated 10,000 mostly civilians it meant to protect are dead, while entire cities lie in ruin.
 

After nine years of U.S. occupation, Iraq’s economy remains in shambles amid rampant official corruption, with every sign of greater instability when the last of the U.S. troops are gone. Libya will likely remain a near-failed state for the foreseeable future as competing political and tribal forces fight for ascendancy.


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Published: Tuesday 25 October 2011
“The analysts probably never dreamed that the next president, George W. Bush, and his Republican Congress would slash taxes, run two wars and create a $1 trillion Medicare drug benefit without a thought of paying for it.”

Hard to believe, but once upon a time, economists worried that the U.S. government would pay off all its debt. Also hard to believe, once upon a time was only 11 years ago.

President Clinton had bequeathed his successor budget surpluses "as far as the eye could see." He wanted some of them used to speed up repayment of the remaining $3.6 trillion still owed the public in Treasury bonds. He said it could all be paid off by 2013.

No magic there. A modest tax increase, controlled spending and a strong economy made more confident by disciplined budgeting had ended a scary era of deficit spending.

Can you imagine this causing concern? If the federal government didn't need to borrow and paid off outstanding debt, it was said, U.S. Treasury bonds would disappear. Where would investors find a safe haven for their money? And suppose the U.S. government ...

Published: Friday 21 October 2011
“The former president made his latest visit to Canada, apparently unconcerned by a sign-waving protest.”

International human rights lawyers in western Canada greeted George W. Bush's arrival at an economics summit Thursday by asking a Canadian court to consider a torture complaint by four Guantanamo captives, three of them free and one still held at the U.S. Navy base in southeast Cuba.

The move is part of a global Guantanamo protest effort to ground the man who set up the prison camps in 2002. In February, the former president canceled a plan to speak at a United Israel Appeal gala fundraiser in Geneva ahead of a similar torture complaint.

But Thursday the former president made his latest visit to Canada, apparently unconcerned by a sign-waving protest. He joined fellow former President Bill Clinton at a $599-a-head lunch at the Surrey Regional Economic Summit in suburban Vancouver.

Matt Eisenbrandt of the Canadian Centre for International Justice filed the four-count complaint that included a proposed 69-page draft indictment on Thursday morning. He got a Jan. 9 hearing date at the British Columbia Provincial Court in Surrey.

Protesters, meantime, stood outside the Surrey economic meeting site - some in orange jumpsuits, others waving signs that said "Shame, shame, shame" - where a federal police officer said no action was imminent.

"There is no lawful authority for the police to arrest Bush," Cpl. Drew Grainger of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told Vancouver's weekly Georgia Straight newspaper.

The former American president has visited Canada several times since leaving the White House, said Bush spokesman Freddy Ford, who had no comment on Thursday's developments.

Each count invoked torture allegations by four men who were detained in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, and held President Bush responsible for their treatment. None of the men have known ties to Canada. But Eisenbrandt said the case was styled as a "personal prosecution," and invoked Canada's doctrine of ...

Published: Thursday 15 September 2011
More than half of Muslims in this country say government anti-terrorism policies single them out for increased surveillance and monitoring, and many report increased cases of name-calling, threats and harassment by airport security, law enforcement officers and others.

Cold War paranoia which has led to the rollback of many civil liberties, and three wars in Muslim countries, but there's hardly a greater sense of safety among many Americans, 10 years after the September 11, 2001 attacks, because a feeling of vulnerability to another attack still remains throughout the society.

Meanwhile, more than half of Muslims in this country say government anti-terrorism policies single them out for increased surveillance and monitoring, and many report increased cases of name-calling, threats and harassment by airport security, law enforcement officers and others, according to a new poll.

Ironically, most Muslim-Americans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. and rate their communities highly as places to live. The survey was conducted by the Pew Research Center, one of the most exhaustive ever of the country's Muslims, finds no signs of rising alienation or anger among Muslim- Americans despite recent U.S. government concerns and congressional hearings about so-called “homegrown Islamic terrorism” and controversies over the building of mosques.

According to the Pew poll, in all, 52 percent of Muslims surveyed said their group is singled out by the government for terrorist surveillance. Almost as many—43 percent—reported they had personally experienced harassment in the past year. The Pew survey is based on telephone interviews with 1,033 Muslims in the U.S., conducted in English, Arabic, Farsi or Urdu from April 14 to July 22. Subjects were chosen at random, from a separate list of households including some with Muslim-sounding names, and from Muslim households that had answered previous surveys.

Meanwhile, the ongoing, official hostility toward Muslims flies in the face of the initial sympathy from Muslims worldwide—including from the Palestine Liberation Organization— in the wake of the 9-11 attacks.

By its “armed ...

Published: Sunday 4 September 2011
Bush was hewing to what had already become Republican dogma and by now has become something akin to scripture: Taxes must always be cut because government must always be starved

Thank you, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, for emerging from your secure, undisclosed locations to remind us how we got into this mess: It didn’t happen by accident.

The important thing isn’t what Bush says in his interview with National Geographic or what scores Cheney tries to settle in his memoir. What matters is that as they return to the public eye, they highlight their record of wrongheaded policy choices that helped bring the nation to a sour, penurious state.

Questions about whether President Obama has been combative enough in dealing with the Republican opposition — or sufficiently ambitious in framing his progressive agenda — seem trivial when viewed in this larger context. Obama is tackling enormous problems that took many years to create. His presidential style is important insofar as it boosts or lessens his effectiveness, but its importance pales beside the generally righteous substance of what he’s trying to accomplish.

It was the Bush administration, you will recall, that sent the national debt into the stratosphere and choked off federal revenue to the point of asphyxiation. Bush and Cheney decided to fight two wars without even accounting — let alone paying — for them. Rather than raise taxes to cover the cost of military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush opted to maintain unreasonable and unnecessary tax cuts.

So far, the wars and the tax cuts have cost the Treasury between $4 trillion and $5 trillion. If Bush had just left income tax rates alone, nobody except Ron Paul would be talking about the debt.

My aim isn’t to attack Bush but to attack his philosophy. When he was campaigning for the White House ...

Published: Friday 2 September 2011
There are plenty of real conspiracies in America. Why make up fake ones?

We're homing in on the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center and the attack on the Pentagon. According to a survey conducted by Gfk NOP, one in 7 Americans and 1 in 4 among those aged 16-24 believe that there was a vast conspiracy in which the U.S. government was involved. But across those 10 years, have the charges that it was an "inside job" — a favored phrase of the self-styled "truthers" — received any serious buttress?

The answer is no.

Did the twin towers fall because they were badly built, which resulted in a consequence of corruption, incompetence and regulatory evasions by the Port Authority, not to mention that huge planes loaded with jet fuel struck them?

No, shout the conspiracy theorists, they "pancaked" because Dick Cheney's agents — scores of them — methodically planted demolition charges in the preceding days. These agents inserted the explosives in the relevant floors of three vast buildings (moving day after day among the unsuspecting office workers), and then on 9/11 activated the detonators. It was a conspiracy of thousands, all of whom, a party to mass murder, have held their tongues ever since.

Take the plane that struck the Pentagon. Many conspiracists say it wasn't a plane but a missile. Eyewitnesses of a large plane hitting the Pentagon are contemptuously brushed aside. There are some photos of the impact of the "object" — i.e. the Boeing 757, Flight 77 — that seem to show the sort of hole a missile might make. Ergo, the Pentagon wasn't hit by a 757 but by a missile.

And yet, images exist of the Boeing 757 hitting the Pentagon. They were taken by the surveillance cameras at the Pentagon's heliport, which was right next to the impact point. Chuck Spinney, now retired after years of brilliant government service exposing the Pentagon's budgetary outrages, tells me: "I have seen ...

Published: Thursday 25 August 2011
“With confidence growing in immigration enforcement, the time should be approaching for the second step, legalization.”

Have you noticed that our  READ FULL POST 4 COMMENTS

Published: Tuesday 26 July 2011
"Senate proposal to raise the debt ceiling is much more sensible than the House plan because it insists that we not go through this charade again until Americans get their say at the ballot box a year from November."

President Obama made clear tonight that the debate over the debt ceiling is not left vs. right. It’s center vs. right. There was nothing remotely “left” in this speech, unless you count higher taxes for corporate jet owners and a few other populist bits.

He summarized his approach this way: “[L]et’s live within our means by making serious, historic cuts in government spending. Let’s cut domestic spending to the lowest level it’s been since Dwight Eisenhower was president. Let’s cut defense spending at the Pentagon by hundreds of billions of dollars. Let’s cut out the waste and fraud in health care programs like Medicare — and at the same time, let’s make modest adjustments so that Medicare is still there for future generations. Finally, let’s ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to give up some of their tax breaks and special deductions.”

That’s four sentences on cuts and barely one sentence on taxes, and not even tax increases as such — just a request that the privileged “give up some of their tax breaks and special deductions.”

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