Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Obama's America--Iran and Health Care

In This Edition:

- The lying game: how we are prepared for another war of aggression

- U.S. Story on Iran Nuke Facility Doesn't Add Up

- Health care: ignoring the huge red elephant in the room

The lying game: how we are prepared for another war of aggression
30 Sept 2009

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger compares the current drum-beating for war against Iran, based on a fake "nuclear threat", with the manufacture of a sense of false crisis that led to invasion of Iraq and the deaths of 1.3 million people.

In 2001, the Observer in London published a series of reports that claimed an “Iraqi connection” to al-Qaeda, even describing the base in Iraq where the training of terrorists took place and a facility where anthrax was being manufactured as a weapon of mass destruction. It was all false. Supplied by US intelligence and Iraqi exiles, planted stories in the British and US media helped George Bush and Tony Blair to launch an illegal invasion which caused, according to the most recent study, 1.3 million deaths.

Something similar is happening over Iran: the same syncopation of government and media “revelations”, the same manufacture of a sense of crisis. “Showdown looms with Iran over secret nuclear plant”, declared the Guardian on 26 September. “Showdown” is the theme. High noon. The clock ticking. Good versus evil. Add a smooth new US president who has “put paid to the Bush years”. An immediate echo is the notorious Guardian front page of 22 May 2007: “Iran’s secret plan for summer offensive to force US out of Iraq”. Based on unsubstantiated claims by the Pentagon, the writer Simon Tisdall presented as fact an Iranian “plan” to wage war on, and defeat, US forces in Iraq by September of that year – a demonstrable falsehood for which there has been no retraction.

The official jargon for this kind of propaganda is “psy-ops”, the military term for psychological operations. In the Pentagon and Whitehall, it has become a critical component of a diplomatic and military campaign to blockade, isolate and weaken Iran by hyping its “nuclear threat”: a phrase now used incessantly by Barack Obama and Gordon Brown, and parroted by the BBC and other broadcasters as objective news. And it is fake.

On 16 September, Newsweek disclosed that the major US intelligence agencies had reported to the White House that Iran’s “nuclear status” had not changed since the National Intelligence Estimate of November 2007, which stated with “high confidence” that Iran had halted in 2003 the programme it was alleged to have developed. The International Atomic Energy Agency has backed this, time and again.

The current propaganda-as-news derives from Obama’s announcement that the US is scrapping missiles stationed on Russia’s border. This serves to cover the fact that the number of US missile sites is actually expanding in Europe and the “redundant” missiles are being redeployed on ships. The game is to mollify Russia into joining, or not obstructing, the US campaign against Iran. “President Bush was right,” said Obama, “that Iran’s ballistic missile programme poses a significant threat [to Europe and the US].” That Iran would contemplate a suicidal attack on the US is preposterous. The threat, as ever, is one-way, with the world’s superpower virtually ensconced on Iran’s borders.

Iran’s crime is its independence. Having thrown out America’s favourite tyrant, Shah Reza Pahlavi, Iran remains the only resource-rich Muslim state beyond US control. As only Israel has a “right to exist”in the Middle East, the US goal is to cripple the Islamic Republic. This will allow Israel to divide and dominate the region on Washington’s behalf, undeterred by a confident neighbour. If any country in the world has been handed urgent cause to develop a nuclear “deterrence”, it is Iran.

As one of the original signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has been a consistent advocate of a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East. In contrast, Israel has never agreed to an IAEA inspection, and its nuclear weapons plant at Dimona remains an open secret. Armed with as many as 200 active nuclear warheads, Israel “deplores” UN resolutions calling on it to sign the NPT, just as it deplored the recent UN report charging it with crimes against humanity in Gaza, just as it maintains a world record for violations of international law. It gets away with this because great power grants it immunity.

Obama’s “showdown” with Iran has another agenda. On both sides of the Atlantic the media have been tasked with preparing the public for endless war. The US/Nato commander General Stanley McChrystal says 500,000 troops will be required in Afghanistan over five years, according to America’s NBC. The goal is control of the “strategic prize” of the gas and oilfields of the Caspian Sea, central Asia, the Gulf and Iran – in other words, Eurasia. But the war is opposed by 69 per cent of the British public, 57 per cent of the US public and almost every other human being. Convincing “us” that Iran is the new demon will not be easy. McChrystal’s spurious claim that Iran “is reportedly training fighters for certain Taliban groups” is as desperate as Brown’s pathetic echo of “a line in the sand”.

During the Bush years, according to the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, a military coup took place in the US, and the Pentagon is now ascendant in every area of American foreign policy. A measure of its control is the number of wars of aggression being waged simultaneously and the adoption of a “first-strike” doctrine that has lowered the threshold on nuclear weapons, together with the blurring of the distinction between nuclear and conventional weapons.

All this mocks Obama’s media rhetoric about “a world without nuclear weapons”. In fact, he is the Pentagon’s most important acquisition. His acquiescence with its demand that he keep on Bush’s secretary of “defence” and arch war-maker, Robert Gates, is unique in US history. He has proved his worth with escalated wars from south Asia to the Horn of Africa. Like Bush's America, Obama's America is run by some very dangerous people. We have a right to be warned. When will those paid to keep the record straight do their job?

U.S. Story on Iran Nuke Facility Doesn't Add Up

By Analysis by Gareth Porter

September 30, 2009 "IPS" -- WASHINGTON, Sep 29 (IPS) - The story line that dominated media coverage of the second Iranian uranium enrichment facility last week was the official assertion that U.S. intelligence had caught Iran trying to conceal a "secret" nuclear facility.

But an analysis of the transcript of that briefing by senior administration officials that was the sole basis for the news stories and other evidence reveals damaging admissions, conflicts with the facts and unanswered questions that undermine its credibility.

Iran's notification to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the second enrichment facility in a letter on Sep. 21 was buried deep in most of the news stories and explained as a response to being detected by U.S. intelligence. In reporting the story in that way, journalists were relying entirely on the testimony of "senior administration officials" who briefed them at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh Friday.

U.S. intelligence had "learned that the Iranians learned that the secrecy of the facility was compromised", one of the officials said, according to the White House transcript. The Iranians had informed the IAEA, he asserted, because "they came to believe that the value of the facility as a secret facility was no longer valid..."

Later in the briefing, however, the official said "we believe", rather than "we learned", in referring to that claim, indicating that it is only an inference rather than being based on hard intelligence.

The official refused to explain how U.S. analysts had arrived at that conclusion, but an analysis by the defence intelligence consulting firm IHS Jane's of a satellite photo of the site taken Saturday said there is a surface-to-air missile system located at the site.

Since surface-to-air missiles protect many Iranian military sites, however, their presence at the Qom site doesn't necessarily mean that Iran believed that Washington had just discovered the enrichment plant.

The official said the administration had organised an intelligence briefing on the facility for the IAEA during the summer on the assumption that the Iranians might "choose to disclose the facility themselves". But he offered no explanation for the fact that there had been no briefing given to the IAEA or anyone else until Sep. 24 - three days after the Iranians disclosed the existence of the facility.

A major question surrounding the official story is why the Barack Obama administration had not done anything – and apparently had no plans to do anything - with its intelligence on the Iranian facility at Qom prior to the Iranian letter to the IAEA. When asked whether the administration had intended to keep the information in its intelligence briefing secret even after the meeting with the Iranians on Oct. 1, the senior official answered obliquely but revealingly, "I think it's impossible to turn back the clock and say what might have been otherwise."

In effect, the answer was no, there had been no plan for briefing the IAEA or anyone.

News media played up the statement by the senior administration official that U.S. intelligence had been "aware of this facility for years".

But what was not reported was that he meant only that the U.S. was aware of a possible nuclear site, not one whose function was known.

The official in question acknowledged the analysts had not been able to identify it as an enrichment facility for a long time. In the "very early stage of construction," said the official, "a facility like this could have multiple uses." Intelligence analysts had to "wait until the facility had reached the stage of construction where it was undeniably intended for use as a centrifuge facility," he explained.

The fact that the administration had made no move to brief the IAEA or other governments on the site before Iran revealed its existence suggests that site had not yet reached that stage where the evidence was unambiguous.

A former U.S. official who has seen the summary of the administration's intelligence used to brief foreign governments told IPS he doubts the intelligence community had hard evidence that the Qom site was an enrichment plant. "I think they didn't have the goods on them," he said.

Also misleading was the official briefing's characterisation of the intelligence assessment on the purpose of the enrichment plant. The briefing concluded that the Qom facility must be for production of weapons-grade enriched uranium, because it will accommodate only 3,000 centrifuges, which would be too few to provide fuel for a nuclear power plant.

According to the former U.S. official who has read the briefing paper on the intelligence assessment, however, the paper says explicitly that the Qom facility is "a possible military facility". That language indicates that intelligence analysts have suggested that the facility may be for making low-enriched rather than for high-enriched, bomb-grade uranium.

It also implies that the senior administration official briefing the press was deliberately portraying the new enrichment facility in more menacing terms than the actual intelligence assessment.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's offer the day after the denunciation of the site by U.S., British and French leaders to allow IAEA monitoring of the plant will make it far more difficult to argue that it was meant to serve military purposes.

The circumstantial evidence suggests that Iran never intended to keep the Qom facility secret from the IAEA but was waiting to make it public at a moment that served its political-diplomatic objectives.

The Iranian government is well aware of U.S. capabilities for monitoring from satellite photographs any site in Iran that exhibits certain characteristics.

Iran obviously wanted to make the existence of the Qom site public before construction on the site would clearly indicate an enrichment purpose. But it gave the IAEA no details in its initial announcement, evidently hoping to find out whether and how much the United States already knew about it.

The specific timing of the Iranian letter, however, appears to be related to the upcoming talks between Iran and the P5+1 - China, France, Britain, Russia, the United States and Germany - and an emerging Iranian strategy of smaller back-up nuclear facilities that would assure continuity if Natanz were attacked.

The Iranian announcement of that decision on Sep. 14 coincided with a statement by the head of Iran's atomic energy organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, warning against preemptive strikes against the country's nuclear facilities.

The day after the United States, Britain and France denounced the Qom facility as part of a deception, Salehi said, "Considering the threats, our organisation decided to do what is necessary to preserve and continue our nuclear activities. So we decided to build new installations which will guarantee the continuation of our nuclear activities which will never stop at any cost."

As satellite photos of the site show, the enrichment facility at Qom is being built into the side of a mountain, making it less vulnerable to destruction, even with the latest bunker-busting U.S. bombs.

The pro-administration newspaper Kayhan quoted an "informed official" as saying that Iran had told the IAEA in 2004 that it had to do something about the threat of attack on its nuclear facilities "repeatedly posed by the western countries".

The government newspaper called the existence of the second uranium enrichment plan "a winning card" that would increase Iran's bargaining power in the talks. That presumably referred to neutralising the ultimate coercive threat against Iran by the United States.

*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in 2006.
Health care: ignoring the huge red elephant in the room

By William Blum

In the frenzied search of recent months for a better way of delivering health care to the American people, the American media has often discussed health-care systems in other countries, particularly Europe. Usually, little, if anything, is mentioned about Cuba's system, where everyone is covered, for everything, where pre-existing conditions do not matter, and no patient pays for anything; i.e., nothing at all. The reason the Cuban system is seldom mentioned in the mass media is probably that it's kind of embarrassing that this otherwise poor country, laboring under the awful yoke of (choke, gasp) socialism, can deliver health care that most Americans can only dream of.

Now we have a new book by T.R. Reid, former correspondent for the Washington Post and commentator for National Public Radio. It's called "The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care". Reid does not avoid giving some credit to the Cuban system, but he makes sure that the reader knows that he's not taken in by any commie propaganda. He refers to the Cuban government as "a totalitarian Communist fiefdom", and adds: "In every country (except, perhaps, a police state like Cuba) there is one group of citizens who are not bound by the unified health care system: the rich." 12 Thus, the fact that Cuba has an egalitarian health care system is made to seem like something negative, something one could expect to find only in a police state.

In discussing the World Health Organization's giving Cuba high marks for fairness in its system, Reid points out: "Of course, fairness and equal treatment extend only so far; when Fidel Castro himself fell ill in 2007, medical experts were flown in from Europe to treat him." 13 Aha! I knew it! Americans, and not just the right-wing crazies, would never accept a medical system where everyone got completely free care for all ailments if the president ever got any kind of special treatment. Would they? We could at least ask them.

Speaking of the right-wing crazies, there was a report in the New York Times which said: "Tomorrow night, getting right into the thick of the battle," the president will "carry his message to the people in a nationwide television and radio speech" fighting for enactment of his health reform bill, which opponents tagged as "socialized medicine" and "an entering wedge for the takeover of private medicine by the federal government." The president was John F. Kennedy, the program was Medicare, the Times story was published on May 20, 1962. Despite the speech, the effort failed until passage in 1964. 14

And speaking of the totalitarian communist socialist fascist Cuban police-state dictatorship, Mr. Reid and others might be interested in an article I wrote which demonstrates that during the period of its revolution, Cuba has enjoyed one of the very best human-rights records in all of Latin America.

But how to get past a lifetime of conditioning and reach the American mind with that message? At the recent convention of the AFL-CIO, the country's leading labor organization, there was a very progressive resolution put forth calling for the right of all Americans to travel to Cuba and for an end to the US embargo against the island nation. But at the end of the resolution the authors reminded us that they're Americans, calling upon Cuba "to release all political prisoners". 15

To appreciate what's wrong with that resolution one must understand the following: The United States is to the Cuban government like al Qaeda is to Washington, only much more powerful and much closer. Since the Cuban revolution, the United States and anti-Castro Cuban exiles in the US have inflicted upon Cuba greater damage and greater loss of life than what happened in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. Cuban dissidents typically have had very close, indeed intimate, political and financial connections to American government officials, particularly in Havana through the United States Interests Section. Would the US government ignore a group of Americans receiving funds from al Qaeda and/or engaging in repeated meetings with known leaders of that organization? In the past few years, the American government has arrested a great many people in the US and abroad solely on the basis of alleged ties to al Qaeda, with a lot less evidence to go by than Cuba has had with its dissidents' ties to the United States, evidence gathered by Cuban double agents. Virtually all of Cuba's "political prisoners" are such dissidents.

William Blum is the author of:

Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2
Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower
West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir
Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Obama and Corporate Friends Looking for War in Iran?

In this Edition:

- Iran Nukes????
- Michael Moore on Obama Health Care Actions

Another War in the Works
America Is Led And Informed By Liars

By Paul Craig Roberts

September 29, 2009 "Information Clearing House" --- Does anyone remember all the lies that they were told by President Bush and the “mainstream media” about the grave threat to America from weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? These lies were repeated endlessly in the print and TV media despite the reports from the weapons inspectors, who had been sent to Iraq, that no such weapons existed.

The weapons inspectors did an honest job in Iraq and told the truth, but the mainstream media did not emphasize their findings. Instead, the media served as a Ministry of Propaganda, beating the war drums for the US government.

Now the whole process is repeating itself. This time the target is Iran.

As there is no real case against Iran, Obama took a script from Bush’s playbook and fabricated one.

First the facts: As a signatory to the non-proliferation treaty, Iran’s nuclear facilities are open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which carefully monitors Iran’s nuclear energy program to make certain that no material is diverted to nuclear weapons.

The IAEA has monitored Iran’s nuclear energy program and has announced repeatedly that it has found no diversion of nuclear material to a weapons program. All 16 US intelligence agencies have affirmed and reaffirmed that Iran abandoned interest in nuclear weapons years ago.

In keeping with the safeguard agreement that the IAEA be informed before an enrichment facility comes online, Iran informed the IAEA on September 21 that it had a new nuclear facility under construction. By informing the IAEA, Iran fulfilled its obligations under the safeguards agreement. The IAEA will inspect the facility and monitor the nuclear material produced to make sure it is not diverted to a weapons program.

Despite these unequivocal facts, Obama announced on September 25 that Iran has been caught with a “secret nuclear facility” with which to produce a bomb that would threaten the world.

The Obama regime’s claim that Iran is not in compliance with the safeguards agreement is disinformation. Between the end of 2004 and early 2007, Iran voluntarily complied with an additional protocol (Code 3.1) that was never ratified and never became a legal part of the safeguards agreement. The additional protocol would have required Iran to notify the IAEA prior to beginning construction of a new facility, whereas the safeguards agreement in force requires notification prior to completion of a new facility.Iran ceased its voluntary compliance with the unratified additional protocol in March 2007, most likely because of the American and Israeli misrepresentations of Iran’s existing facilities and military threats against them.

By accusing Iran of having a secret “nuclear weapons program” and demanding that Iran “come clean” about the nonexistent program, adding that he does not rule out a military attack on Iran, Obama mimics the discredited Bush regime’s use of nonexistent Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” to set up Iraq for invasion. 

The US media, even the “liberal” National Public Radio [Jews Talking to Jews, AKA National Jewish Radio, NJR, AKA Israel Lobby], quickly fell in with the Obama lie machine.

Steven Thomma of the McClatchy Newspapers declared the non-operational facility under construction, which Iran reported to the IAEA, to be “a secret nuclear facility.”

Thomma, reported incorrectly that the world didn’t learn of Iran’s “secret” facility, the one that Iran reported to the IAEA the previous Monday, until Obama announced it in a joint appearance in Pittsburgh the following Friday with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkoszy. 

Obviously, Thomma has no command over the facts, a routine inadequacy of “mainstream media” reporters. The new facility was revealed when Iran voluntarily reported the facility to the IAEA on September 21.

Ali Akbar Dareini, an Associated Press writer, reported, incorrectly, over AP: “The presence of a second uranium-enrichment site that could potentially produce material for a nuclear weapon has provided one of the strongest indications yet that Iran has something to hide.”

Dareini goes on to write that “the existence of the secret site was first revealed by Western intelligence officials and diplomats on Friday.”

Dareini is mistaken. We learned of the facility when the IAEA announced that Iran had reported the facility the previous Monday in keeping with the safeguards agreement.

 Dareini’s untruthful report of “a secret underground uranium enrichment facility whose existence has been hidden from international inspectors for years” helped to heighten the orchestrated alarm. 

There you have it.

The president of the United States and his European puppets are doing what they do best--lying through their teeth.

The US “mainstream media” repeats the lies as if they were facts. The US “media” is again making itself an accomplice to wars based on fabrications.

Apparently, the media’s main interest is to please the US government and hopefully obtain a taxpayer bailout of its failing print operations. 

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a rare man of principle who has not sold his integrity to the US and Israeli governments, refuted in his report (September 7, 2009) the baseless “accusations that information has been withheld from the Board of Governors about Iran’s nuclear programme. I am dismayed by the allegations of some Member states, which have been fed to the media, that information has been withheld from the Board.

These allegations are politically motivated and totally baseless. Such attempts to influence the work of the Secretariat and undermine its independence and objectivity are in violation of Article VII.F. of the IAEA Statute and should cease forthwith.”

As there is no legal basis for action against Iran, the Obama regime is creating another hoax, like the non-existent “Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.”

The hoax is that a facility, reported to the IAEA by Iran, is a secret facility for making nuclear weapons. 

Just as the factual reports from the weapons inspectors in Iraq were ignored by the Bush Regime, the factual reports from the IAEA are ignored by the Obama Regime.

Like the Bush Regime, the Middle East policy of the Obama Regime is based in lies and deception.

Who is the worst enemy of the American people, Iran or the government in Washington and the media whores who serve it?

MOORE From Michael Moore on Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Michael, before you go, your film before Capitalism: A Love Story was Sicko, and now you see this whole debate. We only—well, we have less than a minute, but your thoughts on the healthcare crisis and debate and where it’s going here?

MICHAEL MOORE: President Obama, the reason why this is failing is because you took a half measure. He only went halfway, this public option. That’s why the base isn’t excited. That’s why there aren’t millions of people out in the streets supporting him. Had he done what he said he was going to do in 2003, when he first started thinking of running for Senate, that we need a single-payer system, like every other Western democracy, you know, I think all of us, everybody, would be out there massively. And it would make the town hall meetings and the teabag stuff look like the Disney Channel. You know, that’s what he would have had. But he can’t get anybody excited with this. He started out with a compromised position. You don’t start out compromising. You may have to compromise somewhere along the line, but you don’t start out that way.

So I hope he goes back and he rethinks this, now that he realizes that all his olive branch, bipartisan thing really wasn’t too accepted by the other side, and they have no intention of ever helping him. And, in fact, they will continue to whip up racism and other things to oppose whatever it is that he wants to do. They don’t care what it is. They’re just completely opposed to it. So, hopefully, I think he’s understood that at this point. And he’s got to go back to being that person who was raised by a single mother, from the working class, graduates from Harvard, goes to work in the inner city. That’s the Barack Obama we need to see right now.

Thank you Michael!!!!!!!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Michael Moore on Capitalism and Obama

After 20 Years of Filmmaking on US Injustices, Michael Moore Goes to the Source in “Capitalism: A Love Story”

Democracy Now! (9/24/09)
. . . .
And I think that this economic system that we have is an evil system. I truly believe that it is essentially designed to cause harm to people. It’s not an accident that this happens, because capitalism is, in its own way, its own Ponzi scheme. You know, we talk a lot about Bernie Madoff, and I guess he became a nice poster boy and a distraction from the real subject, but, in fact, capitalism, especially capitalism now as we know it, is a pyramid scheme, and it’s set up so that, again, the richest one percent sit on top of the pyramid. Their job is to convince everybody under them in the pyramid, all the worker ants, that they, too, could be at the top of the pyramid someday, when, of course, they know only a few people can sit on top of that pyramid. “If you just sell enough Amway, you can be up here with us.” No, that’s really not how it works. But it has worked for a long time, because a lot of everyday average Americans started believing this, this ruse that they, too, could be rich someday.

And so, I just—I just felt like it was time to just go after this and name it and not be afraid to name it and realize, OK, I know all the names I’m going to be called and, you know, this, that or whatever, and, you know, what I’m going to, you know, be dragged through, but I just—I just am tired—it really is—I am tired of having to dance around this or deal with this symptom of the problem or that calamity caused by capitalism. I mean, I could keep doing this ’til the end of my life, and I don’t think anything is really going to change that much. And I’d like to see change in my lifetime. And so, I made this film to just kind of, you know, go for it and start a discussion and stop these people, who are just blocks from us, who right now are planning today’s moves to make life miserable for millions of Americans and people around the world.

. . . .

JUAN GONZALEZ: And the issue of the people who are now dealing with the crisis?

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, you know, the day that President Obama named Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary, and actually before that, when he brought Robert Rubin in on the campaign, former head of Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, and also Larry Summers—if you don’t know who that is, he’s a very famous feminist from Harvard University. When Obama did this, I thought, OK, you know, instantly, in order just—I do this all the time. In order to sort of prevent myself from sinking into a deep pit of despair, I start, you know, spinning it in my head.

Well, OK, maybe Obama is like me and everybody else: you know, he doesn’t understand derivatives and credit default swaps. So he’s going to the people who helped, you know, create this system. And then I thought, and maybe he’s like my dad. Maybe he’s like, you know, OK, you made this mess, come in here and clean it up. And so, who better to go to than these guys? You know, the large banks, they hire bank robbers, former bank robbers, to advise them on how to prevent bank robberies. And really, again, who better to do that than a bank robber? Well, who better to help fix this mess than the people who helped to create it?

Now, that’s my hope. But as I point out in the film, President Obama received an enormous amount of money from financial institutions, employees of those institutions. And the employees of Goldman Sachs were his number one private contributor, donating almost a million dollars to his campaign.
. . . .

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Michael, before you go, your film before Capitalism: A Love Story was Sicko, and now you see this whole debate. We only—well, we have less than a minute, but your thoughts on the healthcare crisis and debate and where it’s going here?

MICHAEL MOORE: President Obama, the reason why this is failing is because you took a half measure. He only went halfway, this public option. That’s why the base isn’t excited. That’s why there aren’t millions of people out in the streets supporting him. Had he done what he said he was going to do in 2003, when he first started thinking of running for Senate, that we need a single-payer system, like every other Western democracy, you know, I think all of us, everybody, would be out there massively. And it would make the town hall meetings and the teabag stuff look like the Disney Channel. You know, that’s what he would have had. But he can’t get anybody excited with this. He started out with a compromised position. You don’t start out compromising. You may have to compromise somewhere along the line, but you don’t start out that way.

So I hope he goes back and he rethinks this, now that he realizes that all his olive branch, bipartisan thing really wasn’t too accepted by the other side, and they have no intention of ever helping him. And, in fact, they will continue to whip up racism and other things to oppose whatever it is that he wants to do. They don’t care what it is. They’re just completely opposed to it. So, hopefully, I think he’s understood that at this point. And he’s got to go back to being that person who was raised by a single mother, from the working class, graduates from Harvard, goes to work in the inner city. That’s the Barack Obama we need to see right now.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Obama and Health Care, etc., plus Edward Abbey Tidbit on Growth & Population

Curb Your Enthusiasm for Obama

Aug 31, 2008

By Chris Hedges

Barack Obama’s health care plan coddles the corporations that profit from the misery and illnesses of tens of millions of Americans. The plan is naive, at best, and probably disingenuous when it insists that we can coax these corporations, which are listed on the stock exchange and exist to maximize profit, to transform themselves into social service agencies that will provide adequate health care for all Americans. I wish we lived in such a rosy world. I know, and I suspect Obama knows, that we do not.

“Obama offers a false hope,” said Dr. John Geyman, the former chair of family medicine at the University of Washington and author of “Do Not Resuscitate: Why the Health Insurance Industry Is Dying, and How We Must Replace It.” “We cannot build on or tweak the present system. Different states have tried this. The problem is the private insurance industry itself. It is not as efficient as a publicly financed system. It fragments risk pools, skimming off the healthier part of the population and leaving the rest uninsured or underinsured. Its administrative and overhead costs are five to eight times higher than public financing through Medicare. It cares more about its shareholders than its enrollees or patients. A family of four now pays about $12,000 a year just in premiums, which have gone up by 87 percent from 2000 to 2006. The insurance industry is pricing itself out of the market for an ever larger part of the population. The industry resists regulation. It is unsustainable by present trends.”

We face a health crisis. The Democratic and Republican parties, awash in campaign contributions from the beasts they should be slaying on our behalf, have no interest in addressing it. A report in the journal Health Affairs estimates that, if the system is left unchanged, one of every five dollars spent by Americans in 2017 will go to health coverage. Half of all bankruptcies in America are because families are unable to pay their medical bills. There are some 46 million Americans without coverage and tens of millions more with inadequate policies that severely limit what kinds of procedures and treatments they can receive.

“There are at least 25 million Americans who are underinsured,” said Dr. Geyman. “Whatever coverage they have does not come close to covering the actual cost of a major illness or accident.”

Obama, like John McCain, did not support HR 676, the single-payer legislation. The corporations that run our for-profit health care industry, which would be shut down if the bill was enacted, have vigorously fought it through campaign contributions and armies of lobbyists. A study by Harvard Medical School found that national health insurance would save the country $350 billion a year. But Medicare does not make campaign contributions. The private health care industries do. They have lavished money on Obama. He received $708,000 from medical and insurance interests between 2001 and 2006, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And Michelle Obama is a vice president for community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals, a position that paid her $316,962 annually.

“The private health insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry completely and totally oppose national health insurance,” said Dr. Stephanie Woolhandler, one of the founders of Physicians for a National Health Program. “The private health insurance companies would go out of business. The pharmaceutical companies are afraid that a national health program will, as in Canada, be able to negotiate lower drug prices. Canadians pay 40 percent less for their drugs. We see this on a smaller scale in the United States, where the Department of Defense is able to negotiate pharmaceutical prices that are 40 percent lower.”

Sen. Obama argues that we can improve the system by expanding government oversight. The government, he says, should require doctors and hospitals to prove they provide quality care. His plan links payment with reported quality. This would mean that health care providers would have to hire even larger staffs to collect and report this data to the government. There would be a $10-billion federal investment in health care information technology over five years under the Obama plan, in essence turning record keeping from paper to electronic data.

Obama’s plan, said Dr. Don McCanne, who writes on health care issues, would actually make health plans “more expensive, which compounds the problem.”

Obama says he would require insurance companies to use more income from premiums for patient care.

“There isn’t an enforcement mechanism,” Geyman said bluntly. “Most states have been unable to control rates or set a cap on rates.”

Obama’s plan would also not cover all Americans. Unlike in Canada, citizens would not be enrolled in a plan automatically. Americans would have to go looking for one they could afford. And if they could not find one they would remain uninsured. Dr. Woolhandler, who is also a professor at Harvard Medical School, estimates that “tens of millions” of Americans would remain uninsured under Obama’s plan. These numbers would swell as employers, who provide plans for 59 percent of those who are employed, continue to reduce coverage.

“The only way everyone will get insurance is with national health insurance,” she said from Boston in a phone interview. “There is nothing in the Obama plan that will change the bitter reality that working-class families face when their breadwinner gets sick. People with catastrophic illnesses usually lose their jobs and lose their insurance. They often cannot afford the high premiums for the insurance they can get when they are unable to work. Most families that file for bankruptcy because of medical costs had insurance before they got sick. They either lost the insurance because they lost their jobs or faced gaps in coverage that meant they could not afford medical care.”

Obama has borrowed John Kerry’s idea to have the government absorb certain severe costs, although again the details are not spelled out. Insurers, he says, would no longer be able to discriminate based on preexisting conditions. All children would have health coverage. He would, he says, expand Medicare and Medicare-like coverage to protect the very young and the elderly. This is laudable, if he can make it happen. But the fundamental problem is a health industry run for profit. Our health system costs nearly twice as much as national programs in countries such as Switzerland. The overhead for traditional Medicare is 3 percent, and the overhead for the investment-owned companies is 26.5 percent. A staggering 31 percent of our health care expenditures is spent on administrative costs. Look what we get in return.

We on the left, those who should be out there fighting for universal health care and total and immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, sit like lap dogs on the short leashes of our Democratic (read corporate) masters. We yap now and then, but we have forgotten how to snarl and bite. We have been domesticated. And until we punish the two main parties the way big corporations do, by withdrawing support and funding when our issues are ignored, we will remain irrelevant and impotent. I detest Bill O’Reilly, but he is right on one thing—we liberals are a spineless lot.

Labor unions don’t negotiate with corporations on the basis of good will. They negotiate carrying the threat of a strike. What power do we have as long as we cave on every issue we stand for, from opposition to the death penalty to battling back against the military-industrial complex?

It is not about liking or not liking Obama. It is not about race or class or gender. It is not about growing up poor or a member of the working class. There is no shortage of greasy politicians who, once in power, sold out their own. Look at Bill Clinton. It is about fighting back. It is about confronting a system that belittles us, what we stand for and what is best for the majority of Americans. We need to throw our support behind alternative candidates who champion what we care about, whether Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader. Bob Barr’s health care plan, like John McCain’s, is even worse than Obama’s tepid proposal. We need to begin to actively and militantly defy the corporate state, and this means stepping outside of the two-party system. Universal health insurance is one issue. There are others. Nothing we care about will change until we do.

The Democrats, who promise to end the war in Iraq, create jobs and provide universal health care, ignore these promises once election cycles are over. And we never make them pay. They gave us NAFTA, the destruction of welfare and increased military spending, and we gave them our vote. This is the party that took back Congress in 2006 on an anti-war platform and then increased troop levels and funding for the Iraq war. This is a party that talks about the crushing weight of debt carried by Americans and then refuses to cap predatory interest rates as high as 30 percent imposed by credit card companies. This is a party that promises to protect our constitutional rights and then passes the FISA bill to protect the telecommunications companies. The list goes on. These politicians, including Obama, must begin to feel heat. They must learn that there is a cost to be paid for working on behalf of corporations and disempowering citizens.

The following is a 1982 interview with environmentalist and author Edward Abbey:


What follows is the transcript of an interview conducted by Eric Temple with Ed Abbey in December 1982. The interview took place in the cabin behind Abbey's Tucson home and was videotaped for a program produced by KAET-TV in Phoenix, Arizona. Portions of the interview were made into a half hour program called "Edward Abbey's Road" which aired in Arizona and many PBS stations nationwide in 1983. Thanks to Clarke Abbey for permission to print this excerpt.
ET) What do you see as the major environmental problem in Arizona right now?

EA) Progress. Development, Growth, Industry--everything that the politicians and the chamber of commerce loves, I'm against. I think it's gradually destroying Arizona, and I don't think it will survive--I think we're using up our resource base, especially water, much faster than it can ever be replaced. Therefore, unless some sort of technological miracle saves us, I imagine that Phoenix and Tucson will be small towns again, and probably very nice places to live.

I was just reading a very good book by Charles Bowden, "Killing the Hidden Waters" which goes into this subject in great detail, historical and geological. He describes how the Papago Indians survived out here simply by living off the land, mainly hunting and gathering. Surviving on surface water--a few springs and flash floods for farming, and they got by for 10, maybe 20 thousand years. 'Course they didn't create what most of us would consider a very brilliant civilization, but they had a satisfying way of life and were probably as happy as most modern Americans.

ET) What would be the final straw that would make the politicians curtail the growth, or attempt to curtail it?

EA) I don't think they will, they're in the grip of a kind of ideology of growth, the politicians, the chamber of commerce, most business people in the state. They seem to really believe that growth is a good in itself and more growth is better, so I doubt if this expansion will be curtailed until something very unpleasant happens. Probably we'll discover more pollution in our ground water supplies. The wells for example, some of them, dozens I guess have already been closed in this area and other Arizona towns. And the river water they're hoping to import from the Colorado river is very low quality water, high salt content and god knows what other junk is in it from all of those uranium mills upstream- So at enormous cost they're pumping that dirty river water out of the mountains and into the central valley in hopes of keeping the expansion of Phoenix and Tucson continuing for maybe a few more decades. It might work--and it might not, and even it it does work, I think it does more harm than good.

I can't see that anything is gained for the people who now live in Phoenix by trying to make Phoenix another LA. And I think we in Tucson have much more to lose than to gain by trying to catch up with Phoenix. And Flagstaff wants to be another Tucson, and so on. And I think it's ridiculous. It's insane in the long run, rational point of view.

If we were content to maintain a relatively small population in this state, I don't know what the optimum would be, we've probably already passed it. But if we were content just to support the number of people we've got here now, I don't see anybody forced to leave. I don't want to leave, I still love it here. I think we could probably support the present population of Phoenix and Tucson for a long time, maybe a century or two, while slowly using up our ground water supply. But if we continue this what I consider crackpot expansion, this ideological growth, why we're going to run up against the limits much quicker, then they'll start talking about dragging icebergs up from Antarctica and up the Sea of Cortez, through Puerta Punasco, Gila Bend, towing them on giant barges.

ET) Something else that goes hand in hand with that is the generation of electricity. Coal and Nuclear seem to be the substances of choice for the utilities in Arizona. What are the pitfalls of that?

EA) Well, the disadvantages of coal are pretty obvious. The burning of coal pollutes the air, strip mining destroys a lot of good rangeland depriving ranchers and Navajos of their resource base. And coal too is just a temporary fix, even though we may have an awful lot of it in this country. It too will be used up sooner or later, but we want to create a long term civilization here in the west or in North America, and I think eventually we're going to have to rely on renewable resources, like sunlight and grass and trees, surface water, running water.

But I realize that the United States for that matter doesn't take it seriously. The people who run this country assume that technology and science will rescue us each time from our foolishness, and so far it might appear that they've been right. However, when we burn up the planet then we'll, I suppose, try to export the human species into outer space. Space colonies. Colonize the moon, Venus, Mars, and that's utopianism. And uranium, you mentioned that didn't you? When they complete the Palo Verde nuclear plant we're going to have the biggest one in the world, is that right?

ET) That's what they say.

EA) I find nuclear power very unappealing, first of all because it's undemocratic; it centralizes control. It puts our lives and livelihoods in the hands of a very few people, probably one big utility, one big public agency over which the public has very little control. And of course there are the well known dangers of it. (Editor's note: Abbey gave this interview five years before the nuclear disaster at Chernoble) There's no guarantee that these nuclear plants won't break down, melt down and maybe force the evacuation of the entire city of Phoenix someday. And it's a very expensive form of power; I don't know the economic details but it may turn out to cost more that it's worth...simply in dollars. Nuclear power has been a heavily subsidized industry so far, subsidized by us taxpayers in one way or another and that's how it has survived as long as it has. I doubt if nuclear power would last another 10 years if we had a really free market economy. It's expensive and it's dangerous and it's undemocratic, and uranium mining of course also destroys rangeland again, in some cases wilderness. And the problem of what to do with the nuclear waste has still not been solved. Nobody wants these nuclear waste dumps in their own state.

ET) What is the future of environmentalism as you see it?

EA) Well I think that it has a very good future. The worse the environment gets, the more popular environmentalism becomes. People like James Watt do us a lot of good to spur interest in environmentalism and boost membership in all sorts of conservation organizations. People always get concerned about things that they are in danger of losing...though it often comes too late. I think America has led the way in this field. We are probably the most environmentally conscious, big industrial nation on earth, getting the parks established over a century ago. First nation on earth to do that. Good thing we did too.

I'm not much of a prophet. I suppose the conflict between conservation and development will grow more intense each year with the pressure of a growing population and economic demands. That's all I can see in the future, more conflict, more arguments, more shouting. Possibly if the economy stays in a recession long enough, a majority of us will gradually adapt to a simpler, a more frugal way of life. Not make such enormous demands on the land, the air, and the water. But there's so many of us in the United States already, 240 million I guess and still growing.(Editor's note: Since this interview the U.S. population has increased by another 30 million, almost double the current population of Australia.) The rate of growth is supposed to be slowing down, but the total keeps growing. When I was a kid in school, we were taught that the population of the United States was 120 million, as if that were a fixed, permanent figure. And now it's apparently just about doubled.

And all of us want to maintain our American standards of living. We like having these nice little houses, electricity, running water, cars and pickup trucks and motor boats; its hard to give up all of these technological toys. We wouldn't have to give them up in fact, if we had a small population. I guess I'm sort of a nut on the subject of planned parenthood. I think we should plan it a lot more intensively. I'd be in favor or revising the income tax structures in such a way as to reward single people, childless couples, penalize heavy breeders. Make people that have more than say two children pay extra taxes instead of less. Make that a national public policy to encourage small families. And that means cutting off immigration too. Restricting it to a very low level. These are very delicate, touchy subjects, especially here in Arizona.

And that's why I bring it up. I don't like to talk about it. Makes me sound like a racist and an elitist. But I talk about it because apparently no one else will. The politicians won't touch the subject of course. And the chamber of commerce doesn't care, they welcome a growing population. That means more demands for more goods...more extensive exploitation of the land and water and the air. Strip mining the ranges, and clear cutting the forests, and damming the last of the free-flowing rivers. But I think if we're going to have a decent future in this country, and I'm only speaking of the United States, the rest of the world is...most of it is in much worse shape than we are. If our children and grandchildren are going to have a decent life in this country, we're going to have to reduce the total population gradually by attrition, letting old farts like me die off...cutting off immigration, especially illegal immigration, gradually adopting, adapting to a simpler lifestyle...doing without more things. Giving up all of our gadgets...or making them so expensive that you have to choose. So you could have a car or a pickup truck but not both, that's kind of ridiculous. Things like that, a gradual...I wouldn't call it a reducing of the standard of living, but a simplifying of our way of living. And I think it would be good for good for us to do more walking, or to ride bicycles to school instead of driving a car.

These are old ideas of course, people have been preaching them now for ten or fifteen years. I don't have any new ideas on the subject...just repeat the old ones. I think there's a great popular support for these basic ideas...great popular support for environmentalism, all the polls, all the elections seem to suggest it. Most of the voters want their clean air, they want their clean air laws not only maintained, but strengthened. Most people seem to want our wilderness area preserved. Most people apparently would prefer to live a more outdoorsy sort of life. To get away from the big cities, and even the suburbs now. Apparently more and more people are moving back to small towns or even to farms if they can manage it. But I think environmentalism has popular support, has majority support, but we don't have the money...we don't have the power to translate that popular support into political action or have the power to translate that popular support into political action or at least not into enough political action.

Power still lies in the hands of corporations and those with lots of money to throw around.

ET) You've made some appearances for an environmental group called Earth First!, and certainly a couple of your books have talked about sort of ecological sabotage, or taking things into your own hands. Do you see that as a coming thing, or is it already here?

EA) Well I'm not going to advocate sabotage publicly on the federal airwaves here. But I think there probably will be more of it if the conflict between conservation and development becomes more intense, and it the politicians fail to follow the popular will on the matter. I think a lot of people are going to become very angry and they're going to resort to illegal methods to try to slow down the destruction of our national resources, our wilderness, our forests, mountains, deserts. What that will lead to I hate to think. If the conflict becomes violent and physical then I'm pretty sure the environmentalists will mostly end up in prison or shot dead in their tracks. So I hope we can save what's left of Arizona and the United States by legal, political means and I still think we can. I still vote in elections...even though there doesn't seem to be much to vote for or against, when there's not much choice. I think if enough people get sufficiently concerned, why we can still make changes...needed changes in this country by political methods...God, I hope so.,

ET) What does the future hold for you, what are your plans?

EA) Oh, write a few more good books and die. I've done almost everything I've ever wanted to do. Traveled over half the world, enjoyed the love of some good women, and the friendship of some good men. Had some adventures. Wrote a few books that I'm still pleased with. Had a pretty soft easy life. Most of my life I've been able to do exactly what I wanted to do. I haven't had to turn my hand at honest labor for about ten years. And I never did believe in working for more than six months our the the year at any job I didn't like. So I'll write a few more books, explore a few more places. I'd like to go to Australia again. I'd like to see something of Africa. I've got a teenaged daughter, got to get her through the agonies of adolescence before I can shunt her off to college.

I'd like to grow wise and venerable, but I haven't figured out how to do it yet.

ET) Do you see any positive thing...We've been talking about a lot of things that are pretty unpleasant. Is there something happening that you see in the world today that might be interpreted as a positive thing?

EA) Oh, the arts are thriving. Music, literature, dance, sculpture, painting, seems to me in this country and in most of the world there's a great burgeoning artistic activity. I think modern technology has created a sort of world culture which may in some ways actually be bringing people together or creating an international culture, and that may turn out to be a good thing.

Nuclear power has made war less appealing than ever. Hydrogen bombs take all of the fun out of war. I think there's an enormous amount of goodwill and good feeling being shared around the world, people visiting one another. Visiting one another's countries and lands, getting to learn something about each other. But this is in a race against the other catastrophe of overpopulation, war, hunger, civil war, revolution. Not that I'm against revolutions...I think may of them are necessary and therefore are justified. I'm not anti-technology either. I like all of our gadgets and toys, it's just the scale of them that I think is doing us harm. As I've written, I'm very much in favor of space exploration for example, I think it's a great adventure for humanity insofar as we can all share in it. But I think it should be supported by voluntary contributions only. Not by compulsory taxation under threat of prison and death. The Sierra Club gets by on voluntary contributions and so should NASA, and moon shots, and space travel. Let those things be financed by people who are willing to support them.

Good things, I'm trying to think of good things!

You can still get good cigars. I'm impressed by the young people that are growing up around us. They seem to be healthier more athletic and brighter than ever. At least the ones who haven't been lobotomized by too much television and Newsweek and Time. I suppose for every danger in the contemporary world you can find a corresponding avenue of hope, an opportunity for true progress, as opposed to mere quantitative growth. Probably never before in human history have so many been so keenly aware of what our troubles are and what causes them and what can be done about them. I think the knowledge and the goodwill is here, present in most people. Our problem is how to translate that knowledge and goodwill and technique into the creation of a true civilization, which I do not think we have.

Kurt Vonnegut says we're still living in the dark ages, I agree with that. But we're still struggling to get out of the dark ages into some kind of enlightenment, I think that's possible. Still might happen before disaster solves all our problems. If we don't solve our troubles by reason and goodwill and generosity and mutual aid and sharing, then I think our troubles, national and international, will be solved in the usual way. By catastrophe. By war, famine, plague...what was the fourth horseman? Death.

And anyway, even if the human race wipes itself off the face of the earth as Jonathan Schell thinks it might in his book, I still think that life will survive, even if only in the most rudimentary form. I'm in favor of all kinds of life, even bacteria, germs, bugs, insects, scorpions. I don't think that anything humanity can do will destroy all life on earth. And as long as there's life in any shape, why there's still hope of some kind.

In fact life is good in itself. If we humans are stupid enough to destroy our own lives, that doesn't necessarily take all of the goodness out of the lives of other creatures that might, and I hope will, survive us. I think earth would still be a decent place if there were no humans on it at all. I don't know exactly what kind of consciousness a dog has, or the wildlife or the birds we see out here, but my impression is on the whole they seem to enjoy their existence and I think it's worthwhile for its own sake. They're not dreaming of heaven or some technological utopia. They just find the ordinary daily business of life, breeding, nest building, and finding food a good in itself, and I agree with that. I think the hawks are right and the rattlesnakes. Keep going...continuity.

I don't have any hope of personal immortality, but I am glad I've had children. And that therefore I have a stake in the continuity of human life. I think it's well worthwhile just keeping the game going, whether it leads to any greater end or not. Well, enough of mesophysics. Do you have any simple, easy questions?

ET) Yeah, I've got one more. What do you see your role as, social commentator, author?

EA) My role...I see myself as an entertainer. I'm trying to write good books, make people laugh, make them cry, provoke them, make them angry, make them think if possible. To get a reaction, give pleasure. I do not see myself as a social commentator because I don't look at any of these things we've been talking about hard enough, I'm not really skilled at it.

But I like to write. I like to throw words around. And if I can give pleasure in that form I feel I'm earning my pay. I have no desire to be a leader of any kind, I dislike being called a guru. I think every man should be his own guru, and every woman her own gurette...we should all be leaders. I'm an anarchist. My father was a Wobblie. I.W.W. We should all take charge. We should all be leaders, neither followers nor rulers, make our own decisions. I'm really a democrat, small "d", I really believe in democracy. Direct democracy.

I think every issue of any importance should be decided by popular referendum. It's nice to see these petitions get on the ballot. The process should be made much easier. If we could do away with those bunch of morons and moral dwarfs up in the state legislature and decide state policy by public referendum, I would love to see that. I think the majority of the people in this state and in this country are almost always far ahead of those who call themselves the authorities, or presume to be our leaders. They're not leaders. What was the last leader we had in this country? Thomas Jefferson perhaps. Anyway, my role is just to write books. I'm not really trying to do anything more than that. Write some good books, if possible, and enjoy my life...the lives of my family and friends, and my enemies. I enjoy their problems too.

Eric Temple interviewed Ed Abbey on several occasions. His documentary, Edward Abbey: A Voice in the Wilderness is available on video at Back of Beyond Books in Moab.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More on Obama's America

Stop Begging Obama and Get Mad

Posted on Sep 14, 2009

By Chris Hedges

"The right-wing accusations against Barack Obama are true. He is a socialist, although he practices socialism for corporations. He is squandering the country’s future with deficits that can never be repaid. He has retained and even bolstered our surveillance state to spy on Americans. He is forcing us to buy into a health care system that will enrich corporations and expand the abuse of our for-profit medical care. He will not stanch unemployment. He will not end our wars. He will not rebuild the nation. He is a tool of the corporate state.

The right wing is not wrong. It is not the problem. We are the problem. If we do not tap into the justifiable anger sweeping across the nation, if we do not militantly push back against corporate fraud and imperial wars that we cannot win or afford, the political vacuum we have created will be filled with right-wing lunatics and proto-fascists. The goons will inherit power not because they are astute, but because we are weak and inept.
. . . .
It is we who are guilty, guilty for sending these young men and women to wars that did not have to be fought. It is we who are guilty for turning away from the truth of war to wallow in a self-aggrandizing myth, guilty because we create and decorate killers and when they come home maimed and broken we discard them. It is we who are guilty for failing to defy a Democratic Party that since 1994 has betrayed the working class by destroying our manufacturing base, slashing funds to assist the poor and cravenly doing the bidding of corporations. It is we who are guilty for refusing to mass on Washington and demand single-payer, not-for-profit health care for all Americans. It is we who are guilty for supporting Democrats while they funnel billions in taxpayer dollars to sustain speculative Wall Street interests. The rage of the confused and angry right-wing marchers, the ones fired up by trash-talking talk show hosts, the ones liberals belittle and maybe even laugh at, should be our rage. And if it is not our rage soon, if we continue to humiliate and debase ourselves by begging Obama to be Obama, we will see our open society dismantled not because of the shrewdness of the far right, but because of our moral cowardice."


Monday, September 21, 2009


Both prior to, and after, the November election of President Obama, there has been much criticism of those progressives who dared point out certain inconsistencies between the "hope" and "yes we can!" rhetoric presented by the Obama campaign, and his appointments and actions. We suggested that his campaign advisors (Rubin for just one example), his appointments of Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Defense Secretary Gates, and the appointments of people like Sommers and Geithner, not to mention the campaign contributions he had received from the financial sector and the drug and medical industries, might suggest a path that differed from both his "promise" and the path he would be taking. We were told to "give him a chance." I went so far as to say that we had been "Snookered Again!" just after his election, which brought similar rebuke.

Well, he has had a chance, almost a year of it, and he has shown that the nay-sayers were right. Once again, progressives have been sold out by the Democratic Party and the candidates they dictate to us. Lets hear it for cynicism and alternative party politics!

Tonight, and in some future posts, I will begin to present some of the criticisms, from people far more experienced and articulate, that have been mounting in recent months. The most recent come first, but those of months past will be mixed in for perspective.

- Ralph Nader on the G-20, Healthcare Reform, etc.
- The Health Care Deceit - It is the War in Afghanistan Obama Declared a "Necessity," Not Health Care
- Globalization Goes Bankrupt
- Go to Pittsburgh, Young Man, and Defy Your Empire
- How Tough Is Our President?
- Obama a very smooth liar

Ralph Nader on the G-20, Healthcare Reform, Mideast Talks and His First Work of Fiction, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!”

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us, Ralph.

Well, let’s start on the economy, on this year anniversary of the collapse, and where you think we have come to in this year.

RALPH NADER: Well, President Obama is engaging in political progressive talk, but one year later, nothing has happened in Congress. There hasn’t even been a bill to financially regulate, bring under the rule of law and accountability Wall Street and the financial industry, hasn’t even gone to a committee yet. They’re just going to begin hearings in the Senate Banking Committee. There’s a massive attack on the consumer regulatory agency to protect people who have mortgages and credit cards and other financial instruments by the Chamber of Commerce and other corporate lobbies. So you see the corporate lobbies swarming over Congress, political action committee money, but no legislative action whatsoever.

I don’t think this has a precedent in American history. There’s never been a criminal, speculative, massive collapse, such as occurred on Wall Street, affecting trillions of dollars of worker pension money, mutual funds, savings, jobs, affecting communities all over the country, and no action in Congress. That’s the test. It’s not the rhetoric. It’s whether these bills are moving through, by 535 men and women who put their shoes on every day like you and I do. And that’s not happening. And that’s the way you want to analyze it.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think needs to happen? What is that legislation that needs to be passed?

RALPH NADER: Well, there’s a proposal crafted in part by Elizabeth Warren, who’s head of the Congressional Oversight Panel, to make sure that the Wall Street firms behave themselves. And she’s a professor of law at Harvard Law School. That’s a very well-drafted bill. There are some proposals to strengthen the organization of financial consumers, bank depositors, insurance policy holders, etc., that needs to be put in there. But the overall bill to repeal the Clinton-era repeal of Glass-Steagall, to repeal the Franklin Delano Roosevelt reforms—you have to repeal the repeal of those reforms, which set the stage in 1999 and 2000 for the rampant, wild speculation with other people’s money by investment banks and banks—Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Bank of America and others, Goldman Sachs, of course.

AMY GOODMAN: The poverty rate, the number of people who are losing their homes, foreclosure, where do we stand?

RALPH NADER: Well, again, the administration cannot level with the American people, because whether it’s Obama or Bernanke or Secretary Treasurer Geithner, they cannot say anything negative, because they’re afraid of the markets. And so, all they say is mild positives. And so, they can’t level with the American people. So they use indicators that favor the corporate balance sheet, but not the worker balance sheet or the pensioneer balance sheet.

And so, poverty is going up, unemployment is shooting up, underemployment is massive. There’s probably 17 percent of the American people are unemployed or underemployed. Wages are stagnant or declining. And, of course, consumer debt is increasing. Home foreclosures are increasing. Those are the indicators you’ve got to put front and center. They’re the people indicators, not the corporate, business, economist indicators.

Hey, the banks are starting to make more profit. Yeah, but they’re being bailed out by Washington, and they can be technically insolvent and still make more profit, because they’re charging such high interest rates, fees and penalties.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, you talk about legislation saving us. A new report by the watchdog group Common Cause reveals the financial industry spent $42 million lobbying Congress during the first six months of the year and that nine of the top recipients of securities money so far this year are Democrats, like Senator Schumer of New York, topping the list, taking in something like $680,000 in campaign contributions.

RALPH NADER: It’s the same old rut. And that’s why I really wrote this work of fiction, because we are not imagining, Amy, what is necessary by way of money, organizers in the field, strategy, smarts, determination to break this massive corporate-state gridlock that’s put our country into a paralysis. Our country is stuck in traffic. It is being prevented from solving many problems or diminishing them—public transit, housing, consumer protection, living wage, universal health insurance, single payer, all these corporate crime crackdowns. All of these are problems that can be addressed and solved, but not when there’s too much power in too few hands, who make the decisions for the many to the many’s disadvantage.

So we have to—we have to ask ourselves the question: What will it take to break through? What will it take to put the people back into their sovereignty? What will it take to make sure that we enforce the Constitution and we don’t get in these foreign military adventures that are unconstitutional, violate statutes and violate international treaties, not just under Bush-Cheney, but there’s an unseemly continuity in this area under the Obama administration.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ve been talking about Congress. What about the G-20? I mean, you have world leaders gathering in Pittsburgh later this week. Also, many thousands of protesters are expected. But where does this story, whether we’re talking about the economy or healthcare, fit into the global picture and G-20? What can be accomplished there?

RALPH NADER: G-20 is a talk fest. It’s good for the Pittsburgh economy for about a week. The rallies are good, indicates that people are still trying to fight back. Nothing’s going to happen. We’ve seen this again and again with the G-20 and whatever G-number has had these meetings, whether in Canada or Europe or United States.

The issue again is, are we going to get the leadership from the enlightened super-rich to put the field organizers on the ground and to put the money into progressive campaigns and citizen action? For example, $1 billion will get us single payer in a year—that’s my sense—if we had field organizers and mobilization in every congressional district. I mean, if there was a private vote right now in Congress, about a third of them would support a single-payer system. But they are surrounded by these drug industry and health insurance lobbies and the money that’s dangled before them.

So we have to break through, and the only way we can break through is the majesty of our mind generating a higher level of imaginative “what if.” What if we have this kind of resource or these kinds of film organizers or these kinds of mass media attentions? Which is why I wrote this book, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” And that’s in quotes. And it comes from a very interesting story at the beginning of the book that I can tell you, if you’re interested.

. . . .

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama on CBS’s Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer. Ralph Nader, your response?

RALPH NADER: Well, it just shows is—he’s saying the right things, but the proposals he has are riddled with verbal indecision, like he won’t say if he doesn’t get a public choice or a Medicare alternative for people who are unable to afford private insurance, he won’t sign the bill. Now, in Congress, if you don’t draw the line the way LBJ used to, for example, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they eat you alive. They sense weakness. They sense excessive concessions. And that’s what he’s doing with all the media coverage he’s getting. He’s not putting forth a straightforward “this is what has to be done if we’re going to reduce the gouging and the waste and the fraud.”

The only approach that can do that is full Medicare for all, full government health insurance with private delivery, free choice of hospital and doctor. You’ve heard it a hundred times. That’s the only way, in western Europe and Canada, they’ve been able to control costs. So, in western Europe and Canada, they cover everybody for less than $4,000 per capita a year. In this country, it’ll be $7,500 per capita this year. And there won’t be—the tens of millions, 50 million people, won’t be covered, and tens of millions will be underinsured. I mean, to see all this data, it’s on this website, (

But the point is that he keeps saying we’ve got to squeeze the waste and fraud, etc., and there’s enormous fraud. There’s $250 billion of billing fraud and abuse. And you can check the—Malcolm Sparrow at Harvard University has got the information on that. ( There are $400 billion out of $2.5 trillion, which is the health expenditure bill—$400 billion in administrative waste, all these people in Aetna and CIGNA and other companies denying people’s benefits and all the bureaucracy that these corporations generate, and not to mention their executive compensation.

So we really got—we have documented these problems. This country’s progressive movement has documented these abuses from A to Z—books, articles, documents, congressional reports. It’s time to ask the question: What is it going to take in terms of money, organizers, resources, creativity, to turn this country around in the reflection of what most people would like to see the United States of America become?

. . . .
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, as we go back to the issue of healthcare and what needs to be done, one of your key issues over the decades, Max Baucus, after months of negotiation, comes out with a bill, which now has no Republican support. Many Democrats are saying they will not support it. What do you think of Baucus and his plan and where really this is going to go and what you think needs to happen? Would you support a plan without a public option, though you are a single-payer advocate?

RALPH NADER: No, the public option, or what they should have called it, “public choice,” if they knew language, it’s not going to work. It will always be strapped by all kinds of restrictions. Even if it passes, they’ll have it straightjacketed. Only a certain number of people can even buy insurance from this proposed public option.

Senator Baucus is a typical Democrat in Republican clothing. He’s a crypto-Republican. Now, would he get away with this if there were several million dollars in grassroot mobilization in his home state of Montana? I mean, Montana has sent some pretty progressive senators in the past. The people haven’t changed. They just are not being brought together by field organizers in the kind of effort that’s described in this book, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!” But there’s very little going on in Montana. There’s a few rallies. There are a few demonstrations. But there’s a critical mass that’s needed there.

It looks like Baucus’s version is going to prevail with some tweaks in the Senate. Then you’re going to have the Waxman version in the House in the various committees. And then what are they going to do when they come into conference with the swarms of drug and health insurance lobbies? The drug companies have 450 full-time lobbyists on Capitol Hill, almost one to every senator and representative, not to mention their nationwide support network.

Now, the single-payer people, I don’t even know if they have one full-time lobbyist. So we have to ask ourselves, are we serious here? And if you are a super mega-rich, enlightened elderly person, or not elderly person, are you going to get serious, in terms of where you, without anybody persuading you, where you already want this country to go? That’s what we have to confront here.

The single payer is a majoritarian issue. It’s supported by 59 percent of physicians in a poll last year. A larger number of nurses, a lot of health economists support it. Why isn’t it moving? Because the people are not in charge of the Congress, even though they’re the only ones that have the vote; corporations are in charge, even though they have no vote.

AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, last question, and we only have less than a minute, but the White House has announced that President Obama is going to be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Palestinian President Abbas in New York on Tuesday. That’s tomorrow. This, after US special envoy George Mitchell left Israel with no deal on a resumption of peace talks in the region. What do you think needs to happen there?

RALPH NADER: For a minute, I thought you said President Obama was going to meet with progressives in the White House on healthcare, which he’s never done. He’s met with CEOs.

I don’t think President Obama has any cards with the Israeli military approach to the Palestinians. He’s not going to cut off economic aid, which Prime Minister Netanyahu in 1996 in a joint address to Congress said he was going to phase out, because Israel is a modern economy, which has universal health insurance, by the way. He’s not going to cut off military aid. What are his cards? Poor George Mitchell is shuttling back and forth between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Ramallah. He has no cards either.

The only way to begin changing this is to bring the Israeli peace movement to the US Congress for widely publicized hearings. These are ex-generals, ex-security chiefs, former mayors, members of the Knesset, former ministers. They’ve been pummeled by the recent events of the militarists. But once they’re given a national exposure here in this country, they will connect with about 50 percent or more of the Israeli people who want a two-state solution.

You know, it’s just like anything else. The majority of the people were against the Iraq invasion, yet the neocons and people in the White House, a minority among public opinion, plunged us into this war. Similarly, in Israel. Once the Israeli peace movement, with all those credentialed and accomplished people, connect with the Palestinian peace movement, with whom they have worked out in intricate ways in the Geneva meetings years ago a two-state solution, then you’ll see Israeli society begin turning around. And that’s about the only political lever the Congress and Obama would have. Put them up before the Senate and the House. In sixty years, they have—Israeli peace movement leaders have never been invited for one hour of congressional testimony.

It is the War in Afghanistan Obama Declared a "Necessity," Not Health Care

The Health Care Deceit

September 14, 2009

The current health care “debate” shows how far gone representative government is in the United States. Members of Congress represent the powerful interest groups that fill their campaign coffers, not the people who vote for them.

The health care bill is not about health care. It is about protecting and increasing the profits of the insurance companies. The main feature of the health care bill is the “individual mandate,” which requires everyone in America to buy health insurance. Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont), a recipient of millions in contributions over his career from the insurance industry, proposes to impose up to a $3,800 fine on Americans who fail to purchase health insurance.

The determination of “our” elected representatives to serve the insurance industry is so compelling that Congress is incapable of recognizing the absurdity of these proposals.

The reason there is a health care crisis in the US is that the cumulative loss of jobs and benefits has swollen the uninsured to approximately 50 million Americans. They cannot afford health insurance any more than employers can afford to provide it.

It is absurd to mandate that people purchase what they cannot afford and to fine them for failing to do so. A person who cannot pay a health insurance premium cannot pay the fine.

These proposals are like solving the homeless problem by requiring the homeless to purchase a house.

In his speech Obama said “we’ll provide tax credits” for “those individuals and small businesses who still can’t afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange” and he said low-cost coverage will be offered to those with preexisting medical conditions. A tax credit is useless to those without income unless the credit is refundable, and subsidized coverage doesn’t do much for those millions of Americans with no jobs.

Baucus masquerades as a defender of the health impaired with his proposal to require insurers to provide coverage to all comers as if the problem of health care can be reduced to preexisting conditions and cancelled policies. It was left to Rep. Dennis Kucinich to point out that the health care bill ponies up 30 million more customers for the private insurance companies.

The private sector is no longer the answer, because the income levels of the vast majority of Americans are insufficient to bear the cost of health insurance today. To provide some perspective, the monthly premium for a 60-year old female for a group policy (employer-provided) with Blue Cross Blue Shield in Florida is about $1,200. That comes to $14,400 per year. Only employees in high productivity jobs that can provide both a livable salary and health care can expect to have employer-provided coverage. If a 60-year old female has to buy a non-group policy as an individual, the premium would be even higher. How, for example, is a Wal-Mart shelf stocker or check out clerk going to be able to pay a private insurance premium?

. . . . (Important details)

What the US needs is a single-payer not-for-profit health system that pays doctors and nurses sufficiently that they will undertake the arduous training and accept the stress and risks of dealing with illness and diseases.

A private health care system worked in the days before expensive medical technology, malpractice suits, high costs of bureaucracy associated with third-party payers and heavy investment in combating fraud, and pressure on insurance companies from Wall Street to improve “shareholder returns.”

Despite the rise in premiums, payments to health care providers, such as doctors, appear to be falling along with coverage to policy holders. The system is no longer functional and no longer makes sense. Health care has become an incidental rather than primary purpose of the health care system. Health care plays second fiddle to insurance company profits and salaries to bureaucrats engaged in fraud prevention and discovery. There is no point in denying coverage to one-sixth of the population in the name of saving a nonexistent private free market health care system.

The only way to reduce the cost of health care is to take the profit and paperwork out of health care.

Nothing humans design will be perfect. However, Congress is making it clear to the public that the wrong issues are front and center, such as the belief of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) and others that illegal aliens and abortions will be covered if government pays the bill.

Debate focuses on subsidiary issues, because Congress no longer writes the bills it passes. As Theodore Lowi made clear in his book, "The End of Liberalism," the New Deal transferred law-making from the legislative to the executive branch. Executive branch agencies and departments write bills that they want and hand them off to sponsors in the House and Senate. Powerful interest groups took up the same practice.

The interest groups that finance political campaigns expect their bills to be sponsored and passed.

Thus: a health care reform bill based on forcing people to purchase private health insurance and fining them if they do not.

When bills become mired in ideological conflict, as has happened to the health care bill, something usually passes nevertheless. The president, his PR team, and members of Congress want a health care bill on their resume and to be able to claim that they passed a health care bill, regardless of whether it provides any health care.

The cost of adding public expenditures for health care to a budget drowning in red ink from wars, bank bailouts, and stimulus packages means that the most likely outcome of a health care bill will benefit insurance companies and use mandated private coverage to save public money by curtailing Medicare and Medicaid.

The public’s interest is not considered to be the important determinant. The politicians have to please the insurance companies and reduce health care expenditures in order to save money for another decade or two of war in the Middle East.

The telltale part of Obama’s speech was the applause in response to his pledge that “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits.” Yet, Obama and his fellow politicians have no hesitation to add trillions of dollars to the deficit in order to fund wars.

The profits of military/security companies are partly recycled into campaign contributions. To cut war spending in order to finance a public health care system would cost politicians campaign contributions from both the insurance industry and the military/security industry.

Politicians are not going to allow that to happen.

It was the war in Afghanistan, not health care, that President Obama declared to be a “necessity.”

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. His new book, War of the Worlds: How the Economy Was Lost, will be published next month by AK Press/CounterPunch. He can be reached at:

Globalization Goes Bankrupt
By Chris Hedges

September 21, 2009 "Truthdig" -- (

Every day counts. Every deferral of protest hurts. We should, if we have the time and the ability, make our way to Pittsburgh for the meeting of the G-20 this week rather than do what the power elite is hoping we will do—stay home. Complacency comes at a horrible price.
. . . .
Our global economy, like our political system, has been hijacked by a tiny oligarchy, composed mostly of wealthy white men who serve corporations. They have pledged or raised a staggering $18 trillion, looted largely from state treasuries, to prop up banks and other financial institutions that engaged in suicidal acts of speculation and ruined the world economy. They have formulated trade deals so corporations can speculate across borders with currency, food and natural resources even as, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, 1.02 billion people on the planet struggle with hunger. Globalization has obliterated the ability of many poor countries to protect food staples such as corn, rice, beans and wheat with subsidies or taxes on imported staples. The abolishment of these protections has permitted the giant mechanized farms to wipe out tens of millions of small farmers-2 million in Mexico alone-bankrupting many and driving them off their land. Those who could once feed themselves can no longer find enough food, and the wealthiest governments use institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization like pit bulls to establish economic supremacy. There is little that most governments seem able to do to fight back.

But the game is up. The utopian dreams of globalization have been exposed as a sham. Force is all the elite have left. We are living through one of civilization's great seismic reversals. The ideology of globalization, like all utopias that are sold as inevitable and irreversible, has become a farce. The power elite, perplexed and confused, cling to the disastrous principles of globalization and its outdated language to mask the political and economic vacuum before us. The absurd idea that the marketplace alone should determine economic and political constructs caused the crisis. It led the G-20 to sacrifice other areas of human importance-from working conditions, to taxation, to child labor, to hunger, to health and pollution-on the altar of free trade. It left the world's poor worse off and the United States with the largest deficits in human history. Globalization has become an excuse to ignore the mess. It has left a mediocre elite desperately trying to save a system that cannot be saved and, more important, trying to save itself. "Speculation," then-President Jacques Chirac of France once warned, "is the AIDS of our economies." We have reached the terminal stage.

"Each of Globalization's strengths has somehow turned out to have an opposing meaning," John Ralston Saul wrote in "The Collapse of Globalism." "The lowering of national residency requirements for corporations has morphed into a tool for massive tax evasion. The idea of a global economic system mysteriously made local poverty seem unreal, even normal. The decline of the middle class-the very basis of democracy-seemed to be just one of those things that happen, unfortunate but inevitable. That the working class and the lower middle class, even parts of the middle class, could only survive with more than one job per person seemed to be expected punishment for not keeping up. The contrast between unprecedented bonuses for mere managers at the top and the four-job families below them seemed inevitable in a globalized world. For two decades an elite consensus insisted that unsustainable third-world debts could not be put aside in a sort of bad debt reserve without betraying Globalism's essential principles and moral obligations, which included an unwavering respect for the sanctity of international contracts. It took the same people about two weeks to abandon sanctity and propose bad debt banks for their own far larger debts in 2009."

The institutions that once provided alternative sources of power, including the press, government, agencies of religion, universities and labor unions, have proved morally bankrupt. They no longer provide a space for voices of moral autonomy. No one will save us now but ourselves.

"The best thing that happened to the Establishment is the election of a black president," Holmes said. "It will contain people for a given period of time, but time is running out. Suppose something else happens? Suppose another straw breaks? What happens when there is a credit card crisis or a collapse in commercial real estate? The financial system is very, very fragile. The legs are being kicked out from underneath it."

"Obama is in trouble," Holmes went on. "The economic crisis is a structural crisis. The recovery is only a recovery for Wall Street. It can't be sustained, and Obama will be blamed for it. He is doing everything Wall Street demands. But this will be a dead end. It is a prescription for disaster, not only for Obama but the Democratic Party. It is only groups like ours that provide hope. If labor unions will get off their ass and stop focusing on narrow legislation for their members, if they will go back to being social unions that embrace broad causes, we have a chance of effecting change. If this does not happen it will be a right-wing disaster."

Go to Pittsburgh, Young Man, and Defy Your Empire

Aug 31, 2009
By Chris Hedges
. . . .
The longer we speak in the language of global capitalism, the longer we utter platitudes about the free market—even as we funnel hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars into the accounts of large corporations—the longer we live in a state of collective self-delusion. Our power elite, who profess to hate government and government involvement in the free market, who claim they are the defenders of competition and individualism, have been stealing hundreds of billions of dollars of our money to nationalize mismanaged corporations and save them from bankruptcy. We hear angry and confused citizens, their minds warped by hate talk radio and television, condemn socialized medicine although we have become, at least for corporations, the most socialized nation on Earth. The schizophrenia between what we profess and what we actually embrace has rendered us incapable of confronting reality. The longer we speak in the old language of markets, capitalism, free trade and globalization the longer the entities that created this collapse will cannibalize the nation.

What are we now? What do we believe? What economic model explains the irrationality of looting the U.S. Treasury to permit speculators at Goldman Sachs to make obscene profits? How can Barack Obama’s chief economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, tout a “jobless recovery”? How much longer can we believe the fantasy that global markets will replace nation states and that economics will permit us to create a utopian world where we will all share the same happy goals? When will we denounce the lie that globalization fosters democracy, enlightenment, worldwide prosperity and stability? When we will we realize that unfettered global trade and corporate profit are the bitter enemies of freedom and the common good?

Corporations are pushing through legislation in the United States that will force us to buy defective, for-profit health insurance, a plan that will expand corporate monopolies and profits at our expense and leave tens of millions without adequate care. Corporations are blocking all attempts to move to renewable and sustainable energy to protect the staggering profits of the oil, natural gas and coal industries. Corporations are plunging us deeper and deeper as a nation into debt to feed the permanent war economy and swell the military budget, which consumes half of all discretionary spending. Corporations use lobbyists and campaign contributions to maintain arcane tax codes that offer them tax havens and tax evasions. Corporations are draining the treasury while the working class sheds jobs, sees homes foreclosed and struggles to survive in a new and terrifying global serfdom. This has been the awful price of complacency.

How Tough Is Our President?
Tuesday 18 August 2009
by: Robert Reich

Latest word from the White House is that the President still
supports a public option but is also standing by Health and
Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius's remark last
weekend that a public insurance plan is "not the essential
element" of health-care reform. So where, exactly, is the White
House on the public option? Just about where it is on the
question of whether it agreed with Big Pharma to bar
Medicare from using its bargaining clout to get lower drug
prices -- or didn't. In other words, we don't know.
Obama a very smooth liar
Wednesday, June 17, 2009

IT ISN’T QUITE FAIR to call Barack Obama a liar. During the campaign he carefully avoided committing to much of anything important that he might have to take back later. For now, I won’t quibble with The St. Petersburg Times’s Obamameter, which so far has the president keeping 30 promises and breaking only six.

And yet, broadly speaking, Obama has been lying on a pretty impressive scale. You just have to get past his grandiloquent rhetoric — usually empty of substance — to get a handle on it. I offer a short, incomplete list, which I’m sure others could easily enlarge.

• Obama portrayed himself as the peace candidate, or at least the anti-war candidate. He is not a peace president, nor is he stopping any wars. True, he promised military escalation in Afghanistan (to blunt John McCain’s accusations of wimpishness), but well-meaning folks believed their new hero would genuinely move to end the occupation of Iraq and seriously try to negotiate with the Taliban. Instead, he has not only increased the number of troops and attacks against the Afghan insurgency, he has also expanded on George Bush’s cross-border raids into Pakistan, which have killed many civilians. The way things are going, Pakistan could become the new Cambodia and Obama the new Nixon.

In Iraq, Obama has promised to withdraw all the troops . . . unless, which means that we’re not leaving. Whether it’s 50,000 troops remaining at the “invitation” of the so-called government of Iraq, or just enough to man the 14 permanent military bases, or some combination of U.S. military personnel and private mercenaries that exceeds 50,000 soldiers, our army will almost certainly stay in Iraq past the stated deadline of Jan. 1, 2012.

• Obama said he wanted to reform Washington and “fix” its “broken” system of corrupt lobbying. But Obama is neither a reformer nor a skilled legislative mechanic. Hatched from the Daley Machine in one-party Chicago, Obama wouldn’t be president today if he rocked boats. Witness the appointment of Roland Burris by the corrupt former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill Obama’s Senate seat: not a word of public protest from the new administration because Burris is a made man in the Chicago Democratic organization. So what if “Tombstone Roland” can be heard on the U.S. attorney’s wiretaps of Blagojevich, dancing around the delicate question of how to raise money for Blago without appearing to be buying his seat.

As for pork-barrel politics, Obama named one of its greatest champions, Chicago’s own Rahm Emanuel, as his chief of staff, and the new budget (as well as the “stimulus” package) is loaded with pork. Meanwhile, have you heard anything serious about campaign-finance reform from Obama? Not very likely from someone who refused public financing and still has about $10 million left over from record receipts of $745.7 million. It’s just a detail, I know, but Obama’s naming of former Raytheon lobbyist William Lynn III as deputy secretary of defense seems to be at odds with the president’s alleged crusade against special interests and the “revolving door” between private business and government. He has also “sold” ambassadorships to campaign donors. The biggest plum, London, is slated for Lou Susman, a Chicagoan and former Citigroup executive who bundled $239,000. Paris has been reserved for Charles Rivkin, who raised about $500,000 for Obama.

• Obama, with his Arabic middle name and his big Cairo speech, wants people to think that he is the Muslim world’s new best friend. Well, the photograph of a cheery Obama with Saudi King Abdullah and a smiling Emanuel with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, proves the contrary. The Saudi royal family hates the idea of representative government for ordinary Muslims and is cruelly indifferent to the fate of the Palestinians. A democratic, independent, partly secular Palestine could only make the Saudi oligarchy look bad. Thus, the House of Saud is perfectly happy with the status quo, and so, evidently, is Obama.

Without Saudi pressure, there will be no resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, since Saudi oil is the only lever that would cause America to press Israel into making real concessions. Indeed, the president doesn’t mean for one minute to force Israel into anything more than symbolic withdrawals of its illegal settlements on the West Bank. Meanwhile, the Saudi elite continues to play its double game, paying protection money to extremist Islam and granting pensions to the relatives of suicide bombers. It’s just politics, say Barack and Rahm, grinning ear-to-ear with their sleazy new friends from Riyahd. Just keep the oil pumping around election time and all will be well.

• Obama makes like he’s a friend of organized labor, at least he did during the Ohio primary when he needed to beat Hillary Clinton. At the time, he put out a flier headlined “Only Barack Obama fought NAFTA and other bad trade deals” and charged that “a little more than a year ago, Hillary Clinton thought NAFTA was a ‘boon’ to the economy.” In a debate with Clinton on Feb. 26, 2008, he said, “I will make sure that we renegotiate [NAFTA] in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about” and “use the hammer of a potential opt-out as leverage” to get “labor and environmental standards that are enforced.”

But two months ago, U.S. Trade Rep. Ron Kirk said such a blunt instrument was no longer necessary and that the leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico were now “of the mind that we should be looking for opportunities to strengthen [the North American Free Trade Agreement].” And, of course, there is no discussion at all about renegotiating Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, a “bad trade deal” that has done even greater harm to American workers and unions than has NAFTA.

Meanwhile, as I noted in my April 15 column, “Wall Street sharks circle the UAW,” Obama and his banker friend Steven Rattner are liquidating the United Auto Workers even as they liquidate the American auto industry. Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s pseudo-secretary of labor, said as much. “The only practical purpose I can imagine for the bailout is to slow the decline of GM to create enough time for its workers, suppliers, dealers and communities to adjust to its eventual demise,” he wrote last month in the Financial Times — no surprise, considering that Obama’s chief economic adviser remains Lawrence Summers, a champion of deregulation and “free-market” economics in the Clinton administration and very much the enemy of labor unions.

Yes, of course it’s nice to have a president who speaks in complete sentences. But that they’re coherent doesn’t make them honest.

John R. MacArthur, a monthly contributor, is publisher of Harper’s Magazine.