Bill Maher: New Rules By Manila Ryce (video) (updated with new video)

(Note: the last video was removed by the uploader, so here it is thanks to Manila Ryce, The Largest Minority.)

Dandelion Salad

Real Time with Bill Maher 08/24/07 – Mother Theresa, Iraq, and China

By Manila Ryce

The Largest Minority
Published Saturday, August 25th, 2007, 5:14 pm


With newly published personal writings giving Mother Theresa a more human appearance, Maher takes the opportunity to address the unrelenting chip on his shoulder. Tim Robbins and Michel Martin corrected Maher by explaining that doubt is not the opposite of faith, but rather a necessary element of faith. Doubt and disbelief are two different things.

Afterwards, Maher presents us with some long-awaited New Rules. The final rule is regarding China, which is now ironically more of a right-libertarian paradise than a communist one as its economy drives the nation without the burden of government regulation. Maher connects their lack of government-imposed manufacturing standards to our own lack of self-imposed moral standards.

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California Considers Hemp Pilot Program By Manila Ryce

Dandelion Salad

By Manila Ryce
The Largest Minority
Published Thursday, August 23rd, 2007, 8:26 pm

A newly proposed law in California would establish a five-year pilot program for farmers to grow industrial hemp in four counties. The law would also define “industrial hemp” as separate from marijuana under the state’s health and safety code.Hemp is a sustainable and environmentally friendly crop which contains less than 1 percent of THC. It is used in skin products, as fertilizer, medicine, building material, fabric, paper, fuel, and can be converted into fully biodegradable plastics. The United States is the only industrialized nation where hemp is not an established crop, much to the delight of oil, coal, and chemical industries which benefit from the ban.

Cultivation of hemp is currently illegal under US federal law thanks to the lobbying of the aforementioned groups. The California Narcotic Officers’ Association has testified that the passage of such a bill would only make law enforcement more difficult because farmers might hide illegal marijuana in their legal hemp fields. I could be wrong, but it seems like this association is either admitting that they’re too incompetent to do their jobs correctly, or they’re making the case for the legalization of marijuana so that they’re not forced to make the distinction. Either way, I say let the layoffs begin.

source

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Why Has Congress Failed Americans? by Joel S. Hirschhorn


Dandelion Salad

by Joel S. Hirschhorn
Atlantic Free Press
Friday, 24 August 2007

The Founders of our nation and the Framers of our Constitution surely did not foresee the day when, of the federal government’s three branches, the public would have the least confidence in Congress. In fact, the public has a little less confidence in Congress than it has in HMOs. At 14 percent, the fraction of Americans with a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress is the lowest in Gallup’s history of this measure — and the lowest of any of the 16 institutions tested in this year’s Confidence in Institutions survey. The Supreme Court received 34 percent confidence and the awful presidency of George W. Bush received 25 percent – nothing to be proud of.

The 2006 congressional elections show that switching power between the two major political parties is an act of utter futility. We have a bipartisan failure of Congress to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities and serve the public. In the end, Democrats may have a different style, but like Republicans are also corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent. Things have gotten so bad institutionally and culturally that we cannot vote our way out of a dysfunctional and destructive Congress as long as the two-party duopoly maintains its grip on our political system.

We no longer have a significant number of members of Congress that rise above partisan political priorities to put the good of the nation and the integrity of our Constitution first.

For our constitutional republic to really work Congress must have the courage and integrity to use its constitutional powers to safeguard Americans’ freedom, security, health, safety and welfare. Even the most distracted and cynical Americans now see Congress has done next to nothing to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.

Worst of all, Congress has allowed the Bush presidency to accumulate far more power than our Constitution permits. Even after years of arrogant disrespect by Bush and Cheney for our Constitution and Congress itself, Congress is too cowardly to do what they are supposed to do to maintain the structure of our federal government. It has not used the constitutional remedy of impeachment – not to punish Bush – but to preserve the constitutional limits on the presidency.

Add to this: the failure to protect the rule of law; the failure to control spending and reduce our debt; the failure to control our borders and protect our national sovereignty; the failure to stop the insane Iraq war; the failure to stop the many forms of corruption of Congress itself; the failure to restore public confidence in our elections; the failure to stop the excesses of globalization that is destroying our middle class; the failure to address rising economic inequality; the failure to fix our broken health care system; and so much more.

All this has resulted from repugnant runaway politics. Getting elected, grabbing power and enjoying the benefits of office trump governing. Hundreds of members of Congress – in the House and Senate – are mental midgets, embarrassing blowhards, chronic liars, outright crooks, corporate lackeys, and elderly buffoons. They are plutocracy protectors more than democracy defenders. And too many that think they should be president.

So what can the 86 percent of Americans without confidence in Congress do?

Put aside partisan views and stop re-electing members of Congress. Only a handful of incumbents deserve to be re-elected. A very few that never supported the Iraq war, do not use pork spending to reward their supporters, and have worked to impeach Bush, for example.

Now is the time to elect independents and third party candidates to Congress. When one objectively sees the utterly low quality of both Democratic and Republican members of Congress it becomes clear that even a random selection of ordinary Americans would probably do better. But we have thousands of independents and third party members with considerable civic and elective office experience that deserve the opportunity to restore our representative democracy. How could we do any worse? Let’s throw the bums out and give real change a chance.

We also need much greater public awareness that Congress for a very long time has failed to obey the part of Article V of our Constitution that gives us the right to a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution. Such an Article V Convention was created by the Framers as an alternative to Congress proposing amendments. They created this convention option – a temporary fourth branch of government giving us some direct democracy – in case Americans some day lost confidence in the federal government. That day has arrived!

Even Congressman Ron Paul, self-proclaimed champion of the Constitution, has not supported an Article V Convention.

There are many constitutional amendments that deserve public discussion, especially ones to make our government work they way our Constitution intended it to work. We need to strengthen our Constitution to prevent power-hungry presidents, useless Congresses, and Supreme Courts that create new public policy.

Moreover, the one and only requirement to have an Article V Convention specified has already been satisfied, because way more than two-thirds of state legislatures have requested such a convention. Learn more about this congressional disobedience of the Constitution at www.foavc.org, the website of the new national, nonpartisan group Friends of the Article V Convention.

Why has Congress failed Americans? Because Americans have allowed it to fail them. Now is the time for Americans to assert their sovereign constitutional power and take back their country. That means YOU!

[Joel S. Hirschhorn was a senior staffer for the U.S. Congress for 12 years, is a co-founder of Friends of the Article V Convention, and the author of Delusional Democracy – Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government at www.delusionaldemocracy.com.]

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

Socialism in America Equals Hope for the World By Paul A. Donovan

By Paul A. Donovan

featured writer
Dandelion Salad

8/23/07

“While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free”

–Eugene Debs, American Socialist

“The only thing most American know about socialism is they don’t like it. They have been led to believe that socialism is something to be either ridiculed as impractical, or feared as an instrument of the devil.”

–Leo Huberman

It is in fact difficult to shed light on what a socialist United States will look like, mostly because many think socialism, or other forms of publicly owned, and democratically controlled economies is an impossible goal to achieve in our country, mostly due to the hyper capitalist mentality of our nation, the strength of our ruling classes, and the overwhelmingly successful propaganda apparatus of the corporate system, which comprises the media, educational system, and many other venues, including the religious and political pulpit, and is reflected in the apathy, alarming confusion, and at times, indifference of our nation’s citizens, many of whom simply don’t know, don’t want to know, or don’t care where this country is headed (for a terrific insight into this puzzling and exasperating mindset I strongly recommend Deer Hunting with Jesus, by Joe Bageant, who also happens to be one of Cyrano’s senior contributing editors).

However, the capitalist systems own irrepressible dynamics and “make up”—which easily translate into a bill of indictment—are bringing about yet another wave of global repulsion and re-awakenings. In this framework, when I speak of this dynamic I am referring not so much to the more technical aspects of this phenomenon, but to its mass-perceived aspects, such as the following (in no particular order):

• the intense class stratification of the capitalist system itself, and the sharp and rising polarization in domestic and global wealth;

• the inherent exploitative nature of business with its constant siphoning off of surplus value from labor, and the system’s parasitic necessity to transform all living nature into commodities with near complete disregard of the environmental consequences;

• the unrelenting wars between capitalist nation states spawned by the age-old compulsion to grab new markets, and which issue from the constant need by the core ” industrialized nations” to meddle in nearly all political and economic affairs of the world’s sovereign “periphery nations” (there has never been a war between socialist states as such, other than those instigated by Western meddling, as in Indochina);

• the extensive commoditization of human culture;

• the implantation of usurious trade institutions, such as the WTO, IMF, and World Bank which serve as a supranational unelected government for the corporate elite , often nullifying local and national policies;

• the despair and ” atomization” felt in the souls of people as a result of pinning human against human in an eternal and inescapable predatory battle for basic subsistence, better jobs or to simply outdo or out perform our neighbors, something that inevitably leads to a sense of depression among many resulting from the loss of community and the working together for the common good;

• the outsourcing of jobs by our so called “American companies” at the first sign of a potential cheap labor market, the corporate crime, and political lobbying of invidious special interest groups, the purchasing of our so-called democratic elections; the alienation people have from the goods they create with their own hands, hearts, and minds, and the constant job insecurity in conjunction with often being over worked and underpaid;

• the outrageous health care costs in all of the medical system’s dimensions, from the extortionate cost of drugs, perhaps the biggest rip-off in the history of the American republic, to the corrosion in hospital care induced by the relentless pursuit of profit instead of the duty to serve the population;

• the booms, busts, and constant recessions of the market, along with the crime brought about by joblessness, a social blight that gives way to helplessness, addiction, domestic violence, ghettos and gang violence, and many other totally avoidable factors and expensive social costs whose burden is borne by the people;

• an educational system that trains and conditions young people to value material success above a humanistic education, something that, as Joe Bageant points out, makes untold numbers of people mere members of the economy, but not citizens of society or the nation in any real sense;

• the unrelenting nuclear proliferation to ensure imperial hegemony, a policy as criminal as it is transparently hypocritical, since we also pick and choose who is to become a new member of this “select club.” as our hysterical denunciations of Iran’s ambitions to go nuclear bear witness.

Incidentally, if you, as an American, or citizen of a developed nation, recognizes the truths in the above litany of ills oozing out of capitalism, imagine how these same features affect the rest of the world where their severity is at least a hundred times more vicious.

The constant state of fear, badly repressed disgust, and anxiety we live in as a global community as a result of these factors, have shaped the conditions in which the consciousness of people is changing in a new direction; people are waking up, starting to talk, vehemently criticizing (much too often in a completely misguided way) existing values and certain institutions. While all of that is extremely encouraging, for nothing can be cured or solved unless recognized, there are still formidable stumbling blocks, and perhaps one of the most serious is the fact that America has been sold on the counterfeit notion that there is no solution to capitalism. As Michael Parenti, Patrice Greanville, Robert McChesney and other media critics have observed, the object has been to sell the public the idea that we have reached the “end of history”, the “end of ideological struggles,” and therefore the “end” of class war. As a consequence, all that we can “reasonably” aspire to is “more and better capitalism”—forever. The fact that the Western media, and especially the American corporate media, are solidly behind this utterly fraudulent construct is evidence enough to discern whose interests are being served.

Time to discuss socialism once again

As the saying goes “nothing sensible goes out of fashion”, as it so with the idea of socialism, which is nothing if not a broad rubric for the idea that human beings should live in national and regional communities built upon collaboration and generosity between their members and not one of constant personal warfare.

The idea of Socialism has natural appeal to many groups, essentially just about anyone except those who benefit directly from capitalism—the upper riches of the system, the corporate elite, the plutocracy itself, the so-called small business crowd, and other groups of wealthy professionals—and those millions still mesmerized by its siren song, who often think they are benefiting from capitalism or what the Republican (or Democratic) party is selling them.

Ironically (but logically, given the system’s upside-down hierarchies, which gives the most to those who do the least socially useful work) many of these people are the ones who get the least from the spoils of Capitalism, but who really keep the system afloat: they have little choice but to do as they are told, who shoulder the most egregious indignities in the name of honoring some concept their so called “betters” long ago betrayed, and, most important, traveling the world to shed blood on battlefields, in jungles, cities, and desserts, to fight wars built upon lies all to preserve and further the interests of the world’s minority of greedy elites, who are often only elite because of their enormous bank accounts, which many inherit, but not due to any Darwinian biologically determined superiority, as the people on the top often imply by sheer arrogance. The people of America, who have been manipulated, or forced, as in the case of Vietnam, time and time again, remain to this day, the “boots in the field” that keep capitalism and its organic outgrowth, imperialism, in business. The war in Iraq could not go on without them fighting, and hopefully they won’t have to pound the pavement of Iran anytime soon if we have something to say about.

Further, what about the rest of society, those who do have an instinctual affinity for social change being they are the ones that suffer the indignities of the system most often? These groups I refer to are the working poor, the unemployed and underemployed, idealistic students, many self- employed professionals, a large portion of what we call minorities, a plurality of women, same of intellectuals, and surprisingly many among the elderly and other grossly undervalued or ignored groups.

The idea of social ownership over the goods, services, and institutions we humans create with our own labor is very much alive, and over the course of the 19th, 20th, and now 21st centuries, has been a topic of great controversy, misconceptions, fraudulent propaganda, and at times legitimate criticism. As American socialist leader Eugene Debs once noted in respect to the capitalists’ mode of production “Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most – that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least.”

Debs could not have possibly known about the miners who recently died at the Sago mines and now Crandall Canyon, in Utah, losing their lives for what is a joke in terms of pay when compared to the obscene rewards received by American CEOs and many other financial “wizards”, who are experts at manipulating the markets, but he certainly was speaking for all of them when he recorded those words for posterity. Debs could “see” into the future because he understood well the irrepressible dynamics of capitalism, which is to constantly exploit labor in the interests of the owner, or capital.

Capitalism is an intrinsically exploitative system, which supposedly relies on the impartial buying and selling of commodities as an indicator for what rational decisions are made in human society, even if many of these “rational” decisions are informed by manipulated facts and an unrelenting barrage of propaganda, or what has come to be known to all as advertising, or even more accurately stated by Robert McChesney & John Bellamy Foster, as the “Commercial Tidal Wave”, in their indispensable Monthly Review essay of the same title. Often when we criticize capitalism we tend to focus on high concentrations of wealth in the hands of the few, and say to ourselves, “well that’s not right that so few should posses so much, in fact it’s outright unjust” but rarely is an explanation provided as to how this process of accumulation is carried out in the production and sale of commodities.

To paint a clearer picture of how this process works in countries where class lines are not as blurry, or in other words, nations with very small middle classes, Charles Kernaghan of Columbia University describes capitalist exploitation at the micro level from a trip he and a group of students took to a Nike plant in the Caribbean:

“One day in the Dominican Republic we found a big pile of Nike’s internal pricing documents. Nike assigns a timeframe to each operation. They don’t talk about minutes. They break the timeframe into ten thousandths of a second. You get to the bottom of all 22 operations; they give the workers 6.6 minutes to make the shirt. It’s $0.70 an hour in the Dominican Republic. 6.6 minutes equals $0.08. These are Nike’s documents. That means the wages come to three tenths of one percent of the retail price. This is the reality. It’s the science of exploitation.”

Capitalism is truly the science and practice of massive exploitation—with impunity. In the period of time the worker’s pay is earned, the capitalist then works you for many more hours, and in this case, even days more to make himself more and more profit, which is correctly defined in technical terms by Marxists as “surplus value”. The Dominican example irrefutably demonstrates this point.

Currently, on the Internet, Nike is advertising one of it’s items called the “No Excuses” T-Shirt for $14.99, which is one of their most modestly priced shirts; maybe it’s time that Nike applied this shirt’s slogan to it’s own labor practices, and corporate entitlements? The retail cost of that one Nike t-shirt is roughly equal to 21.4 hours of work for a Dominican wage slave—but s/he got paid for only 6.6 minutes of that product’s market value. The huge difference, as already mentioned, is all profit that is shoveled upstairs.

Given such framework, Nike can really rake in the bucks using wage slave labor, and as a result, in 2006, Nike’s revenues grew 9% to 15 billion dollars. In that same year Nike former CEO “left the company” with 8 million in severance pay, two years salary totaling 1.4 million a year, plus a bonus of 1.76 million the fiscal year 2006. Furthermore Nike was purchasing Perez’s home for 3.6 million dollars.

I suppose, CEO sympathizers may say that the CEO is entitled to more than an assembly line worker—but do you really think this type of polarization of wealth is fair, and if so, why shouldn’t the worker even make a living wage? To me “wage slave”—as the above example illustrates, is the rule and not the exception around much of the world, hence hardly a hyperbolic term.

When I recently mentioned this labor situation in the Dominican Republic to a friend of mine he thought it was somewhat unfortunate, but sort of dismissed it as the natural order of things, and couldn’t figure out why I really cared so much? I was actually made to feel guilty, or to feel that I said something wrong by raising this point. Naturally, I was a bit perturbed by my friend’s indifference and automatic corporate allegiance, and replied in the words of Jack London, “well the blood is dripping from their (the corporations) rooftops,” which my friend viewed as a fanatical statement, even though I said it very coolly and matter of fact.

Due to indoctrination in pro-capitalist ways of looking at almost any reality, it appears the prison of the mind is a cell many people would rather live in. I just hope that cell is padded, and furnished luxuriously, because it may be a long time before someone or something breaks us free.

Speaking of and to fanatics

The true fanaticism in this country is not emblematic of those opposing the unjust status quo, as the media would have us believe, but rather of those who support it, or even just as guilty, remain complacent in light of it. Those who delude themselves into thinking that turning a blind eye, or making an excuse for exploitation, or iniquity of any kind, is a healthy human response to gross human injustice. I am sure we can assume that if the middle class rug were pulled out from my friend (as it slowly is) and their own ageing parents could not retire, hardly surviving on .70 cents an hour, that they just may at such time raise some timid objections, if not scream to high heaven, but the middle class buffer in America is still robust enough, although the cartilage between our bones is wearing away due to constant systemic weights, and as a result of this weathering, we are starting to hear some of the system’s rusting machinery making that metal on metal sound, with Charlie Chaplin still wedged in the gears of these “Modern Times”, which in reality, should have been history by now.

It still seems that many among the general public would rather take it easy and just see what happens, while relying heavily on doses of beta-blockers to suppress the anxiety of the “daily grind”, while letting the wealthy of the planet, who obviously seem to be lacking basic scruples, decide for us, which path of doom is the shortest to take.

Following this script, the collective weight of our plethora of sins may land on the shoulders of maybe our great grandchildren; by then we will be long gone, and they can’t curse at us directly. In response to those who share the attitudes of some of my cynical associates, Eugene Debs may have said,

“Now my friends, I am opposed to the system of society in which we live today, not because I lack the natural equipment to do for myself but because I am not satisfied to make myself comfortable knowing that there are thousands of my fellow men who suffer for the barest necessities of life. We were taught under the old ethic that man’s business on this earth was to look out for himself. That was the ethic of the jungle; the ethic of the wild beast. Take care of yourself, no matter what may become of your fellow man.”

Certainly Debs reaction to injustice and inequality is the healthy human response, and certainly not one of a man who has been so jaded by luxury, popular consumerist culture, meaningless education, or crippled by apathy that he has cashed in his humanity for a false sense of security, and a feeling of Darwinian entitlement. Americans back in Debs’ day certainly did not beat around the bush when they had something to say. Today our political language, thanks chiefly to television, has become tamer, “polite,” and therefore sterile in conveying truth or passion. There is no real need for Nazi storm troopers (at least not yet) because most Americans do a pretty good job of policing themselves, right inside their brains.

As Dr. Christian Parenti notes, we live in the “soft cage” or the prison of the self, so it seems that just maybe those SS troopers live inside of our minds, hearts and central nervous systems more so than they do behind the walls.

The capitalist process of exploitation is actually quite simple, and very rational from the perspective of the owner whose primary goal is to maximize profits above all else for him/herself, or investors. Of course not all owners are bad people, but as the saying goes “sentiments play little part in economics”, and often as a result, very hardworking honest people, who can barely make ends meet are hung out to dry, when profit margins shrink for employers, economic stability falters, and financial consultants and wizards are called in to start working their magic markers, to eliminate potential risks, liabilities (translation: labor cuts) or anything that could hamper a “lean and mean” production, or become insurance liabilities due to the fact we are the only nation with employer based health care—great fun for us!

In capitalist society, at least for the so called “unskilled” workers (which is one of my least favorite terms) the more one ages in the work force, the less valuable a worker is to the owner due to the fact you are less productive, less quick on your feet, usually less malleable to change, often wise to their ways, or present other costs and “rigidities” recommending termination. To some the word termination or “fired” has come to sound too harsh, especially to those who felt the trauma of what being canned really feels like, so the elites have purposefully hand picked a new, and more congenial term for firing you, which is called being “let go” as if now, when one is thrown onto the streets, instead they are being carefully placed onto a bed of feathers. Many of these new euphemistic terms have been slowly introduced into our language, with the intent to downplay their actual impact on the individual, and those who rely on them.

Obviously, wisdom, foresight, and prudence aren’t valued characteristics to an owner that wants to be rich as soon as possible, so those old bags are thrown out on the streets to blow about, almost always perfectly invisible to the media, where hopefully none of their “hot air” will leak out onto our sweet children, who in any case would most likely wait until their video game session was completed before calling 911—assuming you were unlucky enough to have a heart attack in front of our little honor roll angels.

This inhumane fact, coupled with our peculiar “folkways,” could be one of the reasons the elderly are treated like a giant inconvenience in American capitalist society, because they no longer produce enough surplus value, and therefore our dominant institutions treat them as dead weight. Inevitably that very attitude, reinforced by the constant assault of advertising proclaiming that newer is better, seeps out of the factory, office, call center, service establishments, or retail store, all the workplaces, and into the homes, where it seamlessly invades the hearts and minds of the youth, who in this country treat the elderly with great disrespect. In Japanese culture the elderly were once treated with great respect, but movies like Akira Kurosawa’s “Ikiru” demonstrate that even in a more subtle urban capitalist culture, the elderly are also seen as nameless burdens. Can we ever name something “good” that came about in a rush, or should I spare us the Tortoise and the Hare parable?

And it doesn’t stop there. Today, the capitalist system feeds off the disasters it creates. In the United States, the oil, energy, and computer technology industries are the most lucrative, but what’s quickly rising to prominence is the private prison system. The United States is the wealthiest nation in the history of humanity, yet according to the Justice Policy Institute, which advocates a more lenient system of punishment, America has a higher rate of incarceration than any other country, followed by Britain, China, France, Japan and Nigeria.

In 2004, one in every 138 U.S. residents was in prison or jail; the previous year it was one in every 140. Further, 61% of prison and jail inmates were of racial or ethnic minorities. An estimated 12.6% of all black men in their late 20s were in jails or prisons, as were 3.6% of Hispanic men and 1.7% of white men. Could racism, deeply rooted despair, misguided and ultra puritanical laws about drug use, and pervasive poverty, have something to do with these appalling statistics? Does anyone doubt that if almost 13% of all white young men were behind bars there would an explosion in this nation? These are indeed troubling questions that point toward many uncomfortable traits in American culture, but shouldn’t a system that never quite manages to eliminate poverty in the midst of grotesque riches have to answer some hard questions, too?

Running on empty and in circles:

To the dismay of those who treasure Capitalist orthodoxy, it is truly the end of history for them, as a dominant class, when human ingenuity, and response to so called consumer demand, equals profiting off of all the misfortune the system itself creates. This is truly the viral circular process the capitalist system is engulfed in, until it swallows us all into the black hole it creates, and finally has nothing left to sell but gas masks, and coffins.

Some “green energy” capitalists, with some vision like Gore, know that to save capitalism they must adapt to the crises they themselves have created as a class, and hence the new grand delusion. The new ideology of capitalism will surely be that the need for a clean society will facilitate demand, and firms will react accordingly to the good old-fashioned laws of supply and demand and clean up the mess. If anyone just flinched at the plausibility of that thought please pinch yourself now and wake up before you even bother letting those capitalist gears do any more grinding.

Albert Einstein sums up eloquently the nature of exploitation in Capitalist society:

“The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor — not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production — that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods — may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.”

Indeed, Einstein saw this process very clearly, although the elites have worked tirelessly to keep all eyes off of them, in too many ways to mention here. The wheels of production in chaotic hands, and always serving selfish interests framed in extremely myopic historical spurts, will eventually be the demise of us all, including the businessmen who benefit materially in the short term. Is this the best humanity can do? I would hope not.

Enter a Truly New World

“The goal of a good society is to structure social relations and institutions so that cooperative and generous impulses are rewarded, while antisocial ones are discouraged. The problem with capitalism is that it best rewards the worst part of us: ruthless, competitive, conniving, opportunistic, acquisitive drives, giving little reward and often much punishment — or at least much handicap — to honesty, compassion, fair play, many forms of hard work, love of justice, and a concern for those in need.”

–Michael Parenti

Most Americans become terrified when they hear the words “abolishing private property” because they fail to fully grasp what socialists or anarcho-libertarians mean when they say it. Obviously this paranoia has historical roots in the countless lies of anti-communism, especially in our nation where it is most fierce, or abroad where it is less of a dirty word, but it’s not necessary to explore those roots to understand the feeling of losing what one considers to be his or her own hard earned personal security or (in far too many cases) meager comforts. Not everyone needs a boat on top of three gas-guzzling cars per household – not at all something I would consider to be a necessity, although lack of affordable, convenient, and safe public transportation seems to make it one in our nation.

But mostly all of this is a gigantic misunderstanding, but not a “good faith” misunderstanding, but a gigantic, criminal, “bad faith” misunderstanding, one concocted, abetted, and delivered by plutocratic interests and their innumerable agents in the media, the academics, the professions, and of course the bought off and deeply corrupted political class. Now, let’s get something clear before we go on. Socialist nations, such as they existed, or struggle to exist, in the grip of longstanding grave and unremitting economic, military, and diplomatic hostility, have made mistakes, and miscalculations, and have even committed what many would call crimes, and this paper is not about denying that such mistakes were made, or that everything that ever happened under the label of “Socialism” was exempt from criticism. At this stage of moral and political human development, conflict between ideologies, errors are bound to exist, victims are bound to exist. But honesty requires us to look at the record (I can see already how all the foaming-at-the-mouth anticommunists will come crawling from all the habitual corners to sound off in this space about the huge crimes of “socialism” under Stalin, under Fidel Castro, under Mao, etc, etc. There’s no point in arguing with anti-communists, any more than you can argue with Christian fundamentalists, or Islamic fanatics, or any other form of non-rational dogma. Facts and proportion, let alone fairness, rarely penetrate such walls. So, let them say what they have to say, and let history decide the issue at some point.)

We said above that socialist states could indeed be accused of mistakes, of excesses, even of crimes. But the non-socialist nations—far more numerous, far richer, and far older, are guilty of countless more errors, and many, many more crimes, and yet no one (in our society) is clamoring from the highest propaganda pulpits to call them criminal, “unthinkable,” and beyond the pale. Why accept the charges of criminality at face value when it comes to socialism but refuse to hear the far richer indictment of capitalism?

So let’s go back to our clarification. When Socialists talk about abolishing “private property” they are referring to something entirely different than repossessing your home, apartment, clothing, furniture, and toothbrush, or, as so many capitalist propagandists have insinuated to alarm the public, “share your bed and wife.” Quite the contrary, socialists believe, at the core of their philosophy, that all people have a universal right to the factors of subsistence, dignified work, and unrestricted access to the best our collective human labor has to offer—first on the basis of useful labor contributed, and later, when abundance has been attained, on the basis of simple need. Why is that idea so alarming to so many?

Rather, when Socialists talk about abolishing “private property” what they are in fact referring to is “social private property”, which is really a technical term to define industries vital to our survival as a global community, not to mention everyday life. In a Socialist America, citizens would collectively produce goods and services in a rationally planned, democratic, and egalitarian fashion, in which everyone would enjoy equal access, such as we do now at the public library, public schools, social security, Medicare, the post office, the fire department, medical emergency rooms, and many other federal and municipal services, including the famous TVA (The Tennessee Valley Authority ( TVA) is a federally owned corporation in the United States created by congressional charter in May 1933 to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation , fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee Valley, a region particularly hard hit by the Great Depression.—Eds.). All of these are in fact s socialist institutions and programs in our midst. Islands of socialism adrift in a vast ocean of capitalism, which continually threatens them with disappearance, or, as capitalist apologists prefer to put it, “privatization.”

(As Bush’s savage budgetary cuts have so clearly illustrated.) Do you tremble in fear when you approach a fireman? Or the local librarian? Would you like the emergency responders to ask about your insurance policy before rushing over to help you if stricken with a heart attack?

These aforementioned socialist services and institutions are operated for the safety and betterment of all humankind, and therefore are not run for the primary purpose of maximizing individual or shareholder profit, which is incorrectly argued by our treasured schools of thought as “the rational way to respond to human need (demand), and create a society of socially conscious citizens.”

It hasn’t worked so far. Our educational system doesn’t inspire a better world. Instead it sends us into a state of panic, and our parents into a state of mania so we can have attractive transcripts, so we may attend over priced prestigious schools, in the lust for stature logos in the form of high profile university window stickers, and therefore out do our graduating “peers ” and their parents, who we have already learned to distrust or dislike for any reason we can conjure up in our deconstructive minds, and who we have also learned to fear, and constantly compete with us since little league, and soccer practice.

Here’s Albert Einstein again, this time on our treasured capitalist learning/pruning centers:

“This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career. I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow-men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.”

The American Socialist’s visions:

If a socialist revolution were to materialize in the United States, those who own vast portions of useful arid land, utility and energy companies, such as oil and gas, would have their companies nationalized, or confiscated, possibly indemnified depending on the historical context, and put under people’s democratic control. Its goods and services would thereby be distributed according to need and scarcity levels, which could be assessed by tons of newly employed peoples, who would be guaranteed a universal right to work—dignified work—and assured socio-economic existence, thereby making a better life for themselves, their families, their communities, country, and world. The logic is as simple as “you work for me”, and I “work for you”, or the age old maxim of “one hand washes the other, and both wash the face”, which translates into those dreaded words “communalism”, association, or teamwork, another equivalent for brotherhood and sisterhood in every neighborhood, and yes there is no “I” in team America.

As a result of unfettered and satisfying job creation we would probably see crime rates drop like never before, a tactic which would work much better than “zero tolerance” harassment tactics, tantamount to a creeping police state, one which imprisons in the “freest nation on earth” more citizens per capita than any other.

That may not sound like “efficiency” to some, but as I stated earlier, the private prison corporations are making a killing, and it’s an increasingly lucrative market. When was the last time we had acceptable employment and prosperity levels in America? When FDR made it happen, in the depths of the depression…and right after the Second World War, when the global ruination of manufacturing capacity in most former belligerent economic powers made America the sole seller of badly needed goods and services. For capitalism it took a war to do it. How fitting for capitalism to finally provide momentary full employment under the press of enormous human catastrophes precipitated by its own dynamic. Hence, yet again, the circular viral process reemerges, by feeding off it’s own disasters, the system inadvertently helped rescue itself from it’s own inherent contradictions, which eventually give rise to periodic clashes between nation states for new market ”opportunities”. If you don’t consider World War II a big enough disaster, then that choice is your own. Yet, keep in mind that the next world war will be fought with sticks stones, or so the saying goes.

In a rationally planned economy, the booms and busts of the Capitalist market (caused by wasteful, unplanned overproduction and its natural predecessor, under-consumption) would no longer dictate who would be hired or fired. In a Capitalist economy, when markets take downturns, waves of unemployment spread through every vein of society, particularly those most vulnerable to the erratic and unpredictable weather of the “free-market.” Therefore those without labor protections in place are hit the hardest, with no system in place to guarantee them work or safety from these periodic storms. In stark contrast, a robust Socialist constitution, unparalleled in its historical demands for true democracy, equality and liberty, would guarantee every citizen the right to dignified employment, thereby banishing this systemic insecurity intrinsic to Capitalist society.

Moreover, in a Socialist United States, where resources are beyond vast, and despite our numerous “functional illiterates,” more than sufficient people are literate, capable, and hard working, mass numbers of the otherwise unemployed, or sporadically employed, could always find truly productive work. In fact, with the astonishing destruction of the global environment new industries vital to our survival as a species (not to mention respect for the planet because it’s the right thing to do) need to be created, such as green energy jobs, related human services, myriad tasks in environmental conservation, sciences, the “new” medicine, the arts, and other positive fields of work, and, for reasons that should be plain by now to the reader, we would have to be delusional to think corporations are going to do the job. As George W. Bush stated in his greatest quote to date “fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me… [mind blank] you can’t get fooled again!”

As is widely known, in capitalist society many of our so-called needs are fabricated, hence the billions spent on advertising. Under socialism, there would no longer be a need to spend billions on advertising to sell people harmful products, and often useless or appallingly wasteful “things” like GM’s Hummer. The corporations are always mining the lowest common denominators of human sensibilities, including chauvinism, hyper egoism, competitiveness, and the commercial ethic, if we can call it that, as the main glue for the social fabric. Why do corporations appeal to such low level sensibilities? Because only people who posses such characteristics would be childish, and insecure enough, in light of the overwhelming evidence of how bad these vehicles are, to drive a Hummer (I’m not worried about alienating the Hummer crows from our cause, chances are, when push comes to shove, they will be playing for the other team, and already are). One day, hopefully sooner than later, all of this waste and nonsense will be a memory, and one that I would be happy to forget about very quickly, so we may actually enjoy life more than we are now.

Is socialism really something to fear so much then, as we have been taught to believe? Consider this: By abolishing private ownership of the means of production in society, by letting the actual producers, from engineers to shop floor workers, and the surrounding community, and the nation itself, become the new owners, you actually grant legal ownership to every person. There is a saying that when everyone is a bureaucrat then no one is a bureaucrat; well the same applies to socialism: when everyone is an owner then nobody is an owner, BUT, there’s a huge difference. The people now have gained control over their lives.

Meanwhile, as relates to personal property, the object of so much concern and malicious propaganda, individuals would own their homes, apartments, cars, clothing, and other private belongings as many of us do now, and these items would not and could not be shared, except as a free choice by each one of us, according to our own priorities and predilections.

In respect to our current “way of life”, has anyone ever asked himself or herself why they should have to work an entire lifetime to pay off a small house, student loan, artificially bloated health care bills and other miscellaneous debt? Why should our entire short existence on this planet be spent in a state of frequent fear of debt and insecurity, not to mention terribly unfulfilling jobs? How many times a day, week, or month does the thought cross your mind that if you were to somehow become disabled there might be no one to pay the mortgage or help take care of your loved ones?

America today, seems to put all of our faith in the private insurance industry that every last one of us knows is in the business of finding ways to deny our claims, while overcharging us. This is so well documented that that the industry accepts it as a fact and simply cynically concentrates on propping its two traditional pillars of support: an utterly bought off Congress and cynical public relations campaigns gladly disseminated by an equally evil media. Yet many of us go on accepting getting ripped off because we have been made afraid by the very same class of people to whom the alternative—socialism—is simply unthinkable.

For those wishing to learn the real facts about socialism and capitalism, I highly recommend reading Michael Parenti’s Black Shirts and Reds (among other titles he has authored) or listening to his lecture “Reflections on the Overthrow of Communism” (which can be found in the Cyrano’s audio archive). Most Leftists now turn to Noam Chomsky “by default” for theory and communist history. I don’t wish to close this essay by stirring up a brawl among progressives, or those who define themselves as on” the left,” but the sad truth is that Chomsky, his enormous contribution notwithstanding, is un unreliable guide to socialist theory, and writes little of value on the history of communist societies, other than invidious attacks against communists (”thugs who ride to power on the backs of the people”). Perhaps Noam is just yielding to an all too common liberal reflex to “balance” his criticism of capitalism, and bolster his image of impartiality with such inane attacks, but to date, he doesn’t dare lay a bad word on the door step of Cuba, or Fidel, or Che, although, as Michael Parenti has noted, Cuba is very much a Soviet styled economy.

America has the power, resources, and influence to usher in a new world and begin the arduous task of setting it on a new course by its sheer magnitude and plenty. If we pushed for a genuine disarmament and dismantlement of nuclear weapons, we might have a chance to get other nations to follow suit. If socialism should ever come to America—and I’m speaking here of real socialism, not social democracy—the rest of the world might follow its example like a set of dominos, with our nation this time, for once, on the side of the working masses. And, just as today the capitalists in power use American treasure and “shock and awe-ful” militarism to bolster and expand their corrupt sphere of influence, so would we use our national power, first of all through a new diplomacy and example to assist the birth of socialism and thereby accelerate the liberation of untold human beings, and nature itself, from an obsolete regime that serves the interests of neither.

Until that time, the United States plutocracy, these days spearheaded by the Neocon empire builders, will do everything in their power to smother socialism in the crib, which will, yes, inevitably lead to “socialism in one country”, a formation that has been incorrectly named “Stalinism”. Meantime, if a country of minor geo political importance should move toward socialism, I hope the American “left” (admittedly an almost impossible to define category) will refrain from leading the chorus of critics, as it often does. We should be ashamed of our arrogance and finger pointing at failed or flawed left experiments, being that we have achieved so little in the way of building socialism or even a tolerable bourgeois democracy here at home.

The primary problem of constructing true socialism doesn’t lie in Marxism, per se, or Marxist-Leninism, or pedagogy, or even on the state of the material forces of production, which are (to the delight of many Marxists), in today’s highly industrialized and technologically advanced world, as ripe as a soft avocado and therefore viable potential means to eradicate want. The problem lies in the American imperial capitalist nation destroying every revolution that dares to raise its head or assaulting any nation—of whatever political persuasion (Saddam was a rightwing nationalist and former ally)—that has the audacity to defy the great hegemon. These policies of course rest on the pervasive platform of anti-communism discussed earlier, a malicious ideology well watered for more than 100 years by innumerable instances of propaganda and history falsification issuing from thousands of assets in Western media, academia, the religious establishment, and the government.

These then are the expected obstacles rooted in logical upper class self interest. But there’s more to the problems we face and will continue to face. And those are more sordid as they are rooted in the treacherous, misguided or class collaborationist actions of those who should be our comrades in the struggle for a new society, but who much too often have done the bidding of the bourgeoisie and disgraced the ideals of socialism and the requisite unity of our ranks.

We are all familiar by now with the failure of the Social Democrats in most European nations during the run-up to World War I, critically so in Germany under the influence of Kautsky, a political tribe that could not tell the difference between patience and cowardice, and which ended up throwing its lot with the warmongering national chauvinist cliques, thereby serving the interests of the burgo-feudal establishment, and sending almost 40 million human beings to a premature grave.

That betrayal pretty much set the tone for the disgraceful role-played by many self-defined “progressives” ever since. In the wake of the Bolshevik revolution and the hard period until the rise of Nazi Germany, Russia was left out to dry in the frozen tundra. A precious few helped, most liberals sat back and criticized, and when she finally confronted the Hitlerian juggernaut she was forced to fight a brutal war that cost more than 22 million casualties (more than the whole population of California).

At this historical juncture, humanity can’t tolerate another million lives lost in another senseless war for corporate profits; we simply no longer have the stomachs or patience for it– We are today above it as a world. From now on we keep track of every human life, so in the unfortunate (but highly possible) event we lose millions of more lives to senseless capitalist wars, those deaths won’t be in vain or evolve into another textbook statistic for kids to memorize for a silly test, but rather a cataclysmic tragedy of irreconcilable proportions, with impetus enough to ignite a world revolution which would put an end to this capitalist barbarism, once and for all.

If capitalism is truly the end of history, then as a species, we have truly failed. However, I don’t believe for a second that this is the case. Capitalism is not the end of history. Class society can be eradicated. As a result, we can pave the way for our greatest values fostered by moralist teachings, sponsored by our greatest philosophers and religious leaders, and practiced by good-hearted, hard working human beings, who can then finally live in a society free of exploitation, without the stain of class that has caused so many human calamities.

Paul Donovan is Cyrano’s Journal Online’s Assistant Editor.

h/t: Thomas Paine’s Corner

More War on the Horizon By Paul Craig Roberts

Dandelion Salad

By Paul Craig Roberts
08/23/07 “ICHNo pullout from Iraq while I’m president, declares George W. Bush.

On to Iran, declares Vice President Cheney.
Israel is a “peace-seeking state” that needs $30 billion of US taxpayers’ money for war, declares State Department official Nicholas Burns.

The Democratic Congress, if not fully behind the Iraqi war, at least no longer is in the way of it.

Nor are the Democrats in the way of the Bush regime’s build up for initiating war with Iran.

The Bush regime says it is going to designate part of Iran’s military—the Revolutionary Guards—a terrorist organization, whose bases and facilities Bush intends to bomb along with Iran’s nuclear energy sites. Three US aircraft carrier strike forces are deployed off Iran. B-2 Stealth Bombers are being fitted to carry 30,000 pound “bunker-buster” bombs to use against hardened sites. Politicized US generals assert that Iran is providing arms and aid to the Iraqi resistance to the US occupation. The media is feeding the US population the same propaganda about nonexistent Iranian weapons of mass destruction that they fed us about nonexistent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. A former CIA Middle East field officer, Robert Baer, has written in Time magazine that the Bush regime has decided to attack the Revolutionary Guards within the next 6 months. Remember the “cakewalk war”? [Prelude to an Attack on Iran, August 18, 2007]Well, this time the neocons think that an attack on the Revolutionary Guards will free Iran from Islamic influence and cause Iranians to back the US against their own government.

Lies, unprovoked aggression, and delusional expectations—the same ingredients that produced the Iraq catastrophe—all over again. The entire Bush regime and both political parties are complicit, along with the media and US allies.

According to Baer, the Bush regime has given no consideration to whether Iran’s response to a US attack might be different than to welcome it as liberation. What if Iran really were to arm the Iraqi resistance and/or to sink our aircraft carriers? How can any government, even one as incompetent, delusional and unaccountable as the Bush regime, initiate war without any thought to the consequences?

The Bush regime’s planned war against Iran casts light on the large increase in military armaments that the US is supplying to Israel. With Iraq in chaos and civil war, an attack on Iran leaves as opposition to Israel only Syria and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. Israel cannot finish off the Palestinians until Hezbollah is destroyed. An Israeli attack on Syria while the US attacks Iran would leave Hezbollah without supplies in the face of a new Israeli attack.

The agenda unfolding before our eyes may be the neoconservative/ Israeli/Cheney plan to rid the Middle East of any check to Israeli territorial expansion.

Nicholas Burns said that the $30 billion in military aid was not conditional on any Israeli concessions or progress toward resolving the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel’s ghettoizing and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian West Bank proceeds apace.

Meanwhile in America, while more money is poured into more war, condemned bridges collapse killing Americans who trusted their government to provide safe infrastructure. Devastated residents of New Orleans remain unaided. Financial difficulties deepen for more Americans as falling home prices and jobs lost to offshoring push more Americans into desperate straits. The US dollar continues to fall as the government’s war debts build up abroad.

Except for the armaments industry, where is the gain to America in Bush’s wars? Before Bush invaded Afghanistan, the Taliban had stamped out drug production. The US invasion has brought it back.

On August 22 Bush told the Veterans of Foreign Wars that US troops are the “greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known.” Tell that to the 650,000 dead Iraqis and the 4 million displaced Iraqis, and the tens of thousands of slaughtered Afghans, and the coming civilian deaths in Iran. Tell that to all the bombed civilians from Serbia to Africa who are blown to pieces in order that a US president can make a point. Bush goes far beyond George Orwell’s “Newspeak” in his novel, 1984, when Bush equates US hegemony with liberation.

America’s hegemonic hubris is a sickness. A country that tolerates a war criminal while he openly plans to attack yet another country is definitely not a light unto the world.


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Market Efficiency Hokum by Stephen Lendman

Dandelion Salad

by Stephen Lendman
Global Research, August 24, 2007
Aug. 24, 2007

You know the story triumphantly heard in the West. Markets work best when governments let them operate freely – unconstrained by rules, regulations and taxes about which noted economist Milton Friedman once said in an interview he was “in favor of cutting….under any circumstances and for any excuse, for any reason, whenever it’s possible (because) the big problem is not taxes (but government) spending.

Friedman is no longer with us, but by his reasoning, the solution to curbing it is “to hold down the amount of income (government) has (and presto) the way to do it is to cut taxes.” He seemed to forget about borrowing and the Federal Reserve’s ability to print limitless amounts of ready cash the way it’s been doing for years and during the current credit squeeze. Friedman further added in the same interchange “If the White House were under (GW) Bush, and House and Senate….under the Democrats, I do not believe there would be much spending.”

Clearly, either the Nobel laureate wasn’t paying attention or age was taking its toll late in his life. Since 2001, Democrats embraced tax cutting and overspending policies as enthusiastically as Republicans with both parties directing the benefits hugely to the right pockets. They’re on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms where recipients know “free markets” work great with a little creative resource directing from Washington.

Financial Market Efficiency

In investment finance, Eugene Fama is generally regarded as the father of efficient market theory, also known as the “efficient market hypothesis (EMH).” He wrote his 1964 doctoral dissertation on it titled “The Behavior of Stock Market Prices” in which he concluded stock (and by implication other financial market) price movements are unpredictable and follow a “random walk” reflecting all available information known at the time. Thus, no one, in theory, has an advantage over another as everyone has equal access to everything publicly known (aside from “insiders” with a huge advantage). That includes rumored and actual financial, economic, political, social and all other information, all of which is reflected in asset prices at any given time.

Those buying this theory believe Milton Friedman knew best. He became the modern-day godfather of “free market” capitalism and leading exponent that markets work efficiently and best when unfettered by government intervention that generally gets things wrong. In 1958, Friedman explained it in his famous “I, Pencil” essay. In it, he illustrated the notion of Adam Smith’s invisible hand and conservative economist Friedrich Hayek’s teachings on the importance of “dispersed knowledge” and how the price system communicates information to “make (people) do desirable things without anyone having to tell them what to do.”

Friedman’s “pencil” story explained “a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on.” Added to these ingredients from nature is “an even more extraordinary miracle: the configuration of creative human energies – millions of tiny know-hows configuring naturally and spontaneously (responding to) human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding.” None of them working independently was trying to make a pencil. No one directed them from a central office. They didn’t know each other, lived in many countries, spoke different languages, practiced different religions, and may have even hated each other. Yet, their unrelated contributions produced a pencil.

By Friedman’s reasoning, this could never happen through central planning. It sounds good in theory, but how does it jibe with reality. The Soviets split the atom, were first in space ahead of the US with Sputnik 1, and developed many advanced technologies even though they were outclassed and outspent by the West overall with greater resources to do it.

In practical reality, governments, like individuals operating freely in the marketplace, can succeed or fail. It comes down to people skills and how well they do their jobs. Top down or bottom up has little final effect on the end result, but does direct what’s undertaken and what isn’t. Top down in Canada, Western Europe and Venezuela delivers excellent state-funded health care to everyone. Bottom up in America offers it to anyone who can pay, but if not, you’re out of luck if your employer won’t provide it. Forty-seven million and counting had their luck run out, and Friedman’s pencil making miracle won’t treat them when they’ll ill.

Put another way, if “free market” capitalism works best and America is its lead exponent, why then:

— is poverty high and rising in the world’s richest country;

— incomes stagnating;

— higher education becoming unaffordable for the majority;

— public education crumbling;

— jobs at all levels disappearing to low-wage countries;

— the nation’s vital infrastructure in a deplorable state;

— 3.5 million or more homeless and heading higher in the wake of subprime defaults;

— the standard of living of most in the country declining; and,

— the nation, in fact, bankrupt according to a 2006 study for the St. Louis Fed.

Clearly, something is wrong with the “pencil miracle” working for some but not for most. Friedman no longer can respond and his acolytes won’t.

The Myth that Markets Get It Right and Operate Efficiently

Economist Hyman Minsky was mostly ignored while he lived, but his star may be rising 11 years after his death in 1996. Some described him as a radical Keynesian based on the theories of economist John Maynard Keynes who taught economies operate best when mixed. He believed state and private sectors both play important roles with government stepping in to stimulate or constrain economic activity whenever private sector forces aren’t able to do it best alone.

It’s the opposite of “supply-side” Reaganomics and its illusory “trickle down” notion that economic growth works best through stimulative tax cuts its proponents claim promote investment that benefits everyone. It was Reagan-baloney then and now, and so is the notion markets are efficient and work best when left alone.

Minsky explained it, and people are now taking note in the wake of current market turbulence. His work showed financial market exuberance often becomes excessive, especially if no regulatory constraints are in place to curb it. He developed his theories in two books – “John Maynard Keynes” and “Stabilizing an Unstable Economy” as well as in numerous articles and essays.

In them, he constructed a “financial instability hypothesis” building on the work of Keynes’ “General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.” He provided a framework for distinguishing between stabilizing and destabilizing free market debt structures he summarized as follows:

“Three distinct income-debt relations for economic units….labeled as hedge, speculative and Ponzi finance, can be identified.”

— “Hedge financing units are those which can fulfill all of their contractual payment obligations by their cash flows: the greater the weight of equity financing in the liability structure, the greater the likelihood that the unit is a hedge financing unit.”

— “Speculative finance units are units that can meet their payment commitments on ‘income account’ on their liabilities, even as they cannot repay the principle out of income cash flows. Such units need to ‘roll over’ their liabilities – issue new debt to meet commitments on maturing debt.”

— “For Ponzi units, the cash flows from operations are (insufficient)….either (to repay)….principle or interest on outstanding debts by their cash flows from operations. Such units can sell assets or borrow. Borrowing to pay interest….lowers the equity of a unit, even as it increases liabilities and the prior commitment of future incomes.”

“….if hedge financing dominates….the economy may….be (in) equilibrium. In contrast, the greater the weight of speculative (and/or) Ponzi finance, the greater the likelihood that the economy is a deviation-amplifying system….(based on) the financial instability hypothesis (and) over periods of prolonged prosperity, the economy transits from financial relations (creating stability) to financial relations (creating) an unstable system.”

“….over a protracted period of good times, capitalist economies (trend toward) a large weight (of) units engaged in speculative and Ponzi finance. (If this happens when) an economy is (experiencing inflation and the Federal Reserve tries) to exorcise (it) by monetary constraint….speculative units will become Ponzi (ones) and the net worth of previous Ponzi units will quickly evaporate. Consequently, units with cash flow shortfalls will be forced to (sell out). This is likely to lead to a collapse of asset values.”

Minsky developed a seven stage framework showing how this works:

Stage One – Displacement

Disturbances of various kinds change investor perceptions and disrupt markets. It may be a tightened economic policy from higher interest rates or investors and lenders retrenching in reaction to:

— a housing bubble, credit squeeze, and growing subprime mortgage delinquencies and defaults with spreading contagion affecting:

— other mortgages, and the toxic waste derivative alchemy of:

— collateralized debt obligation (CDO) instruments (packages of mostly risky junk and other debt),

–commercial and residential mortgage-backed securities (CMBS and RBMS – asset backed by mortgage principle and interest payments), and even

— commercial and AAA paper; plus

— home equity loans harder to service after mortgage reset increases.

Stage Two – Prices start to rise

Following displacement, markets bottom and prices begin rising as fundamentals improve. Investors start noticing as it becomes evident and gains momentum.

Stage Three – Easy credit

Recovery needs help and plentiful easy credit provides it. As conditions improve, it fuels speculation enticing more investors to jump in for financial opportunities or to borrow for a new home or other consumer spending. The easier and more plentiful credit gets, the more willing lenders are to give it including to borrowers with questionable credit ratings. Yale Economist Robert Shiller shares the view that “booms….generate laxity in standards for loans because there a general sense of optimism (like) what we saw in the late 80s” preceding the 1987 crash that doesn’t necessarily signal an imminent one now.

New type financial instruments and arrangements also arise as lenders find creative and risky ways to make more money. In recent years, sharply rising housing prices enticed more buyers, and lenders got sloppy and greedy by providing interest-only mortgages to marginal buyers unable to make a down payment.

Stage Four – Overtrading

The cheaper and easier credit is, the greater the incentive to overtrade to cash in. Trading volume rises and shortages emerge. Prices begin accelerating and easy profits are made creating more greed and foolish behavior.

Stage Five – Euphoria

This is the most dangerous phase. Cooler heads are worried but fraudsters prevail claiming this time is different, and markets have a long way to go before topping out. Greed trumps good sense and investors foolishly think they’re safe and can get out in time. Stories of easy riches abound, so why miss out. Into the fire they go, often after the easy money was made, and the outcome is predictable. The fraudsters sell at the top to small investors mistakenly buying at the wrong time and getting burned.

Stage Six – Insider profit taking

The pros have seen it before, understand things have gone too far, and quietly sell to the greater fools buying all they can. It’s the beginning of the end.

Stage Seven – Revulsion

When cheap credit ends, enough insiders sell, or an unexpected piece of bad news roils markets, it becomes infectious. It can happen quickly turning euphoria into revulsion panicking investors to sell. They begin outnumbering buyers and prices tumble. Downward momentum is far greater and faster than when heading up.

Sound familiar? It’s a “Minsky Moment,” and the irony is most investors know easy credit, overtrading and euphoria create bubbles that always burst. The internet and tech one did in March, 2000, and since mid-July, reality caught up with excess speculation in equity prices, the housing bubble, growing mortgage delinquencies and subprime defaults. Goldilocks awoke and sought shelter as lenders remembered how to say “no.” This time, central banks rode to the rescue (they hope) with huge cash infusions, the Fed cut its discount rate a half point August 17, and it signaled lower “fed funds” rates ahead if markets remain tight.

Intervention may reignite “animal spirits” and work short-term but won’t easily band-aid over what noted investor Jeremy Grantham calls “the broadest overpricing of financial assets – equities, real estate, and fixed income – ever recorded” with the financial system dangerously “overstretched (and) overleveraged.” His view is that current conditions have “almost never been this dire,” and we’re “watching a (too late to stop) very slow motion train wreck.” Minsky would have noticed, too.

Grantham’s exhaustive research shows all markets revert to their mean values, and all bubbles burst as the greatest Fed-engineered equity one ever in US history did in 2000 but didn’t complete its corrective work. In Grantham’s view, lots more pain is coming and before it’s over, it will be mean, nasty and long, affecting everyone. Minsky saw it earlier, studied it, and wrote about it exhaustively when no one noticed. If he were living today, he’d say “I told you so.”

Federal Reserve Engineered Housing Bubble and Resultant Financial Market Turmoil

Astute observers continue to speculate and comment that the housing bubble and resultant current financial market turmoil came from deliberate widespread malfeasance aided by considerable cash infusion help from the Federal Reserve in the lead on the scheme.

Economist Paul Krugman is one of the latest with his views expressed in an August 16 New York Times op ed piece titled “Workouts, Not Bailouts.” He began by debunking Wall Streeter Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s ludicrous April claim that the housing market was “at or near the bottom” followed by his equally absurd August view that subprime mortgages were “largely contained.” Krugman’s response: “the time for denial is past….housing starts and applications for building permits have fallen to their lowest levels in a decade, showing that home construction is still in free fall….home prices are still way too high (at 70% above their long-term trend values according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and) the housing slump (will be around) for years, not months” with all those empty unbought homes needing hard to find buyers to fill them.

In addition, mortgage problems are “anything but contained” and aren’t confined to the subprime category. Krugman believes current real estate troubles and mortgage fallout bear similarity to the late 1990s stock bubble. Like today, they were accompanied by market manipulation and scandalous fraud at companies like Enron and WorldCom. In his view, “it is becoming increasingly clear that the real-estate bubble of recent years (like the 1990s stock bubble)….caused and was fed by widespread malfeasance.” He left out the Fed but named co-conspiratorial players like Moody’s Investors Service and other rating agencies getting paid lots of money to claim “dubious mortgage-backed securities to be highest-quality, AAA assets.” In this role, they’re no different than were “complaisant accountants” like Arthur Andersen that lost its license to practice from its role in the Enron fallout.

In the end, this scandal may be more far-reaching than earlier ones because so many underwriters and other firms are part of the fraud or are seeking to profit from it. At this point, it’s hard separating villains from victims as, in some cases, they may be one in the same. They’re all involved in dispersing up to trillions of dollars of risks through the derivative alchemy of highly complex, hard to value, packages of mostly subprime CDO and various other type debt instruments that may even end up in so-called safe money market funds unbeknownst to their unsuspecting owners.

Before this scandal ends, they’ll be plenty of pain to go around, but as always, small investors and low income subprime and other mortgage homeowners will be hurt most. Krugman says this is “a clear case for government intervention,” but it won’t be the kind he wants. He cites a “serious market failure (needing fixing to) help (as many as) hundreds of thousands” of Americans who otherwise may lose their homes and/or financial nest eggs. Faced with this problem, “The federal government shouldn’t be providing bailouts, (it should) arrange workouts….we’ve done (it) before (and it worked) – for third-world countries, not for US citizens.” It helped both debtors escape default and creditors get back most of their money.

By providing huge cash infusions to ease credit and reignite “animal spirits,” the Fed and other central banks showed they aren’t listening. It proves what Ralph Nader said in his August 19 Countercurrents article called “Corporate Capitalists: Government Comes To The Rescue” that’s also on CounterPunch titled “Greed and Folly on Wall Street.” With “corporate capitalists’ knees” a bit shaky, Nader recalled what his father once explained years ago when he asked and then told his children: “Why will capitalism always survive? Because socialism will always be used to save it.” Put another way, the American business ethic has always been socialism for the rich, and, sink or swim, free market capitalism for the rest of us.

As the housing slump deepens and many tens of thousands of subprime and other mortgage holders default, vulture investors will profit hugely buying troubled assets at a fraction of their value as they always do in troubled economic times. Writer Danny Schechter calls the current subprime credit squeeze debacle a “sub-crime ponzi scheme (in a) highly rigged casino-like market system” targeting unsuspecting victims. Schechter wants a “jailout” for “criminal….financial institutions (posing) as respectable players.” Krugman, on the other hand, wants a “workout” for the victims. Neither will get what he wants. In the end, as ordinary people lose out, big government will again rescue “corporate capitalism” (at least in the short-term) the way it always does when it gets in trouble. It’s the “American way.” It’ll be no different this time.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached in Chicago at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Steve Lendman News and Information Hour on www.TheMicroEffect.com Saturdays at noon US central time.

Stephen Lendman is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Stephen Lendman

 


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U.S. Use of Radiological Weapons – Calls for an International Tribunal By Mark H. Gaffney

Dandelion Salad

By Mark H. Gaffney
08/23/07 “
ICH

In 1991 the US military introduced a new weapon that the people of the world–––with hindsight–––will probably come to view as symbolic of America’s failed leadership after the Cold War. The introduced weapon was a new kind of munition: shells and bullets made from depleted uranium (DU). It turned out to be extremely effective in the first Gulf War against the forces of Saddam Hussein. Unfortunately, the DU weapons also proved nearly as dangerous to our own troops and to Iraqi civilians. The military alliance cobbled together by George Bush Sr. won a decisive victory in that war. But since its conclusion at least 13,000 American veterans have died from DU-related causes, far more than the 148 who died in combat; and of the nearly 700,000 who served in the war at least 250,000 are now (in 2007) permanently disabled; a percentage far higher than in any previous war.[1] Despite this, Pentagon generals continue to insist that DU munitions pose no danger, and  remain committed to their use. Even as I write, the Department of Defense (DoD) moves ahead with research that could lead to the deployment of DU weapons in space.[2]

Yet, a UN Sub-Committee has declared DU weapons illegal, and last November the European Union (EU) issued its fourth call for a DU moratorium. More and more frequently, one hears the charge that America’s use of these weapons in Iraq, Kuwait, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia was a war crime. In 2004, for example, a citizen’s tribunal in Japan convicted George W. Bush in absentia for crimes against humanity.[3] Is America headed for a showdown with the world over depleted uranium?  

Although hyperbole has muddied the issue, the bare facts are shocking and need no amplification. Depleted Uranium (DU) is primarily U-238, the isotope of uranium that remains after the fissionable isotope, U-235, has been extracted from natural uranium ore. When enriched to 3% the preferred isotope, U-235, is used to fuel nuclear reactors. When further enriched to 90% or more it becomes “weapons grade” and is suitable for use in nuclear weapons. Enrichment thus “depletes” the natural uranium of its isotopic fraction of U-235. Depleted uranium (99.8% pure U-238) is the by-product of this separation process and was long viewed as a waste. Over the years hundreds of thousands of tons of the stuff accumulated on US military reservations. In fact, because of its low-level radioactivity and 4.5 billion-year half-life, DU presents a long-term storage headache.

In the 1970s the US military got serious about utilizing this waste after the Soviets introduced a superior kind of armor. Quite suddenly, the Pentagon found itself in need of a new penetrating weapon. DU offered attractive possibilities because it is extremely dense–––uranium is 1.7 times as heavy as lead. For this reason, tank shells made of U-238 have formidable kinetic energy: they will slice through the heaviest steel armor like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Quite simply, nothing can withstand them.  Although uranium is very soft, when alloyed with titanium it becomes tough enough to retain its shape when fired out of a tank barrel. Today, several companies make DU shells for the US military. These include Starmet Corporation, based in Concord, Massachusetts, and Aerojet, with plants in California and Tennessee. In the 1990s Alliant Techsystems (formerly Honeywell), based in Minneapolis, also produced millions of DU rounds for the US Air Force. In 2006 Alliant also received new orders worth $77 million to produce 120mm tank shells.[4]

In addition to being an extremely effective penetrator, U-238 is pyrophoric, meaning that it ignites at high velocity. When a ten-pound uranium shell slices through a target vehicle it sheds a part of its mass, causing a firestorm of burning and non-burning uranium fragments. These, in turn, cause catastrophic secondary fires and explosions. In war footage of Desert Storm the flaming DU shells can be seen arcing like tracers across the night sky. The slender rounds are solid DU–––no explosive charge is needed. Each has a plastic outer casing known as a sabot, which centers the round in the bore and which falls away after the shell exits the gun tube. The war footage is graphic. It shows that targeted Iraqi vehicles stood no chance. Pity the poor Iraqi soldiers who came under DU attack. Very few lived to tell about it. Within seconds, most were charred beyond recognition in an incendiary fireball. US military jargon even coined a new term, “crispy critters,” to describe the grisly Iraqi corpses of war.

When DU burns it oxidizes, reaching extreme temperatures (i.e., 3,000-5,000 C). On impact, between 40-70% of the depleted uranium is transformed into an aerosol of extremely fine U-238 particles which contaminate the battlefield long after the war. Geiger counter measurements confirm that even years later, burned-out Iraqi tanks were still hot: 1,000-2,000 times as radioactive as background, with the surrounding desert contaminated to a lesser degree.[5] Continuous exposure to this level of irradiation would be like having a chest X-ray every few minutes.[6] U-238 produces high energy gamma and beta radiation (which are electrons). But most of the emission is in the form of alpha particles, which are charged helium nuclei (i.e., He++). The alpha particles cannot penetrate human skin and for this reason the Pentagon claims that DU is harmless. The claim is false, however. As we will see, the dangers have been understated. Artillery and tank crews who handled DU shells were exposed to continuous alpha, beta and gamma radiation over weeks and months. But they probably had less exposure than soldiers who inhaled DU-laden smoke and dust, whether in combat or during clean-up operations after the war. Most US troops were unaware–––no one bothered to inform them–––that the use of DU rounds had spread low-level radioactive waste across the battlefield. After the fighting, tens of thousands of American soldiers frolicked among the burned-out Iraqi tanks, gathering souvenirs and posing for photographs like curious tourists. Others scavenged spare parts from US vehicles contaminated by “friendly fire,” oblivious that they were endangering themselves with every breath.

Continued…

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see:

Depleted Uranium (older posts)

Depleted Uranium (newer posts)

9/11 Blame Game: CIA Falls on Its Sword Again by Kurt Nimmo

Dandelion Salad

by Kurt Nimmo
Global Research, August 23, 2007

If 3,000 people had not died on September 11, 2001, a report released by the CIA’s inspector general would be laughable. “A CIA report released Tuesday blames the top leadership of the agency for major lapses in fighting al-Qaida and outlines how intelligence officials missed numerous opportunities to thwart two hijackers prior to the Sept. 11 attacks,” reports NBC. “The 19-page executive summary, written by the CIA’s inspector general, finds extensive fault with the actions of former director George Tenet and other CIA leaders.”And what, pray tell, are these “major lapses” in “fighting al-Qaida,” the mostly smoke and mirrors terrorist organization named after a mujahideen database?

“Tenet and the agencies under his supervision lacked a comprehensive strategic plan to counter al-Qaida prior to Sept. 11.” In fact, as Dan Rather reported, Osama was admitted to a Pakistani hospital on September 10, 2001. “If the CBS report by Dan Rather is accurate and Osama had indeed been admitted to the Pakistani military hospital on September 10, 2001, courtesy of America’s ally, he was in all likelihood still in hospital in Rawalpindi on the 11th of September, when the attacks occurred,” writes Michel Chossudovsky, citing mainstream news reports. “In all probability, his whereabouts were known to US officials on the morning of September 12, when Secretary of State Colin Powell initiated negotiations with Pakistan, with a view to arresting and extraditing bin Laden.” In the months leading up to Osama’s hospital visit, the CIA head of station at the American Hospital in Dubai, UAE, paid Osama a visit. Le Figaro reported:

Dubai… was the backdrop of a secret meeting between Osama bin Laden and the local CIA agent in July [2001]. A partner of the administration of the American Hospital in Dubai claims that “public enemy number one” stayed at this hospital between the 4th and 14th of July. While he was hospitalized, bin Laden received visits from many members of his family as well as prominent Saudis and Emiratis. During the hospital stay, the local CIA agent, known to many in Dubai, was seen taking the main elevator of the hospital to go [up] to bin Laden’s hospital room. A few days later, the CIA man bragged to a few friends about having visited bin Laden. Authorized sources say that on July 15th, the day after bin Laden returned to Quetta [Pakistan], the CIA agent was called back to headquarters. In the pursuit of its investigations, the FBI discovered “financing agreements” that the CIA had been developing with its “Arab friends” for years. The Dubai meeting is, so it would seem, within the logic of “a certain American policy.’”

Of course, we are not supposed to know about this “certain American policy,” although it is common knowledge, at least to readers of Le Figaro and the London Times.

The CIA would have us believe Tenet and “other CIA leaders” were clueless—and maybe they were. However, as Chossudovsky noted in November, 2003, the hospital mentioned above “is directly under the jurisdiction of the Pakistani Armed Forces, which has close links to the Pentagon. U.S. military advisers based in Rawalpindi. work closely with the Pakistani Armed Forces. Again, no attempt was made to arrest America’s best known fugitive, but then maybe bin Laden was serving another ‘better purpose’. Rumsfeld claimed at the time that he had no knowledge regarding Osama’s health…. Needless to say, the CBS report is a crucial piece of information in the 9/11 jigsaw. It refutes the administration’s claim that the whereabouts of bin Laden are unknown. It points to a Pakistan connection, it suggests a cover-up at the highest levels of the Bush administration.”

But, for the neocons, ever aware of the feeblemindedness of the average American (except when it comes to football scores), such refutations are less than meaningless, as such a “report” can be splashed across corporate media headlines and few challenge the bankrupt and wholly transparent premise that the CIA was out to lunch on September 11, 2001. In fact, the CIA was squarely in the driver’s seat.

Moreover, if the CIA was indeed interested in hunting down and smoking out Osama and his dour cave-dwelling patsy terrorists, they may have asked General Mahmoud Ahmad, head of Pakistan’s military intelligence, the ISI—responsible, at the behest of the CIA, for creating “al-Qaeda” in the first place—as he was in Washington at the time of the attacks, brunching it up with then Republican Congress critter Porter Goss and Democratic critter Bob Graham. It is said they were discussing Osama. In fact, as the Guardian reported at the time, Ahmad had a bagman, one Omar Sheikh, deliver $100,000 to Mohammed Atta, or somebody who claimed to be Atta.

Small world, no?

Sure it is—and I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in purchasing.

Kurt Nimmo is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Kurt Nimmo


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see:
Newly Declassified Report Blames CIA Director Tenet (video)

Psychologists in Denial About Torture By Amy Goodman

Dandelion Salad

By Amy Goodman
08/23/07 “ICH

Last weekend, the American Psychological Association rejected a moratorium that would have prevented its member psychologists from participating in interrogations at U.S. detention centers at places like Guantanamo Bay and secret CIA “black sites” around the world. Instead, the 148,000-member organization passed a resolution at its annual meeting in San Francisco banning psychologists from participating in interrogations that employ certain harsh techniques. Many psychologists within the APA feel the resolution did not go far enough.

The issue of torture and interrogations has become a sore spot for the APA, the world’s largest group of psychologists. The American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association both outright prohibit their members from participating in interrogations at locations where basic human rights are not guaranteed, like Guantanamo. These groups have been joined by others, like the American Translators Association and the Society for Ethnomusicology (since translation is essential in interrogations, and sustained, blaring music has been used as a form of torture).

Central to the debate is the question “Are psychologists participating in torture?” While the Bush administration repeatedly denies that it uses torture, a leaked report of the International Committee of the Red Cross says certain U.S. methods used are “tantamount to torture.”

At a fiery APA town-hall meeting after the vote, Dr. Steven Reisner, one of the leading proponents of a moratorium, asked, “I want to know if passing this resolution prohibits psychologists from being involved in the enhanced interrogation techniques that the president of the United States authorized can take place at CIA black sites.”

Defenders of the APA’s position are clear: Psychologists need to be present at these interrogations to protect the prisoners, to ensure that the interrogators do not go over the line. Critics argue that psychologists are there to help interrogators push the line further and further, to consult with the interrogators on how best to break the prisoners.

Dr. Jeffrey Kaye, a psychologist with Survivors International, a torture survivors group, says there is a loophole: Psychologists cannot participate in harsh interrogations, but they can participate in harsh detention conditions. He said: “You see, they don’t use sleep deprivation while they’re interrogating you, they use it before they interrogate you, as part of the conditions of detention, to soften you up for the interrogation. So the winner today, and I’m sure their lawyers are very happy, is the CIA.”

As the convention began, Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union issued a letter to the APA, urging a moratorium, warning that psychologists faced legal liability or even prosecution. “We have found troubling evidence of the collusion of medical psychologists in the development and implementation of procedures intended to inflict psychological harm on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and other facilities.”

In a surreal moment at the opening APA session on ethics and interrogations, a Pentagon interrogator, “Dr. Katherine Sherwood” (she appeared to be using a pseudonym), wanted the audience to know that the interrogations were conducted professionally. She said she was denied access to prisoner medical records: “I like to bake at home for the detainees and bring home-baked goods to our sessions. I needed to know whether or not a detainee had a peanut allergy, and that could be very serious. There was a process in place where … the liaison could ask the medical personnel, and they could choose whether or not to give a response.”

Her baking gives new meaning to the term BSCT psychologists (pronounced biscuit), which stands for Behavioral Science Consultation Team. They were the psychologists who helped develop the harsh interrogation techniques, and who the International Committee of the Red Cross report said conveyed information about detainee “mental health and vulnerabilities,” to help break them down psychologically.

Romero’s ACLU letter ended by saying: “The history of torture is inexorably linked to the misuse of scientific and medical knowledge. As we move fully into the 21st century, it is no longer enough to denounce or to speak out against torture; rather, we must sever the connection between healers and tormentors once and for all. As guardians of the mind, psychologists are duty bound to promote the humane treatment of all people.”

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 500 stations in North America.

© 2007 Amy Goodman

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How Killing Becomes a Reflex – War Psychiatry and Iraq Atrocities By Penny Coleman

Dandelion Salad

By Penny Coleman
ICH
08/23/07 “
AlterNet

In 1971, Lt. William Calley was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the massacre of some 500 civilians in the Vietnamese hamlet of My Lai. In response to Calley’s conviction, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) convened the “Winter Soldier Investigation.” Over a three-day period, more than a hundred veterans testified to atrocities they had witnessed committed by U.S. troops against Vietnamese civilians. Their expressed intention was to demonstrate that My Lai was not unique, that it was instead the inevitable result of U.S. policy. It was a travesty of justice, they claimed, to focus blame on the soldiers when it was the policy makers, McNamara, Bundy, Rostow, Johnson, LeMay, Nixon and the others who were truly responsible for the war crimes that had been committed.

In 2004, the release of the Abu Grahib photographs broke the unforgivable silence in the mainstream press about atrocities committed by American soldiers in Iraq. Haditha followed, then Mahmoudiyah, Ishaqi, and at this writing, countless other instances of savage, homicidal violence directed at civilians have been reported. The July 30 issue of the Nation included an article, “The Other War,” by Chris Hedges and Laila Al-Arian, which used interviews with 50 combat veterans to make the case that American soldiers are using indiscriminate and often lethal force in their dealings with Iraqi civilians. These veterans, the authors report, have “returned home deeply disturbed by the disparity between the reality of the war and the way it is portrayed by the U.S. government and American media.” I would wager that they are more deeply disturbed by the reality itself than the way the media reports it, but certainly government and media distortions are another layer of betrayal. In a letter protesting that article, Paul Rieckhoff, president of the anti-war organization Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, made an argument parallel to that of VVAW, namely that “(a)nyone who wants to write a serious piece about the ethical lapses of the U.S. troops should start and end the article by putting blame where it belongs — on the politicians who sent our troops to war unprepared and without a clear mission” (the Nation, 7/13/07).

I’m not suggesting that American soldiers take no responsibility for their actions. Like Rieckhoff, I would argue that we must balance outrage at criminal and sadistic acts with the insistence that we “guard against blaming this new generation of veterans for the terrible and tragic circumstances” that led to those acts. And I agree that, once again, the architects have been given a free pass and that the soldiers, who are doing exactly what they have been trained to do, are taking the blame. But I want to focus on an aspect of the situation that is never addressed in the mainstream media, and not often enough elsewhere: specifically that American troops are trained to act in criminal and sadistic ways.

Military training has been part of the experience of millions of young American men since the Revolutionary War. Prior to the Vietnam era, however, that training consisted largely of practicing military skills and learning to manage military equipment. It is only in the last half century that training has evolved into an entirely new phenomenon that makes use of the principles of operant conditioning to overcome what studies done over the last century have consistently demonstrated, namely, that healthy human beings have an inherent aversion to killing others of their own species.

Operant conditioning holds that organisms, including human beings, move through their environment rather haphazardly until they encounter a reinforcing stimulus. The experience of that stimulus becomes associated in memory with the behavior that immediately preceded it. In other words, a behavior is followed by a consequence, and the nature of the consequence, reward or punishment, modifies the organism’s tendency to repeat the behavior. Today’s recruits are intentionally and methodically subjected to a training regimen that is explicitly designed to turn them into reflexive killers. And it is very effective. It is also carefully concealed. The military would prefer to keep their methods out of sight because of the moral and ethical discussions, not to mention the legal restraints, which public scrutiny and constitutional debate might impose. Or so I would like to believe.

War Psychiatry, the army’s textbook on combat trauma, notes that “pseudospeciation, the ability of humans and some other primates to classify certain members of their own species as ‘other,’ can neutralize the threshold of inhibition so they can kill conspecifics.” Modern military training has developed carefully sequenced and choreographed elements of what many would call brainwashing to disconnect recruits from their civilian identities. The values, standards and behaviors they have absorbed over a lifetime from their families, schools, religions and communities are scorned and punished. Using cruelty, humiliation, degradation and cognitive disorientation, recruits are reprogrammed with an entirely new set of learned responses. Every aspect of combat behavior is rehearsed until response becomes reflexive. Operant conditioning has vastly improved the efficacy of American soldiers, at least by military standards. It has proven to be a reliable way to turn off the switch that controls a soldier’s inherent aversion to killing. American soldiers do kill more often and more efficiently. Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, author of On Killing, calls this form of training “psychological warfare, [but] psychological warfare conducted not upon the enemy, but upon one’s own troops.”

The psychological warfare that is being conducted on today’s recruits is a truly disturbing indication of the worldview of our leadership, both military and political. The group identity they are drilling into these kids, the “insider” identity, is based on explicit contempt not only for the declared enemy of the week, but for the entire civilian population, with a special emphasis on women and homosexuals. In an army that is now 15 percent female and who knows (don’t ask, don’t tell) what percentage gay, drill instructors still rely on labels like “girl” or “pussy,” “lady” or “fairy” to humiliate, degrade and ultimately exact conformity. Recruits are drilled with marching chants that privilege their relationships with their weapons over their relationships with women (“you used to be my beauty queen, now I love my M-16”), or that overtly conflate sex and violence (“this is my rifle, this is my gun; this is for fighting, this is for fun.”). Aside from teaching these kids to quash their innate feelings about killing in general, they are being programmed with a distorted version of not only what it means to be a man, but of what it means to be a citizen. To ascend to the warrior class, one must learn to despise and distrust all that is not military. Chaim Shatan, a psychiatrist who worked with Vietnam-era veterans, described this transformative process as deliberate, as opposed to capricious, sadism, “whose purpose is to inculcate obedience to command.”

There are any number of ways that modern training methods both support violence, aggression and obedience and help to disconnect a reflex action from its moral, ethical, spiritual or social implications, but one of the best illustrations of this process is the marching chants, or “jodies,” as they are known in the services. “Jody” is the derivative of an African-American work song about Joe de Grinder, a devilish ladies’ man who is at home making time with the soldier’s girlfriend while the soldier is stuck in the war (“ain’t no use in going home; Jody’s on your telephone”). According to the military, jodies build morale while distracting attention from monotonous, often strenuous, exertion. The following, originally a product of the Vietnam era, has been resurrected for training purposes in every war since and is an example of the kind of morale building that has been judged appropriate to the formation of an American soldier:

Shell the town and kill the people.
Drop the napalm in the square.
Do it on a Sunday morning
While they’re on their way to prayer.

Aim your missiles at the schoolhouse.
See the teacher ring the bell.
See the children’s smiling faces
As their schoolhouse burns to hell

Throw some candy to the children.
Wait till they all gather round.
Then you take your M-16 now
And mow the little fuckers down.

Thankfully, the brainwashing has not yet been developed that will override the humanity of most American soldiers. According to the troops interviewed in the Nation, the kind of psychotic brutality described in the marching cadence above is indulged by only a minority. Still, they described atrocities committed against civilians as “common” — and almost never punished. As multiple deployments become the norm, however, and as more scrambled psyches are sent back into combat instead of into treatment, it is frightening to consider that the brainwashing may yet prevail. Given the training to which these soldiers have been subjected and the chaotic conditions in which they find themselves, it is inevitable that more will succumb to fear and rage and frustration. They will inevitably be overwhelmed by cumulative doses of horror, and they will lose control of their judgment and their compassion. Thirty-six years ago, American veterans tried to cut through the smoke and mirrors of the official response to civilian atrocities, the version that scapegoated soldiers and ignored those who gave the orders. As then Lt. John Kerry put it, “We could hold our silence; we could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we feel (that it is) not reds, and not redcoats (that threaten this country), but the crimes which we are committing.” The soldiers who, following orders, have run over children in the road rather than slow down their convoy will never be the same again, regardless of whether government and the media tell the truth. Nor will the soldiers manning checkpoints who shoot, as ordered, and kill entire families who failed to stop, only to learn later that no one had bothered to share with them that the American signal to stop — a hand held up, palm towards the oncoming vehicle — to an Iraqi means, “Hello, come here.” I have heard a number of the men cited in the Nation article speak about their combat experiences, and they are tormented by what they saw and did. They want to tell their stories, not because they are looking for absolution, but because they want to believe that Americans want to know. But neither are they willing to take the blame.

They have already carried home the psychic wounds and the dangerous reflexive habits of violence that will always diminish their lives and their relationships. In return, they are hoping we will listen to them this time when they ask us to look a little harder, dig a little deeper, use a little more discernment. Or have we already arrived at a point in our collective moral development when, as Shatan predicted, “Like Eichmann, we … consider evil to be banal and routine?”

Penny Coleman is the widow of a Vietnam veteran who took his own life after coming home. Her latest book, Flashback: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Suicide and the Lessons of War, was released on Memorial Day, 2006. Her blog is called Flashback

FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.

see:
The Other War: Iraq Vets Bear Witness by Chris Hedges & Laila Al-Arian

Hurricane George: How the White House Drowned New Orleans by Greg Palast

Dandelion Salad

by Greg Palast
August 23, 2007

It’s been two years. And America’s media is about to have another tear-gasm over New Orleans. Maybe Anderson Cooper will weep again. The big networks will float into the moldering corpse of the city and give you uplifting stories about rebuilding and hope.Now, let’s cut through the cry-baby crap. Here’s what happened two years ago – and what’s happening now.

This is what an inside source told me. And it makes me sick:

“By midnight on Monday, the White House knew. Monday night I was at the state Emergency Operations Center and nobody was aware that the levees had breeched. Nobody.”

The charge is devastating: That, on August 29, 2005, the White House withheld from the state police the information that New Orleans was about to flood. From almost any other source, I would not have believed it. But this was not just any source. The whistle-blower is Dr. Ivor van Heerden, deputy director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, the chief technician advising the state on saving lives during Katrina.

I’d come to van Heerden about another matter, but in our talks, it was clear he had something he wanted to say, and it was a big one. He charged that the White House, FEMA and the Army Corp hid, for critical hours, their discovery that the levees surrounding New Orleans were cracking, about to burst and drown the city.

Continued…

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