Ron Paul ??? excluded from Fox debate by William Westmiller (updated)

Updated: 12.31.07 Westmiller’s latest article: ‘Ron Paul: Fair and Balanced’

Updated: 12.31.07 Here’s the post as it has been updated by the author below the original post.

Dandelion Salad

Please read the comments here and also at the original post for more info. ~ Lo

by William Westmiller
(Libertarian)
Left Coast Views
Dec. 29, 2007

Some sloppy reporting, instant web indignation, and holiday vacations produced a surge of hysteria that might have been avoided.

One of the hazards of instant mass communication is that incorrect stories can get distributed immediately. A particular hazard during holiday vacations.

There is NO NH DEBATE on January 6th. Ron Paul was NOT EXCLUDED. That event was canceled three weeks ago.

Ron WILL participate in the January 5th ABC/WMUR GOP debate in New Hampshire.

So, what happened?

Months ago, NH GOP chairman Fergus Cullen had been in touch with FoxNews about a possible forum on January 6th. He had even contacted all the GOP candidates to see whether they were available. However, plans for the ABC debate were finalized with all candidates early in December and Cullen “threw in the towel.” See “OUTFOXED” in the NH Union Leader of December 16th.

At that time, Cullen had not received a response from Ron Paul, who had committed to a conflicting luncheon at the Liberty Forum at the same time.

Skip ahead to December 27th, when the Union Leader reported that all candidates had agreed to the ABC/WMUR debate and reporter GARRY RAYNO added a confusing paragraph about Giuliani finally agreeing to the (canceled) January 6th forum, which had already been converted into a simple state GOP brunch.

Due to the timing of this article, there was no way to confirm who will or won’t attend the brunch, but it is not a broadcast debate and has nothing to do with FoxNews. Nevertheless, a blog in Washington picked up the story, scrambled it and their “BHDC Staff” reported a list of the candidates who would be attending, which did not include Ron Paul (he hadn’t officially confirmed, due to the conflict).

continued…

Updated version:

[Please see my concluding comment at the bottom of this page.]

One of the hazards of instant mass communication is that incorrect stories can get distributed immediately. A particular hazard during holiday vacations. [***And when those who know the full story and aren’t talking***]

There is NO NH DEBATE on January 6th. Ron Paul was NOT EXCLUDED. That event was canceled three weeks ago.

Jason George of the Baltimore Sun reports at 6:02pm ET 12/30/07:

Fergus Cullen, chairman of the New Hampshire State Republican Committee, confirmed Sunday evening to the Tribune that, yes, there will be a televised Fox News presidential candidate forum on Jan. 6, and yes, Rep. Ron Paul was not invited when the other candidates were a week or so ago.
“My understanding is that five candidates to that point had been offered spots but the event is still coming together,” Cullen said.
The candidates invited to the forum/debate – whatever you want to call it – will be Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Sen. John McCain, Gov. Mitt Romney and Sen. Fred Thompson.
Cullen said the event, which is set to take place two days before the New Hampshire primary, will be held in the afternoon or evening at St. Anselm College in Goffstown, N.H. When asked if Fox News, which is co-sponsoring the debate with the NH party, planned to invite Paul later, Cullen said he didn’t know.
“It’s really premature. Just the other day candidates started to accept invitations.”

The Paul campaign is still in the dark and Fox News is not talking:

On the evening of December 28, Jared Chicoine and Jordan Brown of our New Hampshire campaign staff met in person with Fergus Cullen the New Hampshire GOP chairman to discuss whether or not Dr. Paul would be invited to participate in the forum. Mr. Cullen confirmed there will be an event on January 6, but he could not confirm whether or not Dr. Paul would be invited. We also learned the event would not be a debate with an audience, but instead would be a forum in a closed studio with the candidates questioned only by Chris Wallace of Fox News.

emphasis added – The remainder of this story is no longer relevant]

Ron WILL participate in the January 5th ABC/WMUR GOP debate in New Hampshire.

From the comments:

Posted By: Westmiller
Date: 2007-12-30 23:09:58

1440 minutes writes: “… it appears that Dr. Paul and campaign employees have acted prudently on this issue.

I agree. I’m only disappointed that the campaign staff didn’t confirm the closed studio panel and (still) pending invitation status after the meeting with Mr. Cullen. This article and each update was sent to campaign staff before it was posted, with a request for confirmation. No response was received.

Given the confusing mixture of reports on multiple events, I think my skepticism about the initial AP report was justified, given the circumstances and lack of confirmation or denial.

In hindsight, I may have put too much credence in the clear, concise report of Mr. Cullen’s words on December 16th, which was what prompted the headline and lead paragraphs.

I hope Fox retracts its earlier position promptly. If not, I think Paul supporters have a task that needs doing.

Again, I regret any inconvenience I may have caused the campaign or the thousands of supporters who were seeking the truth with me.

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Elizabeth Kucinich tells us about Dennis + Solar Energy (videos)

Dandelion Salad

sunmt

December 29, 2007

Elizabeth Kucinich tells us about Dennis

Wife recounts Dennis history. See Dennis in Fresno May 2003: http://www.sunmt.org/may29achron03.html
See Dennis on solar energy: http://www.sunmt.org/dec15chron07.html
More SunMt docu-poem videos: http://www.sunmt.org/intro.html

Dennis: sun powers all life, can also power our needs

Elizabeth outlines Dennis energy aims. See Dennis history: http://www.sunmt.org/dec8chron07.html
More SunMt docu-poem videos: http://www.sunmt.org/intro.html

h/t: Elizabeth Kucinich (UNOFFICIAL PAGE!)

see

Kucinich-Dennis

Dennis Kucinich Can Win by Lo

Dennis Kucinich – Muni Light (vid; history behind “the people’s mayor”)

Plot to assassinate Dennis Kucinich (vid)

Extreme Makeover: New Year’s Resolution Edition by The Other Katherine Harris

The Other Katherine Harris

by The Other Katherine Harris

Featured writer
Dandelion Salad

The Other Katherine Harris’s blog
Dec. 29, 2007

“What’s really worth risking your ass for?” two recent headline-constellations have me asking at this suitable time of year. I speak of those concerning Benazir Bhutto and, less obviously, Jamie Leigh Jones.

Their disparity of age and situation appears to argue against all comparison between these victims, but Benazir wasn’t much older than Jamie is now when she promised her father, unjustly condemned to hang by the military dictator who’d deposed him, that she’d continue his work. A complex of reasons was surely involved: not only principle but family honor and personal identity. “I didn’t choose this life; it chose me,” she wrote and, in any sense of chosen-ness, an element of immodesty accompanies the rest. Yet the danger of her path was undeniable.

That hazards lay ahead must have been plain to Jamie, too, when she embarked on her adventure in Iraq. One has to wonder why her parents let her go there. While a determined 20-something can’t be absolutely stopped, it isn’t hard to think of strong deterrents that could have been applied. Imagine yourself faced by a blonde Barbie-type daughter barely out of school, who has in mind a fortune-quest in a war zone. The right words just come to you, don’t they?

Similarly, one can question why Benazir’s dad didn’t say, “Darling, that’s madness! Don’t even think about it. Look where we are; this is a death cell.” In her case, there wasn’t even anything material to be gained by taking leadership of his party; the family had held substantial wealth for generations. It was landed wealth — the kind that, as with Tolstoy, brought them into close contact with the poor and bred liberal views.

Perhaps there was a political dimension to Jamie’s circumstances, too. We don’t know, but her people in Texas may have been firm believers in the KBR/Halliburton gospel, until the truth of unbridled predation blew up in their faces. Still, if patriotism featured in the choice, wouldn’t enlistment have served rather better than some wildly overpaid starter job on a DOD contractor’s payroll?

Motivational musings aside, both embarked on demonstrably perilous courses, costing one her life and the other whatever remained of her innocence. By the latter, I don’t mean only sexual violation, but also loss of confidence in decency and justice — something a great number of us have lost lately.

As I survey the wreckage of our former way of life and the values I was taught to prize, I can conclude only that we’ve all been gang-raped. It’s a very useful allegory for our time. Most Americans have been indecently assaulted for decades — lulled, like Jamie, by “special drinks”: the Media Martini of distractions and distortions, Deregulation Daiquiris, Globalization Gimlets, Greed-Is-Good Grog, Privatization Punch, Subsidy Screwdrivers, Sanctimony Sours and, most recently, Security Slammers, Terror Toddies, Warmonger Wallbangers, Wedge-Issue Wines and Credit Champagne chasers courtesy of Bubbles Greenspan.

Now those of us who’ve begun to rouse find we’re torn and bloody. And the attack goes on. Things will get worse, probably a lot worse, before they get better. We need courage now, more than at any other moment I’ve known.

Here Jamie’s example serves me better than Benazir’s. She was no people’s princess, waving to her adorers, tempting unkind fate, but a girl savaged and held without food or water in a shipping container ringed by guards from whom she could expect no mercy. Yet she got a bit of it, enough, in the quick loan of a phone, by daring to appeal again and again, evoking in that one necessary man a vestige of good all but lost in evil.

This declaration from D.H. Lawrence seems apt:

That I am I.
That my soul is a dark forest.
That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest.
That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back.
That I must have the courage to let them come and go.
That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women.

see

“A Scheme Is Not a Vision” by The Other Katherine Harris

At the end of the breath at the bottom of the pool by The Other Katherine Harris (Bhutto)

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto heaps despair upon Pakistan: A tragedy born of military despotism and anarchy by Tariq Ali

Anglo-American Ambitions behind the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the Destabilization of Pakistan by Larry Chin

Bhutto Aide: The coverup begins + PROOF there was a shooter (videos)

“A Scheme Is Not a Vision” by The Other Katherine Harris

The Other Katherine Harris

by The Other Katherine Harris

Featured writer
Dandelion Salad

The Other Katherine Harris’s blog
Dec. 29, 2007

Remember this stanza from Cohen’s Story of Isaac?

You who build these altars now
to sacrifice these children,
you must not do it anymore.
A scheme is not a vision
and you never have been tempted
by a demon or a god.

The rest of his exquisite song is HERE. I mention it because these lines instantly played in my mind on seeing THIS.

So Benazir Bhutto’s eldest, a beautiful child of 19, is to be next in line of fire, if his late mother’s wish is honored. It also appears to be the wish of party stalwarts like Babar Awan — who, although described as “a PPP Senator and close ally of Benazir,” didn’t have his facts straight. He’s quoted as saying, “This was also the situation when Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was murdered. Benazir was a teenager, she was a student at Harvard in 1979 [when Zulfikar Ali was hanged].”

She wasn’t. Born in 1953, she was 26 then, a graduate of both Harvard and advanced studies at Oxford. The gorgeous kid — my gawds, look at that sweet face! — has been at Oxford only since this fall; he’s barely out of his posh Dubai high school and said to be keen on such activities as swimming, horseback riding and cricket. Were he an American, he couldn’t even drink legally yet, although we’d also let him die for his county.

What the devil is wrong with us ALL?

see

At the end of the breath at the bottom of the pool by The Other Katherine Harris (Bhutto)

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto heaps despair upon Pakistan: A tragedy born of military despotism and anarchy by Tariq Ali

Anglo-American Ambitions behind the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the Destabilization of Pakistan by Larry Chin

Bhutto Aide: The coverup begins + PROOF there was a shooter (videos)

You’re Damn Right I’m Angry. Why Isn’t Everybody? By David Michael Green

Dandelion Salad

By David Michael Green
12/29/07 “ICH

I write articles each week with titles like “Everything I Need to Know About the Regressive Right I Learned In Junior High,“ or “Conservatism Is Politics For Kindergartners,“ or “Schadenfreude Is My Middle Name.“

I regret doing so very much. Believe it or not, I really don’t like spewing venom, sarcasm and rage all over my computer keyboard.

I particularly don’t like it because I have friends who are conservative, and it’s not my nature to trash-talk anybody, let alone friends.

Indeed, none of this is in my nature. I don’t start fights and I don’t go looking for them. I’m not an angry, bitter or mean-spirited person. But I can understand how I might be seen as such in the absence of the appropriate context, and it truly chagrins me that I might be so misperceived, and so negatively.

But I don’t intend to change, and I don’t intend to stop making the arguments contained in my rants. I’m angry for a very good set of reasons, and I’m angry because I care about my country just the way conservatives claim to. I’m angry, in short, because I’m a patriot and defender of the ideas that America is supposed to stand for. And what I really want to know is why those on the right aren’t equally outraged?

I was a teenager when Nixon was being Nixon, destroying democracy at home, napalming civilians in Vietnam, conducting secret wars in Laos and Cambodia, employing racism to win elections. At that age I knew enough to dislike what I saw (and what I learned of what Nixon and McCarthy had done to innocent Americans even earlier, before I was born, in order to serve their political ambitions), but I didn’t know enough yet to feel genuine rage at what regressives were doing to my country and to the world.

I began to experience those feelings in my twenties, first as truly sociopathically insane gun laws in this country helped to claim the life of John Lennon, and then as Ronald Reagan began to systematically turn his back on the poor and the middle-class in order to further enrich the country’s already wealthy economic elites. I also felt deep shame and outrage that America – the country that had supported if not literally created every two-bit dictator in Latin America, ‘our backyard’, (and well beyond) for a century – began to murder Nicaraguan peasants in order to halt their struggle to free themselves from the economic and political tyranny of one of those Washington-run caudillo clients, the sickening Somoza regime.

Then I watched in disgust as Newt Gingrich and his merry band of infantile hypocrites impeached a president for lying about a consensual sexual affair, while they were themselves all doing worse, like dumping a wife while she was lying in her hospital bed recovering from cancer surgery, or fathering children with a mistress, or carrying on many years-long affairs.

All of this was truly noxious. Nothing to that point had prepared me, however, for the regressive politics of our time. And they have turned me very angry indeed.

Regressives like to call people like me Bush-haters, and so it is important to address that claim before proceeding, because the entire intent of hurling that label at the president’s critics is to undermine their credibility. If you simply hate the man, they imply, you’re not rational, and your critiques can be dismissed. But it isn’t that simple – not by a long shot. First, it should be noted that the regressive right is far wider a phenomenon than just one person. It currently includes an entire executive branch administration, almost (and, just a year ago, more than) half of Congress, a majority of the Supreme Court and probably a majority of the lower federal courts, a biased-to-the-point-of-being-a-joke mainstream media, and tons of lobbyists, think tanks and profitable industries.

But as to George W. Bush, himself, I suspect it’s quite fair to say that most Americans and even most progressives did not originally despise or loathe him. I didn’t. I certainly didn’t admire the guy, nor did I think he was remotely prepared to be president of the United States. (Nor, by the way, was I particularly impressed with Al Gore in 2000.) Bush campaigned as a center-right pragmatist (a “compassionate conservative”, in his words), much as his father had been, and I expected that’s how he would govern if elected. You know, more embarrassing most of the time than truly destructive.

I mention all this because it is important to note what has – and what has not – been responsible for my/our anger, and to make clear that attempts to dismiss that anger as some Bush-hating bias or predisposition are false, a ploy to destroy the messenger when one doesn’t care for the message he’s carrying. If Bush had governed like he campaigned I’m sure I would have disliked him, but neither hated him nor his policies, nor experienced the rage that I feel about what he’s done to the country and the world. Frankly, my feelings toward another center-right Bush presidency would have likely been largely the same as my feelings toward the center-right Clinton presidency which preceded it.

But he hasn’t governed anywhere near to how he campaigned, and he wasn’t even elected properly, and I do in fact feel huge anger at the damage done. Moreover, I cannot for the life of me imagine how anyone – even conservatives – could feel differently. Even the wealthy, to whose interests this presidency is so wholly devoted, have to sleep at night. Even they have children who will inherit a broken country existing in an environmentally and politically hostile world, though no doubt they figure that big enough fences, mean enough private armies, and loads of central air conditioning will insulate them from the damage.

I don’t mind that the Bush campaign fought hard to win the 2000 election. That was certainly a legitimate goal for them to pursue. But it nauseates me beyond belief that their agents in the Florida government disenfranchised tens of thousands of African Americans in order to keep them from voting Democratic. And it sickens me that they gathered up a bunch of congressional staffers pretending to be an angry local mob and stormed election canvassers, using pure Gestapo techniques to shut down the most fundamental act of democracy, counting the votes.

I don’t mind that the Bush campaign took the election to the Supreme Court, even though they were simultaneously accusing the Gore folks of being litigious. What disgusts me beyond words is that a regressive majority of the Court anointed Bush president in a sheer act of partisan politics. And that they were so anxious to achieve that end that they repudiated all their own judicial politics previously espoused in case after case – from states’ rights, to equal protection, to judicial restraint. And that they were so conscious of what they were actually doing that they took the unprecedented step of stating that no lasting principles were involved in the matter, that their decision would forever apply to this case and this case only.

Once in office, there was still the possibility that the administration would govern as it had campaigned, as a rather centrist, status quo-style government, perhaps especially tempered from arrogance and overstretch by the knowledge that the country was deeply divided and that Bush had in fact actually lost the popular vote. In fact, though, they did precisely the opposite.

The first order of business, certainly the top priority for the administration, and arguably the only thing they were ever completely seriously about, was their tax restructuring program. It was grim enough that the tax cuts, as under Reagan, where dramatically tilted in favor of the wealthy. But what made them especially disgusting was that – again, as under Reagan – these wholesale revenue reductions were not only not accompanied by expenditure cuts, but in fact were coupled with increased spending. Can you say “voodoo economics”? Bush’s father once had, before he treasonously changed his tune to win the vice presidency (leading to the presidency) for himself. But he was right the first time, before he put personal ambition and transparent insecurity ahead of the national interest. And thus we’ve witnessed the only possible result of the combination of massive revenue cuts and continuing spending increases: astronomical debt, now well over nine trillion dollars in total, and rapidly growing. What I want to know is how can we – especially so-called family-oriented, so-called fiscal conservatives – not be outraged, not be scandalized, not be boiling with anger at the debt we have transferred to our own children, all so that we could avoid paying our own way, like every generation before us has?

I am outraged as well at how the administration polarized the country in the wake of one of the greatest traumas it had ever experienced. Let us leave aside the ample evidence demonstrating that the Bush team was asleep at the wheel before 9/11 – or perhaps far, far worse – a set of facts which is noteworthy in part because progressives did not use them to attack the president and score cheap but easy political points. But the administration did precisely that. It is disgusting – and it fills me with anger – how they used a national security crisis to win partisan political contests. How they scheduled a vote on the Iraq war resolution right before the midterm elections of 2002, thus politicizing the gravest decision a country can make by forcing Democrats to choose between voting their conscience and campaign accusations of being soft on national security.

It boils my blood that these chickenhawks – almost none of whom showed up for duty in Vietnam when it was their turn – could dare to accuse Max Cleland of being weak on national security, a guy who gave three of his four limbs to that very cause on the battlefields of Southeast Asia. How could they run ads morphing his face into Saddam’s or bin Laden’s, when his opponent – of course – took Vietnam deferments, just like Cheney and Ashcroft and the rest? And how could they accuse him of being weak on national defense because he opposed the bureaucratic reshuffling to create the Homeland Security Department, when Bush himself had also opposed it? That is, before Rove politicized it by inserting union-busting language applying to tens of thousands of civil servants covered by the act.

It nauseates me beyond words that this president could use the tragedy of 9/11 to justify invading a country which had nothing to do with that attack whatsoever. It enrages me that those who had the courage to oppose this policy so transparently deceitful (and it truly was – from the proof of the Downing Street Memos, to Colin Powell’s charade at the UN, to the assurances that the US knew where the WMD were, to the rejection of the weapons inspectors’ request to have two more months to finish the job) were labeled as traitors and worse for telling the truth. And that 4,000 Americans and over a million Iraqis have died for these lies.

And speaking of treason, what sort of looking glass have we all fallen through when the government of the United States exposes its own CIA undercover agent in order to punish her spouse for revealing administration lies about the war? When did that cease to be a cause of outrage, especially among our super-patriotic friends on the right?

How is it possible not to be angry looking at the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, and the bungled response of the government before, during and after that tragedy? Indeed, even journalists who had spent so many years licking government boots that their tongues had long ago turned black were moved to outrage at the magnitude of that failure, with the president meanwhile on a stage in San Diego pretending to play guitar at a Republican fundraiser.

I am outraged, as well, by one of the most insane and avoidable tragedies of all human history, the slow-motion holocaust of global warming. How can anyone not be angry at a political movement and a government that puts the short-term profits of one or two industries ahead of the viability of the entire planet? How can anyone not be mortified as we one-twentieth of the world’s population, who generate one-fourth of the greenhouse gases causing the problem, not only do nothing about the problem, but actively block the rest of the world from saving all of us from this folly?

I’m furious because the Bush administration and its ideological allies have shredded the Constitution at every turn, destroying the institutional gift of those they pretend to revere (but only when it’s convenient to upholding their own depredations). This president, who has gotten virtually everything he has ever wanted throughout his life and his presidency, once privately exclaimed in frustration at not getting something he wanted when he wanted it, “It’s just a goddam piece of paper!”, and that is precisely how he has treated America’s founding document. His signing statements – probably over a thousand in count now – completely obliterate the checks and balances principle of the Constitution, its most central idea. His admitted spying on Americans without warrant smashes the Fourth Amendment. His fiasco in Guantánamo and beyond mocks due process and habeas corpus guarantees. His invasion of Iraq against the international law codified in the UN Charter, to which the United States is a signatory, violates the Constitutional requirement to hold such treaties as the highest law of the land. Altogether, Americans have never seen a presidency with such imperial ambitions, and anyone who cares about the Constitution should be furious. A year from now, it is quite possible that Hillary Clinton will be president of the United States (ugh). Would our conservative friends silently countenance, let alone viciously support, such a monarchy in the White House if it belonged to Queen Hillary rather than King George? I think not.

We could go on and on from here. This administration and the movement it fronts at least gets high marks for consistency. Everything they touch turns to stone. There’s Pat Tillman and Terri Schiavo. There’s the politicization of the US Attorneys and the corruption of DeLay and Abramoff. There’s North Korea, Pakistan and the Middle East. There’s the shame of torture and rendition. There’s the wrecking of the American military and of the country’s reputation abroad. There’s Afghanistan and the failure to capture bin Laden. And much, much more. But above all, and driving all, there’s the kleptocracy – the doing of everything in every way to facilitate the looting of the national fisc.

What an unbelievable record of deceit, destruction, hypocrisy, incompetence, treason and greed. What a tragic tale of debt, lost wars, stolen elections, environmental crises, Constitution shredding, national shame and diminished security.

All done by the very most pious amongst us, of course. Merry Christmas, eh? I guess those are our presents, all carefully wrapped in spin, contempt, and preemptive attacks on any of us impertinent enough to say “No thanks, Santa”.

So, yeah, you’re goddamn right I’m angry about what’s been done to my country, and what’s been done by my country in my name.

How could anyone who claims to care about America not be?

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net


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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

The Next Step Not Taken By Ralph Nader

Dandelion Salad

By Ralph Nader
Dec. 28, 2007

1. Call them small investors, savers or shareholders – corporate crimes, frauds and abuses have battered them in the past decade. Think Enron, Worldcom, Wall Street’s brokerage and investment giants and now the big shaky banks. Trillions of dollars have been drained or looted by these corporate bosses while they pay themselves handsomely with other people’s money.

Speaking, writing and testifying against these massive unregulated rip-offs of defenseless Americans are two former chairmen of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – Arthur Levitt and William Donaldson. Openly sharing their urgent pleas for reform are John Bogle, founder of mutual fund indexing and severe critic of excessive, often hidden, mutual fund fees, and Lynn Turner former chief accountant of the SEC.

These men are well known and respected in their fields, have ready access to the mass business media, possess great rolodexes of supportive people all over the country and could raise substantial sums of money. They are part of the monied classes themselves.

And for what? To start a large investor protection and action organization to represent the 60 million powerless and individual investors in our country. Individual investors really have no organized voice, either in Washington, D.C., or the state and local level where public sentiment and demand for action generates the rumble for change.

These experienced, superbly connected men, who have respected each other for years and are frustrated over inaction by those in authority, are not taking the next step.

To demonstrate their credentials, see their books Take on the Street: How to Fight Your Financial Future and Take on the Street: What Wall Street and Corporate America Don’t Want You to Know by Arthur Levitt, and The Little Book of Common Sense Investing and The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism by John Bogle. To document the broader urgency of their concerns, see veteran shareholder rights leader, Robert Monks’ new book Corpocracy.

2. It would not take you very long, searching the Internet, to come up with scores of retired high military officers, from Generals and Admirals on down, high-ranking former diplomats and national security officials, who have spoken and written against the invasion of Iraq and the continuing quagmire and casualties that have cost our country so much and destroyed so much of Iraq and its people.

These outspoken, stand-up Americans, include former cabinet secretaries, agency chiefs, and White House special assistants, who have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

No one can question the experience and service of these straight-talk, former public officials. They have seen it all. Wealthy, like-minded funders would return their calls.

Organized together into a powerful, well funded advocacy organization, these Americans can have a decisive impact on Congress and the White House, because they would be able to reach the American people through the mass media with the truth, and the strategies for peace and justice.

Although active in their pursuit of a sound foreign and military policy that does not jeopardize and bankrupt America, they have not taken this next step.

3. Can you possibly count all the progressives—elected, academic, authors and columnists—who are tearing into the Democratic Party for how often they caved in Congress this year to George W. Bush and his minority Republicans in the Senate and House?

There is nothing new about their complaints. Whether on foreign or domestic policy, whether on the domination of giant corporations over elections, legislatures, regulatory agencies and mass media, whether on the destructive results and portents of corporate globalization and autocratic trade regimes (WTO and NAFTA), progressives have been criticizing the Democrats for years now.

Hear it from Bob Herbert of the New York Times, John Nichols of The Nation magazine, the duos of James Carville and Paul Begala, Mark Crispin Miller and Jim Hightower, Bill Moyers and Anthony Lewis, Senators Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown, and Congressman John Conyers and Ed Markey – to name just a very few of the grossly disappointed and outraged critics of the establishment Democrats, and their Democratic Leadership Council and their corporate financiers.

But they do not take the next step. Or steps. Either organize into a powerful counter-weight inside the Democratic Party to make progressive demands that cannot be shrugged off, or move to a progressive third party that can either lever its messages to the Democrats or compete with them?

How many years can the bad Republicans and their corporatist allies keep pulling the mainstream Democratic Party toward them and leave progressives with the futility of the least worst form of disastrous corporate government?

There are many influential and knowledgeable people in our country who know what causes are critical to pursue, what redirections are necessary for present and future generations, what assets of persuasion and change to amass. But they are stalled in this state of the next step not taken.

Taking the next step is the difference between talking and acting, between promise and performance, between autocracy and democracy!

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Is this the beginning of the end in Iraq? By Patrick Cockburn

Dandelion Salad

By Patrick Cockburn
ICH
12/29/07 “The Independent

Some 19 US soldiers have been killed so far in December, the lowest number of American military fatalities in a single month since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. As recently as May this year, 135 US soldiers were shot dead or blown up by Iraqi guerrillas.

The fall in US casualties is one of the most surprising events of 2007. At the beginning of the year, the American army in Iraq seemed to be clinging on by its fingertips as more and more of the country came under the control of Sunni and Shia warlords. Twelve months later, US units are peaceably patrolling districts of Baghdad where once they faced ambushes at every street corner.

Viewed from the White House, events in Iraq seem to be one of the few optimistic developments in the series of crises facing it in the central core of the Islamic world, as the fragility of the US position is underlined by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, one of its main allies, in Pakistan.

Iraqis and the outside world are equally perplexed as to what this means. Are we seeing the beginning of the end of the fighting in Iraq, a conflict which has now gone on for longer than the First World War? Or is it a lull in the violence that is bound to end because Shia, Sunni, Kurd and American are as divided as ever?

Significant changes have taken place in Iraq this year. The most important is that part of the Sunni Arab community, the core of the insurgency against the US occupation, has changed sides and is now fighting al-Qa’ida in alliance with the US military. This dramatic switch in allegiance occurred primarily because the Sunni Arabs, only 20 per cent of Iraq’s population, were being overwhelmed by the Shia, the branch of Islam to which 60 per cent of Iraqis belong.

The US and British armies have examined many past guerrilla wars, looking for parallels which might prove useful in combating the Iraqi insurgency.

British generals were once particularly keen on proudly citing their actions in Malaya and Northern Ireland as providing rich experience in anti-guerrilla warfare. Most analogies were highly misleading. “Basra was the exact opposite of Northern Ireland and Malaya,” a British officer told me in exasperation. “In the latter we were supported by the majority communities while we fought the Roman Catholic and Chinese minorities. In southern Iraq our main problem is that we had no real local allies.”

The Americans suffer from a similar problem in central Iraq. Outside Kurdistan, it is difficult to find an Iraqi who supports the US occupation for more than tactical reasons. Seldom mentioned, for obvious reasons, is the one recent anti-guerrilla war which has many similarities to that being fought by America in Iraq. This is Russia’s successful re-conquest of Chechnya between 1999 and the present.

In a similar way to al-Qa’ida in Iraq, the Islamic fundamentalists in Chechnya, invariably called Wahabi, played an increasingly central role in the armed resistance to the Russian occupation. But the savagery of their fighters alienated many anti-Russian Chechens and eventually split the insurgency. I remember being astonished that Chechen human rights workers, who usually denounced Russian atrocities to me, were prepared to co-operate with the Russian army to attack the Wahabi. Often their motive was a blood feud against a Wahabi commander who had killed their relatives.

The parallels between Iraq and Chechnya should not be carried too far. The US has effectively raised a Sunni militia force which may soon total 100,000 men, many of them former insurgents. They are armed and paid for by the US, but regard the Shia-Kurdish government with deep suspicion. Many Sunni commanders speak of taking on the Shia militia, the Mehdi army, which has been stood down by its leader, Muqtada al-Sadr.

It is a bizarre situation. One experienced Iraqi politician told me that al-Qa’ida in Iraq, which never had much connection with Osama bin Laden’s organisation, had effectively split last year. A sign of this was when somebody betrayed the location of its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, to the US military, which bombed his hideout and killed him. Some of the so-called “Concerned Citizens” militiamen now on the US payroll are former al-Qa’ida fighters, though the US is still holding hundreds of men in Guantanamo, accusing them of being associates of al-Qa’ida.

The US has had real operational successes on the ground in Iraq this year, but there is little sign yet of Iraq being pacified. Local warlords in Sunni areas have switched from attacking US forces to working with them, but they might easily switch back tomorrow. As with the British in Basra, the Americans lack long-term allies that can stand on their own feet without US assistance.

This is one of the dangers of the continuing US presence. The longer it goes on, the more the government of Iraq becomes incapable of existing without US support. The government in the Green Zone is a hothouse plant that would wither and die without the American military presence. Although prime minister Nouri al-Maliki complains about the way in which the US controls the Iraqi army, he makes little practical effort to move out of the Green Zone or establish his practical independence. The US may say that it will leave when the Iraqi government can stand on its own two feet, but the continuing occupation makes sure that day does not come.

Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are very different countries, but they are the terrain in which President Bush chose to test America’s status as a superpower. They are also countries where it is difficult to win a decisive victory because power is so fragmented. Successes often turn out to be illusory or exaggerated. For instance, the Taliban was so swiftly overthrown in 2001 because the local warlords, whom the Taliban had bribed or intimidated into supporting it, found that the US offered bigger bribes and its bombers were more intimidating. They changed sides once again, though very few of them went out of business.

The same is true of Iraq today. Iraqi parties, movements and communities have an extraordinary ability to withstand outside pressure. Most of them survived Saddam Hussein and are not going to buckle under anything the US can do to them.

patrick.cockburn@ attglobal.net


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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Defining Israeli Zionist Racism: Part 1 by Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri

Dandelion Salad

by Kim Petersen and B.J. Sabri
Dissident Voice
December 29th, 2007

We must do everything to ensure they (the Palestinian refugees) never do return.
– David Ben-Gurion, in his diary, 18 July 1948.1

Let us not today fling accusations at the murderers. Who are we that we should argue against their hatred? For eight years now they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their very eyes, we turn into our homestead the land and the villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.”
– Moshe Dyan (Israeli Defense Minister during the Israeli-Arab war, 1967), 1953.2

“No state has the right to exist as a racist state.”
– Palestinian activist and author, Omar Barghouti.3

Continue reading

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto heaps despair upon Pakistan: A tragedy born of military despotism and anarchy by Tariq Ali

Dandelion Salad

by Tariq Ali

Global Research, December 29, 2007
The Guardian – 2007-12-28

Now her party must be democratically rebuilt

Even those of us sharply critical of Benazir Bhutto‘s behaviour and policies – both while she was in office and more recently – are stunned and angered by her death. Indignation and fear stalk the country once again.

An odd coexistence of military despotism and anarchy created the conditions leading to her assassination in Rawalpindi yesterday. In the past, military rule was designed to preserve order – and did so for a few years. No longer. Today it creates disorder and promotes lawlessness. How else can one explain the sacking of the chief justice and eight other judges of the country’s supreme court for attempting to hold the government’s intelligence agencies and the police accountable to courts of law? Their replacements lack the backbone to do anything, let alone conduct a proper inquest into the misdeeds of the agencies to uncover the truth behind the carefully organised killing of a major political leader.

How can Pakistan today be anything but a conflagration of despair? It is assumed that the killers were jihadi fanatics. This may well be true, but were they acting on their own?

Benazir, according to those close to her, had been tempted to boycott the fake elections, but she lacked the political courage to defy Washington. She had plenty of physical courage, and refused to be cowed by threats from local opponents. She had been addressing an election rally in Liaquat Bagh. This is a popular space named after the country’s first prime minister, Liaquat Ali Khan, who was killed by an assassin in 1953. The killer, Said Akbar, was immediately shot dead on the orders of a police officer involved in the plot. Not far from here, there once stood a colonial structure where nationalists were imprisoned. This was Rawalpindi jail. It was here that Benazir’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in April 1979. The military tyrant responsible for his judicial murder made sure the site of the tragedy was destroyed as well.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto‘s death poisoned relations between his Pakistan People’s party and the army. Party activists, particularly in the province of Sind, were brutally tortured, humiliated and, sometimes, disappeared or killed.

Pakistan’s turbulent history, a result of continuous military rule and unpopular global alliances, confronts the ruling elite now with serious choices. They appear to have no positive aims. The overwhelming majority of the country disapproves of the government’s foreign policy. They are angered by its lack of a serious domestic policy except for further enriching a callous and greedy elite that includes a swollen, parasitic military. Now they watch helplessly as politicians are shot dead in front of them.

Benazir had survived the bomb blast yesterday but was felled by bullets fired at her car. The assassins, mindful of their failure in Karachi a month ago, had taken out a double insurance this time. They wanted her dead. It is impossible for even a rigged election to take place now. It will have to be postponed, and the military high command is no doubt contemplating another dose of army rule if the situation gets worse, which could easily happen.

What has happened is a multilayered tragedy. It’s a tragedy for a country on a road to more disasters. Torrents and foaming cataracts lie ahead. And it is a personal tragedy. The house of Bhutto has lost another member. Father, two sons and now a daughter have all died unnatural deaths.

I first met Benazir at her father’s house in Karachi when she was a fun-loving teenager, and later at Oxford. She was not a natural politician and had always wanted to be a diplomat, but history and personal tragedy pushed in the other direction. Her father’s death transformed her. She had become a new person, determined to take on the military dictator of that time. She had moved to a tiny flat in London, where we would endlessly discuss the future of the country. She would agree that land reforms, mass education programmes, a health service and an independent foreign policy were positive constructive aims and crucial if the country was to be saved from the vultures in and out of uniform. Her constituency was the poor, and she was proud of the fact.

She changed again after becoming prime minister. In the early days, we would argue and in response to my numerous complaints – all she would say was that the world had changed. She couldn’t be on the “wrong side” of history. And so, like many others, she made her peace with Washington. It was this that finally led to the deal with Musharraf and her return home after more than a decade in exile. On a number of occasions she told me that she did not fear death. It was one of the dangers of playing politics in Pakistan.

It is difficult to imagine any good coming out of this tragedy, but there is one possibility. Pakistan desperately needs a political party that can speak for the social needs of a bulk of the people. The People’s party founded by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was built by the activists of the only popular mass movement the country has known: students, peasants and workers who fought for three months in 1968-69 to topple the country’s first military dictator. They saw it as their party, and that feeling persists in some parts of the country to this day, despite everything.

Benazir’s horrific death should give her colleagues pause for reflection. To be dependent on a person or a family may be necessary at certain times, but it is a structural weakness, not a strength for a political organisation. The People’s party needs to be refounded as a modern and democratic organisation, open to honest debate and discussion, defending social and human rights, uniting the many disparate groups and individuals in Pakistan desperate for any halfway decent alternative, and coming forward with concrete proposals to stabilise occupied and war-torn Afghanistan. This can and should be done. The Bhutto family should not be asked for any more sacrifices.

· Tariq Ali‘s book The Duel: Pakistan on the Flightpath of American Power is published in 2008 tariq.ali3@btinternet.com

www.globalresearch.ca contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available to our readers under the provisions of “fair use” in an effort to advance a better understanding of political, economic and social issues. The material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving it for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material for purposes other than “fair use” you must request permission from the copyright owner.

For media inquiries: crgeditor@yahoo.com
© Copyright Tariq Ali, The Guardian, 2007
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7698

see

Anglo-American Ambitions behind the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the Destabilization of Pakistan by Larry Chin

Bhutto Aide: The coverup begins + PROOF there was a shooter (videos)

Anglo-American Ambitions behind the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the Destabilization of Pakistan by Larry Chin

Dandelion Salad

by Larry Chin
Global Research, December 29, 2007

It has been known for months that the Bush-Cheney administration and its allies have been maneuvering to strengthen their political control over Pakistan, paving the way for the expansion and deepening of the “war on terrorism” across the region. The assassination of Benazir Bhutto does not change this agenda. In fact, it simplifies Bush-Cheney’s options.

Seeding chaos with a pretext

Continue reading

Corporate Media Actually Reports Some News! by Dave Lindorff

It’s time to impeach our VP and Pres: http://www.wexlerwantshearings.com

Dandelion Salad

by Dave Lindorff
After Downing Street
Dec. 29, 2007

It was good to see reports in the national media, including the New York Times and my own local paper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, on an effort by the town council in Burlington, VT, to have the town’s district attorney draw up a war crimes indictment against President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

But the publication of news about this noble effort, which while thoroughly appropriate is unlikely to go anywhere even if the town council does pass the resolution, raises the question of why such a story would pass editorial muster, while the much bigger, and more significant, story about a growing national campaign to impeach these two criminals in the White House (on charges including war crimes) continues to be virtually blacked out.

A few weeks ago, three members of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), all senior, respected members of Congress, wrote an op-ed calling for an immediate start of hearings into possible impeachable crimes against the Constitution by Cheney. All of the major publications to which they offered this important article (which reported on their plans to call on the Judiciary Committee to act), including the New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer and other leading publications—all of them—turned it down.

Wexler went one further, setting up a website on which people could sign their names calling for a start to impeachment hearings. In one week, over 100,000 had signed it (there are 160,000 signatures now).

So far, there has been no news report in the corporate media about this campaign. Nor does that broader impeachment movement, which has seen over 100 towns and cities across the country, as well as the Vermont state senate, pass resolutions calling for impeachment, rate much or any coverage in print or in the electronic news media.

In their “wisdom,” the nation’s editors have apparently decided that impeachment is a non-issue. Never mind that a majority of the people in the country have repeatedly been found in mainstream polls to favor impeachment of both Bush and Cheney, or that there is a bill in the House, filed by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a presidential candidate, calling for Cheney’s impeachment, and boasting 24 co-signers. That, apparently, is not news fit for the reading, listening or viewing public.

Yet editors do clearly know they are playing dirty games with us. When readers made a concerted effort to hold editors to a professional standard, as many did in Miami and Philadelphia, deluging editors with protests over the rejection of the Wexler/Gutierrez/Baldwin opinion article, the Herald and the Inquirer both relented and ran it.

Neither paper, however, ran a news story about the impeachment drive; just the opinion piece (the Miami Herald, which actually is in Wexler’s congressional district, chopped it down significantly).

How to explain this seeming dichotomy, in which a small town’s quixotic attempt to indict a president on war crimes is news, while a serious national campaign to initiate impeachment proceedings in the House in accordance with the steps laid out in the Constitution in response to clear abuses of power by the current administration is not?

I would guess that editors feel that the Burlington city council effort is a kind of “man bites dog” story—offbeat enough to warrant publication as a curiosity. The impeachment campaign story, though, which gets at a fundamental crisis in governance that raises questions about whether our entire political system has been undermined by powerful forces bent on undoing the Constitution, is simply much too serious a story to be allowed a public airing.

Several decades ago, when I still toiled as a producer of surplus value in the vineyards of the corporate media (as chief of the county government bureau of the Los Angeles Daily News), I had occasion to write what was called an “enterprise journalism” piece about how much of the Los Angeles County workers’ pension fund was invested in companies that were on the apartheid boycott list—an issue at the time because at that moment students in the UC system were occupying campus buildings across the state to protest similar holdings by their colleges’ endowment funds. My editor spiked the piece. When I asked why, he initially told me he wanted, instead of an article that led with the facts, a “reaction” lead, featuring a local county legislator complaining about the investments. In other words, he was afraid of having the newspaper appear to be crusading on the issue, and wanted it to appear instead as if the story had been generated not by an enterprising reporter but by an irate politician—in this case Kenny Hahn, a white politician who represented the largely African-American Watts area of the county. Grudgingly, I went to Hahn’s office, elicited the requisite outraged quote, and wrote the new lead. The next day, there was still no story in the paper. Inquiring again to find out what happened, I was told by the story was “too anti-business.” It simply would not run, regardless of how it was written. The editors, who worked for a big chain, the Chicago Tribune Company, had lost the courage to be real journalists.

The experience convinced me that corporate journalism was a job for whores, and I left to work as a freelancer, where at least one gets to chose one’s pimps.

Unfortunately, the demise of the Los Angeles Daily News as a real newspaper was simply a harbinger of what has happened to virtually all the mainstream media in the country.

We now see the results, most recently in the censoring of the impeachment story (not to mention the shameful parroting of the administration line on how the “surge” is “working” in Iraq).

It lifts one’s spirits to see that a concerted campaign to awaken some sense of shame among editors in those corporate media whorehouses can have an effect, as it did at the Miami Herald and the Philadelphia Inquirer this month, but no one should be fooled by such isolated successes. For the most part, we are being lied to and “protected” from the truth in so many ways that no media campaign, however robust, short perhaps of a mass boycott, could force these compromised companies to let the truth out.
_________________
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based investigative journalist and columnist. His latest book, co-authored by Barbara Olshansky, is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now in paperback). His work is available at http://www.thiscantbehappening.net

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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Activists in Vermont town want Bush, Cheney subject to arrest

Impeach

Kucinich-Dennis

Bhutto Aide: The coverup begins + PROOF there was a shooter (videos)

Dandelion Salad

setfree69

One of Benazir Bhuttos Aides has pured scorn on the Pakistan Governments explanation of her assassination. Towards the end of this video is a slowed down video of her last moments SHOWING that there was evidence of activity just before the bomb exploded that would suggest there WAS gunfire. Added: December 29, 2007

PROOF there was a shooter

With all the Pakistans assurances she died from a SUNROOF, this video suggests otherwise that there was indeed a gunman, although the gunman cannot be seen the guards are seen ducking just before the Bomb Blast. Added: December 29, 2007

see

Anglo-American Ambitions behind the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the Destabilization of Pakistan by Larry Chin

Fighters deny Bhutto killing link

Al Jazeera: Who killed Benazir Bhutto? + Rageh Omaar on Pakistan’s future (videos)

Frost over the World: Benazir Bhutto 02 Nov 07 (video; bin Laden)

US agency OKs slashing of health benefits for over-65 retirees By Bill Van Auken

Dandelion Salad

By Bill Van Auken
World Socialist Web Site
28 December 2007

Using the slow period between Christmas and New Year’s as cover, the US federal agency charged with enforcing laws against discrimination issued a controversial new ruling that allows employer and union-run health-care plans to reduce costs by slashing or totally eliminating benefits for retirees once they turn 65.

The ruling by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission affects some 10 million American retirees who rely on health plans sponsored by their former employers. It marks a significant step in further shifting the burden imposed by spiraling health-care costs from the corporations to working people.

In reporting the ruling, the New York Times Thursday cited a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation showing that premiums for employer-run health insurance have risen by 78 percent since 2001.

Wednesday’s announcement of the new ruling follows a lengthy court battle over the issue. In 2000, the US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Philadelphia held that the 1967 Age Discrimination in Employment Act barred employers from spending less on health benefits for older retirees than for younger ones.

It has long been common practice for employer-run health plans to factor in benefits available to those over 65 under Medicare, often providing supplemental benefits to make up for costs not covered by this government-run program. The 2000 ruling would have compelled health care plan administrators to demonstrate that the benefits—taking Medicare into account—were equal for those over and under 65.

In 2004, after the EEOC first attempted to issue a ruling that exempted employer-run retiree health plans from the age discrimination act, AARP (American Association for Retired People) took the agency to court, charging that the action flouted the anti-discrimination law.

The same appeals court reversed the thrust of its earlier decision, ruling last June that the EEOC could issue an exemption on the grounds that a strict reading of the age discrimination act would run counter to “public interest.”

“We recognize with some dismay that the proposed exemption may allow employers to reduce health benefits to retirees over the age of 65 while maintaining greater benefits for younger retirees,” the court declared, but nonetheless found that the exemption represented a “proper exercise” of the EEOC’s authority.

EEOC Chairwoman Naomi Earp issued a statement in defense of the agency’s ruling, claiming that by opening the door to the slashing of retiree benefits, the EEOC was protecting retirees. “Implementation of this rule is welcome news for America’s retirees, whether young or old,” she said. “By this action, the EEOC seeks to preserve and protect employer-provided retiree health benefits, which are increasingly less available and less generous.”

The logic underlying this Orwellian statement is that, without the exemption, employers would scrap retiree health benefits altogether. As it is today, only one out of every three large US companies—and one out of ten small ones—provide such benefits. This compares to about 70 percent of US companies offering such benefits in the 1980s.

“Employers are not legally obligated to provide retiree health benefits, and many do not,” the EEOC noted. Its new rule states that retirees’ health benefits may be “altered, reduced or eliminated” once they are eligible for Medicare.

The agency continued: “In order to ensure that all retirees have access to some health care coverage, the ADEA will not prohibit employers and unions from providing retiree health coverage only to those retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare. They also may supplement a retiree’s Medicare coverage without having to demonstrate that the coverage is identical to that of non-Medicare eligible retirees.” In other words, the ruling provides explicit approval for the creation of two-tier retiree health plans in which older retirees would be forced to accept inferior benefits.

AARP denounced the action. “This rule gives employers free rein to use age as a basis for reducing or eliminating health-care benefits for retirees 65 and older,” the group’s lawyer, Christopher Mackaronis, told the Times. “Ten million people could be affected—adversely affected—by the rule.”

The EEOC statement on the ruling repeatedly cited the support for the agency’s reactionary measure from “labor unions.” The unions, the agency said, had expressed the opinion that any attempt to enforce the age discrimination act would only provide “an additional incentive to reduce or eliminate employer-sponsored retiree health benefits.”

Gerald Shea, assistant to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, told the Times: “Given the enormous cost pressures on employer-sponsored health benefits, we support the flexibility reflected in the rule as a way to maximize our ability to maintain comprehensive coverage for active and retired workers.”

Aside from the American labor bureaucracy’s concern about providing US corporations the “flexibility” to boost profits by slashing the benefits of retired workers, the unions have a far more immediate interest in the new ruling.

Most private sector unions run the health plans covering retirees, and therefore the bureaucracy has a direct—and often thoroughly corrupt—stake in the “flexibility” provided by the EEOC decision.

These union-run health insurance funds provide the union officialdom with the ability to hand out patronage jobs to friends and relatives, obtain second careers for themselves and receive perks and, not infrequently, direct kickbacks from health-care providers.

The latest union to join this racket is the United Auto Workers. As a result of concessions agreements negotiated with the Big Three US automakers earlier this year, the UAW has become the largest provider of health-care benefits in America, outside of the US government.

Under the sellout contracts with GM, Chrysler and Ford, the UAW has been given control over an under-funded health-care trust known as the Voluntary Employees’ Beneficiary Association (VEBA).

With the Big Three having provided funding that accounts for barely half of their health-care liabilities—and thereby writing off tens of billions in obligations—the UAW has essentially been handed a huge pile of cash—an estimated $54.4 billion— along with the job of sharply slashing benefits.

The EEOC ruling provides the UAW, as well as other unions, with another instrument for cutting benefits and jacking up costs for the workers on second-rate health-care plans, while boosting the already considerable income of the bureaucrats and their associates.

See Also:
Details of General Motors contract underscore UAW betrayal
[28 September 2007]

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World Socialist Web Site
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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. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

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Get real, Americans! You have been ripped off! By Mary Pitt

Divesting From Violence: 3 Minute Egg (video; Israel; 2004)

Dandelion Salad

AlternateFocus

In June of 2004, the Presbyterian Church USA became the first major religious institution in America to take a step toward divesting from companies that support the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. In an overwhelming 431 to 62 vote at their annual General Assembly meeting, the church approved a process called phased selective divestment. While the first opportunity to consider divesting from companies would not take place for another two years, the backlash against the church was immediate. Given the rather negative reaction that this decision evoked, it makes sense to look at the reasons that led the church to take this step. This program will explore why the Presbyterian Church USA began this process of phased selective divestment, what exactly the plan involves, and what the church hopes it will accomplish. Featuring interviews with Stated Clerk Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Rev. Charles Henderson, Rev. Marian McClure, Dr. Glenn Dickson and more. Producer: Andy Trimlett

Alternate Focus is available on the Dish Network, Free Speech TV, Channel 9415 and on cable stations near you. Check http://www.alternatefocus.org for details. Alternate Focus is a volunteer-run 501(c)(3) non-profit organization supported by viewers like you.

Added: December 28, 2007

Fox News: Dennis Kucinich and immigrants (video)

Dandelion Salad

IntelliGenius

December 27, 2007

h/t: After Downing Street

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How to Vote in Primaries and Not Be an Idiot by David Swanson

Caucus for Kucinich!

Time to join your Dennis Kucinich Statewide Meetup group!

Kucinich-Dennis

Dennis Kucinich Can Win by Lo