Thursday, February 28, 2008

Winter Soldier fundraiser in Somerville 3/7/2008

Veterans for Peace, Smedley Butler Brigade

in partnership with

O2 Yoga


Winter Soldier II Fundraiser

Where: O2 Yoga
288 Highland Ave
Somerville, MA

When: Friday, March 7, 2008

Time: 8:15 - 9:30PM

Please come and help O2 Yoga and Veterans for Peace support the Winter Soldier II hearings March 13th to 16th in Washington D.C. Veterans and civilian survivors of both conflicts will give public testimony and eye witness accounts of what is really happening on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This is a fundraiser, please bring your checkbooks.

Speakers - Iraq Veterans: Liam Madden and Carlos Harris

Gold Star Family: Carlos and Melida Arrendondo

A short film, Winter Soldier II will be shown.


Mimi Loureiro, Owner O2 Yoga

Winter Soldier fundraiser in Essex 3/2/2008




Sunday, March 2nd, 3pm

First Universalist Church

57 Main Street, Essex, MA

Keynote Speaker: Andrew Bacevich, Boston University

Professor of History and International Studies

Featured Speaker: Iraq Marine Veteran Liam Madden

Music by Pat Scanlon • Short DVD by IVAW • Light refreshments


Help us support the Winter Soldier hearings

March 13th to 16th in Washington DC

where recent US combat vets will testify on

what is really happening in Afghanistan and Iraq

Sponsored by the Samantha Smith Chapter Veterans for Peace

and the North Shore Coalition for Peace and Justice

Contact: Paul Brailsford: (978) 356 7671

The plan for what comes after Iraq

By Andrew J. Bacevich

February 24, 2008

THE ISSUE that ought to occupy center stage in the 2008 presidential campaign is not US policy toward Iraq but US policy after Iraq. "After" in this context does not mean that Iraq is now receding in America's rearview mirror; the conflict there will continue for years to come. "After" means that, like it or not, dealing with the war's consequences will rank near the top of the next president's agenda.

more stories like this

One such consequence is this: the United States finds itself without a set of viable and morally coherent principles to guide decisions regarding the use of force.

The United States once adhered to principles that were both sound and eminently straightforward. As recently as the 1970s and 1980s, the so-called Vietnam syndrome exercised a restraining influence. Americans saw military power as something to be husbanded. The preference was to use force as a last resort, employed to defend vital interests. Overt aggression qualified as categorically wrong.

After the Cold War, enthusiasm for precision weapons and a brief infatuation with "humanitarian interventionism" eroded those principles. During the 1990s, the use of force, usually on a small scale, became increasingly commonplace. The lessons of Vietnam lost their salience. Then came the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which prompted the Bush administration to jettison those lessons in their entirety.

In their place, the administration substituted a breathtakingly ambitious new framework. Through the use of preventive war (the Bush doctrine) the United States set out to transform the greater Middle East (the freedom agenda), thereby liberating the people of the Islamic world and preventing further terrorist attacks. Rather than a last resort, force became a preferred instrument. Given the right motives, aggressive war became justifiable and even necessary.

Two key assumptions underlay this approach. The first was that US troops were unstoppable: once committed into action, US forces could be counted on to deliver a quick, decisive, and economical victory. The second assumption was that the greater Middle East was ripe for change, with liberal values providing the antidote to the pathologies afflicting the region.

Events have now demolished these assumptions. Except when fighting on its own terms, the United States military has proven itself unable to deliver quick, decisive, and economical victories. Within 18 months of the terrorist attacks, President Bush initiated two major wars. Years later, despite the expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars and the loss of thousands of lives, those wars continue, with no end in sight. The president will bequeath both of them to his successor. Bluntly, the Bush doctrine hasn't worked as advertised.

Similar problems beset the freedom agenda. Efforts to democratize Iraq and Afghanistan have produced not effective and legitimate governments, but quasi-permanent dependencies. In the West Bank and Gaza, American insistence on free and fair elections delivered power to Hamas. In Lebanon, elections enhanced the standing of Hezbollah. Rather than alleviating pathologies, democracy has accentuated them.

Although the White House may pretend otherwise, the Bush doctrine and the freedom agenda have failed their trials. That failure is definitive. Only the truly demented will imagine that simply trying harder will produce different results - that preventive war against Iran, for example, will hurry that nation down the path toward Western-oriented liberal democracy. The collapse of the Bush doctrine and the freedom agenda leaves a dangerous void.

In the place of defective principles regarding the proper role of force, we now have no principles at all. Nothing in the presidential campaign thus far suggests that any of the candidates is aware of this problem. Regardless of the election's outcome, however, it will be incumbent upon the next president to replace the Bush doctrine and its corollary.

This will be no easy task. Yet the place to begin is with a candid recognition of just how far Americans have strayed from the path of wisdom and prudence since persuading themselves that the lessons of Vietnam no longer applied.

A first step might be to enshrine a new Iraq syndrome to serve the same purposes today that the Vietnam syndrome did after that failed war, reminding us that power has limits, curbing the reckless impulses of our politicians, warning against those who promise peace while sending young Americans to fight in distant lands.

The Iraq syndrome ought to begin with this dictum: never again. This time we need to mean it.

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book "The Limits of Power" will appear later this year.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Let's talk a bit about money

Did you know the 2009 military budget is $735,700,000,000? No shit.

Hmmmm. I wonder why that is so. . .

F-22 Raptors cost $355,000,000 a pop.

F-35 Lightnings cost $239,000,000 a pop.

C-17 Globemasters cost $202,000,000 in 1998 dollars.

Littoral Combat ships cost over $600,000,000 each.

The new national security cutter costs $536,000,000.

MRAPs cost at least $1,000,000 a pop.

BTW, the F-22s had to go into the shop for corrosion repairs, the F-35 still has not flown above 40,000 feet, the C-17 assembly line is getting shut down in 2009, the Littoral Combat ships have increased in cost by 300%, the Deepwater program is on the ropes, and the US Military uses 340,000 barrels of oil a day.

You're probably scratching your head asking "Huh? Where did he get those numbers?" I post daily at democraticunderground in the Veterans forum.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Ya gotta give the DoD credit for balls. They ask for more than $700 billion in their 2009 budget, and then four days later ask for another $30,000,000,000.

The toys are starting to get expensive: F-22s at $355,000,000 a pop, F-35s at $239,000,000 a pop, Virginia class submarines at $2,500,000,000 a pop, DDG destroyers at $3,300,000,000 to $5,000,000,000 a pop. The list goes on and on and on.

Deepwater program failures trashed the Coast Guard hopes for a replacement fleet. Admiral Allen's been on a propaganda tour trying to get more $$$.

The F-35 still cannot fly above 40,000 feet.

B-2s need $71,700,000 worth of display upgrades.

The Navy's LCS program is out of control. Instead of costing $220,000,000 a ship, the estimated cost is now $600,000,000 a ship. The Navy canceled two of the four ships ordered.

So back to the budget. The additional $30,000,000,000 makes the 2009 defense budget $735,700,000,000. That's almost 3/4 of a trillion dollars..

How much longer can we afford to do this?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan

Here's an 18 minute clip of Winter Soldier from the IVAW site. Watch it.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Gathering of Awesome!

Have you heard of these guys? Man, they blow my mind! I've never seen so much patriotism confined to one website: How do they contain all that kick-ass patriotism with such a small amount of bandwidth? I thought I was a patriot: driving my Ford F350 all drunk, wailing on my wife, getting tattoos of bald eagles and Confederate battle flags, and then these guys come along and BOOM! I get to see, first-hand, what a real bad-ass American hero looks like. I thought I was supposed to go to the gym and get all muscular. Or learn how to fight. Nope! To judge from the physiques and prêt-à-porter attire of the Eagles, all I need is regular access to a buffet and some straight-leg Wranglers to attain that patriotic chic.

So now I'm on a pretty strict regimen of steak, Miller High Life and seasonal sales at Farm and Fleet. I'd say that makes me the most patriotic red, white and blue bad-ass on my block. There's some dude next door with a sign that insists "MARRIAGE = MAN + WOMAN" in his front yard, but I've never seen him scream at 110-pound Code Pink gal until he was at the threshold of breaking an assault law, so I'm pretty sure he's a homo. Probably his mom's a Democrat. Might as well be Viet Cong!

Well, my fellow patriots, I'm glad you let me get all Francis Scott Key on your asses. It's just, when it gets all patriotic up in here with some Lee Greenwood pumping in the background, everybody's saluting, totally waving the Stars and Stripes all up in your face and I can feel the eagles soaring, I'm glad to know where they gather: in internet forums where liberal concepts like "grammar" and "veracity" have no place.

Friday's Flick: Bush Noir

By NanceGreggs

The minute he walked into the Oval Office, I knew he was trouble. I’d seen the type before. All the cowboy swagger in the world couldn’t hide that east coast preppie smirk – just another wisenheimer whose only passing acquaintance with “work” was having to haul his heinie down to the bank once a week to cash his allowance check.

Well, I can’t say I wasn’t curious about the kid. And a couple of rounds for the press boys at the local ginmill loosened a lot of tongues – just like four fingers of the good stuff always does.

The story was pretty much what I’d expected. Turns out the only way the mutt ever held down a job was when his daddy’s pals sunk a pile of simoleons into some fly-by-night business that couldn’t find oil in Texas – no joke.

The more I found out, the more obvious it was that the kid’s whole family, for all their high-falutin’ ways, had more skeletons in their closet than a grave-robber with amnesia. Yeah, there was plenty of dirt there – the kind that gets swept under the rug when you have enough doe-ray-me to buy yourself a top-of-the-line Bissell.

Anyways, the way I heard it, it didn’t take too long before this Bush kid starts hitting the bottle on a regular basis, along with finding a new use for that silver spoon that was danglin’ from his gums the day he was born. But eventually the kid starts smelling the draft, so Daddy Big Bucks calls in a couple of IOUs, and faster than you can down a sarsaparilla and pop some Sen-Sen, Junior’s got himself a cushy fly-boy job states-side while his buddies are bein’ shipped off to ‘Nam.

But here’s where the story gets interestin’. Turns out that years later, this Bush kid winds up as a duly-elected president – the duly-elected part being somewhat suspect, if you’re a stickler for the fine print – and he comes waltzin’ into the White House like he owns the joint.

The minute I set eyes on the gang he was gallivantin’ with, I knew the whole bunch was up to no good.

His sidekick, Big Dick Cheney, was the kinda guy who would shoot his best friend in the face, then send some doll-face out to talk to the coppers while he finished off the pitcher of highballs.

Then there was that stuck-up dame, Condi – a real sourpuss if ever I saw one, always actin’ like those pricey pumps at the end of her gams made her better than the rest of us workin’ stiffs.

And Rumsfeld – yeah, I’d grown up with kids like him back on the east side. Always trying to act the tough guy – ya know, kinda like the kids who beat him up for his pocket money every day of the week and twice on Sunday, just ‘cause they could spot a sissie a mile away. Turns out the guy’s into torture – as long as it’s some other poor schmuck on the hurtin’ end of the rubber hose. Thing is, you just know that every time this Rummy kid got told to strip down to his skivvies in gym class, you could hear him bawlin’ for his mama clean over to the next school district.

But the dead giveaway was the bunch of snot-noses the Bush kid thought were his pals – a collection of know-nuthin’ crumb-bums with names like Billy “The Kid” Kristol, Paulie “The Comb” Wolfowitz, Dickie “The Dickless” Perle.

You know the type – the kinda guys that talk big about how the other guy should do his bit for Uncle Sam, while the only action they ever seen was wavin’ goodbye to the dumb grunts down at the pier before headin’ over to some swank “eatery” to discuss the horrors of war over a plate of two-inch-thicks and a bottle of brandy.

So the Bush kid starts runnin’ the country, and before you know it, there are two buildings downtown that wind up being a hole in the ground while he’s parked in a classroom reading a kids’ picture book, lookin’ for all the world like when the Good Lord was handin’ out brains, he thought He said “trains”, and he missed his.

Before too long, he’s got us involved in some cockamamie war he can’t win, and whadda-you-know-joe, the hoodlums that just happen to be his best pals are rakin’ in the moolah like it’s goin’ outta style.

In the meanwhile, our fightin’ boys are tryin’ to dodge the bullets while drinking water that ain’t fit to spit in, courtesy of the same Big Dick’s former company that just happened to get moved to the front of the line when the taxpayers’ greenbacks got handed out by the fistful and nobody was botherin’ to count.

A hurricane hits New Orleans and while el presidente, fresh off one of those vacations he’s always on because you can’t expect a kid who grew up like he did to work more than eleven days a year, is out in the kitchen with Dinah, strumming on the ol’ banjo while people are dyin’ – which don’t make no neverminds by him, because they’re the type that he only ever seen at the country club when they was waitin’ tables and parking cars.

So we wind up with a country in debt up to its eyeballs, the G-men are spying on US while the back-room boys are swindlin’ the country outta billions, ya can’t get a job with a good ol’ US of A company unless you move to India, ya can’t buy your kid a train set for Christmas unless he’s immune to lead poisoning, the air ain’t fit to breathe, you can’t afford to fill up the Buick unless you’re the heir to a fortune – and on top of everything else, no one seems to have noticed that living in Capital City is the number one cause of being tetched in the brain, because nobody knows nuthin’, nobody sees nuthin’, and nobody remembers nuthin’.

And if you’re cooling your heels waitin’ for the press boys to drop a dime on the whole kit-‘n-caboodle, head on over to the soda shop and run a tab on the egg-creams, ‘cause you’re in for a long wait.

So now it’s time for this over-aged frat-boy to pack his kit-bag and head out on the next bus departing for points unknown, while an entire country rolls up its sleeves and yells, “Say, I’d like to learn this kid a lesson he’ll never forget!”

I wouldn’t give this Bush kid’s buddies more’en an ice-cube’s chance in hell to win another election, fair-and-square – and I’m talking about the fair-and-square we used to live by, back when a two-cent-plain went for two cents and Sunday’s sermon wasn’t about who to vote for.

But that’s just one dame’s opinion – for what it’s worth. And these days, it seems to be worth more ‘en that swamp land these no-good palookas are still hawkin’ on every street corner, too dumb to notice that this time around, nobody’s buyin’.

Posted in full with author's permission.

Originally posted at

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Overseas outsourcing: You get what you pay for

By Mary Shaw
February 05, 2008

A recent report from the Labor Department indicated that U.S. employers cut 17,000 jobs in January of this year. According to the Associated Press, this was "the first such reduction in more than four years."

Many of the job cuts were in manufacturing and "a variety of professional and business services."

I think it is no coincidence that these areas have seen a lot of U.S. jobs transferred to India, China, and other countries where the labor is much, much cheaper. Apparently, U.S. corporations care more about profits than the welfare of their employees.

Apparently, they also care more about profits than safety. This is evidenced by so many chilling accounts of unsafe American-named products imported from China -- everything from children's toys to toothpaste.

You get what you pay for.

And, apparently, they care more about profits than human rights. Many manufacturing facilities overseas are notorious for their use of sweatshops, horrific working conditions, and slave labor.

You get what you pay for.

All this so that U.S. corporations can rake in huge profits, and reward their CEOs with obscene salaries.

You get what you pay for? No, these CEOs get what others have paid for -- with blood, sweat, and tears.

And it's not just the low-level manufacturing jobs that are moving overseas. As the Labor Department's report noted, various professional and business services were also affected.

Chances are, if you have made a phone call for customer service in the past few years, particularly technical support, the representative who answered your call likely had an Indian accent. I have spoken with countless frustrated folks who gave up on getting their questions answered since they couldn't even make out the words that their rep was saying. I am not a xenophobe, but a customer service representative should have the necessary skills to make himself understood to his audience.

You get what you pay for.

I have a friend who worked as a technical writer for a Philadelphia area software developer. She thought her job was safe. After all, good technical writing must be very clear and unambiguous, and written using uncompromising standards of clarity. One of the rules of international technical writing is that you always write in your native language, or translate documentation into, not out of, your native language. Nevertheless, my friend's employer traded her in for her Indian counterparts. The resultant user guides, technical specs, and help screens were subpar, to say the least. But that didn't seem to matter to the corporate execs. Because it was all so affordable.

You get what you pay for.

Remember the American dream? It's looking more and more as though it, too, has been outsourced.

You get what the CEOs are willing to pay for.

Posted in full with author's permission.

Originally posted at

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

While us peons were distracted, our masters have brought back Debt Bondage

By arendt

Historical peonage

Peonage is a system where laborers are bound in servitude until their debts are paid in full. Those bound by such a system are known, in the US, as peons. Employers may extend credit to laborers to buy from employer-owned stores at inflated prices. This method is a variation of the company store system, in which workers are exploited by agreeing to work for an insufficient amount of goods and/or services. In these circumstances, peonage is a form of unfree labor. Such systems have existed in many places at many times throughout history.

Modern views

According to Anti-Slavery International, "A person enters debt bondage when their labor is demanded as a means of repayment of a loan, or of money given in advance. Usually, people are tricked or trapped into working for no pay or very little pay (in return for such a loan), in conditions which violate their human rights. Invariably, the value of the work done by a bonded laborer is greater that the original sum of money borrowed or advanced."

At international law

Debt bondage has been defined by the United Nations as a form of "modern day slavery" and is prohibited by international law. It is specifically dealt with by article 1(a) of the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, the Slave Trade, and Institutions and Practices Similar to Slavery 1956. It persists nonetheless especially in developing nations, which have few mechanisms for credit security or bankruptcy, and where fewer people hold formal title to land or possessions. According to some economists, for example Hernando de Soto, this is a major barrier to development in those countries - entrepreneurs do not dare take risks and cannot get credit because they hold no collateral and may burden families for generations to come.

Where children are forced to work because of debt bondage of the family, this is considered not only child labor, but a worst form of child labor in terms of the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 of the International Labour Organization.

I hate to burst the bubble of all those people who honestly believe that putting electing a Democratic president and veto-proof Congress is going to bring back social justice in America.

The sub-prime mortgage mess piles on top of usurious credit card rates and fees to create a perfect storm of peonage, not only for poor Americans, but also for the increasingly large percentage of the formerly middle class Americans who effectively have no assets.

The new Bankruptcy Laws (thanks Joe Biden, Senator - MBNA) are the chains and padlocks that will keep the new peons from fleeing - as if there were any jobs in America to which they might flee.

Welcome to debt peonage America, where children are locked into big box stores overnight to do shelf stocking, where single mothers get on buses to be bussed fifty miles away to work for chump change - as a condition of receiving welfare.

Welcome to credit-aholic America, where the credit card companies are throwing cards at teenagers, college students, people just out of bankruptcy. Give them a taste, sell them a little blow, and pretty soon you have a full-blown debt addict who will pay off for decades to come.

And rules? "We don need no steenking rules!" The credit companies change the terms and conditions on cards, retroactively, whenever they please. To the victims of this scam, it must be like being in the infamous Marion, IL Supermax prison. In that hell-hole, arbitrary, unannounced rule changes are discovered by being punished for not knowing about them - all as a part of psychological warfare to break the resistance of prisoners.

To cover all the flavors of peonage, we have the "company store" - the seller of first and last resort in Corporate America. Its where the non-urban peons HAVE TO go to spend the money. Essentially, all the small businessmen in small towns have been put out of business, and their holdings consolidated into the giant latifundia - I mean big box stores - that now employ all those former entrepreneurs.

Wal-Mart's Brave New World

I was visiting my mother who was, at that time, living in one of the poorer regions in the piney backwoods of Florida, a place not much different from Chapman, or Oroville or any of the locales characterized by poverty, drug traffic, lack of opportunity and the panoply of social problems that have become increasingly common throughout the land.

During the course of the visit, I noticed that my mother's old TV seemed about to expire, so I decided to buy her a new one. The only place such a purchase could be made, however, was at a Wal-Mart store some 15 miles from where she lived. /

WalMart is the new company store, where most of what is on offer is inferior, Chinese-made crap. And, except for the loss-leader items, its caveat emptor, suckers.


I weep for America. It is financially doomed, but it goes about its increasingly pathetic business like it was still 1950. While it has a "gut feeling" that corporate deregulation and outsourcing are at the root of all the economic trouble, it is so collectively brainwashed that it continues to fall for the same old Libertarian /neoliberal bunkum over and over - the "ownership society", "trickle down", "tax cuts for the rich".

The media brainwashing machine keeps the emotional volume on "high" for economically irrelevant distractions like gay marriage or evolution or birth control. If it didn't, or if they "tuned out", some of these new peons might be able to focus on that emotion that would, under normal circumstances, have long since been heard: these guys are crooks, and we are going to put them in jail.

If that happened, we soon wouldn't have peons (or is that the "peed on"s).


That's OK, nothing to hear here. You all can go back to that wonderful campaign hoopla. You can listen to a candidate roster that has absolutely no intention of doing anything about the new peonage - except to make sure it continues. A celebrity will visit you and dazzle you. Vote. Belong. Consume and reproduce.


Note: given this is Super Tuesday night, this will sink like a stone. Consider it counter-programming for those who don't give a shit about this meaningless spectacle.

Posted in full with author's permission.

Originally posted at

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Tuesday

If I were still amongst the living, my thinking on this day would be as follows: There are 4 realistically viable choices left.

CLINTON: She is an insider's insider, attracts all kinds of big $$$ (always with strings attached), is no friend of the anti-war movement and I don't think our nation needs another DYNASTY.

ROMNEY: This guy is a phony ASS...., a big war supporter, who when asked by a reporter why his 5 sons (of military service age) were not partaking of the war he so strongly supports-, after a withering stare, replied that his sons were "serving their country by helping me get get elected president"!

McCAIN: This guy scares the hell out of me! Here we have a Viet Nam Vet, who most surely should know better, strongly supporting the Cheney/Bush criminal fiasco and the"Surge"in Iraq, stating something to the effect "If it takes a hundred years, we should complete THE MISSION(???)"? Didn't he ever ask himself the question while in the "Hanoi Hilton" prison or later "What did all my pain,suffering and misery do for me or my country?" and then say to himself "If I can, I should do anything in my power to stop any more f....d up wars from ever happening again!" But then I could never understand "ring knocker"(academy grads) 'thinking'. Perhaps, as that geat military thinker/stategist Karl Rove intimated, McCain"s time as a POW affected his logic circuity. Or,mostlikely, BIG M.I.C.$$$$ has affected his integrity! What ever the reason(s), as I said, this guy scares the hell out of me!!!

Lastly,OBAMA: Seems by far the "lesser of the evils" (isn't THAT the American way) and who knows, you may get lucky!Wouldn"t it be ironic, if an African/American restored DEMOCRACY to The Facist Plutocrcy of America?!



I Will Not Be Moved

By NanceGreggs

Long before the infighting, the name-calling, the mindless bashing ever got a foothold, I had already chosen my candidate. I am not now, nor will I be in future, persuaded away from my choice, nor will I be insulted or bullied into changing my mind.

My candidate is the one who ends up winning the nomination and has a (D) behind their name. They have my vote, and my support.

Of course, I, like everyone, had my preference going in. But when it was clear that the majority of my fellow Democrats preferred someone else over my personal choice, I accepted that. I don’t think they are stupid or ill-informed; they simply had a different choice, perhaps based on different criteria than my own.

So be it. As long as their choice has a (D) behind their name, I’ll abide by the ultimate majority decision that is made by my fellow party members. That’s based on my wanting a Democrat in the White House; it is also based on the overwhelming fact that I, unlike some people, do not believe that I know what’s best for everyone, and therefore anyone who disagrees with me is clearly wrong.

I will not be moved by the Nostradamus factor; those who know we’ll lose in November if Hillary is the nominee, along with those who know we will lose if it’s Obama. And one can’t help but notice the irony: the listen-to-me-because-I-KNOW prophets are equally assured that they can predict the future – even though they are predicting completely different outcomes.

I will not be moved by the childish bickering between the pro-Hill and pro-Obama factions, which has gone from one ridiculous outburst to another. “Hillary supporters are pro-war and just don’t care about their country.” “Obama supporters obviously want us to lose in November.” Yes, that’s right. Millions of Democrats across the country are meeting in secret, choosing the candidate they are most hopeful will continue the debacle in Iraq and/or cost us the White House. Glad you figured that one out, Einstein.

Let’s not discuss how important it is to rid ourselves of Republican rule when there are more pressing things to focus on – like handshakes that did or didn’t happen. Let’s not concern ourselves with future Supreme Court nominees – better to wind up with another Scalia than elect a Democrat who might have snubbed someone – and, of course, let’s base the truth and/or the implications of that alleged snub on the MSM talking hairdos’ take on things, because it just doesn’t get any more reliable than that.

So while the Clinton-Obama virtual fisticuffs continue unabated (as they no doubt will), I will stand firm in my choice: last man or woman standing with the all-important (D) gets my vote – unequivocally, and without ‘holding my nose’.

In the end, it’s (D) v (R), and in the bitter fray that this place has become over the past few months, I have never forgotten who the enemy is.

As for those who refuse to vote for that man or that woman based on their ‘principles’, I am sure that if we get another four-to-eight years of a Republican in the White House, those same people will comfort themselves knowing that their personal agenda was far more important than the wellbeing of the nation and its citizenry.

Most of all, I will not be moved by those touting the idea that given the two candidates we're left with, there’s no difference between US (the Dems) and THEM (the GOP). If that is what you honestly believe, I hope you will give serious consideration to becoming an equal-opportunity whiner, whereby you post that same sentiment on Republican message boards for a while. If there's no difference between US and THEM, shouldn't you be giving them fair warning as well? That would seem only fair - and I’m sure there are many here who would welcome the break from your belly-achin’.

A Democrat in the White House, with a strong Democratic majority in the House and the Senate. It’s the only thing that matters now – and if you don’t believe that, think long and hard about the alternative – because if that doesn’t give you nightmares, you obviously don’t understand what’s at stake.

I believe, especially after the last seven-plus years, that I do understand what’s at stake – and I plan to vote accordingly.

That's why the nominee with the (D) is getting my vote, and my support, without question. It will be interesting to see which of the two remaining candidates wins the battle - but ultimately, when it comes down to our (D) versus their (R), it should be obvious that there's a lot more riding on who wins the war.

Posted in full with author's permission.

Originally posted at

Connection between State-Sponsored Terror, Corporate Greed and Economic “Shock Therapy”

By Time for change

The relationship between state-sponsored terror, corporate greed and economic “shock therapy” represents perhaps the most fundamental evil of our times. I believe that it goes a very long way towards explaining why so much of the world’s population is impoverished today. It is no accident. Third World nations have to a very large extent been kept down by external human forces who seek to profit from the labors of the poor.
Naomi Klein, in “The Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”, thoroughly explores this issue in a manner that clarifies it like nothing else I’ve ever read.

Her book begins with Chile in the 1970s, where U.S. complicity in the overthrow of the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, had as perhaps its main goal the putting into practice of Milton Friedman’s economic theories, developed at the University of Chicago. These theories, when put into practice in several countries over more than three decades, have served primarily to increase the wealth and power of the wealthy, at the expense of everyone else. They represent the shock doctrine and disaster capitalism referred to in the title of Klein’s book.

It is essential that these phenomena be understood by enough people in order to enable successful efforts to be taken against them. Otherwise massive human catastrophes will continue to accumulate to the point where world civilization as we know it will be wiped out.

The rise of the Pinochet torture regime in Chile

The Nixon administration hated the idea of Salvador Allende being in power in Chile. Whether that was for ideological reasons or because he represented a roadblock to U.S. corporate interests is not entirely clear. Perhaps there is no real distinction between those two motivations. Anyhow, William Blum, in his article, “A Concise History of US Global Interventions, 1945 to the Present”, explains what the Nixon administration did about their problem:

Salvador Allende was the worst possible scenario for the Washington power elite… (Allende) respected the constitution and became increasingly popular. After sabotaging Allende’s electoral endeavor in 1964, and failing to do so in 1970 despite their best efforts, the CIA and the rest of the American foreign policy machine left no stone unturned in their attempt to destabilize the Allende government… undermining the economy and building up military hostility.

Consequently, the U.S. government collaborated with the Chilean military to overthrow Allende and install Augusto Pinochet. Naomi Klein explains what happened next:

The generals knew that their hold on power depended on Chileans being truly terrified…The trail of blood left behind over those four days came to be known as the Caravan of Death. In short order the entire country had gotten the message: resistance is deadly… In all, more than 3,200 people were disappeared or executed, at least 80,000 were imprisoned, and 200,000 fled the country.

The use of economic shock therapy in Chile following the 1973 coup

Milton Friedman’s disciples, who are known as “The Chicago Boys”, after the University of Chicago where they learned their economic theories, had been working hand in glove with Pinochet for some time before the actual coup took place. So they were plenty ready to put their theories into place as soon as Pinochet came to power. Klein describes how that worked out:

In 1974, inflation reached 375 %. The cost of basics such as bread went through the roof. At the same time, Chileans were being thrown out of work because Pinochet’s experiment with “free trade” was flooding the country with cheap imports… Unemployment hit record levels and hunger became rampant… Chicago boys argued that the problem didn’t lie with their theory but with the fact that it wasn’t being applied with sufficient strictness.

So Friedman flew to Chile to visit Pinochet himself, and he advocated even harsher measures. Eventually he convinced Pinochet to fully institute his “reforms”:

Friedman advised Pinochet to impose a rapid-fire transformation of the economy – tax cuts, free trade, privatized services, cuts to social spending and deregulation… It was the most extreme capitalist make-over ever attempted anywhere, and it became known as a “Chicago School” revolution… Friedman predicted that the speed, suddenness and scope of the economic shifts would provoke psychological reactions in the public that “facilitate the adjustment”. He coined a phrase for this painful tactic: economic “shock treatment.”

This caused even more severe distress for the Chilean people. But eventually, 15 years after he came to power, the economy “stabilized”.

The so-called Chilean economic “miracle”

It is of course important to those who profit from Chicago School economics to make people believe that they work. Hence the so-called Chilean economic “miracle”. Klein thoroughly debunks that argument:

Three decades later, Chile is still held up by free-market enthusiasts as proof that Friedmanism works. When Pinochet died in December 2006, The New York Times praised him for “transforming a bankrupt economy into the most prosperous in Latin America”.

Pinochet held power for 17 years. The country’s period of steady growth that is held up as proof of its miraculous success did not begin until the mid-eighties – a full decade after the Chicago Boys instituted shock therapy…

In 1982, despite strict adherence to Chicago doctrine, Chile’s economy crashed… The situation was so unstable that Pinochet was forced to do what Allende had done…

It’s clear that Chile never was the laboratory of pure free markets that its cheerleaders claimed. Instead it was a country where a small elite leapt from wealthy to super rich in short order… bankrolled by debt and heavily subsidized (then bailed out) with public funds. Chile under Pinochet and the Chicago Boys was not a capitalist state featuring a liberated market but a corporatist one… What Chile pioneered under Pinochet was an evolution of corporatism: a mutually supporting alliance between a police state and large corporations… to wage all out war … on the workers. That war – what many Chileans understandably see as a war of the rich against the poor and middle class – is the real story of Chile’s economic “miracle”.

By 1988, when the economy had stabilized and was growing rapidly, 45% of the population had fallen below the poverty line. The richest 10% of Chileans, however, had seen their incomes increase by 83%. Even in 2007, Chile ranked as one of the most unequal societies in the world…

The spread of economic shock therapy to other Latin American countries

Since the experiment in Freidman’s economics worked out so well in Chile, some other Latin American dictatorships decided to give it a try. Klein describes this process:

The Chicago School counterrevolution quickly spread. Brazil was already under the control of a U.S. supported junta… Friedman traveled to Brazil in 1973, at the height of that regime’s brutality, and declared the economic experiment a “miracle”. In Uruguay the military had staged a coup in 1973 and the following year decided to go the Chicago route…. The effect on Uruguay’s previously egalitarian society was immediate: real wages decreased by 28% and hordes of scavengers appeared on the streets… Next to join the experiment was Argentina in 1976, when a junta seized power from Isabel Peron. That meant that Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Brazil – the countries that had been showcases of developmentalism – were now all run by U.S. backed military governments and were living laboratories of Chicago School economics.

U.S. complicity in the rise of dictatorships in Latin America

The above noted article by William Blum describes how the United States intervened in twelve different South and Central American countries during the Cold War including Guatemala, Costa Rica, British Guyana, Ecuador, Uruguay, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. The main purpose of these interventions was to facilitate changes to regimes that were friendlier to the United States (and in almost all cases less friendly to the indigenous populations of those countries.) For this purpose, we developed the School of the Americas, which was used to train native personnel in the techniques and ideology of insurgency and counter-insurgency.

This article on reasons to shut down the School of the Americas (SOA) provides a good description of what was involved, and can be summarized as follows:

It describes numerous atrocities committed by graduates of SOA, which are consistent with the SOA curriculum. While SOA torture manuals have been withdrawn and SOA has changed its name, the content of the torture manuals has not been repudiated, and some of the worst abusers continue to be honored as guest instructors for U.S. courses.

School of the Americas training is oriented to support the military and political status quo in each country, which places the U.S. in opposition to any who seek free speech to discuss problems, alternative means to solve problems, or democratic means to change governments. More specifically, the enemy is identified as the poor, those who assist the poor, such as church workers, educators, and unions, and certain ideologies such as “socialism” or “liberation theology”. All of this just to make sure that Communists or “leftists” don’t get a foothold in any of these countries.

Here are some specific examples of U.S. intervention in Latin America, as described by Blum:

President Joao Goulart was guilty of the usual crimes. He took an independent stand in foreign policy, resuming relations with socialist countries… His administration passed a law limiting the amount of profits multinationals could transmit outside of the country… He promoted economic and social reforms… In 1964 he was overthrown in a military coup which had covert American involvement and indispensable support. The official Washington line was: Yes, it’s unfortunate, but still, the country has been saved from Communism. For the next 15 years, all the features of military dictatorship which Latin Americans have come to know and love were instituted… peasants’ homes were burned down… disappearances, death squads, a remarkable degree and depravity of torture…. Brazil became one of the United States’ most reliable allies in Latin America.

The 1960s was the era of perhaps the… least violent Robin Hood like urban guerillas the world has ever seen…. A team of American experts arrived to supply the police with all the arms… etc. they needed; to train them in assassination… to teach methods of torture … It was all out war against the Tupamaros

John Perkins, in “The Secret History of the American Empire - Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth”, talks about the destruction of vast areas of Ecuador’s rain forests, the transformation of rivers into cesspools, and the disappearance of several animal species in Ecuador as the result of a $1.3 billion oil pipeline constructed there. He notes that for every $100 of oil taken from the Amazon forests, $75 goes to the oil companies, $18 goes to pay off the debt, and only $3 goes to the people who need the money the most. Since 1968, the nation’s debt grew from a quarter billion dollars to $16 billion, poverty level grew from 50% to 70%, and under- or unemployment grew from 15% to 70%.

There was a brief interlude, however. In 1979 Ecuador elected its first President, after a long line of dictators. Jaime Roldos came to the Ecuadorian presidency promising to put his peoples’ interests above the interests of the oil companies, and he did in fact stand up against the oil companies. In May, 1981, shortly after warning foreign interests that they would be asked to leave his country if their plans didn’t benefit his people, he died in a helicopter crash, widely believed in Latin America to be the work of the CIA. Roldos was replaced by a man who was compliant with U.S. wishes, and it was all downhill for Ecuador from there.

In 2003, Perkins came back to Ecuador to try to prevent a war that he held himself partially responsible for provoking. This would be a war fought against indigenous Ecuadorians against the Ecuadorian Army assisted by U.S. Special Forces advisors, on behalf of oil companies who accused an indigenous community of taking its workers hostage, as an excuse for war. Lawyers who represented the indigenous community in an effort to get the oil companies off their land had recently died in a plane crash.

Operation Condor
Operation Condor was a conspiracy between several Latin American dictatorships, whereby they provided mutual assistance to each other to help themselves maintain power. Patrice McSherry describes the background and basic methods for the operation:

In the 1960s and 1970s, populist, nationalist, and socialist movements emerged throughout the class-stratified nations of Latin America, challenging the entrenched privileges of local oligarchies as well as U.S. political and economic interests. In this context, U.S. national security strategists and their Latin American counterparts began to regard large sectors of these societies as potentially or actually subversive…. During these years, militaries in country after country ousted civilian governments in a series of coups… and installed repressive regimes….

Condor was a covert intelligence and operations system that enabled the Latin American military states to hunt down, seize, and execute political opponents across borders. Refugees fleeing military coups and repression in their own countries were "disappeared" in combined transnational operations. The militaries defied international law and traditions of political sanctuary to carry out their ferocious anticommunist crusade…

Security forces in Latin America classified and targeted persons on the basis of their political ideas rather than illegal acts. The regimes hunted down dissidents and leftists, union and peasant leaders, priests and nuns, intellectuals, students and teachers – not only guerrillas.

And McSherry describes the evidence for U.S. complicity in the operation:

Recently declassified documents add weight to the thesis that U.S. forces secretly aided and facilitated Condor operations. The U.S. government considered the Latin American militaries to be allies in the Cold War, worked closely with their intelligence organizations, and promoted coordinated action and modernization of their capabilities. As shown here, U.S. executive agencies at least condoned, and sometimes actively assisted, some Condor "countersubversive" operations.

The relationship between state-sponsored terror and economic shock therapy

A major theme of Klein’s book is that economic shock therapy is very unpopular with the vast majority of a country’s population. The reason for that is quite straight forward: It does great damage to the vast majority of people, while providing huge profits for a small proportion of the country’s population, as well as for enterprising foreigners who take advantage of the situation.

Orlando Letelier was a former Chilean ambassador to the United States under Allende. He explained in a letter to The Nation why the violent terror of the Pinochet regime and its economic policies were necessarily very closely related. Klein describes that letter.

He pointed out that “this particularly convenient concept of a social system, in which ‘economic freedom’ and political terror coexist without touching each other, allows these financial spokesmen to support their concept of ‘freedom’… Letelier went so far as to write that Milton Friedman, as “the intellectual architect and unofficial adviser for the team of economists now running the Chilean economy,” shared responsibility for Pinochet’s crimes… The “establishment of a free ‘private economy’ and the control of inflation a la Friedman,” Letelier argued, could not be done peacefully. “The economic plan has had to be enforced, and in the Chilean context that could be done only by the killing of thousands, the establishment of concentration camps all over the country, the jailing of more than 100,000 persons in three years… Regression for the majorities and ‘economic freedom’ for small privileged groups are in Chile two sides of the same coin.” There was, he wrote, “an inner harmony” between the “free market” and unlimited terror.

Less than a month later, Pinochet received some confirmation of those assertions. On September 21, 1976, he died from an explosion of a remote controlled bomb in his car in Washington, D.C. Investigation pinned the assassination on a senior member of Pinochet’s secret police, who was later convicted of the crime in a U.S. federal court. The assassins had been admitted to the U.S. on false passports with the knowledge of the CIA.

The initiation of economic shock therapy without the use of violence or terror

Though the use of violence and terror is a very useful way to get a population to accept economic shock therapy, it isn’t necessarily the first choice of method. For one thing, it cast suspicion on Friedman’s economic theories: If economic shock therapy is always accompanied by violence and terror, what does that say about its legitimacy as an economic policy? Also, the use of violence and terror pose certain risks. And, they give the regime a bad name. When word got out about the tactics of the Pinochet regime it developed a very bad reputation in many quarters, and it had to put up with a great deal of criticism and ostracism. So it is often or usually better to utilize nonviolent ways for achieving economic oppression.

John Perkins, in “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, explains how the system often works, from the perspective of an insider who formerly did the dirty work that he describes in his book. Perkins explains that economic hit men (EHM) are paid by U.S. corporations to develop economic projections for major development projects in third world countries. Their projections are supposed to predict substantial economic growth and thereby justify huge loans from international lending institutions. The money from the loan then is immediately funneled into U.S. oil, engineering or construction companies (which is a precondition of the loan) to develop their projects.

The problem is that the projects often or usually benefit only the country’s wealthy and powerful elite, who are represented by the very government that arranged the loan. If all works out well for the involved corporations, the country is unable to repay the debt, which forces them to be perpetually indebted and consequently ensures their loyalty to the United States. That enforced loyalty ensures that the country’s government will perform favors for us, such as allowing our corporations access to their natural resources, allowing the construction of U.S. military bases on their soil, and the casting of crucial U.N. votes in our favor.

Thus, the huge debts incurred under the system cause great harm to the vast majority of a country’s population, not only because of increased taxes and severe cuts in health care, education and other social services, but also because the projects themselves usually deplete a country’s resources and pollute its environment, often displacing large segments of the population in the process.

If the EHMs are unsuccessful in their efforts to convince a government to play ball, then what Perkins calls jackals are sent in to assassinate or overthrow the uncooperative government officials in question, as was done for example in Iran in 1953, in Guatemala in 1954, in Chile in 1973, or in Indonesia in 1965. If that doesn’t work either, then we send in our military, as we did in Panama in 1989 or in Iraq in 1991 and 2003.

Naomi Klein explains that to a very large extent today, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which are both very much under the control of the United States, are instruments which facilitate this process. They loan money to impoverished nations that are desperate for it, imposing conditions on those nations which work to keep the great majority of its inhabitants impoverished indefinitely. The process is something akin to loan sharking or indentured servitude.

The relationship between right wing “free market” ideology and corporate greed

Milton Friedman is usually thought of as an academic professional. Presumably his economic theories are politically neutral and based on economic science rather than politics. He even received a Nobel Prize for his work in economics. But is it realistic to think of Friedman’s theories as academically motivated, well intentioned, and politically neutral? Or is it more realistic to think of him as the head of a vast right wing think tank that has served to the great advantage of the wealthy and powerful while producing human catastrophe for millions of people?

After explaining how the so-called “economic miracle” of Pinochet’s Chile was nothing more than a vast giveaway to the rich, at the expense of the vast majority of Chileans, Naomi Klein asks the following question:

If that track record qualifies Chile as a miracle for Chicago School economics, perhaps shock treatment was really never about jolting the economy into health. Perhaps it was meant to do exactly what it did – hoover wealth up to the top and shock much of the middle class out of existence.

And later in her book, after describing how something similar happened in Russia, she asks:

This points to a nagging and important question about free-market ideologues: Are they “true believers”, driven by ideology and faith that free markets will cure underdevelopment, as is often asserted (and as they claim), or do the ideas and theories frequently serve as an elaborate rationale to allow people to act on unfettered greed while still invoking an altruistic motive? ….

And she describes the dangerous consequences of failing to make the connection between Friedman’s radical theories and the torture regimes that put them into action:

The Chicago Boys’ first adventure in the seventies should have served as a warning to humanity: theirs are dangerous ideas. By failing to hold the ideology accountable for the crimes committed in its first laboratory, this subculture of unrepentant ideologues was given immunity, freed to scour the world for its next conquest. These days, we are once again living in an era of corporatist massacres., with countries suffering tremendous military violence alongside organized attempts to remake them into model “free market” economies; disappearances and torture are back with a vengeance. And once again the goals of building free markets, and the need for such brutality, are treated as entirely unrelated.

Portents for the future

The above paragraph by Klein clearly refers to George W. Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. Either Bush decided that the non-violent method of accomplishing his economic goals was not feasible, or else he didn’t want to take the trouble to pursue that method.

Antonia Juhasz, in “The Bush Agenda – Invading the World, One Economy at a Time”, explains the purpose of the invasion and occupation of Iraq as being mainly an economic one. The Foreign Investment Order, issued by the first administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, L. Paul Bremer, provided the legal framework for the invasion of U.S. corporations into Iraq. It provided for the privatization of Iraq’s state-owned enterprises, foreign ownership of Iraqi businesses, tax-free remittance of all profits, immunity of foreign businesses from Iraqi courts, and much else. As with everything else about the U.S. occupation, these provisions did great damage to the Iraqi people, for the benefit of U.S. corporations. Juhasz describes the effects of privatization of Iraqi industries:

In Bremer’s own words, “Restructuring inefficient state enterprises requires laying off workers.”… Even those workers who still had jobs in Iraq at the time only received… about half of what they made before the war. At the same time, prices skyrocketed.

And with respect to the lack of any constraints on foreign corporations:

U.S. corporations are therefore invited to enter the Iraqi economy, exploit a nation at its most vulnerable point, with no obligation to reinvest in the country at a time when rebuilding Iraq is professed to be the Bush administration’s most vital assignment. U.S. corporations have reaped staggering revenues from their Iraqi operations…

Naomi Klein sums up what Friedman type economic ideology has set in motion:

Chile under Chicago School rule was offering a glimpse of the future of the global economy, a pattern that would repeat again and again (all of which Klein describes in her book) … an urban bubble of frenetic speculation and dubious accounting fueling super-profits and rampant consumerism… roughly half the population excluded from the economy altogether; out-of-control corruption and cronyism; decimation of nationally owned small and medium sized businesses; a huge transfer of wealth from public to private hands, followed by a huge transfer of private debts to public hands. In Chile, if you were outside the wealth bubble the miracle looked like the Great Depression, but inside its airtight cocoon the profits flowed so free and fast that the easy wealth made possible by shock therapy-style “reforms” have been the crack cocaine of financial markets ever since. And that is why the financial world did not respond to the obvious contradictions of the Chile experiment by reassessing the basic assumptions of laissez-faire. Instead it reacted with the junkie’s logic: Where is the next fix?

The people of the United States and the people of the world need to understand this and make it clear to their governments that this type of voodoo economics in no longer acceptable.

Post in full with author's permission.

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