There really is not any Iraq news since C.I.'s snapshot. A lot of the whispers about "Iran" but no real news. Trina found an article she wanted to highlight tonight but it was a long one. I told her that I might not have anything to say tonight so I could easily grab it. This is from Workers World:
What can win jobs?
By Fred Goldstein
Published Jan 15, 2009 9:01 PM
The intensifying capitalist crisis, which is bringing greater and greater suffering daily, is leaving the workers and the oppressed with no alternative but to organize a fightback. The deadly waves of unemployment, foreclosures, homelessness, hunger and repression are spreading while the ruling-class politicians and experts debate over the terms of the so-called “stimulus package.”
With 533,000 jobs lost in December, official unemployment went up to a 16-year high of 7.2 percent. The annual job loss for 2008 was over 2.59 million, the highest since World War II. The rapid rate of layoffs has brought the official number of unemployed to 11.1 million workers.
Unemployment of Black men over the age of 20, which was already officially double-digit, jumped from 12.1 percent to 13.4 percent in December. For African-American youth from 16 to 19, the figures were a staggering 32.2 percent rising to 33.7 percent in the same month. White youth unemployment also rose to 18.7 percent.
The rarely published figure of “total unemployment” grew from 12.6 percent to 13.5 percent. Total unemployment includes those workers forced to take part-time work who need full-time jobs as well as workers who are known to have become so discouraged that they have stopped looking for work.
The average number of hours worked was down to 33.3 in December, the lowest since these records were first kept in 1964.
The most important aspect of the December figures is that December is usually a month of increased hiring, even during slow times, as retailers gear up for holiday sales, manufacturers put on additional workers to fill rush orders for inventory, and the restaurant and entertainment industries have higher sales.
Instead, December saw the biggest decline in retail sales since record keeping began in 1970, despite price-slashing sales of 50 to 70 percent off and buy-one-get-one-free offers. The International Council of Shopping Centers estimated that 148,000 retail stores shut down in 2008. It projected that another 73,100 retail stores will shut down in the first six months of 2009. The closures would result in the loss of 625,000 to 800,000 retail jobs. (Washington Post, Jan. 9)
‘Stimulus program’ smaller than a band-aid
Considering the catastrophic wave of unemployment, with at least 20 million jobless or severely underemployed right now, and the prospects for a massive increase in the coming period, all the speculation about whether the “stimulus package” will add 3 million or 3.5 million jobs over the next two years seems utterly inadequate.
The government figure of 11.1 million unemployed, or 7.2 percent, is based upon a workforce of 154 million. The more realistic “total unemployment” figure cited above of 13.4 percent equals 20.6 million, according to the government.
Furthermore, the stimulus package now being projected amounts to $775 billion. Of this, 40 percent is in tax cuts, which are not necessarily going to create jobs. And, worst of all, 90 percent of the spending is to go to private capitalists. So it is largely a handout to the capitalists in the hope that they will create enough jobs.
With all the talk about studying the New Deal, this program takes an opposite approach to that of the Roosevelt administration. While the New Deal was purely a band-aid, filled with limitations and flaws and calculated to save capitalism by preventing a mass uprising of the workers, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) nevertheless provided direct jobs to 8 million workers during the decade, or one-fifth of the workforce. At any given time, anywhere from 2 million to 3 million workers were employed by the government in these programs—the equivalent of 9 million to 10 million today.
The present plans for government spending set up a situation in which some 20 million unemployed workers will have to compete for 1 million to 1.5 million jobs in the coming year—assuming that the job creation projections are anywhere near correct. Such a situation in which workers are desperately seeking scarce jobs will tend to lower wages, set worker against worker and help the bosses.
The workers should of course take advantage of any opportunity to get new jobs created to help feed themselves and their families. But they must not sit back and let the economic “experts” in Washington and Wall Street dictate the terms of the economic package. They must get organized to impose their own economic demands on the capitalist government.
They could start by demanding that every nickel of the more than $1 trillion already given to the banks be taken back and made available for jobs and services to the workers and the communities. The banks are so arrogant that they won’t even tell the government what they are doing with this money.
From bailout to fightback
The struggle is in its early stages and the workers are on the defensive. It is natural that at this stage popular organizations want to take advantage of the term “bailout” to expose the handouts to the banks and the bosses. But, as the struggle progresses, the concept of the capitalist government bailing out the people has to be shifted to the concept of the workers fighting back.
The funds to stem the crisis have to be put under the supervision of the workers, the unions, community organizations and other mass organizations—and not the bosses. It is the masses who are suffering from the crisis. They should be empowered to deal with it.
Only the masses will enforce a living wage, job guarantees, union rights, anti-racist practices and rights for women workers. The capitalists are skilled and experienced at manipulating government subsidies that are supposed to go for creating jobs. Instead they turn things around to maximize their profits. Relying on profiteering capitalists—and there is no other kind!—to save the working class is the worst possible course to pursue.
There must be a movement toward creating organs of popular power at the local, regional and national level to stop the layoffs and defend the workers’ right to a job; to demand a guarantee of jobs or income; an end to foreclosures and evictions; to organize the unemployed and the employed into a united movement demanding jobs for all.
As the crisis unfolds, the question must be raised, what is the cause of the crisis? Paul Krugman, a liberal economist, cites the fact that the U.S. economy could create $30 trillion worth of goods and services in the next two years. That would be sufficient to vastly reduce unemployment.
Krugman, who recently won a Nobel Prize for economics, restricted his commentary to a criticism of Barack Obama’s economic program. He brushed by the fundamental question. He did not bother to ask why, when there is the economic capacity to employ all the workers, is unemployment going through the roof?
The answer is that while the U.S. economy can produce $30 trillion worth of goods and services, it is in the form of commodities that must be sold for profit and only for profit. Human need means nothing to capitalism.
It is not as if the masses of people do not need the $30 trillion worth of goods and services. In fact, right now they are being deprived of the very means of life by an economic storm artificially created by capitalism itself.
The masses have been impoverished for more than 30 years by union busting, wage and benefit cuts, massive destruction of jobs at living wages and their replacement by low-wage jobs. At the same time the corporations have vied with each other to capture markets and sell more and more—purely to make more profit. They fostered every kind of debt—credit card debt, mortgage debt, auto loan debt and so on—to keep the profits rolling in.
Finally the entire edifice has come crashing down in a crisis of capitalist overproduction. There are too many autos to sell at a profit. There are too many houses to sell at a profit. There is too much steel to sell at a profit. And so on. It has led to the wave of layoffs, foreclosures, evictions, hunger and homelessness.
As a system of exploitation for profit, capitalism itself is at the bottom of the crisis. As the workers and the oppressed awake to demand their rights, the ultimate aim must be the destruction of capitalism and the erection of a system run for human need, not for profit. That system is socialism.
Goldstein is the author of the recently published book “Low-Wage Capitalism: Colossus with Feet of Clay.” See lowwagecapitalism.com for information about the book and how to order it.
Articles copyright 1995-2009 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved. Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011
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So Rebecca, Stan and I went to Texas this week and it was a lot of fun. It was great to see community members from the state and it was great to be somewhere warm although everyone there thought it was freezing. There was one day where it was cold. Monday night, I believe, a cold front came in. But it still was not that cold. Actually, I think that was Tuesday.
They had sunshine. They had days where it was in the fifties. It was like a tropical vacation compared to the winters I am used to.
Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude and Stan of Oh Boy It Never Ends to put the links in. We had fun and, honestly, if I was going to move somewhere, I think it would be East Texas. We only spent a day and a half there but this was the second trip I have seen the region on and it is just so green and so uncrowded. You have these spaces -- wide spaces. You may have to be used to living in urban sprawl to grasp how refreshing and different that is.
So I will use our week on the road as my excuse for being tired and not able to muster much in tonight's post.
This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for today:
Friday, January 16, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, the US government pays $350,000 over a veteran's sucicide (Jeff Lucey), assassination attempts pile up in Iraq, Barack makes it clear that he is declaring war on Social Security and more.
Today Gina Chon (Wall St. Journal's Baghdad Life) evaluates the changes in the Green Zone since the January 1st 'handover' to Iraqis:
The first thing I noticed when we reached the first checkpoint was that it was manned by Iraqi soldiers, not Americans. The soldier was friendly and after checking our IDs, waved us on to the next checkpoint, which was also staffed by Iraqi soldiers. But there were a few Americans standing behind them observing the Iraqi soldiers. Still, the Americans did not approach us and left the work to the Iraqis. I also noticed a new "welcome" sign that was in both English and Arabic, and near that was a billboard that listed in Arabic the principles of an Iraqi soldier, including being loyal to Iraq.
Seeing the Iraqi soldiers made me think I would see them elsewhere in the Green Zone. But the other checkpoints I passed through were the same as before, and manned by Peruvians who work for a security contractor. Iraqi soldiers had not replaced them. The U.S.-Iraq security agreement says the Americans can continue to assist Iraqis in security efforts after the Green Zone handover. And it seemed that with the excpetion of the entry/exit areas of the Green Zone, the internal checkpoints were still the same.
Further proof that things remain the same comes as Iraq sees another assassination. Yesterday's snapshot noted: "Mohammed Al Dulaimy (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Baghdad roasdie bombing that wounded two people, a second one that wounded four and a third one that targeted Ahmed Taieb Murad and claimed the life of Murad's bodyguard Reuters identifies the Education Minister targeted in the Baghdad roadside bombing as Abd Thiab al-Ajili." The Education Minister's name is also spelled Abed Theyab in some press coverage. Mohammed Abbas and Matthew Jones (Reuters) report that provincial candidate Haythem al-Hasnowi (of the Dawa Party) was shot dead during an attack on his convoy outside of Baghdad. Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports that the attack took place in Ajrash and left four members of al-Hasnowi's security staff wounded. Issa also notes that last night in Salahuddin Province, provincial election candidate "Hussein al Shatb survived an assassination attempt by gunmen". This month began with the United Nations Secretary-General's Special Envoy for Iraq Staffan de Mistura condemning the assassination of provincial candidate Mowaffaq al-Hamdani who was murdered in Mosul on the last day of 2008. Provincial elections are scheduled for January 31st in fourteen of Iraq's eighteen provinces. The United Nations have been warning since November that the lead up to provincial elections would likely lead to an increase in violence. November 10th, UN spokesperson Michele Montas handled the press briefing and noted Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had declared that the upcoming provinicial electiions increased the "potential for election-related violence and instability."
In other reported violence today . . .
Sahar Issa (McClatchy Newspapers) reports a Mosul roadside bombing resulted in three Iraqi soldiers being wounded. Reuters notes an Ishaqi roadside bombing claimed 3 lives and left five more people injured, a Kirkuk rocket attack that left one person wounded.
Reuters notes a Mosul home invasion that resulted in 1 woman being killed and two more members of the family being injured.
Reuters notes 1 corpse discovered Thursday in Mosul and 1 discovered in Mussayab while three were discovered in Kirkuk.
Also today the US military announced: "A Multi-National Division -- Baghdad Soldier died of wounds at approximately 3 p.m. Jan. 16 following an improvised-explosive device attack on his patrol in Baghdad. The Soldier's name is being withheld pending notification of next of kind and official release by the Department of Defense." The announcement brings the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war to 4227 with 6 for the month thus far.
That count does not include those who return and take their own lives. Iraq War veteran Jeffrey Michael Lucey took his life June 22, 2004 after he was repeatedly failed by the VA system despite the fact that he was suicidal and that his family pleaded with VA staff to treat him. Fred Contrada (The Republican) offers a look at some of Jeffery's time in Iraq and after:
At one point, Lucey came upon the body of an Iraqi boy who had been shot to death in the street. A tiny, blood-stained American flag was clutched in the dead boy's hand. Lucey took the flag and carried it with him for the rest of his life.Lucey began drinking a lot after returning home later that year, his family said. At Christmas time he confessed to his sister that he had been ordered to shoot two captured Iraqi soldiers at point blank range. Lucey, who had kept the men's identification tags, threw them on the bed and shouted, "Your brother is a murderer!" The U.S. Marine Corps said it has found no evidence that Lucey's story is true.Kevin Lucey said records show his son told someone at the VA that he was contemplating suicide, but the Luceys were not informed of this. On June 21, 2004, less than a month after he was released from the VA, Jeffrey Lucey asked his father if he could curl up in his lap. Kevin Lucey cradled his son that night. When he returned home from work the next day, he found Jeffrey hanging from a self-made noose in the basement. Lucey was buried with the flag he had taken from the Iraqi boy. Kevin Lucey said news of the settlement stirred a lot of emotions within the family."It's like losing Jeff all over again," he said.
The settlment? Jonathan Saltzman (Boston Globe) reports the US government insists that they are not to blame but they will be paying the Lucey's $350,000. As a general rule -- ask Asian-Americans interned during WWII -- the US government not only refuses to admit responsibility, they refuse to offer restitutions. Those who no longer believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause will find it difficult to believe the kindness of Uncle Sam resulted in the $350,000 payment. The Luceys are members of Military Families Speak Out and that organization has released the following (PDF format warning) statement:US GOVERNMENT AGREES TO PAY $350,000 TO PARENTS OF US MARINE IN SUICIDE CASE CASE WAS THE FIRST TO BE FILED SINCE THE IRAQ WAR BEGANGovernment Admits that Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey's Suicide Was A "Tragedy"for Veterans Administration SPRINGFIELD, MA -- The United States Government has agreed to pay $350,000 to the parents of a United States Marine who committed suicide in 2004 after returning home from combat duty in the Iraq war. Within months after returning home from Iraq in June 2003, Cpl. Jeffrey Lucey began to show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder caused by his experience in the war. On June 22, 2004, Jeffrey hung himself in the basement of his parents' home, two weeks after the Northampton Veterans Medical Center in Leeds, Massachusetts, turned him away. Jeffrey, who had received an honorable discharge from the US Marine Corps, was 23 years old at the time of his death. In July 2007, his parents, Kevin and Joyce Lucey filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the United States in federal court in Springfield, Massachusetts -- the first such suit to be filed since thebeginning of the war in Iraq. On January 6, 2009, the US Justice Department issued a letter to the Luceys' attorney, Cristobal Bonifaz, which admitted "that Jeffrey's suicide while under VA [Veterans Administration] care was a tragedy for the VA and the individual care providers." The letter formally offered $350,000 to settle the case. Bonifaz today notified the federal court that his clients have accepted this offer. "The US Government killed my son," said Kevin Lucey. "It sent him into an illegal and reckless war and then, when he returned home, it denied him the basic health care he needed. We hope that this case serves as a wake-up call to the nation that our government must be held accountable for the suffering it has caused thousands of US military families." Joyce Lucey added "When Jeffrey went to Iraq, we didn't realize that the bullets and bombs there didn't present the only threat to our son's safety. Our own government's apathy and indifference are just as great a threat to our troops and veterans. Until the Veterans Administration takes the psychological wounds of war seriously, the epidemic of military suicides will continue to grow." "Jeffrey Lucey carried to his death the American flag he found in the hands of a dead Iraqi child," said Bonifaz. "Jeffrey never recovered from the horrors he witnessed in Iraq. When his post-traumatic stress disorder signs became critical, he was turned away at the door of the US Veterans Administration. Jeffrey Lucey would have lived but for the illegal war in Iraq and the callous and irresponsible treatment handed to him by the US agency charged with providing him health care when he had returned home." After their son's death in 2004, Kevin and Joyce Lucey joined Military Families Speak Out, a national organization of military families opposed to the war in Iraq. "Jeffrey's story is a story of too many military families in this country," said Joyce Lucey. "We will continue to speak out to demand that our government immediately end this war, bring our troops home now, and provide all the necessary medical care they deserve when they return." "And to those military families who have similarly suffered because of the negligence of the US Veterans Administration," added Kevin Lucey, "we hope this case serves as an example that the government can and must be held accountable in a court of law." Kevin and Joyce Lucey and Cristobal Bonifaz are available for interview.Copies of the letter from the U.S. Justice Department outlining the settlement in this case are available by request from Military Families Speak Out. Military Families Speak Out is an organization of 4,000 military families opposed to the war in Iraq, with loved ones who are serving or have served in the U.S. military since fall, 2002.
Starting tomorrow Act Against War and Courage to Resist are sponsoring actions
Throw-A-Shoe at Bush! To Obama: No war!Join Us. Shoes provided or BYOS! Prizes, Music & Fun!
Sat., Jan. 17, Noon - 3 pm, Justin Herman Plaza (Embarcadero BART), SF
Sun., Jan. 18, Noon - 3 pm, Justin Herman Plaza (Embarcadero BART), SF
Tues., Jan. 20, 7 am - Noon, United Nations Plaza (Civic Center BART), SF. Near the public Obama inauguration simulcast event at Civic Center Plaza
Iraqi Journalist Muntader al-Zaidi threw his shoes at Bush while saying, "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq." We symbolically join him as Bush leaves office. We also throw shoes for the widows, families, and US service men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We throw shoes for those who are hurting while billions are wasted for war instead of bailing out those of us lacking food, housing, healthcare, and education.
Here are 5 key changes that will begin to do this.
1) ALL TROOPS HOME FROM IRAQ NOW! Including "non-combat" troops, private contractors (i.e. Blackwater), and close all US military bases in Iraq.
2) HELP REBUILD IRAQ Give reparations for the human and structural damages Iraq has suffered, and stop the corporate pillaging of Iraq so that their people can control their own lives and future.
3) NO ESCALATIONS, NO NEW WARS * No escalation of war in Afghanistan; troops should be withdrawn.* Stop attacks inside Pakistan. Don't attack Iran.* Cut military aid to governments that violate human rights or international law, such as Israel in what Amnesty International calls an "unlawful attack on Gaza."* Close Guantanamo and all secret prisons
4) FROM GLOBAL MILITARY INTERVENTION TO REAL SECURITY AT HOME * Close all 800 foreign US military bases.* Reduce military budget and troops; Stop wasting hundreds of billions needed for healthcare, housing, education, and green energy/jobs.
5) SUPPORT VETERANS * Amnesty for all GI resisters who refuse illegal war.* Full benefits, adequate healthcare (including mental health), and other supports for returning servicemen and women.
(I don't think they're clickable above, so I'm putting the links in -- and Courage to Resist is also on our permalinks to the left). Those actions begin tomorrow.Muntader al-Zaidi is the Iraqi journalist who threw both of his shoes, one after the other, at the Bully Boy of the United States while declaring, "This is a gift from the Iraqis. This is the farewell kiss, you dog" and "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." And that was December 14. Over a month later and what's happened?Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports that Muntader's family and attorneys aren't allowed to see him (the December 21st visit -- hailed in the press at the time as the first visit -- remains the only visit), do not know where he is held and do not know if or when Muntader will see justice but his family fears never and fears for his life. Attorney Dhiyaa al-Saadi explains that there is documentation of the torture Muntader has experienced while imprisoned ("two medical reports conducted by government physicians within a week of Mr. Zaidi's arrest described brusing that coverd the reporter's face and body, but was especially sever on his legs and arms; a missing tooth; a gash on the bridge of his nose; and what appeared to be a burn mark on his ear").al-Maliki's legal adviser Fadhil Mohammed Jawad tells Williams (apparently for the laugh factor) that, "Judicially, Iraq is just and the law will handle this case with justice." Yeah, that is funny. (For a recent look at Iraqi 'justice,' see this article by Ned Parker.) The family is refused visitation and even the New York Times can't figure out where Muntader is being held despite High Judicial Council spokesperson Adbudl Satta al-Biriqday telling the paper that Muntader was at a specific prison "in the Green Zone, operated by the Baghdad Brigade, a military unit that answeres to the prime minister's office." Attempts to visit as al-Biriqday said was possible?But during a recent visit to the complex, an Iraqi Army guard told a reporter who requested a visit to leave immediately. The guard also said it was "dangerous" to seek to meet Mr. Zaidi.The soldier who did not identify himself, said he did not know whether Mr. Zaidi was being held there.On Thursday, an e-mail message sent to Mr. Maliki requesting a visit with Mr. Zaidi received no reply.Deborah Haynes (Times of London) reports that his brother, Mitham al-Zaidi, was finally allowed a two-hour visit today and that Muntader wants people "to pray at two mosques in Baghdad for the release and welfare of all prisoners in US detention." His brother quotes Muntader stating, "What I did was because of my refusal and rejection of the occupation and the American policy in Iraq."
Turning to US politics, President-elect Barack Obama met with the Washington Post editorial board yesterday. Here for Michael D Shear's text article, here for the sixty-one minute audio. Warning for those listening to the audio, Barack's speaking abilities have not magically improved. Sample: "Uh, obivoulsy military service is uh something we uh honor as a country [. . .] That's going to be something that we uh uh . . ." And four minutes, for those wondering, he takes his first swipe at African-American fathers. Yes, it's Barack singing all his well known tunes. And mixing in a few new ones such as, "It's not something I've said publicly . . . but spending money wisely is not easy." Mostly, the interivew will be remembered as the one where Barack declared War on Social Security. Barack's replied to questions and made vague statements. But, his Love Cult insists, that's just the Nice Guy Barry trying to make nice and get along. He doesn't want to say, "Stupid crooks, Social Security is not going to be chipped away!" Well, actually he does want to say that and he did say that.
We're dropping back to Sunday's This Week with George Stephanopoulos (ABC -- video and text):
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me press you on this, at the end of the day, are you really talking about over the course of your presidency some kind of a grand bargain? That you have tax reform, health care reform, entitlement reform, including Social Security and Medicare where everybody in the country is going to have to sacrifice something, accept change for the greater good?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And when will that get done?
OBAMA: Well, the -- right now I'm focused on a pretty heavy lift, which is making sure that we get that reinvestment and recovery package in place. But what you describe is exactly what we're going to have to do.
What we have to do is to take a look at our structural deficit, how are we paying for government, what are we getting for it, and how do we make the system more efficient?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And eventually sacrifice from everyone.
OBAMA: Everybody is going to have to give. Everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game.
Barack was asked about it above. With the Washington Post, he brought it up on his own -- and referenced George Steph's "grand bargain" -- so hopefully even his Love Cult can start to see a few realities. He begins talking about his big "Fiscal Responsibility Summit" that will be held in February and include a motley crew that will "talk about waste." He then seques into Social Security during this response (at approximately 16:14) and states the following:
We're also going to have a discussion about entitlements and how we get a grasp on those. Uh and uh, you know, like i think everybody here is familiar enough with the budget problems to know that as bad as these deficits that we're running up over the next -- that have already been run up -- have been and despite the cost of both TARP and the stimulus, the real problem in our long term deficit actually has to do with our entitlement obligation and the fact that historically uh if our revenues ranged between 18 and 20% of GDP they're now at 16. It's just not sustainable so we're going to have to uh craft a uh what George Stephanopoulos called a grand bargain and I-I try not to use the word grand in anything that I say but uh but we're going to have to shape a baragain. This, by the way, is where there are going to be some very difficult choices and issues of sacrifices and responsibilty and duty are going to come in because what we have done is kick this can down the road. We're now at the end of the road and uh we are not in a position to kick it any further.
Those are right-wing talking points and only the most historically ignorant of Barack's Love Cult will fail to grasp the declaration of war.
For some reality, here's 2008's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science winner Paul Krugman addressing the realities about Social Security on Democracy Now! in December of 2004 (link has text, video and audio):
Social Security is a program which ahs been traditionally run. It looks like a retirement fund, and it is not exactly. What it really is is a government program with a dedicated tax. We take the payroll tax and it's used to pay benefits to retirees. And 20-plus years ago, the commission led by Alan Greenspan said, you know, we are going to have this problem as the baby boomers reach retirement age. We will have a higher ratio of retirees to workers, and we better get ready for it. Social Security, the payroll tax was increased. There were some other things, a small rise in the retirement age set in motion. So that Social Security would run a surplus, which would be used to accumulate a trust fund, and this would tithe us over, some ways into the aging of the population. And that on its own accounting is working just fine. I mean, one of the things that we need to know is that the estimates of the day at which the trust fund runs out, just keep on receding further into the future, because the program is doing so well at running surpluses. So, ten years ago, -people said it was going to run out in 2029. Now the official estimate is 2042. Realistically, it's probably going to go well into the second half of the century. Now how does this become a crisis? Well it becomes a crisis by changing the rules. By saying, oh, well, actually that surplus that we're running because of the tax increase that was designed to prolong the life of Social Security, that's not real. Because it's invested in government bonds which are perfectly good asset, for anybody else, but not for the Social Security administration.
Barack's remarks to the Post's editorial board go beyond troubling. There's no need to decipher them. He brought it up on his own (he also refused to answer questions on the topic -- though he was happy to later say Sponge Bob was his favorite TV cartoon). His words, transcribed with all the "uh"s he is so famous for. It's very clear what he's pushing. And that's why it's on the audio recording that few will listen to and not in the write-up that made the paper (the bits of half-sentences in the write-up are from his dancing around the direct questions on the topic, not from when he spoke at length about it without any prompting).
We're going to stay with the Post interview for a bit more because it's Barack speaking. When his attack on Social Security began this month (he's attacked it many times before) there was a lot of garbage about how he was being distorted and those weren't his words and "My lover would never say that about me!" It's him speaking on the audio recording. His words, his voice. So let's turn to Guantanamo. Michael Ratner and Jules Lobel wrote a piece for The Nation last month on Guantamo and how it needed to be closed but that wasn't the end of it:
But what of others whom the Bush administration asserts cannot be released? And what will be the fate of any new detainees under the Obama administration? These questions should be answered as they have been for 200 years in this country: if there is sufficient evidence, charge them with crimes and have trials in federal courts; if not, release them. Not much will have been accomplished if Guantanamo is shuttered while the practices that underlie it continue. Yet this is being suggested by some who may have Obama's ear. They argue that holding some terror suspects without trial or charges is necessary. A National Security Court composed of specially appointed judges without juries, using watered-down, minimal due process, would make the decisions.
The Feel-Good Headlines are Barack will close Guantanamo. The issue of the innocent -- you are innocent in the American judicial system until you have been found guilty in a court of law -- was briefly addressed by Barack in his interview with the paper's editorial board yesterday. He rushed to insist, "I will close Guantanamo and that's the bottom line." No, it's not as he immediately made clear, "The trick is what do we do with dangerous individuals who are detained whose evidence is fouled up . . . ? And there are no quick, easy solutions to that." Yes, there are. You're guilty or you're innocent and that's determined by a jury in a criminal case. If the evidence is not there to warrant a conviction, then you're not guilty. That's how it works in the United States. Do the guilty sometimes escape punishment as a result? Absolutely. But the alternative is a people controlled by the state. That's what guilty until proven innocent is. In a criminal case, the prosecution is the government. A government that does not have to first prove guilt can use prosecution as a way to do away with dissidents and political opponents. Trumped up charges can have someone imprisoned for years or even put to death. The people rule in the United States and American justice is built around that principle. Everyone accused of any crime is innocent in a court of law unless and until they are proven guilty. Ava and I long ago noted that Barack didn't grasp the Constitution (wrongly inferring that Loving v. Virginia involved a lawsuit against a church). Nothing he said to the editorial board yesterday indicated a strong grasp of the US Constitution. He spoke of the possibility of creating a new body. And maybe that new body was just to continue to imprison the current inmates or maybe it was for his planned imprisonments.
While we're noting Michael Ratner (president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, co-host of Law & Disorder with Dalia Hashad, Heidi Boghosian and Michael Smith) we'll note Ratner As Media Critic (I'm laughing because it's not a role often associated with him but the excerpt will indicate it's one he should tackle more often):
The December's Harper's Cover promises a lot: Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are behind bars. Prominently displayed under the prisoners is the title of Scott Horton's article "Justice After Bush, Prosecuting an Outlaw Administration." I was excited. I thought I was about to read the case for prosecuting high level administration officials for the torture program.
Alas, it was not to be. Prosecutions are given only lip service while the bulk of the article argues for a truth commission/commission of inquiry. A commission will not do what is necessary to end torture now and in the future: make it clear, just as we do in cases with the most minor offenses, that actions have consequences. A failure to initiate a criminal investigation of the torture program will only encourage future law breaking by sending a message of impunity. The message that we need to send is that the torture conspirators will be held accountable. That is the only way to fulfill Obama's promise: "I have said repeatedly that America doesn't torture. And I'm going to make sure that we don't torture."
What is surprising in Horton's article is the disconnect between the first half which is one of the strongest pieces I have read about the lawlessness of the Bush adminstration and the latter half where he sets up a complex and unworkable commission. The articles opening paragraphs scream out the necessity for prosecutions. Horton states that no other administration has been "so systematically or brazenly lawless;" that torture is the crime that "calls most clearly calls for prosecution;" and that it is the "most likely to be successfully prosecuted." In one of his most important observations Horton states that the administration "waged war against the law itself," and that the ruler claimed that it "was the law." This recognition is critical. It means that no matter how many executive orders and new prohibitions on torture are enacted, a future administration can reassert Bush's claim that the President is above the law. The prohibitions will be for naught as will the conclusions of a commission. This is a key reason why the deterrence that results from prosecutions is necessary. Never again should we have an executive who claims to be above the law."
Public broadcasting notes. Starting with public radio, WBAI on Sunday and Monday:
Sunday, January 18, 11am-noonTHE NEXT HOURPoet Hugh Seidman hosts this hour with fellow poets Harvey Shapiro,Lawrence Joseph and D. Nurkse.Monday, January 19, 2-3pmCAT RADIO CAFEContinuing WBAI's all-day annual Martin Luther King Day celebrationand fundraiser. Hosted by Janet Coleman and David Dozer.Broadcasting at WBAI/NY 99.5 FMStreaming live at WBAIArchived at Cat Radio CafeNOW on PBS examines "the green energy dream" in the latest installment which begins broadcasting on many PBS stations tonight (check local listings for date and time in your area): "Will the green energy dream come to fruition? This week NOW explores obstacles to the promise of renewables--energy generated from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, and rain."
Also on PBS (and it begins airing tonight in most markets) is Washington Week which finds Gwen gas bagging with the National Journal's Jim Barnes, Washington Post's Shailagh Murray, New York Times' David Sanger and Slate's John Dickerson. Watch Gwen pretend to listen while fuming that she wasn't picked to be the host of Meet The Press. Study Gwen's face while her interior monologue screams, "Yeah, I've now dropped to one woman guest a week, pretty soon I'll drop to zero. No one ever calls me out. Mainly because no one notices me. How do I have four guests each week and repeatedly book only one woman! No one is noticing! Why doesn't anyone love me? Why!!!!!" Bill Moyers Journal also airs on PBS (tonight in most markets) and the latest includes Bill responding to the Gaza slaughter and you can review the discussion Moyers had with the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman. At the show's blog, Micahel Winship offers an essay proclaiming it's "Time to Move On." Some are less sure about forgiving and forgetting, Michael:
As Barack Obama prepares to be sworn in, I recall an old National Lampoon record album -- record albums, remember those? -- from the final weeks of the Watergate scandal that comically suggested that President Richard Nixon be given a "swearing OUT" ceremony. There followed a series of blistering curses and calumnies directed at the soon-to-be departed and disgraced chief executive, delivered by someone impersonating the Reverend Billy Graham. You have to wonder if amidst all the fanfare and hoopla Barack Obama isn't quietly swearing a bit beneath his breath as he beholds what his about-to-be-predecessor has left for him. Hercules mucking out the Stygian stables is as nothing to the heaps of bungle and botch confronting the next commander-in-chief.
As Winship continues his essay, many will be reminded of the joke by those who do not believe in reincarnation: Why do people who say they've had past lives always claim to have been someone famous? As Winship piles it on thick about Barack and tosses out this president and that president, you quickly note there's no John Tyler, no William Henry Harrison, no Chester Arthur, in fact as Winship raises and raises the stakes, you start to worry he'll get a nasty hope-cut on his typing finger.
And on broadcast TV (CBS) Sunday, no 60 Minutes:60 Minutes is pre-empted Sunday, Jan. 18, by CBS Sports coverage of the American Football Conference Championship game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens. 60 Minutes Update
Osama bin LadenAn audiotape of Osama bin Laden, his first since May 2008, appeared on an Islamic militant Web site Wednesday. Last October, the officer who led the Army's Delta Force mission to kill bin Laden revealed to Scott Pelley what happened in the weeks following 9/11 in Tora Bora, Afghanistan. Video
the wall street journal
the boston globejonathan saltzmanfred contradamilitary families speak out
law and disorder
the new york timestimothy williamscourage to resistact against war
60 minutescbs newswashington weeknow on pbspbsbill moyers journal