Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Merchants of Death Become Honest

There's been a remarkable restoration of honesty and integrity amongst America's merchants of death. As this chart shows, the companies that manufacturer and sell the equipment that allows American boys to go around the world, meet interesting people, and kill them, have become almost perfectly honest in their dealings with the US government.

While spending on 'defense' has soared to levels far beyond what the rest of the world combined spends, the American tax payers who pay for all of this can rest assured that every single nickle and dime is being spent completely honestly. This is a remarkable turn around for an industry that was once derided for selling $400 ash-trays and $1000 toilet seats. But as you can clearly see in this chart, since the peak of corruption in 1989, the number of prosecutions for fraud have now dropped to almost zero.

There's no one quite so honest as a Merchant of Death.

-- chart from Fraud Cases Fell While Pentagon Contracts Surged by Nick Schwellenbach at the Center for Public Integrity, who makes the odd assertion that the only reason the number of cases dropped is that there are fewer investigators today than back in 1995 when the 'Defense' budget was only a fraction of what it is today.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The law they'd rather forget about

Thanks to Progressive Review for this link to this article that appeared in the NY Times on Nov 5. 1999. CONGRESS PASSES WIDE-RANGING BILL EASING BANK LAWS

From 1999 ...
The decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 provoked dire warnings from a handful of dissenters that the deregulation of Wall Street would someday wreak havoc on the nation's financial system. The original idea behind Glass-Steagall was that separation between bankers and brokers would reduce the potential conflicts of interest that were thought to have contributed to the speculative stock frenzy before the Depression.

Today's action followed a rich Congressional debate about the history of finance in America in this century, the causes of the banking crisis of the 1930's, the globalization of banking and the future of the nation's economy.

Administration officials and many Republicans and Democrats said the measure would save consumers billions of dollars and was necessary to keep up with trends in both domestic and international banking. Some institutions, like Citigroup, already have banking, insurance and securities arms but could have been forced to divest their insurance underwriting under existing law. Many foreign banks already enjoy the ability to enter the securities and insurance industries.

Gee, how'd that work out?

Here's what a familiar name was saying then ...

''Today Congress voted to update the rules that have governed financial services since the Great Depression and replace them with a system for the 21st century,'' Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers said. ''This historic legislation will better enable American companies to compete in the new economy.''

Gee, how'd that work out?

The opponents of the measure gloomily predicted that by unshackling banks and enabling them to move more freely into new kinds of financial activities, the new law could lead to an economic crisis down the road when the marketplace is no longer growing briskly.

Those dang opponents are always so gloomy in the face of progress, aren't they?

Fortunately, we had Bill Clinton to lead us to a brighter future...
And today what we are doing is modernizing the financial services industry, tearing down these antiquated laws and granting banks significant new authority. This will, first of all, save consumers billions of dollars a year through enhanced competition. It will also protect the rights of consumers.
-- statement at signing ceremony

Another War Lost?

Another War Lost? by William Lind via

William Lind is a former Marine Corps officer who is usually far to the right of me politically. But, he is a very astute writer on military affairs, so I usually read his columns. This one is a very nice analysis of what's wrong with Obama's plan to 'win' the Afghan war. But, its this last bit about politics right at the end that struck me. So, this is the view of rather conservative ex-military officer ....

Here we see how little "change" the Obama administration really represents. The differences between the neo-liberals and the neocons are few. Both are militant believers in Brave New World, a globalist future in which everyone on earth becomes modern. In the view of these ideologues, the fact that billions of people are willing to fight to the death against modernity is, like the river Pregel, an unimportant military obstacle. We just need to buy more Predators.

Meanwhile, the money is running out. The ancien regime syndrome looms ever larger: we not only maintain but increase foolish foreign commitments, at the same time that debt is piling up, those willing to lend become fewer, and we are reduced to debasing the currency. Historians have seen it all before, many, many times. It never has a happy ending.

It appears Afghanistan will be the graveyard of yet another empire.

And the question that we should be asking? Why are we fighting in Afghanistan? As a nation, we are broke. So, why are we even trying to spent billions building a prosperous Afghanistan?

BTW, 'ancien regime' is what the court of King Louis XVI called themselves at Versailles. If you read history of the French Revolution, you'd learn that they spent themselves into horrible debt with silly wars and huge military budgets. They eventually collapsed the French economy to the point where people were starving and fighting to get bread. That led to the 'let them eat cake' comment, and to the French people eventually ridding themselves with such foolish rulers via the guillotine.

The State of Play in the Bomb-Iran Debate

The State of Play in the Bomb-Iran Debate by Justin Logan at Cato@Liberty.

Mr. Logan is commenting on a debate recently held about whether the US should commit more war crimes by launching an unprovoked attack on Iran. There are two interesting things in this debate. The first of course is that its all based on a false premise. That Iran is developing nuclear weapons. And that they are close enough that we should bomb them about it.

Actually, I'd be a little surprised if Iran wasn't at least thinking about developing nuclear weapons. They've seen what happened to Iraq and North Korea, and the obvious lesson the US is teaching the rest of the world is that they'd better go get nukes to try to deter the US. But, there's been zero proof so far that the Iranians have done anything substantial towards producing nuclear weapons. No inspection of their facilities have ever found any traces of any bomb-grade uranium being made. Uranium for a power plant can't be used to make a bomb, and all the IAEA has ever found is power-reactor-grade uranium.

But there's a second part that really strikes me as incredibly ridiculous. The fool Elliott Abrams makes this argument in his portion of the debate.

we are not talking about the Americans killing civilians, bombing cities, destroying mosques, hospitals, schools. No, no, no – weʹre talking about nuclear facilities which most Iranians know very little about, have not seen, will not see, some quite well hidden.

So they wake up in the morning and find out that the United States if attacking those facilities and, presumably with some good messaging about why weʹre doing it and why we are not against the people of Iran.

Itʹs not clear to me that the reaction letʹs go to war with the Americans, but rather, perhaps, how did we get into this mess? Why did those guys, the very unpopular ayatollahs in a country 70 percent of whose population is under the age of 30, why did those old guys get us into this mess.

The man can't possibly be that ignorant of US-Iranian history over the last 60 years. But, just in case he his, let me try to give him a few hints.

  • In the 1950's, the Iranians overthrew their shah and tried to put into place a western-style democracy. The problem was, these poor deluded Iranian democrats viewed the oil under their country as theirs. Whereas the US and Britain thought of the oil as their own. So, the CIA and British intelligence ran a joint operation to overthrow the Iranian government and put the shah's son in power as the new shah.

  • The Shah ran the country for almost thirty years. One of the things the Shah was well known for was for his vicious secret police which was trained by and worked with the CIA.
  • When Khomeni overthrew the Shah, the US condemned this act. We tried to find ways to make the revolution fail, while at the same time inviting the Shah to come into the United States. This last act sparked the storming of the US embassy and the hostage crisis.
  • The US responded by trying to launch a military operation into Iran to retake the embassy, but it failed when the helicopters didn't react well to sand and flying into each other.
  • Next, the US used Saddam Hussein to launch a horribly nasty war against Iran. For the people involved, this war was as bad as World War I. Except it lasted far longer. It had trench warfare, and human-wave attacks against those trenches. The US and western Europe helped supply Saddam Hussein with poison gas, which he used to try to attack the Iranian trenches. All of this lasted for most of the 1980's.
  • Then came Bush and his axis of evil. And all of the constant threats that the US would bomb Iranian nuclear facilities over the last four years of so.
    verthrow their government and welcome Osama Bin Laden as our liberator.

Hey, the Iranians call the US 'The Great Satan'. Please, there's not a chance in heck of the Iranian people greeting us as liberators.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bush policies are back?

This is from an email I received from Amnesty International. They are organizing a lobbying campaign for when our pro-torture Congress-critters are back in the districts the weeks of April 6-17.

This past weekend we got a deeply troubling glimpse into the heart of the Obama administration's counter-terrorism policies.

On Friday, in a symbolic break with the past, the Obama administration announced it would drop the term "enemy combatant" - only to argue in the same breath that the administration has the legal authority to hold detainees indefinitely, without charge. 1

We're beginning to fear the worst: that the Obama administration will hold onto the failed counter-terrorism policies of the Bush administration. Such a move would solidify and make indefinite detention and other Bush policies the new norm in America.

Our most powerful antidote to these cancerous counter-terrorism policies is a full investigation that includes holding those responsible accountable.

Follow the link above for more details on how to join a delegation in your area.

Obstruction of Justice

Obstruction of Justice by Chris Hedges on

If you don't know about the case of Dr. Al-Arian, then you should read this article.

To try to give the short version, Dr. Al-Arian was a professor at Univ of South Florida who vocally supported Palestinian rights. After years of FBI surveillence, he was arrested and tried on terrorism charges. The jury acquitted him on most charges, and hung 10-2 in his favor on others.

Government lawyers made wild assertions that showed a profound ignorance of the Middle East and exposed a gross stereotyping of the Muslim world. It called on the FBI case agent, for example, who testified as an expert witness that Islamic terrorists were routinely smuggled over the border from Iran into Syria, apparently unaware that Syria is separated from Iran by a large land mass called Iraq. The transcripts of the case against Al-Arian—which read like a bad Gilbert and Sullivan opera—are stupefying in their idiocy. The government wiretaps picked up nothing of substance; taxpayer dollars were used to record and transcribe 21,000 hours of banal chatter, including members of the Al-Arian household ordering pizza delivery. During the trial the government called 80 witnesses and subjected the jury to inane phone transcriptions and recordings, made over a 10-year period, which the jury curtly dismissed as “gossip.” It would be comical if the consequences were not so dire for the defendant.

A jury, on Dec. 6, 2005, acquitted Dr. Al-Arian on eight of the counts in the superseding indictment after a six-month trial in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. On the 94 charges made against the four defendants, there were no convictions. Of the 17 charges against Al-Arian—including “conspiracy to murder and maim persons abroad”—the jury acquitted him of eight and was hung on the rest. The jurors, who voted 10 to 2 to acquit on the remaining charges, could not reach a unanimous decision calling for his full acquittal. Two others in the case, Ghassan Ballut and Sameeh Hammoudeh, were acquitted of all charges.

After losing before a jury, the federal government refused to drop the case. Instead they promised to move forward with another years-long trial on the charges on which the jury hung. In order to end the ordeal, Dr. Al-Arian agreed to a plea bargain where he would leave this country. A part of the deal was that he refused to testify in other cases. So, then a federal prosecutor had him hauled up to Virginia to force him to testify in other cases. When Dr. Al-Arian refused, citing his plea bargain deal, he was charged with contempt of court and kept in federal prisons.

Despite the refusal of a jury to convict him, he's been held in federal prisons for years.

PS ... note that while the author refers to the Bush Justice Dept and 'right-wing' prosecutors, the Obama Justice Dept is still pursuing the case. And note also that incredible amounts of extra jail time that they are asking for comes from the 'Patriot Act II', which was supported by Obama and the Democrats.

Obama the Republican

Obama: won't speed up Iraq pull out on AP

Obama the Republican ....

"I think the plan that we put forward in Iraq is the right one" because it calls for "a very gradual withdrawal through the national elections in Iraq,"

"I'm confident that we're moving in the right direction. But Iraq is not yet completed. We still have a lot of work to do," the president said of the war that's winding down after six hard-fought years.

And, for people in the National Guard who thought they might be able to spend some time at home. Well, not so fast. Obama has other 'wars' to fight.

_His administration was considering putting more National Guard troops on the U.S. border with Mexico to stem violence from the illicit drug trade.

And, gotta make sure that short-term 'anger' over million dollar bonuses to the very people who caused this crash doesn't get in the way of the long term policies of pumping trillions of our dollars into the Wall St firms.

_Anger over giant bonuses for bailout-recipient American International Group Inc. was justified, but he doesn't want his long-term focus threatened by what he calls the legitimate, but short-term frustrations over some of Wall Street's actions.

"My most important job is to get this economy moving again, to get credit flowing again so that businesses large and small can start rehiring, open their doors and we can start seeing economic growth again," Obama said.

Oh, and there's this other article announcing that Obama's relations with Iran will stay on the same saber-rattling, war-like course as Bush's. You didn't really think we were going to talk to Iran, like Obama promised in the primaries, did you?

Wow, the 'change' we are getting is just stunning isn't it? We can't 'change' the war in Iraq'. We are only 'changing' the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the worse. And, of course we can't 'change' the fact that Wall St. owns this government, and that they now have an apparently unlimited pipeline direct from the public treasury into their pockets.

People need to burn this into their memories as what the Democrats mean by 'change we can believe in.' If people want real change, voting Democrat is not the answer.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Some times, all you can do is cry ...

If Only the World Had Listened by Robert Fisk in The Independent

I don’t know if I met Tom Hurndall. He was one of a bunch of “human shields” who turned up in Baghdad just before the Anglo-American invasion in 2003, the kind of folk we professional reporters make fun of. Tree huggers, that kind of thing. Now I wish I had met him because – looking back over the history of that terrible war – Hurndall’s journals (soon to be published) show a remarkable man of remarkable principle. “I may not be a human shield,” he wrote at 10.26 on 17 March from his Amman hotel. “And I may not adhere to the beliefs of those I have travelled with, but the way Britain and America plan to take Iraq is unnecessary and puts soldiers’ lives above those of civilians. For that I hope that Bush and Blair stand trial for war crimes.”

Hurndall got it about right, didn’t he? It wasn’t so simple as war/no war, black and white, he wrote. “Things I’ve heard and seen over the last few weeks proves what I already knew; neither the Iraqi regime, nor the American or British, are clean. Maybe Saddam needs to go but ... the air war that’s proposed is largely unnecessary and doesn’t discriminate between civilians and armed soldiers. Tens of thousands will die, maybe hundreds of thousands, just to save thousands of American soldiers having to fight honestly, hand to hand. It is wrong.” Oh, how many of my professional colleagues wrote like this on the eve of war? Not many.