What Are We Going To Do In Afghanistan? Not What I Would Do!
The Breakfast and “Happy Hour “test balloon leaks have begun; better known as the softening up system. So just what are we being prepared for now? How about a long stay in Afghanistan? What is about to come down from The White House is an Afghanistan Decision that has all the ear marks of an abominable political compromise that most American’s will swallow. Bookmark this post and return to it after the new round of elections in Afghanistan. If the decision were announced today it would look like this:
1) 20,000 new troops (Compromise)
2) Withdrawal to defensive positions in populated areas (No secret)
3) Political Bullshit Line...emphasizes training of Afghans (No Secret). The problem with this component is the fact that the Afghans have made it clear that they “need” a ton of additional troops, weaponry, money and time to improve---right!
4) No Exit time Table (Gotta leave that door open don’t you know?)
6) Traditional beefed up warfare on Pakistan/Afghan Border (But just what in hell level of commitment and integrity does Pakistan have?) (Pakistan: Passports Linked to 9/11 Found)
7) Delaying as much info release until after new Afghan Elections (W/bad situation promoting further escalation) If those elections go to hell all bets are off on what will happen..no Plan “B” leaks have been floated!
8) Comments: Afghan training years of deployment and Pakistan cooperation is pretty much a myth. This is shit! History, common sense and a war weary America are about to be ignored to avoid political sound bite attacks. Of course anything less than killing every villain identified by the right in Afghanistan will be unacceptable to Republicans!
Taliban Take Over Afghan Province | By Syed Saleem Shahzad
The United States has withdrawn its troops from its four key bases in Nuristan, on the border with Pakistan, leaving the northeastern province as a safe haven for the Taliban-led insurgency to orchestrate its regional battles.
U.S. To Protect 10 Afghan Population Centers | By Thom Shanker, Peter Baker and Helene Cooper
Under the strategy officials described yesterday, the administration now is looking at protecting Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Herat, Jalalabad and a few other village clusters. The first of any new troops sent to Afghanistan would be assigned to secure Kandahar, the spiritual capital of the Taliban, seen as a center of gravity in pushing back insurgent advances.
U.S. Dependence On Afghan Warlords | By Gareth Porter
U.S. and NATO counterinsurgency forces depend on Afghan warlords for security, according to a recently published report and investigations by Australian and Canadian journalists.
UN rights investigator warns US drone attacks may violate international law 28 Oct 2009 UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Philip Alston said Tuesday that the use of unmanned warplanes by the US to carry out attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan may be illegal. Alston criticized the US policy in a report to the UN General Assembly's human rights committee and then elaborated at a press conference.
Brother of Afghan president reportedly on CIA payroll 28 Oct 2009 The New York Times has reported that the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been taking regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency. The Times, quoting current and former US intelligence officials, said Ahmed Wali Karzai had been paid for different services including the putting together of a CIA directed Afghan paramilitary force.
Brother of Afghan President Is on C.I.A. Payroll, Officials Say 28 Oct 2009 Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country's booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials. The agency pays Mr. Karzai for a variety of services, and those financial ties and the agency's close working relationship with him raise significant questions about America's war strategy, which is currently under review at the White House.
Gunmen storm UN guest house in Kabul, 12 dead 28 Oct 2009 Taliban militants wearing suicide vests and police uniforms stormed a guest house used by U.N. staff in the heart of the Afghan capital early Wednesday, killing 12 people -- including six U.N. staff. It was the biggest in a series of attacks intended to undermine next month's presidential runoff 'election.' A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the early morning assaults, which also included rocket attacks at the presidential palace and the city's main luxury hotel.
October deadliest month for US troops in Afghanistan 27 Oct 2009 October has been the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001, Pentagon officials said on Tuesday. The death of eight troops in bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday pushed the October death toll to 53, topping the previous high of 51 deaths in August, officials said.
Afghan bombs kill eight US troops 27 Oct 2009 Eight US soldiers have been killed in bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan, say Nato-led forces. An Afghan civilian was also killed in what were called "multiple complex IED attacks" - or improvised bombs. The deaths make October the deadliest month for American forces in the eight-year war in Afghanistan.
Car bomb kills 90 in Pakistan as Hillary Clinton visits 28 Oct 2009 A car bomb ripped through a crowded market killing 90 people in Pakistan's city of Peshawar on Wednesday, just hours after Washington's top diplomat arrived pledging a fresh start in sometimes strained relations. Wednesday's bomb, the latest urban attack since [Blackwater arrived] the army launched a major assault on rural Taliban strongholds two weeks ago, was the deadliest since 2007 when around 140 died.
Pakistani journalist claims life under threat following U.S agency expose 27 Oct 2009 A Pakistani journalist claims to have been receiving life threats from a U.S agency for critically writing against the Obama administration and for reporting its secret operations in the country. Fears of being harassed has him to use a pseudo name, S.F.A. Shah, who now fears for his life after breaking the story of the presence of Blackwater (now Xe Worldwide) in Peshawar along with Creative Associates International Inc (CAII). He had published names of the investigation and operational heads of the agency and had unmasked the nexus of BW, FBI and CIA. He had also investigated the activities of the US Consulate in Peshawar... The Nation reports. Now a report has revealed how he was hounded out of his home and was later approached by the CIA.
UN rights rapporteur: Guantanamo detainees should be tried or released 27 Oct 2009 UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Martin Scheinin said Monday that all Guantanamo Bay detainees should be brought before US federal courts for trial by the January 22 deadline for closure set by US President Barack Obama. Scheinin said that the detainees should not be held indefinitely and that if they cannot be brought to the US for trial then they should be released.
Ex-Gitmo detainees sue UK to make evidence public 28 Oct 2009 Seven former Guantanamo Bay detainees asked the High Court in London on Tuesday to reject a government request to use secret sessions to hear allegations that Britain was complicit in their torture overseas. Britain's government and intelligence agencies want parts of a claim for damages filed by the detainees prisoners to be heard in private, and to restrict their lawyers' access to documents that the attorneys say may prove whether Britain was aware of the detainees' mistreatment. The seven men allege they were tortured or abused at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at detention centers in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Morocco.
Obama reaffirms Guantanamo pledge 27 Oct 2009 President Barack Obama has declared that he is "serious" about shutting Guantanamo Bay amid speculation that a January deadline for its closure may be pushed back. At a fundraising event in Miami, the President reiterated his pledge to move all detainees off the controversial Cuban base. He made no mention of when the process would be complete, stoking speculation that the planned closure is behind schedule.
In a remote part of Helmand troops are dismayed by the ambivalence of locals and a sense that the Taliban can outlast them
Stephen Grey in Khan Neshin
A mile from South Station, an outpost of US marines in Helmand province, the tribal chief was openly hostile. “The Americans threaten our economy and take our land for bases. They promise much and deliver nothing,” he said.
“People here regard the American troops as occupiers,” said Haji Khan, a leader of the Baluch tribe, who rules like a medieval baron. “Young people are turning against them and in time will fight them.”
Inside South Station, soldiers are proud of the progress they have made. Until they arrived, this remote part of Helmand had not had a government presence for years. But many are pessimistic about where the conflict is heading.
“I’m not much for this war. I’m not sure it’s worth all those lives lost,” said Sergeant Christian Richardson as we walked across corn fields that will soon be ploughed up to plant a spring crop of opium poppy.
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
A New Yorker who joined the marines after 9/11 and served two tours in Iraq, Richardson, 24, said his men had achieved much. “You can see we are making progress, slowly. But when we leave, the Taliban and Al-Qaeda will surely return.”
With enough effort, resources and time, the marines are confident the population can be won over. But, with the platoon’s influence limited to a small area around their base, many soldiers wonder if the Taliban and Al-Qaeda may simply outlast them, or if the US and Afghan governments have the resolve to send enough troops to win.
Third Platoon, Charlie Company of the 2nd Light Armoured Reconnaissance Battalion, came last July to Khan Neshin, as far south as Nato soldiers have reached in Afghanistan. It was part of a summer offensive by more than 4,500 troops of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade, which has joined British and other forces trying to turn the war in Helmand.
Although they have read the manuals on counterinsurgency and heard generals speak about how to defeat the Taliban, the reality has been bloody, painful and frustrating.
The platoon knows there are at least 20 booby-trapped bombs on the high ground around the base. More than half the men have already been caught in blasts. One marine explosive expert was killed; others suffered broken legs and amputated feet. Three have survived two explosions and come back to fight again.
General Stanley McChrystal, the US and Nato commander in Afghanistan, says the mission is to protect the population and isolate them from the Taliban, but the marines are finding it no easier to defeat the Taliban than it has been for the British, who have fought in the province for three years. Villagers are rarely willing to express a simple opinion, let alone inform soldiers where the enemy is hiding. One marine described the way the Taliban blended with the population as “unbelievably frustrating”.
In terrain crisscrossed by canals with weak and narrow bridges, the platoon has to approach villages on foot. Even when they have surrounded the Taliban, the marines have found the enemy has an uncanny ability to slip away in the ditches. All this adds to the strain of facing improvised explosive devices, which are the main threat.
“We are all brothers here,” said Lance-Corporal Corey Hopkins, 22, from Georgia. “And it hurts to see your brother hurt or put him in a bag for the last time. It pisses you off. It makes you mad. You know people out here know what’s going on, but they won’t tell you.”
Corporal Gregory Williams, 22, from North Carolina, said: “It’s going to take a lot of proving out here to make them talk to us. It’s working so slowly.” The marines are trying to implement a strategy dictated from Washington that bids them separate the population from the insurgents. But attempting that means a battle not only against the Taliban but against a feudal system that places real power in the hands of landowners such as Haji Khan.
When we talked to the grey-bearded men in the village, in the shade of one-room mosques, most appeared friendly. Asked if they wanted a school or more doctors, all said such questions were a matter for those who own the fields.
The marines hope to open a school and provide medical facilities. They are also offering to pay Khan and others to provide jobs to improve the canal system.
At a shura, or village meeting, at South Station last Friday, Khan showed up with 40 elders and heard Captain Chris Conner, commander of Charlie Company, promise development. “From the bottom of my heart, I want to say that we are here to help you,” he said.
The villagers welcomed the canal scheme and the idea of making use of a doctor at the base. But Khan and another landowner rejected the idea of a school. “Security is still too bad. We’ve seen how they are burnt down [by the Taliban] elsewhere.”
Some marines were unconvinced about paying money for the canal to a tribal leader and drug baron who gave them almost no help and would probably keep the cash.
Later, a marine intelligence officer said the drug economy and the feudal system made the strategy of winning hearts and minds extremely complex. As drug producers, men such as Khan had a “working relationship with the Taliban”.
Nobody knew of the announcement last week in Kabul of a new round of national elections. Nobody voted in the first round. “We never even heard of elections. If we had, I suppose we might have voted,” said one villager.
U.S. Rushed Aid to Pakistan Ahead of Taliban Offensive
The Pakistani government would rather keep it quiet, but the United States has sent lots of military equipment and boosted the presence of advisers in recent months as troops prepared for the campaigns.
Read original story in The New York Times | Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009
Al-Qaeda Outwitted Bush, Neocons
Al-Qaeda got the better of George W. Bush and the neocons by bogging the U.S. down in Iraq, writes Robert Parry. October 29, 2009
WPost Misleads on Afghan History
The Washington Post's neocon editorial page misrepresents key facts about Afghan history, writes Melvin A. Goodman. October 28, 2009
WPost Misleads on Afghan History
The Washington Post's neocon editorial page misrepresents key facts about Afghan history, writes Melvin A. Goodman. October 28, 2009
Obama Honors Afghanistan War Dead
In an unannounced trip, the president visited Dover Air Force base in Delaware and saw the return of 18 Americans who were killed this week in Afghanistan.
Read original story in The Associated Press | Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009
Editor’s Note: The Debate Over A Proposed U.S. Military Escalation In Afghanistan Is Another Case Of The Washington Elites Favoring One Position -- More Troops -- And The American Public Opposed, Looking Instead Toward Winding Down The Eight-Year War.
The political trick for President Obama is whether he will risk the wrath of the elites (still heavily influenced by imperialistic neoconservative thinking) or risk alienating the public and especially his Democratic base. In this guest essay, the Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland suggests starting with some facts about the Afghan War:
Washington’s corridors of power are abuzz with the complexities of the situation in Afghanistan. If only we send 40,000 more troops, say the military brass, the U.S. could have some hope of turning the situation around and preventing Afghanistan from becoming a haven for terrorists yet again.
Vice President Joe Biden has apparently suggested keeping the number of forces the same but shifting the U.S. mission more toward training the Afghan security forces and conducting Special Forces raids and drone attacks against al-Qaeda.
Instead, a few simple facts on the ground in Afghanistan point to a third alternative.
First, al-Qaeda already has a haven — Pakistan — and could have one in any country that has instability — for example, Yemen, Somalia, or Sudan. The U.S. does need to focus more on the untamed areas of northwest Pakistan and encourage the Pakistani government to go after militants there.
Second, the U.S.-led nation-building occupation in Afghanistan is fueling the Taliban resurgence. If you follow the timelines, increases in Western forces have brought about the Taliban renaissance.
Opponents of a U.S. surge believe that 40,000 more American troops could make the Afghan people regard the U.S. superpower as a foreign occupier. Incredible news: they already do, and have for eight years.
Third, there is a misperception among U.S. policy elites that a troop surge increased stability in Iraq, whereas it was mainly paying off Sunni opponents to quit fighting American forces that brought what probably will be only a temporary respite from the violence. It ain’t over till it’s over.
Fourth, ultimately, in a republic, escalating an unpopular war is political suicide. If the public and Congress are balking at sending a measly 40,000 additional troops, they will not ever be willing to send the number of troops needed to win.
Fifth, historical cases abound where a great power, by not committing enough forces early, lost to a lesser foe or won only with great difficulty. The power needs to bring sufficient strength early on to dominate the war or give up and get out.
For example, in the late 1700s, the British lost the American Revolution by having insufficient forces in a rather large territory. In the early 1800s, Napoleon lost against the British and Spanish guerrillas because he failed to commit the effort needed to win.
During roughly the same period, the Ottoman Empire and their surrogate, Egyptian Muhammad Ali, finally marshaled enough troops to defeat the fierce Wahhabi guerrillas in Arabia. The British — in the Anglo-Sudan War in the late 1800s and the Boer War around the turn of the 20th century — didn’t initially send enough forces to win but then later sent more and won “ugly.”
In Vietnam, the United States gradually escalated to more than a half million troops, but this was not enough to beat a North Vietnamese/Viet Cong force of only 100,000.
The bad news is that Vietnam was a much smaller country in population and area than is Afghanistan. Even the Army’s new field manual on guerrilla warfare says that 20 to 25 occupation forces are needed per one thousand inhabitants.
Frank Rich of the New York Times puts the Afghan population at 32 million. This would necessitate an occupation force of 640,000 to 800,000 to have a good chance of winning.
The U.S. will have 68,000 troops there, and the Europeans provide just over 30,000 mostly ineffectual forces; with an added 40,000, this amounts to only a paltry 140,000. The motto for counterinsurgency war should be either commit enough forces to win early or get out.
After eight long years of a lackadaisical effort, another 40,000 committed this late won’t even lift the Obama administration out of the halfhearted category.
The U.S. should cut its losses, withdraw from Afghanistan, and concentrate on pressuring al-Qaeda in Pakistan with a smaller military footprint — so as not to stir up more anti-U.S. Islamists than we are neutralizing.
Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland has spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. His books include The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, andPutting “Defense” Back into U.S. Defense Policy.
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Obama Seeking Afghan Provincial Allies
Disenchantment with the country's central government is leading the administration to consider whether it can let certain parts of the country be controlled by local leaders.
Read original story in The Washington Post | Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009
October 28, 2009 | On today's Jeff Farias Show:
The New York Times reports that “Ahmed Wali Karzai, the brother of the Afghan president and a suspected player in the country's booming illegal opium trade, gets regular payments from the Central Intelligence Agency, and has for much of the past eight years, according to current and former American officials.”
I'm sure you're shocked to learn that the CIA may be complicit in perpetuating the illegal drug trade of Afghanistan's heroin. I'm reminded of Ricky Ross, the crack king, href =“http://www.americandrugwar.com/new/ross.htm”>and his story of the CIA and cocaine trafficking in the 80's
In a somewhat related story http://www.truthout.org/1028094 Truthout's Jason Leopold reports that the CIA had in fact lied to Congress as Speaker Pelosi had claimed. “Rep Schakowsky revealed that, in addition to withholding information from lawmakers about torture, the CIA lied or misled Congress about the shooting down of an airplane over Peru in 2001 carrying American missionaries, the destruction of torture tapes and a top secret assassination program aimed at targeting leaders of al-Qaeda. She would not reveal details of what the fifth case was. A 2008 CIA inspector general's report had already concluded that the agency lied to Congress about the Peru incident.”
The question I'm left to consider concerns the essential mission of the CIA . Are they charged with gathering and analyzing intelligence to protect and defend the American people ? Or are they tools of the military industrial complex and war service industry charged with the perpetuation of international tensions and wars for profit ?
Robert Scheer on Afghanistan's Phantom Terrorists
"A War of Absurdity" -- There is no indication that any of the contending forces in Afghanistan, including the Taliban, are interested in bringing al-Qaida back. On the contrary, all the available evidence indicates that the Arab fighters are unwelcome and that it is their isolation from their former patrons that has led to their demise.
Chris Hedges on War and Memorials
"Celebrating Slaughter: War and Collective Amnesia" -- War memorials and museums are temples to the god of war. They sanitize the savage instruments of death that turn young soldiers and Marines into killers, and small villages in Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq into hellish bonfires.
"The Torture Memos" -- Georgetown University law professor David Cole’s new book, “The Torture Memos,” investigates how key members of the U.S. Office of Legal Counsel rewrote the law to make torture legal.
A History Of Failed Press Coverage Of Afghanistan
COMMENTARY | October 27, 2009
For decades, the American news media by and large have been simplistic and misleading in reporting U.S. relations toward Afghanistan, write Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould. From 1981 on, they say, the press has kept vital information away from the American people.
By Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould
For almost 30 years – ever since we got a close-in view of it – American press coverage of Afghanistan has been simplistic, misleading, unexamining, accepting and echoing government propaganda, and just plain wrong. There have been exceptions…but not many.
Beginning in 1981, we have experienced a process that has kept vital information away from the American people.
Following the expulsion of 1,135 western journalists one month after the Soviet invasion in 1979, we were the first to gain access to Afghanistan through diplomatic channels at the United Nations. Contracted to CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, our opportunity to see inside a Soviet-occupied Afghanistan revealed a complex story, and the footage we returned with didn’t conform to an evil empire image that, in our judgment, CBS reporting had been nurturing. Four weeks after our return, a story about our trip was aired, cross-cut with Soviet propaganda – that is, footage done by the Soviets – that in no way represented our experience. But as an anti-Soviet piece, it was masterful.
Then in 1983, under contract to ABC Nightline, we invited Roger Fisher, director of the Harvard Negotiation Project, to return with us to assess the chances of getting the Soviets to leave Afghanistan. Roger told us that the Kremlin's chief Afghan specialist said, point blank, "Give us six months to save face and we'll leave the Afghans to solve their own problems." This information was rejected as news by ABC World News Tonight. Then the Soviet request – as explained by Roger on Nightline – was framed in such a way by host Ted Koppel, that it dispelled any notion that there was a chance of a Soviet withdrawal.
As the decade of the 80s wore on, the Soviet occupation left the realm of journalism – there was almost no coverage – and became transformed into a Ramboesque struggle of holy warriors against the evil empire. Then in 1989 when the Soviets finally did withdraw, the Afghan story disappeared from the media’s radar completely. The cold war had ended and the mythology dictated that the U.S. had “won” it. The Afghan people were left to deal with the blowback from the mujahideen fighters who had been supported by the largest publicly known U.S. covert operation since Vietnam. Over the next few years that process would give rise to the Taliban and morph into the threat the U.S. faces today.
Without any serious reflection on the consequences of funding and training extremists for the purpose of defeating the Soviet Union, the American media not only missed the deeper story, but ignored numerous instances where the Afghan story had been corrupted for political purposes.
Articles in the New York Post by Janet Wilson in late 1989 and a Columbia Jounalism Review article by Mary Williams Walsh in early 1990 charged that CBS newscasts repeatedly aired fake battle footage and false news accounts. The accusations had no effect and caused no serious questioning by the media. It wasn’t until 9/11 that Afghanistan got back on the media’s radar. The crisis that had left 2 million dead, 6 million refugees, and a population of Afghan women in abject conditions finally came into view. (See this Amnesty International report.) But even today, the media continue to resist the deeper analysis necessary to bring about the kind of thinking required by America’s current intervention in Afghanistan.
Before, during and after the Soviet invasion the press largely accepted, without investigation, the view that a Muslim Holy War against communism was taking place. So much for independent reporting. Even when both Robert Gates, America’s current Secretary of Defense, and Zbigniew Brzezinski President Carter’s national security adviser, admitted in print (Gates, in his book, From the Shadows; Brzezinski, 1998 interview in Le Nouvel Observateur), that the U.S. had been secretly undermining its own diplomatic efforts in order to give the Soviets their own Vietnam in Afghanistan, the American press failed to see it as news. (Gates was a special assistant to Brzezinski in 1979 at the time of the invasion; he held high intelligence positions in the CIA in the early 80s and in 1986 was named deputy director of the CIA.)
Brzezinski's Nouvel Observateur remarks are addressed in a 2005 interview he did with Samira Goetschel for her film, Our Own Private Bin Laden. She asked: "In your 1998 interview with the French Magazine Le Nouvel Observateur you said that you knowingly increased the probability of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.” Brzezinski responded: “The point very simply was this. We knew the Soviets were already conducting operations in Afghanistan. We knew there was opposition in Afghanistan to the progressive effort which had been made by the Soviets to take over. And we felt therefore it made a lot of sense to support those that were resisting. And we decided to do that. Of course this probably convinced the Soviets even more to do what they were planning to do..."
As we document in our book, “Invisible History: Afghanistan's Untold Story," the record contradicts Brzezinski’s assumption that the Soviets would have invaded.
The world was remade with the Soviet folly in Afghanistan, a Communist empire destroyed and the West's pre-eminence assured. But the price in human suffering in Afghanistan and the impact on our democratic freedoms and aggressive press coverage has yet to be understood. Our personal experience with the media was an excellent example of how the Afghanistan story was framed to encourage war and to downplay peaceful settlement. Like the cold war itself, it is a framework that still haunts Afghanistan. Perhaps it has now come to haunt the United States even more.
-Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould, a husband and wife team, began their experience in Afghanistan when they were the first American journalists to acquire permission to enter behind Soviet lines in 1981. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Every time I hear about Joe Lieberman's latest apostasy, I think, Oy vey! There he goes again. More Joementum.
Remind me why we still call this guy a Democrat? Sure, Lieberman caucuses with Democrats in the Senate--Joe is nothing if not opportunistic and who wants to be part of a lowly Republican minority?--but I think he forfeited his right to call himself one when he almost became John McCain's VP and campaigned stridently against an Obama presidency. Yet somehow he managed to keep his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Gotta love those Senate Democrats--they always find a way to reward someone for stabbing them in the back. See Baucus, Max.
Following Lieberman's threat to filibuster a public option, every paper played up the story of how the "centrists" are now rebelling. Watch out, the centrists are coming! "Centrists unsure about Reid's public option," the Washington Post reported today. Let's get real. These holdouts are not centrist Democrats; they are corporate Democrats, which should be an oxymoron. They'll do whatever the healthcare industry wants and use their red state constituents as an excuse to do so. Only Lieberman is from Connecticut, one of the bluest states in the country. So what's his excuse?
Well, some rather large insurance companies reside in Connecticut and, as Joe Conason points out, Lieberman's wife just so happens to have been a drug industry lobbyist for Hill & Knowlton. Conason reports:
Among Hill & Knowlton's clients when Mrs. Lieberman signed on with the firm last year was GlaxoSmithKline, the huge British-based drug company that makes vaccines along with many other drugs. As I noted in July, Sen. Lieberman introduced a bill in April 2005 (the month after his wife joined Hill & Knowlton) that would award billions of dollars in new "incentives" to companies like GlaxoSmithKline to persuade them to make more new vaccines. Under the legislation, known as Bioshield II, the cost to consumers and governments would be astronomical, but for Lieberman and his Republican cosponsors, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., the results would be worth every penny. Using the war on terror as their ideological backdrop, the pharma-friendly senators sought to win patent extensions on products that have nothing to do with preparations against terrorist attack or natural disaster.
Sounds like a bit of a conflict of interest, no? Let's take a look at some of these other so-called "centrists." Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas is in the pocket of Wal-Mart (just like her fellow Arkansan in the House, Blue Dog leader Mike Ross), Mary Landrieu of Louisiana is tied up with every major industry in the Bayou State and Ben Nelson...Well, he's Ben Nelson. What more need I say?
This healthcare debate has provided what they call a clarifying moment. When it's all over, we'll know exactly which side these Democrats are on.
Bill Boyarsky on Health Regulation
"The Missing Health Care Debate" -- One way to give people a good deal on their health care is the so-called public option. A better way is the kind of strong regulation that isn’t even being discussed.
Kucinich Amendment Grants ERISA Waiver for Single Payer States.
Sanders Senate Amendment Would Expand Support for Single Payer States
The Center for Policy Analysis worked closely with Congressional staff to craft the two amendments to health reform legislation that offer the greatest prospects for single payer supporters.
Some state and local governments that have attempted to expand health care coverage have been successfully challenged in court under the terms of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). ERISA pre-empts states from enacting legislation if it is “related to” employee benefit plans. It reserves that right to the federal government. Section 514 of ERISA states that Title V (Administration and Enforcement) and Title IV (Fiduciary Responsibility) of ERISA “shall supercede any and all State laws insofar as they may… relate to any employee benefit plan.” There is no provision for an administrative waiver of these rules.
The Kucinich amendment to HR 3200, approved by a recorded vote of the House Education and Labor Committee, would remove this barrier for states that have enacted and signed into law a single payer system.
What the Amendment Does
The Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, would be authorized and required to waive the ERISA pre-emption (Sec. 514) for states that have enacted a state single payer system. In this case, the Secretary could decline to grant the waiver only under extraordinary circumstances. The system would have to meet requirements, and the Secretary could revoke the waiver if it fails to do so.
The state single payer system is defined as a non-profit program of the state for providing health care to all residents. A single state agency would finance and administer the provision of comprehensive benefits that meet or exceed the standards for coverage and quality described in HR 3200, and assure free choice of health care providers. Private insurance that duplicates this coverage would be prohibited. Health maintenance organizations could operate on a non-profit basis if they also own their facilities and provide services directly. The system would not result in greater costs to the federal government. At the same time, the federal government would maintain the equivalent level of support as provided to other states, accounting for variations such as population and demographics. States could seek planning and start-up funds.
What the Amendment Does Not Do
A state single payer amendment was proposed by Senator Sanders. It is more detailed than the Kucinich amendment because it would cover matters beyond the jurisdiction of the House Education and Labor Committee. These include: Dedicated funding for planning and implementation grants; Specific allocations of funds from existing federal health programs, and waivers to permit coordination with those programs; Quality assurance and health professional training programs associated with other federal programs.
The public option was always a compromise for serious supporters of health-care reform, who -- like Barack Obama when he was running for the Senate in 2003 -- knew that a single-payer "Medicare for All" system was what America needed to provide health care to everyone while controlling costs.
But, in the reform legislation debuted Thursday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the compromise was even more compromised than had been expected.
Pelosi says the legislation is "historic," and celebrates the fact that is does still include a public option -- a component many pundits had said was destined for abandonment.
But, while there is a public option, it is anything but robust.
Progressives believe Pelosi has bent to far to the right.
And The New York Times suggests as much in its analysis, which declares that:
Under pressure from moderate-to-conservative members of the House Democratic caucus, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has decided to propose a government-run insurance plan that would negotiate rates with doctors and hospitals, rather than using prices set by the government...
Ms. Pelosi said the public plan, which she prefers to call a "consumer option," would compete with private insurers. But the speaker was apparently unable to muster the votes needed for the 'robust' liberal version of a public plan, which she has repeatedly said would save more money for consumers and the government.
Translation: The "public option" Pelosi and her team have proposed a plan that would not make payments for care based on Medicare rates, as the Congressional Progressive Caucus and key Senate Democrats have proposed.
Rather, under the Pelosi plan, the rates be tied to those of the big insurance companies. That's a big, big victory for the insurance industry, as it will undermine the ability of the public option to compete -- and to create pressure for reduced costs.
Pelosi's plan also drops a number of provisions that had been advanced at the committee level to promote consideration of "Medicare for All" models and to allow states to experiment with single-payer plans.
That's an especially bitter pill for House progressives, who has won support for state-based experimentation in committee votes.
Groups such as Progressive Democrats of America were quick to raised alarm bells because some of the most innovative responses to the health-care crisis are being forged at the state level. While single-payer proposals are being blocked at the federal level, PDA national director Tim Carpenter says the single-payer fight is ramping up in the states.
"Last week, members of the PDA national team traveled to Pennsylvania for a rally at the capital rotunda in Harrisburg, in support of Healthcare for All Pennsylvania and their single-payer bill," notes Carpenter. "The momentum for single-payer healthcare grows daily. It appears Congress will have to be forced to follow the lead of states like Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Ohio and Massachusetts --- all working to implement single-payer healthcare at the state level."
House progressives were quick to express disappointment, as they were counting on the House to advance a strong alternative to the Senate Democratic leadership's very weak public option proposal -- which would allow states to opt out of the plan.
Reviewing the details of Pelosi's plan in a passionate speech on the House floor, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, one of the chamber's most ardent advocates for reform asked: "Is this the best we can do? Forcing people to buy private health insurance, guaranteeing at least $50 billion in new business for the insurance companies?
Is this the best we can do? Government negotiates rates which will drive up insurance costs, but the government won't negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies which will drive up pharmaceutical costs.
Is this the best we can do? Only 3 percent of Americans will go to a new public plan, while currently 33 percent of Americans are either uninsured or underinsured?
Is this the best we can do? Eliminating the state single payer option, while forcing most people to buy private insurance.
If this is the best we can do, then our best isn't good enough and we have to ask some hard questions about our political system: such as Health Care or Insurance Care? Government of the people or a government of the corporations.
Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Lynn Woolsey, D-California, said she and her allies would continue to battle to muscle-up the public option.
"It's not even the fourth quarter,'' said Woolsey, who noted the public option had only recently been dismissed as dead by many pundits. "We will be insisting on (the option) being as strong as it possibly can be.''
Woolsey and other progressive Democrats are set to meet with President Obama Thursday.
"He needs to hear from us that he needs to support the public option,'' Woolsey told the Los Angeles Times. "He's not saying it loud enough. We want to make sure he lets the Senate know he wants a public option in the bill."
The focus on Obama is appropriate. He has the authority, as a man with a bully pulpit and a veto pen, to tell Pelosi that a soft public option is insufficient. At the same time, he can and should be more involved in challenging the absurd proposals -- advanced by conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans -- for "opt-outs" and "triggers," which threaten to weaken the public option to the point of meaninglessness.
Congressmen are learning that those words mean Single Payer. They are also catching on: Americans know Medicare, want Medicare and the easiest way to pay for health care for everyone is to expand Medicare. Even Blue Dogs want to ride on the Medicare For All bandwagon.
NJ ARRESTED ON MICHAEL MOORE's SITE :
House Goes With Public Option Favored by Conservative Democrats
After months of negotiations, the so-called robust public option is dead as new bill will require the government to negotiate rates with providers.
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Many of Obama's Top Fundraisers Now in Administration
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Op-Ed: Hate Crimes Law Is Too Little, Too Late
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Read original story in The Washington Post | Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009
Visa Program Sees Sharp Drop in Applicants
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Read original story in The Wall Street Journal | Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009
Google Threatens GPS Makers
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Read original story in The New York Times | Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009
Signing Away Rights to the Whole Galaxy
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Read original story in The Wall Street Journal | Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009
British Lawyers Vow To Have Olmert Arrested For War Crimes
International Middle East Media Center
But the British lawyers vow to continue their fight to prosecute foreign war criminals, saying that the victims deserve to see these officials face a ...See all stories on this topic
World Socialist Web Site | wsws.org |As unemployment claims rise
By Barry Grey
Even as the Labor Department reported an unexpected rise in initial claims for unemployment benefits, the Obama administration and Democratic congressional leaders reiterated their opposition to any significant new outlays to address the jobs crisis.
Initial jobless claims jumped by 11,000 to 531,000 last week, reversing a recent downward trend, according to a Labor Department report released Thursday. (Economists say a weekly figure under 325,000 new claims is consistent with a healthy economy). The number of continuing benefit claims by laid off workers for the week ended October 10 hit 5.9 million.
The Labor Department reported that unemployment rose last month in 23 states. It further noted that recipients filing for aid under extended benefit programs dropped by 50,000 to 8.8 million in the week ended October 3. Economists say this drop is not the result of people finding new jobs, but rather the result of people exhausting their jobless benefits.
For all the official talk of an economic recovery, layoffs are mounting, unemployment is rising, and tens of thousands of Americans are running out of jobless benefits and falling into homelessness and destitution.
In testimony before the Senate Finance Committee last month, Beth Shulman of the National Employment Law Project summed up the situation as follows:
“Never in the history of the nation’s unemployment insurance program have more workers been unemployed for such prolonged periods of time. A total of five million Americans have been unemployed for six months or more (a record since data started being recorded in 1948). That represents an unprecedented 33.3 percent of all unemployed workers, a share that has never been reached before in any post-war recession. There are now a whopping 5 million Americans who have been out of work for six months, up from just 1.31 million before the recession began in December 2007.”
Every day, 7,000 workers are losing their unemployment benefits. Over 200,000 are set to see their benefit checks stop this month, and 1.3 million will exhaust their benefits by year’s end. Just in Michigan, which has the highest official jobless rate in the country, 15.3 percent, 100,000 unemployed workers stand to lose their benefits by the end of the year.
Even if a bill currently being debated in Congress to extend benefits for several more months is passed, it will do nothing to stem the rise in unemployment and provide only temporary relief for a portion of those whose life savings are being drained and who are being driven into poverty.
In the face of this disaster for working people, the Obama administration is opposing any major new government outlays to create jobs or provide relief for the unemployed. As the New York Times reported Friday in an article on internal administration discussions, “The administration plans to eschew any larger package of jobs measures in favor of a series of smaller programs.”
These “smaller programs” amount to a temporary extension of measures enacted under the stimulus package that was passed last February, including additional weeks of jobless pay, health care subsidies for laid off workers, and a tax credit for new home buyers. The administration is also considering a tax windfall for companies that “save or create” jobs.
Echoing the position of the White House, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, told reporters on Wednesday, “We do not have plans for an additional stimulus package.”
On Thursday, the same day as the Labor Department report, Christina Romer, the chairwoman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress that the official jobless rate was likely to peak at 10.1 percent by the second quarter of 2010 and still be at 9.6 percent or higher by the end of the year.
The real unemployment rate, including those who have given up looking for work and those involuntarily working part-time is already at least 17 percent. According to the government, there are currently 15 million unemployed in the US.
Romer said that the US economy was 9 million jobs short of where it should be. She warned that any rebound in jobs could actually be slower than what White House officials had been predicting. She also said that the main growth impact of the $787 billion stimulus bill passed last February had already been spent. “By mid-2010, fiscal stimulus will likely be contributing little to further growth,” she told the committee.
This is a damning admission, given that, according to the White House’s own web site, a grand total of 30,383 jobs have been created nationally as a direct result of contracts granted under the stimulus bill. This derisory number includes a total of 397 jobs in Michigan—which has lost tens of thousands of jobs as a result of the Obama administration’s forced bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler—6 jobs in Rhode Island, which has the country’s third highest jobless rate at 12.8 percent, and 2,260 jobs in California, where more than 2.2 million people are officially unemployed and joblessness is the highest since 1940.
In her testimony, Romer claimed that as of August, the stimulus package had “created or saved” 600,000 to 1.5 million jobs. Even if this dubious and grossly imprecise estimate is accurate, it pales before the 7.2 million jobs destroyed since the recession began in December of 2007 and the 3.4 million jobs lost in the eight months since the stimulus bill was passed.
And despite the fact that the government’s job-creation claims at the time of the bill’s passage were based on the assumption that unemployment would peak at around 8 percent, Romer touted the stimulus as a success and offered no proposals for new measures to address the worsening jobs crisis.
She tacitly justified the administration’s opposition to significant new spending for jobs by raising the need to address the ballooning federal deficit.
As recent statements by Obama’s top economic officials, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers, as well as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, make clear, putting in place austerity policies to slash social spending and rein in budget deficits is the administration’s central domestic priority, not job creation or relief for the unemployed.
This was underscored in a Wall Street Journal column published Tuesday, entitled “Obama Lays Plans to Tackle Deficit.” The article begins: “This has been the year of coping with the economic mess. Next year will be the year of coping with the deficit mess that follows the economic mess.”
The article points to next January’s State of the Union address and the submission of the administration’s budget plan the following month as key points in a campaign to push for austerity measures. “Budget director Peter Orszag promises that [the new budget plan in February] will be an occasion for the administration to start putting real deficit-cutting plans on the table,” the Journal reports. It notes that the administration is looking favorably on a proposal to set up a bipartisan commission to address “fiscal imbalances.”
The administration’s callous indifference to the plight of the unemployed and the working class as a whole is rooted in a definite class strategy and definite social interests—namely, those of the financial elite. It formulates its economic and social policies through closed-door discussions with powerful representatives of the banking and corporate world. As the New York Times reported Friday, “The White House, meanwhile, has been seeking ideas recently from the private sector, including from a group of high-level CEOs who are in frequent contact with Mr. Obama’s top economic advisers.”
These forces favor a continuation of high unemployment as a means of forcing workers desperate to hold onto their jobs to accept lower wages, shorter hours and speedup. With the Obama administration serving as its political instrument, the financial elite is utilizing the economic crisis to dramatically reshape social relations in America. The aim is to effect a sharp and permanent reduction in the living standards of the working class and an increase in the rate of exploitation of workers.
The Labor Department issued a report Thursday on international manufacturing productivity which shows that this process is well underway. The report showed that in 2008 the US posted the biggest drop in manufacturing employment of the 17 countries surveyed, but, along with South Korea, it recorded the biggest gain in output per hour worked. Both the US and South Korea saw productivity rise 1.2 percent.
The US led all of the countries with a 3.4 percent decline in manufacturing employment and a 3.9 percent drop in hours worked. Of the 15 countries where manufacturing unit labor costs increased, they rose the least—1.7 percent—in the US.
Total compensation for manufacturing workers in the US declined 1 percent from the previous year.
These trends have accelerated in 2009. According to a report in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, across the US economy in the second quarter of 2009, work hours were down 7.6 percent, unit labor costs were down 5.9 percent, output was down 1.5 percent, while output per hour was up 6.6 percent.
These figures show that the Obama administration, in service to the financial and corporate elite, is spearheading a drive to slash wages and increase labor productivity, so as to create a new basis for profit at the direct expense of the working class.
The 50 percent surge in the stock market since March has occurred in part because corporations have been able to record better-than-expected profits despite declining sales and revenues, due to steep reductions in labor costs.
The aim of the administration is to leverage wage-cutting and speedup, combined with a tacit policy of support for a devalued dollar, to give US capitalism an advantage over its trade rivals. US manufacturing is to be revived on the basis of sharply lower wages and increased exploitation, making the United States a low-wage platform for exports to the world market.