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Monday, January 28, 2008

Ted Kennedy endorsing Obama

By Susan Milligan
Globe staff

WASHINGTON -- Senator Edward M. Kennedy will endorse Barack Obama for president tomorrow, breaking his year-long neutrality to send a powerful signal of where the legendary Massachusetts Democrat sees the party going -- and who he thinks is best to lead it.

Kennedy confidantes told the Globe today that the Bay State's senior senator will appear with Obama and Kennedy's niece, Caroline Kennedy, at a morning rally at American University in Washington tomorrow to announce his support.

That will be a potentially significant boost for Obama as he heads into a series of critical primaries on Super Tuesday, Feb. 5.

Kennedy believes Obama can ``transcend race'' and bring unity to the country, a Kennedy associate told the Globe. Kennedy was also impressed by Obama's deep involvement last year in the bipartisan effort to craft legislation on immigration reform, a politically touchy subject the other presidential candidates avoided, the associate said.

The coveted endorsement is a huge blow to New York Senator Hillary Clinton, who is both a senatorial colleague and a friend of the Kennedy family. In a campaign where Clinton has trumpeted her experience over Obama's call for hope and change, the endorsement by one of the most experienced and respected Democrats in the Senate is a particularly dramatic coup for Obama.

"The America of Jack and Bobby Kennedy touched all of us. Through all of these decades, the one who kept that flame alive was Ted Kennedy,'' said Representative Bill Delahunt, A Quincy Democrat who is also backing Obama. ``So having him pass on the torch [to Obama] is of incredible significance. It's historic.''

Obama's landslide win in South Carolina yesterday gives Obama and Clinton two wins each in the primary campaign, and puts the two senators in a fierce battle for delegates on Feb. 5, when 22 states will hold Democratic primaries and caucuses.

While polls show Clinton ahead in some large states, including her home state of New York and delegate-rich California, the Kennedy endorsement gives Obama a stamp of approval among key constituencies in the Democratic party that could make Super Tuesday more competitive.

Kennedy plans to campaign actively for Obama, an aide said, and will focus particularly among Hispanics and labor union members, who are important voting blocks in several Feb. 5 states, including California, New York, New Jersey, Arizona and New Mexico.

The Massachusetts senator was key in helping his colleague, Senator John F. Kerry, score a comeback win in Iowa in 2004, sending Kerry on a path to the nomination. Kennedy campaigned on his own and released several senior members of his staff to work for Kerry.

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

MSNBC says 'audio issues' behind mysterious Romney whisperer


UPDATE: 'No way of knowing' who whispered, MSNBC says

The whisper that could be heard just before an answer from Mitt Romney at Thursday's Republican debate was the result of a microphone malfunction, an MSNBC spokesman tells RAW STORY, but its source remains a mystery.

Just before Romney answered a question about Ronald Reagan's 1983 Social Security overhaul, a voice can be heard whispering, either "He raised taxes" or "not raise taxes." The overheard musing was the result of an open microphone somewhere, but a spokesman said the whisperer has not been identified.

"We heard the same thing you heard," MSNBC VP for Communications Jeremy Gaines told RAW STORY via e-mail Friday afternoon. "There was obviously an open mike which picked up the whisper, but we have no way of knowing who did the whispering."

Gaines also said the network would replace a post that "shouldn't have been removed" from its First Read blog. The post is available here with an editor's note attached.

"We thought it might have simply been our control room cueing a question, which then didn’t seem to warrant a post, since that would be very inside baseball. So, I took it down," NBC's Domenico Montanaro wrote at First Read.

"As far as figuring out the mystery of who or where it came from, that is being worked on, and we hope to have an answer soon," Montanaro continued. "It puzzled us here too, and we’re looking through tape of other candidates to see if it was one of them. We’ll let you know."

Earlier Friday, Gaines said the whisper was simply the result of "audio issues," but he revised that statement after returning to New York from the debate site in Florida and watching a tape of the proceedings.

Moderator Tim Russert asked Romney if he would "do what Ronald Reagan did in 1983" to fix Social Security. Immediately after Russert's question, someone can be heard whispering what sounds like, "He raised taxes," although Montanaro said MSNBC believed the whisperer said "not raise taxes."

It's unclear whether Romney heard the voice, but he quickly answered, "I'm not going to raise taxes."

Romney's campaign has not respond to requests for comment.

Some bloggers are accusing the former Massachusetts Governor of shenanigans.

"Some have speculated that the whisper is a prompt for Russert to add on the rest of the question, "raised taxes," to what Russert said about Reagan, but listen to how incredibly fast the whisper comes after Russert finishes his sentence. Seems mighty fast to have been someone trying to get Russert to finish the question - how does the whisperer know that Russert is done? It sounds much more like a prompt for Mitt," wrote blogger Steward Rhodes.

"Recalls “the bulge” from the Bush/Kerry debates doesn’t it?" mused Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson, referring to a debate in which President Bush appeared to have some sort of transmitter or other device underneath his suit jacket.

Commenters on MNSBC's First Read blog also noticed the incident, although the network removed a post referencing the whisper from its Web site before replacing it Friday afternoon.

RAW STORY enhanced the audio in the following video to make the whisper easier to hear.


The following screenshot of MSNBC's first read was posted at the liberal forum, Democratic Underground, before MSNBC took it down.

The following thumbnail screenshot of MSNBC's First Read was posted at the liberal forum, Democratic Underground, before MSNBC took it down. Click for full size.



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NBC Finds Picture of Hillary Clinton And "Slum Lord" Renzo


On Friday morning's episode of the Today Show on NBC, host Matt Lauer discussed Monday night's testy debate between presidential candidates Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL). In particular, he focused on her allegation that Obama had represented Tony Rezko, the indicted Chicago businessman whom she referred to as a "slum lord."

Lauer then presented Clinton with a photo of Rezko posing between Sen. Clinton as first lady and her husband during his presidency. He asked if she remembered meeting Rezko.

Clinton said she did not, and parried, "I don't have a 17-year relationship with him."

The senator also argued that it wasn't unfair for her to bring up Rezko during the debate.

"I try not to attack first," Clinton said, "but I have to defend myself and I do have to counter punch."

Clinton then argued that the debate between the two candidates should focus on their position on important issues, and implied that she was the most viable candidate to defeat Senator John McCain if he was the Republican candidate.

"Let's focus on what we want to do for the country and most importantly focus on the great difference between us and the Republicans," she argued. "Senator McCain has said it would be fine with him if we were [in Iraq] 100 years. It's not fine with me."

A clip of the exchange is presented below.


This video is from NBC's Today Show, broadcast January 25, 2008.




Transcript via closed captions


:: It is perfectly legitimate to draw comparisons and contrasts. And I think both senator obama and I have made it clear that we do want to focus on what we each would do for our country. It has been obviously an incredibly intense campaign. I think it's cause for celebration that we have an african-american, a woman running for the highest position in our country, the toughest job in the world.

:: Right, but --

:: But I do want to make it clear that our campaigns have to stay focused on what, you know, the legitimate differences are, so we can give voters information that will enable them to make the right decision.

:: On monday night in south carolina, it didn't always stay focused on that, senator. I want to run a clip. This is where you were attacking senator obama in particular about his work connected to what was called the so-called slum lord in chicago, a guy named tony rezko. Take a look at the clip.

:: I was fighting against those ideas when you were practicing law and representing your contributor rezko in his slum landlord business in inner city chicago.

:: That was monday night, senator. I know you don't have video, you can't see what i'm about to put up on the screen right now. But i'm going to put up a picture right now that we've received. This is a picture of you and your husband, bill clinton, posing with that same man, tony rezko. It's undated, i'm going to ro-tel you right now. We know it's him. We don't know when it was taken. We think it was during your husband's presidency. I'm curious, do you know anything about the picture? do you know when it was taken? do you remember meeting this man?

:: No, I don't. You know, I probably have taken hundreds of thousands of pictures. But of course, matt, you didn't show what preceded what I said, which was a direct attack, one of several that was leveled against me by senator obama.

:: I understand. It was a counter punch, I understand that.

:: It was a counter punch. I try not to attack first, but I have to defend myself and I do have to counter punch. No, I don't know the man. I wouldn't know him if he walked in the door. I don't have a 17-year relationship with him. But I think with a we ought to be looking at is how we go forward talking about the issues. I do think, however, that this is a campaign, it's a contest. It's something that is very important to each of us running, to our supporters, to those who believe in us. And I took a lot of incoming fire for many, many months and I was happy to absorb it because obviously I felt that that was part of my responsibility.

:: I guess what i'm saying, though --

:: As it gets toward the end of the campaign, you've got to set the record straight as I tried to.

:: Right. But does it make sense to use someone like this, tony rezko, against senator obama, when there's really no such thing as political purt anymore? I know you stand at events and stood as first lady along with your president and they fired 200 people by you a night --

:: A thousand people.

:: This man, he made a contribution to the dnc back in march of 2000. If there's no such thing as being able to fully vette who you come in contact with, is it appropriate to make this attack on your opponent?

:: I think you have to look at the facts. There's a big difference standing somewhere taking a picture with someone you don't know and haven't seen since and having a relationship that the newspapers in chic chicago have been exploring. Let's focus on what we want to do for the country and most importantly focus on the great difference between us and the republicans. I think you saw that again in their debate. They're sticking with the failed policies of president bush, more in iraq. Senator mccain has said it would be fine with him if we were there 100 years. It's not fine with me. Yes --

:: Real quickly, the latest poll --

:: So you have to -- right, you have to draw those comparisons and I think that's fair.

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Whispering of "Raise Taxes" to Romney During MSNBC Debate


This is a video response to Anderson Cooper: "The Whisper"


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Chomsky on World Ownership

Noam Chomsky is a noted linguist, author, and foreign policy expert. On January 15, Michael Shank interviewed him on the latest developments in U.S. policy toward Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan. In the first part of this two-part interview, Chomsky also discussed how the U.S. government’s belief in its ownership of the world shapes its foreign policy.

Michael Shank: Is the leading Democrats’ policy vis-à-vis Iraq at all different from the Bush administration’s policy?

Noam Chomsky: It’s somewhat different. The situation is very similar to Vietnam. The opposition to the war today in elite sectors, including every viable candidate, is pure cynicism, completely unprincipled: “If we can get away with it, it’s fine. If it costs us too much, it’s bad.” That’s the way the Vietnam opposition was in the elite sectors.

Take, say, Anthony Lewis, who’s about as far to the critical extreme as you can find in the media. In his final words evaluating the war in The New York Times in 1975, he said the war began with “blundering efforts to do good” but by 1969, namely a year after the American business community had turned against the war, it was clear that the United States “could not impose a solution except at a price too costly to itself,” so therefore it was a “disastrous mistake.” Nazi generals could have said the same thing after Stalingrad and probably did. That’s the extreme position in the left liberal spectrum. Or take the distinguished historian and Kennedy advisor Arthur Schlesinger. When the war was going sour under LBJ, he wrote that “we all pray” that the hawks are right and that more troops will lead to victory. And he knew what victory meant. He said we’re leaving “a land of ruin and wreck,” but “we all pray” that escalation will succeed and if it does “we may all be saluting the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government.” But probably the hawks are wrong, so escalation is a bad idea.

You can translate the rhetoric almost word by word into the elite, including political elite, opposition to the Iraq war.

It’s based on two principles. The first principle is: “we totally reject American ideals.” The only people who accept American ideals are Iraqis. The United States totally rejects them. What American ideals? The principles of the Nuremburg decision. The Nuremburg tribunal, which is basically American, expressed high ideals, which we profess. Namely, of all the war crimes, aggression is the supreme international crime, which encompasses within it all of the evil that follows. It’s obvious that the Iraq invasion is a pure case of aggression and therefore, according to our ideals, it encompasses all the evil that follows, like sectarian warfare, al-Qaeda Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and everything else. The chief U.S. Prosecutor Robert Jackson, addressed the tribunal and said, “we should remember that we’re handing these Nazi war criminals a poisoned chalice. If we ever sip from it we must be subject to the same principles or else the whole thing is a farce.” Well, it seems that almost no one in the American elite accepts that or can even understand it. But Iraqis accept it.

The latest study of Iraqi opinion, carried out by the American military, provides an illustration. There is an interesting article about it by Karen DeYoung in the Washington Post. She said the American military is very excited and cheered to see the results of this latest study, which showed that Iraqis have “shared beliefs.” They’re coming together. They’re getting to political reconciliation. Well, what are the shared beliefs? The shared beliefs are that the Americans are responsible for all the horrors that took place in Iraq, as the Nuremberg principles hold, and they should get out. That’s the shared belief. So yes, they accept American principles. But the American government rejects them totally as does elite opinion. And the same is true in Europe, incidentally. That’s point number one.

The second point is that there is a shared assumption here and in the West that we own the world. Unless you accept that assumption, the entire discussion that is taking place is unintelligible. For example, you see a headline in the newspaper, as I saw recently in the Christian Science Monitor, something like “New Study of Foreign Fighters in Iraq.” Who are the foreign fighters in Iraq? Some guy who came in from Saudi Arabia. How about the 160,000 American troops? Well, they’re not foreign fighters in Iraq because we own the world; therefore we can’t be foreign fighters anywhere. Like, if the United States invades Canada, we won’t be foreign. And if anybody resists it, they’re enemy combatants, we send them to Guantanamo.

The same goes for the entire discussion about Iranian interference in Iraq. If you’re looking at this from some rational standpoint, you have to collapse in ridicule. Could there be Allied interference in Vichy France? There can’t be. The country was conquered and it’s under military occupation. And of course we understand that. When the Russians complained about American interference in Afghanistan, we’d laugh. But when we talk about Iranian interference in Iraq, going back to viable political candidates, every single one of them says that this is outrageous – meaning, the Iranians don’t understand that we own the world. So if anybody disrupts any action of ours, no matter what it is, the supreme international crime or anything else, they’re the criminals. And we send them to Guantanamo and they don’t get rights and so on. And the Supreme Court argues about it.

In fact, the same is true almost anywhere you look. Since we own the world, everything we do is necessarily right. It can be too costly and then we don’t like it. Or there could be a couple of bad apples who do the wrong thing like Abu Ghraib. Going back to the Nuremburg tribunal, they did not try the SS men who threw people into the extermination chambers. The people who were tried were the people at the top, like von Ribbentrop, the foreign minister, who was accused of having supported a preemptive war. The Germans invaded Norway to try to preempt a British attack against Germany. By our standards they were totally justified. But Powell is not being tried. He is not going to be sentenced to hanging.

Shank: And with a Democrat president, will that thinking fundamentally change?

Chomsky: It’ll change. There’s a pretty narrow political spectrum, and in fact, intellectual and moral spectrum. But it’s not zero. And the Bush administration is way out at the extreme. In fact, so far out at the extreme that they’ve come under unprecedented attack from the mainstream.

I quoted Schlesinger on the Vietnam War. To his credit, he is perhaps the one person in the mainstream who took a principled stand on the Iraq War. When the bombing started in 2003, Schlesinger did write an op-ed in which he said that this is a day which will live in infamy, quoting Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as the United States follows the policies of imperial Japan. That’s principled.

There was no such principled critique when the liberal Democrats were doing it. But his critique of the invasion of Iraq, from its first days, was unusual. It is probably unique, so much so that it’s kind of suppressed. It reflects, first of all, a change of sentiment in the country, and also the fact that the Bush administration is so far out that they’re denounced right in the mainstream.

When the Bush administration came out with its National Security Strategy in September 2002, which basically was a call for the invasion of Iraq, Foreign Affairs, which is as respectable as you can get, ran an article just a couple of weeks later by John Ikenberry, a mainstream historian and analyst, in which he pretty sharply condemned what he called this new imperial grand strategy. He said it’s going to cause a lot of trouble; it’s going to get us in danger. That’s quite unusual. But in the case of Bush, there’s plenty more like him. So yes, they’re way out at the extreme. Any candidate now, maybe anyone except Giuliani, will moderate somewhat the policies.

Shank: With Bush’s campaign in the Gulf, rallying Gulf States against Iran, what’s the strategy now? What’s the importance of the timing of his tour?

Chomsky: First of all, remember that in the United States, which is a rich powerful state which always wins everything, history is an irrelevance. Historical amnesia is required. But among the victims that’s not true. They remember history, all over the Third World. The history that Iranians remember is the correct one. The United States has been torturing Iran, without a stop, since 1953. Overthrew the parliamentary government, installed the tyrant Shah Reza Pahlavi, and backed him through horrible torture and everything else. The minute the Shah was overthrown, the United States moved at once to try and overthrow the new regime. The United States turned for support to Saddam Hussein and his attack against Iran, in which hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered with chemical weapons and so on. The United States continued to support Saddam.

In 1989, the Iran-Iraq war was all over. George Bush I, supposedly the moderate, invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the United States for advanced training in weapons production. Iranians don’t forget that. After what they’ve just been through, they should be able to see the total cynicism of what’s happening. Immediately after the war, which the United States basically won for Iraq by breaking the embargo, shooting down Iranian commercial airplanes, and so on, the Iranians were convinced that they couldn’t fight the United States. So they capitulated. Immediately after that the United States imposed harsh sanctions, which continue, they got worse. Now the United States is threatening to attack. This is a violation of the UN charter, if anybody cares, which bars the threat of force. But outlaw states don’t care about things like that.

And it’s a credible threat. Just a couple of weeks ago there was a confrontation in the Gulf. Here the story is: “look how awful the Iranians are.” But suppose Iranian warships were sailing through Massachusetts Bay or the Gulf of Mexico. Would we think that’s fine? But since we own the world of course it’s fine when we do it off their shores. And we’re there for the benefit of the world, no matter what we do, so it’s fine. But Iranians aren’t going to see it that way. They don’t like the threats of destruction. They don’t like the fact that it’s a very credible threat. They’re surrounded on all sides by hostile American forces. They’ve got the American Navy sending combat units to the Gulf.

Take this recent Annapolis meeting about Israel-Palestine. Why did they pick Annapolis? Is that the only meeting place in the Washington area? Well, Iranians presumably notice that Annapolis is the base from which the U.S. Navy is being sent to threaten Iran. You think they can’t see that? American editorial writers and commentators can’t see it, but I’m sure Iranians can.

So yes, they’re living under serious constant threat. It’s never ended since 1953. And Bush is now desperately trying to organize what Condoleezza Rice calls the “moderate Arab states,” namely the most extreme, fundamentalist tyrannies in the world, like Saudi Arabia. So the “moderate Arab states,” they’re trying hard to organize them to join the United States in confronting Iran. Well, they’re not going along. They don’t tell Bush and Rice go home. They’re polite and so on but they’re not going along. They’re continuing to enter into limited but real relations with Iran. They don’t want a conflict with them.

Shank: Did the National Intelligence Estimate offer a reprieve, any window at all?

Chomsky: I think so. I think it pulled the rug out from under people like Cheney and Bush who probably wanted to have a war to end up their glorious regime. But it’s going to be pretty hard to do it now. Although Olmert just announced again yesterday that Israel is leaving open the option of attacking Iran, if Israel decides that it is a threat. Israel, which is a U.S. client state, is granted a right similar to that of the United States. The United States owns the world and can do anything, and its client states can be regional hegemons. Israel wants to make sure that it dominates the region and therefore can carry out whatever policies it wants to in the occupied territories, invading Lebanon or whatever it happens to be. The one threat that they cannot overcome on their own is Iran.

Israel and Iran had pretty good relations right through the 1980s. They were clandestine relations but not bad. And now they recognize that Iran is the one barrier to their complete domination of the region. So therefore they want the United States, the big boy, to step in and take care of it and if the United States won’t, they claim they’ll do it. I don’t think they would unless the United States authorized it. It’s much too dangerous. They would do it only if they’re pretty sure they can bring the United States in.

Shank: The presidential candidates in the Democratic Party are trying to one-up each other on who can be more militaristic vis-à-vis Pakistan, who would bomb first if there was actionable intelligence. What’s Washington’s role in helping Pakistan now? Should it have a role and if it does what should it look like?

Chomsky: Again, there’s a little bit of history that matters to people outside centers of power. First of all, the United States supported Pakistani military governments ever since Pakistan was created. The worst period was the 1980s, when the Reagan administration strongly supported the Zia ul Haq regime, which was a brutal harsh tyranny and also a deeply Islamic tyranny. So that’s when the madrassas were established, Islamic fundamentalism was introduced, they no longer studied science in schools and things like that, and also when they were developing nuclear weapons.

The Reagan administration pretended that it didn’t know about the nuclear weapons development so that it could get congressional authorization every year for more funding to the ISI, the intelligence agencies, the fundamentalist tyranny and so on. It ended up holding a tiger by the tail. It commonly happens. The Reagan administration also helped create what turned into al-Qaeda in Afghanistan at the same time. It’s all interrelated. And they left Afghanistan in the hands of brutal, vicious, fundamentalist gangsters, like their favorite Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who got his kicks out of throwing acid in the face of women in Kabul who weren’t dressed properly. That’s who Reagan was supporting.

The United States also tolerated the Khan proliferation system. In fact the United States is still tolerating it. Khan is under what’s called house arrest, meaning just about anything he likes. And it continues with the support of the Musharraf dictatorship. Now the United States is kind of stuck. The population strongly opposes the dictatorship. The United States tried to bring in some kind of compromise with Bhutto, whom they thought would be a pliable candidate. But she was assassinated under what remain unclear circumstances. The ISI, the intelligence agencies who are extremely powerful in Pakistan, have withdrawn support for the extremist militants in the tribal areas and now they’re beginning to fight back. In fact it was just reported that one of their leaders has said that they’re going to continue to resist the Pakistani Army as they’ve been doing.

People who know the Middle East like Robert Fisk have been saying for years that Pakistan is the most dangerous country in the world, for all kinds of reasons. For one, it’s falling apart. There are rebellions in the Baluchi areas. The tribal areas are now out of control of the ISI. There is a Sindhi opposition movement. It could very well be a resistance movement especially after Bhutto’s assassination, since she was Sindhi. There are strong anti-Punjabi feelings developing, against the Army, the elite and so on.

So the country is barely being held together. It’s got nuclear weapons. It’s very anti-American. Take a look at popular opinion; it’s very strongly anti-American, because they remember the history. We may forget it. We tell ourselves how nice and wonderful we are, but other people, especially the people who are at the wrong end of the club, they see the world as it is. So it’s very anti-American. If the United States wants to do something there it has to get a surrogate to come in and do it. Even the dictator that the United States supports, Musharraf, and the army are strongly against any direct U.S. involvement in the tribal areas, which the United States is now talking about. Who knows what that could lead to, some other war against a country with nuclear weapons?

The Bush administration is really playing with fire. I don’t think it has a lot of options at this point. If I were asked to recommend a policy I wouldn’t know what to say. Except to try to withdraw support from the dictatorship and allow the popular forces to do something. The United States, for example, gave no support to the lawyers and their opposition. It could have. The United States is not all powerful, but it could have done something. But when Obama says, “Okay we’ll bomb them,” that’s not very helpful.

Michael Shank is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org) and an analyst with George Mason University’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

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John McCain & Miss Teen SC on Economics!




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Presidential Candidate Mike Gravel calls for Impeachment!

Impeachment Statement by Presidential Candidate Senator Mike Gravel
January 25th, 2008 by J. Skyler McKinley

While I’ve been outspoken in favor of the Impeachment of Vice President Cheney and President Bush since last July, today I’m announcing my very strong and unqualified support for Impeachment.

I want to very clearly and emphatically affirm the imperative of Impeachment as the Presidential Campaign begins to move into high gear and as the media is busy anointing the “front runners.”

As a Candidate for President, and most importantly as an American, I firmly believe that our most important and highest priority, both as individual American citizens and as a whole Nation, is to protect, defend, and nourish the foundation of American Democracy: the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Every other issue is of secondary importance.

I’ve chosen to run for President to effect what I consider to be much needed change. When people go to Internet websites that match them with the candidates that best reflect their own concerns and priorities, a very large number of voters find that I am the candidate best advocating the issues they most care about.

However, today I want to unequivocally state: without Impeachment first, what I or any other worthy Presidential candidate wants to accomplish is very unlikely to happen. Our words will in fact become another empty campaign promise and another sad political fantasy.

Why am I making such a statement?

Let’s review a few supremely important and disturbing facts:

Without Impeachment before we choose the next Administration, we as a Nation will be setting a legal precedent. We will be saying yes to the systematic destruction of the Constitution and Bill of Rights engineered by Vice President Cheney and President Bush, and will be formally agreeing to the end of American Democracy. We, as Americans, will be giving our approval and consent to the idea that the Vice President and President are indeed above the law, that they are in fact a law unto themselves.

Cheney and Bush have openly boasted about their supposed right to break the law. This administration has claimed that it has the right to spy on Americans without a warrant. This administration has decided that it has no obligation to respond to any lawful subpoenas from Congress, and that it may invoke Presidential signing statements to declare its right to ignore any Federal Law. This administration thinks it has the authority to arbitrarily strip any American of his or her citizenship.

This administration has illegally declared that it has supreme overriding authority. The Vice President and the President have accumulated and consolidated unprecedented power that has replaced the co-equal system of checks and balances mandated by the Constitution with a new Imperial Presidency. This imperialism has given the President far-reaching powers that our founding fathers would quickly recognize as tyranny.

The illegitimate authority of this newly constructed imperial Presidency – this Supreme Commander-in-Chief created by Cheney and Bush – has replaced the Rule-of-Law based on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Our system of co-equal branches of government, the unique and revolutionary principle of American Democracy, the great leap of faith that people could actually govern themselves, has been subverted. It is now almost dead.

America, the world’s oldest Democracy, is an astonishingly brilliant system of government based on carefully crafted and refined checks and balances between co-equal branches of government. The civil liberties given birth by this revolutionary form of government over 200 years ago are rapidly ending.

Our political elite, those we have entrusted to be the people’s representatives, have failed. Their oath of office, to protect and defend the Constitution, has been disregarded in the light of political power.

When we have a Vice President and President who openly declare they are above the law of the land, above the Constitution, how can we as Americans pretend that we live in a Democracy?

If We The People do not take action to demand accountability in the form of Impeachment, we become passive accomplices to the silent overthrow of American Democracy.

It is now time for the People to become leaders. We must teach our elected representatives to act in accordance with their oath of office and effect immediate impeachment of those who have committed these crimes against the Constitution.

If we do not act now we are all personally endorsing, sanctioning, and indeed celebrating, the end of the Bill of Rights, Habeas Corpus and all other fundamental civil liberties and democratic values. Such values have been the foundation of American Democracy for over 200 years.

The media-anointed “front-running” Presidential Candidates simply do not have the courage to tell the American public the truth.

If we elect any candidate from any party without first impeaching this outlaw Administration, we endorse and elect a new Imperial President of the United States. This cements into place a failed Democracy whose citizens have passively chosen to relinquish the cherished freedoms millions have fought and died to protect.

Do we really believe that we can trust the next President to give back the dramatically expanded power of the Unitary Executive? Once absolute power has been granted, it is never relinquished voluntarily.

We need to stop kidding ourselves. Let us summon 1% of the courage that those who landed on the beaches of Normandy had and recognize what is painfully obvious to the rest of the World: we are rapidly losing every fundamental freedom we thought we were fighting the “terrorists” to protect.

In six short years, the Vice President and the President have actively conspired to commit the most grievous crimes against our Constitution and the personal freedoms it guarantees. America has gone from being perhaps the most admired and respected nation on the planet to becoming the ultimate rogue state. The world’s only remaining superpower is now feared as the greatest threat to world peace.

The Constitutional system of checks and balances that are the foundation of our civil liberties have been gutted. America has become the only “civilized” state to declare its right to arbitrarily imprison, torture, and spy on anyone it chooses to, including its own citizens. We are also the only state to officially declare a right to wage lethal preemptive war on any nation that dares to threaten its exclusive superpower status.

Every democratic nation has the government that is created by active participation of its citizens. Impeachment is the only option for us, as Americans, to effectively wake ourselves up from this collective nightmare. It is the only way for us to demonstrate to ourselves and the rest of the world that we are the Americans we like to believe we are. We need to demonstrate that we actually can summon the courage to live up to our self-proclaimed ideals.

Enough is enough. This is NOT allowed.

There is a lot of very good news that makes me tremendously hopeful that we as a nation are starting to wake up and insist our Congressional representatives act to make Impeachment happen now.

Our corporate controlled media works very hard to portray impeachment as a fringe issue not worthy of serious consideration, even though polls show the negative approval ratings of this administration have surpassed all historic records. Reputable national polling shows that 54% want the Vice President impeached and 45% of voters favor Impeachment for the President.

We The People are indeed waking up – we have learned not to rely on the old top-down corporate media dinosaurs to tell us what they have decided is “the news.” Fortunately, We The People have an amazing network of online alternative information sources. These rapidly evolving reality-based, user-driven, independent media sites have made us our own news editors.

We The People are now realizing that we must act now to take the initiative to demand that our elected representatives in Congress initiate immediate Impeachment hearings. From the bottom-up, we have begun the process to restore the Rule-of-Law in America.

Here’s what we can all do now to take effective action:


Join your fellow Americans and Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL), a member of the House Judiciary committee, by signing his petition that asks all other members of the Judiciary Committee to join his call for immediate hearings on the Impeachment of the Vice President.

Support and donate to these Impeachment Groups:

Impeach Bush

The World Can't Wait

Code Pink

Support and donate to my campaign and tell your friends.

Support and donate to the other Presidential candidates who are also publicly and courageously calling for Impeachment.

Let the other Presidential Candidates know why you are not willing to support or contribute to their campaign: that you refuse to support anyone who isn’t willing to tell the truth to the American people about what has happened to their Democracy.

Join together to organize and petition your Congressperson to be true to their oath office: to uphold their most fundamental and sacred duty to protect and defend the Constitution by Impeaching the Vice President and President. Together we will restore the Rule-of-Law in America.

Senator Mike Gravel
Candidate for President

Signature

Rummy Resurfaces, Calls for U.S. Propaganda Agency

This was one of the major themes in one of Rumsfeld's first post-Pentagon public comments at a conference today on network centric warfare sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement. According to Rumsfeld, the United States is losing the war of ideas in the Muslim world, and the answer to that, in part, is through the creation of this new government agency.

During the the Q&A after the speech, I asked Rumsfeld what this new agency might entail (he was pretty clear it wouldn't be a resurrected U.S. Information Agency, which was merged into State Department in 1999), and why, when there is an abundance of media available in the private sector, the government needs to get involved.

I'll just let Rumsfeld speak for himself:

Private media does not get up in the morning and say what can we do to promote the values and ideas that the free Western nations believe in? It gets up in the morning and says they're going to try to make money by selling whatever they sell... The way they decided to do that is to be dramatic and if it bleeds it leads is the common statement in the media today. They've got their job, and they have to do that, and that's what they do.

We need someone in the United States government, some entity, not like the old USIA . . . I think this agency, a new agency has to be something that would take advantage of the wonderful opportunities that exist today. There are multiple channels for information . . . The Internet is there, blogs are there, talk radio is there, e-mails are there. There are all kinds of opportunities. We do not with any systematic organized way attempt to engage the battle of ideas and talk about the idea of beheading, and what it's about and what it means. And talk about the fact that people are killing more Muslims than they are non-Muslims, these extremists. They're doing it with suicide bombs and the like. We need to engage and not simply be passive and allow that battle of competition of ideas.

What would this agency actually do? Hard to say, but Rumsfeld referred approvingly back to when the Army paid reporters to plant stories in the local press in Iraq. He still thinks that was a good idea (and blames the U.S. press for screwing it up).

In Rumsfeld's view, the free press can co-exist with government sponsored/produced/paid news. "It doesn't mean we have to infringe on the role of the free press, they can go do what they do, and that's fine," says Rumsfeld. "Well, it's not fine, but it's what it is, let's put it that way."

UPDATE #1: MountainRunner, IntelFusion, Spencer Ackerman, and the Washington Post's William Arkin all weigh in. As does the New York Times' blog The Lede, which is kind enough to give us a high five. For sheer comedy gold, though, Ackerman wins, hands down.

Update #2: Pods, shmods, what the heck was Rumsfeld talking about?! All those years of transcribing tapes must be making me deaf, because while that does sound something like a plausible Rumsfeldism, It turns out, he said, BLOGS, BLOGS, BLOGS. Corrected above.

ALSO:

* Targeting the Jihadist Noise Machine
* 18 Months Later, Charges for Jailed Journo in Iraq
* U.S. Enlists Arab Bloggers for Info War
* Some of Her Best Friends Are Terrorists
* Inside Al-Qaeda's "Intranet"
* Intel Director Launches Qaeda Leak Probe
* Ex-Spies Blast Qaeda Breach
* Al-Qaeda "Intranet" Goes Dark After Leak
* Bloggers vs. Terrorists?
* Army Gearing Up for Info War (Finally)
* Osama: Back in Black
* Al-Qaeda Channels Pixar
* Inside the Insurgent Noise Machine
* Terrorists Keep Blogs, Too
* Al-Qaeda Ramps up Propaganda Push
* Army Bullies Blogger, Invades YouTube
* Al-Qaeda Propaganda at New High
* British Military Gags Blogs
* Army Audit: Official Sites, Not Blogs, are Security Threat
* Military Security Threat: Bogus Bomb-Zapper's Bogus Countermeasure
* Military Hypes, Bans YouTube
* Petraeus Hearts Milblogs
* No More YouTube, MySpace for U.S. Troops
* Milblogs Boost War Effort
* Pentagon Whispers; Milbloggers Zip Their Lips
* Clarifying the Blog Rule Clarification
* Army to Bloggers: We Won't Bust You. Promise.
* Army's Blog Rebuttal
* Stop Those Leaks!
* Strategic Minds Debate Milblog Crackdown
* Milblog Bust: AP Gets Snowed
* Army: Milblogging is "Therapy," Media is "Threat"
* Urban Legend Led to Army Blog-Bust?
* New Army Rules Could Kill G.I. Blogs (Maybe E-mail, Too)
* Reporters = Foreign Spies?
* Army's Info-Cop Speaks

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Tardy Giuliani turns elderly supporters into "angry mob"

Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has insisted that a late victory in Florida will give his campaign the momentum it needs to lock down the Republican nomination. But a late arrival at a Florida campaign event on Wednesday antagonized some of the very supporters on whom the former New York mayor is relying in order to win the Jan. 29 primary in the Sunshine State.

"A friendly crowd of about 1,000 nearly turned into an angry mob waiting for Rudy Giuliani to appear at a downtown Irish pub in this well-heeled community this evening," wrote Dara Kam at the Palm Beach Post's "One More Question" blog.

Kam reports that while Giuliani did not show up until 6 PM, calls from his campaign to supporters advised them to show up early for a 4:30 event, leaving "many elderly supporters wilting in the sun and others jeering as campaign surrogates pled for patience."

And just as some supporters left the tardy candidate's rally, polls show Florida voters likely switching to other GOP candidates. While the firm Strategic Vision on Jan. 23 showed Giuliani in second place behind Senator John McCain but within the margin of error, most other polls point to Giuliani in a more distant second or even third place behind McCain and Mitt Romney.

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KUCINICH DROPS OUT OF THE RACE!




Dennis Kucinich is staying home.

Two weeks after insisting he could run for Congress and president at the same time, his decision Thursday to drop his second bid for the White House suggests he is concerned about winning a seventh term in Congress.

He faces four candidates in the Democratic primary, including Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman, who has become his chief rival by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and winning media attention.

Kucinich, 61, who has easily won re-election, wouldn't say Thursday what influenced his contested congressional race had on his decision to drop out of the presidential contest. Kucinich will hold a news conference at noon today at a downtown union hall to explain his decision.

He cited his exclusion from national debates and the practical strains of running a national campaign as reasons for leaving.

"There is a point at which you just realize that you, look, you accept it, that it isn't going to happen and you move on," he said during a Congressional endorsement interview with The Plain Dealer editorial board and reporters. Kucinich stayed in the 2004 presidential race until late summer, when he had little competition for re-election back home.


To hear more of Kucinich's announcement to The Plain Dealer, listen here:

Or download the MP3.


Kucinich said he will not endorse another Democrat in the primary.

Kucinich is seeking a seventh term in Congress, but his long-shot bid for the White House has drawn four Democratic opponents.

When he kicked off his congressional re-election bid Jan. 9, he said he would focus on his local race, but then ratcheted up his presidential bid, campaigning in Michigan and Nevada and filing unsuccessful legal appeals to stay on the ballot in Texas and to win a spot on stage during presidential debates. He has fared poorly in early presidential contests.

Meanwhile, the congressional race made headlines when Cimperman revealed that Kucinich had asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to investigate a Cimperman campaign stunt. Cimperman entered Kucinich's Lakewood office Jan. 3 with a camera-toting campaign worker to drop off a "missing" poster mocking Kucinich's presidential travels.

And this week, Cimperman launched a television advertisement critical of Kucinich's time away from the 10th Congressional District, which includes Cleveland's West Side and western suburbs.

Kucinich countered with a video appealing for immediate contributions and revamped his re-election Web site. Borrowing a page from his days as an populist mayor, he charged that corporations were behind Cimperman's campaign.

"Right now I'm under attack by corporate interests, most of them from the city of Cleveland, who have an agenda that has nothing to do with the people of my community," he said in the video.

Cimperman, referring to money Kucinich raises from Hollywood actors, repeated one of his favorite lines Thursday: "The money I raise is from Cleveland, his is from California."

Cimperman campaigned for Kucinich two years ago after he was reassured by the congressman that he would not run for president again. Five weeks after being reelected Kucinich announced he had changed his mind.

Kucinich defended his decision during Thursday's interview, saying Democrats got elected in 2006 to end the war, and within weeks they voted to fund it.

"When I heard that, I knew that I was going to have to challenge my party nationally and there was only one way to do that," he said.

Kucinich said he has "zero intention" of getting involved in the presidential primaries by endorsing another Democratic candidate.

Congressional challenger Rosemary Palmer, another supporter of Kucinich's reelection in 2006, said Kucinich's move does not affect her campaign.

"I entered this race in June because I did not feel he was focused on the job, nor able to effect the change we so desperately need. On issues of job creation, health care, the environment, and the Iraq war, Mr. Kucinich often talks a good game but seldom delivers," she said in a prepared statement.

North Olmsted Mayor Thomas O'Grady, another challenger, has had little criticism of Kucinich other than to complain about his time away from the district. He said Thursday that if Kucinich had dropped his bid for the White House sooner he probably wouldn't be running for Congress.

"It's my hope that he redirects his interest back to the district," said O'Grady, speaking from Washington D.C., where he is attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

O'Grady said he has no plans to drop out.

Candidate Barbara Ferris, former Peace Corps and United Nations worker who was trounced by Kucinich two years ago, said the Congressman hasn't done much.

"He was unable to achieve anything running for president; he was unable to achieve in 11 years in Congress," she said.

Always coy about his political plans, Kucinich described his departure from the presidential race as "transitioning out" but would not say what that means. Nor did he address the criticisms of his opponents.

"I want people to know that I love this community and that have repeatedly put my career on the line for this community," he said. "I want to make sure there is no confusion in this district about what my intention is. I want to be the congressman."


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Why Hillary Clinton Should Withdraw From the Race Today

I realize, of course, that Hillary Clinton will not be withdrawing from the race any time soon. And I realize that, from a short-term political perspective, it makes no sense for her to do so. She just won New Hampshire, Michigan, and more overall votes in the caucus in Nevada. But all the same - if Senator Clinton truly believes in the values she claims to, if she would rather liberal values prevail than gain power herself, if she would rather America unite under the next president instead of becoming further divided - she must withdraw her candidacy. Whether she throws her support behind John Edwards or Barack Obama makes no difference. Either individual can unite the country. Hillary Clinton cannot.

Here are 11 reasons Hillary should withdraw now:

  1. Her experience argument is bogus. Even if it were true, historically, experience is a poor predictor of presidential success. Further, anyone who claims to be prepared to be president “from day one” is lying - because no experience can prepare you for the presidency.
  2. Her most successful and most-used tactic against Barack Obama in the primaries and caucuses - suppressing voter turnout - will ensure her loss in the general election as it alienates many of those who she most needs to appeal to - younger voters (under 55), black voters, and swing voters. The Clintons have also introduced identity politics into the primary - and have tried to encourage racial polarization, especially between Latinos and blacks. The Clintons are running a campaign very different from most primary campaigns - they are attacking Obama with a ferocity usually reserved for attacking Republicans in the general election. In an election that splits the country roughly 50/50, Hillary can’t afford to lose anyone. At the rate she is going now, she won’t be able to put together a winning coalition.
  3. Bill Clinton became an admired elder statesmen after retiring from the presidency. The fact that he was still chasing skirt became a quirk rather than a political liability and a possible threat to the Democratic Party. And things like this might be considered charming. Now, he’s become Karl Rove with Secret Service protection, a bigger media presence, and with the same lack of conscience. Even top neutral Democrats are telling Bill to shut up. I’d like the old Bill Clinton back.
  4. If Hillary Clinton wins, her success will become a lesson in how women should achieve power: marry well; put up with any humiliations your husband throws at you, and then, maybe, if you fight dirty, and ask your husband to run your campaign, you might be able to ride his coattails to your “own” political success.
  5. The Clintons are relying on the laziness and stupidity of the American people to attack Barack Obama unfairly: through lies, distortions (eg. regarding Reagan), and other unconscionable means. It just goes to prove the most dangerous place to be in America is between the Clintons and an elected office.
  6. Her three most significant political acts: botching health care reform and setting it back for a generation; deciding to stonewall independent investigators, Congress, and the press on Whitewater, and voting for war with Iraq.
  7. The Democratic Party has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-align the country and reinvigorate liberalism and America. Hillary Clinton has shown no interest in seizing this opportunity or any capacity to rally Americans to a broad consensus. She remains a highly polarizing figure. Her winning strategy does not involve winning a significant majority but eking out a 51% win by micro-targeting, niche marketing, and espousing incremental targeted policies - all working off of a broadly Republican status quo.
  8. The Clintons are fundamentally and irredeemably corrupt. And we don’t need to have a Clinton dynstasty to rival the Bush dynasty.
  9. No other candidate can rally the Republican base and right-leaning independents as effectively as Hillary Clinton.
  10. Hillary Clinton use language exactly as George Orwell lamented in “Politics and the English Language” - to hide her true intent and demonize her opponents.
  11. Her breakthrough moment came when she her eyes got misty over how much effort she had put into making the country better.

Bonus reason: George W. Bush, and some number of his supporters, see her as the best candidate to protect the Bush legacy of torture, preemptive war, and executive overreach.

Hillary -

For the good of the Democratic party; for the liberal ideas you have fought for; for the good of the country - drop out of the race today.

We know that Obama is not perfect. But he’s the best chance we have of creating an electoral shift around liberal ideas. If you can take a step back from your campaign - I’m sure you would realize that. You are running against him with a fury Democrats normally reserve for Republicans. You seem to believe that creating a Clinton dynasty is the only chance America has to “not fall backward”. But you’re wrong. Get over yourself.

Please Hillary!

Sincerely,

-a committed liberal, Democrat, and Barack Obama supporter

Edit: I am not hiding my name as one of the commenters alleges. My name is Joe Campbell, and I stand behind this post.

Another Edit: Welcome Andrew Sullivan readers!

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Busted! Clinton Praises Karl Rove for Democrats defeat in 04

As he packs his desk just 15 steps from the Oval Office, Karl Rove says he will not join any 2008 presidential campaign. That's just as well because none of the Republican candidates presumably could afford the association even if they wanted his strategic smarts. Besides, none of them is running the campaign quite the way he would. The candidate who seems to be adopting his style and methods the most so far? Hillary Rodham Clinton.

At least that's what Nicolle Wallace thinks. The former Bush White House communications director, who worked closely with Rove, said that Clinton "has almost operationalized the whole idea of turning your weakness into strength, message discipline that is almost pathological -- she does not get off message for any reason -- and never skipping an opportunity to exploit her opponent's weaknesses."

Clinton's campaign manager, Patti Solis Doyle, seems to agree with that assessment, having effectively vowed to run her operation much as Rove did his two successful national campaigns. "She expresses admiration for the way George W. Bush's campaign team controlled its message, and, given her druthers, would run this race no differently," Michelle Cottle writes this month in New York magazine. " 'We are a very disciplined group, and I am very proud of it,' she says with a defiant edge."

Rove and the Clintons have circled each other warily these past eight years, exhibiting a mix of grudging respect and deep bitterness as the central, if competing, political strategists of their era. Rove singled out Hillary Clinton in interviews in the past few days, predicting she will win the Democratic nomination and be a tough opponent in the fall of 2008.

"Any rational observer would have to say that Hillary Clinton is a prohibitive favorite to win the nomination," he told reporters aboard Air Force One on Monday as he and President Bush headed to vacation in Texas. In his weekend interview with the Wall Street Journal's Paul A. Gigot, published Monday, Rove called her "a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate."

The Clintons recognize the skill Rove has brought to politics and admire his craft, if not his ideology. Just days after the November 2004 election, Bill Clinton pulled Rove aside at the dedication of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library in Arkansas. "Hey, you did a marvelous job, it was just marvelous what you did," Clinton told Rove, according to the book "The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008," by John F. Harris and Mark Halperin. "I want to get you down to the library. I want to talk politics with you. You just did an incredible job, and I'd like to really get together with you and I think we could have a great conversation."

That's not to say Rove hasn't irritated the Clintons. Hillary Clinton uses him regularly as a foil in fundraising appeals and on the trail. And by last year, Bill Clinton was expressing exasperation rather than admiration. "I am sick of Karl Rove's [manure]," the former president exclaimed to New Yorker magazine's David Remnick. Even then, Remnick wrote, "there was a trace of admiration in the remark, a veteran pol's regard for the way his rival had packaged a radical brand of American conservatism as 'compassionate conservatism' and kept on pushing it long after its sell-by date had passed."

And why not? Harris and Halperin wrote last year that Rove and the Clintons shared some of the same understandings of how politics work, and the two authors even crafted a list they titled "What Hillary Clinton and Karl Rove Know About the Way to Win the White House in 2008." Clinton, they wrote, has "borrowed some strategies" from Rove for dealing with the news media, enemies and anticipated attacks. "Like Karl Rove," they wrote, "Hillary Clinton knows that playing offense is better than playing defense. . . . Hillary Clinton obviously dislikes Bush's policy goals, but she appreciates some of the methods he has used to achieve them."

So, would a Clinton victory next year be a repudiation of Karl Rove politics or the perpetuation of them?

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The legacy of Bush’s presidency: (PIC)


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Michael Weiner-Savage Losing Advertisers Over Hate Speech


Via The Huffington Post:

At least four major firms have pulled advertising from Michael Savage’s nationally syndicated radio show following a campaign highlighting his inflammatory rhetoric. One other company, Geico insurance, is expected to follow suit.

The campaign, launched recently by Brave New Films, generated thousands of calls urging advertisers on the Savage Nation show to sever financial ties to the widely popular (and frequently offensive) talk host.

“We are thrilled at the amazing response of the true patriots all over the blogsphere who responded to our NOSAVAGE campaign,” Robert Greenwald, head of the film company, said in a statement. “People have called and emailed and the responsible sponsors have responded by pulling their ads and asking that their ads not be on this racist and hateful show.” Read on…

The Weiner Man is just one in a huge gaggle of right wing nut jobs on the radio, but his brand of hate stands alone. The poor guy was canned last year by his management agency for attacking Melissa Etheridge and lesbians and now the schmuck is finally being dumped by some of his biggest sponsors. Kudos to Brave New Films and everyone who has spoken out against this cretin.

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Going bankrupt: The US's greatest threat

The military adventurers of the George W Bush administration have much in common with the corporate leaders of the defunct energy company Enron. Both groups of men thought that they were the "smartest guys in the room", the title of Alex Gibney's prize-winning film on what went wrong at Enron. The neo-conservatives in the White House and the Pentagon outsmarted themselves. They failed even to address the problem of how to finance their schemes of imperialist wars and global domination.

As a result, going into 2008, the United States finds itself in the anomalous position of being unable to pay for its own elevated living standards or its wasteful, overly large military establishment. Its government no longer even attempts to reduce the ruinous

expenses of maintaining huge standing armies, replacing the equipment that seven years of wars have destroyed or worn out, or preparing for a war in outer space against unknown adversaries.

Instead, the Bush administration puts off these costs for future generations to pay - or repudiate. This utter fiscal irresponsibility has been disguised through many manipulative financial schemes (such as causing poorer countries to lend us unprecedented sums of money), but the time of reckoning is fast approaching.

There are three broad aspects to our debt crisis. First, in the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on "defense" projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States. Simultaneously, we are keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segments of the American population at strikingly low levels.

Second, we continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our manufacturing base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military expenditures - so-called "military Keynesianism", which I discuss in detail in my book Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. By military Keynesianism, I mean the mistaken belief that public policies focused on frequent wars, huge expenditures on weapons and munitions, and large standing armies can indefinitely sustain a wealthy capitalist economy. The opposite is actually true.

Third, in our devotion to militarism (despite our limited resources), we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of our country. These are what economists call "opportunity costs", things not done because we spent our money on something else. Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world's number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs - an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing. Let me discuss each of these.

The current fiscal disaster
It is virtually impossible to overstate the profligacy of what our government spends on the military. The Department of Defense's planned expenditures for fiscal year 2008 are larger than all other nations' military budgets combined. The supplementary budget to pay for the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, not part of the official defense budget, is itself larger than the combined military budgets of Russia and China. Defense-related spending for fiscal 2008 will exceed $1 trillion for the first time in history. The United States has become the largest single salesman of arms and munitions to other nations on Earth. Leaving out of account Bush's two on-going wars, defense spending has doubled since the mid-1990s. The defense budget for fiscal 2008 is the largest since World War II.

Before we try to break down and analyze this gargantuan sum, there is one important caveat. Figures on defense spending are notoriously unreliable. The numbers released by the Congressional Reference Service and the Congressional Budget Office do not agree with each other. Robert Higgs, senior fellow for political economy at the Independent Institute, says, "A well-founded rule of thumb is to take the Pentagon's (always well publicized) basic budget total and double it."

Even a cursory reading of newspaper articles about the Department of Defense will turn up major differences in statistics about its expenses. Some 30-40% of the defense budget is "black", meaning that these sections contain hidden expenditures for classified projects. There is no possible way to know what they include or whether their total amounts are accurate.

There are many reasons for this budgetary sleight-of-hand - including a desire for secrecy on the part of the president, the secretary of defense and the military-industrial complex - but the chief one is that members of Congress, who profit enormously from defense jobs and pork-barrel projects in their districts, have a political interest in supporting the Department of Defense.

In 1996, in an attempt to bring accounting standards within the executive branch somewhat closer to those of the civilian economy, Congress passed the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act. It required all federal agencies to hire outside auditors to review their books and release the results to the public. Neither the Department of Defense, nor the Department of Homeland Security, has ever complied. Congress has complained, but not penalized either department for ignoring the law. The result is that all numbers released by the Pentagon should be regarded as suspect.

In discussing the fiscal 2008 defense budget, as released to the press on February 7, 2007, I have been guided by two experienced and reliable analysts: William D Hartung of the New America Foundation's Arms and Security Initiative and Fred Kaplan, defense correspondent for Slate.org. They agree that the Department of Defense requested $481.4 billion for salaries, operations (except in Iraq and Afghanistan), and equipment.

They also agree on a figure of $141.7 billion for the "supplemental" budget to fight the global "war on terror" - that is, the two on-going wars that the general public may think are actually covered by the basic Pentagon budget. The Department of Defense also asked for an extra $93.4 billion to pay for hitherto unmentioned war costs in the remainder of 2007 and, most creatively, an additional "allowance" (a new term in defense budget documents) of $50 billion to be charged to fiscal year 2009. This comes to a total spending request by the Department of Defense of $766.5 billion.

But there is much more. In an attempt to disguise the true size of the American military empire, the government has long hidden major military-related expenditures in departments other than Defense. For example, $23.4 billion for the Department of Energy goes toward developing and maintaining nuclear warheads; and $25.3 billion in the Department of State budget is spent on foreign military assistance (primarily for Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Republic, Egypt, and Pakistan).

Another $1.03 billion outside the official Department of Defense budget is now needed for recruitment and reenlistment incentives for the overstretched US military itself, up from a mere $174 million in 2003, the year the war in Iraq began. The Department of Veterans Affairs currently gets at least $75.7 billion, 50% of which goes for the long-term care of the grievously injured among the at least 28,870 soldiers so far wounded in Iraq and another 1,708 in Afghanistan. The amount is universally derided as inadequate. Another $46.4 billion goes to the Department of Homeland Security.

Missing as well from this compilation is $1.9 billion to the Department of Justice for the paramilitary activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; $38.5 billion to the Department of the Treasury for the Military Retirement Fund; $7.6 billion for the military-related activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration; and well over $200 billion in interest for past debt-financed defense outlays. This brings US spending for its military establishment during the current fiscal year (2008), conservatively calculated, to at least $1.1 trillion.

Military Keynesianism
Such expenditures are not only morally obscene, they are fiscally unsustainable. Many neo-conservatives and poorly informed patriotic Americans believe that, even though our defense budget is huge, we can afford it because we are the richest country on Earth.

Unfortunately, that statement is no longer true. The world's richest political entity, according to the Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook, is the European Union. The EU's 2006 GDP (gross domestic product - all goods and services produced domestically) was estimated to be slightly larger than that of the US However, China's 2006 GDP was only slightly smaller than that of the US, and Japan was the world's fourth-richest nation.

A more telling comparison that reveals just how much worse we're doing can be found among the "current accounts" of various nations. The current account measures the net trade surplus or deficit of a country plus cross-border payments of interest, royalties, dividends, capital gains, foreign aid, and other income.

For example, for Japan to manufacture anything, it must import all required raw materials. Even after this incredible expense is met, it still has an $88 billion per year trade surplus with the United States and enjoys the world's second-highest current account balance. (China is number one.) The United States, by contrast, is number 163 - dead last on the list, worse than countries like Australia and the United Kingdom that also have large trade deficits. Its 2006 current account deficit was $811.5 billion; second worst was Spain at $106.4 billion. This is what is unsustainable.

It's not just that our tastes for foreign goods, including imported oil, vastly exceed our ability to pay for them. We are financing them through massive borrowing. On November 7, 2007, the US Treasury announced that the national debt had breached $9 trillion for the first time ever. This was just five weeks after Congress raised the so-called debt ceiling to $9.815 trillion. If you begin in 1789, at the moment the constitution became the supreme law of the land, the debt accumulated by the federal government did not top $1 trillion until 1981. When Bush became president in January 2001, it stood at approximately $5.7 trillion. Since then, it has increased by 45%. This huge debt can be largely explained by our defense expenditures in comparison with the rest of the world.

The world's top 10 military spenders and the approximate amounts each country currently budgets for its military establishment are:

1. United States (FY08 budget), $623 billion
2. China (2004), $65 billion
3. Russia, $50 billion
4. France (2005), $45 billion
5. Japan (2007), $41.75 billion
6. Germany (2003), $35.1 billion
7. Italy (2003), $28.2 billion
8. South Korea (2003), $21.1 billion
9. India (2005 est.), $19 billion
10. Saudi Arabia (2005 est.), $18 billion

World total military expenditures (2004 est.), $1,100 billion
World total (minus the United States), $500 billion.

Our excessive military expenditures did not occur over just a few short years or simply because of the Bush administration's policies. They have been going on for a very long time in accordance with a superficially plausible ideology and have now become entrenched in our democratic political system where they are starting to wreak havoc. This ideology I call "military Keynesianism" - the determination to maintain a permanent war economy and to treat military output as an ordinary economic product, even though it makes no contribution to either production or consumption.

This ideology goes back to the first years of the Cold War. During the late 1940s, the US was haunted by economic anxieties. The Great Depression of the 1930s had been overcome only by the war production boom of World War II. With peace and demobilization, there was a pervasive fear that the Depression would return.

During 1949, alarmed by the Soviet Union's detonation of an atomic bomb, the looming communist victory in the Chinese civil war, a domestic recession, and the lowering of the Iron Curtain around the USSR's European satellites, the US sought to draft basic strategy for the emerging Cold War. The result was the militaristic National Security Council Report 68 (NSC-68) drafted under the supervision of Paul Nitze, then head of the Policy Planning Staff in the State Department. Dated April 14, 1950, and signed by president Harry S Truman on September 30, 1950, it laid out the basic public economic policies that the United States pursues to the present day.

In its conclusions, NSC-68 asserted: "One of the most significant lessons of our World War II experience was that the American economy, when it operates at a level approaching full efficiency, can provide enormous resources for purposes other than civilian consumption while simultaneously providing a high standard of living."

With this understanding, American strategists began to build up a massive munitions industry, both to counter the military might of the Soviet Union (which they consistently overstated) and also to maintain full employment as well as ward off a possible return of the Depression. The result was that, under Pentagon leadership, entire new industries were created to manufacture large aircraft, nuclear-powered submarines, nuclear warheads, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and surveillance and communications satellites. This led to what president Dwight D Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address of February 6, 1961: "The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience." That is, the military-industrial complex.

By 1990, the value of the weapons, equipment, and factories devoted to the Department of Defense was 83% of the value of all plants and equipment in American manufacturing. From 1947 to 1990, the combined US military budgets amounted to $8.7 trillion. Even though the Soviet Union no longer exists, US reliance on military Keynesianism has, if anything, ratcheted up, thanks to the massive vested interests that have become entrenched around the military establishment. Over time, a commitment to both guns and butter has proven an unstable configuration. Military industries crowd out the civilian economy and lead to severe economic weaknesses. Devotion to military Keynesianism is, in fact, a form of slow economic suicide.

On May 1, 2007, the Center for Economic and Policy Research of Washington, DC, released a study prepared by the global forecasting company Global Insight on the long-term economic impact of increased military spending. Guided by economist Dean Baker, this research showed that, after an initial demand stimulus, by about the sixth year the effect of increased military spending turns negative. Needless to say, the US economy has had to cope with growing defense spending for more than 60 years. He found that, after 10 years of higher defense spending, there would be 464,000 fewer jobs than in a baseline scenario that involved lower defense spending.

Baker concluded:
It is often believed that wars and military spending increases are good for the economy. In fact, most economic models show that military spending diverts resources from productive uses, such as consumption and investment, and ultimately slows economic growth and reduces employment.
These are only some of the many deleterious effects of military Keynesianism.

Hollowing out the American economy
It was believed that the US could afford both a massive military establishment and a high standard of living, and that it needed both to maintain full employment. But it did not work out that way. By the 1960s, it was becoming apparent that turning over the nation's largest manufacturing enterprises to the Department of Defense and producing goods without any investment or consumption value was starting to crowd out civilian economic activities.

Historian Thomas E Woods Jr observes that, during the 1950s and 1960s, between one-third and two-thirds of all American research talent was siphoned off into the military sector. It is, of course, impossible to know what innovations never appeared as a result of this diversion of resources and brainpower into the service of the military, but it was during the 1960s that we first began to notice Japan was outpacing us in the design and quality of a range of consumer goods, including household electronics and automobiles.

Nuclear weapons furnish a striking illustration of these anomalies. Between the 1940s and 1996, the United States spent at least $5.8 trillion on the development, testing and construction of nuclear bombs. By 1967, the peak year of its nuclear stockpile, the US possessed some 32,500 deliverable atomic and hydrogen bombs, none of which, thankfully, was ever used.

They perfectly illustrate the Keynesian principle that the government can provide make-work jobs to keep people employed. Nuclear weapons were not just America's secret weapon, but also its secret economic weapon. As of 2006, we still had 9,960 of them. There is today no sane use for them, while the trillions spent on them could have been used to solve the problems of social security and health care, quality education and access to higher education for all, not to speak of the retention of highly skilled jobs within the American economy.

The pioneer in analyzing what has been lost as a result of military Keynesianism was the late Seymour Melman (1917-2004), a professor of industrial engineering and operations research at Columbia University. His 1970 book, Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War, was a prescient analysis of the unintended consequences of the American preoccupation with its armed forces and their weaponry since the onset of the Cold War. Melman wrote (pages. 2-3):
From 1946 to 1969, the United States government spent over $1,000 billion on the military, more than half of this under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations - the period during which the [Pentagon-dominated] state management was established as a formal institution. This sum of staggering size (try to visualize a billion of something) does not express the cost of the military establishment to the nation as a whole. The true cost is measured by what has been foregone, by the accumulated deterioration in many facets of life by the inability to alleviate human wretchedness of long duration.
In an important exegesis on Melman's relevance to the current American economic situation, Thomas Woods writes:
According to the US Department of Defense, during the four decades from 1947 through 1987 it used (in 1982 dollars) $7.62 trillion in capital resources. In 1985, the Department of Commerce estimated the value of the nation's plant and equipment, and infrastructure, at just over $7.29 trillion. In other words, the amount spent over that period could have doubled the American capital stock or modernized and replaced its existing stock.
The fact that we did not modernize or replace our capital assets is one of the main reasons why, by the turn of the 21st century, our manufacturing base had all but evaporated. Machine tools - an industry on which Melman was an authority - are a particularly important symptom.

In November 1968, a five-year inventory disclosed (page 186) "that 64% of the metalworking machine tools used in US industry were 10 years old or older. The age of this industrial equipment (drills, lathes, etc.) marks the United States' machine tool stock as the oldest among all major industrial nations, and it marks the continuation of a deterioration process that began with the end of World War II. This deterioration at the base of the industrial system certifies to the continuous debilitating and depleting effect that the military use of capital and research and development talent has had on American industry. Nothing has been done in the period since 1968 to reverse these trends and it shows today in our massive imports of equipment - from medical machines like proton accelerators for radiological therapy (made primarily in Belgium, Germany and Japan) to cars and trucks.

Our short tenure as the world's "lone superpower" has come to an end. As Harvard economics professor Benjamin Friedman has written:
Again and again it has always been the world's leading lending country that has been the premier country in terms of political influence, diplomatic influence, and cultural influence. It's no accident that we took over the role from the British at the same time that we took over ... the job of being the world's leading lending country. Today we are no longer the world's leading lending country. In fact we are now the world's biggest debtor country, and we are continuing to wield influence on the basis of military prowess alone.
Some of the damage done can never be rectified. There are, however, some steps that this country urgently needs to take. These include reversing Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthy, beginning to liquidate our global empire of over 800 military bases, cutting from the defense budget all projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States, and ceasing to use the defense budget as a Keynesian jobs program. If we do these things we have a chance of squeaking by. If we don't, we face probable national insolvency and a long depression.

Chalmers Johnson is the author of Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, just published in paperback. It is the final volume of his Blowback Trilogy, which also includes Blowback (2000) and The Sorrows of Empire (2004).

(For those interested, click here to view a clip from a new film, Chalmers Johnson on American Hegemony, in Cinema Libre Studios' Speaking Freely series in which he discusses "military Keynesianism" and imperial bankruptcy.)

(Copyright 2008 Chalmers Johnson.)

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