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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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VP Cheney makes strong pitch for telecom immunity

United States Vice President Dick Cheney gave a policy address yesterday to the Heritage Foundation, a prominent conservative think tank. During his speech, Cheney endorsed proposals to expand the scope of warrantless electronic surveillance, called for such programs to be made permanent, and advocated granting retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications service providers that were complicit in potentially illegal government wiretapping activities.

Cheney's speech articulated the Bush administration's position on surveillance issues in anticipation of the imminent expiration of the Protect America Act, a temporary surveillance bill that was enacted in response to a ruling from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) that reportedly reined in intelligence-gathering activity. The Protect America Act broadly expanded federal surveillance power and eliminated many requirements for judicial oversight, making it possible for the executive branch and some of its direct subordinates to authorize warrantless interception of communications between people "reasonably believed to be outside the United States."

Cheney framed this policy as an effort to modernize the FISA process and is calling for Congress to make permanent those provisions of the Protect America Act. Cheney also asserts that domestic telecommunications service providers who cooperate with government requests for information should be granted legal immunity for their potentially unlawful behavior.

"First, our administration feels strongly that an updated FISA law should be made permanent, not merely extended again with another sunset provision. We can always revisit a law that's on the books—that's part of the job of the elected branches of government. But there is no sound reason to pass critical legislation like the Protect American Act and slap an expiration date on it. Fighting the war on terror is a long-term enterprise that requires long-term, institutional changes. The challenge to the country has not expired over the last six months. It won't expire any time soon—and we should not write laws that pretend otherwise," said Cheney during his speech. "Second, the law should uphold an important principle: that those who assist the government in tracking terrorists should not be punished with lawsuits. We're asking Congress to update FISA and especially to extend this protection to communications providers alleged to have given such assistance any time after September 11th, 2001. This is an important consideration, because some providers are facing dozens of lawsuits right now. Why? Because they are believed to have aided the U.S. government in the effort to intercept international communications of al Qaeda-related individuals."

Critics of the government surveillance program note that telecom involvement in warrantless wiretapping likely violates section 222 of the Communications Act, which prohibits disclosure or provision of access to customer network information. The legality of the program, however, is in dispute because the FCC has declined to investigate, the telecom companies have refused to disclose information about the program to Congress, and the FISC ruling regarding the legality of the program is classified and remains a guarded secret.

The Bush administration has demanded retroactive immunity grants for the telecom companies and has threatened to veto any surveillance bills that do not include said provisions. The telecoms themselves have also been vigorously lobbying for immunity. There are allegations that the telecom companies have attempted to use political leverage to obtain the immunity grants, but the veracity of those allegations cannot be evaluated yet because the DoJ has—in clear violation of the Freedom of Information Act—been stonewalling the EFF's formal requests for information regarding interaction between telecoms and politicians.

Concerns have been expressed by critics that the kind of surveillance made possible by the Protect America Act is only the beginning and that basic privacy rights will be further eroded as the government continues to push the boundaries of law. Indeed, Cheney also passingly endorses a proposal made by intelligence chief Mick McConnell that reaches far beyond the current FISA dispute and would enable the government to intercept virtually all network traffic in the United States, an unprecedented level of surveillance.

In light of consistent abuses of basic surveillance powers granted to federal law enforcement agencies, it's not a stretch to believe that more secretive surveillance programs would also be rife with abuse in the absence of more direct transparency and oversight.

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Filibuster, Baby!

Senator Dodd threatened to filibuster a bill that would give immunity to the Telecommunications companies that broke FISA wiretap laws.

Continuing his battle against retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies, Senator Dodd gave an impassioned speech against what he referred to as a "5-year concerted effort contrary to the law of the land."

Pointing out that not all telecoms complied with the request from the Bush administration to listen in on private conversation of American citizens unless they were given a court order to do so, Dodd also questioned where such violations would end, and warned the notion of Americans giving up rights in order to be safe was a "false dichotomy that is dangerous."

Senator Dodd also had high praise for the "brave whistleblower" who came forward with the wiretapping information, and said without that information the practice might have remained hidden.

Dodd ended the session calling for his collegues to support him when he returns to the issue at 9:30am EST Thursday morning, when he promises to continue to fight against telcom immunity with every means at his disposal.

This video is from C-SPAN 2, broadcast January 23, 2008.




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Kucinich Causes Congressional Fuss Announcing Impeachment

Cleveland Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich caused a stink on the House of Representatives floor this morning during a speech where he announced he'll introduce articles of impeachment against President Bush on Monday, Jan. 28, the day Bush delivers his State of the Union speech.

"We already know the State of the Union," Kucinich says in his speech. "It's a lie."

Republicans objected to Kucinich's statements, and the Cleveland congressman returned to the floor a few minutes later to withdraw his "offending words."

Florida GOP Rep. Cliff Stearns called Kucinich's statements a "clear and egregious violation of House rules" but said he'd accept Kucinich's request to withdraw his remarks.

"Both sides here attempt to restore civility, calmness here with legitimate debate and not utter personal accusations," Stearns said.

UPDATE: In a statement issued to The Plain Dealer this afternoon, Stearns explained his objections to Kucinich's remarks:

"This morning, Rep. Kucinich used the House floor to launch a personal attack against President Bush and Vice President Cheney and accused them of lying to the American people. He also said that the House was 'living a lie.' His outburst was a violation of House rules and I asked that his remarks be taken down and the Speaker upheld my objection. Kucinich withdrew his remarks rather than have his words struck down, which would have forced him to leave the House floor for the day. After he decided to withdraw his remarks, I stated that I would not object " 'with the understanding that these egregious accusations are in violation of the House rules and his statements must stop for the civility of the House and
debate.' "

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FISA Fundamentals: “Trust Us” Does Not Cut It

By: Christy Hardin Smith Wednesday January 23, 2008 8:54 am
As Bruce Fein so succinctly puts it in the YouTube at left, the Constitution is not merely a document which we reference from time to time in a political speech. The Constitution and the rule of law are the very foundation on which American government rests.

Despite the Bush Administration's attempts to the contrary, the rule of law, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are all very much living hallmarks of our democratic principles of governance.

True patriots stand up for the rule of law. Because in doing so, they are defending the foundations of this nation. It is well past time that every presidential candidate on either side of the political aisle did so. It is time to lead.

When the FISA/Protect America Act legislative debate resumes, the bill (S.2248) will already be pending on the floor. The cloture vote on the motion to proceed on 12/17/07 was a vote of 76-10. (See here for specifics on votes.) The pending matter, as I read the procedural ins and outs from the close of debate, will be the SJC substitute bill, but I have a call in to the Senate Parliamentarian to clarify on this, and I'll certainly let you know what I hear if different.

For the record, "Not Voting" is just not good enough.

And neither is sitting this one out for any of us. So, let's get to work. Congress is about to take yet another recess -- but I'm hearing there may be a procedural maneuver in the works for tomorrow, whether a 30 day extension of the Protect America Act or something else. It is critical that we let members of Congress know that we are paying attention and that this issue matters to all of us.

The Constitution needs your voice today -- so please, call your Senators and let them know that retroctive immunity and a breach of the 4th Amendment are not acceptable. Tell them to stand up for the rule of law -- because THAT is their job and you expect leaders not rubber stamps. The time for leadership is now.

Senate phone numbers are here; and Sen. Harry Reid's phone number is: (202) 224-3542. And Sen. Mitch McConnell's phone number is: (202) 224-2541 -- tell him national security and the rule of law should never be used as a political football, and that taking political marching orders from Rove is so 2002.

We should focus first on the 14 Senators who promised to help Sens. Dodd and Feingold. Here are their fax and phone numbers:



Name


Fax


Phone
Feingold (202) 224-2725 (202) 224-5323
Dodd (202) 224-1083 (202) 224-2823
Obama (202) 228-4260 (202) 224-2854
Sanders (202) 228-0776 (202) 224-5141
Menendez (202) 228-2197 (202) 224-4744
Biden (202) 224-0139 (202) 224-5042
Brown (202) 228-6321 (202) 224-2315
Harkin (202) 224-9369 (202) 224-3254
Cardin (202) 224-1651 (202) 224-4524
Clinton (202) 228-0282 (202) 224-4451
Akaka (202) 224-2126 (202) 224-6361
Webb (202) 228-6363 (202) 224-4024
Kennedy (202) 224-2417 (202) 224-4543
Boxer (415) 956-6701 (202) 224-3553

NOTE: YOU CAN FOLLOW LIVE DISCUSSION OF THE FISA DEBATE HERE

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