Monday, August 31, 2009

Mandela, Margolis and Cole: The al-Megrahi move', Lockerbie, Afghan election

From: Abie Dawjee

Mandela 'lauds al-Megrahi move'

News24: 2009-08-30

London - Former SA president Nelson Mandela has written to the Scottish
government to express his support for its decision to release the Lockerbie
bomber on compassionate grounds, officials said on Sunday.

The former South African president sent a letter through his Nelson Mandela
Foundation on Friday welcoming Abdel Baset al-Megrahi release from jail
earlier this month, a Scottish government spokesperson said.

"Mr Mandela appreciates the decision to release Mr al-Megrahi on
compassionate grounds," said the letter, written by Professor Jakes Gerwel,
chair of the Mandela Foundation.

"Mr Mandela played a central role in facilitating the handover of Mr
al-Megrahi and his fellow accused to the United Nations in order for them to
stand trial under Scottish Law in the Netherlands.

"His interest and involvement continued after the trial.

"The decision to release him now, and allow him to return to Libya, is one
which is in line with his wishes."


Lockerbie Part of a Bigger Story

By Eric Margolis:
The Toronto Sun/Canada: August 30, 2009

Libya's Moammar Khadaffy, once branded "the mad dog of the Middle East" by
Ronald Reagan, is celebrating 40 years in power in spite of a score of
attempts by western powers and his Arab "brothers" to kill him.

In 1987, I was invited to interview Khadaffy. We spent an evening together
in his Bedouin tent. He led me by the hand through the ruins of his personal
quarters, bombed a year earlier by the U.S. in an attempt to assassinate
him. Khadaffy showed me where his two-year old daughter had been killed by a
1,000-pound bomb.

"Why are the Americans trying to kill me, Mister Eric?" he asked, genuinely

I told him because Libya was harbouring all sorts of anti-western
revolutionary groups, from Palestinian firebrands to IRA bombers and Nelson
Mandela's ANC. To the naive Libyans, they were all legitimate "freedom

Last week, a furor erupted over the release of a dying Libyan agent, Abdel
Basset al-Megrahi, convicted of the destruction of an American airliner over
Scotland in 1988.

Hypocrisy on all sides abounded. Washington and London blasted Libya and
Scotland's justice minister while denying claims al-Megrahi was released in
exchange new oil deals with Libya.

The Pan Am 103 crime was part of a bigger, even more sordid story. What goes
around comes around.

1986: Libya is accused of bombing a Berlin disco, killing two U.S.
servicemen. A defector from Israel's intelligence agency, Mossad, claims it
framed Libya. Khadaffy demands Arabs increase oil prices.

1987: The U.S. tries to kill Khadaffy but fails. Eighty-eight Libyan
civilians die.

1988: France wages a secret desert war with Libya over mineral-rich Chad.
France's secret service, SDECE, is ordered to kill Khadaffy. A bomb is put
on Khadaffy's private jet but, after Franco-Libyan relations abruptly
improve, the bomb is removed before it explodes.

1988: The U.S. intervenes on Iraq's side in its eight-year war against Iran.
A U.S. navy Aegis cruiser, Vincennes, violates Iranian waters and
"mistakenly" shoots down an Iranian civilian Airbus airliner in Iran's air
space. All 288 civilians aboard die. Then vice-president George H.W. Bush
vows, "I'll never apologize ... I don't care what the facts are."

The Vincennes' trigger-happy captain is decorated with the Legion of Merit
medal for this crime by Bush after he becomes president. Washington quietly
pays Iran $131.8 million US in damages.

Five months later, Pan Am 103 with 270 aboard is destroyed by a bomb over
Lockerbie, Scotland. The U.S. and Britain pressure Scotland to convict
al-Megrahi, who insists he is innocent. Serious questions are raised about
the trial, with claims CIA faked evidence to blame Libya.

Some intelligence experts believe the attack was revenge for the downing of
the Iranian airliner, carried out by Mideast contract killers paid by Iran.
Serious doubts about al-Megrahi's guilt were voiced by Scotland's legal
authorities. An appeal was underway. Libyans believed he was a sacrificial
lamb handed over to save Libya from a crushing U.S. and British-led oil
export boycott.

1989: A French UTA airliner with 180 aboard is blown up over Chad. A
Congolese and a Libyan agent are accused. French investigators indict
Khadaffy's brother-in-law, Abdullah Senoussi, head of Libyan intelligence,
with whom I dined in Tripoli. Libya blames the attack on rogue mid-level
agents but pays French families $170 million US.

I believe al-Megrahi was probably innocent and framed. Scotland was right to
release him. But Libya was guilty as hell of the UTA crime, which likely was
revenge for France's attempt to kill Khadaffy.

Pan Am 103 probably was revenge for America's destruction of the Iranian
Airbus. In 1998, Britain's MI6 spy agency tried to kill Khadaffy with a car

In the end, the West badly wanted Libya's high grade oil. So Libya bought
its way out of sanctions with $2.7 billion US total in damages. The U.S.,
Britain, France and Italy then invested $8 billion US in Libya's oil
industry and proclaimed Khadaffy an ally and new best friend.

Happy birthday, Moammar.


Informed Comment

Thoughts on the Middle East, History, and Religion

Juan Cole is President of the Global Americana Institute

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Is Karzai trying to Steal the Afghanistan Election, taking a Leaf from
Ahmadinejad's Book?

The BBC is reporting that Obama's special envoy to AfPak, Richard Holbrooke,
has had a shouting match with President Hamid Karzai over the desirability
of a second round in the presidential election. At the moment, with 17% of
ballots counted, Karzai is ahead of his nearest rival, Abdullah Abdullah, by
45% to 35%. That tally would not allow the incumbent to avoid a run-off (he
needs 50% for that outcome).

So I ask myself, why is Holbrooke in Karzai's office insisting that there be
a run-off? Wouldn't whether there is a second round depend on the outcome of
the election? Why try to persuade Karzai?

The only way this scenario makes sense to me is if US/NATO intelligence is
reporting from the field that Karzai is rigging the election returns so as
to ensure he gets to 50%.

The presidential election, which had been intended by Obama and his NATO
allies as a political victory over the Taliban, is swiftly turning into a
major debacle.

Voter turnout fell from some 70 percent in the last presidential election,
likely to only 30-something percent this time (not the 50% initially
estimated, presumably by someone with an interest in hyping the event for
propaganda purposes). In some southern provinces such as Helmand, turnout
was only 10 percent, a datum that demonstrates that the people of Helmand
simply had no voice in this election and it does not meet international
standards of legitimacy. (Voters must be held harmless from threats and

Another presidential candidate, Sarwar Ahmadzai, has called for a do-over of
the election in 12 provinces where there were "irregularities":

' Sarwar Ahmadzai told a press conference in Kabul most of the rigging
took place in Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Zabul, Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar,
Nuristan, Logar, Paktia, Paktika and Khost provinces. He accused supporters
of Hamid Karzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah of involvement in irregularities.
He said the rigging ranged from ballot box stuffing to voting by minors.'

Abdullah Abdullah has also alleged ballot fraud.

If Karzai is so widely suspected of stealing this election, why is there not
the same global reaction against him as there was against Ahmadinejad in
Iran? Is there an unwritten rule that allies of the West get cut some slack?

Moreover, it is clear that one of Karzai's less savory campaign techniques
was to enlist the old sanguinary warlords on his side. The US has lodged a
complaint with Karzai about his choice of Northern Alliance general Mohammad
Fahim as his vice president. The Afghan Pajhwok News Service remarked dryly,
"Asked why the Obama administration did not want Fahim to be in the
government, the official replied it could be for a number of reasons
narcotics, drug trade and human rights violations."

Many officials from NATO countries with troops in Afghanistan are fed up
with Karzai, who, they say, says all the right things and makes promises but
never delivers on them.

Pepe Escobar is scathing on the failure of the elections as a justification
for NATO's Afghan mission

Kennedy on Universal Health Care, CONNECT THE DOTS Mon. 7 AM

Critical Excerpt on Universal, Medicare style health care demand of
Senator Kennedy.

Democracy Now: August 27, 2009

AMY GOODMAN: In a few minutes, we'll go to Boston to discuss how the state
of Massachusetts will choose a successor to Kennedy and the impact this will
have on the healthcare debate. But first we want to play two excerpts of
Senator Kennedy in his own words, discussing the state of the nation's
healthcare system. The first comes from a 1971 newscast on CBS anchored by
Walter Cronkite.

WALTER CRONKITE: President Nixon today pledged his administration to a new
national health plan that would benefit not only patients but also doctors
and citizens who enjoy good health. But beating him to the punch, Senator
Edward Kennedy earlier proposed an alternate plan that goes much further
than the administration. Daniel Schorr offers a comparison of these two
health plans.

DANIEL SCHORR: President Nixon has said that this will be health year, the
year to tackle what he's called the massive crisis of spiraling costs and
overstrained medical resources. Today the President pitted a low-key,
low-budget plan to expand private insurance coverage against the more
drastic proposals in Congress paced by the labor-supported Kennedy plan for
cradle-to-grave federal health insurance for all Americans.

RICHARD NIXON: I am proposing today a new national health strategy. It helps
more people pay for care, but it also expands the supply of health services
and makes them more efficient. It emphasizes keeping people well, not just
making people well.

The purpose of this program is simply this: I want America to have the
finest healthcare in the world, and I want every American to be able to have
that care when he needs it.

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY: The President's program, as announced today as a
national health partnership program, I believe is really a partnership
program that will provide billions of dollars to the health insurance
companies. It's really a partnership between the administration and the
insurance companies. It's not a partnership between the patients and the
doctors in this nation.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Ted Kennedy speaking with Richard Nixon on CBS News in
1971 in a Walter Cronkite-anchored program. Well, this is Senator Kennedy
speaking in Montgomery, Pennsylvania, in April, 2008, one month before he
was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor.

  SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY: But it brings me back, my friends, to another
thought, and that is the whole issue of health insurance and universal
coverage. It has been the passion of my life. It has been the passion of my

  And it has been the passion of my life since the earliest days of my life,
when we had been exposed to a sister with mental retardation and we saw the
special kinds of care that she needed and the attention that she took; seven
months in a hospital after a plane crash; three children, two of which have
had cancer, cancer of the lungs; son who lost a leg to cancer as a young
child. I was exposed to really the challenges of healthcare, and I was
always also exposed to the very best in healthcare.

  And one of the searing memories in my life is being in a children's
hospital in Boston with my son who had lost his leg to cancer, and he was
under a regime that was going to take three days of treatment every three
weeks for two years in order to be able to be in this process or this
system, this treatment, that offered the best opportunity. And it was being
paid for, since it was an experimental, by NIH. And they paid for probably
the first four months that I was in that particular regime. And after that,
it had demonstrated some success, and they stopped the payments.

  But for all the other families, they didn't have the kind of health
insurance that that had, with $3,000 for every family, every three weeks.
And I listened to these families, whose had-their children had the same kind
of affliction that my child had. And they said, "Look, we've sold our house.
We have the $30,000. We have $20,000. We're able to afford it for three
months, for four months, for five months. What kind of chance does my child
have to be able to survive?"

  I knew that my child was going to have the best, because I had the health
insurance of the United States Senate. And I knew that no one, no parent, no
parent, in that hospital had the kind of coverage that I had. That kind of
choice for any parent in this country is absolutely unacceptable and wrong,
my friends.

  And I can tell you this: when every member of the United States Senate
comes in and signed into the United States Senate, they signed a little card
in two places, and one is their signature for their salary, and the other is
for their health insurance. Their health insurance. Now, Senator Brown of
Ohio, to his credit, will not accept it until the people of Ohio get it.
Every other member of the United States Senate-every other member of the
United States Senate has accepted it. And for the fifteen times that I have
fought on the floor of the United States Senate that we ought to have
universal comprehensive coverage and to listen to those voices on the other
side that have universal and comprehensive coverage and say, "No, it is not
time. We can't afford it. It's the wrong bill at the wrong time"-my friends,
if that health insurance is good enough for the members of the Congress of
the United States and good enough for the President of the United States,
good enough for everybody in Montgomery County, everyone in Pennsylvania,
and everyone across this country.

AMY GOODMAN: The late Senator Ted Kennedy speaking in April 2008 in

----- Original Message -----
CONNECT THE DOTS Mon. 7 AM replay of Ted Kennedy Interview 2007

Monday Morning Aug 31st from 7 to 8AM on CONNECT THE DOTS:
90.7 FM Los Angeles, 98;7 Santa Barbara, or log on after it airs using the link below: 

We'll play our interview with our good friend
Ted Kennedy from 2007. In it Kennedy calls his vote against the Iraq war "the proudest act of his career".  He excoriates the last administration.  Why then didn't he support the impeachment of Bush?  For a very good reason.  He explains. 

Two supporters of Kennedy's passions for Peace and Universal Healthcare join us as wellCindy Sheehan now at Martha's Vineyard where she's petitioning President Obama to get us out of Afghanistan.
and   Maxine Waters reiterates her demand and the pledge of 65 of her Congressional colleagues not to pass a Healthcare Bill without for a viable Public Option.

singer song writer Keaton Simons dedicates a beautiful new Peace song which he just performed at the United Nations to Ted Kennedy whom he met at 10 yrs. old.  That song and story too, Monday from 7 to 8AM on  Connect the Dots.

Lila Garrett (Host of CONNECT THE DOTS)
KPFK 90.7 FM in LA;  98.7 Santa Barbara
Airs Mondays from 7AM to 8AM.
To pod cast or download the broadcast just use this link:
Each show is on line for three months.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Eternal Flame, On Afghanistan

The Eternal Flame

By Marie Cocco
Washington Post/Truthdig: Aug 26, 2009

Ten summers ago, for reasons I do not now recall, I asked Ted Kennedy's
office to provide an account of key legislation he had sponsored in what
already was a long and distinguished career.

The 32-page fax I received in response is as notable for what it lacks
as it is for the fullness of history it recounts.

There was no tone of pompous self-promotion that we are accustomed to
expect from politicians-from U.S. senators, in particular. Each of the
"highlights" was typed out, without graphic embellishment, in a single,
short phrase. They represented the best hopes America could offer in those
turbulent years that began in 1963, when Ted's brother Jack was assassinated
and hope seemed to die along with him.

Ted became the eternal flame.

In 1963, his first year in the Senate, one of the first bills he
sponsored was "Hospital Insurance Program Under Social Security for the
Aged"-that is, Medicare. There was legislation establishing college aid
programs and to fund metropolitan mass transit systems. Other bills would
provide vocational training for the unemployed, and establish the National
Arts Foundation.

That was just the first year.

In the decades that followed, Kennedy's passion for helping average
Americans-his liberal impulse guided by a deft, and often bipartisan,
legislative hand-would shape what this nation became.

If you have taken a community college course, or had a child get a chance
to attend college because these low-cost institutions have become a crucial
stepping stone for millions, you have Ted Kennedy to thank. So it is for
school lunches, child care for military families, civil rights and voting
rights for African-Americans and other minorities, and Head Start.

If you have a pension from a private employer, it is protected under
laws Kennedy wrote. If you have a physically or mentally disabled child, he
or she is entitled to a public education because of Kennedy's efforts. He
was tough on drugs, consistently promoting new law enforcement methods to
disrupt the narcotics trade while simultaneously pushing better treatment
for the addicted.

He was instrumental in writing the law barring age discrimination, and
he authored the Americans With Disabilities Act. The forerunner to the
landmark law prohibiting discrimination against the disabled was a measure
Kennedy promoted in 1972: "To prohibit discrimination against handicapped
persons in federal programs." The broader Americans With Disabilities Act
would take almost two decades to be enacted-in 1990.

This is a part of the Kennedy legacy that often escapes notice. He was,
in every respect, a man of his times. But he was very often ahead of his

He was an environmentalist, protecting oceans and other waterways,
before the environmental movement emerged as a political force. He sought
legislation "to include expenses of prescription drugs in the Medicare
program" in 1965. The Medicare prescription drug benefit would not be
enacted until 2003.

When it finally took form under a Republican-controlled Congress that
larded the measure with extra payments for managed-care insurance companies
and with provisions protecting drug industry profits, Kennedy initially
voted in favor, saying the drug coverage was an overdue commitment to the
elderly. But he came to oppose the bill, which he said had been "hijacked"
by special interests. "We've seen giveaways, but few of them will compare
with the one we've passed," the senator said in an interview a few months
after its passage.

For decades-at least until the Clintons emerged-Kennedy was a singular
target of Republican ire. The GOP would drop his name in fundraising mailers
and feature his image in attack ads against what seemed like any and all
Democratic candidates. On the eve of the 2004 Democratic National
Convention, which Kennedy had maneuvered to hold in his beloved Boston and
considered a tribute to his career, the senator's close involvement again
provided an easy opening for Republicans trying to discredit nominee John
Kerry as too much the Eastern liberal.

"I welcome that badge and wear it with honor," Kennedy told a handful of
journalists assembled in his Senate office. "Because it means I've been on
the cutting edge of issues that make a difference to families."

To eulogize Kennedy as a "liberal lion" is only half a truth. He was a
fierce protector of any American who did not have the opportunities the
Kennedy family so notably enjoyed.

He is gone now, but his dream shall never die. It lives because
Kennedy's work brought it to life for millions of Americans, and for
millions still to come.

Marie Cocco's e-mail address is

© 2009, Washington Post Writers Group


(Concluding paragraphs of NY Times lead editorial, 8/29/09)

"There are more than 100,000 Western troops in Afghanistan. Two-thirds are
Americans, including 17,000 authorized by Mr. Obama in February, and even
more may be needed. But that decision must be carefully weighed by the White
House, Congress and the American people. In two weeks, Gen. Stanley A.
McChrystal, the top American commander, is to present his first war review.
If he seeks more forces, he must explain how a greater reliance on troops
would advance Mr. Obama's promise of a "stronger, smarter and comprehensive

That strategy was sold not just as a means of dislodging Taliban guerrillas
from the strategic mountain passes and towns they have retaken in recent
years. Mr. Obama also promised he would insist on a more capable and
accountable government in Kabul, help farmers shift from poppy growing to
other crops and build up an effective army and police force. He also must
speed deployment of American civilians to help Afghan leaders carry out
development projects, strengthen local governance and establish justice
systems. Another critical task: reaching out to Taliban fighters willing to
lay down their arms.

Politics is intruding. Because of Taliban attacks and voter apathy, turnout
for the Aug. 20 election was disappointingly low and there were allegations
of widespread fraud. Even worse, neither of the two main contenders offers
serious solutions to the country's problems.

President Hamid Karzai seems to have a lead over the primary challenger,
Abdullah Abdullah, but the fraud charges are likely to unsettle the country
for some time. Mr. Karzai's cynical decision to ally himself with a former
defense minister allegedly involved in drug trafficking and a warlord
accused of war crimes is the wrong way to build the country's future.

Under pressure from Congress to show progress by next spring, Obama
administration officials had hoped that the election would show that
Afghanistan was moving forward enough to justify more money and troops. If
the election produces a government that even Afghanis do not consider
legitimate, that task could be impossible."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Don't Get Sick!

Don't Get Sick!

by: Gail Pellett,
t r u t h o u t: 27 August 2009

Don't get sick! Those were the last words my grandfather said to me as I
left Vancouver for the United States. It was 1964. Canada was in the process
of implementing a universal health care system. I hadn't noticed, because I
was young, healthy and restless.

Now, these many years later, as I witness the health care reform
"debate," my grandfather's words have returned to haunt me. He had been a
pioneer farmer in Saskatchewan on the Canadian prairies. That's where
Canada's universal health care system was conceived during the hard years of
the depression and its aftermath.

Medicare (Canada's health care plan) was largely the brainchild of a
Baptist minister turned politician, T. C. (Tommy) Douglas. He and others
founded a new party in Saskatchewan (which later became the New Democratic
Party) based on "humanity before private interests." Universal health care
was at the top of their agenda. By 1964, Saskatchewan implemented a health
care plan that treated everyone according to their needs regardless of their
ability to pay. Despite a doctor's strike that tried to kill it, the
farmers - including my grandfather - made sure that this new health care
plan survived. Then, just as now, there were those who thought it made total
sense and others who thought it was a Communist conspiracy. However, it
proved so popular in Saskatchewan that within a few years the federal
government adopted it for the entire country. Imagine the audacity of this
during a raging cold war. The year the plan went into effect was the year of
the Cuban missile crisis.

In 2004, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation conducted a poll to
determine whom Canadians thought was the greatest Canadian of all time. It
was not Pierre Trudeau, Joni Mitchell, Dan Aykroyd, Leonard Cohen, Margaret
Atwood, Lorne Michaels, Oscar Peterson, Peter Jennings, Celine Dion, Neil
Young, Keanu Reeves, nor Wayne Gretzky. It wasn't even Keifer Sutherland or
his dad, Donald. No, it was Keifer Sutherland's grandfather, Tommy Douglas,
who is credited with making sure that Canadians would have universal,
government-funded health care. When Canadians are periodically polled and
asked what they are most proud of, in addition to peacekeeping, it is their
national health care system.

What irritates me - depresses me the most in fact - is that Americans
seem so unwilling to learn from any other country. "We would never want to
have a plan like the Canadians" is a comment I heard from an interviewee on
NPR the other day. Sadly, this speaker has never visited Canada, because if
they had they would probably witness that the average working-class or
middle-class person in Canada lives longer, works less, is a tad wealthier
and has better sex. And, of course, they have that single-payer health care

I'd like to say I'm joking, but you can check the sources of these
claims in MacLean's, Canada's weekly news magazine. In Canada there are
endless efforts to compare the happiness of Canadians vs. Americans and the
Canadians were tickled to read that they might have it better in a 2005
MacLean's feature, which began like this:

"Like the perpetual little brother, Canadians have always lived in the
shadow of our American neighbors. We (the Canadians) mock them (the
Americans) for their uncultured ways, their brash talk and their insularity,
but it's always been the thin laughter of the insecure. After all, says
University of Lethbridge sociologist Reginald Bibby, a leading tracker of
social trends, 'Americans grow up with the sincere belief that their nation
is a nation that is unique and special, literally called by something
greater to be blessed and to be a blessing to people around the globe.'
Canadians can't compete with that."

So, hubris prevents Americans from learning about Canada's health care
system - or any others for that matter - just when it could be helpful as
American citizens try to reform their own unfair and costly system dominated
by private interests. Admittedly, NPR has, in this late stage of the debate,
been reporting about some other health care systems in Europe. Finally. As a
citizen of both the US and Canada, I am perplexed by the ignorance of so
many comments I hear and read. Many interviewees don't seem to know that the
US already has huge government-funded health care programs called Medicare,
Medicaid or the Veterans Health Administration that together cover more than
80 million people! That's more than the populations covered by Canada's or
any one European country program!

Principles of Canada's Health Care Plan

But let's get back to what might be helpful for Americans to know about
Canada's program. Here are some essential facts.

1. It is a single-payer system, meaning that the government - federal
and provincial - pays the bills. But many providers - clinics, hospitals,
diagnostic services, etc. - are privately owned. They are reimbursed for
services just as doctors - who are mostly incorporated - submit for fees.

2. You get to choose your doctor.

In 2005, all the provincial government leaders reconfirmed their
commitment to The Canada Health Act's key principles: that Canadians have
the right to timely, high quality, effective and safe health services on the
basis of need, not ability to pay, and regardless of where they live or move
in Canada. They also committed to a system that is sustainable and
affordable and that will be there for future generations.

Lively Debate

There is a lively debate in Canada about how well this system is meeting
those principles. On the right, is the Fraser Institute, a think tank based
in Vancouver that regularly releases reports outlining the extensive wait
times for operations and procedures and plugs the benefits of a private
market driven system. From the left, come worries about creeping
privatization within the system. There is a tug of war between those who
wish to preserve the public system and those who want more private options.
And everyone worries about costs. The conservatives want to put less into
the system; the liberals want to put more in and get more out of it.

The outgoing president of the Canadian Medical Association (a doctors'
organization like the AMA), Dr. Robert Ouellet, was a champion for
privatization. During this month's annual meeting, he wanted to "pull out
all the stops" to push for private health care. But that effort flew in the
face of the most recent poll by Nanos Research, which found that more than
85 percent of Canadians want to strengthen their public health system rather
than expand for profit services. Dr. Anne Doig, the new CMA president, vowed
a commitment to quality care rather than privatizations. The debate will not
go away, but Americans could learn from this.

Canada's System Under Stress

Whether seen from the right, left or middle, Canada's system is under
stress for similar reasons that our health care costs have skyrocketed here.
Like most advanced industrialized countries, Canada is facing a demographic
bubble of seniors - an aging population. Senior health care costs more. A
recent New York Times article reports that treating the medical needs of
seniors with chronic diseases during the last two years of their lives
consumes a third of the US Medicare budget. Canada has lowered some of those
costs by making generic drugs available through its system. As anyone in the
US Medicare system knows, the drug program is a complicated, expensive mess.
And some Americans go without drugs because they simply cannot afford them.
Recently, US seniors have expressed concern that by extending Medicare to
the currently uninsured (40 plus million folks in the US) that somehow their
own services will be compromised. They could look at this differently. The
power that an expanded Medicare would have to negotiate better deals for
services and drugs could benefit everyone.

Other developments in health care force costs up in Canada just as in
the United States, like the overuse of advanced diagnostic tests. Canadian
health care specialists have been trying to tackle that issue. And the
discussion has begun among reformers in the US. But one area where Canada's
single-payer system really cuts costs is in the bureaucracy. While American
hospitals typically hire dozens of people to handle claims for hundreds of
insurance companies, in Canadian hospitals only a handful of people are
required to keep track of expenditures.

The Anecdotal Story - Wait Lists

We often hear anecdotal complaints about the waiting time for operations
in Canada. And that is a serious issue. I saw a TV ad on cable, as I was
cruising stations recently, that said if you fall off a horse in Canada and
break your back you will wait six months to see a specialist. This is
nonsense. And since so many of the negative stories are anecdotal, I will
tell mine. I recall my mother's experience with several hip operations. (She
lived in Vancouver.) The first was for a hip replacement. Yes, she had to be
put onto a waiting list. In the early '90s she waited some six months to get
her operation. Yes, she was uncomfortable and a bit impatient, but she also
knew she was getting a doctor with a brilliant reputation for fine work and
she would need to get in line for him. She lived in a retirement community
where demand was high. (Recent Canadian studies have shown that the waiting
times are costing the Canadian system more than finding solutions to shorten
the waits. And in 2005, Health Canada invested some $4.5 billion to reduce
waiting times during the next six years. Also in 2005, after a Supreme Court
decision allowed private clinics with private patients, Quebec province
promised it would send patients to those clinics and pay for them if they
had to wait longer than six to nine months for operations.)

But back to my mother's experience. Some eight years later, when my
mother fell and broke the part of her hip device that extended into her leg,
she was operated on within a few weeks. Since I was working out of the
country when this happened, the operation was scheduled for when I could get
to Vancouver in order to care for her. She walked with difficulty until the
operation. Then in 2005, when she became very sick and weak, she fell and
broke her other hip. She was operated on that night. Just as you would be in
the US - if you had insurance or could pay.

Canada's Reforms

Canada's system is always under scrutiny from various factions and
frequent analyses of abuses or problems are matched by eagerness to reform.
Americans could learn from Canada's reform efforts to address rising costs.
In some provinces, they are experimenting with creating more neighborhood,
24-hour clinics in heavily populated communities to take the expensive
pressure off of hospital emergency rooms. Some clinics are run by nurse
practitioners and focus on preventative care. They are also promoting
midwifery and hospital birthing centers to increase the quality of care and
reduce maternity costs.


Finally, resistance to health care reform is driven by a combination of
corporate and political interests. Tommy Douglas understood this well and
had a famous stump speech he used to deliver when trying to organize a new
political party on the prairies that put humanity first. Over the years,
that speech has become known as Mouseland. He told the story about mice who
every few years held elections. Sometimes, they elected the White Cats, who
would proceed to pass legislation favoring their interests including
building a mouse hole large enough to get their paw into. So, when the next
election came around, the mice voted in the Black Cats. These Cats also
passed legislation to favor themselves. They wanted to build a mouse hole
even larger so cats could get two paws in. The mice tried everything at
subsequent elections, like mixing up the Black Cats and White Cats. Finally,
they decided to elect a mouse. But that mouse was immediately arrested and
jailed as a Bolshevik. Douglas concluded that this fable illustrated why the
two party system only works for the Cats. He was stumping for a third party
that he successfully introduced to the Canadian political landscape - a
party that pushed and won universal health care. You can go to to see an
animated version of this speech introduced by Keifer Sutherland.

What Can We Americans Do?

First, we can learn as much as we can from other countries about their
health care systems. (And, perhaps, why a two-party system keeps building
bigger mouse holes.) We can speak up for humanity before private interests.
And we can let all of our representatives know our thoughts.

And Canadians?

Meanwhile, in Canada, a petition is circulating that registers Canadian
concern about the lies and attacks on their health care system funded by
corporate interests in the US. If you are a Canadian you may wish to check
out the petition at this link.

Friday, August 28, 2009

B.B.B.'s Ninth, Huayucaltia, Kennedy's Greatest Accomplishment

"A rabble-rousing folk singer isn't the first person who comes to mind when drafting new lyrics for one of the most recognized pieces of classical music in the world. But British singer Billy Bragg, known for his politically charged pop songs, penned new lyrics for "Ode to Joy," the chorale finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony."

"Instantly recognizable, the triumphant refrains of "Ode to Joy" are traditionally set to "An die Freude," a German poem written in 1786 by Friedrich Schiller. The poem celebrates universal brotherhood and a common yearning for peace. In that sense, Beethoven and Bragg were a perfect match. -- Elina Shatkin, L.A. Times - 08/27/09"

Beethoven Billy Bragg Ninth Concert

U.S. Premiere of Billy Bragg's new choral adaptation of
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

 At the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage, Santa Monica College
Performing Arts Center
1310 11th St (and Santa Monica Blvd.) Santa Monica, CA 90401

Saturday, August 29th, 7-9:30 pm

To Benefit Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, LA

$55 $75, and $100 tickets here:  Call
As you go through the the process of purchasing tickets on line you'll
be asked for a discount code. That code is BBB9, which automatically
takes off 15 percent from each ticket purchased

Billy Bragg is a legendary British songwriter. He has written some of
the most touching love songs by a pop artist, while at the same time
creating a large body of work that speaks to the social issues of our
time. Billy Bragg is the embodiment of the American social issue song
tradition that started with Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger and produced
Bob Dylan. He has now turned his talents to rewriting of the libretto
for Beethoven's monumental Ninth Symphony, that sacred hymn to
brotherhood and sisterhood that proclaims all peoples of the earth are
connected by a common humanity. Billy's new choral version of
Beethoven's Ninth was recently performed by the London Philharmonic
Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall, with the Queen of England in
attendance. Billy wrote about the experience in an article for the
London Mail: "How The Queen Charmed the Pants off Me:

Billy's story is captured in the documentary that tracks the global
impact of the Ninth.  Following The Ninth: In The Footsteps of
Beethoven's NInth Symphony to be released in

Joining Billy will be: Dwight Trible (Jazz), Susie Glaze (Bluegrass), Ernest
Troost (Blues), Justin Bischof (Pianist) and the Baker & Tarpaga Dance
Project, Burkina Faso.

Subject: FREE Concert - Huayucaltia at the Levitt Pavilion

We hope you can join us for a FREE concert at the Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park:
Wednesday, September 2, 2009 7:30 p.m.
2230 West 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA  90057
(213) 384-5701
Watch Huayucaltia in concert:
Bring your lawn chair or a blanket and a picnic.  It will be a fun evening for all!

Ted Kennedy's Greatest Accomplishment: He Created Americans

by Dana Houle
Daily Kos:  Aug 26, 2009

Of the many accomplishments of Ted Kennedy, few have had a more profound
effect on America-America as a state, as an economy, a society, and as a
nation-as the first act he ever managed to passage, the Immigration and
Nationality Act of 1965.

The Kennedy family made tremendous sacrifices for our country. Joe Kennedy
died in a secret mission during World War II. John and Robert, of course,
were both assassinated. And just about every other member of the family had
a long history of public service, either in the political sphere or with
causes like Eunice's devotion to the Special Olympics. The Kennedy "clan"
was also famously loving and close. Thus, it was appropriate that a cause
championed by John Kennedy and eventually brought to passage by Teddy put in
to immigration policy a preference for family ties over marketable skills:

  The current system of legal immigration dates to 1965. It marked a radical
break with previous policy and has led to profound demographic changes in
America. But that's not how the law was seen when it was passed -- at the
height of the civil rights movement, at a time when ideals of freedom,
democracy and equality had seized the nation. Against this backdrop, the
manner in which the United States decided which foreigners could and could
not enter the country had become an increasing embarrassment.

  An Argument Based on Egalitarianism

  "The law was just unbelievable in its clarity of racism," says Stephen
Klineberg, a sociologist at Rice University. "It declared that Northern
Europeans are a superior subspecies of the white race. The Nordics were
superior to the Alpines, who in turn were superior to the Mediterraneans,
and all of them were superior to the Jews and the Asians."

  By the 1960s, Greeks, Poles, Portuguese and Italians were complaining that
immigration quotas discriminated against them in favor of Western Europeans.
The Democratic Party took up their cause, led by President John F. Kennedy.
In a June 1963 speech to the American Committee on Italian Migration,
Kennedy called the system of quotas in place back then " nearly

It may have started out as a political sop to "ethnic" voters in 1960, but
it's likely that no political act of the last century has so changed America
and put us on the path to eventually becoming a multi-racial nation as that
law from 1965. In 1960, the quota for immigrants (pdf) in to the US from
Asia was 21,604. From the entire continent of Africa, only 1,925 immigrants
were allowed in to the US. In 1960 only 5.4% of Americans were foreign-born;
most were from Europe. But by 2000, 35 years of the new immigration policy,
11.1% of the population was foreign-born; of the foreign-born, only 16% were
from Europe, with about half from Latin America and a quarter from Asia.

My home-the Detroit area-has been transformed in recent decades by massive
immigration from Lebanon and Iraq, Yemen and Albania. I moved a few years
ago to DC, which has become a major destination for immigrants from Ethiopia
and Eritrea and West Africa. I'm now working in the quintessential
Scandinavian state, but whose largest cities now have thriving communities
of Vietnamese and Cambodians and Hmong and Somalis. In major cities like New
York or Los Angeles, or in small towns that become destinations for
immigrants from halfway around the world, the people we live next to, buy
things from, worship with, befriend, marry and with whom we create our own
families, are people who were let in to America because of Senator Ted
Kennedy's first major legislation.

That the bill prioritized family ties, and was passed by an Irish Catholic,
is apt. Catholics were the most despised religious group in early America.
After the enslaved Africans and the persecuted native Americans, no other
major group was so marginalized as the Irish. But today, Irish Catholics are
no longer discriminated against, are no longer outside the mainstream of
American society. The discrimination was fading, but still existed in 1960,
when John Kennedy became our first (and still only) Catholic president. But
thanks in part to the accomplishments and sacrifices of the Kennedy family,
by the time I was growing up in the 1970's, being discriminated against
because you were Irish Catholic-a real experience for my grandparents-was
for me something that existed only in history and family lore.

Some people and groups, when they "make it" and are prosperous and accepted,
don't want to extend opportunities to others, lest, they fear, they lose
their own (newly) privileged status. In the terminology of immigration
policy, they want to "pull up the ladders" and keep everyone else out. But
the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 was an act of lowering the
ladders and welcoming immigrants from across the globe. When he was arguing
for the act, Kennedy tried to assure critics that it wouldn't significantly
change the ethnic makeup of the country. Obviously he was wrong, and it's
open to interpretation whether he misjudged the effects or concealed his
intents. But in an interview a few years ago, he espoused the best American
principles in supporting the act:

  Q: Some have suggested it was a mistake to make family reunification the
main purpose of our immigration law. They say perhaps we should have a
system more like Canada's, which lets people in based largely on their
skills. How do you respond to these criticisms?

  KENNEDY: I think our tradition of the Statue of Liberty is to be willing
to accept the unwashed as well as the highly skilled. There are a lot of
people who haven't had opportunities in other places as a result of
dictatorships and totalitarian regimes and discrimination. Are we going to
say we refuse to let any of those individuals come in because we've got
someone who has happened to have a more advantaged situation? I'm not sure
that's what this country is all about.

Most of us Americans descend from people who arrived as among the "great
unwashed masses." As with my family-most of whom originally came from Canada
in the 1920's-many of us have unwashed ancestors who had the luck to arrive
here before the ladders were pulled up just before the Great Depression. But
after 1965, the ladders were lowered, and the "unwashed" were again welcomed
to America.

Much will be made over the next few days about Ted Kennedy's lifelong effort
to extend health care to all Americans. It will be depicted as a great
tragedy that Kennedy didn't live to see his dream enacted. But we should
also celebrate Ted Kennedy's greatest achievement. Ted Kennedy, indeed the
entire Kennedy family, gave a lot to America, but nothing greater than the
1965 immigration bill, because it gave people around the globe-even the
unwashed-the opportunity to become Americans. Ted Kennedy gave us Americans.

Lockerbie Outrage, Krugman: Obama's Trust Problem

The top story is a brilliant satire, alas, but shines light on an ironic
hypocricy and true international outrage. The 2nd is on point. -Ed

From: Sid Shniad

August 25, 2009

Lockerbie Outrage Moves Obama to Extradite Long-Wanted Terrorist

by Thomas Harrington

WASHINGTON – In a dramatic announcement made yesterday shortly after the
president's arrival on Martha's Vineyard, the administration declared its
intention to hand over Luis Posada Carriles, the widely acknowledged
mastermind of the bombing of Cubana Airlines Flight 455 that killed 73
people in 1976, to the Venezuelan government for prosecution. According to
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs, Obama's change of heart on the
long-requested extradition of Posada, who was a citizen of Venezuela when he
allegedly planned the crime, came after watching Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the
convicted planner of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in 1988, return home to a
hero's welcome in Libya.

"The president was sickened to see this man who bears responsibility for
ending the lives of hundreds of completely innocent people, and forever
altering those of the many thousands that loved them, walk free. Feeling
their pain made him acutely aware of just how unfair it was to continue to
let Mr. Posada, who in addition to the Cubana bombing has been implicated in
numerous assassinations and as many as 41 other terrorist bombings
throughout the Caribbean and Central America, get up each day in Miami and
sip his morning coffee in complete freedom."

Since the "declaration" of the "War on Terror" in late 2001, the avowed goal
of the U.S. government has been to prosecute terrorists wherever they might
be in the world. As former president George W. Bush put it in a speech
before a joint session of Congress on Sept. 20 of that year, "It will not
end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and

Apparently, however, there was a large loophole in this policy for Posada
and the many others like him assigned to use terrorist tactics on behalf of
the U.S. government or organizations backed by what is often termed the
"U.S. intelligence community."

A brief examination of Posada's career demonstrates just how large this
loophole is. In addition to his role in planning the Cubana bombing in 1976,
Posada worked for the Reagan White House supplying U.S.-backed irregulars in
Nicaragua and the armies of the Salvadoran and Honduran dictatorships with
the arms they used to kill thousands of innocent civilians in the late
1980s. In the late 1990s, Posada directed a series of terrorist bombings in
Cuba designed to cripple the growth of that nation's burgeoning tourist
industry, attacks he took full credit for in a wide-ranging interview with
the New York Times.

Yet, despite his public admission of guilt in this and numerous other cases
of terrorism, Posada lived a relatively unfettered life in the U.S. He did
so, moreover, despite having been caught entering the country illegally,
under an assumed name, sometime prior to 2005. In recent years judges have
regularly deported Muslim immigrants for the slightest procedural
infractions, but Posada was freed on bail by an immigration judge in Texas
and allowed to return to Florida under house arrest in April 2007. A month
later, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone in Miami dismissed all seven
immigration charges against Posada. Though a grand jury in El Paso, Texas,
recently issued a new set of indictments against Posada in relationship to
the Cuban bombings and his entry into the U.S. on a fraudulent passport,
Posada remained a free man until President Obama's stunning announcement

Gibbs concluded his announcement with the following remarks. "In the wake of
September 11th, it was frequently asked 'Why do they hate us?'. Many
concluded that it was because they are jealous of our freedoms. We now know,
however, that it is really because of the way we selectively condemn in
others the types of murderous activities that we regularly license ourselves
and our close allies to carry out with impunity. We believe that the
extradition of Mr. Posada will be seen as a valuable first step in closing
our enormous credibility gap around the issue of terror."

(Satire courtesy of Macondo News Service)


Obama's Trust Problem

"The fight over the public option involves real policy substance, but it's
also a proxy for broader questions about the president's priorities and
overall approach."

By Paul Krugman
NY Times Op-Ed: August 20, 2009

According to news reports, the Obama administration - which seemed, over the
weekend, to be backing away from the "public option" for health insurance -
is shocked and surprised at the furious reaction from progressives.

Well, I'm shocked and surprised at their shock and surprise.

A backlash in the progressive base - which pushed President Obama over the
top in the Democratic primary and played a major role in his general
election victory - has been building for months. The fight over the public
option involves real policy substance, but it's also a proxy for broader
questions about the president's priorities and overall approach.

The idea of letting individuals buy insurance from a government-run plan was
introduced in 2007 by Jacob Hacker of Yale, was picked up by John Edwards
during the Democratic primary, and became part of the original Obama health
care plan.

One purpose of the public option is to save money. Experience with Medicare
suggests that a government-run plan would have lower costs than private
insurers; in addition, it would introduce more competition and keep premiums

And let's be clear: the supposed alternative, nonprofit co-ops, is a sham.
That's not just my opinion; it's what the market says: stocks of health
insurance companies soared on news that the Gang of Six senators trying to
negotiate a bipartisan approach to health reform were dropping the public
plan. Clearly, investors believe that co-ops would offer little real
competition to private insurers.

Also, and importantly, the public option offered a way to reconcile
differing views among Democrats. Until the idea of the public option came
along, a significant faction within the party rejected anything short of
true single-payer, Medicare-for-all reform, viewing anything less as
perpetuating the flaws of our current system. The public option, which would
force insurance companies to prove their usefulness or fade away, settled
some of those qualms.

That said, it's possible to have universal coverage without a public
option - several European nations do it - and some who want a public option
might be willing to forgo it if they had confidence in the overall health
care strategy. Unfortunately, the president's behavior in office has
undermined that confidence.

On the issue of health care itself, the inspiring figure progressives
thought they had elected comes across, far too often, as a dry technocrat
who talks of "bending the curve" but has only recently begun to make the
moral case for reform. Mr. Obama's explanations of his plan have gotten
clearer, but he still seems unable to settle on a simple, pithy formula; his
speeches and op-eds still read as if they were written by a committee.

Meanwhile, on such fraught questions as torture and indefinite detention,
the president has dismayed progressives with his reluctance to challenge or
change Bush administration policy.

And then there's the matter of the banks.

I don't know if administration officials realize just how much damage
done themselves with their kid-gloves treatment of the financial industry,
just how badly the spectacle of government supported institutions paying
giant bonuses is playing. But I've had many conversations with people who
voted for Mr. Obama, yet dismiss the stimulus as a total waste of money.
When I press them, it turns out that they're really angry about the bailouts
rather than the stimulus - but that's a distinction lost on most voters.

So there's a growing sense among progressives that they have, as my
colleague Frank Rich suggests, been punked. And that's why the mixed signals
on the public option created such an uproar.

Now, politics is the art of the possible. Mr. Obama was never going to get
everything his supporters wanted.

But there's a point at which realism shades over into weakness, and
progressives increasingly feel that the administration is on the wrong side
of that line. It seems as if there is nothing Republicans can do that will
draw an administration rebuke: Senator Charles E. Grassley feeds the death
panel smear, warning that reform will "pull the plug on grandma," and two
days later the White House declares that it's still committed to working
with him.

It's hard to avoid the sense that Mr. Obama has wasted months trying to
appease people who can't be appeased, and who take every concession as a
sign that he can be rolled.

Indeed, no sooner were there reports that the administration might accept
co-ops as an alternative to the public option than G.O.P. leaders announced
that co-ops, too, were unacceptable.

So progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted,
and in the process lost it. And now he needs to win it back.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Norman Solomon: The Afghanistan Gap: Press vs. Public


The Afghanistan Gap: Press vs. Public

By Norman Solomon
Solomon's ZSpace: Aug 26, 2009

These days, a lot of media stories are comparing President Johnson's war in
Vietnam and President Obama's war in Afghanistan. The comparisons are often
valid, but a key parallel rarely gets mentioned -- the media's insistent
support for the war even after most of the public has turned against it.

This omission relies on the mythology that the U.S. news media functioned as
tough critics of the Vietnam War in real time, a fairy tale so widespread
that it routinely masquerades as truth. In fact, overall, the default
position of the corporate media is to bond with war policymakers in
Washington -- insisting for the longest time that the war must go on.

In early 1968, after several years of massive escalation of the Vietnam War,
the Boston Globe conducted a survey of 39 major U.S. daily newspapers and
found that not a single one had editorialized in favor of U.S. withdrawal
from Vietnam. While millions of Americans were actively demanding an
immediate pullout, such a concept was still viewed as extremely unrealistic
by the editorial boards of big daily papers -- including the liberal New
York Times and Washington Post.

A similar pattern took shape during Washington's protracted war in Iraq.
Year after year, the editorial positions of major dailies have been much
more supportive of the U.S. war effort than the American public.

In mid-spring 2004, a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll was showing that "one in
four Americans say troops should leave Iraq as soon as possible and another
30 percent say they should come home within 18 months." But as usual, when
it came to rejection of staying the war course, the media establishment
lagged way behind the populace.

Despite sometimes-withering media criticism of the Bush administration's
foreign policy, all of the sizable newspapers steered clear of calling for
withdrawal. Many favored sending in even more troops. On May 7, 2004, Editor
& Publisher headlined a column by the magazine's editor, Greg Mitchell, this
way: "When Will the First Major Newspaper Call for a Pullout in Iraq?"

Today, the gap between mainline big media and the grassroots is just as
wide. Top policymakers for what has become Obama's Afghanistan war can find
their assumptions mirrored in the editorials of the nation's mighty
newspapers -- at the same time that opinion polls are showing a dramatic
trend against the war.

While a recent ABC News-Washington Post poll found that 51 percent of the
public says the war in Afghanistan isn't worth fighting, the savants who
determine big media's editorial positions insist on staying the course.

Recycled from the repetition-compulsion department, a spate of new
hand-wringing editorials has bemoaned the shortcomings of Washington's
allied leader in the occupied country. Of course the edifying pitch includes
the assertion that the Afghan government and its armed forces must get their
act together. (Good help is hard to find.)

"President Obama has rightfully defined success in Afghanistan as essential
to America's struggle against Al Qaeda," the New York Times editorialized on
Aug. 21. Yet Al Qaeda, according to expert assessments, is scarcely present
in Afghanistan any more. There are dozens of countries where that terrorist
group or other ones could be said to have a much larger presence. Does that
mean the U.S. government should be prepared to wage war in all of those

Paragraph after paragraph of the editorial proclaimed what must be done to
win the war. It was all boilerplate stuff of the sort that has littered the
editorial pages of countless newspapers for many years during one protracted
war after another -- in Vietnam, in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

When congressional leaders and top administration officials read such
editorials, they can take comfort in finding reaffirmed support for their
insistence on funding more and more war. If only public opinion would
cooperate, there'd be no political problem.

But, increasingly, public opinion is not cooperating. While the media
establishment and the political establishment appear to belong to the same
pro-war affinity group, the public is shifting to the other side of a
widening credibility gap.

In a word, the problem -- and the threat for the press and the state -- can
be summed up as democracy.

Now, one of the pivotal questions is what "liberal" and "progressive" online
organizations will do in the coming months. Many are led by people who
privately understand that Obama's war escalation is on track for cascading
catastrophes. But they do not want to antagonize the leading Democrats in
Washington, who contend that more war in Afghanistan is the only viable
political course. Will that undue deference to the Obama administration
continue, despite the growing evidence of disaster and the sinking poll
numbers for the war?

A cautionary note for those who assume that the impacts of public opinion
will put a brake on the accelerating U.S. war in Afghanistan: That
assumption is based on a misunderstanding of how the USA's warfare state
really functions.

Under the headline "Someone Tell the President the War Is Over," the New
York Times columnist Frank Rich wrote: "A president can't stay the course
when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won't stay with him." That
was way back in August 2005.

(The next day, I wrote a piece headlined "Someone Tell Frank Rich the War Is
Not Over.")

The war on Vietnam persisted for several horrific years after the polls were
showing that most Americans disapproved. The momentum of a large-scale and
protracted U.S. war of military occupation is massive and cataclysmic after
the engine has really been gunned.

That's one of the most chilling parallels between the wars in Vietnam and
Afghanistan. The news media are part of the deadly process. So are the
politicians who remain hitched to some expedient calculus. And so are we, to
the extent that we go along with the conventional wisdom of the warfare


Norman Solomon is the author of many books including "War Made Easy: How
Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death," which has been adapted
into a documentary film. For more information, go to:

From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives


The Debilitating Myth of the 'Free Market' Alternative

The Debilitating Myth of the 'Free Market' Alternative

by Robert Freeman
Common Dreams: 8/24/09

When choosing a pet, do you prefer unicorns or bunnies? I prefer unicorns
because, though bunnies are undeniably snuggly, unicorns have a much better
color. That lustrous pink fur beats out dull brown every time. And if you
can get one with wings - well, how can floppy ears compete with that? It
isn't even close, is it?

This is something like what the healthcare debate is about. It's not about
real alternatives. Rather, it's about the choice between a realistic
alternative that can actually extend coverage while lowering costs - the
public option - and a fantasy: the "free market" option.

And health care is only the most readily available of industries that
illustrate our fatal fetishistic fixation with the "free market" myth. Our
thrall to that myth makes it impossible to have a rational debate about
almost any economic issue. For vast swaths of the U.S. and global economies
bear as much resemblance to "free markets" as do unicorns to real pets.

There is, for example, no free market in health care. Most markets for
health insurance in the U.S. are dominated by one or two players. They
easily collude to keep prices high, choices low, payouts at a minimum, and
new competitors from entering. This is exactly what both common sense and
economic theory would predict when few firms dominate a market. Economists
call it "oligopoly."

Hospitals operate as oligopolists as well. I live in a small town in
California. It doesn't matter to me that there are many thousands of
hospitals across the country. The "relevant" market for my health care
needs extends only a few miles. For most people in America, there are at
most two "competitors" in the hospital delivery business, if that. This is
not a competitive market. The lack of true choice and the vendors'
incentives and ability to collude, make a mockery of the idea of "free

Or consider the pharmaceutical industry. Though there are many firms, the
vast majority of the prescriptions, sales, R&D, and profits are controlled
by very few companies. In many critical drugs, because of our patent laws,
there is only one provider. And George W. Bush passed a $700 billion health
care law that specifically forbade the U.S. government from using its buying
power to secure lower drugs prices for government purchases. So much for
the rigor of competition.

There is simply no effective competition in these markets and the results
show it. The U.S. spends twice per capita what other industrial nations
spend on health care with inferior outcomes. Adam Smith, the founder of
modern economics, foretold this when, in 1776, he wrote in The Wealth of
Nations, "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment
and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public,
or in some contrivance to raise prices."

So what is the point in even arguing about "free market" alternatives? It
is like arguing for unicorns as pets. It is fantasy. When raised to a
matter of policy prescription, it is worse. It is social psychosis.

The fact of such social psychosis is not an accident either, and it, too,
derives from the same narrow ownership and control of a vital industry.
Only thirty years ago, the media industry contained over 50 independent
companies delivering television, radio, newspapers, and magazines. Today,
there are five giant conglomerates that control more that 80% of all the
media sales in the country.

These media conglomerates are owned by a very small, very wealthy elite
whose interests lie not in promoting democracy in political markets or
competition in economic ones, but precisely in preventing them. Their aim
is to divert attention from the staggering concentration of wealth at the
top of the economy and the steady impoverishment of all the rest. They tout
the sham rituals of democracy such as town hall meetings precisely to
disguise the takeover of real government by large corporate interests.
Meanwhile, the constitutional protections of civil liberties for the people
are quietly, slowly, relentlessly dismantled.

The power and collusion of the media oligopoly were never better illustrated
than in the run-up to the Iraq war. We now know that all of the putative
justifications for that war were false. None of that mattered. The
neo-conservative political elite and their wealthy capitalist masters wanted
a war so they manufactured one with the help of their hirelings in the
mainstream media. Truth had nothing to do with it. Indeed, alternative
voices, those that actually spoke the truth, were ruthlessly, viciously
mocked and suppressed.

The entire country was frog-marched into a nakedly illegal colonialist
takeover of a sovereign country that had not attacked the U.S., had not
threatened to attack the U.S., had no interest in attacking the U.S., and
had no capacity to attack the U.S.

Such is the power of controlling one of the most influential industries in
the world, that you can, at will, manufacture a war that will expend
trillions of dollars, raise the price of oil, and increase government
deficits - all to your benefit. Or, in the case of health care, that can
elevate moronic screamers to the level of cultural prophets or anoint six
senators representing 3% of the country to prevent real competition in
markets that you also control.

This narrow control of critical markets extends far beyond just the health
care and media industries. It applies to industries across the entire
economic spectrum.

There are only a handful of companies selling soda pop. There is
essentially only one company selling desktop operating systems. Two
companies sell more than 90% of all batteries. Three companies sell over
80% of the beer, cigarettes, and breakfast cereals consumed nationally.
Only two companies in the world sell large airplanes for commercial travel.
Only two companies make the microprocessors that power PCs or the switches
that power national-scale telephone networks.

In watches and clocks, railroad engines, jet engines, integrated oil
production, sporting goods, musical instruments, motorcycles, man-made
fibers, tobacco, music, wireless phones, chemicals, vitamins, industrial
process control machinery, satellites, pharmaceuticals, networking
equipment, and many other industries, fewer than six firms control virtually
all of the entire world's production!

Such levels of "industrial concentration," as it is called, have never
existed before in the history of the world. It reflects the consolidation
of the world's wealth into the hands of a very small plutocratic elite which
manage the world's commerce among themselves, for themselves. And this
concentration is growing rapidly. This is part of what the recent trend
toward "globalization" is all about.

The big players in major countries have "gone global" by buying up or
shutting down smaller players in other countries. In 1973, $75 billion was
spent by international companies buying up other companies that competed
against them in foreign markets. By 1993, that figure had soared to $500
billion and by 1999 had risen still another five-fold, to $2.4 trillion. It
continues to increase still today, creating a global marketplace in which
more and more industries are dominated by fewer and fewer larger and larger

The result is an extraordinary transfer of wealth and income from consumers
and the middle class to monopoly producers and their owners. In 2007, the
top 1% of the U.S. population owned 60% of all business assets. Meanwhile,
the bottom 50% of the population owned a mere 2.5% of such assets. The
bottom 40% owned nothing. U.S. income distribution has become more unequal
than at any time since 1928, just before the Great Depression. In the ten
years between 1996 and 2006 two thirds of all the growth in the entire U.S.
economy went to the top 1% of income earners.

This is far more akin to a feudal world than it is to "free market"
capitalism. In this, the real world, a very few ultra-rich families - think
of the Bourbons, the Tudors, or the Hapsburgs - own everything, including
the government, and everybody else owns nothing, save the labor they must
render to their wealthy overlords in exchange for the right to live.

This has profound implications for the efficiency of the economy. There is
simply not enough purchasing power in the hands of consumers to clear
markets of goods. In the past three decades, this shortfall in demand has
been compensated for by the government running massive budget deficits. The
national debt has grown 10-fold in the past 30 years and is forecast to
double again in the next ten. The burden of paying for that debt will
enslave working Americans for generations to come, effectively, forever.

And as much as all of this is a matter of economic concern, it has grave
implications for the viability, indeed, the survival of democracy. When
extreme size becomes extreme wealth, and when global economic power is
exercised as preponderant national political power, how do we insure the
survival of democracy?

Democracy depends on "one person, one vote". The motto for monopoly
capitalism might well be, "One dollar, one vote." The two institutions -
democracy and monopoly capitalism - are incompatible. The one will
inevitably destroy the other. This is what Supreme Court justice Louis
Brandeis meant when he wrote, "We can either have great concentrations of
wealth or we can have democracy. But we cannot have both."

Large corporations are able to exercise extraordinary political influence
through campaign contributions, lobbying, and control of the media. By
these means, they are able to have legislation enacted that favors
themselves over the public: trillions of dollars sluiced to themselves
through "bailouts;" guarantees against having to actually compete;
differential tax rates on capital versus labor; environmental regulations
that go un-enforced; etc. This, of course, only further accelerates the
concentration of private wealth and political power into narrow hands with
the consequent further erosion of democracy.

How do we balance the democratic rights of individual citizens and the
economic rights of small consumers when political and economic giants stride
the landscape, concerned only with their own self-aggrandizement and almost
inevitably hostile to the interests of the larger public?

In the case of an oligopolized media fomenting ignorance, hatred, and
resentment in the place of knowledge, discourse, and deliberation, how can
we even know what we need to know to operate a civilized country? There can
be neither informed consumer choice in economic affairs nor consent of the
governed in political. And that is precisely the intent.

Since the answer to these questions will effectively decide the future of
democracy, it may well be the most important economic policy question facing
America today. Of course, Americans love everything free: land of the
free, home of the brave; let freedom ring; live free or die; buy one get one
free. That's why it's so hard to shake the illusion of free markets: we've
centuries of indoctrination into the idea of their existence as synonymous
with our own. Myths die hard, the more so, those at the heart of our
cultural identity.

But we expect children to grow up, to stop believing in unicorns. We need
to hold the same standard for ourselves as citizen-adults. We should use
the chimera of "free markets" in health care to keep the spotlight on all
such industrial concentration. It is not glamorous or sexy, like unicorns,
but it is ever so much more real and ever so much more at the heart of our
nation's survival.

Robert Freeman writes on history, economics and education. He can be reached

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Deep Green: A Good solution


Deep Green: A Good Solution

by Rex Weyler

Recently, we've been hearing about 'the death of environmentalism' because -
allegedly - the world's corporations now understand ecology and will solve
our problems with investment, innovation, and gung-ho optimism.

Of course, what the investors want to create with all that optimism and
ingenuity are profits, not real sustainability.

Critics regularly accuse environmentalists of being 'doom and gloom'
prognosticators who complain of endless problems, but offer 'no solutions'.
However, if we check the record, we'll discover that serious ecologists have
been offering solutions for centuries.

Real economic solutions
Economist John Stuart Mill realised the limits of nature 160 years ago, as
he witnessed British factories multiplying across the landscape, spoiling
woodlands, mowing down hedgerows and turning rivers into sewers.

Mill proposed that nations achieve a 'stationary state', at which point
economic growth would stabilise for the sake of environmental preservation.
"If the Earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness," Mill wrote
in 1848, "I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will be
content to be stationary long before necessity compels them to it."

Mill's solution did not imply that we cease developing qualitatively. "A
stationary condition of capital and population," he insisted, "implies no
stationary state of human improvement." He understood that we might improve
the quality of life, even as we reduce our destruction of the Earth.

In the 1920s, as securities traders like Goldman-Sachs engineered a stock
bubble that resulted in a decade of mass poverty, Nobel laureate Frederick
Soddy proposed an economics rooted in physical reality. He pointed out that
a perpetually growing economy pursuing infinite wealth was doomed to fail.
Debt - an intangible claim on future wealth - could approach infinite size,
he noted, but real wealth had limits. This systemic flaw, said Soddy, would
result in financial scams, defaults, and crashes. His solution - 'Stop
creating money from nothing'.

In the 1960s and 1970s, others - Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Howard Odum,
Hazel Henderson, Donnella Meadows, Herman Daly - described realistic
economic models based on living systems, accounting for energy transfer and
physical limits. "Biology, not mechanics, is our Mecca," said
Georgescu-Roegen. Daly's 'Steady State Economics' described realistic
solutions that would allow for qualitative development without economic

Systemic, 'steady state', or 'biophysical' economic models recognise that
all growth in ecological systems eventually stops. The economic visionaries
offered realistic solutions, but their realism limited the accumulation of
phony 'wealth', so they were ignored or even mocked by conventional voices.

Plans B, C, D...
Our modern ecological crisis - global warming, species loss, water
shortages, soil depletion - are all symptoms of a larger problem: Human
overshoot. When a species overshoots its habitat, there are only two
results - (1) crash and perish, or (2). stabilise consumption and discover
ecological balance with the environment. Growing bigger is not a solution;
it's the problem.

Ecologists, environmentalists and planners have offered thousands of
solutions. Visionaries such as Jon Todd, Janine Benyus, and Wes Jackson have
shown how 'biomimicry' and ecological resource harvesting can create
genuinely sustainable systems. Benyus writes in Nature's Operating
Instructions: ". we are nature. . life's adaptations spell out a pattern
language for survival. . the hummingbird manages to pollinate its energy
source, ensuring that there will be nectar next year. .. These organisms
have had about 400 million years of R&D." Copying natural systems provides
real solutions, but it doesn't necessarily create billionaires.

Bill Rees at the University of British Columbia and Mathis Wackernagle with
Earth Council in Costa Rica developed the 'Ecological Footprint' analysis to
help nations, regions, and cities properly account for their consumption.
Rees concludes that humanity's resource consumption is now about 30 per cent
beyond the Earth's capacity to replenish. Typical cities require somewhere
between 300 and 3000 times their area to supply the resources they consume.

Rees has proposed real solutions that take advantage of dense urban
population: full accounting, urban and rural unification, public transport,
electricity co-generation, closed circuit industry, and reduced per capita
demand for materials and energy. In Linkoping, Sweden, the city powers its
industry and buildings by burning its waste, rather than creating landfills.

Richard Register's EcoCities proposals offer similar solutions. In Managing
without Growth, Peter Victor offers sound policies - shortened workweeks,
cap on resource extraction - to improve public welfare without consuming
more of the planet. Harvey Wasserman in Solartopia and Lester Brown in Plan
B (now in version 3.0), Jeffrey Sachs in Common Wealth, and hundreds of
other research papers, books and practical projects have outlined sensible
solutions to human overshoot. Most urban and regional plans, however, want
to grow their populations and consumption, the exact antithesis of genuine

A Good Solution
In 1980, farmer and author Wendell Berry wrote a short essay, Solving for
Pattern, which outlined the features of 'a good solution'. He showed that
many problems we face today are the consequences of previous 'solutions'
that failed to think beyond an isolated short-term gain. Toxic pollution,
dying rivers and nuclear waste provide examples. Other alleged solutions,
such as an arms race or a 'war on drugs', make the problems worse.

Berry demonstrated, using farming examples, how a good solution preserves
the 'integrity of pattern', improves balance and symmetry, and addresses the
health of the whole system rather than treats symptoms. All problems are
parts of a whole, and all systems are contained in larger systems. A good
solution maintains the integrity of the larger systems.

In this way, a good solution solves multiple problems and avoids 'magic
bullet' solutions that fail to account for their full impact. For example, a
nuclear 'solution' to an energy need creates new problems: radioactive fuel
transport, public health, waste, security, decommissioning, accidents,
insurance costs, evacuation plans, radiation exposure, and so forth. "In a
biological pattern," Berry writes, "the exploitive means and motives of
industrial economics are immediately destructive and ultimately suicidal." A
genuine solution does not pollute or destroy a watershed, for example, to
mine gold or generate power.

Real, integrated solutions tend to localise, accept limits and use resources
at hand. However, genuine solutions exist only in actual proof and cannot to
be expected from absentee owners and absentee experts. People who will
benefit from success or suffer the consequences of failure should guide
local solutions with real work that fits the scale of their communities, and
in a specific place, with local knowledge. A solution, says Berry, "should
not enrich one person by the distress or impoverishment of another." The
scale of a solution proves critical. Solutions that require massive,
expensive, imported infrastructure often cause more problems than they

Healthy, integrated solutions distinguish biophysical order from mechanical
order. A mechanistic plan often works 'on paper' by ignoring related
systems. In crafting solutions, consider wisdom, not just calculation. Well-
designed solutions maintain natural, organic pattern. Human communities
exist only within large-scale layers of organic systems, with natural cycles
and laws of material and energy exchange.

Systemic solutions satisfy multiple criteria and consider form as well as
function; they are healthy and pleasant to live around. Large-scale
industrial solutions have a history of addressing only one criteria -
profits for shareholders - without considering toxic waste, full energy
costs, habitat disruption, carbon emissions, or depressing work

Rather than 'going for broke' with a single large-scale plan that serves
business interests, good solutions consider many diverse, small-scale
applications that may scale up and down and prove out over time. Small-
scale solutions are easier to replace when something doesn't work as
planned, and easier to multiply when they do work well.

A good solution does not assume 'more is better'. The growth solutions that
do make this assumption destroy communities, families, cultures, and
environments. Large-scale centralised solutions allow wealth to be
concentrated but do not necessarily achieve optimum, systemic health. "The
illusion can be maintained," Berry points out, "only so long as the
consequences can be ignored." Thus, a series of village-scale power systems
that can be operated by village skills is more stable and more sustainable
than a massive corporate industrial power system with invasive environmental
disruption and long transmission lines that cut through wilderness

Human solutions do not endure without human input, energy, organisation,
maintenance and so forth. Wendell Barry points out that the integrity of
human artifacts depends on human virtues: accurate memory, rigorous
observation, insight, inventiveness, reverence, devotion, fidelity and
restraint. Here Berry emphasised 'restraint above all'. We must learn to
resist the temptation to 'solve' problems by accepting 'trade-offs' and
bequeathing those to posterity. A good solution, Barry wrote three decades
ago, is "in harmony with good character, cultural value, and moral law."

So yes - ecologists, farmers, environmentalists, workers and simple people
in common communities have all proffered thousands of realistic solutions.
Ecologists are not 'doom and gloom' pessimists. They are realists.

Integrated, healthy solutions may present opportunities for business, jobs,
and community enterprise, but since the human community has already overshot
the sustainable productive capacity of the planet, genuine ecological
solutions demand less consumption, not more. And since over a billion people
remain hungry and in need of water, and since our soils and forests are in
decline, the wealthy nations will have to share the Earth's resources. Less
consumption and sharing aren't going to make anyone fabulously wealthy, but
it may provide us with a viable future.

- Rex Weyler

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"The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that the
leaders have to courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but
have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and less

--Wendell Berry

Robert Scheer: Remembering the Real Deal, Ted took a Stand

Remembering the Real Deal

By Robert Scheer
Truthdig: August 25, 2009

The light has gone out, and with it that infectious warm laugh and intensely
progressive commitment of the best of the Kennedys. Not, at this point, to
take anything away from the memory of his siblings-Bobby, whom I also got to
know, was pretty terrific in his last years-but Senator Ted Kennedy was the
real deal.

Unable to move with his brothers' intellectual alacrity, sometimes plodding
in impromptu expression but smooth and skillful while reading from a script,
the youngest Kennedy made up for his shortcomings early in his Senate career
by resolutely working the substance of issues. His principled determination,
plus his capacity to truly care about the real-world outcomes of legislation
for ordinary people rather than its impact on his or anyone else's election,
became his signature qualities as a lawmaker. But for those same reasons, he
also wanted legislation passed, and his ability to work with the opposition,
as he did three years ago with John McCain on immigration reform, now grants
him a legacy as one of the nation's great senators.

Oddly enough, for one born into such immense familial expectations, he was a
surprisingly accessible and down-to-earth politician in the eyes of most
journalists who covered him. I think of him as always authentic and never
oily. As opposed to most politicians, the offstage Ted Kennedy was the more
appealing one.

Although he excelled as an orator, never more so than delivering the speech
that Bob Shrum crafted for him at the 1980 Democratic Convention but which
was informed by Kennedy's own deeply felt passion, it was in his less
choreographed moments that he was at his best. I spent quite a few hours
over the years interviewing him on subjects ranging from health care to
nuclear arms control, mostly as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and
while his grammar could be troubling, his sentiments never were.

Not once in those interviews did I find Kennedy to equivocate or slide into
the amoral triangulation that defines almost all successful politicians.
They position themselves, but he took positions, and as in the case of
health care reform, he would end his life fighting for those causes with his
last breath.

I would put Kennedy alongside my other hero, George McGovern, as the two
most trusted standard-bearers of the Democratic Party's too-often-sabotaged
liberalism. I just could never imagine either of them ever selling us out.
Indeed, I haven't felt quite so sad about the passing of a political leader
since the day when people started bawling all over the Bronx with the news
that FDR had died. In a political world dominated by bipartisan cynicism,
there are few touchstones of integrity for the common folk, and Kennedy was
one of them.

Lest I be accused of surrendering to the emotions of the moment, let me
quote from a column I wrote in January of 2008 when the Democratic
presidential primary battle hung in the balance:

"It should mean a great deal to progressives that in the race for the
Democratic presidential nomination Sen. Ted Kennedy favors Sen. Barack Obama
over two other colleagues he has worked with in the Senate. No one in the
history of that institution has been a more consistent and effective fighter
than Kennedy for an enlightened agenda, be it civil rights and liberty,
gender equality, labor and immigrant justice, environmental protection,
educational opportunity or opposing military adventures.

"Kennedy was a rare sane voice among the Democrats in strongly opposing the
Iraq war, and it is no small tribute when he states: `We know the record of
Barack Obama. There is the courage he showed when so many others were silent
or simply went along. From the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq. And
let no one deny that truth.'"

Hopefully, it will be added to Ted Kennedy's legacy that he was right about
Obama just as he was consistently right on every major issue that he dealt
with as a senator. Indeed, Kennedy's endorsement of Obama was critical to
our current president's historic nomination and election, and it is
therefore fitting that the favor of that all-important endorsement be
returned with a significant reform of the ailing U.S. health care system.

In the first year of the George W. Bush presidency, I wrote a column for the
Los Angeles Times entitled "Bush Could Really Use a Fireside Chat with FDR,"
stating, "This is a president who never learned that it is possible to be a
leader born of privilege and yet be absorbed with the fate of those in
need. . Not so Roosevelt, a true aristocrat whose genuine love of the common
man united this country to save it during its most severe time of economic
turmoil and devastating war." Kennedy wrote me a note thanking me for the
column and adding, "I can think of at least fifty on the Senate side of
Capital Hill that could benefit from a good fireside chat as well."

That's also a worthy epitaph for Ted Kennedy: Born of privilege, and yet
absorbed with the fate of those in need.


Editor's note: In honor of Sen. Ted Kennedy's passing, we're re-posting one
of his classic moral stands. This 2007 speech against the escalation of the
Iraq war was so good we had to give him an award.

Truthdig: Posted on Jan 12, 2007

This week Truthdig salutes Ted Kennedy for calling on Congress to honor the
will of the people and block the escalation of the Iraq war. While many in
Washington have stated their opposition to Bush's plan to send more troops
to Iraq, the senior senator from Massachusetts has actually acted on those
convictions-authoring a bill that would require congressional approval
before any more troops could be sent.

Kennedy has positioned himself as one of the most vocal opponents of
escalation, demanding that Congress exercise its constitutionally mandated
"power of the purse" to prevent this madness from going any further. Where
some have busied themselves searching for the right words, Kennedy has been
shouting from the rooftops.

We tip our hat to the senator for realizing this issue is about more than
triangulation and political gain-it's about human life and the balance of
power in our democracy.

Text of Kennedy's Senate floor speech on escalation:

Iraq is the overarching issue of our time. American lives, American
values, and America's role in the world is at stake.

As the November election made clear, the American people oppose this war,
and an even greater number oppose sending more troops to Iraq.

The American people are demanding a change in course in Iraq. Instead,
the president is accelerating the same failed course he has pursued for
nearly four years. He must understand that Congress will not endorse this

The president's decision to send more American troops into the cauldron of
civil war is not an acceptable strategy. It is against the advice of his
own generals, the Iraq Study Group, and the wishes of the American people,
and will only compound our original mistake in going to war in Iraq.

Just this morning, the secretary of state testified that the Iraqi
government "is ... on borrowed time." In fact, time is already up. The
Iraqi government needs to make the political compromises necessary to end
this civil war. The answer is not more troops, it's a political settlement.

The president talked about strengthening relations with Congress. He
should begin by seeking authority from Congress for any escalation of the

The mission of our armed forces today in Iraq no longer bears any
resemblance to the mission authorized by Congress in 2002. The Iraq War
Resolution authorized a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein because he
was believed to have weapons of mass destruction, an operational
relationship with Al Qaeda, and was in defiance of U.N. Security Council

Not one member of Congress would have voted in favor of the resolution if
they thought they were sending American troops into a civil war.

The president owes it to the American people to seek approval for this new
mission from Congress. Congress should no longer be a rubber stamp for the
president's failed strategy. We should insist on a policy that is worthy of
the sacrifice of our men and women in uniform.

President Bush has been making up his mind on Iraq ever since the
election. Before he escalates the war, the American people deserve a voice
in his decision.

He's the commander in chief, but he's still accountable to the people.
Our system of checks and balances gives Congress a key role in decisions of
war and peace.

We know an escalation of troops into this civil war won't work. We've
increased our military presence in the past, and each time, the violence has
increased and the political problems have persisted.

Despite what the president says, his own generals are on the record
opposing a surge in troops.

Last Nov. 15, 2006, General Abizaid was unequivocal that increasing our
troop commitment is not the answer. He said, "I've met with every
divisional commander, General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey-we
all talked together. And I said, 'In your professional opinion, if we were
to bring in more American troops now, does it add considerably to our
ability to achieve success in Iraq?' And they all said no."

On Dec. 29, General Casey said, "The longer we in the U.S. forces continue
to bear the main burden of Iraq's security, it lengthens the time that the
government of Iraq has to take the hard decisions about reconciliation and
dealing with the militias. ... They can continue to blame us for all of
problems, which are at base their problems."

Time and again, our leaders in Vietnam escalated our military presence,
and each new escalation of force led to the next. We escalated the war
instead of ending it. Like Vietnam, there is no military solution to Iraq.
The president is the last person in America to understand that.

We must not only speak against the surge in troops, we must act to prevent