Progressive Calendar 01.17.10
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Sun, 17 Jan 2010 13:28:45 -0800 (PST)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   01.17.10

1. Stillwater vigil 1.17 1pm
2. Amnesty Intl     1.17 3pm
3. MN model/health  1.17 3pm
4. MLK tribute      1.17 3pm

5. MLK day march    1.18 9:15am
6. Peace walk       1.l8 6pm RiverFalls WI
7. EXCO deadline    1.18

8. Russell Mokhiber  - Democrats going down in flames
9. Missy Beattie     - War dealer/ making the buck stop with Obama
10. Brent Budowsky   - If MA goes GOP that might not be a bad thing
11. Glenn Greenwald  - Obama confidant's spine-chilling proposal
12. Patrick Cockburn - Crushing Haiti, now as always
13. Bill Quigley     - Ten things the U.S. can and should do for Haiti
14. Tom Reeves       - Shock therapy? Haiti, where America never learns

--------1 of 14--------

From: scot b <earthmannow [at] comcast.net>
Subject: Stillwater vigil 1.17 1pm

A weekly Vigil for Peace Every Sunday, at the Stillwater bridge from 1- 2
p.m.  Come after Church or after brunch ! All are invited to join in song
and witness to the human desire for peace in our world. Signs need to be
positive.  Sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Peacemakers.

If you have a United Nations flag or a United States flag please bring it.
Be sure to dress for the weather . For more information go to
<http://www.stcroixvalleypeacemakers.com/>http://www.stcroixvalleypeacemakers.com/

For more information you could call 651 275 0247 or 651 999 - 9560


--------2 of 14--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at] bitstream.net>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 1.17 3pm

GROUP 37 MONTHLY MEETING: SUNDAY, JANUARY 17 - 3 TO 5 P.M.
Join us for our regular meeting on Sunday, January 17th, from 3:00 to 5:00
p.m.

Our program will feature a speaker discussing China and the human rights
situation there. In our remaining time, we will share actions on human
rights cases around the world and get updates on the work of our
sub-groups. All are welcome, and refreshments will be provided.

Location: Center for Victims of Torture, 717 E. River Rd. SE, Minneapolis
(corner of E. River Rd. and Oak St.). Park on street or in the small lot
behind the Center (the Center is a house set back on a large lawn).

A map and directions are available on-line:
http://www.twincitiesamnesty.org/meetings.html


--------3 of 14--------

From: "Of the People" <info [at] jamesmayer.org>
Subject: MN model/health 1.17 3pm

The Minnesota Model: Individual States Leading the Way to Single Payer
Health Care For All.
Join Amy Lange,Executive Director of the Minnesota Universal Health
CareCoalition and Host James Mayer on : Of the People

this Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 3PM AM950 KTNF or www.am950ktnf.com
[http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1102946688952&s=163&e=001HxhJm9pDcErFRIDbHfMxnBph8SbiOpvcjnLMOL6SNVzctjCkbyLb47CIItNoMNwhplK_5vyjLSIutQnFPR_b9dXA2FGEkHeyC2rQDWYDd_44Lp_PW816_w==]
Call-in number:  952-946-6250

This is an excellent opportunity to check in with Executive Director Amy
Lange about the progress, upcoming events and action to take on a state
level on the road to making true health care reform a reality for all of
us.  Our Call in Number is 952-946-6205

Below are some important items from MUHCC's January 10, 2010 E-Newsletter.
We hope you will join as an active participant in this movement. Join us
on Of the People with James Mayer this Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 3 p.m.
on AM950 KTNF or, if out of the broadcast area, stream us at
http://www.am950ktnf.com/listen
[http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1102946688952&s=163&e=001HxhJm9pDcEoyndqZtXgoEcJ_sGPzxptsGaQ3Z4-g3HpnPwKvC1rRSZwj2I5u_rROhhEGm6NsWb1bfaRJTJZPG7_5FMjJUDhtJd1v8ioMUogJ9T6vTMLrjnkYb_wXU-Rb].
Call-in number:  952-946-6250

THE CONGRESSIONAL PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS
STILL PUSHING FOR A BETTER BILL

The Congressional Progressive Caucus sent a letter on January 7th to
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) reiterating progressive demands
for the conference committee bill.  In it they reaffirm their commitment
to a public option, state single-payer, abolishing the insurance industry
anti-trust exemption and the House affordability standards. Go
Congressional Progressive Caucus!. Read the letter here
[http://rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1102946688952&s=163&e=001HxhJm9pDcEpUnL2fxPszvGiV2koWgzVzuuLAl4cmhIgFl503Nx-CJCtKZPAdiN_7HbiJhYhntWIPv9lUh99CsWx1FO1rR_K6OFxhWRS5qV1kSDMmWqSMM7pKe1qchBu99GqvQa8snWheoYf2Vj66M6EMOH_c8sM3QMltc9KGP6jm5qNc5tGBidc1S9eYQHZ6oGNdgwzcuWy4
jYGFCIIsfbZ_Xf_XcZDq8Obp7cGfkq3MoZU5qATqBjq2k45gvGoz3YWDAymypyGRh4wtVWMtWpsDr2mQK4gCfbRzI0Corqrm6kG-TRwCpEhPdqqSCRS5wfYqH6bO4DQbSCYZWZJhISSgwlIbM_-zOTdVkiOmBcJg-6i4Qd60uwMaSYcfDYqQPdibFOM6123kJY30gewJEetK1z0n_y2lKerf9JsP0iB5JjZP69IDFrO-G1LXSllDudExPnqgglu
5Hsg6dNRFYkpwfkM9bBdDAq-OTSBKnATh2tvWrPk7101nHdQFBbM6VYpwsCqXeq-XjFi-FfMuf2ALTWkTgma3RjN2uPb7cmL4LtdOI3qGOQ==].

PRECINCT CAUCUSES AROUND THE CORNER-
SUPPORT THE MINNESOTA HEALTH PLAN
Make sure single-payer health care and the Minnesota Health Plan are defining 
issues
in the election. Attend your precinct caucus Tuesday February 2nd, 2010. 
Introduce
our single-payer resolution, and distribute it to your friends, neighbors and 
colleagues.
Run to be a single-payer, delegate (candidate, undeclared).

RESOLUTION IN SUPPORT OF a universal, single-payer health care system ON
THE FEDERAL and STATE LEVEL

Whereas, lack of health insurance is a cause of 45,000 deaths per year in
the U.S and

Whereas, 62% of personal bankruptcies are due to medical expenses and over
75% of these people have health insurance and

Whereas, Over 47 million people in this country lack health insurance,
millions more are under-insured, over 450,000 Minnesotans lack insurance
coverage and minorities are disproportionately likely to be without
insurance and

Whereas, Federal reforms will not achieve universal coverage nor
adequately control costs and will perpetuate a fragmented and inequitable
health care system and

Whereas, a single payer system is the only system of health care that can
assure universal and equitable coverage, portability and choice of
provider, while also controlling costs

Be it resolved that the (political party)  supports and works to enact a
universal, single-payer health care plan on the federal level and the
single-payer Minnesota Health Act at the state level. Contact single-payer
supporters about precinct caucuses- Phonebank at MUHCC January 14th and
/or January 28th. Sign-up here!


--------4 of 14--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: MLK tribute 1.17 3pm

Tribute Service to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sunday, January 17, 3:00 p.m. Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 840 East Sixth
Street, St. Paul. Reading of Dr. King's April 4, 1967 speech at Riverside
Church New York by Molly Culligan. Music, testimonials, refreshments.
Endorsed by:WAMM.


--------5 of 14--------

From: Amber Garlan <agarlan [at] hammclinic.org>
Subject: MLK day march 1.18 9:15am

The Martin Luther King Day march will be at:
Central High School
275 Lexington Pkwy N
St. Paul, MN 55104
Meet at 9:15 at the auditorium doors.  We should carry the MLK health care
banner that says "Of all the forms of injustice, inequality in healthcare
is the most shocking and inhumane"


--------6 of 14--------

From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at] comcast.net>
Subject: Peace walk 1.l8 6pm RiverFalls WI

River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on
the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from
"Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact:
d.n.holden [at] comcast.net. Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls,
Wisconsin 54022


--------7 of 14--------

From: EXCO <excotc [at] gmail.com>
Subject: EXCO deadline 1.18

Spring class applications due January 18

Every Exco session brings something new! Share your expertise or explore
new ideas by creating your own Exco class this spring. Apply online at
http://www.excotc.org/create_class. Exco has also started the creation of
community workshops. Workshops are akin to classes, but are usually
one-time events that people can RSVP to. Workshops must be free, open, and
educational in nature -- and anyone can create them. Check it out!
http://www.excotc.org/workshops


--------8 of 14--------

Martha Coakley's Corporate Connections
Democrats Going Down in Flames
By RUSSELL MOKHIBER
CounterPunch
January 15-17, 2010

Martha Coakley is going down in flames.

So is the Democratic Party.

Why?

We found the answer earlier this week at - of all places - The Cato
Institute in Washington, D.C.

Timothy Carney was giving a powerpoint presentation about his new book:
Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall
Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses.

Here's the book in a nutshell:

"Both parties are the parties of big business," Carney said. "They both
promote corporate socialism".

I sat there in the front row at Cato, in wonder.

Listening to the talk - as Carney outlined how Obama had cut deals with
Billy Tauzin and the pharmaceutical industry.

Thinking to myself - is this why Martha Coakley is having such a hard time
in Massachusetts?

She's just another corporate Dem - just like Obama?

Then, lo and behold, as if I was channeling Carney, he calls up a slide on
his powerpoint.

On the big screen at Cato is an invitation to a corporate fundraiser -
that night at the Sonoma Restaurant on Capitol Hill - for Coakley.

And I say to myself - wait a second.

Coakley is in the middle of a tight race and she's flying to DC one week
before the election to be with a group of corporate lobbyists?

Yes.

She is.

And then Carney went down the list of 22 members of the host committees -
meaning they each raised $10,000 or more for Coakley.

"Seventeen are federally registered lobbyists, 15 of whom have health-care
clients," Carney said.

"You see the names - Gerald Cassidy, David Castagnetti,, Tommy Boggs -
those are all lobbyists I've highlighted there who have clients who are
drug companies, health insurers, hospitals or all three," Carney said.
"AHIP, Phrma, Pfizer, Blue Cross - everybody is covered there. Aetna
somehow isn't. I don't know how they got left out".

"These are the special interests," Carney said. "These are the people
trying to elect Martha Coakley to be vote number 60 for health insurance".

Carney then puts up a slide showing how the Phrma cash went from
supporting Republican candidates for President in the past - to supporting
Barack Obama in 2008.

"Barack Obama raised $2.1 million from drug companies in 2008," Carney
said. "That's about equal to what John McCain raised plus what George Bush
raised in both of his elections. It's the most by far any candidate has
raised from the drug industry".

The people of Massachusetts already have tried a corporate reform that
forces them to buy junk insurance.

They don't like it.

They're waiting for a candidate that will deliver a message they've been
waiting to hear.

Single payer.

Everybody in.

Nobody out.

Put the private insurance companies out of business.

Drive down the cost of drugs to the levels of say Canada or the UK.

But Obama, Coakley and the Democrats are awash in corporate cash.

They have made their choice.

And they deserve to lose. [Amen. -ed]

Onward to single payer.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of Single Payer Action.

[When I'm all alone at home I swear-gesture and chant "Lose you bastards
lose lose lose!" Permanent loss of seats couldn't happen to worthier
people. This is where decades of lesser-evil have gotten us. -ed]


--------9 of 14--------

Making the Buck Stop with Obama
War Dealer
By MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE
CounterPunch
January 15-17, 2010

Barack Obama's aides assert that the president wants to be the anti-Bush
and that's why, after the bomb-in-the-briefs incident, he said, "The buck
stops with me". This would be a departure from W whose eight years were
marked by no apologies. Bush did, however, finally say he regretted
standing in front of a "Mission Impossible" sign in 2003. Note his glaring
parapraxia. The sign, in fact, was emblazoned "Mission Accomplished".

It's one thing though for Obama to express remorse and another to act on
this compunction. Especially when one year after his swearing in, he has
kept the campaign promise we in the peace movement hoped he'd
denounce - continuing and escalating what he calls the "right war" in
Afghanistan.

Seems there's a statute of limitations on most pledges advanced on the
campaign trail.

According to Wikipedia, passing the buck probably had its origin with the
game of poker during frontier days. A knife with a buckhorn handle was
used to indicate who dealt the cards. If a player didn't want to deal, he
could pass the knife to the next person.

Most of us know that President Harry Truman famously said, "The buck stops
here". A sign of the phrase, on his desk in the Oval Office, was a
reminder that he would accept the consequences of his decisions. One
wonders if he ever came to regret the choice resulting in his comment
quoted in the August 7, 1945 edition of The New York Times: "We have spent
two billion dollars on the greatest scientific gamble in history and won".

Truman's "scientific gamble" killed more than 200,000 people in Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. Most died from flash burns, but in the following months,
many people suffered agonizing deaths from radiation sickness. Years
later, there were more deaths from leukemia and other cancers related to
irradiation. In both cities, most of the casualties were civilians.

Try as he may to convince us that he's the anti-Bush, Obama's failing. And
he's succeeding in being pro-Truman. In less than a year, the president
has carried out more than 50 Predator strikes against terrorists - clear
violations of international law, because drone attacks almost always
incinerate more civilians than the intended targets.

Obama is spending billions, while asking Congress for even more, on what
has become his gamble, one that George Bush initiated, but that he, Obama,
is expanding. Experts say The Project for the New American Century ended
in 2006. Certainly, it has been resurrected under a new administration.

In June of 2009, the president spoke in Cairo:

I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and
Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual
respect and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not
exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap and share
common principles - principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the
dignity of all human beings.

Yet, it is not justice and progress, tolerance and dignity that we're
extending but, instead, our violence that is overlapping explosively in
five predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia,
and Yemen. And we send billions to Israel in support of the genocide of
Palestinians.

"The buck stops with me".

"The buck stops here".

It's not enough to merely say you accept the results of your decisions, to
own that a "system failure" occurred on your watch. The very framework of
the system must be examined, this imperialist/Zionist/racist foreign
policy that breeds terrorists. Invasions and occupations, torture, and
disregard for life are all choices, crimes against humanity.

If the buck truly stops with Obama, he'd be unable to sleep. The carnage
his decisions are yielding would induce incapacitating insomnia. But
that's assuming war dealers have consciences.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She's written for National Public
Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush
Administration and the war in Iraq, she's a member of Gold Star Families
for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her
nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,'05, she
has been writing political articles. She can be reached at:
Missybeat [at] aol.com


--------10 of 14--------

If Massachusetts Goes Republican, All Hell Breaks Loose with Healthcare!
And that might not be a bad thing
by Brent Budowsky
Published on Friday, January 15, 2010 by The Hill

Having worked for the House Democratic leadership and senior Democratic
senators, being a serious vote-counter with an occasional dose of Niccolo
Machiavelli, I ask: What happens if the Republicans win the Senate in
Massachusetts, and might it have the ironic result of reviving the public
option and other progressive policies? Here is a scenario I advise senior
Democrats to consider, if the Republicans win the Massachusetts Senate
race:

1. Obviously, Democrats don.t have the 60 votes.

2. The president's first inclination will be to persuade Sen. Olympia
Snowe (R-Maine). But I do not believe this can be achieved, which would
require moving the Senate bill that she opposed even further to the right
and toward the special interests, without losing more liberal members than
the market can bear.

If we assume the hypothetical premise that Massachusetts goes Republican,
the political and psychological damage to Democratic morale will itself
lose a few votes regardless of the 60-vote issue. Even most Democrats can
be surrendered-out, and I predict any Snowe scenario fails.

3. Which leaves reconciliation, the strategy of passing key progressive
positions with a majority vote. This eliminates the need to turn the bill
into an eBay auction with payoffs and surrenders to the handful of
senators needed to get to 60. They are no longer needed. The giveaways are
taken back. The surrenders are canceled. The Democrats will have the 51
votes for a far better and more popular bill.

The public option lives again. The Dorgan amendment survives, allowing
import of safe lower-priced Canadian drugs that will save the budget $100
billion. The bill can make insurance price-fixing, price-gouging and
collusion illegal after all! We can ban discrimination on pre-existing
conditions in a way that bans price-gouging against those who get this
insurance.

Various provisions can be passed through the regular bill limited to
highly popular provisions. Other provisions can be passed through the
reconciliation process by majority vote. The drug import and antitrust
price-fixing provisions both have significant Republican support, and more
than 60 votes in the Senate, no matter what vehicle pushes them through.

Using this Plan B, the bill becomes far better, far more progressive and
far more popular than the pending bill.

Note: The option of delaying the seating of an elected senator to force
through a House- Senate agreement is politically untenable and would be
disastrous in the current context.

The president has lost popularity and is on the defensive. The bill itself
is unpopular. The Democrats are on the defensive (made worse with the
Dorgan shocker). A significant number of Democratic seats are in jeopardy.
It would be a gift to Republicans to let them go to into the 2010
elections charging abusive tactics by a Democratic Congress, for an
unpopular bill that endangers a number of House and Senate Democrats in
the elections.

Conclusion: If we view this in the alternate universe of Massachusetts
going Republican, reconciliation becomes a far more attractive legislative
option. Especially if through the reconciliation process we can revive
several highly popular provisions in election year, with a far better
bill. My view is a distinct minority today, and I hope the Democrats keep
the Massachusetts seat. But if we lose the 60th vote, the choice will be
getting Snowe, reconciliation or losing the vote.

If Niccolo Machiavelli were here, he would want to turn a distressing
debacle into a new opportunity. Many in this town should be aware: Watch
what you ask for, you may get it.
 2010 The Hill
Brent Budowsky contributes regular political commentary to The Hill.


--------11 of 14--------

Obama Confidant's Spine-Chilling Proposal
by Glenn Greenwald
Published on Friday, January 15, 2010 by Salon.com

Cass Sunstein has long been one of Barack Obama's closest confidants.
Often mentioned as a likely Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, Sunstein
is currently Obama's head of the Office of Information and Regulatory
Affairs where, among other things, he is responsible for "overseeing
policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical
programs."  In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a
truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of
covert agents and pseudo-"independent" advocates to "cognitively
infiltrate" online groups and websites - as well as other activist groups
- which advocate views that Sunstein deems "false conspiracy theories"
about the Government.  This would be designed to increase citizens' faith
in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists.

Sunstein advocates that the Government's stealth infiltration should be
accomplished by sending covert agents into "chat rooms, online social
networks, or even real-space groups."  He also proposes that the
Government make secret payments to so-called "independent" credible voices
to bolster the Government's messaging (on the ground that those who don't
believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who
appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government).
This program would target those advocating false "conspiracy theories,"
which they define to mean: "an attempt to explain an event or practice by
reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to
conceal their role."  Sunstein's 2008 paper was flagged by this blogger,
and then amplified in an excellent report by Raw Story's Daniel Tencer.

There's no evidence that the Obama administration has actually implemented
a program exactly of the type advocated by Sunstein, though in light of
this paper and the fact that Sunstein's position would include exactly
such policies, that question certainly ought to be asked.  Regardless,
Sunstein's closeness to the President, as well as the highly influential
position he occupies, merits an examination of the mentality behind what
he wrote.  This isn't an instance where some government official wrote a
bizarre paper in college 30 years ago about matters unrelated to his
official powers; this was written 18 months ago, at a time when the
ascendancy of Sunstein's close friend to the Presidency looked likely, in
exactly the area he now oversees.  Additionally, the government-controlled
messaging that Sunstein desires has been a prominent feature of U.S.
Government actions over the last decade, including in some recently
revealed practices of the current administration, and the mindset in which
it is grounded explains a great deal about our political class.  All of
that makes Sunstein's paper worth examining in greater detail.

Initially, note how similar Sunstein's proposal is to multiple,
controversial stealth efforts by the Bush administration to secretly
influence and shape our political debates.  The Bush Pentagon employed
teams of former Generals to pose as "independent analysts" in the media
while secretly coordinating their talking points and messaging about wars
and detention policies with the Pentagon.  Bush officials secretly paid
supposedly "independent" voices, such as Armstrong Williams and Maggie
Gallagher, to advocate pro-Bush policies while failing to disclose their
contracts.  In Iraq, the Bush Pentagon hired a company, Lincoln Park,
which paid newspapers to plant pro-U.S. articles while pretending it came
from Iraqi citizens.  In response to all of this, Democrats typically
accused the Bush administration of engaging in government-sponsored
propaganda - and when it was done domestically, suggested this was
illegal propaganda.  Indeed, there is a very strong case to make that what
Sunstein is advocating is itself illegal under long-standing statutes
prohibiting government "propaganda" within the U.S., aimed at American
citizens:

As explained in a March 21, 2005 report by the Congressional Research
Service, "publicity or propaganda" is defined by the U.S. Government
Accountability Office (GAO) to mean either (1) self-aggrandizement by
public officials, (2) purely partisan activity, or (3) "covert
propaganda."  By covert propaganda, GAO means information which originates
from the government but is unattributed and made to appear as though it
came from a third party.

Covert government propaganda is exactly what Sunstein craves.  His
mentality is indistinguishable from the Bush mindset that led to these
abuses, and he hardly tries to claim otherwise.  Indeed, he favorably
cites both the covert Lincoln Park program as well as Paul Bremer's
closing of Iraqi newspapers which published stories the U.S. Government
disliked, and justifies them as arguably necessary to combat "false
conspiracy theories" in Iraq - the same goal Sunstein has for the U.S.

Sunstein's response to these criticisms is easy to find in what he writes,
and is as telling as the proposal itself.  He acknowledges that some
"conspiracy theories" previously dismissed as insane and fringe have
turned out to be entirely true (his examples:  the CIA really did secretly
administer LSD in "mind control" experiments; the DOD really did plot the
commission of terrorist acts inside the U.S. with the intent to blame
Castro; the Nixon White House really did bug the DNC headquarters).
Given that history, how could it possibly be justified for the U.S.
Government to institute covert programs designed to undermine
anti-government "conspiracy theories," discredit government critics, and
increase faith and trust in government pronouncements?  Because, says
Sunstein, such powers are warranted only when wielded by truly
well-intentioned government officials who want to spread The Truth and Do
Good - i.e., when used by people like Cass Sunstein and Barack Obama:

Throughout, we assume a well-motivated government that aims to eliminate
conspiracy theories, or draw their poison, if and only if social welfare
is improved by doing so.

But it's precisely because the Government is so often not "well-motivated"
that such powers are so dangerous.  Advocating them on the ground that "we
will use them well" is every authoritarian's claim.  More than anything
else, this is the toxic mentality that consumes our political culture:
when our side does X, X is Good, because we're Good and are working for
Good outcomes.  That was what led hordes of Bush followers to endorse the
same large-government surveillance programs they long claimed to oppose,
and what leads so many Obama supporters now to justify actions that they
spent the last eight years opposing.

Consider the recent revelation that the Obama administration has been
making very large, undisclosed payments to MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber
to provide consultation on the President's health care plan.  With this
lucrative arrangement in place, Gruber spent the entire year offering
public justifications for Obama's health care plan, typically without
disclosing these payments, and far worse, was repeatedly held out by the
White House - falsely - as an "independent" or "objective" authority.
Obama allies in the media constantly cited Gruber's analysis to support
their defenses of the President's plan, and the White House, in turn, then
cited those media reports as proof that their plan would succeed.  This
created an infinite "feedback loop" in favor of Obama's health care plan
which - unbeknownst to the public - was all being generated by someone who
was receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret from the
administration (read this to see exactly how it worked).

In other words, this arrangement was quite similar to the Armstrong
Williams and Maggie Gallagher scandals which Democrats, in virtual
lockstep, condemned.  Paul Krugman, for instance, in 2005 angrily
lambasted right-wing pundits and policy analysts who received secret,
undisclosed payments, and said they lack "intellectual integrity"; he
specifically cited the Armstrong Williams case.  Yet the very same Paul
Krugman last week attacked Marcy Wheeler for helping to uncover the Gruber
payments by accusing her of being "just like the right-wingers with their
endless supply of fake scandals."  What is one key difference?  Unlike
Williams and Gallagher, Jonathan Gruber is a Good, Well-Intentioned Person
with Good Views - he favors health care - and so massive, undisclosed
payments from the same administration he's defending are dismissed as a
"fake scandal."

Sunstein himself - as part of his 2008 paper - explicitly advocates that
the Government should pay what he calls "credible independent experts" to
advocate on the Government's behalf, a policy he says would be more
effective because people don't trust the Government itself and would only
listen to people they believe are "independent."  In so arguing, Sunstein
cites the Armstrong Williams scandal not as something that is wrong in
itself, but as a potential risk of this tactic (i.e., that it might leak
out), and thus suggests that "government can supply these independent
experts with information and perhaps prod them into action from behind the
scenes," but warns that "too close a connection will be self-defeating if
it is exposed."  In other words, Sunstein wants the Government to
replicate the Armstrong Williams arrangement as a means of more credibly
disseminating propaganda - i.e., pretending that someone is an
"independent" expert when they're actually being "prodded" and even paid
"behind the scenes" by the Government - but he wants to be more careful
about how the arrangement is described (don't make the control explicit)
so that embarrassment can be avoided if it ends up being exposed.

In this 2008 paper, then, Sunstein advocated, in essence, exactly what the
Obama administration has been doing all year with Gruber:  covertly paying
people who can be falsely held up as "independent" analysts in order to
more credibly promote the Government line.  Most Democrats agreed this was
a deceitful and dangerous act when Bush did it, but with Obama and some of
his supporters, undisclosed arrangements of this sort seem to be
different.  Why?  Because, as Sunstein puts it:  we have "a well-motivated
government" doing this so that "social welfare is improved."  Thus, just
like state secrets, indefinite detention, military commissions and covert,
unauthorized wars, what was once deemed so pernicious during the Bush
years - coordinated government/media propaganda - is instantaneously
transformed into something Good.

What is most odious and revealing about Sunstein's worldview is his
condescending, self-loving belief that "false conspiracy theories" are
largely the province of fringe, ignorant Internet masses and the Muslim
world.  That, he claims, is where these conspiracy theories thrive most
vibrantly, and he focuses on various 9/11 theories - both domestically and
in Muslim countries - as his prime example.

It's certainly true that one can easily find irrational conspiracy
theories in those venues, but some of the most destructive "false
conspiracy theories" have emanated from the very entity Sunstein wants to
endow with covert propaganda power:  namely, the U.S. Government itself,
along with its elite media defenders. Moreover, "crazy conspiracy
theorist" has long been the favorite epithet of those same parties to
discredit people trying to expose elite wrongdoing and corruption.

Who is it who relentlessly spread "false conspiracy theories" of
Saddam-engineered anthrax attacks and Iraq-created mushroom clouds and a
Ba'athist/Al-Qaeda alliance - the most destructive conspiracy theories of
the last generation?  And who is it who demonized as "conspiracy-mongers"
people who warned that the U.S. Government was illegally spying on its
citizens, systematically torturing people, attempting to establish
permanent bases in the Middle East, or engineering massive bailout plans
to transfer extreme wealth to the industries which own the Government? The
most chronic and dangerous purveyors of "conspiracy theory" games are the
very people Sunstein thinks should be empowered to control our political
debates through deceit and government resources:  namely, the Government
itself and the Enlightened Elite like him.

It is this history of government deceit and wrongdoing that renders
Sunstein's desire to use covert propaganda to "undermine" anti-government
speech so repugnant.  The reason conspiracy theories resonate so much is
precisely that people have learned - rationally - to distrust government
actions and statements.  Sunstein's proposed covert propaganda scheme is a
perfect illustration of why that is.  In other words, people don't trust
the Government and "conspiracy theories" are so pervasive is precisely
because government is typically filled with people like Cass Sunstein, who
think that systematic deceit and government-sponsored manipulation are
justified by their own Goodness and Superior Wisdom.

UPDATE:  I don't want to make this primarily about the Gruber scandal - I
cited that only as an example of the type of mischief that this mindset
produces - but just to respond quickly to the typical Gruber defenses
already appearing in comments:  (1) Gruber's work was only for HHS and had
nothing to do with the White House (false); (2) he should have disclosed
his payments, but the White House did nothing wrong (false: it repeatedly
described him as "independent" and "objective" and constantly cited allied
media stories based in Gruber's work); (3) Gruber advocated views he would
have advocated anyway in the absence of payment (probably true, but wasn't
that also true for life-long conservative Armstrong Williams, life-long
social conservative Maggie Gallagher, and the pro-war Pentagon Generals,
all of whom mounted the same defense?); and (4) Williams/Gallagher were
explicitly paid to advocate particular views while Gruber wasn't (true:
that's exactly the arrangement Sunstein advocates to avoid "embarrassment"
in the event of disclosure, and it's absurd to suggest that someone being
paid many hundreds of thousands of dollars is unaware of what their
paymasters want said; that's why disclosure is so imperative).

The point is that there are severe dangers to the Government covertly
using its resources to "infiltrate" discussions and to shape political
debates using undisclosed and manipulative means.  It's called "covert
propaganda" and it should be opposed regardless of who is in control of it
or what its policy aims are.

UPDATE II:  Ironically, this is the same administration that recently
announced a new regulation dictating that "bloggers who review products
must disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most cases,
the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way
by advertisers, as occurs frequently."  Without such disclosure, the
administration reasoned, the public may not be aware of important hidden
incentives (h/t pasquin).  Yet the same administration pays an MIT analyst
hundreds of thousands of dollars to advocate their most controversial
proposed program while they hold him out as "objective," and selects as
their Chief Regulator someone who wants government agents to covertly mold
political discussions "anonymously or even with false identities."

UPDATE III:  Just to get a sense for what an extremist Cass Sunstein is
(which itself is ironic, given that his paper calls for "cognitive
infiltration of extremist groups," as the Abstract puts it), marvel at
this paragraph:

So Sunstein isn't calling right now for proposals (1) and (2) - having
Government "ban conspiracy theorizing" or "impose some kind of tax on
those who" do it - but he says "each will have a place under imaginable
conditions."  I'd love to know the "conditions" under which the
government-enforced banning of conspiracy theories or the imposition of
taxes on those who advocate them will "have a place."  Anyone who believes
this should, for that reason alone, be barred from any meaningful
government position.

 2010 Salon.com
Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights
litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling
book "How Would a Patriot Act?," a critique of the Bush administration's
use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, "A Tragic
Legacy", examines the Bush legacy.


--------12 of 14--------

When Haitian Ministers Take a 50 Percent Cut of Aide Money It's Called
"Corruption," When NGOs Skim 50 Percent It's Called "Overhead"
Crushing Haiti, Now as Always
By PATRICK COCKBURN
CounterPunch
January 15-17, 2010

The US-run aid effort for Haiti is beginning to look chillingly similar to
the criminally slow and disorganized US government support for New Orleans
after it was devastated by hurricane Katrina in 2005. Four years ago
President Bush was famously mute and detached when the levies broke in
Louisiana. By way of contrast President Obama was promising Haitians that
everything would be done for survivors within hours of the calamity.

The rhetoric from Washington has been very different during these two
disasters, but the outcome may be much the same. In both cases very little
aid arrived at the time it was most needed and, in the case of
Port-au-Prince, when people trapped under collapsed buildings were still
alive. When foreign rescue teams with heavy lifting gear does come it will
be too late. No wonder enraged Haitians are building roadblocks out of
rocks and dead bodies.

In New Orleans and Port-au-Prince there is the same official terror of
looting by local people so the first outside help to arrive is in the
shape of armed troops. The US currently has 3,500 soldiers, 2,200 Marines
and 300 medical personnel on their way to Haiti.

Of course there will be looting because, with shops closed or flattened by
the quake, this is the only way for people can get food and water. Haiti
is one of the poorest countries in the world. I was in Port-au-Prince in
1994, the last time US troops landed there, when local people
systematically tore apart police stations, taking wood, pipes and even
ripping nails out of the walls. In the police station I was in there were
sudden cries of alarm from those looting the top floor as they discovered
that they could not get back down to the ground because the entire wooden
staircase had been chopped up and stolen.

I have always liked Haitians for their courage, endurance, dignity and
originality. They often manage to avoid despair in the face of the most
crushing disasters or the absence of  any prospect that their lives will
get better. Their culture, notably their painting and music, is among the
most interesting and vibrant in the world.

It is sad to hear journalists who have rushed to Haiti in the wake of the
earthquake give such misleading and even racist explanations of why
Haitians are so impoverished, living in shanty towns with a minimal health
service, little electricity supply, insufficient clean water and roads
that are like river beds.

This did not happen by accident. In the 19th century it was as if the
colonial powers never forgave Haitians for staging a successful slave
revolt against the French plantation owners. US Marines occupied the
country from 1915 to 1934. Between 1957 and 1986 the US supported Papa Doc
and Baby Doc, fearful that they might be replaced by a regime sympathetic
to revolutionary Cuba next door.

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, a charismatic populist priest was
overthrown by a military coup in 1991, and restored with US help in 1994.
But the Americans were always suspicious of any sign of radicalism from
this spokesman for the poor and the outcast and kept him on a tight leash.
Tolerated by President Clinton, Aristide was treated as a pariah by the
Bush administration which systematically undermine him over three years
leading up to a successful rebellion in 2004 led by local gangsters acting
on behalf of a kleptocratic Haitian elite and supported by right wing
members of the Republican Party in the US.

So much of the criticism of President Bush has focused on his wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq that his equally culpable actions in Haiti never
attracted condemnation. But if the country is a failed state today, partly
run by the UN, in so far as it is run by anybody, then American actions
over the years have a lot to do with it.

Haitians are now paying the price for this feeble and corrupt government
structure because there is nobody to coordinate the most rudimentary
relief and rescue efforts. Its weakness is exacerbated because aid has
been funneled through foreign NGOs. A justification for this is that less
of the money is likely to be stolen, but this does not mean that much of
it reaches the Haitian poor. A sour Haitian joke says that when a Haitian
minister skims 15 per cent of aid money it is called "corruption" and when
an NGO or aid agency takes 50 per cent it is called "overhead".

Many of the smaller government aid programs and NGOs are run by able,
energetic and selfless people, but others, often the larger ones, are
little more than rackets, highly remunerative for those who run them. In
Kabul and Baghdad it is astonishing how little the costly endeavors of
American aid agencies have accomplished. "The wastage of aid is sky-high,"
said a former World Bank director in Afghanistan. "There is real looting
going on, mostly by private enterprises. It is a scandal". Foreign
consultants in Kabul often receive $250,000 to $500,000 a year, in a
country where 43 per cent of the population try to live on less than a
dollar a day.

None of this bodes very well for Haitians hoping for relief in the short
term or a better life in the long one. The only way this will really
happen if the Haitians have a functioning and legitimate state capable of
providing for the needs of its people. The US military, the UN bureaucracy
or foreign NGOs are never going to do this in Haiti or anywhere else.

There is nothing very new in this. Americans often ask why it is that
their occupation of Germany and Japan in 1945 succeeded so well but more
than half a century later in Iraq and Afghanistan was so disastrous. The
answer is that it was not the US but the efficient German and Japanese
state machines which restored their countries. Where that machine was
weak, as in Italy, the US occupation relied with disastrous results on
corrupt and incompetent local elites, much as they do today in Iraq,
Afghanistan and Haiti.

Patrick Cockburn is the Ihe author of "Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia
Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq."


--------13 of 14--------

Give Haiti Grants as Help, Not Crippling Loans
Ten Things the U.S. Can and Should Do For Haiti
By BILL QUIGLEY
CounterPunch
January 15-17, 2010

One.  Allow all Haitians in the US to work.  The number one source of
money for poor people in Haiti is the money sent from family and workers
in the US back home.  Haitians will continue to help themselves if given a
chance.  Haitians in the US will continue to help when the world community
moves on to other problems.

Two.  Do not allow US military in Haiti to point their guns at Haitians.
Hungry Haitians are not the enemy.  Decisions have already been made which
will militarize the humanitarian relief - but do not allow the victims to
be cast as criminals.  Do not demonize the people.

Three.  Give Haiti grants as help, not loans.  Haiti does not need any
more debt.  Make sure that the relief given helps Haiti rebuild its public
sector so the country can provide its own citizens with basic public
services.

Four.  Prioritize humanitarian aid to help women, children and the
elderly.  They are always moved to the back of the line.  If they are
moved to the back of the line, start at the back.

Five.  President Obama can enact Temporary Protected Status for Haitians
with the stroke of a pen.  Do it.  The US has already done it for El
Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Sudan and Somalia.  President Obama should
do it on Martin Luther King Day.

Six.    Respect Human Rights from Day One.  The UN has enacted Guiding
Principles for Internally Displaced People.  Make them required reading
for every official and non-governmental person and organization.  Non
governmental organizations like charities and international aid groups are
extremely powerful in Haiti - they too must respect the human dignity and
human rights of all people.

Seven.  Apologize to the Haitian people everywhere for Pat Roberts and
Rush Limbaugh.

Eight.  Release all Haitians in US jails who are not accused of any
crimes.  Thirty thousand people are facing deportations.  No one will be
deported to Haiti for years to come.  Release them on Martin Luther King
day.

Nine.  Require that all the non-governmental organizations which raise
money in the US be transparent about what they raise, where the money
goes, and insist that they be legally accountable to the people of Haiti.

Ten.  Treat all Haitians as we ourselves would want to be treated.

Bill Quigley is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and
a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He is a Katrina survivor
and has been active in human rights in Haiti for years with the Institute
for Justice and Democracy in Haiti. He can be reached at:
duprestars [at] yahoo.com.


--------14 of 14--------

Shock Therapy?
Haiti, Where America Never Learns
By TOM REEVES
Weekend Edition
January 15-17, 2010

In April 2004, my CounterPunch article, Haiti: An American Learning Zone,
chronicled all the failures of U.S. policy in Haiti at that time, which
those of us who regularly visited Haiti believed doomed Haitians to remain
the worlds poorest people, subject to devastation at the whim of weather
or geology.   Among these failures was the U.S. emphasis on aid for urban
jobs, rather than for sustainable agriculture.   This meant continued
support for the sweat shops of garment industries that had long been
virtual slave factories, with a minimum wage of less than $2 a day.   It
meant a focus on a Haitian economy linked to the world free market of big
multinationals, rather than on regional markets (multilateral and
Caribbean) and local, self-sustaining markets.  Taken together, U.S. and
international economic policies were touted as neoliberalism and urged on
Haiti by the World Bank and via U.S. AID policies that hooked Haitians on
cheap U.S. rice and other products, undermining locally-produced Haitian
rice and casava, among other foodstuffs.  From a self-reliant agriculture,
Haiti was rebuilt as a profitable neoimperial outpost.

Meanwhile, the U.S. totally ignored the sound advice of the international
Haiti solidarity movement - including groups like Oxfam, Partners in
Health and Amnesty International. These groups insisted that Haitian
democracy could only thrive if a vibrant and locally-controlled Haitian
economy thrived - with deference to the countrys huge peasant movements.
When Haiti's first democratically elected President, Jean Bertrand
Aristide, was removed - not by a rebellion as recent US media have said -
but by a U.S.-engineered coup, the solidarity movement and NGOs were
proved right.  Without a sound and independent Haitian economy, there
could be no democracy. Period.  Aristide's sin was not that he courted
Cuba (he did - and who wouldn't, since Cuba alone has supplied doctors,
engineers and educators for Cuba en masse), nor even that he dared propose
a minimum wage of $5 a day (a day, not an hour!), but that he based his
administration on a genuine Creole-speaking mass oeasant movement,
Lavalas, which challenged the tiny Francophone elite with its ties to US
business - a trend that the US had fostered since at least the early 1900s
to replace France as the imperial power.  A black country truly ruled by
black masses was just not to be tolerated, a few miles from the only truly
independent country in the hemisphere (Cuba). All of this continued a U.S.
imperial approach to bind Haiti to U.S.. tutelage at the expense of its
own economic health.

At the end of the 2004 CounterPunch article, I wrote: It remains to be
seen whether the U.S. empire will gain more from its exercise in the
learning zone of Haiti, or the international solidarity movement. Let us
hope for the latter - since the next learning zones may come sooner than
we expect, especially if the Bush regime lives through its debacle in Iraq
and survives the November election...

Bush did survive, but Bush is now gone.  America has still not learned
from the Haitian learning zone. Obama - the first U.S. black president now
sits in the White House.   But just as he has changed little in
Afghanistan or Iraq (and possibly made things worse there), Obama - and
the former first couple, Bill and Hillary Clinton (Clinton is the special
envoy to Haiti - called the colonial governor by some peasant leaders) -
are just proposing more of the same! Hillary dared pronouce that the
Haitian situation after the earthquake was a Biblical tragedy - the work
of God, in other words. A.N.S.W.E.R, a radical blog, put it better:  The
degree of suffering in the wake of disasters like last year's hurricanes,
and this terrible earthquake - is not the work of God, but the work of
American imperial policy - specifically neoliberalism, that sees shoddy
construction, urban growth in Port au Prince from 50,000 in 1975 to 3
million today, with peasants fleeing from a Haitian agriculture that was
once self-sufficient, to the teeming slums of the capital.  As
A.N.S.W.E.R. put it, the makeshift dwellings of Haiti's slums turned into
graves.  It is not coincidental that the massive hurricanes that hit Cuba
and Haiti with equal force in 2008 took 800 Haitian lives, but only 8
Cuban lives.  If 50 or 100,000 Haitians die in this earthquake as feared,
more than half of them will have died needlessly, or rather because of
U.S. greed.

The Clintons clearly have learned nothing from their visits to Haiti, and
Obama seems only to follow the tired notion of saving the poor Haitian
people by sending in ships of aid and marines. Clinton proposes that Soros
build a huge garment industry industrial park to expand, not cut back, on
sweat shops.   He proposes swanky tourist resorts on remote beaches and at
the mountain palaces of former emperors.  He celebrated  $324 million in
pledges last June from the InterAmerican Devlopmemt Bank - when Haiti's
ambassador Raymond Joseph says less than 35% of those pledges had been
seen by January, and when 80% of any money that did arrive would go to pay
salaries of non-Haitian experts or for goods and services contracted from
the U.S..  And when IADB refuses to cancel the Haitian debt, and continues
to collect huge interest fees from the Haitian government every year.
More of the same.  America doesn't learn from Haiti, because to really
learn those lessons would be to give up the prerogative of empire, and
America - even under a black President - is obviously not ready to
consider that option.

The only alternative to Americas unlearned lessons on Haiti, is for the
international Haiti solidarity to revive, and for the so-called U.N.
Peacekeepers to get off the backs of Lavalas activists, and allow the
re-invigoration of that revolutionary movement.  Maybe this horrible
earthquake can shock American humanitarians and radicals into reviving
their lagging interest in Haiti - and surely it will revive the
revolutionary yearnings of the Haitian peasant masses.  Let's hope so.

Without that, the horror will go on and on, enriching the coffers of U.S.
business and bureacracy, via various earthquake relief measures and
massive food aid, and continuing to enslave the brave, proud nation that
first saw a genuine revolution in this hemisphere.

Tom Reeves was Professor at Roxbury Community College in Boston, and
director of the Caribbean Focus Program, which sponsored nine delegations
of nongovernmental activists from the US and Canada to Haiti during the
Aristide and Preval presidencies, and during the times of the coup detats.


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