|Progressive Calendar 01.17.10||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|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. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 Research almost any topic raised here at: CounterPunch http://counterpunch.org Dissident Voice http://dissidentvoice.org Common Dreams http://commondreams.org Once you're there, do a search on your topic, eg obama drones
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