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Abu Ghraib photo
February 3, 2005. Republican Senators voted unanimously to confirm Alberto Gonzales as U.S. Attorney General; 36 Democrats opposed.

First Quarter, 2005

Thu Mar 17

Orwell Rolls in His Grave

Tonight I watched the DVD Orwell Rolls in His Grave, after obtaining it as a premium from BuzzFlash. While clearly done on a lower budget than other documentaries such as Robert Greenwald's outstanding "Un" Trilogy and Outfoxed, it has every bit as much impact. Robert Kane Pappas, who began his work in 1980, reports with calm and relentless clarity on the process of media consolidation and its devastating effect on our democracy. Interviews are interspersed with news clips, excerpts of speeches, commentary, and quotations from Orwell's 1984. Among those interviewed are Charles Lewis, Bernie Sanders, and John Nichols.

Health Care is Not Business

The issue of The New Republic which arrived today features a cover headline, Health Care is Not Business. The cover story by Arnold Relman is called "The Health of Nations Medicine and the Free Market" and is to be expanded to a Century Foundation book. The author gives recent history of our country's increasingly market-based system of health care, then expresses dim hopes for success of the present fad, consumer-driven health care (CHDC).

For an even more striking example of the problem, we have the failures of prison health care recently discussed at Democracy Now! and covered in a series of articles, harsh medicine recently in the New York Times.

All of which ties into the previous item on single-payer national health insurance.

Sun Feb 27

The Party's Over

Tonight, I finished reading Richard Heinberg's book, The Party's Over: Oil, War, and the Fate of Industrial Societies, and recommend it highly as a lucid introduction to the issue of peak oil.

The first two chapters delineate the role of energy in the development of society. The next two chapters quantify the problem of oil depletion (we have used about half the planet's oil) and look into alternative sources and mediums of energy. The last two chapters predict what we are in for as cheap energy disappears from our way of life, and suggests what we can do about it.

Just one view of the problem: it is estimated that our planet can sustain only about 2 billion persons in the absence of fossil fuels; yet present population is well over 6 billion.

book cover
The core message of this book is that industrial civilisation is based on the consumption of energy resources that are inherently limited in quantity and that are about to become scarce. When they do, competition for what remains will trigger dramatic economic and geopolitical events; in the end it may be impossible for even a single nation to sustain industrialism as we have known it during the twentieth century.
- from the introduction

Sun Feb 20

Single-Payer Health Insurance

The nearer fiscal crisis is not with Social Security, it is with medical expenses. A recent study conducted by Harvard University revealed an alarming number of personal bankruptcies due to medical expenses. From Friday, February 4th installment of Democracy Now!:

...fully half of all bankruptcies in the United States are caused by medical illness and medical bills. We're talking about three-quarters of a million American families pulled through the bankruptcy courts every year by medical illnesses and medical bills. When you count the debtors and their dependents and their children, we're talking about 2 million Americans every year in bankruptcy due to medical illness and medical bills.
... we found that 76%, more than three-quarters of all people in medical bankruptcy had health insurance at the onset of the illness that bankrupted their family.

It is time to reconsider the role of the medical insurance business, whose financial advantage lies in avoiding payment for treatment as much as possible. One remedy actively promoted by Physicians for a National Health Program is single-payer national health insurance:

  • detailed PNHP proposal
    ... The United States spends more than twice as much on health care as the average of other developed nations, all of which boast universal coverage. Yet over 39 million Americans have no health insurance whatsoever, and most others are underinsured, in the sense that they lack adequate coverage for all contingencies (e.g., long-term care and prescription drug costs).
    ... A National Health Insurance Program would save at least $150 billion annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry and reducing spending for marketing and other satellite services. Doctors and hospitals would be freed from the concomitant burdens and expenses of paperwork created by having to deal with multiple insurers with different rules - often rules designed to avoid payment.
  • (pdf) document of PHNP proposal as published in the Journal of the American Medical Association
  • Single-Payer: Good for Business by Morton Mintz, in The Nation, November 15, 2004.

Mon Feb 14

Saving Social Security

There are so many excellent refutations to the barrage of nonsense and lies from the Bush administration regarding Social Security, it's hard to know where to start. I'll just list a few of my favorites.

There is no Crisis

Tue Feb 01

Stop Gonzales

Now is the time to call your Senators and tell them to vote NO on confirming Alberto Gonzales. Amnesty International puts it this way in their open letter to the U.S. Senate.

There is little doubt that, under the current circumstances, the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General would send a message out to the world that the US government is unapologetic and unconcerned about a growing perception that the USA is a state that is prepared to use torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Tolerance for torture and ill-treatment should have no place at the helm of the US justice system.
See also this recent item: German Prosecutor Asked to Investigate Gonzales Role in Abu Ghraib War Crimes. And we have more than 550 weblogs opposed to the confirmation of Gonzales.

Wed Jan 26

Alberto Gonzales

It would be a national disgrace for Alberto Gonzales to become U.S. Attorney General. There's a good basic reference at APAF - Alberto Gonzales: A Record of Injustice. Here are the bullet points from that summary:

  • GONZALES APPROVED MEMO AUTHORIZING TORTURE
  • GONZALES BELIEVES MANY GENEVA CONVENTIONS PROVISIONS ARE OBSOLETE
  • GONZALES ADMITTED HIS VIEWS 'COULD UNDERMINE U.S. MILITARY CULTURE
  • GONZALES BLOCKS INFORMATION FROM CONGRESS
  • DEATH PENALTY MEMOS: GONZALES'S NEGLIGENT COUNSEL
  • MEMORANDUM ON TERRY WASHINGTON: A CASE STUDY IN INCOMPETENCE
  • GONZALES TOLD GOV. BUSH HE COULD IGNORE INTERNATIONAL LAW
  • GONZALES GETS BUSH OUT OF JURY DUTY TO KEEP DUI SECRET
  • GONZALES DOES ENRON'S BIDDING
  • ACCEPTING DONATIONS FROM LITIGANTS
But I guess the issue that is most appalling is the cold-blooded introduction of torture as an option into the national debate. What are we becoming?

Sat Jan 22

The Salvador Option

George Bush, following a calling from beyond the stars continues to export fear and anger (to paraphrase departing Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage).

In a recent Newsweek article mirrored here, the term "Salvador option" is used to refer to the use of U.S. Special-Forces-led assassination or kidnapping teams in Iraq. Newsweek's Michael Hirsh and John Barry describe it as a desperate measure to prop up a failing conventional offensive:

"What everyone agrees is that we can't just go on as we are," one senior military officer told Newsweek. "We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing."
As Allan Nairn points out, historically these U.S.-sponsored death squads have targeted civilians:
In El Salvador and not just Salvador, but about three dozen other countries, the U.S. government, in an integrated effort involving the C.I.A., the Pentagon, and the State Department, backed the creation of military units that targeted civilian activists.

Now, we see from Chris Floyd (and Seymour Hersh) it appears that the option is being exercised:

the Bush regime is pressing ahead with a hard-line strategy aimed at opening new military fronts in the "global free-fire zone." Any dissenting voices within the government are being ruthlessly purged. The Pentagon's secret forces are set for operations in at least 10 countries, and Bush insiders "repeatedly" told Hersh that "Iran is the next strategic target."
A look at The Pentagon's New Map - Barnett's website / CRG comment - shows us that exported terror (Leviathan) is an integral part of Rumsfeld's transformed military.

Thu Jan 20

Inaugural Commentary

Thoughts on the inaugural festivities - $40 million, plus $17 million for security.

Tue Jan 18

Deja Vu in the Middle East

The Baghdad communiques are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient that the public knows... We are today not far from a disaster.
T.E. Lawrence, The Sunday Times, August, 1920.

U.K. Middle East correspondent Robert Fisk brings this passage to our attention in his lucid review of the year in Iraq, The Mire of Death, Lies and Atrocities: Robert Fisk Looks Back at 2004, aired January 3, 2005, on DemocracyNOW.

the whole project in Iraq is finished. We are not being told by Mr. Blair in my case and Bush in yours that this is the case, and perhaps through their own misjudgment or their own fantasies, they don't even accept this themselves.

Barbara Boxer Confronts Condoleezza Rice

Hats off to Senator Barbara Boxer, who two weeks ago was the one senator to uphold the electoral college objection to the Ohio vote count, and today confronted Condoleezza Rice, in the hearing for Ms. Rice's confirmation as Secretary of State. Senator Boxer was clearly deeply moved about the betrayal of the national trust as she presented instances of Rice's web of contradictions and misstatements. Here is Senator Boxer's opening statement at Rice's confirmation hearing. As Senator Boxer wrote in an email sent after the first day of Rice's confirmation hearing,

She [Rice] failed to set the record straight on the hyped-up nuclear threat leading up to the war on Iraq; she failed to do it on the total number of trained Iraqi security forces, which is key to the Administration's exit strategy there; she failed to do it on her misstatements about Al Qaida operating in Iraq; and she failed to do it on the U.S. policy regarding torture. This last issue is the most troubling one, as it was clearly demonstrated that while Dr. Rice speaks out against torture, she actually personally intervened to kill an anti-torture provision in a recent intelligence bill.
Senator Boxer offers a petition regarding the Rice Confirmation, to keep the pressure on.

Troubling issues were also raised by senators Dodd, Kerry, and Obama. But Boxer was the most memorable, bringing an all-too-rare but essential sense of outrage to the hearing. The entire 8-hour first day's hearing is streamable on C-Span.

Sat Jan 15

Peak Oil

Sooner or later, anyone studying the arrogance and corruption of the Bush administration will follow the trail to Peak Oil - the point at which world oil production begins to decrease, never to rise again.

Here are some references on Peak Oil.

There is no easy solution that will make the problem go away. The change will affect nearly everyone on the planet. The more technologically advanced the society, the more dire the transition. We need positive leadership to move us toward renewable energy sources, not today's foreign policy bullies and bunglers who are squandering precious time and resources in a bloody hydrocarbon endgame.

Can't Keep Up

As John Dean writes in the preface to his excellent book, Worse Than Watergate,

I could not write and publish fast enough to get in front of the abuses of power
On this small website, I have not been able to keep up with things, either. Therefore, the latest addition here is a collection of unformattted notes on current issues made while considering adding an article.

Sun Jan 09

Local Media Activism

I recently informed my local PBS TV station, WTTW, that I could no longer contribute to them. Despite the large number of exceptional programs aired, I found it unacceptable that my funds support giving any further voice to Tucker Carlson on public airwaves. It is not a matter of one viewpoint or another, it is a matter of furthering the spread of media shills for a corrupt administration.

Within a few days, I received a phone message from someone at WTTW. I returned the call and reiterated my position. While I don't expect the action of one person to change programming policy, I believe it is important to notify local PBS and NPR affiliates that a) their drift to the right does not go unnoticed, and b) we have alternatives for news that does not pass through the mainstream corporate filter. (See the portal page at this site for one list of sources.)


Prior material is here: Lame Ducks of 2004