Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sen. Sanders Hits the Ground Walking on Health Care

by Phil E. Benjamin

Senator Sanders Hits the Ground Walking:
Introduces S. 703; National Health Care Bill

At almost the last possible moment, Socialist Vermont Senator, Bernie Sanders has introduced his version of a "Single Payer" national health care bill. This is the first such national health bill introduced into the U.S. Senate; Senate Bill 703.

Sanders' publicity for the bill recalls the single payer bill previously introduced into the U.S. Senate by Senator Paul Wellstone.

On the negative side; Sanders mimics the Wellstone version of single payer by stating that: "While federally funded, the program is to be administered by the states." State run programs would be a disaster. Fortunately, HR 676, the Conyers Bill, is a national health program; not a state program.

On the very positive side, S.703 would have the following provisions:

Patients go to any doctor or hospital of their choice;

Comprehensive benefits, including coverage for dental, mental health, and prescription drugs;

Community health centers are fully funded, giving the 60 million Americans now living in rural and underserved areas access to care;

To address the critical shortage of primary care physicians and dentists, the bill provides resources for the National Health Services Corps to train an additional 24,000 health professionals. [No tuition programs]

There are other vague references to saving money and limiting overhead and profits of insurance carriers, but no details were provided.

Sanders does a service by extending community health centers and training more primary care doctors and nurses. These provisions should be part of any program that the Administration is contemplating. They are an important part of the PUBLIC card.

From Pakistan: Let peace and freedom ring

End corporate carbon loophole

Monday, March 30, 2009

Public Card vs. Private/Profit Card in Health

"Public" Option Vs "Private" [PROFIT] Option: Peoples' Health Care at Stake

by Phil E. Benjamin

There is a clear plan emanating from the new Administration's approach to national health care issues. It is an approach that is not what Single Payer and National Health Service advocates had hoped for. But, it is an approach that closely resembles Obama's campaign promises.

This approach flies in the face of the advice from almost every liberal and/or progressive health policy research group that supports universal coverage. But, it is a reality that we face. How do we explain these phenomena and what do we do about it?

On the one hand it is clear that the Administration has no intention of taking on the corporate interests in health care HEAD ON. On the other hand there is an understanding that they must do something to alleviate the crisis in health care. Corporate health interests will be curtailed; the issue is how much. Health policy people know that there is not one solution to the health care crisis. One policy directive cannot and will not stand on itself; there is simply too much intertwining of issues.

The other clear understanding is that in 2010, congressional elections are looming. A repeat of the 1992-94 Clinton failures on health care, which gave us the Newt Gingrich Congress of 1994-2000 and another generation of corporate greed, i.e., Reaganism, is not an option. A set of policy directions are being finalized in the House and Senate with the clear White House involvement. These policy directions, each covering an aspect of the health crisis, can swing between full government responsibilities, the "Public Card," to a very large role for insurance carriers: the "Private" card.

[Note: The failure in the late 1970s to pass the National Health Insurance and Labor Law Reform cleared the way for mass dissatisfaction with Jimmy Carter, and the Reagan period was born. Going back10 years before that, the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965 would have assured the election of Democrats in the 1968 elections had not the Democrats stood behind and widened the Vietnam War. Coincidently, labor law reform is being demanded again by organized labor; the Employee Free Choice Act - EFCA]


The first step was taken when the Administration made the State Children's Health Insurance Program a permanent part of the health care landscape. While that move was anticipated; it was still a very important step. The Bush Administration had specifically vetoed this approach since it played the "Public" government card and not the "Private" insurance company card. SCHIP is where the "line in the sand" was drawn by the right wing and their for-profit agenda. This is a big point in the "Public" option column.

Laid off Workers and COBRA

The increasing crisis of unemployed workers and their inability to pay for the continuation of health insurance benefits, COBRA, that, by law, must be offered to them, had to be addressed. Less than 8% of those eligible bought COBRA. Partial Solution under the Stimulus Plan: the federal government will now reimburse the employer or health insurer for 65% of the cost of COBRA. The remaining 35% of COBRA's cost is still formidable. In hard numbers: COBRA for family coverage is about $1,000 a month; and, about $400 a month, for individual. With the federal support those numbers are reduced to: About $350 and $125 a month. This begins on March 1st, 2009. But, if a person became unemployed on and after September 1, 2008, and refused coverage, since it was too expensive, then those same workers can requalify for COBRA as of March 1, 2009. This is a check mark in the "Public" Option column, but the heavy hand of the "Private" card is ever present.

Problem: The high cost of COBRA is driven by the cost of health insurance and drug companies. Those "Private" Card costs will need to be curtailed. These costs are unnecessarily excessive and will put too high a price for this "Private" card to be maintained.

In another very important move, workers collecting UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE can now qualify for Medicaid. This is a major step forward. This is playing the "Public" card perfectly.

Medicare Buy In at 55 Years of Age

Lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 55 years, proposed by the most powerful U.S. Senator, Finance chair, Max Baucus, is playing the "Public" card to some extent. But the "Public" option card would be greater if the Medicare program were reformed to be more like its framers intended, and not the partially privatized program that has developed over the years; especially with Bush's misnamed "Medical Modernization Act of 2003." Eliminating the mis-named "Medicare Advantage" insurance company programs; federalizing the price of drugs leads Medicare back to its federal mandate and is a peoples' demand that makes complete sense.

The problem will be the cost of the "Buy In." That fee has yet to be determined, but it must be affordable. There is a fear that the fee will be "means tested"; which could lead to means testing for all of Medicare. This would be a big step backward away from the "Public" column.

For "Social Solidarity" principles to prevail, as in France, "means testing" for any services is a killer. To put the rich in line, a clear progressive income tax is necessary. The greed of AIG, Citibank and other parts of Corporate America sets the stage for this tax policy direction.

Increasing Eligibility for Medicaid

Baucus has proposed elevating the Federal Poverty Level [FPL] so that millions of people, including many working poor people, can access Medicaid. That is a good thing; and, plays the "Public" card well. These regulations must be accompanied by new requirements requiring physicians to treat Medicaid recipients.

The Federal Employee Health Benefits Plan [FEHBP]

The strong rumor is that the Administration, in fulfilling its promise of universal access, will bring everyone else under the "principles" of the FEHBP. Not the Program itself.

The FEHBP is quite popular with federal employees, including postal workers. Over 80% of federal employees choose Blue Cross/Blue Shield, from a host of insurance options.

The rumor is that the Administration is also looking at Massachusetts program. That program covers over 50% of the uninsured in Mass., but there are serious funding problems. The mix of "Public" and "Private" is very much alive there. The FEHBP is heavy on the "Public" side, but the "private" side is still present, and, that presence is very costly to provide for all eligible people. Keeping the "Private" card in this program has made affordability a key issue.

A strong "Public" Option within the FEHBP, a Medicare option, would make the most "competitive" sense.

Our Role

There is a clear and present need for health care activists to continue the pressure as each of these aspects of the Administration's national health program unfolds. For years, decades, there have been coalitions formed around each of those programs. They will and should be continued, but coalitions between these groups are paramount. The street heat created by these grass roots organizations and the labor movement will be the difference.

For example, in a totally ill conceived idea, the Administration put forward a proposal that returning veterans should use their own health insurance coverage for service related illnesses and injuries; and, not the VA hospital system. That was clearly a shift toward the "Private" and not the "Public" Card. Following the hue and cry from every veteran's organization against that policy proposal; the Administration withdrew the idea.

The Republicans will oppose every health policy move that the Administration makes. Their strategy will be to stonewall anything happening before the 2010 Congressional elections. On the other hand, the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate and control of the White House should not be wasted.

But, now, a newly created caucus, the Blue Dog Democrats, have joined the fray to defeat the strong "Public" card. This falls right in with the Republican goals. These Democrats perspective is clear. Their messages is working people and their health care needs be damned; corporate interests in health care must served.

These policy moves sets up a war between a clear role for government, the "Public" card; and, a continuation for the private health insurance and drug companies, the "Private" card.

Clearly, the issue of costs, i.e., the excessive price of the "Private" option charged by these profiteers for their participation, continues to be the 500-pound gorilla in Congress and the White House. The struggle for the clearly less expensive "Public" Option and against the "Private" option will be carried out by hand-to-hand combat on each health proposal.

In Monday's NY Times Letters to the Editor, a few very salient points were made:

"As policymakers in congress and elsewhere debate the nation's health insurance options, especially for he nearly 50 million insured in our country, it appears that the main argument against Medicare-like coverage is that private insurers would be unable to compete with government on costs, and might be drive from the market. Isn't that like saying we should not strive for a peaceful planet because it would be bad for the armaments industry? Am I missing something?"

"What is at issue here is not how to support private health insurance companies. The issue is how to best provide quality, affordable health care for all."

And from a practicing physician in private practice for over 35 years: "Medicare and private insurance fees are the same: most private insurers base their fees on those paid by Medicare. But it is much more difficult to collect these fees from private insurance companies than from Medicare. The H.M.O.s require that I submit and resubmit claims several times. And, then they even have the chutzpah to offer a lower payment soon, rather than contractually agreed-upon payment sometime in the future. I prefer Medicare, which mostly pays promptly and with far fewer hassles for me and my staff." [PS the updated term for these HMOs is the mis-named Madison Avenue term, Medicare Advantage.

Printing a preponderance of pro-Public Card option letters for the NY Times is rather unusual. They tend to adopt the market –based system.

Health Service Issues Need Attention

While these crucial financing and system-wide issues are being debated and struggled over; there are many others below the radar that need addressing: primary care build up; community health centers financing and expanding; reforming the cash cows coffers of the large not-for-profit medical centers; training more physicians and nurses; and, the continuing anti-racist, anti-sexist struggle.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Major reforms in 2009 start with passing Obama's budget

The fight to pass President Obama’s budget is the key fight. If it doesn’t pass, everything else will become more difficult – which explains the opposition of the right wing and corporate pressure and an alternative proposal from conservative Democrats which does not include taxes on the wealthy for funding healthcare.

Call your Senators today, toll-free, 1-866-544-7573.

Below are two messages, from the United Food and Commercial Workers, and from AFSCME. Use them as is, forward the links, do what you can to mobilize others to call on Congress to pass the budget proposal from President Obama.

From the UFCW:
"This week, Congress is working to pass the President's budget. The President included $634 billion in the budget as a down payment on health care reform. Put simply, Congress must pass a budget that funds health care if we want to enact quality, affordable health care for all this year.

"Can you help us call other key Members of Congress to ask them to pass the budget?

"Key decision makers in Congress are still saying that they are not hearing a lot from their constituents about the budget. You can help by using this automated system to call community members in other states and patch them through to those critical targets in Congress.

"All Members of Congress need to know you voted for change in November and you mean it! It's time to make all voices heard and make sure President Obama's budget passes, so we can get our economy back on track and win quality, affordable health care for all in 2009."

And from AFSCME:
"President Obama promises big change. And from the looks of his new budget, he means it.

"But corporate special interests are twisting arms, spending millions on misleading ads and spreading lies and propaganda to stop his budget from being enacted. We've got to put relentless pressure on Congress, starting now.

"The Obama budget transforms our national priorities by putting regular Americans like you and your family first—the first time this has happened in a long time.

"An important part of President Obama's budget is a $630 billion investment in guaranteed health care for everyone. To pay for it, he'll cut back government hand-outs to private insurance companies and scale back tax write-offs for the rich (people making over $250,000 a year). This is huge, and we need to help make it happen."

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Book Review: Swedish Mysteries

"The Man Who Smiled," Henning Mankell

Vintage Crime. 2005 [NYC 2006]

"Sun Storm," Asa Larsson
Delta Fiction. 2003 [NYC 2005/o6]

"The Blood Split," Asa Larsson
Delta Fiction. 2004 [NYC 2007/08]

by Eric Green

If you are going to Sweden be sure to read Henning Mankell first and then pick up Asa Larsson. [And, be sure to see: " Everlasting Moment," film]

Mankell's Kurt Wallander mysteries are the standard by which other mystery writers are judged against, especially Swedish writers. With Mankell there is no bridging to a novel style of writing. Wallander is pure investigator, pure cop, and purely in agony over doing his job right. In the "Man Who Smiled," Wallander investigates a Swedish millionaire icon. An icon who spreads his wealth among all the charities that Swedish people want. He was the wealthy philanthropist that every looked up to. Alfred Harderberg from Farnholm Castle conducts his business around the world. But, they was something wrong with that picture.

The murder of two lawyers, a security guard who was a former policeman, an accountant, attempted murder of Wallander himself, and at the attempted killing by a land mine of a secretary. This mystery is not short on murder.

In this book, Mankell introduces Ann-Britt Hoglund into the male dominated world of Swedish policing.

The mystery takes place, not in Stockholm, but in the Southwest part of Sweden, the Scane. The main town is Ystad with many trips to Malmo on the coast, just across from Denmark. ["Everlasting Moments" took place there also.]

The constructs and writing style of Mankell's mysteries are a form that keeps you reading every page with eagerness. In this mystery, the reader even knows who the guilty party is. The question will Wallander figure it out and make the arrest within the time allotted?

Asa Larsson, on the other hand, has written two mysteries that feature the extreme, fundamentalism of religion in Sweden. Her mysteries take place in the far north of Sweden. Larsson's featured characters are not just official detectives. They include an attorney who gets involved in the death of people who she knows intimately. Rebecca Martinsson is a very dissatisfied attorney who lives in the big city, Stockholm, but keeps strong ties in the North. These are ties, which carry strong ambivalence with them. In the "Sun Storm" she knows the religious leader who is brutally killed. The local police presences in the book are mainly Anna-Maria Mella and Sven-Erik Stalnacke

Yes, you get the picture. Larsson's major characters are women. This book received the "Swedish First Crime Novel Award." That the award carried the word "Novel" was more than just a slight description. In this book, and her second book, "the Blood Spirit" was both written as mystery novels, but a strong leaning toward novel themes. The second book is more novel about life in Northern Sweden than a mystery crime book.

For narrow mystery readers, Larsson's book may not be enjoyable.

Marlaine DeLargy translated both of Larsson's books.

Larsson deserved her award. Following the lives of Martinson and Mella are well with the read. But, the master is Mankell. Mankell is not only fun to read but also the mystery stays with you through the entire book.

For people interested in the culture and people of Sweden, both Mankell and Larsson fill the bill. This is especially true given that both of these writers take you well away from Stockholm.

Get down with some health care reform

President Obama has called for healthcare reform this year. He made it a centerpiece of his budget proposal, and it seems closer to becoming a reality then ever before.

But what will reform look like? It appears that the sharpest struggle in 2009 will be over whether or not to expand or include a public option for Americans.

As vigorous supporters of H.R. 676, Conyers' bill for Medicare for All, we all should be in this fight for a public option.

Here are a couple of articles with more information:

A "Public Option" is the Key to Health Care Reform

Editorial: The battle over health care

Here is one way to get involved and help organize the movement for a public option: http://standwithdrdean.com


About This Book [from the publisher]
Product Details
Simon & Schuster, May 2008
Hardcover, 448 page
In Spies for Hire, investigative reporter Tim Shorrock lifts the veil off a major story the government doesn't want us to know about -- the massive outsourcing of top secret intelligence activities to private-sector contractors.
Running spy networks overseas. Tracking down terrorists in the Middle East. Interrogating enemy prisoners. Analyzing data from spy satellites and intercepted phone calls. All of these are vital intelligence tasks that traditionally have been performed by government officials accountable to Congress and the American people. But that is no longer the case.
Starting during the Clinton administration, when intelligence budgets were cut drastically and privatization of government services became national policy, and expanding dramatically in the wake of 9/11, when the CIA and other agencies were frantically looking to hire analysts and linguists, the Intelligence Community has been relying more and more on corporations to perform sensitive tasks heretofore considered to be exclusively the work of federal employees. This outsourcing of intelligence activities is now a $50 billion-a-year business that consumes up to 70 percent of the U.S. intelligence budget. And it's a business that the government has tried hard to keep under wraps.
Drawing on interviews with key players in the Intelligence-Industrial Complex, contractors' annual reports and public filings with the government, and on-the-spot reporting from intelligence industry conferences and investor briefings, Spies for Hire provides the first behind-the-scenes look at this new way of spying. Shorrock shows how corporations such as Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin, SAIC, CACI International, and IBM have become full partners with the CIA, the National Security Agency, and the Pentagon in their most sensitive foreign and domestic operations. He explores how this partnership has led to wasteful spending and threatens to erode the privacy protections and congressional oversight so important to American democracy.
Shorrock exposes the kinds of spy work the private sector is doing, such as interrogating prisoners in Iraq, managing covert operations, and collaborating with the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans' overseas phone calls and e-mails. And he casts light on a "shadow Intelligence Community" made up of former top intelligence officials who are now employed by companies that do this spy work, such as former CIA directors George Tenet and James Woolsey. Shorrock also traces the rise of Michael McConnell from his days as head of the NSA to being a top executive at Booz Allen Hamilton to returning to government as the nation's chief spymaster.
From CIA covert actions to NSA eavesdropping, from Abu Ghraib to Guantánamo, from the Pentagon's techno-driven war in Iraq to the coming global battles over information dominance and control of cyberspace, contractors are doing it all. Spies for Hire goes behind today's headlines to highlight how private corporations are aiding the growth of a new and frightening national surveillance state.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Marxism and Finitude

A review of Simon's Critchley's Remarks on Quentin Meillassoux's AFTER FINITUDE

by Thomas Riggins

The TLS of February 27, 2009 has a review of an important new philosophy book-- AFTER FINITUDE by Quentin Meillassoux-- translated from the French by Ray Brassier [i.e. "Back to the great outdoors" by Simon Critchley]. The title of the article is due to Meillassoux's desire to get directly back to nature. The following are some Marxist impressions. Hopefully PA will be able to print a full review of the book itself at a later date.

We are told that one of Meillassoux's targets is Kant who maintained that we have knowledge of the world as it APPEARS to us. Meillassoux wants to show that we can access "the world as it is in itself without being dependent on the existence of observers."

It is interesting to note that ScienceDaily online just recently posted an article stating that physicists have demonstrated that we can know that there is a world independent of our observation-- but it is very weird [Cf. "Finally Lenin Was Right: Scientists Say That Reality Is Real"-PaEditorsBlog 3/6/2009].

The problem seems to be with the phrase, vis a vis the world, to access "the world as it it is in itself" independent of the observer. Critchley explains that Kant thinks there is a real world independent of us but that it is mediated through our perceptual apparatus. "The external material objects that I experience in perception are nothing but "mere appearances" or "representations". But, perhaps Critchley goes too far, or is it Meillassoux as well?, in saying for Kant "the outside world exists but is only the correlate of the concepts and categories through which we conceive it." At least "outside" is not the right word to use for Kant since both space and time are for him the a priori preconditions for human experience-- the independent world does not exist in space or time as these are human ways of perception and we don't know how else to explain the world.

We are told that Meillassoux considers all this (i.e., The Critique of Pure Reason) a "catastrophe" because it has led to "correlationism." What it has actually led to is the thought that the world-- both physical and social-- is not necessarily 100% just as it appears to be to any of us. That creatures with different perceptual apparatus will see it differently and experience it differently. If there was a "catastrophe" it would have been due to Hume whose philosophy led to the skeptical positions regarding humanity's ability to know anything at all that drove Kant to write the Critique. But neither were "catastrophes." Both were milestones on the road of human self awareness which have contributed to the growth of our self knowledge.

Critchley tells us that Melliassoux's target is the form of correlationism associated with Husserl's phenomenology which "is based on the idea of a correlation between the intentional acts of consciousness and the objects of those acts...." What does this mean? Husserl uses the Greek term NOEMA to refer to an object as it is in-itself and NOESIS to refer to our thinking about it.

We take the natural standpoint in everyday life-- i.e., we are dealing with externally existing objects in a real world. For the purposes of phenomenology we abandon this standpoint, bracket the object, and just study the way it appears to our consciousness. OK, this doesn't deny the existence of the material world but it correlates the object in this way-- the thing- in- itself and the thing-for- us.

Husserl's student Heidegger is more subjective. For him the external object is determined by the noesis-- the human world is a by product of consciousness-- so, as in Kant, we can't know the thing-in-itself. So what is the problem with this way of thinking?

There are two says Critchley. First, since it keeps reason away from the things-in-themselves, it opens the door to non reasonable explanations and theories about them (i.e., irrationalism and religion) Second: "it is wrong." Well, that is being blunt!

Meillassoux thinks correlations are wrong because they can't say anything about the universe before the evolution of humans. But this is only true of the most rigid subjective idealists. Hegel (also mentioned as a correlationist) certainly believed the world to have had an objective existence before there were any people around. I can say that I think I only know the thing-in-itself indirectly by means of my perceptual apparatus and my experiences with it and yet still believe my perceptual apparatus is the product of the evolution of my species which is a recent event in the history of the universe. I neither have to "disavow" the existence of the material world nor be "an intellectual hypocrite" as Meillassoux seems to think.

So now the question is--- if we reject correlationism do we have to go back to pre-Kantian "dogmatic" metaphysics? Meillassoux proposes what he calls SPECULATIVE REALISM. Critchley says, consider the metaphysics of Leibniz. Leibniz defended THE PRINCIPLE OF SUFFICIENT REASON. For every thing that exists there must be a reason why it, rather than some other thing, exists. He ends up proving the existence of God with this [a philosopher's God, not necessarily anything anybody else would use the word "God" to describe].

This is no good, thinks Meillassoux. Speculative Reason demands an absolute notion of an independently existing reality that we can have direct knowledge of and this "God" is an untidy remnant of pre-Kantian metaphysical mumbo-jumbo. Leibniz had asked, "Why is there something rather than nothing." Meillassoux dumps the principle of sufficient reason and answers "For no reason." There is no reason why there is something rather than nothing, it just is that way. Who is it now who is cutting off reason from the origin of the universe before man?

The subtitle of the book is "An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency." The universe is not the result of necessity, but of a "brute contingent chaos," according to Critchley. Even though the principle of sufficient reason is not operative, human reason can explore the chaos and try to understand what is going on. But don't we need to believe in "reasons" to find out what is going on? Is it not just a dogmatic assertion to say that contingency is a necessity and fail to give a sufficient reason why this is so?

We have now arrived at the "most speculative claim of the book", says Critchley. And that is that mathematics is the only method we have to find some stability and truth within the chaotic contingency of reality. Critchley writes that "his book is essentially a defense of the project of the mathematization of nature that one can find in Galileo and Descartes." We are told this reflects the mathematical ontology of his teacher Alain Badiou. So reality is a chaotic contingency but it follows mathematical laws. Hmmmm.

Even if this may be fine for the physical sciences it will never due for the human sciences. Meillassoux is essentially a throw back to seventeenth century mechanical materialism. Human reality, history, psychology, the social sciences can only be understood by means of the hegelio-marxist dialectic which views this reality as in constant movement and change brought about by an inherent negativity which prevents it reduction to rigid mathematical formulae.

According to Critchley, Meillassoux accepts Hume's view of nature (including man) as "a brute contingency that cannot be rationally explained", so how then can he use mathematics to explain it. How can you explain what cannot be explained? When it is rationally explained you get (non-academic) Marxism. Yipes! Critchley fears that this "mathematical romance" has seduced its author to attempt doing what Hume's philosophy "perhaps rightly prohibits." It was Hume's philosophy that generated the line Kant to Hegel to Marx, so it looks like Meillassoux should be looking forward not backward for the solution to his problems.

Regardless of this caveat, Critchley finds the argument "absolutely exhilarating" as well as "brilliant." And while he finds the author "at his best when showing the complacency of contemporary Kantians and phenomenologists" I found myself wondering how wide spread was the kind of "correlationism" Meillassoux objects to. All those in the Marxist tradition, Positivist tradition and Analytic tradition don't seem to be affected. He objects to an early work of Wittgenstein which Wittgenstein rejected and has now only historical interest. I think he has set up a lot of straw men to knock down This will be dealt with in a formal review of the book itself.

Critchley is also impressed by Meillassoux's SPECULATIVE REALISM which upholds nature as "cold and indifferent to humans." But this idea is as old as the hills. Hume held that nature cares as much for oysters as for humans, so there is nothing new here. Meillassoux promises another book to elaborate on his ideas on Speculative Reason. I hope it doesn't have "the find-grained logic-chopping worthy of Duns Scotus" found by Critchley in "After Finitude."

Critchley himself makes three criticisms of the book. First, if we accept the view that "the world as it is in itself is the same as the world for us" and it is mathematics and science that reveals it "then philosophy becomes totally useless." Second, Meillassoux's model of science is physics which can describe the world before life, but what role is there for sciences like biology, psychology and economics"? Third, if physics reveals the world as it really is how do we account for ethics and relative value systems? Should not the one real world be reflected in every cultural understanding?

Meillassoux will no doubt be dealing with all this in his future tome. Critchley thinks it ironic that while advanced analytic thinkers, he mentions John McDowell and Robert Brandon, are incorporating the insights of Kant, Hegel and Heidegger into an update of the Anglo-American tradition, Meillassoux is moving backwards to Cartesianism [mechanical materialism--tr].

Critchley tells a story of a 1951 meeting between A.J.. Ayer and Georges Bataille. Ayer said he thought the Sun existed before man appeared, and Bataille thought the question meaningless since he was "more versed in Hegel and phenomenology" so as a correlationist he thought that "physical objects must be perceived by an observer to be said to exist."[Which, at least, is not Hegel's view at all.] Shocked by Ayer's attitude, Bataille is quoted as saying, "There exists between French and English philosophers a sort of abyss."

The abyss, however, is between those educated in philosophy and a scientific world view and those innocent of science. Bataille's views were those of Mach and Avenarius and the Russian thinkers who Lenin criticized in his work MATERIALISM AND EMPIRIO-CRITICISM. Marxism and the philosophy of Dialectical Materialism would certainly have sided with Ayer on this issue and seen Bataille as a representative in philosophy of an outmoded subjective idealism and the thinking of the declining bourgeoisie.

The present time, when the bourgeois world is once again in crisis and manifesting symptoms of decline and decadence, is not a world where philosophers need to spend their intellectual energy in trying to refute a moribund French philosophical culture that was effectively exposed as meaningless by Lenin as well as Marx and Engels many generations ago. But if that is what Meillassoux wants to do, carry coals to Newcastle, who is to gainsay him?

Revered historian John Hope Franklin dies at age 94

March 25, 2009
Duke University professor John Hope Franklin, a revered historian of life in the South and the African-American experience, has died. He was 94.

Duke says Franklin died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at the university’s hospital in Durham.

Born and raised in an all-Black community in Oklahoma and often subjected to humiliating incidents of racism, Franklin broke numerous color barriers during his career.

He was the first Black department chair at a mostly white institution, and the first Black president of the American Historical Association.

Franklin was part of the team of scholars who assisted Thurgood Marshall to win Brown v. Board of Education, the 1954 case that outlawed the “separate but equal” doctrine in the nation’s public schools.

Bush Labor Dept. Failed Workers

Labor Agency Is Failing Workers, Report Says
Published: March 24, 2009

The federal agency charged with enforcing minimum wage, overtime and many other labor laws is failing in that role, leaving millions of workers vulnerable, Congressional auditors have found.

In a report scheduled to be released Wednesday, the Government Accountability Office found that the agency, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, had mishandled 9 of the 10 cases brought by a team of undercover agents posing as aggrieved workers.

In one case, the division failed to investigate a complaint that under-age children in Modesto, Calif., were working during school hours at a meatpacking plant with dangerous machinery, the G.A.O., the nonpartisan auditing arm of Congress, found.

When an undercover agent posing as a dishwasher called four times to complain about not being paid overtime for 19 weeks, the division’s office in Miami failed to return his calls for four months, and when it did, the report said, an official told him it would take 8 to 10 months to begin investigating his case.

“This investigation clearly shows that Labor has left thousands of actual victims of wage theft who sought federal government assistance with nowhere to turn,” the report said. “Unfortunately, far too often the result is unscrupulous employers’ taking advantage of our country’s low-wage workers.”

Read more about the Bush admin.'s weak labor protections here...

Film Review: "Duplicity" and "Gamorra"

Corporate Greed: In Board Rooms and Other Organized Crime

by Eric Green

Two films, worlds apart, are both examples of corporate greed and power. The one is a highly fashionable treatment and the other a grimy, down-and-out crude crime novel.

"Duplicity" is filled with beautiful people; lead by Clive Owen and Julia Roberts; and Gomorra features low lifes that make the Soprano's cast look beautiful.

The films depart from the current world financial crisis due to the plot of Duplicity. Boardroom fights over billions and egos is now a distant memory as those same people are left scrambling for their bonuses and for some their jobs. The gaming of "Duplilcity" is no longer seen as "fun and games." The security capers depicted in "Duplicity" are now the Wall Street crooks and schemers trying to avoid federal investigators for violating federal laws and regulations

Gomorra's theme remains quite active. Taking place in Naples, Italy, the plot of drug dealing and waste dumping [with the continuing exploitation of workers in the garment industry] remains an active part of that place and around the world.

Which leaves Gomorra the film to see, if you can handle a totally down and out grimy existence of the mob; and "Duplicity" to skip.

Tony Gilroy's film, "Duplicity" is clearly meant for box office millions; and, it has achieved those results. His previous successes made this film a foregone conclutions: "Michael Clayton" and the "Bourne" films.

Martin Scorsese supported film "Gomorra" is not meant for that level of financial success. The director, book and screenplay by: Matteo Garrone, Roberto Saviano and Maurizio Braucci, respectively, produced the actual film. The film was released in May, 2008, but just released in the U.S.

"Gomorra" is meant for the U.S. audiences, but it won't cater to all of the television cops show genre audiences. The low cost of a human life in Naples whether in the drug wars, hazardous waste dumping or in the mob controlled garment industry is far less than on television sets. The film would be even too much for some of the fans of "Oz" and "The Wire."

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Right Turn for the Obama Administration in a Fast Moving Crisis

by Norman Markowitz

Jim Genova's fine blog and online article on the Geithner plan got me to thinking about its possible ramifications. First, the plan reflects(and this should not be any great surprise) the Obama administration's attempt to save the system by saving the top and having the benefits "trickle down" to the masses of people. This, given the institutional weakness of labor and the left and the ideological baggage of thirty years of rightwing hegemony which followed thirty five years of cold war reaction (which marginalized the CPUSA, which played the essential role in building the industrial labor movement and coordinating it with other peoples movements out of the great depression and also fragmented the broad left, leading rightwing social democrats to become mindless Sancho Panzas following cold war Democrats tilting at Soviet windmills and those to the left of the Communists to move in cultural and intellectual anarchist directions ) is unremarkable. Although this is only the administration's beginning, the left is not yet even close to being there to seriously influence an administration whose electoral victory was based on a clear repudiation of the Bush policies and also the rightwing ideological hegemony of the last thirty years, which Obama rejected in his campaign speeches. He clearly then used the economic crisis as proof of the failure of rightwing "neo liberal" economic policy.

As an historian who has compared Obama both before and after his election with Franklin Roosevelt and the rise of the New Deal in the midst of a much greater economic crisis that had been in existence for four years, let me make a few new comparisons at this moment. First, Roosevelt's early policies were based on saving the system by saving the top(NRA, AAA, a large increase in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation) policies of "planned scarcity" which sought to fix prices and "manage production" so as to stimulate revival (even though there was a major expansion of relief and a presidential commitment to support labor and consumer rights, which the corporation's cavalierly avoided, as the banks and corporations are avoiding any real accountability today). The failure of the socialists and others on the left to mobilize the people to advance an alternative program and the relative success of the Communists through the unemployed councils, the organizing of strikes and the building of community support for strikes (culminating in the San Francisco General Strike of 1934) led Roosevelt and his administration to move to the left in its third year, not because the depression was getting worse (it was getting significantly better) but because organized social struggles and protests, particularly trade union organizing struggles, had become much larger, better organized and focused, alienating even those sectors of the capitalist class who had supported the administration to save _save themselves_ but now feared that its rhetoric and some of its policies had awakened workers(whose political support for the administration and the Democratic party was also growing) to challenge the capitalist system.

It took two years for these policies to develop In that period, there was both criticism from the Communist left against the administration's overall capitalist commitment and its specific failings, but, at the grass roots, an understanding that workers viewed the administration and particularly both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt(who shocked the establishment press by visiting coal miners, unemployed youth, African Americans, going to their venues and expressing sympathy and support for their aspirations) very differently than they did previous administrations. Workers were taking the promises of the administration to carry out reforms in their interest seriously, making those promises a goad to militant action, a way to build confidence, just as millions over the last year looked to the Obama campaign and to Obama himself in a similar light.

There is however a nagging and very negative difference, at least at this point. Roosevelt had different and much better people who represented new politics in his administration at the beginning as officials and advisers--Harry Hopkins, Rex Tugwell, Frances Perkins, Henry Wallace, to name some of the major ones. Geithner, Bernanke, Larry Summers, no one in the administration accept perhaps Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor really comes close to those figures in that they in no way are independent progressives with a long history of opposing right-wing pro business policies. These are the sorts of people Obama needs inside the administration, not only outside it in mass organizations. People like progressive economist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman. People with activist backgrounds in organizations like Physicians for Social Responsibility to develop health care policy, activists with backgrounds in groups like Citizen Action, "Think Tanks" like the Institute for Policy Studies, to balance the establishment" process liberals," who are so conspicuous now in the administration, but whose MO is always to hew to the center and take the right much more seriously than the left(the broad progressive left) because they see the right as having institutional wealth and a history of holding power and the left as scattered in protest groups for whom they offer sympathy in exchange for support.

What should we say about the administration's most recent proposal.

The Geithner plan is a bad plan and it is a continuation inadequate policy that are becoming associated with Geithner. The plan has little to do with "markets" since the problem is that the banks will not sell these "toxic assets" at the low "market" prices that they would have to without the Geithner plan. Private investors are given a large incentive to drive up the price of these "assets" and profit from them at the expense of public funding. The banks will get these "assets" off their books (and their corrupt speculative actions created the crisis to begin with) without really giving the government and the people much of anything. There is no regulatory reform of the banking system involved and the plan is essentially being sold as an expensive fix, a substitute for reform

This is why Wall Street and the banks are happy with it. They have every reason to be. This is why we must make it clear that we cannot support it in its present form. We also must make it clear that Geithner, Summers, et al, must come up with serious policies in the interest of the workers and employees, not primarily owners and investors, to contain this economic crisis if they are to keep their jobs in Washington.

The Geithner plan in its present form is an economic error by the Obama administration as policy to contain the economic crisis. It is a political right turn that will not win support from its core constituencies. We should forcefully oppose it and work to develop the strength that will lead the administration to abandon it.

Some Thoughts on Geithner's Latest Bank Rescue Plan: Why Wall Street Cheers and the People Should Worry

By Jim Genova

On Monday 23 March 2009, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner unveiled the latest and most expansive bank rescue plan to date since the global financial crisis began to deepen in August 2007. Billed as a "public-private partnership" to take toxic assets off the balance sheets of major banks (such as JP Morgan, CitiGroup, and Bank of America), the plan involves three programs that could rise to a staggering $2 trillion in public money put at risk to bailout private financial institutions that have run the world economy into the ground. It also involves lending from the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), which is charged with safeguarding depositors in U.S. banks. The knee-jerk reaction on Wall Street was overwhelmingly positive with the major indices surging six to seven percent on Monday. Outside the halls of the major financial firms, however, there may be cause for concern.

As the New York Times noted Tuesday 24 March 2009 in its front page story on Geithner's plan, the program "offers private investors vast amounts of cheap, tax-payer supported financing for every dollar they put up of their own money." Put another way, the New York Times described the plan as the "Treasury and the Federal Reserve ... offering at least a tablespoon of financial sugar for every teaspoon of risk that investors agree to swallow."

The first component of the plan involves the FDIC taking on a pool of bad home loans (mortgages in default or at risk of default) and auctioning them to the highest bidders. If the bank values them at $100 and the highest bid is $84, then the FDIC steps in to provide $72 in financing, the private investor puts up $6 and the Treasury (you and me) puts up $6. This amounts to a 6-1 leverage for the private investor - they get six dollars for every dollar they put up. The private investor then manages the assets, seeking to sell them off. Thus, with only $6 of capital risked, the private investor gets all the control, while the $78 of public money secures virtually no say in the asset management. If the assets decline in value or re-gain toxic status a result of a deepening of the economic crisis, the investor is only out the original $6 they put up. The public eats the losses.

The second part of the plan involves taking mortgage-backed securities and other risky assets off banks' balance sheets, hiring asset managers that raise $100 in private financing to purchase the assets, then gets matching funds from the treasury ($100) and a further $200 loan from the Treasury Department (2-1 leverage for the private investor). The asset manager controls the purchased instruments and shares the returns with the government (assuming there are any). If the assets revert to "toxic" status, then the investor loses their original investment, but is not on the hook for the treasury loan or the Treasury's outright investment. In other words, all the risk is - once again - taken on by the public (you and me).

Geithner was careful to insist that there will not be any restrictions on compensation for those participating in the plans, attempting to avoid the "stigma" now attached to the Troubled Asset Relief Plan (TARP) or the recent firestorm over exorbitant bonuses paid to executives at American International Group (AIG), recipients of huge bailouts from the TARP and outright government grants. Bill Gross, Chairman of Pimco (the world's largest bond dealer) and a participant in the new program, described it as a "win-win-win policy" and told the New York Times that he was "'intrigued by the potential double-digit returns' that it offered."

As it stands, the plan amounts to a huge (probably the largest on record) transfer of public money to private hands, the very hands that have driven the global economy into crisis. This is a scenario that Naomi Klein describes in her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In that well-researched and powerfully-argued study, Klein writes that a cornerstone of neo-liberal ideology as propagated by Milton Friedman and implemented by U.S. President Ronald Reagan and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was to either take advantage of or bring about major catastrophes to radically restructure the economic system by way of transferring huge amounts of public money into private hands. This usually involves seizing the opportunity of a major political upheaval, economic crisis, or natural disaster in order to push through programs that otherwise would meet massive public opposition. By the time the initial shock has worn off, the economic rules of the game have been fundamentally altered and the laws on the books designed to protect the people from catastrophe and the avarice of greedy capitalists have been changed or eliminated. This is what came to be known as the "Shock Therapy" program imposed on the former Soviet Union and the former People's Democracies of Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s (among many other countries pummelled by the scorched-earth campaign of neo-liberalism across the globe in the 1980s and 1990s). It is no wonder that Wall Street reacted so euphorically to the details of Geithner's plan.

As Sam Webb, National Chair of the Communist Party of the USA, eloquently noted in his address to the Party's National Committee on 21 March 2009, this is not a "socialist moment," however, it is a time when the idea of socialism (and the term itself) is being widely discussed. Wall Street celebrated Monday because many major financial firms believed that the Geithner Plan took "bank nationalization" off the table as a government response to the economic crisis. However, all it has done is massively expand the scope and amount of government give-aways to the very institutions responsible for the current mess. It has not taken bank nationalization off the table. It has made the discussion of socialism as an alternative to the current failed system more urgent than ever.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Support call to end home demolitions in East Jerusalem

From B'Tselem:

On March 4, during her trip to Israel and the West Bank, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton surprised many by making a strong statement against the Israeli practice of demolishing Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.

Calling the practice "…unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations [Israel] entered into under the roadmap," Clinton said she would raise the issue with the Israeli government. Click here to send President Obama an e-mail telling him you support Secretary Clinton's statement and urging him to do everything he can to support her efforts to end the demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.

Israeli policy regarding housing in East Jerusalem has created an impossible situation for Palestinians. Israeli law and bureaucracy make it virtually impossible for Palestinians to obtain the permits necessary to build or add on to existing homes to accommodate the needs of growing families.

Severe overcrowding and no hope of obtaining a building permit lead many Palestinians to build without permits. They do so knowing they will forever live in fear that, after investing their life savings to build, their home may be demolished.

From 2004 through 2008, 402 houses were demolished in East Jerusalem for being built without permits, which are rarely granted to Palestinians. Click here for more background on the discriminatory practices in planning and building in the city.

Israel has issued demolition orders for an entire neighborhood in the East Jerusalem village of Silwan. This is one of the issues which spurred Secretary Clinton's statement. Click here for more background on Silwan.

The policy of home demolition stands in blatant contradiction to Israel's commitment to equality and human rights. The demolitions leave families homeless, and increase feelings of hostility toward Israel. Please let President Obama know that you support Secretary Clinton's statement and urge the whole administration to follow these words up with actions to ensure Israel's respect for human rights.

One Alternative to Geithner's Bailout Plan

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Film Review of Swedish Film - Everlasting Moments

by Eric Green

Leave it to Swedish filmmakers to give you a film of epoch proportions in a very intimate family scale. This film, "Everlasting Moments," is narrated [a good idea] film, by the loving daughter, Maja, in a Swedish family in the deep Southwestern corner of Sweden, the Malmo area. The mother and father of this family are both highly complex characters both of who represent a time period, which could be repeated, probably in other European countries.

The working class film starts in 1907 in the middle of political upheavals in almost every country. Anarchists and socialists are featured. Labor strikes are the norm Russia is not mentioned but clearly the 1907 period in Russia had its impact in Sweden, a country a stones through from there.

Maria Larsson, played by beautifully Maria Heiskanen, and Sigfrid Larsson, played strongly by Michael Persbrandt, are the married couple. Sigge is a carousing alcoholic and Maria is the suffering wife who seems to end each confrontation with her husband with another child. They met and then married when they both vied for the same camera.

Most U.S. filmgoers will not know any these and other actors in the film, but they clearly highly trained Swedish actors. At the same time, most of these seem very familiar.

The First World War came into the film with Sigge and his socialist friend Englund, played by Emil Jensen went going off to war. But, then the three kings of Scandinavian met and declared their neutrality. Sigge was able to come home and continue his often miserable, angry existence. He reluctantly is drawn into strikes and political action.

Sigge's rage had most to do with being exploited by greedy employers on the longshore and at various farms.

The centerpiece of the film is the photography of Maria. She is befriended by a local photographer, Sebastian Pederson, played by Jesper Christensen, and encouraged to pursue her work. It was Maria's photos, most over 50 years unseen, that spurred the origins of the film. She took a photo of the three kings, which Pederson had reproduced in a major newspaper. Their special relationship was also important to the film.

The acting by Meiskanan and Persbrandt; as well as, Callin Ohrvall as Maja Larsson is excellent. The supporting cast is also of the highest quality.

But, it is the direction and story presented by Jan Troell that makes this film extraordinary. Troell's wife is the granddaughter of Maria. She discovered the photos. Niklas Radstrom wrote the film's screenplay.

Troell also had a hand in the cinematography with Mischa Garvjusjov.

The film was shot in 16mm and then expanded to be 35mm. The first portion of the film, when it was taking place in 1907 was shot in black and white. Then the film jumped 4 years and some colors were used. At the end of the film, full color.

This is a film made by and for Swedish audiences; much like the creaters of "Tokyo Sonata" was for Japanese audiences. Another refreshing change from international films made with Hollywood in mind.

Oh What a Lovely Crisis

by Gary Tedman

Today there is a problem, a spectre isn't haunting Europe, instead a vacuum has enveloped it. This vacuum is the absence of leadership in the face of the worst world capitalist crisis in economics since the last worst world capitalist crisis in economics. Our politicians seem unable to respond to it with anything but well worn phrases and old excuses. Fat cat capitalists (Goodwin, AIG executives) make off with huge bonuses for taking their institutions into the most colossal debts in corporate history, while politicians who can put 'enemy combatants' into an offshore prison and torture them with impunity, claim they are powerless to stop these businessmen 'for legal reasons' stuffing their filched taxpayers wealth offshore (as they are wont to do).

Things don't add up even superficially anymore, and it is becoming obvious to the masses with each passing minute that they don't, but the politicians still repeat the same platitudes as solutions: they will have new regulations (but tomorrow), they will tightly control (but at arms length), they will stimulate fiscally (but only the rich who don't need it), they will get lending going again (even while they blame debt for the problem), they will… etc, etc.

We now live 'in interesting times', and it is indeed a curse if this is anything to go by. And yet it also seems, in these times, to be a strange fact that even the ruling class don't understand why there isn't more protest, why the obvious anger hasn't turned out onto the streets as an, at least cathartic, outburst of anguish, they are a little mystified, pensive, subdued.

But the people want a real solution and they can see there is nobody to turn to, so homogeneous and bland has the political landscape become in modern advanced capitalist societies that authentic opposition is invisible, and especially so to its press, which has got into the habit of turning a blind eye to protest and real political innovation so much that it no longer knows how to 'write it up'.

Latterly they are trying, because they have to, for there have indeed been some real protests that have led to changes of government, Iceland and Latvia for instance, but they cannot help but express their own incredulity that they do in fact need to cover such events. Though even these events have been characterized by a lack of conviction in the solutions they have proposed or that have been offered to them. The people sense they are not real solutions, just stop-gaps and the prolonging of an illusion that governments know what they are doing.

They do not know. These governments and administrations have prided themselves for a long history on not knowing about how the economy actually works and on not 'commanding' it. The 'command economies' are always bad, the 'free' economies are always good, they have always said. Now the 'free' economies have gone bad it is still the fault of the 'command' economies, whose acolytes have conspired to cause the demise of this great free system by interfering in its freedom with stupid and unnecessary rules and regulations, and they look back all misty eyed at a time when the free market was truly free, which never existed because a market is, of course, a system of regulations; yet they persist with the myth for reasons of their own sanity, which is in effect their own necessary insanity: the cause of the global problem must be anything but the untrammelled profit motive, why? because they are this motive personified, or at least its visible expression. Their fundamental idea of a 'free market' is being able to take by violence, the rules are meant for the victims.

What's going to happen? There may be a recovery; there may be a long depression. Pretty graphs are charted showing next year's growth, they seem to be based on wishful thinking, not even the usual wishful thinking of the usual statistics of what people think and wish, but ideas drawn from pure thin air. The graphs go down in a curve below the line, but in the next year they magically appear above the line again. Suddenly the fiscal stimuli must have worked, the newly unemployed are invited to think, and there will be jobs again galore and credit again galore and all of this nightmare will be remembered as just that, simply a nightmare, and thus unreal; the slow to be installed regulations can then be ditched, the arms length policy can gain strength (or weakness!), the fraudsters and credit swindlers can start up again quietly, and the governments can get back to what they do best, providing a more believable illusion of leadership over it all. They wish.


Thomas Riggins

The above title is that of an opinon piece in Friday's Wall Street Journal that is so mendacious and factually inaccurate that it is hard to believe it was written by Fouad Ajami who is supposed to be an expert on the Middle East. He a professor at Johns Hopkins and a fellow at the Hoover Institution, but if he teaches his students the stuff and nonsense he writes in the WSJ they should demand their tuition back.

He doesn't say too much about Obama and concludes that he is apparently "undecided about Afghanistan." Well. I hope he is right and Obama decides not to pursue this fruitless war so fatally mismanaged by the Bushites as to be virtually unwinnable in any conventional sense.

The heart of the article is, however, a not so subtle defense of the neocon war theories that led to our catastrophic invasion of Iraq. He is still pushing the idea that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. To still be pushing this junk as if it has some merit is incredible, but sadly typical of the WSJ's editorial pages which are more and more resembling the editorial pages of its illegitimate (because artificially kept alive by stimulus money provided by Murdock) semiliterate sibling the New York Post.

Here is Ajami: "Plainly, our country has been living on its nerves since 9/11. It had not willed an Islamic imperium, but it has gotten one.[It got one by a war of choice, so the Bushites actually did will an imperium.] It was bequeathed this tribal duty by the upheaval in the lands of the Arab-Islamic world [what upheaval? neither Afghanistan nor Iraq were 'upheaving' until we attacked them.] and by the guile and cunning of a generation of jihadists [today's jihadists were yesterday's freedom fighters, I guess it depends on your perspective] and their enablers, who deflected the wrath of their people onto distant American power."

Those 'enablers' were in fact the CIA, the Saudis and ISI (their CIA) in Pakistan who created the jihadists to attack the Soviets and the socialist oriented government of Afghanistan. If ever there was a case of the chickens coming home to roost it was the jihadist "threat" to America. And there was no 'wrath' stirred up until AFTER Bush invaded Iraq. As for "distant power"--we had been bombing Iraq since the 90s, had military bases all over the place, a fleet on duty in the Gulf area, and were bankrolling the Zionist occupation of Palestine since 1967. So on all counts this passage from Ajami is just a big pile of baloney simply put out to deceive the readership of the WSJ. And there is more.

Next Ajami waxes eloquent over Bush's rendezvous with destiny, his answer to "history's call." "The country gave him its warrant and acceptance [because he LIED to us] and then withdrew it [we found out about the lies] in the latter years of his presidency." At least "he had a coherent worldview." Yes, it was based on making his own reality and just as silly as Ajami's reading of history.

"He took the war on terror into the heart of the Arab world. It was Arabs-- with their oil money, and with prestige that comes with their mastery of Arabic [Arabs speak Arabic, who knew?], the language of the Quran, among impressionable Pakistanis and Afghans [babes in the woods]-- who made Afghanistan the menace it had become." Don't forget the Pakistani ISI which funded the Taliban (to this day by all accounts) with the generous foreign aid moolah we dish out to friendly dictatorships we call "allies."

"Without Arab money and Arab doctrines of political Islam [we are talking about SAUDI ARABIA with whose King Bush has a hand holding relationship], the Taliban would have remained a breed of reactionary seminarians...." Well, is Ajami making the case that we should get tough with the Saudis? No! We should get tough with Iraq, which was actually a secular government hostile to the Taliban and to jihadists.

"It thus made perfect strategic sense," Ajami writes, "to take the fight to the Arab heartland of Islam. Saddam Hussein had drawn the short straw." Yes, perfect strategic sense to attack a country that was anti-Taliban, had nothing to do with 9/11, and would bog down our whole Army basically for years and years while the Taliban regrouped and the jihadists grew in power and strength all over the region.

It was the American people who got the short straw, as well as those unfortunate enough to take Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins.

[Vid] Out of Crisis: Building a New Era of Justice and Peace

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ken Coates - Russell Tribunal on Palestine

Google the above to see a video on the launch of the inquiry re war crimes in Gaza, etc. It's a short speech by the president of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation given in Brussels on 3-4-09.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Science, Condoms and the Pope: The Long and Short of It

Thomas Riggins

The Pope's comments in Cameroon, as reported by AP, that giving out condoms could threaten public health and that they won't solve the problem of the spread of HIV, shows, once again, the immense gulf between the Vatican and what it stands for, and a rational scientific outlook.

Amongst uneducated and superstitious people his words carry much weight, so who knows how many thousands of preventable deaths will result from his ignorant statements and uncaring words.

Science has shown that the use of condoms is a major weapon in the efforts to halt the spread of the HIV virus and to prevent the horrible sufferings and deaths caused by aids. None of this has any effect on the closed mind and medieval thinking of the Pope.

His statements have rightly been condemned by the UN as well as by, among others, France and Germany. The French Foreign Ministry released the following statement: "We consider that these statements [of the Pope] endanger public health policies and the imperative to protect human life."

The Vatican said these are long standing views of the Vatican. Well, we know that protecting human life was never the Vatican's strong point as its history of pogroms, crusades, religious wars, support for Hitler, and now rejection of the best scientific advice with regard to a major way to save people from HIV clearly shows, but becoming a major threat to public health in our own time is a new low.

This Pope should resign and the Church should try and find someone with a modicum of Christian love and charity, as well as some knowledge of science, to replace him.

How physics is validating the Labor Theory of Value

Found this interesting tidbit. Let's discuss.

By Paul Cockshott http://21stcenturysocialism.blogspot.com/

When I was a student my economics professor told us that whilst the labour theory of value had been an important historical stage in the development of economics, it was now known to be fatally flawed. 20th century economists such as Sraffa and Samuelson had shown that it was unnecessary to accord labour any special place in our understanding of prices. Instead, the structure of prices could be perfectly well understood as the result of the monetary costs faced by firms and the behaviour of profit maximising entrepreneurs. If there was in reality no such thing as labour value, it followed that Marx's theory of exploitation was an invalid incursion of moral prejudices into the 'positive science' of economics.

The professor who taught us this, Ian Steedman, was actually quite left wing, an active member of the Communist Party.

This is just an anecdote, but fact that even a prominent communist intellectual believed that the central component of Marx's theory was scientifically worthless is significant. In retrospect it gave an indication of how poorly prepared the intellectuals of the communist movement were to be, when faced with the very intense ideological attacks on socialism which unfolded in the 1980s and 1990s.

But 25 years ago help came from an unexpected source. Two mathematicians Moshe Machover and Emanuel Farjoun, wrote a book called the Laws of Chaos. Their book gave a radically new way of looking at how capitalism worked as a chaotic and disorganised system. Farjoun and Machover had the the insight to see that physics had already developed theories to describe similar disorganised and chaotic systems.

In a market economy, hundreds of thousands of firms and individuals interact, buying and selling goods and services. This is similar to a gas in which very large numbers of molecules interact, bouncing off one another. Physics speaks of such systems as having a 'high degree of freedom', by which it means that the movements of all individual molecules are 'free' or random. But despite the individual molecules being free to move, we can still say things about them in the aggregate. We can say what their average speed will be ( their temperature ) and what their likely distributions in space will be.

The branch of physics which studies this is statistical mechanics or thermodynamics. Instead of making deterministic statements, it deals with probabilities and averages, but it still comes up with fundamental laws, the laws of thermodynamics, which have been found to govern the behaviour of our universe.

Now here is the surprise! When they applied the method of statistical mechanics to the capitalist economy, they found that the predictions it made coincided almost exactly with the labour theory of value as set out in volume 1 of Marx's Kapital. Statistical mechanics showed that the selling prices of goods would vary in proportion to their labour content just as Marx had assumed. Because the market is chaotic, individual prices would not be exactly equal to labour values, but they would cluster very closely around labour values. Whilst in Kapital I the labour theory of value is just taken as an empirically valid rule of thumb. Marx knew it was right, but did not say why. Here at last was a sound physical theory explaining it.

It is the job of science to uncover causal mechanisms. Once it has done this it can make predictions which can be tested. If two competing theories make different predictions about reality, we can by observation determine which theory is right. This is the normal scientific method.

Farjoun and Machover's theory made certain predictions which went directly against the predictions made by critics of Marx such as Samuelson. In particular their theory predicts that industries with a high labour to capital ratio will be more profitable. Conventional economics predicts that there will be no such systematic difference between the profit rates in different industries. When put to the test it turned out that Farjoun and Machover were right. Industries with a high labour to capital ratio are more profitable. But this is exactly what we should expect if the source of profit was the exploitation of labour rather than capital. Their theory made predictions which not only turned out to be empirically spot on, but at the same time verified Marx's theory of the exploitation of the worker.

The next big advance was made by the phsyicist Viktor Yakovenko, who showed in his paper 'the Statistical Mechanics of Money' that money in a market economy played the same role as energy in physics.

Just as energy is conserved in collisions between molecules, so money is conserved in the acts of buying and selling. So far so obvious!

What was not obvious was what this implies. Yakovenko showed that the laws of thermodynamics then imply that the distribution of money between people will follow the same form as the distribution of energy between molecules in a gas : the so called Gibbs-Boltzmann distribution. This sounds very scientific, but what does it actually mean?

What the Gibbs-Boltzmann distribution of money says is that a few people with end up with a lot of money and a lot of people with end up with very little money. It says that the distribution of money will be very uneven, just as we see in capitalist society. In fact Yakovenko showed that the distribution of wealth in the USA fits the Gibbs-Boltzman distribution pretty closely.
There is a tendancy to think that rich people owe their wealth to intelligence or effort, but physics tells us no. Given a market economy, then the laws of chance mean that a lot of money will end up in the hands of a few people.

In fact when we look at the USA we find that the distribution of wealth is even more uneven that we would expect from the Gibbs-Boltzmann law. If the Gibbs Boltzman law held, there would be millionaires but no billionaires. Why the disparity?

Yakovenkos original equations represented an economy that is rather like what Marx called simple commodity production. It assumed only buying and selling. More recent work by Yakovenko and Wright, has shown that if you modify these equations to allow either the earning of interest on money, or the hiring of wage labour, then the equations predict a polarisation of the population into two groups. The great bulk of the population, the working class and petty bourgeois, follow a Gibbs-Boltzmann income distribution. But there is a second class, those whose income derives from capital, whose wealth with follow a different law, what is called a power-law. Again, look in detail at the distribution of wealth in and you provide exactly the distribution predicted by Yakovenko's theory. This, says Yakovenko, proves that Marx was right when he said that modern society was comprised of two distinct and opposed classes : capitalists and workers.

So modern physics has shown that not only was Marx right in his basic analysis, but he was right because his conclusions follow from the most basic laws of physics, the laws of thermodynamics.

There is also a less obvious conclusion that we can draw from physics relating to the undesirablity of Market Socialism. We can see from Yakovenko's work that a market socialist economy would also have a very uneven distribution of money. There too the Gibbs-Boltzmann law would rule. A small number of people or co-operatives would end up with a lot of money, and many such people or co-operatives would end up poverty stricken. From this capitalism would be regenerated. As Lenin wrote : "small production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a mass scale".

General Strike in France to Protest Economic Crisis

By Jim Genova

On 19 March 2009 millions of French workers led by the Confederation Generale du Travail (CGT) went on strike to protest President Nicholas Sarkozy's handling of the global financial crisis in France. According to the Agence France Presse (AFP), marches of workers were expected in over 200 cities with the largest slated for the capital, Paris. In fact, the expected number of protesters in Paris has forced the police to open two march routes instead of the customary one. In January more than 2 million French workers poured into the streets to protest Sarkozy's attempt to deal with the economic crisis by bailing out large corporations. Those protests forced the government to introduce an extensive stimulus plan centered on "a package of social benefits worth 2.6 billion euros."

In the current demonstrations the CGT, other labor federations, and the parties of the left are demanding that the government "hike the minimum wage, increase taxes on the rich and scrap plans to cut public sector jobs." According to the AFP a recent poll found 78 percent of the French population in support of the strike action. "This is not just a day of protest," said Francois Chereque of the powerful CFDT union. "We have made hard proposals, and the government has to give us some serious answers. We no longer understand the government's policies or its goals," he told RMC radio, while Bernard Thibault of the biggest union, the CGT, warned "the government is going to have to agree to new talks."

According to French media reports, the victorious six week strike of workers on Guadeloupe has emboldened workers in France. On the Caribbean island, workers fought valiantly for big wage increases, extension of social benefits, job preservation, and advanced the fight for independence. Despite more than 1,000 special police ferried to the island by Paris to suppress the movement, the workers held out. Finally, the government recognized its untenable position (after the police murder of a Guadeloupean worker on the barricades) and agreed to settle with the unions. The emerging solidarity between workers in France and those in its "Overseas Departments" is a potent demonstration of not only the global reach of the economic crisis, but the attendant emerging consciousness of the common interests shared by workers around the world.

Today's demonstrations and strikes across France are the latest in a string of popular actions confronting inept governments around the world that are bent on propping up those capitalists in the financial sector who have created a global Ponzi scheme that has crashed to the ground in the past two years, taking with it the jobs and livelihoods of millions of workers. Demonstrations have paralyzed or led to the fall of governments in Iceland, Latvia, and Estonia. Protests have spread across Europe (France, Italy, Spain), Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines), Latin America (Argentina and Peru), and in the U.S.

There is mounting pressure on governments around the world to abandon their strategies of pumping trillions of public sector dollars into failed financial institutions so that they can continue paying bonuses and exorbitant salaries to executives. Instead, workers and progressive forces everywhere are united in calling for real economic stimulus (actual money used to employ people in productive work), an end to tax breaks for the rich, recovery of money looted from public treasuries, nationalization of banks and other essential industries, and extension of social benefits to protect workers from the fallout emanating from the greed of those in the financial sector who have plundered the pension plans of millions of workers for their personal profit. As the crisis spreads and deepens, the protest movement it likely to grow and add to the global momentum for meaningful structural change to the world economy.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Victory over the death penalty in New Mexico

From the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty:

Today, March 18, 2009, is Death Penalty Abolition Day in New Mexico!

Just minutes ago, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed into law the bill to repeal the death penalty in that state. New Mexico has become the second state since 1965 to legislatively abolish the death penalty. I know you will join me in applauding and congratulating Governor Richardson and the people of New Mexico for taking this important step.

Today marks the culmination of a campaign that started more than ten years ago in New Mexico. To everyone who had a hand in today's success, we at the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty offer our thanks and our congratulations.

While we celebrate this important victory for human rights, let us not forget that ours is an issue rooted in tragedy, pain and suffering. Please take a moment to reflect on or pray for the families who have lost loved ones to murder, for the families of those accused and facing punishment for the crime of murder, for the members of law enforcement who must deal with the aftermath of murder, and yes, for those condemned to death, guilty or not.

Today, I ask you to take two important actions.
#1: Please take a few minutes to mail a hand written note of thanks to Governor Richardson. What he did was both just and proper, and he needs to know that his action is appreciated.

Governor Bill Richardson
Office of the Governor
490 Old Santa Fe Trail, Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501

#2: There is so much more work to be done. Thirty-five states still have the death penalty. As we did in New Mexico, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty is working to ensure that effective and strategic campaigns are in place across the nation. With your help, we can do more. Please make a generous contribution today to help NCADP continue to be a useful partner to the efforts of our affiliates, the folks who are on the front lines every day in this struggle. Your support makes it happen.

A few additional thoughts....

Visit our web page (http://www.ncadp.org) to see NCADP's official statement on Abolition in New Mexico.

Lula calls on US to end Cuba embargo

From The Miami Herald

Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday called on the United States to end its economic embargo of Cuba, saying it makes no sense in the 21st Century.Speaking at a Wall Street Journal-sponsored investment forum in New York, Silva also pointed to El Salvador's presidential election on Sunday as evidence democracy has spread across Latin America, warranting a reevaluation of the United States' relationship with the region.

At the end of his speech, Silva said the Cuba embargo is widely opposed across the region.
''There is nothing any more from the political perspective, from sociological perspective, from the humanitarian perspective that impedes the reestablishment of relations between the United States and Cuba,'' Silva said. ``It's not possible in the 21st Century to make policy looking toward the 20th Century -- let's think about looking toward the 22nd Century.''

While Silva did not directly say that he broached the subject of Cuba du ring his meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama Saturday, it was likely among the top issues discussed.

Following the meeting, both Obama and Silva praised the relationship between the two countries, calling the meeting ''productive'' but providing few details.

Silva, who is Brazil's first working class president, enjoys good relations with the U.S. as well as with left-leaning leaders in Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia, giving him an important role in the region helping to mediate disputes.

Silva said he had been in touch with Latin American presidents and all were in favor of working together to forge a new relationship with the U.S. under the Obama administration.

''All of them want to work in partnership with the U.S. All of them are expecting the U.S. to establish a new relationship, a constructive relationship not based on political interference,'' Silva said, mentioning Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Bolivia's Evo Morales as leaders he had spoken to.

''The United States of North America has the obligation and the extraordinary opportunity to re-establish a new relationship with Latin America,'' he said.

Silva said the upcoming Summit of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the Americas, to be held in Trinidad and Tobago in April, would be the ''ideal scenario'' for Obama and Latin American leaders to re-establish this new relationship of mutual respect.

Auto workers seize Windsor plant in protest

From CBC.ca

A group of disgruntled workers at a recently closed auto parts supply company in Windsor, Ont., have taken over the plant.

In the latest bizarre twist in a saga that has been brewing since two auto plants in the area shut down early last week, about a dozen workers occupied the Aradco plant Tuesday night. They have welded the doors shut from the inside and say they will not leave until they get what they are owed.

Work at the Aradco plant stopped last week because of a dispute between the plant owners and Chrysler, which has mused publicly about pulling out of its Canadian operations unless unionized workers make substantial concessions.
Employees reject severance offer

The Canadian Auto Workers Union that represents the Aradco workers say that in the wake of the shutdown, the workers are owed money for severance pay, vacation pay, and termination pay totalling $1.7 million.

The plant's owner, Catalina Precision Products Ltd. has offered the workers four weeks of severance pay — or about $200,000 in total for all 80 workers.

The plant builds parts for Chrysler. Since last week, Chrysler has been trying to go in and collect parts and tools it says are the company's, but the workers are not allowing it. They have been blocking trucks from coming on to the property. Union representatives say the workers fear that if the tools and parts are removed, they will have no negotiating power.

"Some of the workers here have decided to take over the plant. That's the only thing they have in order to try to get the monies that are owing to them," said Gerry Farnham, president of the CAW local representing the workers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bonuses and Cutbacks

by Norman Markowitz

AIG is acting as if the 1980s have just begun, planning to give its Executives over 160 million in bonuses (for what, hustling tens of billions in taxpayer "bailout money" from the federal government). Now it isn't trade unionists who are taking the fall from union busters, workers losing their pension funds that leveraged buyouts, the poor pushed off public assistance rolls as "welfare" is demonized. It is the great majority of Americans faced with a mounting economic crisis that threatens their employment, housing, wages and salaries and benefits. In the 1980s, the "lean and mean" vulture capitalists who were celebrated by stooge center right journalists took their rewards as they forced real wages down for the majority and made hunger and homelessness social problems in the country again. Today, the vulture capitalists of the Bush II era are again seeking obscene monetary rewards as if they had a Mummy of Ronald Reagan proclaiming over and over again "It's Morning in America."

Actually, this is so obscene even many Republicans are shouting enough. But the Obama administration, which has been forceful in its denunciations of the bonuses, should act directly to inform AIG that if they are not rescinded immediately, aid funds will be withdawn.

Also, more importantly, the Obama administration should begin to work with the states and cities to resist the counterproductive cutbacks that are being put forward to deal with the economic crisis. I am a college professor and a state employee in New Jersey which has a Democratic governor and state legislature. New Jersey is generally a strong pro union progressive state, but it has two special problems. First it is in the New York metropolitan area and has thus suffered greatly by the loss of tax revenues created by the Wall Street collapse. Second, its Republican Governor, Christine Todd Whitman, pursued a Reaganite economic policy in the state in the 1990s, cutting state income taxes by 30% and thus setting the stage for huge deficits (this in the 1990s when many states in less better shape than New Jersey were recovering from the effects of national Reaganite policies).

The Governor has proposed a wage and salary freeze for unionized public employees for this year of their contracts(which was the year in which the largest increases were to be paid). He has also called for 12 days of suspensions without pay(the propaganda term "furlough" is being used, although "furloughs" are leaves from service in the military, vacations of sorts, with no pay losses, and have nothing to do with these policies, which would amount to a two and a half week pay cut for public employees, a layoff in the private sector, a suspension without pay in the public sector).

The state unions, including my own, will do everything in their power to fight this, which would be if it is successful quite similar to the "givebacks" which private employers coerced unions to accept in the Reagan years.

My point though is that this policy called for by Governor Corzine in New Jersey and by other governors and mayors is in direct opposition to the Obama policy, whose purpose is to sustain mass purchasing power by pumping money into the economy to prevent the worst recession of the post WWII from becoming a depression. Reducing the incomes and purchasing power of tens of thousands of public employees and their families is in effect pumping money out of the economy. Along with increasing regressive taxes (which has also been suggested in the form
of eliminating the ability of home owners to write off their regressive property taxes from their state income taxes, thus raising state income taxes in a regressive way, since property taxes are often higher in moderate and low income communities because of the large public school systems they support than in affluent communities, where property values are much higher)such policies negate the compensatory fiscal stimulus program of the national administration and also continue (this time in New Jersey with a Democratic governor) the old rightwing Republican strategy of scapegoating public employees and playing them against moderate income private sector workers in a race to the bottom.

The states and cities have a huge problem rooted in thirty years of public sector underfunding. The cynical contentions from establishment media that public sector workers must "share the pain" ignores the fact that both real incomes and benefits for many public sector employees have been in decline for a long time, as newer workers have been denied the benefits of older workers, "merit" schemes have been employed to reduce overall wages and salaries, and the out of pocket expenses for existing benefits have risen sharply. When these facts are cited, the lame response is that things are worse for private sector workers(in regard to benefits and job security, they often are, but progress is about raising standards, not lowering them, and Keynesian fiscal theory, at least the Keynesian theory in the U.S. from the New Deal on associated with the Democrats) has been rooted in a commitment to maintain and increase income and thus mass
purchasing power as the only sound way to maintain the demand for goods and services in the economy that will foster quantity economic growth and guard against recession and especially depression. State and local policies that make workers pay for escalating budget deficits only increase the downward spiral, which will further reduce revenues and in the long run increase state deficits.

As he informs AIG that rewarding a handful of executives with millions in bonuses goes against his administration's economic policy, President Obama might also tell the Governors, Mayors and legislators of his own party that addressing their budget crisis by striking at the salaries and benefits of public employees goes against his administration's economic policy and offer to work with them, in the context of the rescue plan, to fund alternatives.

No Reason to Demonize U.S. Single-Payer Health

From Bloomberg News (Surprised?)
No Reason to Demonize U.S. Single-Payer Health
Commentary by John F. Wasik

March 11 (Bloomberg) -- It’s time to stop kicking sand in the face of single-payer health care. It may be the strongest solution around to insure every American at a lower cost.

After decades of industry campaigns against this model -- dubbed by its critics as “socialized” medicine -- it’s important to stop whining and evaluate the many economic benefits. Health care is a fundamental human right.

If President Barack Obama wants real change in American health care, he will have to get over the fear of even mentioning single-payer concepts. At his health-care summit last week, only the threat of a demonstration garnered late invitations for Oliver Fein and Congressman John Conyers, two leading proponents of the single-payer plan.

Health-care costs have become a crippling personal-finance burden for 45 million uninsured and 25 million underinsured Americans. Those outside of the fractured employer-based system are only one illness away from financial ruin.

Read the whole article here

Sign an open letter to CNBC

Dear CNBC —

“You knew what the banks were doing, and yet were touting it for months and months. The entire network was.” — Jon Stewart

These now-legendary words were a wake-up call. We’re asking you to wake up.

Americans need CNBC to do strong, watchdog journalism – asking tough questions to Wall Street, debunking lies, and reporting the truth. Instead, CNBC has done PR for Wall Street. You’ve been so obsessed with getting “access” to failed CEOs that you willfully passed on misinformation to the public for years, helping to get us into the economic crisis we face today.

You screwed up badly. Don’t apologize – fix it!

CNBC should publicly declare that its new overriding mission will be responsible journalism that holds Wall Street accountable. As a down payment, we ask you to hire some new economic voices – people who have a track record of being right about the economic crisis and holding Wall Street executives’ feet to the fire.

Please show us that you hear our voices loud and clear.


Sign your name here

Should Democrats Put Corporate Interests Before People?



Reviewed by Pamela Crossland

Bacevich, Andrew J. The Limits of Power. Metropolitan Books, 2008. 206 pp.

The author is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. A lifelong conservative with several other books to his credit, Bacevich is a retired military colonel who served in Viet Nam and taught at West Point and John Hopkins University. He has argued extensively that the United States relies too heavily on military power in international conflicts rather than using diplomatic means. Unrealistic and romanticized notions of war particularly in films have contributed to the American’s people unrealistic notion of what can be accomplished by war. This is only one of the heads of the hydra that threatens to destroy the American dream; manifest destiny, dependence on foreign oil, and global warming will also chew up the illusion that things can continue unchanged.

According to Bacevich, the United States is in a crisis made up of three components: economic and cultural, political, and military. He devotes a chapter to each of these parts, breathing fire and brimstone in a manner a Baptist preacher would envy. An insatiable appetite for bigger and better toys is the basis for the dismal economic situation that the US finds itself in, according to Professor Bacevich. This has been evolving since the end of World War II according to his analysis and has reached a critical mass. Prior to the 1970s, the United States led the world in oil production. This decline, along with an imbalance in trade, which has grown steadily worse over the decades, coupled with consumer greed and uncompromising determination to maintain a standard of living outside the scope of much of the world has resulted in the current economic climate. Cheap oil and cheap credit are things of the past.
Bacevich often refers to the “imperial presidency.” He decries the advise of the “Wise Men” or presidential advisors who have special expertise (or at least claim to have such knowledge) without the burden of voter accountability. Colonel Edward House, a special advisor to Woodrow Wilson and Dean Acheson and a whole host of members of the "Eastern Establishment" in the administration of FDR are praised as examples for Karl Rove and Paul Wolfowitz in the Bush administration. The increase in the concentration of power in the office of the president in particular is another factor in the imperial presidency. That Bush expanded the powers of the president will come as no surprise to those who endured his term as governor of Texas, where he cut his political teeth expanding the power of that office. This is a sad contrast to the vision of a republic in which individual states have most of the political power, keeping the federal government in a limited role. The Founding Fathers must be spinning in their grave clothes.

Bacevich knows where things went wrong. He states that "the true pivot of contemporary American history lies between two dates: July, 1979 and March, 1983. The first is President Jimmy Carter's "Crisis of Confidence" speech, in which he stated, "We are at a turning point in our history." Carter believed that America could select one of two paths, one of self-interest and the other a path of common purpose to rediscover and define American values. Bacevich credits this speech as the reason Carter was not re-elected. The second is a speech by then President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 . This talk is remembered for Reagan's "Star Wars" plan, but Bacevich believes two important ideas were imbedded in the talk. America can only be safe if it achieved something like permanent global military supremacy, and technology can solve all our problems. The ideas in this speech have been the political basis for all the presidents that followed Reagan according to Bacevich.

The third point is where the former colonel spends most of his ire. Military might is not a fix a flat solution to every world crisis or disaster. “Valor does not offer the measure of an army’s greatness nor does fortitude, nor durability, nor technological sophistication. A great army is one that accomplishes its assigned mission.” Using this definition, Bachevich explains how the military has failed since George W. Bush declared war on terror. With twenty-three years of experience in the army to his credit, he makes his case, particularly in his criticism of the war in Iraq. He believes that America does not need a bigger army. “It needs a smaller – that is, more modest – foreign policy, one that assigns soldiers missions that are consistent with their capabilities.” This and reigning in the oft mentioned imperial president should be the way the America supports her troops.

Professor Bacevich offers no insights that would lead to solutions to the current interlocking crisis in the United States. Despite this, this book is compelling and will give the reader much to think about.