“Liberal”, “Progressive”, “Free Market”, “NeoLiberal” – what’s up?

A friend asked the following question of me on Facebook the other day:

What’s wrong with the word LIBERAL …. This word … progressives … is only a diluted weak solution of the real thing …. the L word has become like the N word … it can’t be mouthed in public. I know what Liberal means I don’t have a clue what progressive means … you’d think Neoliberal has some relationship to LIBERAL which it doesn’t. Am I the only person that can’t keep track of these shifting meanings which I think are meant to deliberately confuse the public .

I commented in reply: Continue reading

Defending the Homeland

MarineMonumentRecently I stopped at the US Marine Corp War Memorial in Washington DC. Walking around the base with its lengthy list of Marine engagements since 1775, now a double row on several sides, I thought, “How many of these can faithfully be considered to be in defence of the homeland? How many expansionist wars within North America and how many imperialist ventures around the world?”

Run through them yourself and see what you think. Keep in mind that the section devoted to WWII, which takes up two sides, includes the names of all the major engagements, but still within that single conflict.1Imperialism-a Imperialism-b Imperialism-c Imperialism-d Imperialism-e Imperialism-f Imperialism-gjpg Imperialism-h Imperialism-i Imperialism-j

  1. Don’t forget that these are just Marine engagements – think of ones you would have to add to the list including the Army, Air Force, Navy, CIA, DEA, and so on. []

Dangers of the US Security State

There are those, in response to the recent revelations of the US government vacuum cleaning our lives through the NSA and other secret programs, who take the line that the innocent have nothing to fear from the government. Here is an example of why no one should take such a naive approach to the powers of government.

LAURA POITRAS credit: Ruby Washington/New York Times photographer - borrowed w/o permission

LAURA POITRAS
credit: Ruby Washington/New York Times photographer – borrowed w/o permission

The New York Times reported recently (“Player in Leaks Case, Out From Behind Camera1 ) on the role of Laura Poitras in the revelations by Edward Snowden about domestic surveillance by NSA et al.. Continue reading

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/15/business/media/filmmaker-linked-to-leaks-has-her-own-stories-to-tell.html?_r=0 []

John le Carré on Bush’s Iraq War – The United States of America Has Gone Mad

John le Carre - wikipedia imageJohn le Carré, author of many beloved spy novels, e.g., Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy, wrote this piece critiquing the then upcoming War on Iraq in January 2003. Besides pointing out the very strong connections between big oil and the Bushes, many other elements of the critique continue to be applicable to current American foreign policy.

Here it is reproduced in its entirety: Continue reading

Our Longest War – The War on Drugs – more data on its futility

I have noted here several times earlier about America’s longest war – the War on Drugs. Here is a graphic that displays the complete failure of our policies:1

drug-spending-v-addiction from Atlantic Monthly

 

  1. source: http://m.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/10/chart-says-war-drugs-isnt-working/57913/ – this graphic came to my attemtion via the Colbert Report http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/425397/april-11-2013/america-s-pot-astrophe  []

US Imperialism Redux – Tom Lehrer

tom lehrerThe other day I stumbled on this Tom Lehrer song, “Send in the Marines”. This is as good a summary of American foreign policy as there is, though to update the lyrics for the Obama version just substitute “drones” for “Marines”.

Here is a YouTube video performance, perhaps from the That Was The Week That Was (the American version on NBC not the BBC original).

Ten Years After Shock and Awe – A Crime Against Peace

 On March 19, 2003 George Bush, Dick Cheney and the cabal surrounding them launched their war of Shock and Awe on Iraq. The stated purpose was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.”1

Bush on aircraft carrier declaring victory in IraqThis war that no one is celebrating was based on a nest of lies and deception not only by the President but many others in the government. It failed to accomplish its three goals. Continue reading

  1. http://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030322.html []

FBI Training – another clever use of the Cartesian coordinate system

I sometimes wonder why I poke at my Wired Magazine app almost every day…. Today brought a little reward, if one considers revelations of such nonsense as a reward.

Here is a chart from this training manualon “mainstream” Muslims:


How anyone with any level of day-to-day common sense, or rudimentary knowledge of history, any history, could believe that the followers of the Torah or Bible have been becoming less violent must be on some pretty serious drugs. I will leave it to those with a more serious understanding of the relative bellicosity of believers in the Koran to weigh in on the horizontal line…..

Where, Oh, Where Did Our National Debt Come From?

The political rhetoric of the current moment, chiefly flowing from Republicans, but barely challenged by the Democrats, describes tales of profligate over-spending by the Federal government matched with burdensome taxation. While it is true that Federal spending is higher proportionately than post-WWII norms, social programs are not the source of this over spending. One only has to look back to George Bush’s two terms to see the true sources of the debt. 

Impact of Bush Policies, economy and wars on budget deficits

War, Wars, More Wars

First up are our profligate wars. A recent study at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies finds that since 2001 we have spent between $2.3 and $2.7 trillion on our adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.All of these dollars are deficit dollars. George Bush did not ask for increased taxes to fund his wars. Barack Obama has not asked for increased taxes to fund his continuation of the Bush wars and now his new war in Libya. The final bills for these wars will reach $3.7 to $4.4 trillion.1 We are fighting these wars on the backs of our grandchildren and, as is becoming obvious from the disgusting collusion between Obama and the Republicans, on the backs of the poor and the rapidly disappearing middle class. You might think that since these wars are in our national security interests (the rhetoric of all recent Presidents) they would feel it right to ask the American people to sacrifice more than just our mercenary military but also take money out of their pockets. It has been too easy to have the Chinese pay the bill.

Pills, Pills, Drug Companies and the Health Industry

President Bush, aided by the drug industry and health insurance industry, pushed through a new Part D Drug Benefit for Medicare. This was unfunded by new tax revenues. The estimate for 2009 to 2018 is an additional $727 billion

Tax Breaks Everywhere – The Gully Swamper of Them All

Part of the religion of the right is that cutting taxes will increase economic activity and in the end generate higher tax revenues. History has proven this theory to be nonsense. George Bush, aided by members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat, passed enormous tax decreases. These bills with their charming titles,  Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, created an enormous windfall for the rich and have not produced any job growth. In fact George Bush’s presidency is marked with the lowest job growth record of any president back to Herbert Hoover2. As is demonstrated by the graphic from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities the tax cuts of the Bush years are the largets single source of debt.

federal_outlays_and_revenues_as_percent_gdp

Under Tax – But Are We Over Spending?

With all of the Bush tax cuts (and the extensions by Obama and the Democrats) Federal tax revenues are now 14.9% of GDP. This is roughly  16% lower than the share typical during the post WWII era while Federal expenditures are 24% of GDP.  The chart from the National Priorities Project “Federal Outlays and Revenues, 1930-2015” shows the historical trends of revenues versus spending. Note that the projected increases in revenue for 2011 to 2014 are the result of the projected lapsing of the Bush tax cuts. As demonstrated by Obama and the Democrats at the end of 2010, it is hardly a forgone conclusion that this enormous giveaway will not be continued. 

The chart clearly shows that overall Federal spending is higher than the post WWII norm.  Despite the political rhetoric of the moment, it is hardly shockingly high. This is especially true if you take into account the war spending and outlays for economic recovery during what is now obviously the most serious economic slump since the Great Depression.

 


  1. I won’t go into the costs of these wars in lost lives and displaced persons not the enormous moral costs. The Watson Institute website has information on those aspects. []
  2. see Wikipedia article here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jobs_created_during_U.S._presidential_terms []

America’s Longest War – a socio-political-military disaster – indicted by Global Commission on Drug Policy

Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy

Last week this commission released its report,  “War on Drugs“. This once again brings into focus our longest war, Nixon’s War on Drugs. Here are the first two paragraphs from the executive summary:

The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.

Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption. Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers. Repressive efforts directed at consumers impede public health measures to reduce HIV/AIDS, overdose fatalities and other harmful consequences of drug use. Government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments in demand and harm reduction.

Meanwhile the US War on Drugs grinds on and total Federal and state spending on this disaster will lurch over $35 Billion this year.

Extending Eisenhower’s Language

in his last speech as President, Eisenhower pointed to the “military-industrial complex” as a threat to the nation’s security and health. Since then, hisotry has added new layers of meaning and expanded the scope of this phrase. Today, we are in the thrall if not control of the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Executive-Spying-DrugWar-Complex. The War on Drugs has a record of failure and destructive outcomes now over 40 years old. Nevertheless, this behemoth roles along, getting bigger and more global in its reach every year. No Republicans or Democrats are willing to abandon the policies and rhetoric so cynically initiated by Nixon. Even this year of the so-called deficit debate, when Republicans and Democrats are willing to throw every bit of discretionary social or infrastructure spending under the bus, the War on Drugs (and every other element of the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Executive-Spying-DrugWar-Complex) is off limits.

Global Commission Recommendations

The executive summary continues(my highlighting):

Our principles and recommendations can be summarized as follows:

End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others. Challenge rather than reinforce common misconceptions about drug markets, drug use and drug dependence.

Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens. This recommendation applies especially to cannabis, but we also encourage other experiments in decriminalization and legal regulation that can accomplish these objectives and provide models for others.

Offer health and treatment services to those in need. Ensure that a variety of treatment modalities are available, including not just methadone and buprenorphine treatment but also the heroin-assisted treatment programs that have proven successful in many European countries and Canada. Implement syringe access and other harm reduction measures that have proven effective in reducing transmission of HIV and other blood-borne infections as well as fatal overdoses. Respect the human rights of people who use drugs. Abolish abusive practices carried out in the name of treatment – such as forced detention, forced labor, and physical or psychological abuse – that contravene human rights standards and norms or that remove the right to self-determination.

Apply much the same principles and policies stated above to people involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets, such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers. Many are themselves victims of violence and intimidation or are drug dependent. Arresting and incarcerating tens of millions of these people in recent decades has filled prisons and destroyed lives and families without reducing the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organizations. There appears to be almost no limit to the number of people willing to engage in such activities to better their lives, provide for their families, or otherwise escape poverty. Drug control resources are better directed elsewhere.

Invest in activities that can both prevent young people from taking drugs in the first place and also prevent those who do use drugs from developing more serious problems. Eschew simplistic ‘just say no’ messages and ‘zero tolerance’ policies in favor of educational efforts grounded in credible information and prevention programs that focus on social skills and peer influences. The most successful prevention efforts may be those targeted at specific at-risk groups.

Focus repressive actions on violent criminal organizations, but do so in ways that undermine their power and reach while prioritizing the reduction of violence and intimidation. Law enforcement efforts should focus not on reducing drug markets per se but rather on reducing their harms to individuals, communities and national security.

Begin the transformation of the global drug prohibition regime. Replace drug policies and strategies driven by ideology and political convenience with fiscally responsible policies and strategies grounded in science, health, security and human rights – and adopt appropriate criteria for their evaluation. Review the scheduling of drugs that has resulted in obvious anomalies like the flawed categorization of cannabis, coca leaf and MDMA. Ensure that the international conventions are interpreted and/or revised to accommodate robust experimentation with harm reduction, decriminalization and legal regulatory policies.

Break the taboo on debate and reform. The time for action is now.

Go to the website and read further. They provide case studies from around the world to illustrate their case for these principles and policies.

Charles M. Blow wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times (6/11/2011) “Drug Bust“. It included the following graphics:

Einstein (Rita Mae Brown) Had Something To Say About This

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.