Monday, January 31, 2005

The Last Word on Social Security: Hands Off!

from A Tiny Revolution
Conservative Republicans have hated Social Security since before it began. In 1935, Republican Senator Daniel Hastings said Social Security would "end the progress" of America. Ever since, conservatives have been claiming Social Security is about to collapse. When people who are now receiving Social Security checks were starting to work in the 1960s, conservative Republicans were telling them they'd never see a dime. Bush himself, when he was running for Congress in 1978, said Social Security would "go broke" within ten years.

However, until now conservative politicians have never made any serious attempt to kill Social Security. That's because Social Security is extremely popular. And as much as conservatives dislike Social Security, they dislike losing elections even more. Social Security has often been called the "third rail" of American politics—touch it and you die.

But things have changed. Not Social Security itself; it's fine. But conservatives think that—after saying since 1935 that Social Security is about to collapse—they've finally gotten Americans to believe it. As a recent internal White House memo put it, "For the first time in six decades, the Social Security battle is one we can win."

The person who wrote this was being honest: conservatives have been fighting against Social Security for 60 years. It didn't have anything to do with a "crisis" in 1945, 1965, or 1985. And it doesn't now.

Now, you may be wondering: why exactly do conservatives hate Social Security? Why do they think something so many Americans like is so terrible?

Here's one answer: $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

President Bush's plans for Social Security would mean Americans would be required to hand billions and billions of dollars over to Wall Street. As Fortune magazine recently put it, Wall Street is "salivating" over this. Even the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank that has pushed for privatization for decades, says that "financial institutions in particular" would benefit.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Pentagon Considers Contra-Style Terror Tactics in Iraq

from BBC News
With no end to the Iraq conflict in sight, some US military strategists have been considering tactics used during the civil war in El Salvador, a brutal and bloody campaign that lasted for years.

...The shield which stopped a guerrilla victory in El Salvador was in reality a reign of terror. Tens of thousands of those killed in the war were rebel sympathisers, tortured and murdered by the security forces. It was a well-organised, dirty war in which the CIA was heavily involved. Horrendously mutilated corpses - sometimes decapitated - were left in full public view. Using fear, the policy succeeded in denying the rebels open civilian support.

Some in the Pentagon have now been mooting the idea of training Iraqi hit squads to target insurgents and their sympathisers to quash open civilian support for them.

But for this to work would mean out-terrorising the Iraqi rebels, a difficult task indeed.
"Human-Rights" Group Keeps Anti-Arab Anxiety High

from The Wall Street Journal
Mosques across the U.S. continue to carry books and pamphlets describing non-Muslims as "infidels" and promoting intolerance against Western society, according to a forthcoming study by Freedom House, a U.S. human-rights group.

Despite vows from American Islamic leaders after Sept. 11, 2001 to proselytize peacefully, New York based Freedom House researchers found 57 documents with incendiary material in more than a dozen mosques and Islamic centers in six states and Washington, D.C., visited over the past year.

The materials "demonstrate the ongoing indoctrination of Muslims in the United States in the hostility and belligerence of Saudi Arabia's hardline Wahhabi sect of Islam," says the report, an advance copy of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

The report presents a challenge to the approximately 2,000 Islamic institutions in the U.S., some of which say they now screen publications for extremist messages. The Freedom House researchers say they found in December 2003 seven publications with what they deemed intolerant messages at the Islamic Center of Washington D.C., which President Bush visited days after the 2001 terror attacks. One, titled "Loyalty and Dissociation In Islam," advises Muslims to "be dissociated from the infidels, hate them for their religion . . . and always oppose them in every way, according to Islamic law," according to a translation by Freedom House.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Fearing Indictments, US Proposes Its Own International Court

from The Wall Street Journal
The Bush administration is fashioning a plan to set up an ad hoc tribunal in Tanzania to address alleged genocide in Sudan's Darfur region, sidestepping the International Criminal Court whose supporters hold a majority of votes on the United Nations Security Council.

The proposal, floated with diplomats in New York and lawmakers in Washington, would meet the administration's twin goals of confronting atrocities in Sudan and shunning the ICC, an independent tribunal with 97 members including European Union countries, Australia and Canada. The proposed tribunal would be organized under the auspices of the African Union, rather than the U.N., but would share some facilities with the U.N.'s war-crimes tribunal for Rwanda, which holds proceedings in Arusha, Tanzania, people familiar with the proposal said.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Fascism Yields Disappointing Returns in Pension Plan

from The New York Times
"What we have is a system that is good for Chile but bad for most Chileans," said a government official who specializes in pension issues and who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retaliation from corporate interests. "If people really had freedom of choice, 90 percent of them would opt to go back to the old system."
The Social Security Windfall: Wall Street Keeps Profile Low, Fearing Public Response

from The Los Angeles Times
The nation's brokerages and mutual fund companies could be big winners if the government were to allow Americans to funnel some of their Social Security taxes into private investment accounts each year. Firms such as Fidelity Investments, Vanguard Group, Merrill Lynch & Co. and Schwab collectively could reap billions of dollars in management fees and commissions over the long term.

But the emotions triggered by President Bush's call for restructuring Social Security also have raised the risk that the financial industry could become a target of public ire.

Bush has touted the accounts as a way for Americans to earn returns over time that would give them greater retirement income than Social Security can promise. Workers most likely would give up their right to a portion of their future Social Security benefits by choosing private accounts.

Powerful groups including the AFL-CIO and AARP have bashed the idea of privatization, saying it would shred the retirement safety net and leave more Americans at the mercy of market swings.

The AFL-CIO in December sent letters to 46 major financial companies, asking them to renounce the concept of private Social Security accounts.

Facing that kind of reaction, "most people in the [investment] business are keeping a very low profile," said Greg Valliere, chief strategist at Stanford Washington Research Group, a political consulting firm. "They don't want to be identified as proponents because of the potential backlash."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

After Electoral Win, "Moral Values" Takes a Backseat to Economics

from The New York Times
A coalition of major conservative Christian groups is threatening to withhold support for President Bush's plans to remake Social Security unless Mr. Bush vigorously champions a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Lacking Bipartisanship, Bush Reaches Out Across the Grave

from The New York Times
As he pushes ahead with his proposal to remake Social Security by adding private investment accounts, President Bush has so far failed to attract any prominent Democratic supporters.

At least, no prominent Democrats who are still alive.

Instead, Mr. Bush is taking cover under the reputation of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the New York Democrat who died nearly two years ago. Mr. Moynihan served as co-chairman of the commission Mr. Bush established in 2001 to recommend ways of establishing personal accounts, a fact the president and his aides mention almost every time they discuss the issue publicly.
Schoolchildren a "Big Market" for Drug Companies

from The Wall Street Journal
New federal mental-health guidelines could lead to more schoolchildren taking branded drugs to treat depression, according to some critics of the program.

...It's a potentially big market for drug companies and one that grew strongly until recent warnings about the increased risk of suicide for children on antidepressants. The number of children taking behavioral medicines in the U.S. jumped 20% from 2000 to 2003, according to Medco Health Solutions Inc. data. Spending on hyperactivity drugs increased threefold for children under five over the period.

Monday, January 24, 2005

The King of Israel

from CounterPunch
George Bush is a very simple, very violent person with very extreme views, as well as being very much an ignoramus. This is a very dangerous combination. Such people have caused many disasters in human history. Maximilian Robespierre, the French revolutionary who invented the reign of terror, has been called "the Great Simplifier" because of the terrible simplicity of his views, which he tried to impose with the guillotine.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Western State Terrorism

from Riverbend
Terror isn't just worrying about a plane hitting a skyscraper…terrorism is being caught in traffic and hearing the crack of an AK-47 a few meters away because the National Guard want to let an American humvee or Iraqi official through. Terror is watching your house being raided and knowing that the silliest thing might get you dragged away to Abu Ghraib where soldiers can torture, beat and kill. Terror is that first moment after a series of machine-gun shots, when you lift your head frantically to make sure your loved ones are still in one piece. Terror is trying to pick the shards of glass resulting from a nearby explosion out of the living-room couch and trying not to imagine what would have happened if a person had been sitting there.
Social Security is Extremely Efficient, Private Accounts are Wasteful

from The Center for Economic and Policy Research
On average, less than 0.6 cents of every dollar paid out in Social Security benefits goes to pay administrative costs. By comparison, systems with individual accounts, like the ones in England or Chile, waste 15 cents of every dollar paid out in benefits on administrative fees. President Bush's Social Security commission estimated that under their system of individual accounts 5 cents of every dollar would go to pay administrative costs.

In addition, under Social Security workers automatically get an annuity (a life-long monthly payment) when they retire. By contrast, financial firms typically take 10 to 20 percent of workers' savings to provide an annuity when they reach retirement.
Ambush at FOX News


Be sure to email your thoughts to FOX News anchor Brigitte Quinn.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


JPMorgan Admits Ties to Slavery

from The Chicago Tribune
JPMorgan Chase & Co. on Thursday filed a disclosure statement with the city of Chicago acknowledging that two of its predecessor banks had received thousands of slaves as collateral prior to the Civil War.

"...We apologize to the African-American community, particularly those who are descendants of slaves, and to the rest of the American public for the role that Citizens Bank and Canal Bank played," [bank chairman and president] Harrison and Dimon said in their statement. "The slavery era was a tragic time in U.S. history and in our company's history."
Inaugurate This

Canadians Continue Organizing at Wal-Mart

from The Wall Street Journal
Workers at a second Wal-Mart Stores Inc. location in Quebec have received union certification, the United Food and Commercial Workers said, making the two Canadian outlets the only Wal-Mart stores in North America to have unionized. Monday, the Quebec Labour Relations Commission accredited Local 501 of the UFCW to represent 200 workers at a Wal-Mart store in Saint-Hyacinthe, the union said. The union said it will send a letter to Wal-Mart to set dates for bargaining and expects to give contract proposals to the Bentonville, Ark., company within three weeks. A spokesman for Wal-Mart Canada said the retailer is considering all options to block the decision, including legal action against the Labour Commission.
The Business Press Asks: Is Less Government Better for Business?

from The New York Times
What is the purpose of government in the American economy? To many people these days, it is axiomatic that less government is invariably better for the economy and the nation. In this way, tax cut after tax cut is justified despite a growing federal budget deficit. Such thinking also lies behind the efforts to privatize Social Security.

But it is hard to square this view that government is always an economic menace with the long history of capitalist development. Going back in time, every successful capitalist economy in the world has had an active partnership between government and business.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Friday, January 14, 2005


from MSNBC
[Al-Jazeera] is the lone Arabic broadcast outlet to put truth and objectivity above even its survival. For its pains during the five years of its existence, it has been attacked by virtually every government in the Middle East.

The network’s bureaus around the region are periodically closed because of al-Jazeera’s insistence in airing stories about the corruption of government officials in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria and elsewhere. Israeli officials and journalists, all but banned from other Middle Eastern networks, are staples on al-Jazeera, whose motto is “We get both sides of the story.”

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Cheney: Cutting Social Security Benefits Will Pull Many Americans Out of Poverty

from The Associated Press
Vice President Dick Cheney took on critics of the Bush administration's Social Security overhaul plans Thursday, arguing that channeling part of workers' salaries into the stock market would yield bigger retirement nest eggs and help pull many Americans out of poverty.
Health Care? Ask Cuba

from The New York Times
Here's a wrenching fact: If the U.S. had an infant mortality rate as good as Cuba's, we would save an additional 2,212 American babies a year.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

US: No WMD in Iraq

"Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us." -- Vice President Cheney, Aug. 26, 2002.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Ballad of The Angry Arab

from Bin Laden, Islam, and America's New "War on Terrorism"
Anti-American activism caused by resentment of U.S. policy is open and pervasive in the Middle East. To improve the climate, Americans need to bypass the commercial media and become aware of the core grievances held against U.S. policy. First, the U.S. is held directly responsible for the imposition of oppressive regimes against the wishes of their people. It is unlikely that the Jordanian, Egyptian, Kuwaiti, Bahraini, Tunisian, and Moroccan regimes would have survived until today if it was not for direct U.S. military, intelligence, and political support.

...When U.S. officials speak about "moderate" and "friendly" Arab governments, the American public needs to realize the people living under those governments do not find them moderate or friendly... Moderation and friendliness are defined purely in terms of subservience to U.S. interests, not the interests of the country's civil society.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The Great Retirement Gamble

from The New York Times
The Bush administration should be honest with the American people and ask us if we want to do away with Social Security, without pretending that privatization will solve the problem of financing the trust fund without pain. I suspect that the American people would reject this effort to transform their "old-age insurance" into another opportunity to roll the dice in the investment casino.