Tag Archives: government

On government …

“No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of the character of the questions investigated. Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literacy or artistic expression. Nor should it pronounce on the validity of economic, historical, religious, or philosophical doctrines. Instead it has a duty to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and the development of the human race.” — Richard Feynman,”The Uncertainty of Values”, in The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen Scientist (1999)

Historians Against the War and Veterans for Peace respond to attacks on Wikileaks

From Historians Against the War (HAW) Steering Committee (SC):

Over the last few weeks Wikileaks has released numerous classified U.S. government cables that have revealed what U.S. diplomats are saying to each other on a range of topics, from the war in Iraq to heads of state. The documents unveil disturbing facts about these wars, including secret CIA paramilitaries, unaccountable military task forces, and the widespread killing of civilians. The release represents a contribution to the right of the public to know, both in the United States and around the world, what the U.S. government really thinks and does, as opposed to the fictions that often pass for official statements.

In response, members of the U.S. government and public, from both parties, have unleashed a firestorm of verbal abuse, physical threats, legal maneuvers, and economic pressure to try and silence Julian Assange, the head of Wikileaks, and to prevent the publication of any more U.S. government documents.*

We call on all HAW members to oppose these attacks and to stand up for freedom of the press and the free distribution of information. Several petitions are circulating on the web — for example, at https://sites.google.com/site/wilibeaks (Voters for Peace) and http://www.credoaction.com/campaign/wikileaks/index2.html?rc=homepage (Credo). We ask you to sign them and to ask your friends and colleagues to do so as well.

* For recent background articles on these attacks, see, e.g.:

Glenn Greenwald, “Joe Lieberman Emulates Chinese Dictators”

Tom Hayden, “The Lynch Mob Moment”

Robert Scheer, “From Jefferson to Assange”

Editors of The Nation, “First They Came for Wikileaks Then . . .

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Veterans For Peace in Support of Julian Assange and Wikileaks and to Boycott Ebay, Paypal and Amazon Corporations

Yesterday, the Executive Committee of Veterans For Peace voted to break all commercial ties with the Amazon Corporation and call for our members to boycott eBay Corp. and PayPal Corp. This includes, but is not limited to,

  • Removing the Amazon link from the VFP website. Previously we had encouraged our members to use this link when making purchases from Amazon Corp., as a fundraising method for our organization.
  • Urging our members, supporters and the public to boycott Amazon, eBay and PayPal corporations.
  • Urging Julian Assange and the Wikileaks team to continue their fight in the most important area of free speech: government secrets.

The U.S. Justice Department is reportedly considering charging Assange under the Espionage Act. This much-discredited and little-used law was last invoked against journalists, unsuccessfully, in the failed Pentagon Papers case in 1971. However, prosecution and conviction under this act, passed in 1917 to stifle dissent during WWI, may have little to do with espionage and everything to do with government repression.

For example, the federal government used the Espionage Act to prosecute Gene Debs, the great union organizer and socialist presidential candidate, for a 1918 Canton Ohio speech against U.S. involvement in the “Great War.”

Another citizen prosecuted in the same period under the same law, according to Kevin Zeese, director of Voters for Peace, was Rose Pastor Stokes, sentenced to ten years in prison for a letter to the Kansas City Star, saying “no government which is for the profiteers can also be for the people, and I am for the people while the government is for the profiteers.”

The government-war-private corporation axis is exposed fully in this case. Credit card companies Mastercard and Visa, along with giant online retailer Ebay Corp., owner of PayPal Corp., have voluntarily joined Amazon Corp. in answering the government’s request to block WikiLeaks’ funding in an effort to keep additional information from a citizenry increasingly fed up with war, secrecy and corporate power.

VFP gave imprisoned Army PFC, Bradley Manning, its Courage of Conscience award earlier this year for releasing documents detailing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Resistance to the attack on WikiLeaks and Assange is also growing and VFP considers it important to do what we can to join that resistance.

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“Empire rots the brains of imperialists, is driven by hubris, racism and arrogance”—R.I.P. Chalmers Johnson

“Imperialism is a form of tyranny, it never rules through consent of the governed. …We talk about the spread of democracy, but we talk about the spread of democracy at the point of an assault rifle.”—Chalmers Johnson

Via Rich Gibson:

So Long Chalmers Johnson (Died November 20, Saturday, San Diego):

“Empire rots the brains of imperialists, is driven by hubris, racism and arrogance.”

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Johnson was always an anti-communist, which he equated with Soviet and Chinese communism (he quickly identified the latter as little more than peasant nationalism, rightly so). Probably recruited by Hannah Arendt as a CIA asset, Johnson targeted the east, Japan (“US puppets”) and China. With the implosion of Soviet social fascism, Johnson expected a peace dividend which never materialized. Turning his eyes on the US empire of bases (800 plus), he foretold 9/11/2001 in “Blowback,” then built a trilogy with the later “Sorrows of Empire,” and “Nemesis.” In print and in person, he repeatedly said the US is now a fascist state, one of the few truly reputable scholars with the courage to do so. In “Nemesis,” he said bankruptcy would be the key to the end of the US empire–but warned it would not die with a whimper. He had two suggestions for citizens. The first, take your cat and go to Vancouver. Later, he suggested the US just dissolve its own might, as he said the Brits did. The US, however, does not have the US to hide behind. Johnson’s almost reflexive rejection of a Marxist analysis of imperialism (born almost simultaneously with capitalism, a relentless quest for cheap labor, raw materials, markets, regional control–empire) led him to view imperialism as hubris plus militarism–meaning a change of mind could upend the vampire’s desires. It cannot. Nevertheless, Johnson’s incredible prescience creates a field of land-mines for any of his critics. His research methods should be studied by everyone serious about social change. His book on Revolution, opposing it, inspires those who are for it. Finally, his insider knowledge coupled with a razor wit made encounters with Chalmers Johnson a challenge. He never backed down. So long, and “adios” (his habitual farewell) Chalmers. What you did counted.

Good luck to us, every one.

r

Democracy Now!: Chalmers Johnson, 1931-2010, on the Last Days of the American Republic

Audio interview March 2010 on Media Matters with Bob McChesney

John Nichols The Nation Blog: Chalmers Johnson and the Patriotic Struggle Against Empire

Wikileaks Iraq War Diaries

From Wikileaks:

At 5pm EST Friday 22nd October 2010 WikiLeaks released the largest classified military leak in history. The 391,832 reports (‘The Iraq War Logs’), document the war and occupation in Iraq, from 1st January 2004 to 31st December 2009 (except for the months of May 2004 and March 2009) as told by soldiers in the United States Army. Each is a ‘SIGACT’ or Significant Action in the war. They detail events as seen and heard by the US military troops on the ground in Iraq and are the first real glimpse into the secret history of the war that the United States government has been privy to throughout.

The reports detail 109,032 deaths in Iraq, comprised of 66,081 ‘civilians'; 23,984 ‘enemy’ (those labeled as insurgents); 15,196 ‘host nation’ (Iraqi government forces) and 3,771 ‘friendly’ (coalition forces). The majority of the deaths (66,000, over 60%) of these are civilian deaths.That is 31 civilians dying every day during the six year period. For comparison, the ‘Afghan War Diaries’, previously released by WikiLeaks, covering the same period, detail the deaths of some 20,000 people. Iraq during the same period, was five times as lethal with equivallent population size.

The Guardian Wikileaks page (visit this page for various analyses of data from documents released today by Wikileaks, as well as related news stories).

Democracy Now!: Pentagon Whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg on Iraq War Wikileaks Docs

The whistleblowing group WikiLeaks is preparing to release up to 400,000 U.S. intelligence reports on the Iraq War. The disclosure would comprise the biggest leak in U.S. history, far more than the 91,000 Afghanistan war logs WikiLeaks released this summer. We speak to the nation’s most famous whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the secret history of the Vietnam War in 1971. For a complete transcript or the podcast, visit www.DemocracyNow.org
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Matt Taibbi explains why the government is an executive committee of the rich

Now Taibbi doesn’t put it exactly that way, but there is no other conclusion that can be drawn from his fabulously clear explanations and analyses of the global economic meltdown in a trilogy of articles for Rolling Stone.

In “Wall Street’s Naked Swindle”  (in the latest Rolling Stone #1089), Taibbi describes how investment banks cannibalized their own kind (Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers) via a counterfeit stock scheme (e.g., naked short-selling). (Taibbi gives a video lesson on short-selling here.)

Taibbi clearly illustrates that “the American capital markets are a crime in progress,” and that “our economy is so completely fucked, the rich are running out of things to steal.” Thus why they are turning on themselves.

He sums things up this way:

The nation’s largest financial players are able to write the rules for own their [sic] businesses and brazenly steal billions under the noses of regulators, and nothing is done about it. A thing so fundamental to civilized society as the integrity of a stock, or a mortgage note, or even a U.S. Treasury bond, can no longer be protected, not even in crisis, and a crime as vulgar and conspicuous as counerfeiting can take place on a systemic level for years without being stopped, even after it begins to affect the modern-day equvialents of the Rockefellers and the Carnegies. What 10 years ago was a cheap stock-fraud scheme for second-rate grifters in Brooklyn has become a major profit center for Wall Street. Our burglar class now rules the national economy. And no one is trying to stop them.

Well, the government is not only not trying to stop them, Taibbi’s own article describes how the U.S. Treasury Department, staffed by ex-Goldman Sachs executives, facilitates the fleecing of the rest of us. Why is this happening…because the U.S. government is an executive committee of the rich.

See Taibbi’s other RS articles on the economy:

The Big Takeover—The global economic crisis isn’t about money – it’s about power. How Wall Street insiders are using the bailout to stage a revolution (RS 1075, March 19, 2009)

Inside The Great American Bubble Machine—Matt Taibbi on how Goldman Sachs has engineered every major market manipulation since the Great Depression (RS July 2, 2009)

What they don’t want you to know about Canadian health care

As with most public policy issues, the American public is being fed a steady stream of untruths as part of the current debate over Obama’s health care initiatives. I’ve never understood the willingness of many Americans to take at face value the claims of politicians (and the mainstream media) who are so clearly controlled by corporate interests, but …

One of the main whipping boys in the current debate on health care policy in the United States is Canada’s health care system. US politicians and the media paint a picture of Canada’s “socialized” health care as bleak, gray queues of people lined up for months awaiting appointments with physicians not of their own choosing, for procedures that are inaccessible.

After living and working in Canada for six years there is no doubt in my mind that a single-payer health care system is better for individuals and society.

My family has had quick access to primary care physicians and specialists, short wait times in several visits to emergency rooms, and no co-pays. We have had family members and friends receive fast and high quality treatments for serious diseases over long periods of time, with no medical bills.

The Canadian system is not perfect, but unlike the U.S., where tens of millions of people have no or limited access to medical care (while the rich have unlimited access), the Canadian system values equal access to medical treatment for everyone.

Some Americans go to great lengths to deny the benefits of Canada’s universal health care, readily believing the lies that spew from the politicians and news media that serve the interests of US insurance and pharmaceutical industries. Take my sister, for example. She has never set foot in Canada, yet she argues with me about my own first-hand experiences with Canadian health care telling me that the “socialism” of Canadian medicine does not allow me to choose my own doctor, limits my access to care, and is run by a vast army of government bureaucrats hell bent on stamping out “freedom of choice.” There seems to be no room for the facts in the current debate on health care in the US, nevertheless I’ll offer up a few.

In the 1960s the US chose to provide health care for the elderly (Medicare) and poor (Medicaid), while Canada adopted universal coverage for hospital and physician services. All Canadians have insurance for hospital and physician services with no deductibles or co-pays. And most provinces provide care that goes beyond these areas to include home and long-term care, prescriptions and medical equipment, though there are co-pays for these coverages. Michael M. Rachlis, a Toronto physician and health policy analyst, has compared the results of these choices and identifies a number of lessons the US could learn from Canada on health care.

First, Rachlis notes that a single-payer system would eliminate most of the coverage problems in the US. The US spends 16% of its GDP on heath care compared to 10% in Canada—a difference of $800 billion which is almost entirely devoted to overhead costs instead of patient services. Rachlis points out that “Canadians don’t need thousands actuaries to set premiums or thousands of lawyers to deny care” and that US Medicare has up to 90% lower administrative costs than private health insurers.

Secondly, single-payer systems reduce duplication of administrative costs and allow lower prices to be neogtiated and, as a result of the difference in spending for non-patient care, Canadians actually get more services. Canadians see the doctor more often than Americans and take more drugs. Canadians have more lung transplants and get less heart surgery (but not so much less that they are more likely to die of heart attacks). Canadians live almost three years longer than Americans and their infant mortality is 20 per cent lower than in the US.

The bottom line according to Rachlis is that single-payer plans work because their funding goes to services not to overhead (and profits).

The Canadian system is not perfect, there are waits for elective care, and Rachlis notes that chronic disease management could be much improved. But, according to the Commonwealth Fund of New York has noted these are problems that Canada shares with the US.

The huge influence that drug and insurance companies weld over government is part of the explanation for why there is such resistance to universal health care among policy makers in the US.

But another piece of the puzzle is that most Americans are ignorant of what’s going on north of the border and thus more susceptible to being mislead by interests vested in the status quo. Rachlis points out that,

“The US media, legislators, and even presidents have claimed that our “socialized” system doesn’t let us choose our own doctors. In fact, Canadians have free choice of physicians. It’s Americans these days who are restricted to “in plan” doctors.

To top it all off, a recent study by Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives—Canada’s Quiet Bargain: The benefits from public spending – pdf—indicates that the majority of Canadians enjoy a higher quality of life because public services funded by their taxes come at a solid bargain.

The study concludes that an average middle-income family in Canada would have to spend more than half its pay check to buy health care, education and the other ‘free’ public services now paid for with tax dollars. The study shows middle‐income Canadian families enjoy public services worth about $41,000—or 63% of their income. Even households earning $80,000-$90,000 a year enjoy public services benefits equivalent to about half of their income. Yet another lesson to be learned, if the US was willing to pay attention to what goes on north of the border.