Daily Archive: 02/16/2012

Feb 16 2012

Just How Crass Can Right Wing Get

Pretty damned crass. GOP candidate Sen. Rick Santorum’s supporter Foster Friess appearing with on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell made the incredible statement that women should use an aspirin held between their knees as birth control. Ms. Mitchell was left virtually speechless.

Too bad his mother didn’t follow those directions

Feb 16 2012

Only Men Allowed to Speak on Birth Control Access

House of Representative Democratic women walked out of House oversight hearing on access to birth control when the Republican majority’s refused to allow minority female witnesses at a hearing on the Administration’s birth control access rules. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) left accusing Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) of manipulating committee rules to block female witnesses from testifying.

In a letter yesterday, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter (pdf) to Issa yesterday objecting to the lack of minority witnesses and those who supported President Obama’s compromise:

   When my staff inquired about requesting minority witnesses for this hearing, we were informed that you would allow only one. Based on your decision, we requested as our minority witness a third-year Georgetown University Law Center student named Sandra Fluke. I believed it was critical to have at least one woman at the witness table who could discuss the repercussions that denying coverage for contraceptives has on women across this country.

   In response, your staff relayed that you had decided as follows:

   “As the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”

   It is inconceivable to me that you believe tomorrow’s hearing has no bearing on the reproductive rights of women. This Committee commits a massive injustice by trying to pretend that the views of millions of women across this country are meaningless, worthless, or irrelevant to this debate.

Only one witness who supported the compromise, Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State was invited to testify. The other eleven witnesses over the two days of testimony would be all male religious leaders or professors, including a Catholic bishop. Issa argued that “the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience.”

I agree this is about the 1st Amendment but it has nothing to do with religious freedom, it has to do with establishing religious doctrine as government policy.

Feb 16 2012

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Mary Dudziak: This War Is Not Over Yet

THE defense secretary, Leon E. Panetta, recently announced that America hoped to end its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2013 as it did in Iraq last year.  Yet at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere, the United States continues to hold enemy detainees “for the duration of hostilities.”  

Indeed, the “ending” of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq appears to have no consequences for the ending of detention. Because the end of a war is traditionally thought to be the moment when a president’s war powers begin to ebb, bringing combat to a close in Afghanistan and Iraq should lead to a reduction in executive power – including the legitimate basis for detaining the enemy.

But there is a disconnect today between the wars that are ending and the “war” that is used to justify ongoing detention of prisoners. Originally, the war in Afghanistan was part of the Bush administration’s “war on terror.”  This framing had rhetorical power, but it quickly drew criticism because a war on terror has no boundaries in space or time, and no prospect of ever ending.  

Gail Collins: Congress Has No Date for the Prom

I am shocked to report that Congress, the beating heart of American democracy, is unpopular.

Not unpopular like a shy kid in junior high. Unpopular like the Ebola virus, or zombies. Held in near-universal contempt, like TV shows about hoarders with dead cats in their kitchens. Or people who get students to call you up during dinner and ask you to give money to your old university.

The latest Gallup poll gave Congress a 10 percent approval rating. As Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado keeps pointing out, that’s lower than BP during the oil spill, Nixon during Watergate or banks during the banking crisis.

On the plus side, while 86 percent of respondents told Gallup that they disapproved of the job Congress was doing, only 4 percent said they had no opinion. That’s really a great sense of public awareness, given the fact that other surveys show less than half of all Americans know who their member of Congress is.

Amy Goodman: The Afghan War’s Nine Lives The Afghan War’s Nine Lives

Eight youths, tending their flock of sheep in the snowy fields of Afghanistan, were exterminated last week by a NATO airstrike. They were in the Najrab district of Kapisa province in eastern Afghanistan. Most were reportedly between the ages of 6 and 14. They had sought shelter near a large boulder, and had built a fire to stay warm. At first, NATO officials claimed they were armed men. The Afghan government condemned the bombing and released photos of some of the victims. By Wednesday, NATO offered, in a press release, “deep regret to the families and loved ones of several Afghan youths who died during an air engagement in Kapisa province Feb. 8.” Those eight killed were not that different in age from Lance Cpl. Osbrany Montes De Oca, 20, of North Arlington, N.J. He was killed two days later, Feb. 10, while on duty in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. These nine young, wasted lives will be the latest footnote in the longest war in United States history, a war that is being perpetuated, according to one brave, whistle-blowing U.S. Army officer, through a “pattern of overt and substantive deception” by “many of America’s most senior military leaders in Afghanistan.”

Those are the words written by Lt. Col. Danny Davis in his 84-page report, “Dereliction of Duty II: Senior Military Leaders’ Loss of Integrity Wounds Afghan War Effort.” A draft of that report, dated Jan. 27, 2012, was obtained by Rolling Stone magazine. It has not been approved by the U.S. Army Public Affairs office for release, even though Davis writes that its contents are not classified. He has submitted a classified version to members of Congress. Davis, a 17-year Army veteran with four combat tours behind him, spent a year in Afghanistan with the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, traveling more than 9,000 miles to most operational sectors of the U.S. occupation and learning firsthand what the troops said they needed most.

Eugene Robinson: Drumming up a phony war on religion

At ease, Christian soldiers. There is no “war on religion,” no assault on the Catholic Church. A faith that has endured for thousands of years will survive even Nicki Minaj.

It never occurred to me to evaluate the Grammy Awards show on theological rectitude, but apparently we’re supposed to be outraged at the over-the-top “exorcism” Minaj performed Sunday night. The hip-hop diva, who writhed and cavorted amid a riot of religious iconography, is accused of anti-Catholic bigotry – and seen as an enemy combatant in an escalating “war on religion” being waged by “secular elites,” which seems to be used as a synonym for Democrats.

Seriously? Are we really going to pretend that Christianity is somehow under siege? That the Almighty would have been any more offended Sunday than he was, say, in 2006, when Madonna – who could sue Minaj for theft of intellectual property – performed a song during her touring act while being mock-crucified on a mirrored cross? While wearing a crown of thorns? Even at her show in Rome?

The “war on religion” alarmists are just like Minaj and Madonna in one key respect: Lacking a coherent point to make, they go for shock value.

Robert Sheer: Apple’s China Comes Home to Haunt Us

Four decades ago Richard Nixon, a once famously hawkish Republican president, cut a deal with the Communist overlords of China to reshape the world. The result was a transformation of the global economy in ways that we are only now, with the sharp critiques of Apple’s China operation, beginning to fully comprehend.

At the heart of the deal was a rejection of the basic moral claim of both egalitarian socialism and free market capitalism, the rival ideologies of the Cold War, to empower the individual as the center of decision-making. Instead, the fate of the citizen would come to be determined by an alliance between huge multinational corporations and government elites with scant reference to the needs of ordinary working folk.

Joe Conason: Will Catholic Bishops and the Religious Right Save Obama?

What is most striking about the showdown over contraceptive freedom is not the political victory that President Obama earned by standing up for women’s reproductive rights, although his Republican adversaries are certainly helping him to make the most of it. Those adversaries don’t seem to realize they have fallen into a trap, whether the White House set them up intentionally or not.

While the Catholic bishops and their allies on the religious right insist that this is an argument over the First Amendment, their true, longstanding purpose now stands revealed to the public. They would begin by imposing their dogma on every woman unlucky enough to work for an employer who shares it-an agenda that is deeply unpopular even among the Catholic faithful, let alone the rest of the American electorate. Then they would impose it on everyone, as the theorists of the religious right suggest every time they deny the separation of church and state.

New York Times Editorial: A Rare Deal

There’s nothing like a deadline – and the prospect of acute political embarrassment – to concentrate the mind. With Congress about to go on recess, and with Republicans fearing a voter backlash, negotiators on Wednesday were putting the finishing touches on a deal to extend the payroll tax cut and federal jobless benefits through 2012.

The agreement is imperfect but sound. It will help struggling Americans and the struggling economy. It is also a political win for Democrats and President Obama, who had made extending the payroll tax cut and the jobless benefits a centerpiece of his jobs agenda. We hope that it gives them the courage to stick to that agenda if they face another round of Republican obstructionism.

Feb 16 2012

Greece: The Continued Slide Towards Default

It is almost inevitable that Greece will default but in the interim the Eurozone leaders are determined to force more austerity on the country in order to protect the hedge funds profits at the expense of the Greek people. Is America headed down this same road?

Freedom Rider: Greece: Your Money or Your Life

By Margaret Kimberly, editor and senior columnist at the Black Agenda Report

Greece is at the epicenter of an horrific assault on working people and on their democracy. As a result of corruption at the top of the Greek government and world wide finance capital, that nation is teetering on the brink of insolvency. The rescue cooked up by the same people who created the problem is in fact anything but.

The so-called bail out is a plan to destroy the last vestiges of the welfare state and the expectations of humanity that they can have any hope of being treated fairly in capitalist countries. The European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission have descended like vultures, making it crystal clear where their interests lie. [..]

Beginning in 2008, Americans got a dose of some of the same medicine. We were told that our economy would implode if we didn’t give our money to bail out the very same banks which created the crisis. Four years and trillions of dollars later, we are still in a recession, unemployment remains high, ordinary people have lost their assets and our president and Congress bicker over how much they can cut government spending and ruin our lives even more.

The Greeks are ahead of the curve. At least they stood up and protested. Hopefully more people around the world will be like them instead of like passive Americans. Hopefully Americans will stop being passive before they end up like people in Greece.

The Greek Experiment

Michael Hudson: Greek crisis used to find out how far finance can drive down wages and privatize.”

Michael Hudson is a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003), Trade, Development and Foreign Debt (1992 & 2009) and of The Myth of Aid (1971).

Transcript:

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington.

In Greece, the financial elites of Europe have gotten agreement from the Greek government to another round of what some people are calling savage austerity measures, for example, lowering the minimum wage by 22 percent, a new round of privatizations, and cuts to pensions and many other social programs. This is, I guess, an example of banks and a banking technocrat that now leads the Greek government directly intervening, calling government policy. So what does this tell us here in the U.S., Canada, and other countries that are watching this?

Now joining us to discuss all of this: Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street financial analyst, a distinguished research professor of economics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and he writes at Michael-Hudson.com. Thanks for joining us, Michael.

MICHAEL HUDSON, RESEARCH PROF., UMKC: Thank you very much.

JAY: So, Michael, what should we be learning from what’s going on in Greece?

HUDSON: Well, we should be learning what the European bankers are learning, and that is what is the result of a great experiment that’s going on. For the last five years in Latvia, they’ve-the neoliberals have lowered wages by about 30 percent. The basic premise of today’s model builders are: you don’t know how far you can lower wages and pensions until people begin to press back. Well, in Latvia they still haven’t begun to press back when they’ve lowered for 30 percent. Now they’re moving towards Greece on the way to Spain and Portugal and Italy, and they’re trying to figure out how much can we lower wages, how much can we drain an economy until there is pressure to come back.

And the right wing, who’ve essentially appointed, as you pointed out, a bank lobbyist, which is called a technocrat, in charge of Greece, is: let’s try the experiment to just see how much we can squeeze out-because they’ve realized that the left in Europe is completely fragmented. They don’t have a defense available, they don’t have a body of concepts available to say, wait a minute, this is crazy. When you’re lowering wages, you’re actually shrinking an economy. When you’re cutting the budget deficit, you’re reducing the amount of money that comes into the economy to promote demand. So in effect what Europe is doing is bleeding economies, very much like a medieval doctor would bleed blood on the ground, since this is going to make economies more productive.

Well, the only response that the Greek people have, not simply the left, but the right and the Greek people, is, look, if you think you’re going to increase the surplus, increase taxes by lowering our wages and cutting our pensions and cutting our health care, we’re going to do what the Egyptians are doing and what the Arab Spring is doing. We’re going to tear the economy apart, and there won’t be anything for you. And the PASOK, the socialist party that inaugurated this whole austerity program, now has an 8 percent approval rating in Greece. That’s even lower than Mr. Obama has for cutting wages here.

So what the Greeks are saying: look, when the premier said that they were going to have a referendum for whether we want to cut back the wages to pay the bankers, the first thing Angela Merkel said was, you can’t have a referendum. We’re going to suspend democracy, we’re going to impose a dictator on you, and we’re going to tell you what to do.

Well, under modern international law, if there’s no democratic commitment to pay, then the debt taken on is null and void. Well, the European common market, the European Union, has had its lawyers say, okay, we’re going to get the agreement of congress. Well, the Greek people can say, look, you can come down with bags of money and you can buy all the parliament members that you want to approve the deal, but as soon as there is an election, we’re going to throw them out, and they’re not acting on our behalf, and-.

JAY: Yeah, but it’s not clear by polling that the next election would actually elect a government that wouldn’t go along with this. Most of the parties that seem capable of winning elections in Greece have signed on to this deal. But can I go back to something earlier you said? Is not one of the big objectives here-’cause it’s hard to understand the logic of driving Greece into a decade of depression if you actually want any revenue that’s going to pay some of these debts back, which means, is not the real objective here not more about privatization, that if you can create so much chaos and dependency on the Greek government, on the European financial elites, they’re going to sell everything off? And apparently they’re talking now about selling airports and shipping-seaports, like, a whole ‘nother level of privatizations.

HUDSON: Not only that, but also the water systems, the sewer systems, real estate, the islands. You’re right. They think that if they can create a crisis, it becomes a grab bag area. And bankers and people who have a plan usually do much better in a crisis or a grab bag than people who don’t have a plan. So this indeed seems to be it. Finance today achieves what military invasion used to do in times past. So the new mode of warfare is financial, not military. It’s much cheaper and it’s much safer for the country doing the attack.

So you’re quite right: privatization is a big role. And that’s why yesterday the European Union said, wait a minute, we’re not even going to give you the money to pay us, namely, for us to pay our own banks that have bought your bonds, unless you spell out exactly what you’re going to privatize and commit to it now. And this is a sticking point. In the past, the Greeks have made promises, and thank heavens they haven’t privatized, because once they begin to sell things off, then there’s going to be a real squeeze and even more of an opposition. So you’re right. This is a property grab.

JAY: Yeah. We were joking off-camera. I was saying it’s amazing how the Europeans make Obama’s budget look good. And as critical as you and I and many people we’ve interviewed on The Real News have been critical of Obama, there actually does seem to be some kind of different approach between Wall Street (and, certainly, the sections of Wall Street that helped elect President Obama) and the Europeans. You can hear interviews with Wall Street representatives who actually say, no, you do have to have short-term stimulus before you have these kinds of austerity measures; you can’t force the world into a global depression. You hear that kind of language out of New York and out of President Obama, where the Europeans seem so committed to this severe austerity.

HUDSON: There are two reasons for that. Number one, from the very beginning, from the last century, America has already had in the private sector what was in the public domain in Europe. Europe had its power companies, electric and gas systems in the public domain. America privatized them, but as regulated public utilities. The public utilities were allowed-were regulated as to how much bond and equity they could get, what their rate of return would be. Europe has no body of law to regulate the prices or rent extraction the public utilities can charge, because they’d always had these in the public domain, just like Russia had no and the Soviet Union had no system like this. So the objective of privatizing in Europe, first of all, there’s much more property and public assets to grab in Europe than there were in the United States, and secondly, there is no regulatory body in Europe, because of the fact that in the past, power and sewer and water and public utilities were supplied either at cost or at subsidized rates to make the economy more competitive.

So the idea in Europe is not only that you cut wages by 30 percent, but you’re now going to raise the price of what you just mentioned, the access to water, sewers, transportation, everything else. You’re going to raise the price to put the real squeeze on wages. And the result in Greece will probably be the same as it was in Iceland, Latvia, and other countries. There’s going to be a large emigration of working-age labor. And the result will, of course, be to make the economy much less competitive.

And in this morning’s newspaper, when it turned out that Greece’s GDP fell at 7 percent annual rate, not the 5 percent expected, as usual the newspaper said, to everyone’s surprise, the situation is worse than projected. Well, of course it wasn’t really to our surprise, because we know that when you’re strangling an economy, of course it can’t cope very well. And they’re strangling the Greeks economy. And they’re using it, I think, as a laboratory experiment to say, what’s going to happen when we really just squeeze labor and squeeze labor? It’s like trying to feed a horse less and less and see whether it’s really going to be more efficient until it keels over dead.

JAY: And I guess it’s always-the way large-scale unemployment is always a good threat against the employed within a country, the more you can beat up Greece and Spain, Portugal, the more you can threaten the working class of France and Germany, where I guess the big targets eventually will be.

HUDSON: Well, if that happens, there’s going to be a renewed nationalism that’s going to cut the common market apart, and you’re going to have, all of a sudden, a realization that when Europe united, the whole idea of it’s united was so that it would never go to war again, military war. But now that it’s united under neoliberal bank rules, they think, wait a minute, we’re uniting and we are going to war. But it’s a class war. It’s an economic war. And this isn’t what we wanted. If the idea of uniting in Europe is for a class war under rules where we’re guaranteed to lose, then we’re saying no to Europe, just as the Icelanders have voted not to join Europe, just as other countries that had planned to join Europe, all the way to Turkey at the other end, are saying, wait a minute, if that’s the Europe that’s coming, an oligarchic Europe whose program is austerity and shrinkage, why on earth would we want to join?

JAY: Thanks for joining us, Michael.

HUDSON: Thank you very much.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

Greece is being forced out of eurozone, Venizelos claims

by Ian Traynor in Brussels and Larry Elliott of The Guardain UK

Greek finance minister says troika is shifting terms of €130bn bailout deal as part of move to force country out of eurozone

Greece rounded bitterly on its EU paymasters when the finance minister and socialist leader, Evangelos Venizelos, accused the eurozone of deliberately changing the terms of a proposed €130bn (£110bn) bailout because key players wanted to kick the country out of the single currency.

The charge that some eurozone countries were seeking to engineer a Greek sovereign default and exit from the euro deepened the rancour between debtor and creditors in the dangerous standoff.”There are many in the eurozone who don’t want us any more,” Venizelos declared at a meeting with President Karolos Papoulias. “We are constantly being given new terms and conditions.”

Papoulias went even further, denouncing Germany and Greece’s north European creditors after Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, said that Greece must not turn into a “bottomless pit” for eurozone bailout funds and that Europe was better prepared than when the crisis erupted two years ago to cope with a Greek sovereign default. [..]

Venizelos claimed the crucial debt swap with the banks – which technically requires three weeks to organise – will be announced on Monday provided the eurogroup signs off on the bailout.

The accord has to be in force well before 20 March when Greece is due to redeem €14.5bn of debt or face default.

Feb 16 2012

On This Day In History February 16

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 16 is the 47th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 318 days remaining until the end of the year (319 in leap years).

On this day in 2006, the last Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) is decommissioned by the United States Army. The Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) refers to a United States Army medical unit serving as a fully functional hospital in a combat area of operations. The units were first established in August 1945, and were deployed during the Korean War and later conflicts.

The MASH unit was conceived by Michael E. DeBakey and other surgical consultants as the “mobile army surgical hospital.” Col. Harry A. Ferguson, the executive officer of the Tokyo Army Hospital, also aided in the establishment of the MASH program. It was an alternative to the system of portable surgical hospitals, field hospitals, and general hospitals used during World War II. It was designed to get experienced personnel closer to the front, so that the wounded could be treated sooner and with greater success. Casualties were first treated at the point of injury through buddy aid, then routed through a battalion aid station for emergency stabilizing surgery, and finally routed to the MASH for the most extensive treatment. This proved to be highly successful; it was noted that during the Korean War, a seriously wounded soldier that made it to a MASH unit alive had a 97% chance of survival once he received treatment.

The MASH unit made its way into popular culture through the 1968 novel M*A*S*H by Richard Hooker, the 1970 feature film based on the novel, and the long-running television sitcom (1972-1983) based on the movie. A 1953 film, Battle Circus, also took place at a MASH.

MASH units continued to serve in various conflicts including the Vietnam War. In October 1990 the 5th MASH, 44th Medical Brigade, XVIIIth AirBorne Corps, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, deployed to Saudi Arabia and was the first fully functional Army Hospital in country. This unit moved forward six times, always as the first up hospital for the region. In March 1991 the 5th MASH was operationally attached to the 24th Infantry Division to provide forward surgical care (often right on the front battle lines) to the combat units that attacked the western flank of Iraqi Army. In March 1991, the 159th MASH of the Louisiana Army National Guard operated in Iraq in support of the 3rd Armored Division during Operation Desert Storm.

In 1997, the last MASH unit in South Korea was deactivated. A deactivating ceremony was held in South Korea, which was attended by several members of the cast of the M*A*S*H television series, including Larry Linville (who played Frank Burns), and David Ogden Stiers, (who played Charles Winchester). MASH units have since been replaced by the U.S. Army’s Combat Support Hospitals.

Worldwide, the last MASH unit was deactivated on October 16, 2006. The 212th MASH – based in Miesau Ammo Depot, Germany – was the first U.S. Army hospital established in Iraq in 2003, supporting coalition forces during Operation Iraqi Freedom. It was the most decorated combat hospital in the U.S. Army, with 28 Campaign streamers on the organizational colors. The 212th MASH’s last deployment was to Pakistan to support the 2005 Kashmir earthquake relief operations. The U.S. State Department bought the MASH’s tents and medical equipment, owned by the DoD, and donated the entire hospital to the Pakistani military, a donation worth $4.5 million.

The 212th MASH’s unit sign now resides at the Army Medical Department’s Museum in San Antonio, Texas.

MASH in M*A*S*H

Out of necessity, the “4077th MASH” unit depicted in the television series was considerably smaller than many of the MASH units deployed by the United States in the Korean War. In the series, about four surgeons depicted as being assigned to the unit, the administrative staff consists of the C.O. and his assistant, and few soldiers were shown to be present. By comparison, the 8063rd Mobile Army Surgical Hospital had personnel including twelve nurses, eighty-nine enlisted soldiers of assorted medical and non-medical specialties, one Medical Service Corps (MSC) officer, one Warrant Officer and ten other commissioned officers of assorted specialties. On one occasion, the unit handled over 600 casualties in a 24 hour period.

Feb 16 2012

My Little Town 20120215. Connie Boyd

Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River.  It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.

I started the eighth grade at Saint Anne’s High School in Fort Smith, Arkansas when I was 13 years old.  I sort of skipped the seventh grade, and the sisters at Saint Anne’s thought that I was OK to go directly to the eighth grade from the sixth.

I flourished there, and still have several of my friends there in contact.  My very best male friend was from there, and we converse almost every night.  We love each other as brothers do, and he is actually more of a brother to me than my own brother is in some respects.