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Dissenting Minds

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[28 Dec 2008|04:53pm]


I am a little bit annoyed at the Livejournals "schools" feature. I wanted to add that I was homeschooled via Education Otherwise (a UK homeschooling organisation http://www.education-otherwise.org/) for 12 years (and darn proud of it).

And yet, this is the second time I have opened a request to have it approved on the schools list. Considering that the fictional Hogwarts has been approved (!!!!) then why not bona-fide national homeschooling groups?
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[19 Sep 2008|10:46am]
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*rant* [24 Apr 2008|05:59pm]

The TV is talking about tension between people of different races, because of thier races skin colour..... LOL, I never feel tense around people that look different from me, I dont give a crap what you look like. And no, I dont think that its a foregone conclusion that if people of different races are togther, that there WILL be trouble. *silly TV*. I find the whole thing incomprehensible. 
Just like I find the attitude of some people "I cant go to this group or do that because I will be the only girl there". I never give a crap about that either. Often with LARPing I am either the only girl there (certainly actually participating in the action,  I have never seen any other girls join in, they do come along for parades and carnivals, or to do behind the scenes stuff, but not to "play".) or theres just one other who does behind the scenes stuff. Its never bothered me for all the rough and tumble. And I never feel a gender difference. We are just a load of happy mad people having a great day together. 
I never think "I am a girl, you are a bloke", it doesnt even enter my conciousness. we are all just there, having a great time. Just as I never think about someones religion or skin colour as different. 
Bloody segregated nonsense. I firmly believe that its actually mass media and commercialism that is fuelling these thoughts of difference. As the Capitalist overlords know: "divide and rule", and that fear (of "whatever" is "different") is the easiest way to "control" the masses. 

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Lakotah Withdrawal [26 Jan 2008|01:25pm]

[ mood | awake ]

i've been meaning to make this announcement since late December, but i got caught up in travel plans for the holidays, work, and preparation for school. However, this is such important and exciting news that i had to make sure i came back here and let everybody know about it. In mid-December, the Lakotah People withdrew all of their treaties from the United States. This makes them an autonomous entity within our borders (awesome!), and rumor has it that the entire Sioux Nation is planning on doing the same...

Now, all of this hasn't made big headlines, and i imagine there is some sort of media blackout regarding the People's withdrawal. However, news of this is big amongst indy media sources. If, indeed, the lack of attention to the Lakotah's withdrawal is from some government plan to go in there and quash their independence, i (for one) plan to move to stand in solidarity with the Nation. Please inform your friends and please keep informed.

i've included a link straight to the Republic of Lakotah website. Click HERE.

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Avoidance of Microsoft! [14 Jan 2008|02:01pm]

 Just a thought. If you dont want to spend a fortune on Microsoft Office, you can get Openoffice. Ots legal and free from http://www.openoffice.org/product/ - has excellent equivilents to Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc. 

Although I have Word, at home, I dont have Excel or Powerpoint, and couldnt afford them, although they are vital for me to use as a student teacher! so I make use of Openoffice. And you can save work in formats that you can then open elsewhere in the Microsoft equivilents. 
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H.R. 1955: The 'Center of Excellence' Is Watching You [05 Jan 2008|02:18pm]



By Tim Hollis

Prevention of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism

Guilty of every offense resident in its newspeakian lingo, radical extremist legislators have criminalized the eighty-nine per cent of Americans (based on an eleven per cent approval rating) who hate their guts. The wholesale assault on ‘our freedoms' touted in this act of homegrown terror should be sufficient, I think, to secure swift convictions.


In H.R. 1984..er 55's opening salvo ‘To prevent homegrown terrorism, and for other purposes' one need not stoop to the nightmarish ambiguity implicit past the comma in order to prove congressional collusion in ideologically-based violence, torture, kidnapping, consorting with known enemies of The United States and abetting a radicalized homegrown oligarchy.

In an open declaration of war on thuh internets: SEC. 899B. FINDINGS, ‘the congress finds' `(3) The Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens.

Who'o'oah Du'u'ude, that should have mainstream media operatives quaking in their blood-mired boots, but dig that crazy SEC. 899C, establishing the university-based ‘Center of Excellence' (Fuzznuts Punk Thought Police for the Ministry of Rovian Truth) designated under section 899D, and ‘other academic work', as appropriate;

‘As appropriate' it is therefore incumbent upon alert citizens to turn these Young Republican pukes and congressional malefactors in to themselves. We must set them to ‘other academic work', to relentless self-scrutiny, beginning with self-administered cavity checks in order to disclose the secret whereabouts of their ideologically-based heads.

As I predicted in ‘Centigrade 451' rampant domestic spying has come to full flower with the call for firefighters, blog trolls, telecoms, Jehovah's Witnesses and rug shampooers to be on the lookout for signs of sedition such as mirth, literacy and access to the internet.

Rest assured that our brave new government has inadvertently stopped all would-be terrorists in their tracks because when it comes to undermining ‘our freedoms' via homegrown satire who wouldn't despair of topping this? H.R1955

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give me back my damn glasses! [15 May 2007|08:46pm]

"A Pakistani-born US resident detained at Guantanamo Bay has said he was "mentally tortured" there, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon." - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6659585.stm

Whatever else you may think of the whole "detainees" thing, you have to acknowledge the wrongness here. Speaking as one who wears glasses ... what the fuck? Who says, "Yeah, let's give folks the wrong prescription for their glasses, that way they'll all have migraines and be really, outrageously cranky! It'll be funny, we'll laugh and laugh!" Seriously, what twisted nonsense is this? You can't do this shit to people in prison! What is wrong with our leaders that they think this is okay? Seriously, did they get dropped on their heads as babies, or something?

(cross posted to my journal)
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A slice of truth [11 May 2007|03:27am]

The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating because the Afghanistan project was always held hostage to Iraq. The Bush administration after 9-11 used Afghanistan as a casus belli to get to Iraq. And you can see this written in the lackluster way in which the administration embraced the project in Afghanistan.

First, they used the war in Afghanistan as an advertisement for Rumsfeld’s theory of lightning fast, high-tech war. Where there wouldn’t be that many casualties; special forces, air traffic controllers embedded with local forces, bomb people from the sky, then Taliban get scared and run away, and finally you call in the Europeans whose NGOs can rebuild Afghanistan, and the inner American in every Afghan will start to blossom. Then you can quickly move onto Iraq, and that’s what they did.

There are several fundamental reasons why the US went to Iraq.

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on shopping - song I wrote. [13 Apr 2007|05:37pm]


They gave me a reciept today
flesh of a murdered tree
torn and twisted
broken and minced
and printed with a corporate logo

I know the tree was my brother
he grew in fields of green
now hes torn and twisted
broken and minced
and printed with a corporate logo

What fate my brother,
when I get him home
he'll end up in the bin
torn and twisted
broken and minced
and printed with a corporate logo

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[16 Nov 2006|12:54pm]

Hello to all, as I just joined. :)

I would like to call something to attention. It's something I've noticed, observing various political parties, not at all necessarily a reflection on this community, I simply believe I may find a voice here.

I often criticize fellow liberals for being too flippant with the opposition, for too often using humor or satire to make light of the competition, and for not backing their values with well-reasoned logic. That is not to say that humor is not a valuable tool and makes life enjoyable to all, but think about how we come across to those who do not share our views? It is my belief, and from scouring conservative journals I believe it is well-founded, that many of us come across as merely cavalier jackasses.

If we can be bad at this, professing hate for and making fun of conservatives, they can be twice as bad. I've read many journals and articles made my conservatives who seem to think that "liberal" is a synonym for "devil" - and stupid, besides. The accusations they make are completely uncalled for, and if founded in "fact," that fact is some ridiculous piece of argument that could only appeal to fellow conservatives.

How do I respond to this? I feel insulted, angry, and ready to burn the bastard's house down. It stands to reason that a conservative observing the journal of a liberal might well feel the same way.

Hate-messages and ridicule are used to rally those of one mind together, to make a community out of a rag-tag of individuals. One person expresses a feeling that others relate to, and so on - you get the drift.

But is that all you really want to accomplish when your "disagreements" with the Republican party or with conservative individuals? I would imagine that most liberals, save perhaps the most militant or radical, would desire to convert the "enemy" into their (our) own ways of thinking. Spreading messages of hate and ridicule is not the way to do this.

I'm firmly of the opinion that to flame conservatives or republicans is to be no better than them. They may still find plenty of ways to bring us down no matter how thoughtful, level-headed, and logical we are, but at least we've done are duty to hopefully persuade others. We could feel proud (and perhaps indulge in a little superiority) in that.
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Nuclear Proliferation and North Korea [23 Oct 2006|01:05am]

Part of what we claim is that North Korea getting nuclear weapons would threaten the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.


Lets look back to 1993, when the World Health Organization voted to request that the World Court consider the legality of the use of nuclear weapons, and issue an opinion on it.

As soon as they heard about this the United States and Britain went totally berserk: remember, just the fact that the World Court might hear a case on the legality of nuclear weapons is already a contribution to nuclear non-proliferation..

One must also, not forget that we benefit from proliferation, since we're the main producer, seller, and possessor of nuclear weapons.

I mean, it's not as if anybody would listen to the World Court if it said that the use of nuclear weapons is illegal (which means by implication that possession of them is illegal too) - but it would certainly be a big publicity coup for the disarmament movement if it did.

So for the big nuclear powers, this was a major issue.

Actually, it's of particular significance for Britain, because one of Britain's last claims to being a country, instead of like a country of the United States, is that they have nuclear weapons - so for them it's important on a symbolic level.

And nuclear weapons are important to the United States because they're part of the way we intimidate everyone - we intervene around the world under what's called a "nuclear umbrella," which serves as kind of a cover to back up our conventional intervention forces.

Ok, so that year (1993) Indonesia was serving as the head of the Non-Aligned Movement at the U.N. [a coalition of Third World nations in the General Assembly], and the 110 countries of the Non-Aligned Movement decided to introduce a resolution endorsing this request for an opinion - that's all that was up, endorsement of a request for an opinion from the World Court. The U.S., Britain and France immediately threatened trade and aid sanctions against Indonesia if, in their role as head of the Non-Aligned Movement for that year, they submitted this resolution at the General Assembly. So Indonesia instantly withdrew it, of course - when they get orders from the boss, they stop. And they stop fast.

Well, that just shows you that there are some atrocities that go too far for the Western powers: genocide in East Timor we can support, but endorsement of a request for an opinion on the legality of nuclear weapons is an atrocity we simply cannot tolerate. It also shows you what we can do to Indonesia if we feel like it.

Anyway, back to North Korea... if we're so concerned with non-proliferation, obviously nothing would be more of a shot in the arm for it than this World Court decision we tried so desperately to block. Okay, that tells you something about our motives in all this. But actually, I think the problem with North Korea is in fact what they're saying: the wrong guys are getting possible power, nuclear weapons.

Look, nobody in their right mind would want North Korea to have nuclear weapons. But on the other hand, there's nothing much that they would do with nuclear weapons if they had them, except maybe defend themselves from attack. They're certainly not going to invade anybody, that's not even imaginable: if they ever made a move, the country gets destroyed tomorrow... so the only role that nuclear weapons play for them is a deterrent to attack - and that's not totally unrealistic.

North Korea is a pretty crazy country, and there's not very much good and there's nothing good you can say about the government. But no matter who they were, if they were Mahatma Gandhi they would be worried about a possible attack. The United States was threatening North Korea with nuclear weapons at least as late as the 1960s. And after all, just remember what we did to that country - it was absolutely flattened. Here people may not be aware of what we did to them, but they certainly know it well enough.

Towards the end of what we called the "Korean War" - which was really just one phase in a much longer struggle [beginning when the U.S. destroyed the indigenous nationalist movement in Korea in the late 1940s] - the United States ran out of good bombing targets. We had total command of the air of course, but there was nothing good left to bomb - because everything had already been flattened. So we started going after things like dikes. Okay, that's a major war crime. In fact, if you take a look at the official U.S. Air Force history of the Korean War, it's absolutely mind boggling, it's like something straight out of the Nazi archives. I mean, these guys don't conceal their glee at all, it's just this account of all their terrific feelings: we bombed these dikes, and a huge flow of water went through the valleys and carved out huge paths of destruction and slaughterd people! I really can't duplicate, you have to read the original. And the Koreans lived on the other end of that.

Our treatment of North Korean prisoners of war also was absolutely grotesque - again, it was kind of like the Nazis. This is all documented in the West by now, and of course they certainly know about it. So there are plenty of things for the North Koreans to remember, and plenty of things for them to be afraid of - which is not to justify their getting nuclear weapons, but it's part of the background we should keep in mind.

The other thing is, North Korea is in a desperate situation right now: they're hemmed in politically, and they're struggling very hard to break out of their total isolation - they've tried setting up free trade zones, and are desperately trying to integrate themselves into the international economic system, other things like that. Well, this is apparently one of their ways of attempting to do it. It's neither intelligent nor justifiable, but that's a part of what's motivating them, and we should at least try to understand that.
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Empires On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown [02 Sep 2006|10:03pm]
If history has taught us anything, it is this: Empires are unsustainable.

So let's say you're a nation, and you feel it is your responsibility to police the World for whatever reason. You've got to be careful of a few things. There are lots of different ideologies out there, and although they are not always consistent with yours, they've probably been around for thousands of years. So even if these ideologies are barbaric (by your assessment), they are probably entrenched within those societies, so be careful.

Do you have the numbers? No? Can you get them? No? Then you run the risk of spreading yourself to thin. Probably not a good idea, especially when things aren't going particularly well at home. The numbers don't lie, so do the math before venturing out to spread the love. The love may not always be welcome. At least not in the way you think it should be.

Is it okay to help out with humanitarian aid? Sure! By all means! But know where to draw the line. There's only so much you can do.

Never neglect your own house. That's the most important thing. Take care of things on the home front because if your residents ever think you're ignoring internal infrastructure at home, they probably won't support your efforts elsewhere.

Go slowly, make as many friends as you can, build relationships, and try to stay out of conflicts, which don't involve you. There may be some drastic exceptions, but for the most part, you should be able to figure out what they are ... hopefully.

What if it's too late? You've already spread the love, and you've already spread yourself too thin. There are too many fires throughout the world, and you're involved everywhere. Support for your involvement is faltering, both internationally and domestically. What's next? Well, you've got a couple of choices:

First choice: You can stay the course and try to outlast those, who are giving you problems. But remember; the numbers are not on your side. Sooner or later you'll run out of resources and it's game over. Busted and bankrupt, both morally and financially. You'll have become little more than a microscopic blip on the geopolitical time line. Sorry! Try again.

Second choice: Slowly but methodically, pull back. Plain and simple. Well perhaps not so simple, but plain. Let everyone know that you're having a hard time sustaining an international presence, and it's getting to be time to do some major renovations on the home front. Step back and let the chips fall where they may. It might become extremely painful for a while, but that's the best hope for your survival.

So if you're an empire on the verge of a nervous breakdown, step back for a moment, and go into rehab for a while. Maybe do some work around your own house for a bit. Rebuild the foundation, and reevaluate your priorities.

Good luck, have fun, and play safely.

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yeeehaw! [01 Sep 2006|11:04pm]

[ mood | curious ]

Hello everyone, I'm new to this community and would love to get feedback on my journal. Cynical views on politics, media and pop culture... maliyeh.livejournal.com. Thanks in advance!!!

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Remember when... [30 Aug 2006|04:47am]

[ mood | busy ]

Remember when they used to talk about Microsoft having a monopoly over the desktop PC market in the mainstream news media? Well, according to this site atleast, nothing has changed since that 1998 court case (which was ultimately ignored upon the arrival of Dubya Bush). You don't need a website to tell you that nearly every new PC sold ships with a preinstallation of Windows XP, Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player (you've probably bought one for yourself), so why aren't more of us questioning Microsoft's presence on our computer screens?

I've started a blog to document my experience with switching from Windows XP to SuSE Linux. SuSE is 100% free, as is most everything else to do with Linux. Plus, SuSE looks much nicer than Windows XP, is faster, infinitely more customizable and allows you to choose from a selection of something like 14,000 software packages, which programs you would like to install (I talk about how, where and why to get programs that aren't included with SuSE as well). I can't help but feel as though I'm evangelizing here, but think it over: What could possibly be in it for me? You don't even know my name, let alone need to pay for anything...

Just decided to share this with you!


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Understanding the Middle East Conflict [23 Aug 2006|06:55am]

Israel is having more and more trouble putting down this popular revolution over the Occupied Territories. The repression of the Palestinians and the Lebanese is not qualitatively different right now from what it was 40 years ago -- it's just that it's escalated in scale sincee the Palestinians and the Lebanese started fighting back. For the Palestinians it started during the Intifada. So the brutality you see occasionally on television has in fact been going on for the last 40 years, and it's just the nature of a military occupation: military occupations are harsh and brutal, there is no other kind [Israel seized the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria during the Six Day War in 1967, and has controlled them ever since]. There's been home-destruction, kidnappings, torture, collective punishments, expulsion, plenty of humiliation, censorship -- you'd have do go back to the days of the American South to know what it's been like for the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. They are not supposed to raise their heads -- that's what they say in Israel, "They're raising their heads, we've got to do something about it." And that's the way the Palestinians have been living.

Well, the United States has been quite happy supporting that -- so long as it worked. But in the past few years, it hasn't worked. See, people with power understand exactly one thing: violence. If violence is effective, everything's okay; but if violence loses its effectiveness, then they start worrying and have to try something else. In fact, the occupation's beginning to be rather harmful for Israel. So it's entirely possible that there could be some tactical changes coming with respect to how Israel goes about controlling the Territories.

Outside the United States, everybody knows what the solution for resolving the conflict in the region would be. For years there's been a very broad consensus in the world over the basic framework of a solution in the Middle East, with the exception of two countries: the United States and Israel. It's going to be some variety of two-state settlement.

Look, there are two groups claiming the right of national self-determination in the same territory; they both have a claim, they're competing claims. There are various ways in which such competing claims could be reconciled -- you could do it through a federation, one thing or another -- but given the present state of conflict, it's just going to have to be about the modalities -- should it be a confederation, how do you deal with economic integration, and so on -- but the principle's quite clear: there has to be some settlement that recognizes the right of self-determination of Jews in something like the state of Israel, and the right of self-determination of Palestinians in something like a Palestinian State. And everybody knows where that Palestinian state would be -- in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, along roughly the borders that exsisted before the Six Day War in 1967.

All of this has been obvious for years -- why hasn't it happened? Well, of course Israel's opposed to it. But the main reason it hasn't happened is because the United States has blocked it: the United states has been blocking the peace process in the Middle East for the last twenty years -- WE'RE the leaders of the rejectionist camp, not the Arabs or anybody else. See, the United States supports a policy which Henry Kissinger called "stalemate"; that was his word for it back in 1970. At that time, there was kind of a split in the American government as to whether we should join the broad international consensus on a political settlement, or block a political settlement. And in that internal struggle, the hard-liners prevailed; Kissinger was the main spokesman. The policy that won out was what he called "stalemate": keep things the way they are, maintain the system of Israeli oppression. And there was a good reason for that, it wasn't just out of the blue: having an embattled, militaristic Israel is an important part of how we rule the world.

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Peoples Democratic Socialist Republics [20 Aug 2006|03:18am]

One of the issues which has devastated a substantial portion of the left in recent years, and caused enormous triumphalism elsewhere, is the alleged fact that there's been this great battle between socialism and capitalism in the twentieth century, and in the end capitalism won and socialism lost-and the reason we know that socialism lost is because the Soviet Union disintegrated. So you have big cover stories in The Nation about "The End of Socialism," and you have socialists who all their lives considered themselves anti-Stalin saying, "Yes, it's true, socialism has lost because Russia failed." To even raise questions about this is something you're not supposed to do in our culture, but let's try it. Suppose you ask a simple question: namely, why do people like the editors at The Nation say that "socialism" failed, why don't they say that "democracy" failed?--and the proof that "democracy" failed is, look what happened to Eastern Europe. After all, those countries also called themselves "democratic"--in fact, they called themselves "People's Democracies," real advanced forms of democracy. So why don't we conclude that "democracy" failed, not just that "socialism" failed? Well, I haven't seen any articles anywhere saying, "Look, democracy failed, let's forget about democracy." Ant it's obvious why: the fact that they called themselves democratic doesn't mean that they were democratic. Pretty obvious right?

Okay, then in what sense did social fail? I mean, it's true that the Soviet Union and its satellites in Eastern Europe called themselves "socialist"--but they also called themselves "democratic." Were they socialist? Well, you can argue about what Socialism is, but there are some ideas that are sort of at the core of it, like workers' control over production, elimination of wage labor, things like that. Did those countries have any of those things? They weren't even a thought there. In the pre-Bolshevik part of the Russian Revolution, there were socialist initiatives--but they were crushed instantly after the Bolsheviks took power, like within months. In fact, just as the moves towards democracy in Russia were instantly destroyed, the moves towards socialism were equally instantly destroyed. The Bolshevik takeover was a coup--and that was perfectly well understood at the time, in fact. So if you look in the mainstream of the Marxist movement, Lenin's takeover was regarded as counter-revolutionary; if you look at independent leftists like Bertrand Russell, it was instantly obvious to them; to the libertarian left, it was a truism.

But that truism has been driven out of people's heads over the years, as part of a whole prolonged effort to discredit the very idea of socialism by associating it with Soviet totalitarianism. And obviously that effort has been extremely successful--that's why people can tell themselves that socialism failed when they look at what happened to the Soviet Union, and not even see the slightest thing odd about it. And that's been a very valuable propaganda triumph for elites in the West--because it's made it very easy to undercut moves towards real changes in the social system here by saying, "Well, that's socialism--and look what it leads to."

Okay, hopefully with the fall of the Soviet Union we can at least begin to get past that barrier, and start recovering an understanding of what socialism could really stand for.
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Healthcare and the Social Security Non-Crisis [23 Jul 2006|03:40am]

The rapidly escalating costs of health care are threatening a serious fiscal crisis, along with immeasurable human costs. Infant Mortality in the U.S. is one major index. The UN Human Development Report 2005 reveals that "since 2000 a half century of sustained decline in infant death rates [in the United States] first slowed then reversed." By 2005 the rates had risen to the level of Malaysia, a country where the average income is one-quarter that in the United States. The report also reviews the effects of government programs. In the United Kingdom, for example, the rate of child poverty rose sharply during the Margaret Thatcher years, then reversed after the Labour government adopted policies to halve child poverty by 2010. "fiscal redistribution has played a central role in strategies for meeting the target," the report concludes: "Large increases in financial support for families with children," as well as other fiscal programs, "boosted the incomes of low-income working families with children," with significant effects on child poverty.

The financial crisis is surely is no secret. The press report that 30 percent of health care costs go for administration, a proportion vastly higher than in government-run systems including those within the United States, which are far from the most efficient. These estimates are seriously understated because of the ideological decision not to count the costs for individuals- for doctors who waste their own time or are forced to misuse it, or patients who "enter a world of paperwork so surreal that it belongs in one of Kafka's tales of the triumph of faceless bureaucracies." The complexities of billing have become so outlandish that the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the president's senior adviser, says when he gets a bill for his four-year-old child, he "can't figure out what happened, or what I'm supposed to do." Those who want to see government bureaucracy reaching levels that even Kafka might not have imagined should look at the official ninety-eight-page government handbook on the Medicare prescription drug plan, provided to Medicare participants to inform them of their options under the bill passed by Congress in June 2004, with the help of an army of lobbyists from pharmaceutical companies and health maintenance organizations (HMOs). The idea, the Wall Street Journal informs its affluent readers, "is that patients will be encouraged to bargain-hunt for medical care" and may even save money, if they can hire enough research assistants to work through the many private options available, and make lucky guesses. Health Savings Accounts, also welcomed by the editors, have similar properties. For the wealthy and the corporate beneficiaries the exciting new programs will be just fine, like health care in general. The rest will get what the deserve for not having ascended to these heights.

The Bush administration response to the health care crisis has been to reduce services to the poor (Medicaid). The timing was again impeccable. "As Republican leaders in Congress move to trim billions of dollars from the Medicaid health program," the Washington Post reported, "they are simultaneously intervening to save the life of possibly the highest-profile Medicaid patient: Terri Schiavo." Republican majority leader Tom DeLay, while proclaiming his deep concern forSchiavo and his dedication to ensure that she has the chance "we all deserve," simultaneously shepherded through the House a budget resolution to cut $15 billion to $20 billion from Medicaid for the next five years. As if the exploitation of the tragedy of this poor woman for partisan gain were not disgraceful enough, DeLay and others like him were depriving her, and who knows how many others, of the means of moral values and concern for the sanctity of life.

The primary method devised to divert attention from the health care crisis was to organize a major PR campaign to "reform" Social Security--meaning dismantle it--in the pretext that it is facing an awesome fiscal crisis. There is no need to review the remarkable deceit of the administration propaganda, and the falsifications and misrepresentations repeated without comment by much of the media commentary, which cooperated in making it the "hot topic" in Washington. Exposure has been carried out more than adequately eslewhere. The steady drumbeat of deceit has been so extreme as to drive frustrated analysts to words rarely voiced in restrained journals: that Bush "repeatedly lied about the current [Social Security] system," making claims that were demonstrably false and that his staff must have known were false(New York Times, Paul Krugman, 15 Aug, 2005)."

It is not that the system has no flaws. It surly does. The highly regressive payroll tax is an illustration. More generally, an OECD study found that the US system "is one of the least generous public pension systems in advanced countries," consistent with the comparative weakness of benefits in the United States.

The alleged crisis of Social Security is rooted in demographic facts: the ratio of working people to retired people is declining. The data are accurate, but partial. The relevant figure is the ratio of working people to those they support. According to official statistics, the ratio of working people to dependents (under twenty, over sixty-five) hit its lowest point in 1965 and is not expected to reach that level through the projected period (to 2080). The Propaganda image is that the retirement of the "baby boomers" is going to crash the system; as repeatedly pointed out, their retirement has already been financed by the Greenspan-led increase in payroll taxes in 1983. That aside, the boomers were once children, and had to be cared for then as well. And we find that during those years there was a sharp increase in spending for education and other child care needs. There was no crisis. If American society was able to take care of the boomers from ages zero to twenty, then there can be no fundamental reason why a much richer society, with far higher output per worker, cannot take care of them from ages sixty-five to ninety. At most, some technical fixes might be needed, but no major crisis looms in the foreseeable future.

Critics of Bush's efforts to chip away at Social Security by various "ownership society" schemes have proclaimed success because public opposition was too high to ram the legislation through. But the celebration is premature. The campaign of deceit achieved a great deal, laying the basis for the next assault on the system. Reacting to the PR campaign, the Gallup poll, for the first time, included Social Security among the choices for "top concerns." Gallup found that only "the availability and affordability of healthcare" is a larger concern for the public than Social Security. About half of Americans worry "a great deal" about it, and another quarter a "fair amount," more than are concerned about such issues as terrorism or oil prices. A Zogby poll found that 61 percent believe the system faces "serious problems" and 14 percent think it's "in crisis," though in fact it is "financially stronger than it has been throughout most of its history, according to the Trustees' [President Bush's] numbers," economist Mark Weisbrot observes. The campaign has been particularly effective among the young. Among students, 70 percent are "concerned that the pension system may not be there when they retire."

These are major victories for those who hope to destroy Social Security, revealing once again the effectiveness of a flood of carefully contrived propaganda amplified by the media in a business-run-society where institutionalized deceit has been refined to a high art. The propaganda success compares well with that of the government-media campaign to convince Americans that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat to their survival, driving them completly off the spectrum of world opinion.

There has been some discussion of the curious fact that the need to reform Social Security became the "hot topic" of the day, while reforming the health care system in accord with public opinion is not even on the agenda, an apparent paradox: the very serious fiscal crisis of the remarkably inefficient and poorly performing health care systems not a crisis, while urgent action is needed to undermine the efficient system that is quite sound for the foreseeable future. Furthermore, to the extent that Social Security might face a crisis some time in the distant future, it would result primarily from exploding health care costs. Government projections predict a sharp increase in total benefits relative to GDP, from under 10 percent in 2000 to almost 25 percent in 2080, which is as far as the projections reach. Through this period Social Security costs are barley expected to increase beyond the 2000 level of 5 percent. A slightly larger increase is predicted for Medicaid, and a huge increase for Medicare, traceable primarily to extreme inefficiency of the privatized health care system.

Sensible people will seek differences between the Social Security and Health care systems that might explain the paradox. And they will quickly find critical differences, which are quite familiar in other domains: the paradox mirrors closely the "schizophrenia" of all administrations that underlies the "strong line of continuity" with regard to "democracy promotion," to take one example. Social Security is of little value for the rich, but it is crucial for the survival for the working people, the poor, their dependents, and the disabled. For the wealthy, it is the "major source" of retirement income, and the most secure. Furthermore, as a government program, it has such low administrative costs that it offers nothing to financial institutions. Social Security helps only the underlying population, not the substantial people. It is therefore natural that it should be dispatched to the flames. The medical system, in contrast, works very well for the substantial people, with health care effectively rationed by wealth, while enormous profits flow to private power for superfluous bureaucracy and supervision, overpriced drugs, and other useful inefficiencies. The underlying population can be treated with lectures on responsibility.

There are other sound reasons to destroy the Social Security system. It is based on the principles that are deeply offensive to the moral values of the political leadership and the sectors they represent--not those who vote for them, a different category of the population. Social security is based on the idea that it is a community responsibility to ensure that the disabled widow on the other side of town has food to eat, or that the child across the street should be able to go to a decent school. Such evil ideas have to be driven from the mind. They stand in the way of the "New Spirit of the Age" of the 1850s: "Gain Wealth, forgetting all but Self." According to the right thinking, it isn't my fault if the widow married the wrong person or if the child's parents made bad investment decisions, so why should I contribute a few cents to a public fund to take care of them? the "ownership society," in contrast, suffers from none of these moral defects.

Returning to the November 2004 elections, we learn a little of the significance from them about popular attitudes and opinions, though we can learn a lot from these studies that are kept in the shadows. And the whole affair adds more to our understanding of the current state of American democracy--with most of the industrial world trailing not too far behind, as privileged and powerful sectors learn and apply the lessons taught by their leader.
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The Empire [19 Jul 2006|03:30am]

Despite what you hear, U.S. interventionism has nothing to do with resisting the spread of " Terrorism," or "Communism," it's INDEPENDENCE we've always been opposed to everywhere... and for quite a good reason. If a country begins to pay attention to its own population, it's not going to be paying adequate attention to the overriding needs of U.S. investors. Well, those are unacceptable priorities, so that government's just going to have to go.

And the effects of this commitment throughout the Third World are dramatically clear: it takes only a moment's thought to realize that the areas that have been the most under U.S. control are some of the most horrible regions in the world. For instance, why is Central America such a horror-chamber? I mean, if a peasant in Guatemala woke up in Poland [i.e. under Soviet occupation], he'd think he was in heaven by comparison... and Guatemala's an area where we've had a hundred years of influence. Well, that tells you something. Or look at Brazil: potentially an extremely rich country with tremendous resources, except it had the curse of being part of the Western system of subordination. So in northeast Brazil, for example, which is rather fertile area with plenty of rich land, just it's all owned by plantations, Brazilian medical researchers now identify the population as a new species with about 40 percent the brain size of human beings, as a result of generations of profound malnutrition and neglect... and this may be unremediable except after generations, because of lingering effects of malnutrition on one's offspring. Alright, that's a good example of the legacy of our commitments, and the same kind of pattern runs throughout the former Western colonies.

In fact, if you look at the countries that have developed in the world, there's a little simple fact which should be obvious to anyone on five minutes' observation, but which you never find anyone saying in the United States: the countries that have developed economically are those which were not colonized by the west; every country that was colonized by the West is a TOTAL WRECK. I mean, Japan was the one country that managed to resist European colonization, and it's the one part of the traditional Third World that developed. What does that tell you? Historians of Africa have actually pointed out that if you look at Japan when it began its industrialization process [in the 1870's], it was about the same developmental level as the Asante kingdom in West Africa in terms of resources available, level of state formation, degree of technological development, and so on. Well, just compare those two areas today. It's true there were a number of differences between them historically, but the crucial one is that Japan wasn't conquered by the West and the Asante kingdom was, by the British-so now West Africa is West Africa economically, and Japan is Japan.

Japan had its own colonial system too, incidentally- but its colonies developed, and they developed because Japan didn't treat them the way the Western powers treated their colonies. The Japanese were very brutal colonizers. they weren't nice guys, but they nonetheless developed their colonies economically; the West just robbed theirs. So if you look at the growth rate through the early part of this century-they were getting industrialized, developing infrastructure, educational levels were going up, agricultural production was increasing. In fact, by the 1930s, Formosa (now Taiwan) was one of the commercial centers of Asia. Well, just compare Taiwan with the Philippines, an American colony right next door: the Philippines is a total basket-case, a Latin American-style basket-case. Again, that tells you something.

With World War 2, the Japanese colonial system got smashed up. But by the 1960s, Korea and Taiwan were again developing at their former growth rate-and that's because in the post-war period, they've been able to follow the Japanese model of development: they're pretty closed off to foreign exploitation, quite egalitarian by international standards, they devote pretty extensive resources to things like education and health care. Okay, that's a successful model for development. I mean, these Asian countries aren't pretty; I can't stand them myself-they're extremely authoritarian, the role of women you can't even talk about, and so on, so there are plenty of unpleasant things about them. But they have been able to pursue economic development measures that are successful: the state coordinates industrial policies that are IMPOSSIBLE in Latin America, because the U.S. insists that those governments keep their economies open to international markets-so capital from Latin America is constantly flowing to the West. Alright, that's not a problem in South Korea: they have the death penalty for capital export. Solves that difficulty pretty fast.

But the point is, the Japanese-style development model works-in fact, it's how every country in the world that's developed has done it: by imposing high levels of protectionism, and by extracting its economy from free market discipline. And that's precisely what the Western powers have been preventing the Third World from doing, right up to this moment.
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All US phone calls recorded by NSA [11 May 2006|07:22pm]

The newspaper USA Today says the National Security Agency has been recording far more telephone calls in the United States than generally assumed. It reports that the NSA not only taps international phone calls by people suspected of terrorism, it has also amassed a huge database of almost all telephone traffic within the country.

In a reaction, President George W Bush hastened to reassure the public that the NSA's activities are perfectly legal and that it only records and does not listen to domestic phone calls.

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U.S.: More Than 600 Implicated in Detainee Abuse [26 Apr 2006|07:38pm]

Two years after the Abu Ghraib scandal, new research shows that abuse of detainees in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantánamo Bay has been widespread, and that the United States has taken only limited steps to investigate and punish implicated personnel.

A briefing paper issued today, “By the Numbers,” presents findings of the Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project, a joint project of New York University’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First. The project is the first comprehensive accounting of credible allegations of torture and abuse in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo.

“Two years ago, U.S. officials said the abuses at Abu Ghraib were aberrations and that people who abused detainees would be brought to justice,” said Professor Meg Satterthwaite, faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law School. “Yet our research shows that detainee abuses were widespread, and few people have truly been brought to justice.”

The project has collected hundreds of allegations of detainee abuse and torture occurring since late 2001 – allegations implicating more than 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel and involving more than 460 detainees.

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