Bush’s State of Denial

I’m not sure if George W. Bush is delusional, in denial, or just plain sociopathological.  He told ABC yesterday he wished the intellignece on Iraq’s wmd’s was better, that he wouldn’t have invaded if he knew there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction.  He did know.  He decided to invade anyway because it had become about regime change, not wmd.

How long are we going to tolerate such monstrous lying from Bush?  Ray McGovern has traveled the country telling people the story.  Here’s what the former CIA official who gave Bush his daily briefings says:  he told W there were no wmd programs in Iraq but was told by senior staff on leaving the Oval Office that they knew this already.  Bush’s top advisers told McGovern “it’s about regime now.”

I’m so sick and tired of George Bush’s revisionist history.  Fess up and apologize.  You killed hundreds of thousands of people, women and children.  It’s time for penance, not lies.

Pardon Me

The President’s constitutional pardon power is absolute.  Amidst all the hysteria and shouting over Bill Clinton’s pardons now it is George W. Bush’s turn.  Some of Clinton’s pardons were questionable but if Bush pardons torturers, wiretappers, and war criminals there will be an outrage across this great country.

Gerald Ford is down in history as the most egregious pardoner for his get of jail free card to Richard Nixon.  George Bush might top that in the audacity and extent of his pardons.  Many top officials, military commanders and CIA operatives blatantly violated laws, treaties and human rights while pursuing the GWOT.  Simply because some idiot in the DOJ, under direction from the Vice President’s office said it was legal didn’t make it so.    The constitution and international law trump all.  Should anyone Bush pardons for war crimes venture outside the country they should be arrested and tried at The Hague, including Bush and Cheney.  He can pardon people under U.S. law but not under international law.  People must be held accountable for the damage they did to this country.

Experts Confirm Recession

Now that the officials have confirmed we’ve been in a recession for a year my question is this:  when do we find out we’re in a depression?  What are the guidelines separating a recession from a depression?  When you lose your job it’s a depression.  Not just the one you’ll sink into when you lose your home…

The economic news isn’t getting better.  Each week is bringing accelerating numbers of job losses.  Until we brake the downward spiral we cannot begin looking up.  Look up now and you’re likely to get quite dizzy.  Meanwhile the power vacuum in Washington is downright scary.  This is a bit like being on a roller coaster ride blindfolded.  You know you’re sinking, going down fast but you have no idea when that next curve is coming or when it will end.

George W. Bush is clueless.  Not that this is unusual.  He spent his eight years in office doing what he did while Governor:  travel around doing photo ops.  Little time was spent on real policy matters and he never sought any meaningful dialogues, exchanges or dissent while in the Oval Office.  Bush equated dissent with disloyalty and now we’re all suffering for his foolishness.  How nice it will be to have a smart president and one who can actually express himself fluently, intelligently and in complete sentences.

Meanwhile the country is going downhill fast and no one is at the helm.  Power vacuums tend to be filled quickly.  Obama seems intent on not moving onto ground prematurely and we can thank John McCain for this problem.  McCain’s constant barrage of attacks that Obama was already “measuring the drapes” left a bruise which is keeping Obama from taking charge.

Someone needs to take charge and he has to take charge NOW.  If George W. Bush is incapable then he and Cheney should resign and allow Nancy Pelosi to take over until January 20th.  The country cannot wait.

Health Care Conference Saturday

“Call to Action” Health Care for All Convention

Panels : “Media & Communications,” “Networking, Organizing & Mobilizing for Reform,” “The Economic Genius of Single Payer,” “Winning Pa in 2009” “Effective Citizen Lobbying at All Levels of Government.”  

Saturday December 6, 2008

10 am – 3 pm

Unitarian church of Harrisburg

1280 Clover Lane         Harrisburg, Pa. 17113         717-828-5055

Featuring Norman Solomon, nationally-known media critic and a leader in the movement for a Single Payer Solution in California, SB 840 & the u.s., HR 676.

While the  conference focus revolves around SB300/HB1660,  PA single payer bills, and congressional , “bridge” legislation, HR 506 & S.1069 as the fastest track to HR 676, our organizing and lobbying activities must center on all levels of government — municipal, county, state, national.

Info./ Register here.

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Norman Solomon, nationally-known media critic and Single Payer Solution leader on California’s SB 840 and Congress’ HR 676,  is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, a national consortium of policy researchers and analysts. His weekly column on media and politics, Media Beat, has been in national syndication since 1992. A longtime associate of FAIR, he has written op-ed articles on media issues for many papers, including the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Newsday, New York Times, Miami Herald, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and Baltimore Sun. His articles have also appeared in the International Herald Tribune, Canada’s Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the Jordan Times. Norman Solomon’s book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death was published in 2005. His latest book is Made Love, Got War: Close Encounters with America’s Warfare State.

 

Obama Names National Security Team

President elect Barack Obama formally named his national security team this morning.  Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will be Secretary of State, Robert Gates will continue at Defense, Eric Holder will be Attorney General, Gen. Jim Jones as National Security Adviser, Gov. Janet Napolitano will lead the Department of Homeland Security and Dr. Susan Rice will be UN Ambassador.

Hillary Clinton should prove to be an effective and strong Secretary of State.  She will also be the third Secretary of State in recent years to be a woman following Madeline Albright and Condi Rice.  No longer is it an anomaly to have a woman in this position.  As this glass ceiling has now been shattered one remains in the Oval Office.

Robert Gates has distinguished himself as Secretary of Defense.  He succeeded a complete disaster in Donald Rumsfeld and is rebuilding the military, the support and confidence of the troops, and ended the fierce bureaucratic wars created by his predecessor.

Jim Jones, by all accounts, is a superb choice for National Security Adviser and Susan Rice served as an Undersecretary of State for Africa under Bill Clinton.  I do still wonder what she thinks of Naomi Klein however.  I have some doubts about Dr. Rice from my encounter with her team during last spring’s primary.

Eric Holder has his work cut out for him as AG.  This is one more Department which was literally destroyed by George W. Bush.  There is a huge amount of work to be done rebuilding Justice and insuring an end to political prosecutions.

This is a strong team.  It is strong on experience and brings new blood to the national scene.  Much is being made of the “Team of Rivals” aspect but, having read that book also I think it is overblown.  Lincoln served in an even more troubled time than now.  He assembled what he thought was the strongest possible team for challenging times.  This is what every President must and, usually, does.

Punching Holes in the Open Records Law

Gov. Rendell is imposing new fees for those trying to access state records.  A new, progressive Open Records Law finally got enacted this year and takes effect January 1st.  The Governor wants to charge those requesting records fees for the time taken to produce them and for any redactions necessary.  This will make seeking open records difficult for those, like me, who don’t have access to the financial wherewithal to get and examine state and local records.  Only media operations with funds available will be able to get records.

The whole idea of Open Records is to open state government and allow everyone to shine light on corrupt operations and questionable practices and expenses.  Government employees WORK FOR US, not the Governor.  I don’t, for the life of me, understand why I or anyone else would have to pay for their time.  Aren’t we already doing that with our taxes???

They Auto Know Better: Fueling Anti-Union Fires

They Auto Know Better:

Fueling Anti-Union Fires

by Walter Brasch

My local newspaper editor, as he does regularly, once again attacked unions as the problem in America. This is the same editor who once said “all the laziest goof-offs and goldbricks in the newsroom” where he began his career were union officials and that the unionized New York Times editorial writers are nothing more than “limousine liberals.”

For this most recent attack, two days after Thanksgiving, he combined the economy with what he believes are greedy unions.

“[L]abor unions and their leaders are  . . . distorting the truth about the American workplace,” wrote the editor. First he set up Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, who said that “Tens of millions of Americans are working harder than ever just to stay afloat. The latest Census Bureau report shows that wages are dropping and more people lack health insurance . . . a greater percentage of the economy is going to profits than to wages.”

Then, he cut apart Stern’s statement by gleefully citing data from the pro-business pro-management U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber said that wages, adjusted for inflation, for workers rose 30 percent from 1967 to 2007. Now, 30 percent seems good unless you do the math. That’s about three-quarters of one percent per year, far less than any executive compensation. The editor then added in about 30 percent for benefits. Of course, these benefits also include federally-mandated deductions, like social security, Medicare, and unemployment taxes.  

As an afterthought, the editor claimed the “poverty rate dropped from 22.4 percent in 1959 to 12.5 percent in 2007,” mysteriously trying to connect a reduced poverty level with reduced union influence. What he didn’t point out was that 1959 was a recession year, and that between 2000 and 2007, according to the Census Bureau, the poverty rate actually increased from 11.3 percent to 12.5 percent. About 37.3 million Americans are living below the federal poverty level; about 40 percent of all Americans fell beneath the poverty line at least once in the past decade.

Sounding the alarm, the editor tied together Democrats and unions. “[T]he plight of the American worker will grow more dire in the new year, as Democrats push to pass their legislation. . . . The danger is that their union-friendly legislation will hurt rather than help the American economy.” To wrap everything up, the editor of a newspaper with the median circulation of all dailies in America concluded by asking his readers to “consider the current state of the once mighty American auto industry, and ask yourself: What role did the powerful United Auto Workers play in its downfall?”

It’s the workers and those pesky liberal Democrats who the editor blames for America’s economic crises. Unfortunately, this editor isn’t alone in his contempt for the workers.

Dozens of columnists and TV pundits spread the myth that the average auto worker at General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler earns $70 an hour, about $146,000 a year. That figure, supplied by executives at the Big Three, reflects every cost associated with labor, including “legacy costs,” which are are costs of pensions and health benefits for retired workers. Thus, the automakers added up every conceivable cost and divided it by hours worked (pensioners, of course, don’t work) to get the inflated numbers. The reality is that the average UAW member earns about $28 an hour, about $58,000 a year, according to the impartial Center for Automotive Research. What the news media fail to report is that the UAW made significant concessions over the years, including wage cut-backs at Chrysler and a 2007 contract for all three auto makers that created a “second tier” wage level of $14.50?$16.23 per hour ($30,160?$33,758 per year, still below U.S. average wage of $40.405, according to the Census Bureau), reduced benefits, and a retirement plan now administered by the UAW not the Big Three.

Others who attack organized labor claim that UAW worker earn far more an hour than their counterparts at non-American non-unionized auto manufacturers in the U.S., and that’s a reason why the Big Three are failing. However, the reality is that the average wage at the international automakers is estimated at $24?-$25 an hour, less than a $3 differential an hour for UAW first tier workers, according to Jonathan Cohn in The New Republic. Even the most casual observer understands that it costs more to live in the Detroit area than the rural areas where foreign auto makers established their plants.

In contrast to the concessions given up by the workers, Big Three executives still earn multi-million dollar incomes. Alan Mulally at Ford earned $2 million last year, plus additional compensation totaling about $21.7 million, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Ford lost $2.72 billion last year. At GM, Rick Wagoner earned $15.7 million last year, according to the Wall Street Journal, while his company lost $38.7 billion. Chrysler’s Robert Nardelli earned $1 in salary last year, but has significant compensation package that is not publicly disclosed. Chrysler lost about $2.9 billion last year.

But, much of the media and the American public still blame workers and liberal Democrats who are favorable to the union movement for the economic crisis that led the Big Three to rev up their corporate jets and descend upon Congress to beg for a $25 billion taxpayer-funded bailout.

Are the workers and those liberal Democrats to blame for car sales being down 45 percent in October for GM, 35 percent for Chrysler, and 30 percent for Ford from a year ago?

Are they to blame for the auto industry going for the quick profit by pushing gas-guzzling minivans, SUVs, and trucks, while foreign automakers began looking at more energy-efficient cars?

Are they to blame that demand for autos has fallen off because Americans were unable to get financing in an economic crisis caused by greed of investment companies, banks, and almost every corporation that issues public stock?

Are they to blame for the auto industry executives opposing public transportation and alternative energy cars?

Are they to blame for auto executives being wrong about just about everything and for spending too much on everything from golf club memberships to  private jets?

Are they to blame for the 100,000 factory layoffs in the past three years that also meant more work and no pay increases for every remaining factory worker?

Are they to blame for the auto industry outsourcing its work to countries where labor is paid pennies an hour and then reaping huge profits by downsizing America’s workforce?

Are the workers and liberals to blame for the auto industry cutting health care and retirement benefits in order to maximize profits?  

Finally, are the workers and those liberal Democrats to blame because Big Three executives failed to understand that they needed to cut corporate costs when maximizing profits so they could reduce their losses during a Recession or for when their own bad business judgments would cause a catastrophic melt-down?

It may be in the best self-interest of non-unionized media to perpetuate the myth that the economic problems of America are because of the worker. However, such sloppy and inaccurate reporting isn’t in the best interest of the people.

[Dr. Brasch is the author of the recently-published Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available at amazon.com, bn.com, and numerous independent and chain stores. He is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University. You may contact him through his website, www.walterbrasch.com or by e-mail at brasch@bloomu.edu]

 

World AIDS Day 2008

Today, 1 December 2008 is World AIDS Day. The theme this year is: Lead, Empower, Deliver.

Why is 2008 important?

2008 marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Since 1988, the face and response to AIDS has greatly changed. While many of these changes are positive, this anniversary offers us an opportunity to highlight how much more still needs to be done.

For example:

Leaders in most countries from around the world now acknowledge the threat of AIDS, and many have committed to do something about it. As of 2007, nearly all countries have national policies on HIV. However, despite these policies, most have not been fully implemented and many lack funding allocations.

While treatment for HIV and AIDS has improved and become more widespread since 1988, many still do not have access to it – in 2007 only 31% of those in low- to middle-income countries who need treatment received it.

Despite HIV awareness now reaching nearly all areas of the globe, infection rates are still happening 2.7 times faster than the increase in number of people receiving treatment.

While the number of countries protecting people living with HIV continue to increase, one third of countries still lack legal protections and stigma and discrimination continues to be a major threat to universal access.

More broadly, real action on HIV and AIDS and human rights remains lacking. Legal barriers to HIV services still exist for groups such as women, adolescents, sex workers, people who use drugs, and men having sex with men, and programmatic responses promoting HIV-related human rights have yet to be prioritised.

World AIDS Day began in 1988 when health ministers from around the world met and agreed on the concept of the day as an opportunity for all of us to come together to demonstrate the importance of AIDS and show solidarity for the cause. In 2008, this underlining principle of solidarity and awareness remains the same.

We have only two years to go for “the goal of universal access to comprehensive prevention programs, treatment, care and support by 2010”

To achieve this goal, leadership and action is needed now. Governments must deliver on the promises they have made. Communities must encourage leadership of its members. Individuals must feel empowered to access treatment, to know their rights and take action against stigma and discrimination, and to know and use methods of prevention against receiving and transmitting HIV.

If you have questions about HIV/Aids ask…ask me…ask your doctor…call Co-County Wellness Services (CCWS) in Reading at 610-375-6523.

Get tested…CCWS offers free testing every Tuesday evening at their Walnut Street location.

Make a donation to your local or national HIV/AIDS service organization…usually in local organizations a much larger percentage of your dollar goes to helping people or prevention/education programs rather than administrative costs.

There is promising research going on every day.

I saw the rise of HIV in the early 80’s when it was still called GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). I hope to see it’s end in my lifetime.

Be a leader in the continuing fight against HIV/AIDS.

Thank you!