Thursday, November 30, 2006

Potential pitfalls in misusing the dismal science

Chris Hayes has a fascinating article in this week's In These Times about the Chicago School of Economics and the dangers its ideology poses to American society.

He writes:
Neoclassical economics, as the Chicago School of thought is now called, has become an international elite consensus, one that provides the foundation for the entire global political economy. In the United States, young members of the middle and upper-middle class first learn its precepts in the academy. Polls routinely show that economists and the general public have widely divergent views on the economy, but among the well-educated that gap is far narrower. A 2001 study published in the U. of C.’s Journal of Law and Economics showed that those with college degrees are more likely to subscribe to the views of neoclassical economists than the general public. This isn’t surprising. At elite colleges, economics is consistently one of the most popular majors (nearly a quarter of undergrads at the U. of C.), and across all schools, introductory economics, often a required course, has been one of the 10 most popular classes for the last 30 years. Graduate schools—from business to public policy to political science to, most notably, law—are now suffused with economic paradigms for understanding not only financial interactions but all human behavior.

Conservatives have long critiqued academia for the ways professors use their position to indoctrinate students with left-wing ideology, but the left has largely ignored the political impact of the way people learn economics, though its influence is likely far more profound.

Go read the whole article. It provides one of the best takedowns of "Neoclassical" economics written by a non-economist (and thus intelligible to non-economist eggheads) as any I've ever read. By focusing on efficiency to the expense of equity and everything else, practitioners of this dark art present a warped view of how our society should order its economic affairs - with the unsurprising result that the rich always seem to come out on top. They find ways to justify redistributing income upward and proclaim it to be efficient. It's a winner-take-all zealotry that assumes those with money "deserve it", whereas the poor do not because they don't work as hard.

In short, it ignores luck, inheritance of wealth and assumes an efficiency between supply and demand, price and output and so on that simply does not exist in the real world. But worst of all, the Chicago School espouses what it claims to be positive theories (i.e. the way the world is) as opposed to a normative understanding of social/economic policy (i.e. the moral dimension of how things ought to be). But as Hayes proves, nothing could be further from the truth.

These Chicago School economists claim to be "pro-choice" in the sense of being pro-market, arguing that macro and micro solutions are better worked out by private markets than government intervention. This completely ignores the reality of market failures, like, say the 1929 Stock Market Crash and the subsuquent Great Depression - which was caused by a lack of government oversight and regulation and was ultimately resolved by a much more activist public sector.
Efficiency is the Chicago School’s defining value. The free market economists who came before—most notably Austrian Friedrich Hayek—offered a philosophical critique of the political consequences of state regulation and control of the economy. But Milton Friedman, his colleague George Stigler and the entire Chicago School focused on the actual economic problems of state control, namely, inefficiency. They rejected Keynes’ contention that markets function best with routine government intervention and instead harkened back to Adam Smith’s classical conceptions of equilibrium. Chicago School theories gained popularity when global capitalism hit a major funk in the ’70s—a period of slow growth and high inflation. Friedman argued, plausibly, that it was too much government that had caused the problems.

What may seem a subtle rhetorical shift had major consequences. It transformed what had been conservatism’s moral argument about capitalism bestowing the most benefits on those who worked the hardest—and the inherent injustice of a coercive state forcibly redistributing capital—into a technical argument about the inefficiencies associated with non-free-market solutions and the perverse incentives that made any social programs destined to fail. Thus, arguments about the way the world should be were converted into assertions about how the world actually was. Or, to put in terms that economists favor, normative arguments became positive ones.

As Hayes explains: "Neoclassical economics smuggles a great many normative wares underneath its positive trenchcoat, both in its assumptions about how humans operate—as individuals rationally maximizing their utility—and its implied preference for “markets in everything.” Because neoclassical economics always presents itself as a value-neutral description of the world, its ideological commitments can be adopted by those who learn it without any recognition that they are ideological. "

Blame the Iraqis?

Writing in The Wall Street Journal's editorial page, lawyer and novelist Scott Turow presents an interesting idea: Why not base our decision as to whether we should withdrawal our troops from Iraq on what the Iraqi public would like to see happen? This is, of course, merely a slight variant on the Jonah Goldberg idea that the only way to end the chaos and violence in Iraq is to let the people there know that we will be leaving, and they will bear the ultimate responsibility for conditions there. According to Turow:

"Many foreign-policy experts believe that a large-scale American force on Iraqi soil aggravates ethnic rivalries by forcibly enhancing power differentials between those groups, thus robbing the current government of legitimacy in the eyes of many citizens. Others, including many of our generals, say that the 140,000 American troops stationed in the country are all that stand in the way of a full-scale civil war. But why attempt to resolve this as a debate among our dueling experts when we can ask the genuine authorities -- the Iraqi people? They are there. They know their country and their countrymen. And naturally, it is they who care most intensely about their future.

So here's what I propose. Our government must urge Iraqi leaders to hold an immediate plebiscite on a single question: Should American forces remain in Iraq until a stable democratic order emerges, however long that takes, or should we instead withdraw in stages over a fixed period, say, the next 12 months?

The only problem with his idea is that the Iraqi people have already been asked this question, and answered in a loud and clear voice: They want our occupying forces out post-haste. Not only that, but a majority of Iraqis polled support the guerilla attacks on our troops.

Turow next goes on to acknowledge this reality. . .sort of:

I have a guess about which way the vote will go. Since opinion-sampling began a year after the invasion, one poll after another has found that an increasing majority of Iraqis would like us to pack our gear and leave. But who knows how accurate polling is in a society like Iraq, where so many citizens have reasons to be guarded about their views? And even if the results reflected opinions at the time, it's possible that an informed national discussion might change minds. Yet if the remaining rationale for our presence in Iraq hinges on our commitment to democracy there, what possible excuse can we have for not letting the Iraqis make the ultimate choice about our occupation? If a solid majority throughout the country wants us out, then we can leave knowing that we are not deserting a people eager for our presence.

And if instead a majority of Iraqis prefer that we remain, we can revert to our own national debate about the kind of commitment we are willing to make, knowing we have an open invitation. I am not proposing that we give the people of Iraq veto power over how long Americans must fight and die on their behalf. We must fix goals for our inevitable departure. But even the Americans who believe we should depart tomorrow will have to reflect twice if the beleaguered citizens of Iraq, 150,000 of whom have already died according to their government, say the future presence of our troops will be helpful. And attacks on American soldiers will perhaps slacken if it becomes fact-established that we are invited guests, not an occupying army.

The results of the vote would probably not be the same in the various ethnic regions of Iraq. In prior opinion polls, the Kurds have overwhelmingly favored the American presence that has freed them from the menacing hand of Iraq's central government. But a split verdict may suit our aims. American troops must continue to be stationed somewhere in the region to prevent active coercion by Iraq's neighbors, especially Syria and Iran, and to respond in case the direst predictions prove out and parts of Iraq become a lawless terrorist breeding ground, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. The emerging Kurdish canton might be the ideal place for our soldiers to wait out events, while removing themselves from the cross-fire in the rest of the country.

So what are we to make of this? I suppose the first question is why Turow is skeptical as to the validity of the most recent public opinion polls. For example, a poll designed by the well-respected World Public Opinion (WPO) organization and conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland was administered to over 1150 Iraqis and concluded they wanted us out. What evidence does Turow have that the findings were in some way inaccurate or the subject of political coercion as he implies? Or is it merely that he would prefer that public opinion among the Iraqis supported a permanent occupation? If anything, it would be a shock if the Iraqi people held any other view toward the US military presence in their country other than wanting an immediate end of the occupation.

And if previous polls were biased and unreliable indicators of public opinion, how does he suggest we more accurately divine the will of the Iraqi people? He suggests "an informed national discussion" to raise awareness among the Iraqis. Exactly what the hell does that mean? We apparently can't even get an informed dialogue going in this country because half of the American people persist in thinking there was some connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. Does he envision some propaganda campaign underwritten by the US taxpayer to convince Iraqis that it would be in their best interest for us to stay after all? We simply have no way of knowing by Turow's logic what poll result can be considered more authoritative than the already conclusive ones we have in our possession. And it seems he is implying that the Iraqis have heretofore been unwilling or unable to engage in an informed discussion amongst themselves about how they feel about the US occupation.

But put this issue to one side. Because at the end of the day, this and other gibberish--such as his outrageous insinuation that we have some sort of moral obligation to sacrifice more American soldiers to atone for the mistakes of George W. Bush--is irrelevant. We know this because he wants a long-term occupation of US forces in the region no matter what Iraqi public opinion says. We need to have our troops there to guard against "active coercion" from Iraq's neighbors, unlike our own active coercion in the region. It is almost funny that he claims this is needed lest Iraq turn into a terrorist breeding ground like Afghanistan under the Taliban--when our own National Intelligence Estimate already has confirmed we have turned that country into. . .a terrorist breeding ground.

He doesn't really care about Iraqi public opinion, unless we can somehow use it to, in his words, "suit our aims" for the region. If the Iraqi people say they want us to go, Turow says we should pack up and leave Iraq with a clean conscience but redeploy to the "Kurdish Canton" (which sounds to me like Northern Iraq) so we can continue to exert our influence. If the Iraqis suddenly change their mind (as a result of an "informed national discussion" of course) and decide they want us to stay, well then, we have a never-ending, open invitation to continue our destructive occupation. George W. Bush and the Neocons get to save face either way--it's a win-win proposition for them.

Scott Turow should probably just stick to writing legal thrillers.

Update (12/1): Today's WSJ editorial page offers yet another installment of "we should listen to what the Iraqis want, unless we think they aren't capable of democracy and state-building, in which case we should give up."

No, really, that is what former Bush administration Pentagon official is suggesting for our Iraq policy:

U.S. policy ought to be informed by whether Iraqis are committed to the end result we expected them to embrace. It may be that they are, and still can be, successful with our help. If so, we should provide whatever greater or different assistance is necessary. But there is much evidence that a stable, secure and moderately free Iraq may be beyond the Iraqis' reach, and therefore beyond our own. [. . .] If the Iraqis now remain unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to have an effective democratic government -- including compromises with one another -- to forge a stable, secure future, the war cannot end as we envisioned.

In that case, we must place our reliance elsewhere and pursue options for achieving our goals that do not depend on the Iraqis ending the war they have made their own. The goals that were important to the security of the region and to the West are as valid today as they were at the outset. We must pursue them as best as we can.

The hypocrisy of this narrowminded viewpoint, I think, really speaks for itself. I'm not aure if any additional commentary on my end really adds anything of substance. I will note, however, that there seems to be a neverending supply of self-proclaimed "experts" who continue to believe we were justified in invading Iraq based on a fictitious casus belli in order to bring democracy to the region, but also proclaim that unless the Iraqi people can now prove themselves worthy of our continuing attention, we should feel free to abandon them. And I suppose the upshot is that we should feel free to invade other Third World countries in the future to bring their citizens US-style democracy, and if it doesn't work out, hey, we can always blame the locals for not being capable of it.

Update #2: Timothy Noah, writing at Slate analyzes the new bi-partisan strategy of blaming the Iraqis for our criminal negligence and strategic failure in the Middle East.

The Baker-Hamilton commission lambasted by Neoconservatives

As per usual, Glenn Greenwald hits it out of the park with this blog post. He discusses the Neoconservatives' attempt to discredit the Baker-Hamilton commission studying policy options for Iraq as being biased and lopsided. Specifically, he links to an article in the Washington Post which reports that Neocon Michael Rubin, formerly an advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has resigned from his post because he claimed he and his bretheren are no longer being listened to with the same degree of reverence as they were, say, before the invasion of Iraq. This claim is so ridiculous that one is tempted to believe these lunatics have finally completely broken their last remaining ties to the real world.

Greenwald offers up a particularly apt analogy on just how outrageous it is for Neocons like Rubin to complain that his fwllow travelers on the far right are no longer having their opinions sought out by our country's policymakers:

Seeking input from the neocons on how to solve the Iraq disaster would be like consulting the serial arsonist who started a deadly, raging fire on how to extinguish it. That actually might make sense if the arsonist were repentant and wanted to help reverse what he unleashed. But if the arsonist were proud of the fire he started and actually wanted to see it rage forever, even more strongly -- and, worse, if he were intent on starting whole new fires just like the one destroying everything and everyone in its path-- it would be the height of irrationality for those wanting to extinguish the fire to listen to what he has to say.

He also makes another interesting point about the fact that the antiwar "extremists" those aggrieved Neoconservatives are complaining about are anything but extreme. First, public opinion has already shifted toward setting a deadline for redeployment (with a phased withdrawal taking place over the next twelve months as per the Senator Carl Levin proposal, as opposed to immediately as suggested by Congressman Jack Murtha).

Second, as Greenwald notes:

Is withdrawal -- whether incremental or total -- considered to be an "extreme view" that the Washington "centrists" have not only rejected but have excluded in advance even from consideration? That's what this [Washington Post] article seems to suggest, and that would definitely be consistent with conventional Beltway wisdom -- that withdrawal is advocated only by the fringe radicals and far leftists (such as the individual whom Americans just knowingly installed as Speaker of the House).

There is nothing "centrist" about a Commission which decides in advance that it will not remove our troops from a war which is an unmitigated disaster and getting worse every day.
It just goes without saying that if you invade and occupy a country and are achieving nothing good by staying, withdrawal must be one of the primary options considered when deciding what to do about the disaster.

Even if that is not the option ultimately chosen, a categorical refusal in advance to consider that option -- or to listen to experts who advocate it -- is not the work of a "centrist" body devoted to finding a solution to this war. If the Commission begins with the premise that we have to stay in Iraq and then only considers proposals for how to modify our strategy on the margins, that is anything but centrist. To the contrary, that is a close-minded -- and rather extremist -- commitment to the continuation of a war which most Americans have come to despise and want to see brought to an end.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Neoliberalism = Economic Colonialism

An interesting development in international trade reported by the Financial Times that further proves that Neoliberalism, or whatever else you want to call trade policy between the world's wealthiest countries and the poorest is not is really nothing more than multilateral-sanctioned exploitation.

From the FT article, we learn: "Despite public rhetoric that new trade agreements with some of the world's poorest countries are a development tool, in private the European Union is insisting on excluding aid from the negotiations. Internal documents seen by the Financial Times confirm that the European Commission has rejected attempts to link the two in the so-called economic partnership agreements with 70-plus mostly former colonies."

Further down in the article, we are informed that: "Another document shows Brussels rejected a review clause proposed by African states to allow them to freeze liberalisation after 10 years if EU promises on aid were not met. "While we are not against well-defined review clauses, we think that they should be limited in their scope and mainly aimed at accelerating or extending liberalisation," Commission negotiators said, adding that the market opening should not be linked to "undefined development targets. It may void the agreement of its sense."

And some commentators wonder why the Doha - Development round of the WTO collapsed? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that LDCs (the world's Least Developed Countries) realize that the wealthy countries that set the rules that govern international trade are in fact practicing thinly-veiled economic colonialism, and they are finally using their limited clout to organize and push back.

Discussing the unsurprising but important implications of the FT's reporting, David Sirota notes that: "[W]hat you have here is Europe [the EU[ wanting all the benefits of economic exploitation - cheap products from desperately poor workers - but not being willing to guarantee they will live up to any concessions to prevent that exploitation from destroying the target countries."

Exactly right. The EU, and other wealthy countries that are the de facto leaders of the World Bank, IMF and World Trade Organization are doing what one would expect: using their power to set rules that allow them to have their cake and eat it too. They want developing countries to privatize their natural resources and open up their markets to foreign trade (i.e. unregulated "free" trade without any protections for labor, environmental or human rights abuses), deregulating private industry and radically cut public expenditures for social services.

Of course, such a brutal perscription for restructuring a country's economy is great for the US, the EU, etc. as it opens up the poor country's resources to foreign investment (read: exploitation), but has predictably disastrous results for the target country (see, for example, former Chief Economist of the World Bank and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz's essay on the crash of the East Asian "Tiger" economies.

For an excellent backgrounder on the history and practice of Neoliberalism, you must read the transcript of this speech given by Susan George to the Conference on Economic Sovreignty (Bankok, Thailand) back in 1999.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Background on Single-Payer National Health Service

Here's some well-written, informative reading when you have a few hours to kill . . . first, check out this diary from Daily Kos written by Dr. Steve B entitled "Single Payer National Health Insurance - pt1 - Introduction". Notice it isn't called "Universal Healthcare", which makes one instantly think of dreaded Canadian-style socialized medicine with long waits and bad doctors. That's because the key to lowering the cost of health insurance is having an entity with considerable bargaining power going up against the multibillion dollar pharmaceutical companies.

According to Dr. Steve: "Single-payer national health insurance is a system in which a single public or quasi-public agency organizes health financing, but delivery of care remains largely private.", which is exactly right and exactly what the rest of the civilized world offers its citizens besides the US.

He continues: "Currently, the U.S. health care system is outrageously expensive, yet inadequate. Despite spending more than twice as much as the rest of the industrialized nations ($7,129 per capita), the United States performs poorly in comparison on major health indicators such as life expectancy, infant mortality and immunization rates. Moreover, the other advanced nations provide comprehensive coverage to their entire populations, while the U.S. leaves 46 million completely uninsured and millions more inadequately covered.

The reason we spend more and get less than the rest of the world is because we have a patchwork system of for-profit payers. Private insurers necessarily waste health dollars on things that have nothing to do with care: overhead, underwriting, billing, sales and marketing departments as well as huge profits and exorbitant executive pay. Doctors and hospitals must maintain costly administrative staffs to deal with the bureaucracy. Combined, this needless administration consumes one-third (31 percent) of Americans’ health dollars.

Single-payer financing is the only way to recapture this wasted money. The potential savings on paperwork, more than $350 billion per year, are enough to provide comprehensive coverage to everyone without paying any more than we already do."

The diary is a short yet elegant defense of single-payer health insurance, and I think he makes an air-tight case for looking to this structure as the direction health care reform must necessarily take in the years ahead. For more background on how our public health care system is completely failing the American people and how to fix it, Yale Political Science Professor Jacob Hacker's "proposal to extend Medicare to all working Americans is a very good start. (I also highly recommend his book "The Great Risk Shift", which I read in a couple of hours.)

Once you've read these articles, check out Part II of the Healthcare FAQ at DailyKos here, which answers the typical challenges the Right tries to throw up against Single Payer health insurance such as "Why not make people who are Higher Risk pay Higher Premiums", "Won’t competition be impeded by a universal health care system" and the golden oldie "How will we keep doctors from doing too many procedures?"

Monday, November 27, 2006

Trying to figure out the GOP's new gameplan for addressing Social Security

Although Social Security is not in a "crisis" and certainly does not represent as grave a threat to the economic security of retired Americans as, say, Medicare, many pundits and journalists continue to insist that it does need to be addressed. Even though Bush's approval rating continues to float in and around the 30-40% range and the GOP has been wrested from their perch in the House and Senate, conservative policymakers are still pushing for a "market-based" solution as a way to "fix" Social Security.

Angry Bear runs through what might just be an about-face from the Bush administration: As the Washington Post's Neoliberal cheerleader #1 Sebastian Mallaby claims in his recent column, "[The GOP] no longer regard "privatization" - the diversion of payroll taxes into personal accounts - as the starting point for negotiation. The solvency of Social Security, not a desire to promote an "ownership society," is their main concern."

Of course, it is totally up in the air as to whether Mallaby knows what he's talking about (Brad DeLong argues he is engaging in nothing more than wishful thinking). But even if this is true, the ideological positions both sides have staked out--irrespective of any future "compromises"--seems to be more or less unchanged from where they were two years ago. In other words, the GOP favors shifting any extra revenue into personal accounts (to be managed by Wall Street firms), while Democrats prefer putting the money back into the trust fund in order to ensure the security of these investments from the vagaries of the cyclical equity markets.

I am personally totally opposed to partially-privatizing Social Security for a number of reasons that I have previously covered on this blog.

Update: Angry Bear also links to a post by economist Dean Baker of the Center for Economic Policy Research, with this rejoinder:

[The Social Security] program is solvent for the next 35 years according to President Bush's Social Security Trustees (40 years according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office) and that the projected explosion in health care costs implies that Medicare is a much bigger problem, but then argues that workers need time to plan for their retirement.

While time for planning is great, one might think that 20 years is plenty. Furthermore, the Post's editorialists were unconcerned about the impact that the impending collapse of a stock market bubble would have on people's retirement plans in the late 90s and they also seem unconcerned about the impending collapse of the housing bubble at the moment.

I continue to adhere to the old-fashioned view that we should focus on big and immediate problems rather than distant and minor problems. Unfortunately, there is no place for this view on the Post editorial pages -- when was the last time they had a peice defending SS on their oped page? Even worse, the Post regularly allows it editorial position to creep into its news reporting. News articles routinely refer to the need to "fix" Social Security.

There is no objective need to do anything for many years into the future. Remember, Congress and the President literally allowed the program to run out of money in 1982, we are 40 years away from this date at the moment. Congress was not negligent in the 60s when it created Medicare, Medicaid, and Head Start, even though the Post's editors would have insisted that it focus on the Social Security crisis that was less than 2 decades away at the time. (Actually, just a decade away , they had to raise taxes in the 70s as well.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Tom Edsall is totally divorced from reality

That's the only conclusion a fair-minded reader could draw after reading his latest op-ed in the New York Times. For some background, check out Matt Stoller's post on the matter over at MyDD.

According to Edsall, the Democrats' successful capture of both chambers of congress is proof-positive that the party is in danger of becoming irrelevant if they continue to fight for some of their key constituencies. He argues: "To stay in the fight, Democratic leaders will have to acknowledge political realities affirmed by the electorate in 1994 and 2006. Many Democratic constituencies -- organized labor, minority advocacy organizations, reproductive- and sexual-rights proponents -- are reliving battles of a decade or more ago, not the more subtle disputes of today. Public sector unions, for example, at a time of wide distrust of government, are consistently pressing to enlarge the state. For these players, adapting to a re-emergent center will be costly....Only two members of the House leadership are intuitively attuned to such problems: Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic caucus, and Steny Hoyer, the majority leader. But Emanuel has limited influence, and relations between Pelosi and Hoyer are distant at best.

Still, the vigilance of Hoyer and Emanuel will be crucial to a party whose renewal could easily be stillborn. Congressional leaders are not all-powerful, but they can set the stage for a successful presidential candidate, or lay waste to the center-left, dooming the nominee. The Democratic Party can secure its 2006 gains, but to do so will require abandoning a decades-long willingness to indulge pressure groups on the left that no longer command broad popular allegiance."

Stoller's observation on Edsall's half-baked rant is dead on--his key graph:

"Even as Edsall attacks unions as an out of touch 'pressure group on the left' that 'no longer command broad popular allegiance', his former colleagues are relying on their union to improve journalism and stop the job cuts devastating newsrooms across the country."

It's quite amazing to see the media establishment attempting to claim that the elections earlier this year are a repudiation of liberalism, despite the fact that many of the key Senate and House races were won by candidates who ran explicitly economic populist campaigns (see also this DailyKos post for general background on the populist surge, and this post from Billmon on supposed "conservative" Jim Webb in particular) .

Also, check out Harold Meyerson's great editorial in The American Prospect called The Fair-Trade Election to understand how that crucial issue may (hopefully) be re-evaluated under the new Democratic leadership in Congress.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Poll: Iraqi public supports attacks on US troops

From Editor & Publisher:

Past surveys have hinted at this result, but a new poll in Iraq makes it more stark than ever: the Iraqi people want the U.S. to exit their country. And most Iraqis now approve of attacks on U.S. forces, even though 94% express disapproval of al-Qaeda.

At one time, this was primarily a call by the Sunni minority, but now the Shiites have also come around to this view. The survey by much-respected World Public Opinion (WPO), taken in September, found that 74% of Shiites and 91% of Sunnis in Iraq want us to leave within a year. The number of Shiites making this call in Baghdad, where the U.S. may send more troops to bring order, is even higher (80%). In contrast, earlier this year, 57% of this same group backed an "open-ended" U.S. stay.

By a wide margin, both groups believe U.S. forces are provoking more violence than they're preventing -- and that day-to-day security would improve if we left.

Support for attacks on U.S. forces now commands majority support among both Shiites and Sunnis. The report states: "Support for attacks on U.S.-led forces has grown to a majority position—now six in ten.
Support appears to be related to widespread perception, held by all ethnic groups, that the U.S. government plans to have permanent military bases in Iraq and would not withdraw its forces from Iraq even if the Iraqi government asked it to. If the U.S. were to commit to withdraw, more than half of those who approve of attacks on US troops say that their support for attacks would diminish."

The backing for attacks on our forces has jumped to 61% from 47% in January.

Among Iraqis overall, 77% percent prefer that a strong government get rid of militias, including 100% of the Sunnis polled and 82% of Kurds.
But "the Shia population in Baghdad is more skeptical than elsewhere about the wisdom of disarming the militias," a report by WPO states. In Baghdad, Shias say they want militias to continue to protect their security (59%).

The national survey reached 1,150 Iraqis. It was conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland.

But what do the Iraqis know? it's only their country. Some gratitude.

Meanwhile. public opinion in the US is more polarized. According to a USA TODAY/ Gallup Poll from last June:

57% [of respondents] say Congress should pass a resolution that outlines a plan for withdrawing U.S. troops; 39% say that decision should be left to the president and his advisers.

Precisely half support withdrawing all U.S. forces immediately or within 12 months, while 41% say the United States should keep troops there for as many years as needed. Eight percent call for sending more troops.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Cheney and the neocons post-Rumsfeld

Some interesting analysis on the current soap opera that has been engulfing the fetid swamp we call Washington, D.C. First, writing in his magazine The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner discusses where Vice President Cheney stood on the firing of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, and what the firing will likely mean in terms of Cheney’s influence in terms of setting this nation’s foreign policy. As he notes, “As much as Rumsfeld, Cheney was architect of both the Iraq war and the deeper doctrine behind the war -- neo conservative assertion of America's unilateral military might. Cheney, along with Rumsfeld, signed the 1997 manifesto of the so-called Project for a New American Century, calling for the United States to police the world in the name of democracy.”

So the really important question is, what can be inferred from Rumsfeld being shown the door? Can it be seen as a signal that Cheney is being further marginalized by the cowboy in chief? On one hand, foreign policy “realist” James Baker has seen his profile raised in the past month thanks to his co-chairing the ridiculous Iraqi Study Group and Rumsfeld is being replaced by fellow “realist” and Baker-ally Robert Gates. So it would appear to be a major repudiation of the Neoconservative Establishment and their point man in the White House Cheney.

But on the other hand, Kuttner reminds us, Cheney is nothing if not a political pro. He has placed allies throughout the federal government, for just example, Elliot Abrams is still responsible for running Middle East foreign policy and he effectively “reports” to his intellectual godfather Cheney.

Kuttner concludes, and I agree, that Cheney remains the ultimate “infighter”, and observers of the Washington scene discount his power in this administration at their own peril. As I wrote back in September in response to a New York Times article speculating on Cheney’s supposed waning influence in the administration, the Vice President’s insane worldview has left an indelible mark on Bush’s own thinking to the point that even if the putative leader of this nation wanted to put some distance between himself and his deputy, it is not clear that he is psychologically capable of doing so.

As Kuttner puts it: “it’s clear that the plan to replace Rumsfeld was set in motion several weeks before the election, after multiple conversations, and that Bush I, Baker, Rice, and Cheney were all players. My informed guess is that, when the time came for a decision, Cheney decided to be on the winning side.
Although Baker is now a secondary power center in the Bush constellation, it is just not believable that Baker has displaced Cheney as the single most potent influence on Bush. The Oedipal complexities of Bush's awkward rift with his father make it unlikely that Baker is the new power behind the throne. You can see already Cheney's pushback against the Baker-Hamilton commission in the internal review of Iraq policy that the administration has begun, well in advance of the release of Baker's report.
Commissions come and go. Cheney's influence over war-making will be somewhat diluted by the presence of Robert Gates at the Pentagon. But the vice president remains the ultimate in-fighter.”

However, this is definitely not to say that I don’t recognize that broadly speaking the Neoconservative Establishment has seen it’s previously monopoly-like foreign policy influence curbed in official circles, and Jim Lobe and Michael Flynn do a brilliant job of outlining these developments at the International Relations Center (reprinted over at Asia Times Online). The authors argue in this long, well-researched piece that “although the neo-conservatives and their allied aggressive nationalists, such as Vice President Dick Cheney, retain sufficient weight to hamper efforts to push through major reversals in US foreign policy, the increasing isolation of this political faction coupled with recent political events in the United States point to the potential emergence of a more cautious, realist-inspired agenda during the final two years of the Bush presidency.”

Additionally, in marked contrast to Kuttner, they ultimately conclude that “Many analysts, including some neo-conservatives, believe it was Baker who helped engineer Rumsfeld's replacement by Gates as part of a larger strategy to tilt the balance of power in the administration decisively in favor of the realists. Indeed, without Rumsfeld, Cheney, the neo-conservatives' main champion and protector within the administration, now appears more isolated than ever.”

The truth is probably somewhere in between the views expressed in these two pieces: Cheney and his fellow-travelers have been proven to be a huge liability to the White House, and their credibility has been figuratively flushed down the toilet in the aftermath of the Iraq war. But even if Bush can no longer publicly rely on Cheney as the only person he needs to consult with in setting foreign policy, his views are undoubtedly still heavily taken into consideration. That is why, as I’ve long argued, it will take a new administration taking over in two years to effectively change course in our dealings with the rest of the world – a change that is desperately needed and already long-overdue.

There is no "dignified exit" from Iraq

Tom Engelhardt, editor of the indispensible TomDispatch considers the significance of Rumsfeld's departure and replacement by Robert Gates as DefSec, James Baker and the ISG's (Iraqi Study Group) forthcoming recommendations for Iraq and the much-hyped sidelining of the Neoconservative cabal that got us mired in the Middle East in a new piece reprinted in The Asia Times.

According to Engelhardt: "We don't, of course, know exactly what plan the ISG will offer, but all reports on its deliberations suggest that, while public expectations are soaring, the actual recommendations "may sound familiar". Actually, they may sound that way because the proposals the group seems to be considering are indeed remarkably familiar.

These range from a bulking up of US troop strength by 10,000-40,000 more soldiers to a far more likely scenario described by Neil King Jr, Yochi Dreazen and Greg Jaffe in the Wall Street Journal just two days after the election. This would involve a long-term drawdown of US forces to the 50,000 level - still 20,000 more than Rumsfeld and pals hoped to leave in-country only months after the taking of Baghdad. Assumedly, these would largely be pulled back into those permanent bases."

Two key points he argues that are salient to any discussion of withdrawal or the beginning of a new military strategy for Iraq that are being purposefully ignored by the media are the fact that the massive military bases constructed by the US military in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion were designed to be permanent, signaling the Pentagon's intention to occupy Iraq for many years to come as well as the fact that the air campaign will likely need to be intensified if ground forces are going to be meaningfully "redeployed".

He concludes his piece with the following passage, which unfortunately sums up the bind the US is in right now thanks to our invasion of Iraq:

In a Washington of suddenly lowered expectations, dignity is defined as hanging in there until an Iraqi government that can't even control its own Interior Ministry or the police in the capital gains "stability", until the Sunni insurgency becomes a mild irritation and until that US Embassy, that eighth wonder of the world of security and comfort, becomes an eye-catching landmark on the capital's skyline.

Imagine. That's all the US wants. That's its dignity. And for that dignity and the imagined imperial stability of the world, the United States' top movers and shakers will proceed to monkey around for months creating and implementing plans that will only ensure further catastrophe (which, in turn, will but breed more rage, more terrorism that spreads disaster to the Middle East and actually lessens US power around the world).

Now, the dreamers [the neocons], the greatest gamblers in the United States' history, are departing official Washington and the "realists" have hit the corridors of power that they always thought they owned. It wouldn't hurt if they opened their eyes. Even imperial defenders should face reality. Someday, it's something we'll all have to do. In the meantime, call in the Hellfire-missile-armed drones.

Update (12/4): Chris Floyd has a brilliant takedown of Tom Friedman's latest Op-Ed arguing that the disintegration of Iraq is all the Iraqi people's fault, not the dreamers in the White House and Pentagon. Go figure.

The all purpose over-regulation excuse

The Washington Post reports on what happens when the former head of an investment bank (and a free-market ideologue) serves as this nation's Treasury Secretary:

Paulson, a former chairman of the investment bank Goldman Sachs, called for striking a regulatory balance as he delivered his first major policy address on the subject since joining the government in July. "Excessive regulation slows innovation, imposes needless costs on investors, and stifles competitiveness and job creation," he said in a speech to the Economic Club of New York. [. . .] Separately, Paulson called for more "constructive" dialogue among prosecutors and corporate executives, citing possible changes to the Justice Department's guidelines on charging companies with crimes. The 2002 prosecution of accounting firm Arthur Andersen for charges of obstructing justice helped push it out of business, an issue that Paulson said has reduced choice and competition in the auditing industry.

Jonathan Tasini has some pretty good commentary in the Huffington Post here. He points out, among other things, the immorality and absurdity of using cost-benefit analysis in situations that involve the health and safety of thousands of people. He also notes that de-regulation justified by increasing the "competitiveness" of our economy led to such disasters as the Savings & Loan Scnadal, Enron and Arthur Anderson.

Yes, de-regulation makes it easier for CEOs to manipulate earnings and profit by screwing the American people because they know the government has voluntarily abdicated its responsibility and power to enforce the laws and protect American citizens. If there is a trade-off between "efficiency" losses and protecting vulnerable Americans from financial scandals, I would prefer erring on the side of caution.

Update (12/3): The New York Post reports that "a panel's call to relax rules and regulations put in place to protect shareholders after corporate scandals got a surprisingly warm reception from Mayor Bloomberg and Sen. Charles Schumer. The New Yorkers are open to tweaking the rules to protect the city's mammoth financial services industry from foreign competition on the overseas exchanges." Not suprisingly, the Murdoch-owned tabloid failed to mention any of the downsides to de-regulation of the financial services. In other words, the trade-off for this "protection from foreign competition" will almost certainly be a loss of protection for ordinary Americans from shady market manipulations from the very corporations that funded Schumer's Senatorial campaigns.

Measuring the worth of an Iraqi life

From the Mother Jones Blog, we learn that one of the US soldiers responsible for shooting an Iraqi civilian in the face received a sentance of only 21 months for his crime. This leads us to ask an obvious, but troubling question: just how much is an Iraqi life worth?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Will Democrat-led Congress get it "right" on illegal immigration?

Writing in Alternet, Roberto Lovato argues:

The crop of House and Senate members-elect includes many Democrats whose positions on immigration hardly differ from the "border first" Republicans they ousted. This poses a major problem to those hoping the new political wave washes away the Wall, opposition to legalization, the increased raids and other enforcement-only immigration policies.

He points out that even progressive populist hero Sherrod Brown-currently a Democratic Congressman from Ohio and now Senator-elect-has views on how to address illegal immigration that are actually quite similar to that perscribed by conservative Republicans like Senator (and likely 2008 presidential candidate) John McCain: he recently voted for constructing a 700-mile wall at the border as well as voting to deny habeas corpus to undocumented and legal immigrants deemed "enemy combatants".

I myself am not sure what the best way is for the federal, state and local governments to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants (mostly from Mexico) crossing our borders. Obviously, such immigration has an impact on the labor market and wages, puts a strain on our already-dysfunctional public health system and is, no matter how you slice it, a clear violation of our nation's laws.

I'm less concerned with the cultural issues crazy right-wing populists like Pat Buchanan or Michael Savage obsess over. For example, I could care less if English is no longer the de facto national language in the US twenty years for now, and if Latino culture begins to challenge Anglo culture in terms of its impact on our society, that's fine with me as well. I personally am more concerned with addressing the root causes of the rising tide of illegal immigration from Mexico to the US, which includes disastrous "free" trade pacts like NAFTA which have hurt the Mexican economy and led millions of Mexicans to risk their lives to come to America and find employment.

Another central issue I'd like to address is the demand-side of the equation--if employers were punished for employing undocumented, illegal immigrants as a way to save mony by not paying the minimum wage to their workers-I think the supply-side of the problem would be addressed. Just as law enforcement targets the demand-side (the buyer) when combatting child pornography as opposed to the supply-side (the producer/seller of the videos), I think an issue such as immigration can most effectively be addressed by understanding and targeting root causes.

I do find it interesting that illegal immigration is an issue that bona fide progressives disagree on since the impacts on our economy and the moral issuesare so complex. Unlike economic inequality or the war in Iraq, I don't know if there is a "right" or "wrong" way for progressives to feel or approach the issue at this point. I also think there hasn't been nearly enough research conducted by policy analysts to understand the facts and impacts various policy choices would have and that needs to change if we are to deal with the issue based on empirical evidence as opposed to gut reactions and deep-seated prejudices.

The beginning of a new era for Latin American - US relations

It has been pretty well-established by now that Bush has utterly destroyed this country's credibility in the Middle East--most of the Arab world currently hates America thanks to our invasion of Iraq and refusal to this point to engage in diplomacy with Iran and Syria (not to mention our financial and military support of the many dictatorships in the region). But the other story that is, I think, less well understood and certainly more infrequently discussed, is the rapid degeneration of US-Latin American relations.

Certainly, a lot of this phenomenon is due to economic reasons, with populist, left-wing candidates winning presidential elections in a bunch of countries in the continent by blasting the IMF and Washington's neoliberal perscriptions of fiscal austerity, trade liberalization and the privatization of state-run enterprises (see this interview of economist Joseph Stiglitz by Multinational Monitor and The Economics of Empire"by William Finnegan). And a lot of it is due to the fact that Bush's rebel-cowboy act doesn't fly among the region's poor, many of whom don't quite agree that the US's hegemony over their natural resources ought to remain unchallenged. Finally, lobbyist-written "free" trade pacts with Latin American countries such as CAFTA have led to increased tension and suspicion of US motives for the region.

As Todd Tucker at the International Relations Center reports:

Ironically, the president's argument before Congress that CAFTA was essential to U.S. foreign policy objectives in Central America, is belied by the growing unpopularity of the United States in the region, in large part as a result of CAFTA and similar trade agreements. A recent poll shows that 61% of Latin Americans now have little or no confidence in the United States, with President Bush receiving only a 4.8 approval rating on a scale of 10—among the lowest for leaders in the Western Hemisphere.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research's Mark Weisbrot runs through the historic changes that have occurred in the last few years in Latin America's relationship with the Superpower to its northern border.

With not a small amount of melodramatic flare, Weisbrot argues: "The changes that have taken place in Latin America in recent years are part of an epoch-making transformation. To borrow from the Cold War framework that still prevails in U.S. foreign policy circles: we have witnessed the collapse of the Berlin Wall, and the formation of newly independent states. A region that has been dominated by the United States for more than a century has now, for the most part, broken away. Of course there are still strong commercial, political, cultural and even military ties; but as in the states of the former Soviet Union after 1990, these do not have the same economic or political implications that they had a decade or even a few years ago."

If you don't have the time to read the fairly lengthy piece, he sees four major factors as playing a decisive role in changing the US-Latin American dynamic:

• Latin America's unprecedented growth failure over the last 25 years is a major cause of these political changes and has not been well-understood

• The collapse of the IMF's influence in Latin America, and middle-income countries, is also an epoch-making change

• The availability of alternative sources of finance, most importantly from the reserves of the Venezuelan government, is very important

• The increasing assertion of national control over natural resources is also an important part of the new relationship between Latin America and the United States

You don't have to support loudmouths like Hugo Chavez or Evo Morales to understand why the people of Latin America no longer look to Washington for their economic or political direction.

Increasing income in the US

Dean Baker lays out some of the facts regarding growing income inequality in the US in a four-page policy brief written at the beginning of November:

o Inequality in the United States has increased hugely over the last quarter century, as there has
been a shift from labor income to profits, and an upward redistribution from low wage earners to high wage earners. This upward redistribution has been largely driven by deliberate policy decisions.

o Trade and immigration policies have been designed to subject workers at the middle and bottom of the wage distribution to international competition, while leaving the highest paid workers such as doctors, lawyers, accountants largely protected.

o The Federal Reserve Board’s anti-inflation policies disproportionately affect the wages and employment prospects for less-educated workers. As the Fed raises the interest rate to slow the economy, the people that suffer most are those at the middle and the bottom of the wage distribution.

o Government labor-management policy has become much more tilted towards management. For practical purposes, it is now legal to fire workers for organizing a union.

o The soaring cost of the United States health care system disproportionately affects lower and middle-income workers.

I highly recommend reading the entire document because he goes into detail to explain why the aforementioned trends are occuring, and how they can be addressed by progressive governmental economic policy. As Baker correctly points out: "The growth of inequality in the United States is widely acknowledged in policy debates. While there is little dispute about the general pattern of rising inequality, there is considerable debate about the cause. While some policy analysts argue that rising inequality in the United States is an outgrowth of globalization and technology, a strong argument can be made that the driving force has been a series of deliberate policy choices." (emphasis added)

To make his case, he delves into such hot topics as this country's trade and immigration Policy, the Federal Reserve's obsession with fighting inflation (at the expense of obsessing over unemplloyment), the federal government's failure to protect labor rights in particular and a growing trend of anti-union attitude in particular, and finally the rising costs of healthcare. It's well-worth the ten minutes it takes to read to get a briefing on how government policy is directly hurting the lower and middle class (i.e. working Americans) in order to make the already wealthy even more so.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

John McCain's Iraq "solution" is a farce

OK, so maybe this isn't headline news.

But as Robert Reich points out, the Arizona Senator and likely GOP Presidential candidate for 2008 really doesn't have the slightest idea as to how to realistically address the Iraq quagmire, as evidenced by his nonsensical theory that somehow adding more US troops to the theater will magically improve the occupation's efficacy. If this is the best the GOP can do in fielding candidates who offer realistic foreign policy ideas, their party may in bigger trouble in the next presidential election than most observers recognize.

And as Matthew Yglesias notes, it truly is the height of absurdity to suggest either McCain, or Lieberman for that matter, represents the ideological "center" of their respective party.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Exposing the "culture of poverty" canard

Jared Bernstein, economist at the Economic Policy Institute, explains:

For decades, scholars and opinion makers have been seduced by cultural explanations for economic problems. Recently, comedian Bill Cosby has caught the bug [e.g. his infamous "pound cake speech", -ed.] leading him to inveigh against aspects of black culture he views as intimately linked to problems among African-Americans, from poverty to crime and incarceration.

Mr. Cosby is merely the latest and most visible in a long chain of cultural critics. Researcher Charles Murray (before turning to genetic explanations) and columnist Thomas Sowell have been making the "bad culture" argument about African-Americans for decades. David Brooks has a long-running column in The New York Times linking culture and economic outcomes.

This work is misguided at best and destructive at worst.

One key to the success of the cultural argument is the omission of inconvenient facts about social and economic trends. For example, people arguing that African-Americans are suffering from a culture of poverty stress that blacks are much more likely to be poor than whites. True, but this fact misses the most important development about black poverty in recent years: Its steep decline during the 1990s.

Black poverty fell 10.6 percentage points from 1993 to 2000 (from 33.1 to 22.5 percent) to reach its lowest level on record. Black child poverty fell an unprecedented 10.7 percentage points in five years (from 41.9 percent in 1995 to 31.2 percent in 2000).

The "culture of poverty" argument cannot explain these trends. Poor black people did not develop a "culture of success" in 1993 and then abandon it for a "culture of failure" in 2001.

What really happened was that in the 1990s, the job market finally tightened up to the point where less-advantaged worers had a bit of bargaining clout. The full-employment economy offered all comers opportunities conspicuously absent before or since. Since 2000, black employment rates have fallen much faster, and poverty rates have risen faster, than the average. [. . .]

Black poverty is only the most visible example. The "bad black culture" argument also overlooks positive trends in critical areas such as education, crime and teen pregnancy (pregnancy and birth rates among black teenagers are down 40 percent since 1990).

Those same critics are too dismissive of anti-black discrimination in the labor market. Mr. Cosby says black people use charges of discrimination to avoid dealing with their cultural failings. The Manhattan Institute's John H. McWhorter claims they "spit in the eye of [their] grandparents" when they say their lives are limited by racism. Journalist Juan Williams argues that poor black people are squandering opportunities opened up by the civil rights movement.

[. . .]

The cultural argument of the Cosby consensus succeeds because conservatives and liberals both tend to exaggerate the cultural differences between white and black Americans. We forget that white and black audiences enjoyed "The Cosby Show" in the 1980s, that white and black youths listen to rap today and, most importantly, that neither white people nor black people like being poor. The record is clear: When economic opportunities are available to black Americans, they take them. When opportunities are scarce, they fall behind, and culture has very little to do with it.

Go check out the whole article here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Milton Friedman's legacy of promoting repression

While most of the mainstream media has uncritically heaped praise on the life and career of recently deceased economist Milton Friedman, two editorials--one from The Guardian (UK) and the other from CounterPunch--provide a useful counterbalance. Go check both of them out to gain a more honest understanding of what Friedman's legacy really is.

While his admirers associate Friedman's economic philosophy with advancing the cause of liberty, the truth is far more complex. For example, Counterpunch analyzes how his obsessive "free" trade advocacy had quite a deleterious impact on Latin American countries like Chile. The article's author, Greg Grandin, notes:

Two years after the overthrow of Allende, with the dictatorship unable to get inflation under control, the "Chicago Boys" began to gain real influence in General Augusto Pinochet's military government. They recommended the application of what Friedman had already taken to call "shock treatment" or a "shock program" immediately halting the printing of money to finance the budget deficit, cutting state spending twenty to twenty-five percent, laying off tens of thousands of government workers, ending wage and price controls, privatizing state industries, and deregulating capital markets. "Complete free trade," Friedman advised.

Friedman and Harberger were flown down to "help to sell" the plan to the military junta, which despite its zealous defense of the abstraction of free enterprise was partial to corporatism and the maintenance of a large state sector. Friedman gave a series of lectures and met with Pinochet for 45 minutes, where the general "indicated very little indeed about his own or the government's feeling." Although he noted that the dictator, responsible for the torture of tens of thousands of Chileans, seemed "sympathetically attracted to the idea of a shock treatment."

Not only had Nixon, the CIA, and ITT, along with other companies, plotted to destabilize Allende's "democratic road to socialism," but now a renowned University of Chicago economist, whose promotion of the wonders of the free market was heavily subsidized by corporations such as Bechtel, Pepsico, Getty, Pfizer, General Motors, W.R. Grace, and Firestone, was advising the dictator who overthrew him on how to complete the counterrevolution ­ at the cost of skyrocketing unemployment among Chile's poor.

Critics of both Pinochet and Friedman took Chile as proof positive that the kind of free-market absolutism advocated by the Chicago School was only possible through repression. So Friedman countered by redefining the meaning of freedom. Contrary to the prevailing post-WWII belief that political liberty was dependent on some form of mild social leveling, he insisted that "economic freedom is an essential requisite for political freedom." More than his monetarist theorems, this equation of "capitalism and freedom" was his greatest contribution to the rehabilitation of conservatism in the 1970s. Where pre-New Deal conservatives positioned themselves in defense of social hierarchy, privilege, and order, post-WWII conservatives instead celebrated the free market as a venue of creativity and liberty. Such a formulation today stands at the heart of the conservative movement, having been accepted as commonsense by mainline politicians and opinion makers. It is likewise enshrined in Bush's National Security Strategy, which mentions "economic freedom" more than twice as many times as it does "political freedom."

Where Friedman made allusions to the superiority of economic freedom over political freedom in his defense of Pinochet, the Chicago group institutionalized such a hierarchy in a 1980 constitution named after Hayek's 1960 treatise The Constitution of Liberty. The new charter enshrined economic liberty and political authoritarianism as complementary qualities. They justified the need of a strong executive such as Pinochet not only to bring about a profound transformation of society but to maintain it until there was a "change in Chilean mentality." Chileans had long been "educated in weakness," said the president of the Central Bank, and a strong hand was needed in order to "educate them in strength." The market itself would provide tutoring: When asked about the social consequences of the high bankruptcy rate that resulted from the shock therapy, Admiral José Toribio Merino replied that "such is the jungle of . . . economic life. A jungle of savage beasts, where he who can kill the one next to him, kills him. That is reality."

But before such a savage nirvana of pure competition and risk could be attained, a dictatorship was needed to force Chileans to accept the values of consumerism, individualism, and passive rather than participatory democracy. "Democracy is not an end in itself," said Pinochet in a 1979 speech written by two of Friedman's disciples, but a conduit to a truly "free society" that protected absolute economic freedom. Friedman hedged on the relationship between capitalism and dictatorship, but his former students were consistent: "A person's actual freedom," said Finance Minister de Castro, "can only be ensured through an authoritarian regime that exercises power by implementing equal rules for everyone." "Public opinion," he admitted, "was very much against [us], so we needed a strong personality to maintain the policy."

Milton Friedman, and the Chicago School of Economics which drew its inspiration from him, thus set the course for repression of political freedom and human rights--as well as economic stagnation in Latin America. Friedman's "neoliberal" perspectives were adopted by the Chilean military junta that overthrew the democratically-elected Salvador Allende in 1973. While Friedman claimed not to have endorsed the coup or Augusto Pinochet's subsequent and abominable rule, in 1975 he made a pilgrimage to Chile and delivered a series of lectures endorsing precisely the sorts of economic "reforms" that Pinochet's Friedmanesque advisers -- the so-called "Chicago Boys" -- had undertaken, including the abolition of the minimum wage, the suspension of labor union rights, the privatization of the state pension system and its industrial base (with the exception of the copper mines, which funded the regime's grotesque military apparatus).

Chile's economic fate under the Pinochet, described by Friedman as "miraculous," was catastrophic from 1973 through the mid-1980s, as the national debt soared, income disparities widened, industrial growth slowed to a crawl, and unemployment reached as high as 43%. Meantime, spending on health care crumbled, as cases of hepatitis, diabetes and typhus rippled across the country. Santiago assumed an ignominious position as one of the most polluted cities in the world, as the free market evidently demanded it must.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Draft-dodging Bush claims US should have stayed longer in Vietnam

The New York Times reports on Bush's undiplomatic visit to Vietnam:

"My first reaction is history has a long march to it, and societies change and relationships can constantly be altered to the good," Bush said after speeding past signs of both poverty and the commerce produced by Asia's fastest-growing economy.

The president said there was much to be learned from the divisive Vietnam War -- the longest conflict in U.S. history -- as his administration contemplates new strategies for the increasingly difficult war in Iraq, now in its fourth year. But his critics see parallels with Vietnam -- a determined insurgency and a death toll that has drained public support -- that spell danger for dragging out U.S. involvement in Iraq.

"It's just going to take a long period of time for the ideology that is hopeful -- and that is an ideology of freedom -- to overcome an ideology of hate," Bush said after having lunch at his lakeside hotel with Australian Prime Minister John Howard, one of America's strongest allies in Iraq, Vietnam and other conflicts.

"We'll succeed," Bush added, "unless we quit."

So in other words, according to Bush, we would have "won" the Vietnam War if the US had bucked overwhelming public revulsion over the pointless slaughter and stayed there longer, killing more Vietnamese and American GIs? Disgusting.

Larry C. Johnson (someone with whom I often disagree with) hits the nail on the head:

I realize W missed the last few months of his time with the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, but I had not realized, until now, that he completely ignored what happened in Vietnam. Mr. President. We fought in Vietnam for more than twelve years. More than two million U.S. soldiers fought there. Almost 57,000 American soldiers died and several hundred thousand were wounded. We trained hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese troops, we killed almost one million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, we dropped more explosives on Vietnam then we used during World War II, and we defolitated significant portions of Vietnam's rain forest.

And what did we achieve in the end? The United States fled the South Vietnamese capital, Saigon, to escape the invading North Vietnamese Army. North Vietnam "freed" the South from yankee imperialists and set about "reeducating" the South Vietnamese. News flash George. WE LOST!

So, what lesson are we to draw from all of this? Are you arguing that if we had stuck it out in Vietnam and spilled the blood of another 50,000 Americans and one million Vietnamese that things would be better today in Vietnam? Mr. President, that is bullshit.

The lesson of Vietnam for our policy in Iraq is that we should not waste the blood or limb of one more American soldier without a clear vision and plan of what we are trying to achieve.

Target Iran - Seymour Hersh and Scott Ritter (Video)


From the New York Society of Ethical Culture, a progressive organization, here is a great discussion on what may the imminent invasion of Iran via Google Video.

Featuring legendary journalist Sy Hersh interviewing Scott Ritter and discussing the latter's book.

Ritter's new book on the Iran crisis is "Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change", which I haven't read (and currently have no plans to). I disagree with the emphasis Ritter places on AIPAC and the "Israeli Lobby" influence on US foreign policy vis-a-vis the MIddle East; I tend to favor Professor Stephen Zunes' view that the US drives Israeli policy, not vice versa.

I also disagree with Ritter's mistaken view that Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization threatening US interests, for what it's worth.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Budget priorities?

SusanG, a diaryist over at DailyKos has a post that is guaranteed to make you mad if you have any sort of social conscience whatsoever. She makes a strong case that class warfare is alive and well in 21st Century America, and it's not the Democrats who are trying to raise taxes that are engaging in it (Sorry Sean Hannity).

No, it's the politicians and policy elites in Washington D.C. who have given us a tax code that makes the rich even richer while starving the federal budget of resources to pay for social insurance programs for the poor who can't afford to put food on the table.

It's the Bush administration that has unveiled its latest gambit for solving the illegal immigration problem: building a $30 billion electronic fence to keep Mexicans from jumping the border (ignoring the fact, of course, that fixing out "free" trade policies like NAFTA--which have impoverished Mexican workers and created the nightmarish environment where men and women risk their lives to smuggle themselves into a foreign country for work--would be a more cost-effective and moral solution.)

It's the tens of millions of dollars this administration is flushing down the toilet in "democracy promotion" grants for Cuba that are being distributed without oversight or competitive bidding and are rife with fraud.

It's about an administration so ideologically dead set against any sort of government solution toward fixing our broken health care insurance system, including a refusal to create a universal healthcare system as the American public supports, that it is arguing that having the government negotiate medicare drug prices with the pharmaceutical companies that lavish campaign contributions on the GOP is somehow a step toward socialized medicine.

She concludes with an obvious, depressing observation: No one in the current establishment cares where taxpayer money is going and whether it's wisely spent. So you have potentially well-meaning people complaining that liberals don't want to spend billions of dollars to partially-privatize social security, while simultaneously ignoring the fact that there are dozens of even more pressing social and fiscal crises that our government isn't addressing. And they aren't addressing these problems, like the fact that 35 million Americans can't afford to pay for food, because 1) they have no money to spend on them because of unsustainable tax cuts for the rich, the war in Iraq and corporate welfare and 2) because the concerns of the poor aren't as salient as the concerns of the wealthy business interest whose executives contribute millions to the politicians' campaign coffers.

I'm hoping we see a wholesale re-evaluation of these warped, immoral budget priorities now that control has shifted in Congress to the Democrats, but as a cautious cynic I am preparing myself for the possibility that the status quo may unfortunately be here for the long haul.

Medicaid Commission's recommendations raise "serious concerns"

That is the conclusion of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and I think they are being fairly charitable in their description. On November 8, the Medicaid commission (created by the Bush Administration in 2005) put forward broad recommendations designed to “promote Medicaid’s long- term fiscal sustainability, while also emphasizing quality of care,” that were to be considered earlier this month. According to the CBPP, the commission's recommendations "raise serious concerns, especially for vulnerable groups such as low-income seniors or people with disabilities." My first reaction to this was that perhaps this could reasonably be expected for any commission hand-picked by Bush appointee Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, but maybe that is too harsh of a statement.

One concern is that states would be allowed under the new recommendations to place the estimated 7.5 million elderly and disabled beneficiaries eligable for Medicaid and Medicare (so-called "dual eligables") into managed care plans. According to CBPP: "Currently, most dual eligibles receive Medicare and Medicaid services through a traditional “fee-for-service” arrangement, in which health-care providers bill the government for the cost of the services they provide to beneficiaries. Under a managed-care arrangement, in contrast, private firms receive a set amount per beneficiary from the government to provide health care. This gives them an incentive to keep costs as low as possible — including, potentially, by skimping on beneficiaries’ care.

Managed care for dual eligibles could theoretically improve coordination between Medicare and Medicaid and reduce costs, and a few pilot projects in this area appear promising. But as a recent Wall Street Journal article on Medicaid managed care* suggests, allowing states to simply enroll dual eligibles in managed care would create real risks. As the chairman’s mark notes, dual eligibles have lower incomes and more impairments than regular Medicare beneficiaries and are more likely to live in nursing homes. Yet the recommendation specifies no minimum federal standards to protect dual eligibles from substandard health plans. While these individuals would be able to “opt out” of managed care if dissatisfied, the obvious vulnerability of this population — fully one-third of dual eligibles have mental impairments or disorders — makes it unlikely that many would be able to understand, let alone exercise, this option.

Another concern involves the fact that the recommendations, if approved, would apparently allow states to provide different benefit packages to different groups of beneficiaries, with virtually no federal protections. The report notes that states could, for example, decide that some beneficiaries would no longer be eligible for inpatient care or doctor visits, or set their financial eligibility levels below the minimum levels that currently guarantee coverage for certain groups such as poor children and pregnant women. The recommendations appear to go far beyond what states have been allowed to do through waivers of federal Medicaid law.

An example of the type of strange circumstances that could be created for vulnerable beneficiaries is described thus: "States apparently could simply provide beneficiaries with vouchers to purchase coverage on their own in the private market, with no federal standards as to the benefits that the plans would have to cover, no limits on the out-of-pocket costs that poor beneficiaries would have to pay, and no guarantees of access to affordable plans in the generally unregulated private market."

This is not providing a market-based solution to Medicare or Medicaid, it is creating a market-based disaster for those unable to afford their out-of-pocket health care costs.

Finally, the recommendations would create new federal tax subsidies for the purchase of private long-term care insurance-- including a tax deduction for the purchase of long-term care coverage--but wouln't significantly increase the number of people with such coverage. Thats's because, as CBPP points out, these subsidies would do little to help low- and moderate-income people purchase it, with the bulk of the benefits going to to high-income taxpayers (i.e., the people most likely either to have long-term care insurance already or to be able to pay any future long-term costs directly.)

Of course, these are the same people helped by the rest of the Bush/GOP Congress tax cuts, so there's nothing really too surprising here. But it would be nice to see a policy proposal that actually strengthens the safety-net for people who will need to rely on government-provided health insurance, as opposed to providing yet another tax cut to retired wealthy people. But that's just me I guess.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Haass on Iraq: "It's not winnable"

Check out this sobering interview with Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, conducted by the German newspaper Der Spiegel. Haass is not some lefty academic--he is considered one of the top bi-partisan foreign policy experts in the country and his judgements carry a good deal of weight among policy elites. If anything, he can fairly be described as an interventionist as opposed to an isolationist in his foreign policy ideology, as the interview makes abundantly clear. So when he says things like "The Iraq situation is not winnable in any meaningful sense of the word "winnable," you can take that to be a pretty stark and realistic assessment.

One of the key exchanges between Haass and Spiegel is the following:

SPIEGEL: Is Iraq still winnable for the United States?

Haass: We've reached a point in Iraq where we've got to get real. And this is not going to be a near-term success for American foreign policy. The Iraq situation is not winnable in any meaningful sense of the word "winnable." So what we need to do now is look for a way to limit the losses and costs, try to advance on other fronts in the region and try to limit the fallout of Iraq. That's what you have to do sometimes when you're a global power.

Also, check out Haass' recent article in Foreign Policy entitled "The New Middle East". It's fairly long, but well worth the time investment. (That's not to say I agree with all of his assessments, but he is right on the money in his view that Iraq will be "messy" for year to come and may even become a failed state).

On a related topic, a new article in The Guardian (UK) throws some cold water on the idea that the James Baker-led Iraq Study Group will somehow miraculously solve the Iraq quandry. (h/t Matthew Yglesias)

Update: Israeli military historian Martin van Crevald adds his voice to the chorus of Bush critics and anticipates the results of what he believes is the US military's inevitable withdrawal from Iraq in the next year for the Middle East, the people of Iraq and the US's position in the world.

Update #2: The pile-on continues, with formere Secretary of State Henry Kissenger opining that Iraq cannot be won.

Analyzing the new politics of "free" trade

In his editorial entitled "The Fair Trade Election", Harold Meyerson writes in the American Prospect that the midterm elections have "ushered in a new progressive center" on economic policy in general, and trade policy in particular, and I couldn't agree with him more.

Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Act in 1993, Meyerson notes, Democrats in the House of Representatives have been moving steadily away from a trade policy that "benefits globe-trotting corporations and investment funds while depressing wages here in the States." In other words, trade deals that contain no labor, environmental or human rights protections while at the same time ensuring intellectual property rights for huge corporations in the pharmaceutical industry (which donates hundreds of millions of dollars, employs thousands of Hill lobbyists and virtually write these trade laws) will be enforced. In contrast, Democrats in the Senate are more evenly divided on trade policy since 1992, recognizing the fact that legislation like NAFTA has killed millions of jobs and depressed workers' wages in both the US and Mexico, hurt the manufacturing sector in the states and the agricultural sector in Mexico, and allowed Mexico's economic elites to violate workers' basic labor rights, not to mention encouraged massive illegal immigration.

Meyerson argues: "Tuesday's election changed all that. Looking at the Democrats who picked up formerly Republican House seats, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch tallies 27 who defeated (or replaced resigning) free-trade Republicans and who campaigned against the kind of trade deals that Congress has ratified [see the report here]. The fair-trade 27 insist instead on deals that stress labor rights and environmental standards. In North Carolina, Democrat Heath Shuler -- ostensibly one of the new conservative Democrats -- attacked his opponent, Republican Charles Taylor, for backing off his commitment to vote against the Central American Free Trade Agreement. "It's not right when Congress passes trade bills that send our jobs overseas," said one Shuler ad.

In the incoming Senate delegation, the contrast is even sharper. The Democratic pickups -- Missouri's Claire McCaskill, Montana's Jon Tester, Ohio's Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, Rhode Island's Sheldon Whitehouse, and Virginia's James Webb -- all unseated free-trade incumbents with campaigns that stressed the need to pay far greater attention to the downward leveling that globalization entails. Tester ran ads attacking trade agreements for putting "our jobs and the viability of family farms and ranches across Montana in jeopardy." Webb's Web site states, "We must reexamine our tax and trade policies and reinstitute notions of fairness."

Exit polling made clear that the fair-trade Democrats have tapped into a profound national anxiety. When asked whether life for the next generation would be better, worse or about the same as life today, 40 percent responded "worse," while just 30 percent answered "better." That's a stunning figure to emerge from what has historically been perhaps the most optimistic of nations.

This analysis provides a strong counterpoint to the conventional wisdom--as evidenced by Time Magazine's recent cover article--that the midterm elections reflected the America public's realignment to the political "center". If economic populism and demanding trade legislation that contain as many protections for workers as it they do for corporations, then long live "the center".

Suit brought against Rumsfeld for alleged war crimes

The International Herald and Tribune reports on the lawsuit being brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights against Donald Rumsfeld. The case will possibly be heard by German prosecutors, who have Universal Jurisdiction to hear cases such as this which deal with alleged war crimes, even if they did not occur in Germany or involve German nationals (similar to Belgium's Universal Jurisdiction laws).

The chances that the case will eventually go before a judge in that country are admittedly small, and the chances that Rumsfeld--or any other high-ranking US official--would be punished for his or her violation of international law, are relatively slim. But the lawsuit is still a positive development in my opinion because it keeps the issue of alleged US war crimes committed against prisoners in Washington's "war on terror" on the agenda and publicizes the details to the world community. Whether this will have the effect of encouraging US policymakers to act responsibly and in a manner consistent with the Geneva Convention is another issue.

This is how CCR summarizes the suit on their website:

The November 14, 2006, criminal complaint is a request for the German Federal Prosecutor to open an investigation and, ultimately, a criminal prosecution that will look into the responsibility of high-ranking U.S. officials for authorizing war crimes in the context of the so-called “War on Terror.” The complaint is brought on behalf of 12 torture victims – 11 Iraqi citizens who were held at Abu Ghraib prison and one Guantánamo detainee – and is being filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Republican Attorneys' Association (RAV) and others, all represented by Berlin Attorney Wolfgang Kaleck. The complaint is related to a 2004 complaint that was dismissed, but the new complaint is filed with much new evidence, new defendants and plaintiffs, a new German Federal Prosecutor and, most important, under new circumstances that include the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense and the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 in the U.S. granting officials retroactive immunity from prosecution for war crimes.

Executive Summary of the Complaint’s Allegations:

From Donald Rumsfeld on down, the political and military leaders in charge of ordering, allowing and implementing abusive interrogation techniques in the context of the “War on Terror” since September 11, 2001, must be investigated and held accountable. The complaint alleges that American military and civilian high-ranking officials named as defendants in the case have committed war crimes against detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the U.S.-controlled Guantánamo Bay prison camp.

The complaint alleges that the defendants “ordered” war crimes, “aided or abetted” war crimes, or “failed, as civilian superiors or military commanders, to prevent their commission by subordinates, or to punish their subordinates,” actions that are explicitly criminalized by German law. The U.S. administration has treated hundreds if not thousands of detainees in a coercive manner, in accordance with “harsh interrogation techniques” ordered by Secretary Rumsfeld himself that legally constitute torture and/or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, in blatant violation of the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1984 Convention Against Torture and the 1977 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – to all of which the United States is a party. Under international humanitarian treaty and customary law, and as re-stated in German law, these acts of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment constitute war crimes.

The U.S. torture program that resulted in war crimes was aided and abetted by the government lawyers also named in this case: former Chief White House Counsel (and current Attorney General) Alberto R. Gonzales, former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo, and General Counsel of the Department of Defense William James Haynes, II. While some of them claim to merely have given legal opinions, those opinions were false or clearly erroneous and given in a context where it was known and foreseeable to these lawyers that torture would be the result. Not only was torture foreseeable, but this legal advice was given to facilitate and aid and abet torture as well as to attempt to immunize those who tortured. Without these opinions, the torture program could not have occurred. The infamous “Torture Memo” dated August 1, 2002, is the key document that redefined torture so narrowly that such classic and age old torture techniques as water-boarding were authorized to be employed and were employed by U.S. officials against detainees.

Why Germany?

The complaint is being filed under the Code of Crimes against International Law (CCIL), enacted by Germany in compliance with the Rome Statute creating the International Criminal Court in 2002, which Germany ratified. The CCIL provides for “universal jurisdiction” for war crimes, crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity. It enables the German Federal Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute crimes constituting a violation of the CCIL, irrespective of the location of the defendant or plaintiff, the place where the crime was carried out, or the nationality of the persons involved.

No international courts or personal tribunals in Iraq were mandated to conduct investigations and prosecutions of responsible U.S. officials. The United States has refused to join the International Criminal Court, thereby foreclosing the option of pursuing a prosecution in international courts. Iraq has no authority to prosecute. Furthermore, the U.S. gave immunity to all its personnel in Iraq from Iraqi prosecution. All this added to the United States’ unquestionable refusal to look at the responsibility of those of the very top of the chain of command and named in the present complaint, and the recent passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (see below) aimed at preventing war crimes prosecutions against Americans in the U.S., German courts are seen as a last resort to obtain justice for those victims of abuse and torture while detained by the United States.

The Plaintiffs in the Case:

The complaint is being filed on behalf of 11 Iraqi citizens who were victims of gruesome crimes at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. They were severely beaten, deprived of sleep and food, sexually abused, stripped naked and hooded, and exposed to extreme temperatures.

Another plaintiff in the case is Mohammed al Qahtani, a Saudi citizen detained at Guantánamo since January 2002. At Guantánamo, Mr. al Qahtani was subjected to a regime of aggressive interrogation techniques, known as the “First Special Interrogation Plan,” that were authorized by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and implemented under the supervision and guidance of Secretary Rumsfeld and the commander of Guantánamo, defendant Major General Geoffrey Miller. These methods included fifty days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged sensory over-stimulation.

None of these plaintiffs – and the hundreds of other detainees subjected to similar abuses – has seen justice, and none of those who authorized these techniques at the top of the chain of command have been held liable for it, or even seriously and independently investigated.

The Defendants in the Case:

The U.S. high-ranking officials charged include:
- Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
- Former CIA Director George Tenet
- Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Dr. Stephen Cambone
- Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez
- Major General Walter Wojdakowski
- Major General Geoffrey Miller
- Colonel Thomas Pappas
- Former Chief White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales
- Former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee
- Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo
- General Counsel of the Department of Defense William James Haynes, II
- Vice President Chief Counsel David S. Addington

The 2004 Complaint:

In November 2004, the previous German Federal Prosecutor failed to prosecute an earlier complaint against many of these same defendants filed by CCR with the support of FIDH and RAV. The U.S. pressured Germany to drop the case, saying not doing so would jeopardize U.S.-German relations, and the complaint was ultimately dismissed in February 2005 on the eve of a visit by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Munich, Germany. In dismissing the case, the Prosecutor stated: “there are no indications that the authorities and courts of the United States of America are refraining, or would refrain, from penal measures as regards the violations described in the complaint.” The passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 immunizing officials and others from prosecution and much new evidence shows this is not the case.

The Impact of the Military Commissions Act of 2006:

The Military Commissions Act was signed by President Bush on October 17, 2006, and it protects U.S. officials and military personnel by: 1) narrowing the grounds of criminal liability under the War Crimes Act and making those revisions retroactive to November 26, 1997; and by 2) retroactively extending a defense for criminal prosecutions related to detentions and interrogations back to September 11, 2001. These immunizing provisions essentially grant an amnesty for international crimes including war crimes and torture. The retroactivity provision directs that prosecutions of war crimes committed since 1997 will fall under the new narrowed range of standards and interpretations of war crimes, which would protect civilians from being prosecuted for committing acts that would have been considered war crimes under the old definition – thereby explicitly aiming at immunizing American officials and others from prosecution in their country.

How the 2006 Complaint Is a Stronger Case:

The grounds for the 2005 dismissal are no longer justified:
The prosecutor’s original decision to dismiss the case was solely based on the assumption that an ongoing investigation was being carried out in the U.S. regarding the Abu Ghraib scandal. We now have extensive evidence that demonstrates that this investigation was directed only towards the criminal culpability of the lowest ranking military personnel. Indeed, some of these very defendants have been or are being rewarded with higher-level appointments and medals. The investigative and prosecutorial functions in the United States are currently directly controlled by the ones involved in the conspiracy to perpetrate war crimes and named in this complaint, which politically blocks possible investigations and criminal prosecutions. Furthermore, the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is unquestionably the clearest illustration of such unwillingness to prosecute Americans for war crimes.

New evidence:
Extraordinary new materials, documentation and testimonies that have come to light over the past two years – about what the plaintiffs went through (Mr. al Qahtani is a new plaintiff to the case), about the signed memos that led to the justification and practice of torture, and about the defendants’ personal involvement – only strengthen the case.

In addition, former U.S. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, a defendant in the earlier complaint as the commanding officer at Abu Ghraib, is now providing testimony and will testify on behalf of the plaintiffs.

New additional defendants:
The new complaint charges the government lawyers alleged to be the legal architects of the Bush Administration’s practice of torture.

Rumsfeld can no longer claim sovereign immunity:
Rumsfeld’s resignation on November 8, 2006, means that he cannot claim either the functional or personal immunity of sovereign officials from international prosecution for war crimes. Functional immunity – related to acts performed in the exercise of a person’s official functions – does not, since the Nuremberg trials in 1945, apply to international crimes such as war crimes. As to personal immunity – covering officials’ private acts accomplished while in office – it only applies during the individual’s term of office.


Some more resources on alleged US war crimes, including in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba:

"Torture at Abu Ghraib", Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker
"Abuse Of Iraqi POWs By GIs Probed", CBS News
"Torture and Accountability", Elizabeth Holtzman, The Nation
"War Crimes", Washington Post
"Returning to the Scene of the Crime", Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch
"Real dangers face Bush officials post-Hamdan, and they know it", Glenn Greenwald, Unclaimed Territory
"U.S.: Bush Justifies CIA Detainee Abuse", Human Rights Watch
"US abuse could be war crime ", The Guardian
"Narrowing US War Crimes Law: Having Our Cake and Eating It Too?", David Crane, Jurist