Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 31, 2004

Health Care Moral Question

Health GDP

In 1993, at the time of President Clinton's doomed health care reform proposal, the nation's medical system made up 13.7% of its GDP and employed 11 million people. Nine years later, in 2002, health care spending exceeded $1.6 trillion, or $5,440 for each American, amounting to 14.9% of the nation's GDP--compared to 9.7% in Germany and 9.5% in France (in 2001, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development). Government projections in 2003 estimate that health spending will consume 17.7% of the GDP by 2012.

However, American life expectancy at birth ranks behind fifteen nations, all of which spend proportionately far less on health care. Infants die at a higher rate in America each year than in 21 other countries, ...
Kearl´s Guide to Health Statistics

There are many reasons why health care is more ineffective and costs are higher in the US than elsewhere. Most of them have to do with market manipulations in favor of the health/insurance industries. A consequent policy would most probably allow for a general health insurance at lower total costs and with better total result. But even if applied, this would not answer the real questions.
  • How much to spend for (expensive) emergency care vs. (cheap) longer term care?
  • How much to spend to prolong a fulfilled life for three or maybe six month?
  • Should a life be prolonged or shortened even against the will of a person? Who should take the decison?
In the western montheistic theological society people dodge these question, willfully ignoring that they do get answered in stealthy ways everyday in hospitals, nursing homes and home care without discussions and without majority sanctioned criterias. Will we ever answer them?

Posted by b on July 31, 2004 at 04:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

July 30, 2004

Billmon: The Speech

The Whiskey Bar bartender on Kerrys speech

Posted by b on July 30, 2004 at 03:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (41)

Off Topics Here

This thread is open.

Posted by b on July 30, 2004 at 02:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (117)

Billmon: The Kerry Movie

The barkeeper about The Kerry Movie.

Posted by b on July 30, 2004 at 02:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

July 29, 2004

Billmon: Better Living Through Modern Chemistry

The barkeeper on a fine kind of compassionate conservatism.

Posted by b on July 29, 2004 at 05:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (34)

Billmon: I, Republican

Billmon sets Three laws.

Posted by b on July 29, 2004 at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Those Who Are Without

Barfly Colman made a suggestion for a follow up on the discussions on Billmons Minimum Wages piece.

"It seems to me that [discussing what aims an economy should have] is seldom if ever approached these days: everything is cast in terms of the free market and how wonderful it is."
The need for such a discussion is fundamental to our societies. But when was the last time you did hear a politican openly recognizing it this clearly:
The diversity in the faculties of men, from which the rights of property originate, is not less an insuperable obstacle to a uniformity of interests. The protection of these faculties is the first object of government. ... The most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.
James Madison in The Federalist, No. 10 cited in An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution, Charles A. Beard, 1913
Madison sees the first objective of the government as the protection of the distinct interests of those who hold and those who are without.

The second part has been lost somewhere. Nowhere but in younger constitutions one finds remnants of the compromise that has been so fiercely fighted for throughout the last two centuries.

Article 14 [Property, Inheritance, Expropriation]...
(2) Property imposes duties. Its use should also serve the public weal. ...
Article 15 [Socialization]
Land, natural resources, and means of production can, for the purpose of socialization, be transferred to public ownership or other forms of collective enterprise by a statute regulating the nature and extent of compensation. ...
Current Cuban German Basic Law
Societies develop on compromises. These need discussion and arguments form both sides of the aisle. We do know that the right side is strong these days. The speakers list of the DNC convention may represent some middleground. But the communists have vanished - even as scapegoats.

As Colman says - the basic discussion on the aims of the economy, on redistribution of wealth, on the service of the public weal, seems gone. Thereby the economical compromises throughout the world have tilted to the right side - nationally and internationally. The government misses the objective Madisons sets out.

As Madison recognizes, the free market of ´those who hold´ is only one side of the spectrum. What should be the modern version of the compromises? And what is needed on the left side to achieve them?

Posted by b on July 29, 2004 at 06:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Billmon: Promises Promises

"Promises Promises" reflects the barkeeper about Edwards speech.

Links to a transcript of Edwards speech and a real stream video from CSPAN.

Posted by b on July 29, 2004 at 03:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

July 28, 2004

Billmon: A Star is Born

As Billmon says in one short post:

"I do believe we're going to be hearing a lot more from Barack Obama in the years to come. He has the gift."

Room for discussion here, plus the CSPAN Real Stream of Obama at the DNC convention and the transcript at the NYT site.

Posted by b on July 28, 2004 at 01:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (41)

July 27, 2004

Open Thread UC

for all un-Convention-al issues

Posted by b on July 27, 2004 at 04:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (67)

Billmon: Start Spangled

Virtual space for comments on Billmons new piece.

Posted by b on July 27, 2004 at 02:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (39)

July 26, 2004

Convention Thoughts

Looking at the Democrats Convention site under ->Convention Info ->Party Platform - if you have Acrobat installed - is the REPORT OF THE PLATFORM COMMITTEE. Great - here comes the definite program of the opposition to the Bush catastrophe:

Our overriding goals are the same as ever: to protect our people and our way of life
To rise to those challenges, we must strengthen our military, including our Special Forces, improve our technology, and task our National Guard with homeland security.
Cutting taxes for middle class Americans.

Upps - not what I expected.
Who may call himself Democrat and claim as overriding goal to protect our way of life?
What Democrat may task our National Guard with homeland security?
Talking about tax cuts for the middle class Americans, would a Democrat probably mention what should be done for the lower class Americans?

Some years ago I was working in marketing intensive company. The advertising folks did run ads that claimed the product to be the Best Antibiotic Against Viruses. It was beyond their comprehension when some objected that there might be some problem with that claim. (Later a satiric magazine reprinted that ad series.)

Posted by b on July 26, 2004 at 06:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

Fascism a style?

Juan Cole, Professor of History and blogger of Informed Comment, is provocating by calling the Israeli Gaza settlers fascists.

Fascism remains a useful analytical tool for understanding modern politics. Each country's fascism has been different, since fascism is more a style than a specific ideology. Among its attributes is

1) Radical nationalism. Fascism celebrates a cult of the nation, seeing it as the ultimate human value, trumping all others. Thus, one may lie, cheat, steal, spy and murder for the nation without shame.

2) Militarism and aggressiveness. Fascist political movements are expansionist, dissatisfied with their national boundaries and seeking to colonize the territory of neighbors. ...

3) Racism. Fascist movements, because of their extreme nationalism, tend to demonize ethnic groups considered outside the nation. Racism becomes a justification for violence, since groups of people are defined as essentially demonic or threatening, and therefore deserving of being repressed in order to prevent them from doing evil. ...

4) Favoring the wealthy, punishing the poor. ... [They favor] wealthy elites with their policies. They despised the poor and drove them deeper into poverty.

5) Dictatorship. Fascists disliked open democratic elections. ...

Posted by b on July 26, 2004 at 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

July 25, 2004

Not just the Right but the Duty

In an article for the Toronto Sun (thanks to Fran) Eric Margolis writes on Iran new U.S. whipping boy

This column has long predicted the Bush administration would orchestrate a pre-election crisis over Iran designed to whip up patriotic fervour in the U.S. and distract public and media attention from the Iraq fiasco.

The growing clamour over Iran's nuclear intentions, with rumblings about air strikes against Iran's reactors in the fall, may prove to be a part of just such a manufactured crisis.

Remember, these latest fevered claims about Iran come from the same "reliable intelligence sources" and neo-conservative hawks who insisted Iraq had a vast arsenal of weapons of mass destruction that threatened the U.S., with intimate links to al-Qaida.

The bad thing is - it will work just as it did before. And the US public will support it - just as they did before.
Walter Mead of the Council of Foreign Relations in todays LA Times: A Darker Shadow Than Iraq

The U.S. may wind up facing in Iran the choice our intelligence agencies told us we faced in Iraq: between military action against a rogue regime or allowing that regime to assemble an arsenal of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
This choice is not yet inevitable, and the diplomats still have some tricks up their sleeves, but the U.S. is closer than many think to what could well be the biggest and most difficult crisis in the war on terror yet.

By setting a "choice" that is obliviously preframed, this article, as others, is also setting the answer. The American political class, media and electorate did answered to a similar "choice" before and will answer the same way now that the question is asked again (of course they will be promised, that everythings will work out better this time).

The real question, choice and answer is of course a different one.

Has the souvereign nation of Iran, within reach of nuclear weapons of at least Pakistan, Russia, Israel and the US and sitting on huge amounts of some very valuable commodities, the right to decide to aquire the (historically working) deterance of nuclear weapons?

Niki, a female Iranian blogger, has this answer:

i am against militarization of all kinds, especially the nuclear sort. and you wont be surprised to hear that i am not crazy about the idea that such weapons would be at the disposal of the highly volatile and contested iranian regime.

However, we do live in a time where certain countries not only brazenly invade sovereign nations in clear violation of international law, but also expect those formerly independent nations to become permanent military bases for the invaders, to ultimately pay for the invasion from their natural resources (not to mention with their blood), and to be grateful and humble to boot.

so given this, yes, you are right, from the point of view of the iranian government who witnessed what happened to iraq despite its cooperation with the teams of inspectors who were poking in every nook and cranny for years, it is in fact a rational act of self defense to end cooperation with inspectors and pursue nuclear weapons.

of course you wont hear me say that i think it is a good idea for them to do so.

but if for a moment i distance myself from my views on the current iranian regime and shift the focus to the iranian people--each time i think of the possibility of cluster bombs dropped on civilians, foreign soldiers protecting our oil fields while our ancient relics are looted and destroyed, an occupation army which gleefully rapes and humiliates teenage boys and young men raped and humiliated, or jerks emailing me lectures on "collateral damage" and the "costs of freedom"--i find myself closer to the idea that the iranian regime has not just the right but the duty to protect its citizens from the onslaught of invaders who have as much regards for international law and human rights as does the regime itself.

How would you answer the question?

Posted by b on July 25, 2004 at 12:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (57)

July 24, 2004

Open Thread XI

OT X is at about 150 comments - so here´s a fresh one...

Posted by b on July 24, 2004 at 06:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (147)

July 23, 2004

Yukos - A Tale of Professional Oligarchs

by Jérôme Guillet

In the latest twist to the Yukos story, Russia' Bailiff Service (part of the Ministry of Justice) has decided to seize its main production affiliate, Yuganskneftegaz, and sell it to pay for the approx. USD 3.4 bn owed by Yukos in year-2000 back taxes according to the recent court decisions.

Yugansk accounts for 70% of Yukos’s reserves and 60% of its output; its share in Yukos’s value is perhaps even greater as Yuganskneftegaz is developing the flagship Priobskoye field, which has been the key source of Yukos’s production growth in recent years. Yukos estimates its value at USD 30 bn, independent brokerage firms estimate it at USD 16-21 bn. But the Bailiff Service has put, according to Yukos, an initial estimate of USD 1.75 bn. The fact that they are seizing the biggest asset of Yukos (although it has two other subsidiaries valued in the USd 5 bn range each) to compensate only for the amount due under 2000 taxes only (with new claims regarding 2001 and 2002 to be expected), shows that the Kremlin is going for the kill.

(Recent news on Yukos et al. can be found via Renaissance Capital or Aton capital.)

The more interesting question, of course, is - who gets to buy a 30b$ asset for 3b$? The main favorites are Rosneft, the state-owned oil company, Surgutneftegaz, controlled by its "red director" Bogdanov, Gazprom, the national gas company or some of the other majors like Lukoil or TNK.

Rosneft would make a little bit of sense in that it is state-owned and thus this nationalisation-confiscation of Yukos would appear be for the benefit of a public entity, in coherence with Putin's stated goals to reinforce the Russian State and put it to work for the good of ordinary Russians and not just the few connected fat cats. But is it likely?
The experience of past "sales", including under Putin, shows that a well- connected informer gets to buy the assets at a ridicully low price, and that Putin is no different than Eltsin in that respect (only the beneficiaries are different - see the sales of Onako and Slavneft). These beneficiaries had to pledge fealty to Putin politically (and presumably financially), and are thus less powerful than their predecessors, but it is hard to see any of that wealth reaching ordinary Russians, then or now.

But at least, a several hundred % immediate return on your investment, don't you think that would make any self-respecting Halliburton manager cry?

The Bush administration is no worse than Saddam as regards to torture and it is also still not as bad as Russia as far as corporate cronyism goes. How's that for a nice campaign motto?

Posted by b on July 23, 2004 at 08:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

"The White Knight Is A Dirty Old Man"

Update 25. July

The Army Report is available now at Global Security Org (PDF, long). The armys website is still not reachable.

End Update

The Ajax White Knight has done serious overtime:

WaPo has the 9/11 Commission Report as executive summary and in full.

At the same time, the Army finds 49 abuse cases in a report delivered at a hastily called Senate committee meeting.

NYT writes about the report:

It provided a contrast to the conclusions of General Taguba, who found that the military police at Abu Ghraib conducted "systemic and illegal abuse of detainees."

A report by the International Committee of the Red Cross in February found that "methods of ill treatment" were "used in a systematic way" by the United States military in Iraq.
The Army did not post a copy of General Mikolashek's report in a prominent position on its Web site until early on Thursday afternoon, and even Army public affairs personnel said they had difficulty gaining access to it.

Currently I can neither reach the Army website nor find a link to the report.

The 9/11 Commission Reports Chapter 8: “THE SYSTEM WAS
tells who has been sleeping on his/her watch.

As the CIA supervisor “John” told us, no one looked at the bigger picture;
Now whos task would that have been?

Posted by b on July 23, 2004 at 07:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

July 22, 2004

Billmon: Minimum Wage

The barkeeper at the Whiskey Bar talks about minimum wages. There are many ways to look at the statistics I guess - here´s room to do so.

Posted by b on July 22, 2004 at 03:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (62)

July 21, 2004

housekeeping note

Typepad, the hosting system for the Moon of A, is working on their SPAM protection.

Many blogs do get (Porn-Robots-)Spam in their comments, so Typepads effort is welcome. Unfortunately their implemention is not really good yet and it IS effecting the general performance. They are working on it.

If you post a comment, a screen may come up with some computer geek gibbish you may not want to understand. When you scroll down that page, you will see the comment you do want to post. When you scroll further down, there is some small grey picture with numbers and letters on it. Type those numbers and letters into the entry field next to them, click on "Post" and everything will be fine.

Porn-Spam-Robots can´t do this, You can!

So remember to scroll down that page - your comments ARE welcome.

Posted by b on July 21, 2004 at 04:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Open-Off Topic-Thread

For all themes not fitting elsewhere...

Posted by b on July 21, 2004 at 03:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (148)

Billmon: Building a Bridge to the 19th Century

Here is virtual room to discuss Billmons piece about the economic bifurcation of the society and its political history and consequences.

Posted by b on July 21, 2004 at 03:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

July 20, 2004

Billmon: Unsafe at Any Speed

Billmon is back, writing on Ralph Nader and the Michigan GOP. Read it at the Whiskey Bar. Room for discussion is here, under the Moon.

Posted by b on July 20, 2004 at 12:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (77)

July 19, 2004

Suburb of Tel Aviv?

Discussed in the last Open Thread there are rumours of an Israeli/US american air attack on Iranian infrastructure. The last days there have been several leaks to the press by "sources" who claim that the 9/11 commission finds links between Iran and Al Qaeda.

(When hearing this, one should keep in mind that Iran is of Persian ethnics and Shia muslim belive, while Al Qaeda is an Arab national movement with extreme Sunni muslim background. Any report of cooperation between these hereditary enemies should be taken with some huge grains of salt.)

Today Washingon Posts reports in U.S. Faces a Crossroads on Iran Policy:

Since May, Congress has been moving -- with little notice -- toward a joint resolution calling for punitive action against Iran if it does not fully reveal details of its nuclear arms program. In language similar to the prewar resolution on Iraq, a recent House resolution authorized the use of "all appropriate means" to deter, dissuade and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weaponry -- terminology often used to approve preemptive military force. Reflecting the growing anxiety on Capitol Hill about Iran, it passed 376 to 3.

Who can move the house to repeat the same error they did on Iraq - giving Bush a free hand?

In the column The October Suprise? William Lind claims:

It is a safe bet that Israel is planning a strike on known Iranian nuclear facilities, and that such a strike will take place. The question is when.

If Israel plans to act this year, the Bush Administration may see a political opportunity it cannot pass up. At the very least it is likely to endorse the Israeli action, and it may well participate. So long as the neo-cons remain in power, Washington is little more than a suburb of Tel Aviv.

Strong language, but true?

Maybe there are some traces in the propaganda war behind this.

Executive Director Reza Bulorchi of the US Alliance for Democratic Iran has published some influental articles in the Wall Street Journal, The National Interest, Frontpage Magazin, National Review and other places of distinct political direction - all demanding more or less openly US intervention for a democratic Iran. He often co-authers with Nir Boms, who also writes pieces on Lebanon and Syria. Frontpagemag names Nir Boms as a fellow of the The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy. That groups mission is:

Non-profit and non-partisan, FDD promotes informed debate about policies and positions that will most effectively eradicate the scourge of international terrorism.
In addition, FDD works to improve education about democracies, and to help promote democracy in troubled regions around the globe.
Some names of members of FDD sound familar: Forbes, Kemp, Kirkpatrick, Gingrich, Woolsey, Krauthammer, B. Kristol, Z.Miller, Perle, Adelman, Toensing, etc.
The American Conservative explains the story behind FDD. It evolved out of the Educational Initiative, Inc. which had the task
to offer Israel the kind of PR that the Israeli government seemed unable to provide itself.
Its nearly $3 million annual budget comes from 27 major donors, most of whom are members of ´the Study Group´ .. a semi-formal organization of major Jewish philanthropists
Dalck Feith, father of Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, also gave $100,000.
On March 9, 2001, three days before Emet’s articles of incorporation were filed in New York, the Forward reported that ´A[n Israeli] Foreign Ministry source leaked news of the initiative -called ‘Emet,’ or ‘truth,’ in Hebrew- to Israel Radio, portraying the effort as a Foreign Ministry project that the Americans were trying to co-opt.

According to the article Nir Bohms was even the first hire of the Educational Initiative. Nils Boms is also analyst in a group Middle East On Target. There one of his career steps mentioned is
a position at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, DC as the Academic Liaison, serving as an educator, specialist and guest lecturer on Israeli and Middle Eastern affairs.
Other sources name him as "former public affairs officer of the Israeli Embassy".

Suburb of Tel Aviv?

Posted by b on July 19, 2004 at 03:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (74)

July 17, 2004

Open Thread

Let´s have a fresh one - did anybody bring drinks?

Posted by b on July 17, 2004 at 02:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (102)

Decline of the Empire?

Billmon did some premier economical pieces some time ago. It's the Wages, Stupid and Wild Blue Yonder. These charts add to the picture.

Total Debt

Development from 1915 to 2005. End of 2002 Gross Domestic Product of the United States was about 10,600 billion US$. Total credit market debt was at 31,700 billion US$. This ratio of about 3 to 1 has increased since. Expressed differently, 3 $s have to be borrowed additionally to existing debt to have an additional production worth 1 $. This is unprecedented.
(There are discussions that GDP is "pumped up" statistically which, if true, would make the chart even worse.)

Total debt of household, business, financial and government sectors will be some 37,000 $ billion this year. National income of the US (a corrected GDP) will be some 10,000 $ billion. Debt is increasing much faster than income.

The 20% of the families with children who make the least money, saw their inflation corrected income decline by some 20%. The 20% of families with children who make to most money, saw their inflation corrected income increase by some 30%. Theses numbers are for the timespan late 1970s to 1997. The trent has since continued. The poor see their income declining in real value, the rich see it increasing.

Posted by b on July 17, 2004 at 08:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

July 16, 2004

"Administration Committed War Crimes"

via NY Sun , Jul 8, 2004, a report on Hersh speaking at an ACLU dinner on July 7.

Journalist Seymour Hersh yesterday accused President Bush and Vice President Cheney of committing war crimes in their prosecution of the war on terror before he backed off the charge somewhat, saying he was not certain the two leaders were culpable as individuals.

“What we had was a series of massive crimes,

criminal activity by the president and the vice president — hold on — by this administration anyway. I can say that.I can’t say...I can’t state who did it.The only way to look at this is as war crimes. What happened, there are war crimes,” Mr. Hersh said during a speech to the national conference of the American Civil Liberties Union

As he unleashed the most inflammatory charge, Mr. Hersh was cheered by the crowd.

“I’m not saying it’s there yet. It’s not there yet, but that’s where it has to go. We have to stop looking at it as some kind of an academic debate about the Geneva Convention,” Mr. Hersh said.

The veteran journalist, who exposed the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, said some of the most heinous actions by American soldiers had yet to be disclosed by the government. Mr. Hersh said the undisclosed evidence includes videos of young male prisoners being sodomized.

Mr. Hersh called top leaders at the White House and the Defense Department neo-conservative “cultists.”

“It’s not the Manson clan, but we really have been taken over,” he said. Mr. Hersh singled out the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, for particular criticism,repeatedly comparing him to Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky.

via The Independent Jul 16, 2004

He said: "The boys were sodomised with the cameras rolling, and the worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys shrieking. And this is your government at war."

He accused the US administration, and all but accused President George Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney of complicity in covering up what he called "war crimes".

Juan Cole asks:

Does anyone else see an irony here? Isn't this the same administration that just tried to tinker with the United States constitution in order to prevent government sanction for sodomy?

(A video (realplayer) of the Hersh speech is available here.)

Update 10:30 AM search for "Hersh" brings up:
- Collective Bellaciao, France
- Independent, UK
- Infoshop News search for "Hersh" brings up:
- NY Sun
- Infoshop News

Thats it.

NYT: Congress's Inquiry Into Abuse of Iraqi Prisoners Bogs Down.

Anyone wondering why?

Posted by b on July 16, 2004 at 07:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (62)

July 15, 2004

Billmon: Send in the Clowns

The Barkeeper on Donald Duck for Senator (nearly): "Send in the Clowns" - some virtual space here for your candidate.

Posted by b on July 15, 2004 at 05:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Open Thread

Many things out there need to be discussed, but don´t fit the other topics. Here is some virtual space for them.

Posted by b on July 15, 2004 at 04:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (153)

Billmon: Caught Jeb Handed

The Whiskey Bar Bartender on Florida voting procedures. Your comments?

Posted by b on July 15, 2004 at 04:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

July 14, 2004

"...he´ll ruin you faster"

As a US foreigner, I do ask myself who should win the next US election.

The US is the No. 1 nation. It spends more money on military power than the rest of the world together. There are over 700 military US outlets in over 100 countries. The US dollar, as the reserve currency and commodity currency of world trade, has effects on the economical situation of many foreigners. If the US decides to deliberately inflate the dollar (as it already does to some extend today) this inflation will be exported to other countries. The US has the diplomatic power to bring all others to the table on any issues. As Kyoto, WTO and several other issues show, it decides the ecential outcome of such meetings.

The current Bush foreign policy would not change after a re-election. This should put me decidedly into the Anything-But-Bush-Camp. But if Kerrys foreign policy does not differ from Bushs way, would it not be better to keep Bush? He would definitely be more effective in ruining the US and its world relations. Then, maybe, a point will be reached,

where the US electorate will feel the outcome of such a policy to such an extend, that it will demand totally different concepts.

Josh Marshall has written on Kerry Faces the World in the Atlantic. Stephen J. Sniegoski on John Kerry: Liberal Interventionist in Current Concerns and Mark Hand has "It's Time to Get Over It" in Counterpunch - all good controversial reads.

All three point to a central policy paper to Kerrys policy. Marshall writes:

Late last year, when Howard Dean was the front-runner, Pollack, Asmus, and ... [Greg Craig] signed a manifesto titled "Progressive Internationalism: A Democratic National Security Strategy", which aimed to put the Democratic foreign-policy establishment on record against Dean's perceived slide toward the party's dovish past.
The paper in question supports:
the bold exercise of American power, not to dominate but to shape alliances and international institutions that share a common commitment to liberal values.
We aim to rebuild the moral foundation of U.S. global leadership by harnessing America's awesome power to universal values of liberal democracy.
While some complain that the Bush administration has been too radical in recasting America's national security strategy, we believe it has not been ambitious or imaginative enough. We need to do more, and do it smarter and better...
Reading further my summery boils down to three points:
  • America is exceptional because we are a, b, c.
  • We do need to spread a, b, c through the world, if not by dictate than by military means.
  • We need to do this multilateraly, because the unilateral way Bush does this, is too expensive

Neocons and neodems, as Hand calls them, PNAC and PPI - is there any essential difference? Is it like Sniegoski says: "In short, expect Kerry’s America to be involved in unending war and occupation."

In foreign policy, Bush and Kerry look much the same to me. So now should I say "Dear Americans, vote Bush, he´ll ruin you faster"?

Posted by b on July 14, 2004 at 03:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (63)

Billmon: The AP Screws Up Again

Just the link to Billmons piece and room to discuss it.

Posted by b on July 14, 2004 at 03:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

Billmon: Fear Strikes Out

Moon thread for Fear Strikes Out.

Posted by b on July 14, 2004 at 01:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

July 13, 2004

Billmon: Right From Wrong

Space for comments on this Billmon piece about libertarians and the GOP.

Posted by b on July 13, 2004 at 06:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)

Billmon: Class Warfare

At the Whiskey Bar the barkeeper cites: and the rich are winning. Here is room to respond.

Posted by b on July 13, 2004 at 03:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (52)

July 12, 2004

Open Thread

For all the Off Topic stuff that may undermine the flow of thoughts in other threads

Posted by b on July 12, 2004 at 02:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (54)

Billmon: Election Prevention Commission?

At the Whiskey Bar Billmon has thoughts about a name change and more. You may want to take a look at the comments of the Preparing the Coup? thread here too.

Posted by b on July 12, 2004 at 05:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (65)

Billmon: Play It As It DeLays

You may comment here on Billmons new piece.

Posted by b on July 12, 2004 at 02:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

July 11, 2004

Preparing the Coup?

From Newsweek: Exclusive: Election Day Worries

American counterterrorism officials, citing what they call "alarming" intelligence about a possible Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall, are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of such an attack, NEWSWEEK has learned.

...Ridge's department last week asked the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel to analyze what legal steps would be needed to permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place.

...[Chairman of the newly created U.S. Election Assistance Commission], Soaries, a Bush appointee who two years ago was an unsuccessful GOP candidate for Congress, wants Ridge to seek emergency legislation from Congress empowering his agency to make such a call [to cancel and reschedule a federal election]

With the appropriate legal opinion from Mr. Ashcroft, an October surprise and more white powder scare plus some support from that darn liberal media the commison could probably push the election a few days, or a few months, or ....

The U.S. Election Assistance Commission was enacted in 2002 through the HELP AMERICA VOTE ACT OF 2002. The four commisionars are selected bipartisan. The main reason for the the creation of this commission was to "… establish a program to provide funds to States to replace punch card voting systems". The Vote Act says: Any action which the Commission is authorized to carry out under this Act may be carried out only with the approval of at least three of its members.
The chairman of the commission: DeForest "Buster" Soaries is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Somerset, N.J., and previously served as secretary of state in New Jersey.
Another commisionar, Paul DeGregorio, served as an assistant to John Ashcroft during his first term as Missouri Attorney General

BTW: Do you need a Beanie?

Posted by b on July 11, 2004 at 04:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (46)

Billmon: Play It As It Lays

New Post at the Whiskey Bar. Comments may go here.

Posted by b on July 11, 2004 at 03:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

July 10, 2004

Not Sealed Fine Twisted Cord

Posted by b on July 10, 2004 at 04:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (54)

"What are we going to do about it?"

Economist Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley looks at the quality of newly created jobs in the US: America’s Job-Quality Trap

An unprecedented hiring shortfall has crimped the economy’s income generating capacity as never before.

...While there has been some improvement on the hiring front in recent months, the quality of such job creation has been decidedly subpar.

...from the trough of the last recession in November 2001 through June 2004, private nonfarm payrolls have now risen a paltry 0.2%. This stands in sharp contrast to the nearly 7.5% increase recorded, on average, over the same 31-month interval of the six preceding recoveries.

[The detailed industry breakdown of the data shows,] ...The contribution of lower-end jobs (44%) was about 50% greater than that of higher-end jobs (29%). In my view, that qualifies as a decidedly low-quality improvement in the US labor market.

An even more dramatic picture of the quality of recent job growth emerges from the survey of households. ... the count of nonfarm persons at work part time ...increased by 495,000 over the February to June 2004 interval. That amounts to an astonishing 97% of the cumulative increase of 509,000 in total nonagricultural employment

On ... basis [of the occupational breakdown data], it turns out that fully 81% of total job growth over the past year was concentrated in low-end occupations.

.. low-quality job creation poses a serious risk to sustained economic recovery. And, of course, in this political season, any legitimacy to perceptions of worker angst could easily become one of the biggest issues in the upcoming US presidential campaign.

The Economic Policy Institutes Job Watch data show that the unemployment rate, when calculated compareable to European numbers, is now at 9.6%.

Roach closes his piece with this question:

"What are we going to do about it?"

Posted by b on July 10, 2004 at 09:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

July 09, 2004

Tin Foil Hat Required

The Guardian runs a well researched story on Jonathan Keith "John" Idema getting busted for running a private torture prison in Kabul where among others "three men strapped to the ceiling and hanging by their feet" were found: The man who thinks he's George Clooney. A story of today's Kabul

The Guardian presents Idemas quite colorful background and suggests that he was hunting for US rewards on some Al Qaida leaders.

Here are some additional details around that story. Warning: Use your tin foil hat while reading.

Arrested with Idema was Edward Caraballo, a film maker, connected to him through various movie projects. From the bowel of Google we get some introspect on (see the Google cached pages), a movie company that was supposed to bring out the The J. Keith Idema Story about smuggling of small atomic devices from the Soviet Union made by producer Gary Scurka and director Edward Caraballo.

Scura and Caraballo are also working for PBN They made some "documentary" about a Green Beret Colonel George Marecek who killed his wife, as on other stories Idema investigated. They also distribute the rights of the alleged Al Qaida Training Videos Idema claims to have found in Afghanistan.

PBN has been in a legal battles with Dreamworks over the copyright of the storyline of the film The Peacemaker. Idema sued Fox News about fees for the Al Qaida training videos: Ex-commando sues Fox News over terror tape . He also had some fight with Geraldo Rivera. As PBN says on their website: "All violations of copyright are prosecuted with vigorous litigation in an ongoing effort to protect the value of the al-Qaida 8mm VideoX Training Tapes." Conviniently this media company has links to Findlaw and lexisONE on its homepage. The companies motto is "Veritas et Libertas".

This business outfit and Idema have made quite a round on US media. PBN claims its products have been run by "Inside Edition, Court TV, and/or CBS 48 Hours" and that they have worked with "CBS 60 Minutes, APB News, Inside Edition, MSNBC, and other top name news organizations." The Green Baret murder story did win a National Press Club award, even though it was turned down by CBS News 60 Minutes and 48 Hours. Idema was active as Waco expert on WorldnetDaily in 1999, but seriously got into the media business only after 9/11.
He ran on

  • MSNBC claiming connections between Iraq and Al Qaida
  • 60 minutes with Dan Rather about the Al Qaida trainig video
  • CNBC Kudlow & Cramer also about the Al Qaida trainig video
  • New York Post ran that story "Exclusive"
  • Radio outlets like WGN, WNYC and KUNM did go with the story and Idema interviews
  • UPI did a story where Idema had found evidence that "Al Qaida may have tried to kill Clinton"

and all of this was of course well reflected in various print and Internet outlets.

When Idema was in Afghanistan in 2001, Scura of was also there, supported by the friendly mercenaries of Conterr Group.
Conterr claims they have started in Afghanistan for humanitarian missons, but:

Our non-combatant role changed as the battlefield enivronment changed. Counterr Group personnel became advisors to various factions of the United Front Miltary Forces and began combat operations against Taliban and al-Qaida enemy forces. This is the unique ability Counterr Group brings to the war on terror. Simply put, we will do whatever it takes to defeat terrorism and prevent another 9/11. We will support medical operations, operate on friendly forces in the field, obtain equipment for foreign allies, pay incentives for terrorist intelligence, lead foreign troops against al-Qaida, protect humanitarian aid workers and journalists in combat environments, provide HUMINT to US government activities, and engage terrorists wherever they may be, wherever they may flee, and wherever they may hide.
In case you are interested they do have some employment opportunities and you may reach them in Kabul via Satellite Phone: 873-762-767744. Their website domain is registered by a Thomas R. Bumback.

Some Master Sergant Thomas R. Bumback (Ret.) did write a favorable book review in Soldiers of Fortune about "The Hunt for Bin Laden" by Robin Moore.
As the Amazon reviewer says about the book "This is strictly a heroic portrayal of a military victory and the difficult search for Osama bin Laden, and at times Moore's writing sounds like copy out of Soldier of Fortune magazine. This bombast may not appeal to all readers,..."
A readers review on Barnes & Nobles says about the book: "Finally, his work is greatly weakened when he includes stories that are not relevant to the story of the Green Berets he’s trying to give justice to. One case in point are the tales of Jack, who is in fact Keith Idema, and not several people as he suggests."
There are 124 used copies of this books for sale at Amazon right now starting at $2.24.

So why is Ed Caraballo, a professional film maker and Emmy awards winner, in Kabul together with Idema? Is this about hunting US rewards on Al Qaida?

The coverage of the Al Qaida training videos may give some hints. As 60 minutes reports "Recruits shout commands in English - a sign they would like to take scenes like this to the West.". Strategy Page has some in depth description of the videos: "Role players could be heard begging not to be killed (in ENGLISH). Terrorists practiced commands in ENGLISH also" and "Assassination on a golf course. Target was on the green (at the pin/flag)". As Idema himself, quoted by 60 minutes, said: "When I looked at these tapes, I said, ‘ My God, this is the same kind of stuff that we did in 1980.'"

Now put your tin foil hat on and combine the video content with the expertise of the Conterr Group Academy Training -

"The training at Counterr Group Academy provides its graduates with the most modern tactics and techniques for armed encounters and for the successful prevention and resolution of acts of terrorism."
- and throw in the film making/media savvy producer / director / videographer group around Idema, all on location in Afghanistan in 2001/2002, and you may come to the conclusion that the story of the Al Qaida training videos has some strange smell.

And now here we are again: Film maker Ed Caraballo, Keith Idema and Counterr Group together in Kabul. This time there is no Al Qaida training video, but some torture scenes in a privat jail. Any idea what this strange smell is about?


Josh Marshall has also some questions about Keith Idema:

I don't get that.

Is there money in setting up your own jail? Kicks perhaps, as we've seen. But certainly there must be enough bad-acts to go around back in the states, right?

It just seems like someone must have been paying this guy to do something, unless it's like a blog where you just set up shop and figure that someday a revenue stream might turn up.

Posted by b on July 9, 2004 at 11:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (84)

Billmon: Back from the Shadows Again

Here´s some room to comment on Billmons new piece.

Posted by b on July 9, 2004 at 01:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

July 08, 2004

Open Thread

... warming up for the next Billmon post

Posted by b on July 8, 2004 at 05:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (44)

July 07, 2004

Conquer we Must

Reasons for the "New Imperialism" (1)

- Economics was the most important single factor in this "New Imperialism". Much of this economic emphasis was brought about by the industrial revolution, which created large surpluses of European capital and heavy demands for raw materials. Additionally it brought about the accumulation of major european countries which sought investment abroad.

- Nationalism was another powerful factor. Social Darwinism, with it´s concept of "Survival of the Fittest" and the obligations of the "White Man´s Burdon" made popular by the Englishman Rudyard Kipling contributed to the spirit of nationalism in extending colonialism. There was also political prestige in having colonies as imperialism became a race to aquire more in the spirit of nationalism.

- A third reason for this "new" imperialism was military. Military organizations in each major countries wielded great political power, and they emphazied the need, whith their respective governments, of controlling strategic areas and establishing key military bases.

- A fourth reason was humanitarian/religious, which often became intertwined with nationalism.

(1) "NEW IMPERIALISM (1870 - 1914)" Lecture Notes by Professor Henry, William Paterson University

Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."

The Star Spangled Banner Francis Scott Key, adopted as National Anthem 1931

Posted by b on July 7, 2004 at 07:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (76)

Housekeeping and Call for Papers

The template work on Moon of Alabama is finished for now and the access to this site has stabilized. If there are still problems or errors please let me know. You also may want to comment on this site or suggest changes or features.

While expecting hopefully new Billmon pieces at the Whiskey Bar, it would be nice to have some appropriate pieces from commentators up for discussion. Just drop me an email with your writing attached and I will be glad to post it.


Posted by b on July 7, 2004 at 07:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

July 06, 2004

Kerry picks Edwards

Your comments about this?

Posted by b on July 6, 2004 at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (92)

July 05, 2004

Thread Wide Shut

here anything goes

Posted by b on July 5, 2004 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

Child Abuse

As Helpful Spook has posted in an earlier comment, a German TV magazine, Report Mainz, will today report on child abuse in US prisons in Iraq. Their press announcement (in German) refers to a statement form an ICRC official in Genvea: "Between January and Mai of this year we have registered 107 children during 19 visitations at 6 different locations. All those location were under control of coalition troops."
The magazine did get its hand on an internal UNICEF document. There it is mentioned, that UNICEF is trying to get access to a special prison for children, errected by coalition forces. In July 2003 UNICEF requested to get access to this prision which was denied. "Unsufficient security in the area of the prison" forstalled visits by independend observers "since December 2003".
An Aljazeera Reporter who had been imprisoned in Abu Graibh describes to the magazine how a 12 year old girl was bashed by US soldiers. The journalist reports of a prison for children: "When they did bring me to my prison cell, there was a camp for children, young, under age of puberty. For sure there were hundreds of children in this camp."

Author Rick Pearlstein took notes (via Brad De Long) at a Seymour Hersh lecture: ´He said he had seen all the Abu Ghraib pictures. He said, "You haven't begun to see evil..." then trailed off. He said, "horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run.".´

Sgt. Samuel Provance, of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion has witnessed specific cases and talks about it.

The UNICEF document Report Mainz has explains the outcome: "The percieved unjustified imprisonment of male Iraqis including juveniles ... is becoming the main reason for the growing frustration of Iraqi adolescent and a potential for the radicalisation of this population group."

As Richard Clarke writes in his book review on "Imperial Hybris": "The Iraq invasion gave a new cause to the jihadists and new evidence to Arab militants that Americans are the “new crusaders” – i.e., foreign infidels bent on conquest. The result has been more recruits, more suicide bombers and more money to the jihadists."

The child abuse by coalition troops will give something more valueable to the jihadists. A fresh generation of fighters, already deeply motivated to defeat their enemies at any costs.

Posted by b on July 5, 2004 at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

July 04, 2004

Enlightened Self Interest

by ck

Josh Marshall posted part one of a long interview with Senator Biden. It covers a lot of territory, but there are two main themes:
One is the failure of the BushCo NeoCons to differentiate between Al Qaeda Gangsterism and State Sponsored Terrorism.
The other is the need for an American Foreign Policy based on Enlightened Nationalism -- as Senator Biden calls it.
I've described it as Enlightened Self Interest -- a term used by Walter Simon, a history professor of mine back in the 1960's.

Before the invasion of Iraq, I tried to formulate some arguments about this, using the Clinton Doctrine of Robust Internationalism as a contrasting framework the Bush Doctrine of Arrogant Unilateralism. That both schools can invoke Wilsonianism as justification is evidence of the complexity of this issue, and the mixed legacy of Woodrow Wilson.

Excerpts from the interview:

I think you'd see a Kerry administration being willing to exercise force in the face of --- if two conditions pertained --- One, that the exercise of the force was likely to result in the outcome that we were seeking. The difference between exercising force in Kosovo and force in Somalia is that we did not have the physical wherewithal and the likely allies to be able to succeed in the exercise of that force. ...

It's not preemption. It is a new standard for when you basically forfeit your sovereignty as a nation-state [if] you're engaged in genocide. So, every place with genocide should we intervene? No There has to be the practical capacity to do so. ...

Second thing is, so there's kind of a new standard that has emerged, that I think is the combination of what I refer to as this enlightened nationalism, that we operate in our national interests in every circumstance where we can under the umbrella of international rules and the international community. But where the damage and danger is irrefutable, we reserve the right to act in our own interest or in the interest of humanity, if we have the capacity. ...

That is different than the standard and the rationale of our neoconservative friends. They argue that the exercise of force is important because we are at the apex of our power and that we are more enlightened than the rest of the world. And when we have the ability to exercise force it allows us to leverage our power in direct proportion to the moral disapprobation of the rest of the world. ...

[What you will see emerging in the Kerry administration, is] an adherence, and a value, and a promotion of international institutions like our grandfathers did at the end of WWII so we wouldn't carry the whole load of the whole world all the time, and the willingness to exercise force if need be to enforce the rules of the road when they're violated. ...

TPM: Can I ask you a question? It seems that one of the shortcomings of the neoconservative worldview is their focus on states. ...

BIDEN: ... The fundamental flaw [of the neoconservatives] is that they genuinely believe --- and put it in the negative sense --- they do not believe it is possible for a sophisticated international criminal network that will rain terror upon a country, that has the potential to kill 3,000 or more people in a country, can exist without the sponsorship of a nation-state.

They really truly believe --- and this was the Axis of Evil speech --- if you were able to decapitate the regimes in Iraq, Iran, North Korea, you would in fact dry up the tentacles of terror.

I think that is fundamentally flawed reasoning. If every one of those regimes became a liberal democracy tomorrow, does anybody think we wouldn't have code orange again in the United States? Rhetorical question. Does anybody think we don't have to worry about the next major event like Madrid occurring in Paris or in Washington or in Sao Paulo? Gimme a break. But they really believe this is the way to do it. ...

But the way Cheney'd respond to that would be to say, ´Well, are you telling me there's not more terror when these guys are running [the show]´”

Yeah, there is. Do they aid and abet, do they have sort of a synergistic impact? But are they, if you eliminate them, the life blood that flows to these organizations? It is much more important for us to be able to go at their sources of funding. It's more like organized crime. They love this thing about, you know, it's not law enforcement. It's not law enforcement in the sense that we have to have a warrant to go get them--- that´s the implication. But it is basically gumshoe work.

It is intelligence; it is cutting off the source of their supply of money. It is infiltrating their organizations beyond bombing their training bases. That's a good thing. They bomb their training camps --- that´s a good thing. We did a good thing in getting rid of Saddam. That son-of-a-bitch was a butcher. But it had nothing to do with our central problem, terror.

And the reason why it's so dangerous what they're doing, their approach --- it's not intentional --- but it takes their eye off the ball. It's the wrong focus.

The question: do they have a synergistic impact? -- is fundamental to the argument about the invasion of Iraq.

On this point, I part company with Senator Biden. The Middle East States that provided overt support "terrorists" -- i.e., Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, and other Palestinian groups -- do not have a synergistic relationship with Al Qaeda. In fact, the states that supported Palestinian groups -- Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Egypt, etc. -- are hostile towards Al Qaeda, which targets the governments of these states.

Al Qaeda received covert support from individuals within Saudi Arabia, and from the Pakisatani ISI.

Not only did Saddam not threaten the USA, but his suppression of Islamic Radicals prevented Iraq from becoming an Al Qaeda breeding ground.

The Bush Administration's invasion and occupation of Iraq has made us less safe it three distinct ways:

1) It diverted resources from the hunt for Al Qaeda.

2) By removing Saddam, it turned Iraq into a terrorist breeding ground.

3) Bush's arrogant unilateralism and hubris has destroyed America's reputation in the world, and reversed the goodwill we enjoyed after 9/11.

Posted by b on July 4, 2004 at 06:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (50)