Saturday, June 21, 2008

Many wrongfully held at Guatanamo

The Supreme Court's recent 5-4 ruling upholding habeas corpus means merely that the court is one conservative judge away from outlawing habeas corpus. One need not, apparently at this time, worry then, unless one is deemed by the POTUS to be an enemy combatant.

What kind of judges would a President McCain appoint to the Supreme Court? A President Obama?

Tom Lassetter writes about an eight month investigation by McClatchy news on how the U.S. came to wrongfully imprison dozens, perhaps hundreds of men in Afghanistan and Guantanamo.

The McClatchy investigation found that top Bush administration officials knew within months of opening the Guantanamo detention center that many of the prisoners there weren't "the worst of the worst." From the moment that Guantanamo opened in early 2002, former Secretary of the Army Thomas White said, it was obvious that at least a third of the population didn't belong there.

Late in 2003, Knight-Ridder
reported a trio of retired military officers Rear Adm. Don Guter, Rear Adm. John Hutson and Brig. Gen. David Brahms had filed a Supreme Court amicus brief on behalf of 16 detainees who had been held for almost two years at Gitmo. They were motivated by their "worry that lengthy incarcerations at Guantanamo without hearings will undermine the rule of law and endanger U.S. forces."

For two years, the Bush administration has described the detainees as "the worst of the worst" and "killers." The three former officers are skeptical, noting that 88 have been released so far from the prison camp.

"We're trying to separate the goat-herders from the real terrorists, and that's not easy, but I'm not convinced they're all guilty," said Hutson, now the dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H.

Continuing with more from the Lassetter piece:

Rather than taking a closer look at whom they were holding, a group of five White House, Justice Department and Pentagon lawyers who called themselves the "War Council" devised a legal framework that enabled the administration to detain suspected "enemy combatants" indefinitely with few legal rights.

devised a legal framework = came up with some word mumbo jumbo word to self-justify

The threat of new terrorist attacks, the War Council argued, allowed President Bush to disregard or rewrite American law, international treaties and the Uniform Code of Military Justice to permit unlimited detentions and harsh interrogations.

Disregard or Rewrite American Law, etc = BREAK American law, international treaties and the UCMJ.

The "trick" to breaking international law was two-fold: (1) Hold the "terrorists" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and (2) Define the "terrorists" as "enemy combatants", a new classification of foe.

In October 2003, Reuters reported Red Cross criticism of the U.S. for the detentions at Guantanamo.

The International Red Cross say it is unacceptable that the United States continues to detain more than 600 people at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba without charges or prospect of a timely trial.


The Red Cross, which has an international mandate to monitor compliance with the Geneva Conventions and visit people detained in conflicts, has repeatedly expressed its concerns about aspects of the detention camp at Guantanamo, which was deliberately chosen because of its legal ambiguity.

Picking up on the McClatchy investigation once more:

The group further argued that detainees had no legal right to defend themselves, and that American soldiers — along with the War Council members, their bosses and Bush — should be shielded from prosecution for actions that many experts argue are war crimes.

They needed shielding from prosecution because they were COMMITTING war crimes and recognized full well that THEY, the War council members, their bosses and Bush were all complicit in war crimes

The majority of the detainees taken to Guantanamo came into U.S. custody indirectly, from Afghan troops, warlords, mercenaries and Pakistani police who often were paid cash by the number and alleged importance of the men they handed over. Foot soldiers brought in hundreds of dollars, but commanders were worth thousands. Because of the bounties — advertised in fliers that U.S. planes dropped all over Afghanistan in late 2001 — there was financial incentive for locals to lie about the detainees' backgrounds. Only 33 percent of the former detainees — 22 out of 66 — whom McClatchy interviewed were detained initially by U.S. forces. Of those 22, 17 were Afghans who'd been captured around mid-2002 or later as part of the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, a fight that had more to do with counter-insurgency than terrorism.

The hand of the free market at work here - advertise what your looking for, offer and pay an attractive price, and people will tell you they've got just what you want. A win-win situation - informants and officials looking to settle old grudges get paid to accuse innocents of being terrorist, and we got "terrorists." Well, not a good situation for innocent men (and children) falsely accused.

American soldiers and interrogators were susceptible to false reports passed along by informants and officials looking to settle old grudges in Afghanistan, a nation that had experienced more than two decades of occupation and civil war before U.S. troops arrived. This meant that Americans were likely to arrest Afghans who had no significant connections to militant groups. For example, of those 17 Afghans whom the U.S. captured in mid-2002 or later, at least 12 of them were innocent of the allegations against them, according to interviews with Afghan intelligence and security officials.

This should surprise no one. It is really, nothing new. From the Knight-Ridder story of late 2003:

For two years, the Bush administration has described the detainees as "the worst of the worst" and "killers." The three former officers are skeptical, noting that 88 have been released so far from the prison camp.

"We're trying to separate the goat-herders from the real terrorists, and that's not easy, but I'm not convinced they're all guilty," said [former JAG, Rear Admiral] Hutson, now the dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A lie by any other name

This AP article uses some artful phrasing, the kind "polite" Washington insiders use to gently rebuff politicians (not named Clinton or Gore), in discussing Scott McClellan's testimony before Congress.

On Friday, McClellan returned repeatedly to his theme that Bush, Cheney and others in the administration had done great damage to themselves — and by extension to aides like McClellan — by being less than truthful on a range of official matters.

Somehow, BEING LESS THAN TRUTHFUL just does not carry the same force as LYING.

Because LYING about ten bl*w j*bs is an impeachable offense. But BEING LESS THAN TRUTHFUL, even if it gets 4,200 member of the U.S. armed forces killed, not to mention results in the deaths of 1,000,000 and the displacement of 4,000,000 Iraqis, would apparently not amount to an impeachable offense, because, it's different from LYING.

Favored by Cheney's Handlers

Dr. Chris R. Martin, PhD on his Mediacrit blog provides some important insights into the professional work of Tim Russert:

The part "we all" know -- the trade mark self-referenced "blue-collar origins":

Russert ... was one of the elite Washington beltway gang. As the son of a Buffalo, New York sanitation worker (Russert celebrated his dad “Big Russ” in a book) he was roundly praised for his “blue-collar sensibility.” But it was the mythology of his blue-collar origins that belied the fact that he was truly a Washington insider.

Martin mentions Russert's popularity amongst politicians of both parties, but also cites some quotes from a very telling WaPo article:

Politicians of both parties liked [Tim Russert], because for all of his storied tough questioning, he was a guy who played by the polite rules of Washington, where the worst a liar can do is “misspeak.” Tellingly, Cathie Martin, Dick Cheney’s spokesperson, testified in the 2007 perjury trial of Scooter Libby that when the administration was criticized for overstating the case for war against Iraq, their strategy was to put Cheney on Russert’s show, where they thought they could control the message. “I suggested we put the vice president on Meet the Press, which was a tactic we often used,” she said. “It’s our best format.”

Martin wryly observes:

Being favored by Dick Cheney’s handlers doesn’t sound like a case for the journalism hall of fame, though.

Also very telling are these excerpts from Russert's interview by Bill Moyers for the PBS production "The Selling of the War."

BILL MOYERS: Critics point to September eight, 2002 and to your show in particular, as the classic case of how the press and the government became inseparable. Someone in the Administration plants a dramatic story in the NEW YORK TIMES And then the Vice President comes on your show and points to the NEW YORK TIMES. It's a circular, self-confirming leak.

TIM RUSSERT: I don't know how Judith Miller and Michael Gordon reported that story, who their sources were. It was a front-page story of the NEW YORK TIMES. When Secretary Rice and Vice President Cheney and others came up that Sunday morning on all the Sunday shows, they did exactly that.

My concern was, is that there were concerns expressed by other government officials. And to this day, I wish my phone had rung, or I had access to them.


The irony here - Moyers has given Russert a chance to defend his (lack of) effort. And then comes up with a "gotcha" moment, they kind of thing Russert was noted for.

TIM RUSSERT: Look, I'm a blue-collar guy from Buffalo. I know who my sources are. I work 'em very hard. It's the mid-level people that tell you the truth.

Note the repetition of the blue-collar myth.

BILL MOYERS: They're the ones who know the story?

TIM RUSSERT: Well, they're working on the problem. And they understand the detail much better than a lotta the so-called policy makers and political officials.

BILL MOYERS: But they don't get on the Sunday talk shows.

TIM RUSSERT: No. I mean, they don't want to be, trust me. I mean, they can lose their jobs, and they know it. But they can provide information which can help in me challenging or trying to draw out sometimes their bosses and other public officials.

BILL MOYERS: What do you make of the fact that of the 414 Iraq stories broadcast on NBC, ABC and CBS nightly news, from September 2002 until February 2003, almost all the stories could be traced back to sources from the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department?

TIM RUSSERT: It's important that you have an opposition party. That's our system of government.

This is Russert saying the it is the job of the opposition party - the Democrats, obviously, in this case - to provide an opposing point of view. But there WERE Democrats with an opposing point of view - Senator Ted Kennedy, Former Vice President Al Gore, Governor Howard Dean, for examples.

Opposing point of view? What about the TRUTH!!

BILL MOYERS: So, it's not news unless there's somebody…

TIM RUSSERT: No, no, no. I didn't say that. But it's important to have an opposition party, your opposing views.

I'll belabor the point: It's important to have the TRUTH.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fervent Faith Blinds

Chip Ward has a great article Radioactive Deja Vu in the West up at the Tom Dispatch web site. It concludes with this warning, a plea:

Our fervent faith in economic growth makes us blind to natural processes, ecological relationships, the long scales of time, and ultimate consequences.

We believe that, because we live above and beyond nature, we can act without context or caution. Our industrial missionaries drive thumper trucks, drill holes, send samples to the labs, and convert investors. Like the conquistadors of old, who searched for gold, they stake their claims on the land for its imagined riches. They declare ownership, no longer for church and king, but for corporation and investors. Ecosystems, communities, and future generations are sacrificed, and still salvation recedes.

Chalmers Johnson reviews Wolin

At Truthdig, Chalmers Johnson reivews Sheldon Wolin's latest book “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.” Johnson highly recommends Wolin's book, calling it "fully accessible."

Below are excerpts of Johnson's review which illuminate Wolin's "managed democracy" concept and summarize the relationships between imperialism, democracy and militarism.

The main objectives of managed democracy are to increase the profits of large corporations, dismantle the institutions of social democracy (Social Security, unions, welfare, public health services, public housing and so forth), and roll back the social and political ideals of the New Deal. Its primary tool is privatization. Managed democracy aims at the “selective abdication of governmental responsibility for the well-being of the citizenry” under cover of improving “efficiency” and cost-cutting.


One other subordinate task of managed democracy is to keep the citizenry preoccupied with peripheral and/or private conditions of human life so that they fail to focus on the widespread corruption and betrayal of the public trust.


Another elite tactic of managed democracy is to bore the electorate to such an extent that it gradually fails to pay any attention to politics.


Imperialism and democracy are, in Wolin’s terms, literally incompatible, and the ever greater resources devoted to imperialism mean that democracy will inevitably wither and die.


... Over the years, American political analysis has carefully tried to separate the military from imperialism, even though militarism is imperialism’s inescapable accompaniment. The military creates the empire in the first place and is indispensable to its defense, policing and expansion.

Political Science

I've linked to Jeff Huber's invaluable web site in the past (recently too) and will do so again, because he explains things SO well:

A first semester political science major at the most obscure community college in America can figure out that the less of its own oil an emerging nation burns, the more it can sell to finance its infrastructure and economic growth. Before said poli-sci major starts her sophomore year, she can piece together the strategic wisdom that says if you're the first Middle East oil nation to establish a functioning nuclear energy industry, you'll become a regional superpower.

And by the time she's picked up a full scholarship to finish her baccalaureate studies at Stanford, she'll realize that the Iran crisis has always been about nuclear energy, not nuclear weapons, because if Iran and its senior partners China and Russia can control when and how the world transitions from fossil fuel to the power of the sun, Dick and Dubya's big oil buddies will have to suck hind spigot on the global energy cash cow.

And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but THIS NYT headline & article:

Deals With Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back

BAGHDAD — Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.

The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.

The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production. ...

For an industry being frozen out of new ventures in the world’s dominant oil-producing countries, from Russia to Venezuela, Iraq offers a rare and prized opportunity.

While enriched by $140 per barrel oil, the oil majors are also struggling to replace their reserves as ever more of the world’s oil patch becomes off limits. Governments in countries like Bolivia and Venezuela are nationalizing their oil industries or seeking a larger share of the record profits for their national budgets.


Any Western oil official who comes to Iraq would require heavy security, exposing the companies to all the same logistical nightmares that have hampered previous attempts, often undertaken at huge cost, to rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure.

[So, looks like we'll need U.S. armed forces in Iraq for a LONG time now - MG]


Yet at today’s oil prices [apx $135 pb] , there is no shortage of companies coveting a contract in Iraq. It is not only one of the few countries where oil reserves are up for grabs, but also one of the few that is viewed within the industry as having considerable potential to rapidly increase production.


The first oil contracts for the majors in Iraq are exceptional for the oil industry.

They include a provision that could allow the companies to reap large profits at today’s prices: the ministry and companies are negotiating payment in oil rather than cash.

[Because oil is worth a lot more than dollars]


... In an interview with Newsweek last fall, the former chief executive of Exxon, Lee Raymond, praised Iraq’s potential as an oil-producing country and added that Exxon was in a position to know. “There is an enormous amount of oil in Iraq,” Mr. Raymond said. “We were part of the consortium, the four companies that were there when Saddam Hussein threw us out, and we basically had the whole country.”

[This article leads me to speculate, that PERHAPS the American Invasion of Iraq was, after all, at least a little bit, about -- OIL]

One out of every sixteen

In an article about the home of Baltimore's mayor Sheila Dixon being raided, the following paragraph leapt off the page:

Seen by some as a divisive figure during her time on the City Council, Dixon has won over skeptics with her shrewd management of an often-troubled city of about 624,000, including an estimated 40,000 heroin addicts.

If that 40,000 estimate is correct, more than one out of every sixteen citizens of Baltimore is a heroin addict. This is alarming, sad, and frightening beyond words.

NOW, or forever hold your impeach

Dave Lindorff at Counterpunch notes that the Dennis Kucinich articles of impeachment have not made much news. Lindorff succinctly lays out the reasons for impeachment:

As impeachment advocates, including Rep. Kucinich, have pointed out, unless this president and vice president are impeached by the current Congress, any—and probably every—future president will feel empowered by unchallenged precedent

to ignore laws passed by the Congress,
to go to war without Congressional approval,
to spy on Americans in violation of the law,
to ignore court orders,
to abrogate international treaties,
and to lie to Congress and the American people.

Unless Congress asserts its rights under Article I, it will no longer even be a co-equal branch of government, but instead will have been reduced to nothing more than a debating society.

If lying about ten bl*w j*bs were worth impeachment proceedings, then please, 'splain to my why, PLEEZE Lucy, the thirty-five articles of impeachment introduced by Representative Dennis Kucinich (D. Oh) are not worth a hearing?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cheaper to hire thumb suckers and pundits

From the transcript of Bill Moyers Journal, "Selling the War" comes this revealing Q&A exchange. What it reveals about present day journalists, journalism, pundits, reporters and reporting is sad.

BILL MOYERS: If we journalists get it wrong on the facts what is there to be right about?

PETER BEINART: Well I think that's a good point, but the argument in the fall of 2002 was not mostly about the facts it was about a whole series of ideas about what would happen if we invaded.

BILL MOYERS: What I'm trying to get at is how does the public sort all of this out from out there beyond the beltway. Far more people saw you, see Bill Kristol on television, than will ever read the Associated Press reports or the Knight Ridder reporters. Isn't there an imbalance then on what the public is going to perceive about a critical issue of life and death like, like war.


WALTER ISAACSON: One of the great pressures we're facing in journalism now is it's a lot cheaper to hire thumb suckers and pundits and have talk shows on the air than actually have bureaus and reporters. And in the age of the internet when everybody's a pundit, we're still gonna need somebody there to go talk to the colonels, to be on the ground in Baghdad and stuff and that's very expensive.

So, journalism's expensive stuff.

DAN RATHER: Reporting is hard. The substitute for reporting far too often has become let's just ring up an expert. Let's see. These are experts on international armaments. And I'll just go down the list here and check Richard Perle.

As the 43rd POTUS would say: "Reportin's hard work!"

So, rather than report, just call up a war partisan.

Global War on Wages

The NYT reports that the glow of the Red Dragon seems to be somewhat less alluring these days, certainly to global manufacturing corporations because for China -

In coastal provinces with ready access to ports, even unskilled workers now earn $120 a month for a 40-hour workweek, and often considerably more; wages in inland provinces, where transport is costlier, are somewhat lower but also rising fast. While Chinese wages are still less than $1 an hour, factory workers in Vietnam earn as little as $50 a month for a 48-hour workweek, including Saturdays.

Texhong estimates that average labor costs for each textile worker in China will rise 16 percent this year, including increases in benefits costs — on top of a 12 percent increase last year. New regulations are making it harder for companies to avoid paying for benefits, like pensions, further increasing labor costs.

And what's even worse (about China) than all that:

China is also phasing out its practice of charging lower corporate tax rates for foreign-owned companies. By contrast, Vietnam still offers foreign investors a corporate tax rate of zero for the first four years, and half the usual rate of 10 percent for the next four years.

As a result of these manufacturing cost savings in Vietnam:

Foreign direct investment ... over the last three years [has] soared more than eightfold in Vietnam.

A popular saying among Western investors is that Vietnam is the next China. Cambodia, with even lower wages attracting garment manufacturers, is called the next Vietnam.

Here's an eye-catching point:

Vietnam’s biggest selling point for many companies is its political stability. Like China, it has a nominally Communist one-party system that crushes dissent, keeps the military under tight control and changes government policies and leaders slowly.

But, I thought we fought to Vietnam war to bring them freedom and democracy. And so we wouldn't have to fight the commies in San Diego.

Communism means more stability,” Mr. Shu, the chief financial officer of Texhong, said, voicing a common view among Asian executives who make investment decisions. At least a few American executives agree, although they never say so on the record.

Democracies like those in Thailand and the Philippines have proved more vulnerable to military coups and instability.

While the NYT report fixates on the impact of these trends to prices on products consumed in the U.S., it fails to discuss higher unemployment in the U.S. as a result of out-sourcing, and higher inflation in the U.S. as a result of borrowing to finance the never-ending occupations of Iran and Afghanistan.

Democrats to back down

Reuters reports that "Democrats in the Congress, who came to power last year on a call to end the combat in Iraq" are about to cave and pass the Iraq & Afghanistan never-ending military occupation funding bill with no conditions for withdrawing U.S. troops. The $165 billion new war money injection is assumed to be enough for about a year, and commits troops to "staying the course" well into the next President's first year of office.

This infusion of war money will take the total amount committed to these wars to over $800 billion.

There was a way for the Democrats to have tried to stop the war; to do the job they were elected to office to do. The matter is summarized in the words of Senator Clairborne Pell [D-RI] spoke in 1971 after the conclusion of John Kerry's testimony before Congress.

This war was really just as wrong, immoral, and unrelated to our national interests 5 years ago as it is today

... At that time the word "peace" was a dirty word. It was tied in with "appeasement" and ... that sort of thing ...

The problem is that the majority of the people in the Congress still don't agree with the view that you and we have. As the chairman pointed out, and as you know as a student of political science, whenever we wanted to end this war, we could have ended this war if the majority of us had used the power of the purse strings. That was just as true 5 years ago as it is today.

I don't think it is a question of guts. We didn't have the desire to do that and I am not sure the majority has the desire to do that yet. Whenever we want to as a Congress, we could do it. We can't start an action, but we can force an action with the purse strings.

So, my fellow Americans, ask not what will Senator Obama do, ask not even how Senator Obama will vote. Ask what Senator Obama will do to put a stop to this bill.

Truth slips out from time to time

Jeff Cohen has a nice tribute to Izzy Stone at Common Dreams, calling Izzy "the legendary blogger", and "the ultimate un-embedded reporter". He links to a section of I. F. Stone: A Portrait, by Andrew Patner, with this refreshing Stone quote:

The truth slips out from time to time, and enough of it slips out that there’s a piece there for any reporter who takes the time.

Note the contrast between Stone's philosophy contemporary pundits' reliance on government spin (propaganda) and RNC talking points (more propaganda).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Axis of Energy

Over at Pen and Sword, Jeff Huber's post Has Iran Stopped Nuking Its Wife posits:

At the end of the day, all the scare talk about Iran getting nuclear weapons is a red herring. Today's global power struggle today is about who gets to squeeze the last dime out of the last drop of oil in the planet, and who controls how much the rest of us have to pay for whatever replaces oil as the new energy source.

If, when the last oil well coughs up dust, Iran has a viable nuclear industry and is a full partner in an axis of energy that includes Russia and China, then Dick and Dubya's big oil buddies will be riding bicycles to work.

Huber's conclusion gives a credible context to the secrecy that shrouded Cheney's 2001 meeting with the energy task force (denied by industry officials into November of 2005) and would further help explain why Exxon Mobil corp plans to sell off its gas stations.

Monday, June 16, 2008

For the sake of the Children

This Washington Post op-ed piece by former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor raised my blood pressure. I'm posting the entire piece, but where the once "most powerful woman in the world" admonishes us to do some things for our young, I'll offer an alternative take.

What We Owe Our Young

What We Gave Our Country

By Sandra Day O'Connor and James R. Jones
Monday, June 16, 2008; A19

Idealistic young voters have turned out in record numbers this year -- and not a moment too soon. How our next president represents the interests of young Americans will define not only his legacy but that of an entire generation of political leaders.

Idealistic voters turned out in record numbers in 2000 -- but it was too late. How the president we, the Supreme Court appointed, came to represent the interests of all Americans has defined not only his legacy, but that of the entire Republican party.

The standard Washington model for rewarding influential constituencies is an agenda of targeted spending, tax breaks or regulatory measures. Traditional patronage, however, will not suffice when it comes to preparing for the approaching tsunami of retirement and health-care spending.

The standard Republican model for rewarding influential constituencies is an agenda of ever-increasing defense spending, tax cuts for large corporations, large financial institutions, and wealthy individuals, deregulation of corporations, bailouts for financial and other institutions "too large to fail" and regulatory measures designed to imprison and disempower poor people and persons of color. Traditional patronage, however, will not suffice when it comes to preparing for the approaching tsunami of dollar devaluation, inflation, the ever-increasing likelihood world's reserve currency reverting away from the dollar, the collapse of the banking and mortgage banking industries, and the cost of overfunding the military-industrial-congressional-infotainment complex.

The Government Accountability Office and many, many others have documented the magnitude of the Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid bills that will come due over the next several decades. Even if every dollar of wealth of every millionaire in the United States were magically diverted to pay these costs, 80 percent of the unfunded liabilities forecast for these three programs would remain on the books.

So-called radical-liberal authors and many, many others have documented the magnitude of the costs of the war and war-profiteering bills plus the accrued interest on the national deficit that will come due over the next several decades.

Social Security Advisory Board Chairman Sylvester J. Schieber has found that honoring today's promises to tomorrow's retirees could put the living standards of working households on a path of decline by the mid-2020s, according to a groundbreaking study in the Milken Institute Review. Under this scenario, today's high school students might never experience a year in the workforce when their tax rates would not rise.

Social Security Advisory Board Chairman Sylvester J. Schieber has found someone to confirm his a priori belief that honoring todays promises to tomorrow's retirees "could" put the living standards of working households on a path of decline by the mid-2020s. This totally overlooks the reality that the federal government's fudging of inflation and unemployment statistics has presently put reduced the living standards of the majority of today's workers AND retirees. Under current trends, and coupled with the national security hazard of outsourcing virtually all of America's industry to lower-cost countries, many of today's high school students might never experience a year in the workforce when they are employed in any sector of the economy other than the "service" sectors.

Far more troubling outcomes are at least as plausible. Rather than raise taxes or modify benefits, our leaders could continue to follow the path of least resistance, shifting even greater burdens onto the young and endangering the living standards of everyone else in the process. Brookings Institution senior scholar Isabel Sawhill, writing in this month's Democracy Journal, warns of "realistic" budget deficits so large that by 2017, annual interest payments on the national debt would total $500 billion -- three times the amount of annual war spending in Iraq.

Far more troubling outcomes are at least as plausible. Rather than raise taxes on the wealthy by implementing a truly progressive tax structure, or eliminating tax loop holes that allow our largest and most profitable corporations to escape the heavy burden of any taxes at all in some of their most profitable years, or reduce expenditures on military hardware in an ever-escalating arms race with ourselves with which we never can seem to keep our defenses ahead of where our offensive strike capabilities will be by the time enterprising hi-tech workers or high-security clearance workers with dual citizenship with that nation which cannot be named critically, pass along the offensive strike capabilities state secrets, we can expect our leaders to follow the path of least resistance, and fund programs to build rocket ships to Mars, where they can escape the mess they have left behind before the lights begin to dawn upon the dimly aware.

A Brookings Institute "scholar" warns of "realistic" budget deficits so large, that by 2017, annual interest payments on the national deficit would total $500 billion -- three times the amount of annual war spending in Iraq. Although, in 2006, the annual interest payments on the national deficit totaled $406 billion of your money. Furthermore, under the present administration has willfully failed to include ANY amount of annual war spending in either Iraq or Afghanistan, which is perhaps not the way you would make out a budget, but then, how many of you are MBA Presidents, plus commander's in chief?

Among the likely casualties of such recklessness would be the very financial markets whose stability underpins the soundness of our private retirement system. And given the growing interdependence of the developed and developing worlds, and the advancing fiscal fragility of our aging allies in Asia and Europe, an American financial crisis could produce aftershocks that would rock the foundations of global prosperity.

Among the likely casualties of such profligate spending will be the very financial markets whose ever onward and upwards growth (in terms of non-inflation adjusted dollars) reflects the Federal Reserve's uncanny ability to reduce interest rates whenever it appears a bubble is about to burst, or to print a whole bunch more money to inject into the system, so that, for instance, the President's brother and then governor of Florida, could shortly before the Enron scandal broke, buy a large amount of Enron stock for the Florida State Teacher's Pension fund, and other large pension funds could invest in subprime mortgage tranches with notational values in excess of $50 trillion dollars, which has already seriously undermined the private pension systems of some large corporations (but fortunately for retired Supreme Court Justices, not any federal government pension systems).

And given our nation's dependence on the developed and developing worlds to manufacture things no longer made in America, and the world's abhorrence of the Bush doctrine of preemptive military strikes on non-nuclear nations with lots of oil reserves, the world's fears of the weakness of the U.S. dollar, and the world's keen understanding that a credit based consumer economy, such as the U.S. has had for many years now, is unsustainable, and that in order to minimize the shockwaves from the foreseeable perpetual American financial crises, our allies in Asia and Europe are disassociating themselves from us, and making trade agreements among themselves to which we have ever less say. We are not being invited to the party as much anymore, when before, the party could not be held without us.

Our government was founded on the principle that the legitimacy of law derives from the consent of the governed. Today's youths and future generations have not been consulted in the writing of our current social contract. Yet they soon may face financial burdens that most voters would find intolerable.

The present Bush administration was founded on the principle that the Clinton administration had wiped out the legitimacy of having a Democratic President for at least four years. We all agreed to it. All five of us. And all nine of us agreed that none of us would retire until the end of the Bush administration's first term of office. The voters of 2000 were not consulted in the electing of the present administration. Yet they already face financial burdens that voters from previous decades would find intolerable.

As we approach this vast expansion of spending, precipitated by a combination of aging baby boomers and abnormally high health costs, it is time to consult our young. That is exactly what we hope to do through the Youth Entitlement Summit taking place today and tomorrow on Capitol Hill.

As we approach the end of the most wanton expansion of deficits, illegal wars, unconstitutional wire taps, illegal torture, continual shredding of the bill of rights, precipitated by a combination of an ever dwindling number of corporate media outlets, all of which supported Bush's war and excluded voices of dissent, a nation made ever dumber by TV pundits with an overt radical Republican agenda, aging infrastructures, violent weather occurrences which are predicted by the inconvenient truth of global warming, it is time for you all to show your altruism.

It's time that you fixed it ... for the sake of the children. And in so doing, that you let any of my and my fellow Supreme Court Justices culpability for the current state of disaffairs slip rapidly out of sight, down the forgotten memory hole.

The youth activists assembling for this meeting know that although 41 percent of Americans are younger than 30, their political clout is inherently limited. Despite turning out in record numbers this year, voters ages 18 to 29 have accounted for only 13 percent of the presidential primary electorate. In the future, demographics will relegate youths to an ever-shrinking electoral minority.

All I am saying, is give these [youth] a chance. Entrust it all to the under 30 set. Otherwise, you will have no one to blame it on, except yourselves. In the future, demographics will relegate youths to an ever-shrinking electoral minority, UNLESS OF COURSE, you decide to let old people die sooner (and poor people too). In which case, youth will be served.

Do it for the sake of the children. Because, I really don't want to think about how guilty I am in all of this.

Far from being a classic struggle of special interests, the representation of younger and future generations depends on the informed selflessness of their elders. Older generations must allow Congress to fix Social Security. Much can be achieved through practical changes that need not affect those in or near retirement.

Far from being a classic struggle of class war fare, the representation of younger and future generations depends on the informed selflessness of their elders. So, all you old people, move to the most polluted states, like Texas, where you can die sooner. All you black people, commit more crimes so you can be imprisoned, impoverished, and die younger, and not be such a burden on the system.

The larger and more urgent task is health reform. In the interests of effective cost control, Medicare beneficiaries in particular must be prepared to embrace sensible limits on the way their health care is provided. Halting runaway medical inflation represents a potential victory for all generations.

The larger and more urgent task is health reform. While it's very important that big pharma remain as profitable as it has become, and that health insurance companies remain viable, because they employ three million people, we can't continue to spend so much money on old folks.

Our country must recognize that an overreliance on taxation poses real economic risks. We cannot grow our way out of this budget challenge. Yet its magnitude is such that we cannot hope to meet it without creating new wealth.

Our country must never recognize that relying on taxes for government programs poses real economic risks. We cannot spend our way out of this budget challenge. Yet its magnitude is such that we cannot hope to meet it -- because we cannot create new wealth. We can only accelerate the accumulation of old wealth.

The impressive involvement of young Americans in this presidential election provides a golden opportunity for our next president to face this dilemma -- and to cast aside political orthodoxy in fashioning a bipartisan agenda of reform. Anything less risks undermining the noble experiment that began 232 years ago.

The impressive involvement of young Americans in this presidential election provides a golden example of P.T. Barnum's old saying - there's a sucker born every minute. And a golden opportunity for our next president to face this dilemma -- and to cast aside political orthodoxy in fashioning a bipartisan agenda of reform. And if, heaven help U.S., if the next President is a Democrat, let me define bipartisan: bipartisan means that what the Republican party wants, the Republican party gets, otherwise, they will shut down the legislative branches of Congress, going nuclear, if they must.

Anything less risks undermining the noble experiment that began almost 8 years ago, when my fellow justices and I decided (albeit to my later regret) that the nation had had enough of Clinton (and by extension, Gore was Clinton) and needed more shrub.

Anything less, and I might have to feel responsible, in part, for some of this.

Sandra Day O'Connor served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1981 to 2006. James R. Jones was ambassador to Mexico from 1993 to 1997. They are honorary co-chairs of the Youth Entitlement Summit.

Qui Tam

Major General Smedley D. Butler, USMC, in his jeremiad War is a Racket writes about war-time profiteering:

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits – ah! that is another matter – twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent – the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let's get it.

Of course, it isn't put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and "we must all put our shoulders to the wheel," but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket – and are safely pocketed.

... here's how some of the other patriotic industrialists and speculators chiseled their way into war profits.

Take the shoe people. They like war. It brings business with abnormal profits. They made huge profits on sales abroad to our allies. Perhaps, like the munitions manufacturers and armament makers, they also sold to the enemy. For a dollar is a dollar whether it comes from Germany or from France. But they did well by Uncle Sam too. For instance, they sold Uncle Sam 35,000,000 pairs of hobnailed service shoes. There were 4,000,000 soldiers. Eight pairs, and more, to a soldier. My regiment during the war had only one pair to a soldier. Some of these shoes probably are still in existence. They were good shoes. But when the war was over Uncle Sam has a matter of 25,000,000 pairs left over. Bought – and paid for. Profits recorded and pocketed.

There was still lots of leather left. So the leather people sold your Uncle Sam hundreds of thousands of McClellan saddles for the cavalry. But there wasn't any American cavalry overseas! Somebody had to get rid of this leather, however. Somebody had to make a profit in it – so we had a lot of McClellan saddles. And we probably have those yet.

Having recently read Butler's scathing indictment of war, this informative Truthout article about Iraq-war contractor fraud suits suggests that we the people won't get the full story for many years:

Under the False Claims Act, a civil war era law, when an employee of a company thinks they have evidence that their company is defrauding the US government, the individual can file a lawsuit on behalf of the government against the contractor by filing a special lawsuit called a qui tam - a Latin abbreviation for "he who sues in this matter for the king as for himself."


Not a single qui tam case against war contractors has been joined by the Bush administration DOJ despite the possibility of recovering billions of dollars for the US taxpayer and reining in war profiteers, who continue to cheat and defraud the government and the US troops mired in battle.


A unique factor in qui tam suits is that even if the cases are unsuccessful or companies settle the lawsuits to avoid trial, the facts of the case are eventually made public. Therefore, the historical record on the most privatized military operation in US history has only begun to be written.


These qui tam cases must eventually be dealt with because the statute of limitations - the amount of time whistleblowers have to file their case - does not run out once the case has been filed. Whistleblowers have up to six years (if acting without DOJ backing) to file a qui tam case. This means that cases involving Iraq reconstruction fraud will continue to pile up for years after the last contractors leave the country.


"The administration is protecting its donor base - big pharmaceutical companies, big defense contractors, and they don't care about the little guy, the tax payer," [Don] Warren [a specialist in Qui Tam cases] said when asked why he thought the Bush administration would deliberately underfund white collar crime investigations.

"It doesn't make sense. Thirteen dollars is returned to the US treasury for every dollar spent on these prosecutions. It is the only government program that pays for itself 13 times over," he said.