Saturday, September 4, 2010

Truer words are seldom spoke or wrote

Over at Counterpunch, Ron Jacobs reviews David Zirin's latest book: Bad Sports, How Owners Are Ruining the Games We Love. The following quote form the Jacobs piece is a more useful elucidation of the path that the too-big-to-fail corptocracies in America have been following for the last few disastrous year:

The pursuit of profit is the primary motivation for professional sports teams just as it is for Lockheed Martin or the Bank of America. It doesn't matter how that profit is made--TV revenues and overpriced tickets, imperial war or the selling of derivatives--just as long as it is made. The customer is not important, only their money. Once they no longer have any money, those customers become as expendable as a bank employee after a takeover. Then, when corporate failure seems imminent because of these profitmaking activities, taxpayer money is provided to help said corporation continue its same pattern.

Your tax dollars - hardly at work

The following excertpted material comes from Pratap Chatterjee's book Halliburton's Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War.

In June 2004, another group of whistle-blowers came forward to testify before the Committee on Overishgt and government Reform at the U.S. House of Representatives, but Tom Dais refused to allow them to speak, so Waxman placed the testimony on his Web site.

One testimonial came from Mike West, who said that prior to Halliburton/KBR, he had been working as an area manager for Valero Energy with a yearly salary of $70,000. "When i heard about a chance to earn more with Halliburton, I called them up," he said. "After just a few minutes, the woman said I was hired as a labor foreman at a salary of $130,000. I didn't even have to send in a resume."

When he arrived, West explained he was paid despite the fact that he had no work. "I worked only one day out of six in Kuwait," he explained. "That day, a supervosor told me to operate a forklift. I explained taht I didn't ahve a license, or any experience, to operate a florklift. The response was: 'It's easy and no one will know."

When West got to Camp Anaconda in southern Iraq, he ways that he didn't have any work to do. Nor did most of the other thirty-five workers. The supervisors told them to walk around and look busy. Then they went to a camp in Al Asad, where they had only one day of work out of five days. They were told to bill for twelve hours of labor every day. From there, his group was sent to Fallujah for six weeeks, where once again he had almost no work to do except help with security and follow Iraqi workers around to make sure they cleaned the toilets properly.

"One day, I was ordering some equipment," West said. "I asked the camp manager if it was okay to order a drill. He said to order four. I responded that we didn't need four. He said: 'Don't worry about it. It's a cost-plus contract.' I asked him, 'So basically, this is a blank check?' the manager laughed and said, 'Yeah.' He repeated this over and over again to the employees. ... As a Halliburton employee, I was disappointed by all of the company's lies and disorganization. As a taxpayer, I'm disgusted by all of the money spent by Halliburton to pay employees to do nothing."

Friday, September 3, 2010

Do you remember when

Do you remember when Presidential candidate could run on a platform to END a US war and win the election? It's happened thrice in my lifetime.

Eisenhower vowed to end the fighting in Korea. And he did it! Pretty damn promptly too once he assumed office.

Nixon claimed to have a secret plan to end the American invasion and occupation of Vietnam with honor, no less! And the plan was so secret, he never shared it during the election campaign, nor after taking office. However, a mere four years and 20,000 dead American soldiers later. (Of course, some Vietnamese died in the interim also, but, as any student of American history is well aware, their dead don't count; only ours do.)

A pattern emerges. A republican Presidential candidate can run on a platform of ending an unpopular war and win the election.

Well, there was another time when a Presidential candidate ran on a platform of ending a war and won the election. That would be in 2008, when Hope, and Change, and Yes We Can, ran - and promised ... to end the War in Iraq because, we we needed to take the fight to Al Queda (perhaps the Taliban to) in the Af-Pak "theater." Besides, when you are fighting a "War on Terrorism", moving the fight from one country to another is NOT the ending of the war upon "those who would wish us harm", but merely a continuation of more of the same.

So, I take it back. It has not happened thrice, only twice.

I guess the only hope of ever ending the war on terrorism is to elect a Republican President. But, we must make sure that it is a Republican President who promises to end the war on terrorism (and having a secret plan up his sleeve, ala Nixon, will really NOT be good enough).

The Democrats ought to be terrified of a Republican Presidential Candidate who would promise to stop fighting the war on terror. (And just use the policing forces of the world to bring terrorists to justice.)

I'd vote for that candidate. Well, I'd really want such a candidate to have the credentials of an Eisenhower. To wit, have been a real former army general who actually WON a war against a real enemy.

Here is what winning a war looks like: take Japan and Germany as models. In winning the war against Japan and Germany note the following:

(1) U.S. forces continue to occupy those countries to this very day, 65 years after the BIG one ended.

(2) U.S. oversaw the writing of the respective constitutions.

(3) The populations of the defeated countries accept U.S. occupations without waging insurgency upon the U.S. armed forces.

I'd vote for such a candidate in a heart beat.

The list of such candidates is quite short. David Petreaus is not upon it.

No more combat troops in Iraq

Watched the early part of the bland President Obama's speech on Tuesday. Wondering if I am alone in my assessment that this address lacked the vim, vigor, and vitality of his "yes we can" campaign stump speeches, and wondering further why that might be. Is it possible that he understood full well the depths lies he was feeding to the American people? That he has no real enthusiasm for spewing such obfuscations? Or perhaps that the weight of the burdens of his office are hanging ever more heavily upon him?

The particular lie I address is that he, as promised in his campaign, had withdrawn the last of the "combat troops" from Iraq. Message to President Barack Obama: Thanks to the revolution in military affairs as perceived by for SecDef Donald Rumsfeld, ALL American troops are combat troops. Such functions (formerly performed by the army) as feeding the troops, cleaning up after the troops, installing lodging, electrical systems, and installing a whole host of Americanized shopping venues for the troops, installing latrines and emptying the latrines for the troops etc., etc., have been contracted out to Halliburton on a "cost plus profit" basis. The purpose of this "revolution in military affairs" is so that the US soldier can focus on fighting.

While the MISSION of the remaining 50,000 US troops may be limited to the further training of the Iraqi Army, that in no way means that these troops are not combat troops.

Perhaps this rhetorical slight of mouth will convince the Obama Kool-Aid drinkers that he hath kept his campaign promise; the throwing of "red meat" to his base. Although the throwing of spoiled bologna is, to my view, a more apt metaphor. What Obama has primarily given to his voting base (as opposed to the constituency which must be placated, the banksters, insurance and pharmacological interests, and the real estate industry) is the kind of thing that trickles down when a man stands facing a urinal. Which was pretty much always the point of trickle down economics.

As for the promise that there will be a complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by the end of 2011? The phrase "US troops" is weasel words. Even IF US troops have all withdrawn from Iraq, who will be left to provide security for the Green Zone which houses the largest "embassy" in the world? Mercenaries will be the answer. Welcome back Blackwater (Xe), welcome back Vinnell, et al.

All this reminds me of one of the two most well-known Native American expressions from my boyhood (the other "ugh", upon reflection, would be an entirely appropriate response to the Bland One's address): President Obama speaks with forked tongue.

And, one way or another, amongst the haves, the have nots, and the have mores, we are all pretty much forked. Although, for the have yatchs, provided they have been prudent enough to keep the Bernie Madoffs of the investment worlds away from their fortunes, these times continue to be, a continuation of pretty good times, rolling triumphantly ever quicker apace along the road back to serfdom.