Sunday, February 27, 2011

A revolution against neoliberalism? - Understanding what we are fighting

A revolution against neoliberalism? - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

This article on Aljazeera focuses on Egypt but could just as well help explain what is happening to the middle class anywhere in the US.

Here is a simple explanation of where we are going in this country:
What is neoliberalism? In his Brief History of Neoliberalism, the eminent social geographer David Harvey outlined "a theory of political economic practices that proposes that human well-being can best be advanced by liberating individual entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within an institutional framework characterised by strong private property rights, free markets, and free trade." Neoliberal states guarantee, by force if necessary, the "proper functioning" of markets; where markets do not exist (for example, in the use of land, water, education, health care, social security, or environmental pollution), then the state should create them.

Guaranteeing the sanctity of markets is supposed to be the limit of legitimate state functions, and state interventions should always be subordinate to markets. All human behavior, and not just the production of goods and services, can be reduced to market transactions.

And the application of utopian neoliberalism in the real world leads to deformed societies

In these societies the very rich have one foot in government and the other in big business so they are perfectly positioned to take of advantage of the privatization of government services.

Take this a step further to how Neoliberalism is implemented. The best example of this is Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine:

Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine — a searing indictment of neoliberalism which argues that the free-market fundamentalism promoted by economist Milton Friedman (and immensely influential in the United States) is predicated on restructuring economies in the wake of catastrophic disruptions because normally functioning societies and political systems would never vote for it. Disruptions can be natural or man-made, such as … revolutions.

The chapters in The Shock Doctrine on Poland, Russia, and South Africa make interesting reading in the context of Egypt’s revolution (and Wisconsin!). In each case when governments (communist or apartheid) collapsed, "technocrats" were brought in to help run countries that were suddenly without functional governments, and create the institutional infrastructure for their successors. The technocrats always seemed to have dispensed a form of what Klein calls "shock therapy" — the imposition of sweeping privatization programs before dazed populations could consider their options and potentially vote for less ideologically pure options that are in their own interests.

Our "Shock" has of course been the recent recession which is actually ongoing for Main Street and the working and middle classes. This opportunity to privatize is personified by the two Governor Scott's efforts to privatize and benefit their cronies (Koch and health care execs) as they proceed. It is so easy to think we are fighting against corrupt individuals or institutions when in reality we are fighting a whole ideology supported by a confluence of government and business including the media business. Its the System! We also need to realize that the Dems are also neoliberal including Clintons and Obama and this explains their disturbing positions on education and other public services.

Finally as Veterans we need to understand the Military's position. We can immediately see how the contractors fit into the picture but it goes further as you look at the huge sums invested in the Military that benefit private industry. The article addresses how the Egyptian military, now in charge, benefited from Neoliberalism under Mubarak:

Military spending itself was also lucrative because it included both a state budget and contracts with American companies that provided hardware and technical expertise. The United States provided much of the financing for this spending under rules that required a great deal of the money to be recycled to American corporations, but all such deals required middlemen. Who better to act as an intermediary for American foreign aid contracts than men from the very same military designated as the recipient of the services paid for by this aid? In this respect the Egyptian military-industrial complex was again stealing a page from the American playbook; indeed, to the extent that the Egyptian military benefited from American foreign aid, Egypt was part of the American military-industrial complex, which is famous for its revolving-door system of recycling retired military men as lobbyists and employees of defense contractors.

Again proximity to power translates into individual enrichment.

It may seem that the odds are totally against us (and they probably are). Our advantages are knowledge and numbers (and those numbers actually control our society with their work and services). So I see our strategy as being to get the word out of what is really happening. The media is part of the problem so we need to create our own media on the street corner and in print and online. As an educational institution this perfectly fits the VFP mission.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Drone Attacks: Yet Again, Terror War "Vital Tool" Revealed as Security Theater Prop | MyFDL

Drone Attacks: Yet Again, Terror War "Vital Tool" Revealed as Security Theater Prop | MyFDL:

From the Washington Post:

"CIA drone attacks in Pakistan killed at least 581 militants last year, according to independent estimates. The number of those militants noteworthy enough to appear on a U.S. list of most-wanted terrorists: two."

But these highly costly attacks (each missile launched, like its counterpart the cruise missile, costs a million dollars)are apparently not so essential after all:

Reports first started coming out on Sunday that there had been no drone attacks in northwest Pakistan since just a few days before Raymond Davis was captured in Lahore after killing two Pakistanis. Almost immediately after those reports came out, however, a new attack occurred Monday:

A U.S. drone strike killed at least seven people on Monday in a tribal region along Pakistan’s western border, local officials said, the first such attack in a month as a diplomatic feud strains U.S.-Pakistani ties.


It is the first time since January 23 that intelligence officials have reported a U.S. drone attack, marking a resumption of a campaign that has become the centerpiece of U.S. efforts to halt militants launching attacks on its soldiers in Afghanistan.

Many analysts believe Washington halted the attacks for weeks to avoid further inflaming anti-American fury in Pakistan just as it pressures Islamabad to release Raymond Davis, a U.S.consulate employee imprisoned after shooting two Pakistanis last month in what he said was an attempted robbery.

The article probes further into how the drone program evolved from targeting high-level operatives to the current claim of “foot soldiers” being targeted:

Experts who track the strikes closely said a program that began with intermittent lethal attacks on al-Qaeda leaders has evolved into a campaign that seems primarily focused on lower-level fighters. Peter Bergen, a director at the New America Foundation, said data on the strikes indicate that 94 percent of those killed are lower-level militants.

“I think it’s hard to make the case that the 94 percent cohort threaten the United States in some way,” Bergen said. “There’s been very little focus on that question from a human rights perspective. Targeted killings are about leaders – it shouldn’t be a blanket dispensation.”

Bearing witness to the “all war, all the time” attitude of the Obama administration, the government responds to the accusation:

“This effort has evolved because our intelligence has improved greatly over the years, and we’re able to identify not just senior terrorists, but also al-Qaeda foot soldiers who are planning attacks on our homeland and our troops in Afghanistan,” said a U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the classified program.

“We would be remiss if we didn’t go after people who have American blood on their hands,” the official said. “To use a military analogy, if you’re only going after the generals, you’re likely to be run over by tanks.”

During this month-long hiatus in killing foot soldiers, there doesn’t seem to have been a dramatic increase in attacks on US personnel near the Pakistan border in Afghanistan, so how can the drone attacks be as vital as the government claims? In the meantime, the military contractors certainly reap rewards from the program, as each of the drone strikes (now at over 100 per year) costs the government over $1 million.

So how do we decide who is killed by this "essential defense"?

How depraved has our government become when “analysts” in Pakistan and on US bases work together to sit in judgment on “foot soldiers” arbitrarily deemed guilty from afar and then execute them without detention and trial? Now, heaped on that offense is the realization that all of this is for show, because it can be switched on and off depending on how much political “heat” is on the program.

So the US continues its contortions as the "Leader of Democracy" and enforces its high ideals by illegal wars, detentions, torture and summary execution no longer reserved for high values leaders. The victims of these attack are now chosen by a judge and jury consisting of intelligence analysts who are no doubt advised by the military contractors who profit from the drone operation in the first place.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dear Poor People, Thank You for Going Without Heat So We Can Buy Another Week of War | FDL Action

Dear Poor People, Thank You for Going Without Heat So We Can Buy Another Week of War | FDL Action

Note the trade off here: After one of the coldest winters recorded and with climate models predicting more of the same we choose to fund war over heat for the poor. Here are the details. Do the Math! To help you I bold printed the information you will need.

Your president is planning to cut $2.6 billion from Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which helps people afford keeping their homes warm during the winter, despite the fact that due to the economic downturn the number of poor people needing help has increased significantly.

As a result of your going without heat next winter, we will be able to afford almost one whole week of fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which cost about $468 million a day. Although when you add in the many hidden costs like increased long-term veteran’s health care due to the conflicts, your sacrifice is probably only really going to cover maybe half a week.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Joining The Tea Party on civil liberties - Our last best hope? - Glenn Greenwald -

The Tea Party and civil liberties - Glenn Greenwald -
It's long been clear that the best (and perhaps only) political hope for civil liberties in the U.S. is an alliance that transcends the standard Democrat v. GOP or left v. right dichotomies. Last night's surprising (and temporary) failure of the House to extend some of the most controversial powers of the Patriot Act -- an extension jointly championed by the House GOP leadership and the Obama White House -- perfectly illustrates why this is true.

or most civil liberties incursions over the last decade, there's been at least some glimmer of opposition on the Left -- exemplified by people like Russ Feingold in the Senate and the Congressional Black Caucus and Dennis Kucinich in the House. But they've been easily overwhelmed by the civil-liberties-hating mainstream of the Democratic Party, and particularly hampered by the lack of any meaningful partners on the Right (where Ron Paul has been a solitary voice on such matters).

on the very same day that the Obama White House demanded that Egypt repeal its 30-year-old "emergency law," it also demanded enactment of the House GOP's proposal to extend America's own emergency law -- the Patriot Act -- for three more years with no new oversight (the White House actually wants a longer extension than the House GOP is willing to support).

what happened last night highlights the potential to subvert the two-party stranglehold on these issues -- through a left-right alliance that opposes the Washington insiders who rule both parties. So confident was the House GOP leadership in commanding bipartisan support that they put the Patriot Act extension up for a vote using a fast-track procedure that prohibits debate and amendments and, in return, requires 2/3 approval. But 26 of the most conservative Republicans -- including several of the newly elected "Tea Party" members -- joined the majority of Democratic House members in voting against the extension, and it thus fell 7 votes short.

Rachel Maddow last night pointed out that there is a split on the Right -- at least a rhetorical one -- between what she called "authoritarian conservatives" and "libertarian conservatives." At some point, the dogmatic emphasis on limited state power, not trusting the Federal Government, and individual liberties -- all staples of right-wing political propaganda, especially Tea Party sloganeering -- has to conflict with things like oversight-free federal domestic surveillance, limitless government detention powers, and impenetrable secrecy (to say nothing of exploiting state power to advance culture war aims). Not even our political culture can sustain contradictions as egregious as (a) reading reverently from the Constitution and venerating limits on federal power, and then (b) voting to vest the Federal Government with extraordinary powers of oversight-free surveillance aimed at the American people. This was the contradiction which Dennis Kucinich smartly exploited when challenging the Tea Party to join him in opposing the Patriot Act's extension:

More on a left right alliance on Afghanistan with Rachel's show stringing together a series of breathtaking videos showing Republican congressmen opposing the Afghanistan War below:

What about it? Should we join forces here?

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thursday, February 10, 2011

VA & HUD Issue First-Ever Report on Homeless Veterans : Veterans Today

VA & HUD Issue First-Ever Report on Homeless Veterans : Veterans Today: "For the first time, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development today published the most authoritative analysis of the extent and nature of homelessness among Veterans. According to HUD and VA’s assessment, nearly 76,000 Veterans were homeless on a given night in 2009 while roughly 136,000 Veterans spent at least one night in a shelter during that year."

Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness

* More than 3,000 cities and counties reported 75,609 homeless Veterans on a single night in January of 2009; 57 percent were staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program while the remaining 43 percent were unsheltered. Veterans represent approximately 12 percent of all homeless persons counted nationwide during the 2009 ‘point-in-time snapshot.’
* During a 12-month period in 2009, an estimated 136,000 Veterans—or about 1 in every 168 Veterans—spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. The vast majority of sheltered homeless Veterans (96 percent) experienced homelessness alone while a much smaller share (four percent) was part of a family. Sheltered homeless Veterans are most often individual white men between the ages of 31 and 50 and living with a disability.
* Low-income Veterans are twice as likely to become homeless compared to all low-income adults. HUD and VA also examined the likelihood of becoming homeless among American Veterans with particular demographic characteristics. In 2009, twice as many poor Hispanic Veterans used a shelter at some point during the year compared with poor non-Hispanic Veterans. African American Veterans in poverty had similar rates of homelessness.
* Most Veterans who used emergency shelter stayed for only brief periods. One-third stayed in shelter for less than one week; 61 percent used a shelter for less than one month; and 84% stayed for less than three months. The report also concluded that Veterans remained in shelters longer than did non-Veterans. In 2009, the median length of stay for Veterans who were alone was 21 days in an emergency shelter and 117 days in transitional housing. By contrast, non-veteran individuals stayed in an emergency shelter for 17 days and 106 days in transitional housing.
* Nearly half of homeless Veterans were located in California, Texas, New York and Florida while only 28 percent of all Veterans were located in those same four States.
* The report studied the path homeless Veterans take into the shelter system and found most Veterans come from another homeless location and few entered the shelter system from their own housing or from housing provided by family or friends.
* Sheltered homeless Veterans are far more likely to be alone rather than part of a family household; 96 percent of Veterans are individuals compared to 63 percent in the overall homeless population.

For more information on VA’s efforts to end homelessness among Veterans, visit VA’s Web page at

Monday, February 7, 2011

The "Manufactured Safety" Of Egypt's Army - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

The "Manufactured Safety" Of Egypt's Army - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan

Analysis of the position of the Egyptian Army describes the military elites as wanting before all else to "maintain its access to the treasury". And of course that treasury is well supplied by US Taxpayers to the tune of 1.5 Billion dollars a year in the form of US manufactured Arms. Public Radio did an interesting report this morning on the relationship between Egyptian paid lobbyists, US congress members and the Arms industry when the Egyptian Generals come shopping every year. Although there are threats by the US to cut this budget, what they would actually be doing is cutting the incomes of some of the giants of the military industrial complex such as General Electric and McDonnell Douglass whose influence is not to be trifled with in the Halls of Government. So where does this backdrop of unholy alliances leave the Egyptian people protesting in Cairo and the American taxpayer, largely preoccupied by the Superbowl back home? Not in a very hopeful place I fear.