Friday, April 28, 2006

Canadian Health Care - Broken or Needs a Tune-up?

I am continuously amazed at how many believe that a single payer healthcare system is too expensive and somehow destructive towards our democracy. The idea that single-payer healthcare is bad is a myth perpetrated by those who, intentionally or unintentionally, misrepresent the facts.

Our healthcare system is in trouble. The rising cost of healthcare is slowing strangling our spending power and causing the average citizen to use more savings and discretionary cash to pay for healthcare. Yet the executive officer of UnitedHealth Group Inc., one of the nation's largest health-care companies has earned $8 million a year in pay and bonuses; and according to United's proxy statement, he has unrealized gains on his company stock which total $1.6 billion. Yes, 1.6 billion dollars.

In 2004 U.S. health-care spending topped $1.9 trillion. About one-third of that is spent on administrative costs, about one-third is profit. The profit and administrative cost (which includes CEO perks, gulfstream jets, gold plated faucets, etc.) is money not spent on healthcare. In the same year, total national health expenditures rose 7.9 percent; that’s over three times the rate of inflation! Total health care spending represented 16 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). In 2005, employer health insurance premiums increased by 9.2 percent - nearly three times the rate of inflation again!

The annual premium for an employer health plan in 2005 covering a family of four averaged is nearly $11,000 – this is usually split between the employer and employee. Incidentally these costs do not include the addition expense of co-pays and prescription drugs.
The annual premium for single coverage averaged over $4,000. U.S. health care spending is expected to increase at similar levels for the next decade reaching $4 TRILLION in 2015, or 20 percent of GDP.

Source for statistics

In contrast, a national tax-financed system would hold down costs and avoid such excesses. In 2004, Canadians spent $131 billion - a little over $4,000 total per person. In 2003 Canadians spent $121 billion on their healthcare system. In 2005, Canada’s health care spending is expected to reach $142.0 billion. Still significantly lower than the United States. The reason for the lower cost per person is that there is no profit motive in the Canadian system. While there is certainly room for improvement in Canada’s healthcare system; surveys show that 80 per cent of Canadians are satisfied with their access to the health care system. Still many experience long waits to see a specialist. Also, many complain that the wait is too long to get diagnostic tests and undergo elective surgery. And many others find themselves facing huge bills for prescription drugs they need to survive. There is no question that the Canadian healthcare system can improve. In fact, the Canadians are addressing the long wait times and other quality of service issues that pester their citizens.
For more on this go here.

Again the system in Canada is not perfect, but all of her citizens are covered and all have basic healthcare. This is not the case in the United States. The United States has the highest amount of uninsured in all of the Industrialized Nations at 45 million uninsured citizens. That’s more citizen’s uninsured than live in all of Canada.The bottom line is simple, the profit motive in healthcare is killing us slowly. The administrative costs and profits are too high to sustain. For instance every $100 dollars spent in Medicare there is $3.00 is spent on administrative costs. In contrast, for every $100 spent for medical insurance coverage $14.oo is spent on "administration"

Just imagine how our economy will benefit if the average citizen no longer has to pay $11, 000.00 for healthcare. The money saved could improve our savings rate, empower the consumer with more spending cash and improve employee compensation. An injection of this sort will stimulate our economy better than any tax cuts ever could.If our healthcare costs were even half or our current costs per person, all of us would be better off, have more of our money to spend and create more demand for new products and new businesses. However, If the current trends continue, non of us in the United States will be able to afford healthcare insurance; except of course the CEO’s who are compensated because of our lack of foresight.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Health Care and Poverty

The United States does not have the best health care system in the world. The profit motive has ensured that in the United States health care system there is more profit in a pound of cure than an ounce of prevention. Many believe that the U.S. leads the world in its delivery of health care to its citizens, but this is a false assumption. In fact the United States rates 37th in health care delivery in all of the worlds industrialized nations. While it’s true that the U.S. does lead the world in emergency care, these advancements do not translate into better over all care for its citizens.

The United States does however lead the industrialized nations in poverty and income inequity . The disparity of income is the highest in the industrialized world and the root of the poor health care delivery model. In the simplest terms, many cannot afford the exorbitant cost of health care and without healthcare insurance. A person is completely vulnerable to the enormous cost of health care. This condition, economic disparity, may explain the growing number of American citizens, over 45 million, who do not have health care coverage. And as the number of uninsured citizens grow, the cost of health care delivery rises, in part because the citizens who are covered with a health insurance plan must make up the financial difference of those who are not covered by health insurance.

But the healthcare debate in the U.S. is at a stalemate. While conservatives and liberals decide on a delivery model, the cost of care continues to rise. Conservatives think the U.S. health care system needs reform because there is too much government involvement in health care; liberals because there is not enough. Most of this dissatisfaction stems from the high expense and unavailability of U.S. health care to its most vulnerable citizens. During the 1993 debate on health care reform, polls consistently showed that two-thirds of all Americans supported the idea of universal coverage. Of the 10 largest industrialized nations, the U.S. ranked dead last in health care satisfaction, with an approval rating of only 11 percent.

The root of the problem is poverty. The United States leads the world in emergency care., but we fall flat where health care is most important – prevention and maintenance. It’s not a coincidence that many of our poorest are the ones who suffer the most under our health care system. The link between being poor and living an unhealthy live style has been well established. Political scientist Jeffrey Reiman writes: "Less money means less nutritious food, less heat in winter, less fresh air in summer, less distance from sick people, less knowledge about illness or medicine, fewer doctor visits, fewer dental visits, less preventative care, and above all else, less first-quality medical attention when all these other deprivations take their toll and a poor person finds himself seriously ill”. - The Rich Get Richer And the Poor Get Prison

The European nations have done much to reduce poverty within their borders. In Europe during the last century, life expectancy doubled after governments purified their drinking water, created modern sanitation systems and reduced poverty. In America during this century, the highest cancer rates are found in neighborhoods within the chemical industry, most of those neighborhoods are poor. A healthy diet and exercise provide better health than most medicines in many circumstances, yet our poor continue to eat low cost food which are high in fat, calories and cholesterol. Other nations have realized that factors outside the hospital are more important than factors inside it, and have used this wisdom to lower their health care costs.

If the United States does not want to continue to fall behind our European neighbors in quality of life , then we must pass a universal health care initiative and reduce poverty. According to the University of Michigan Poverty Center, in 2004, 12.7 percent of all persons lived in poverty. In 1993 the poverty rate was 15.1 percent. Between 1993 and 2000, the poverty rate fell each year, reaching 11.3 percent in 2000. Poverty has risen in each of the last four years. Children represent a disproportionate share of the poor in the United States; they are 25 percent of the total population, but 35 percent of the poor population. In 2004, 13 million children, or 17.8 percent, were poor.

The poverty trend must be reversed, or it will continue to grow. The cure for poverty is not going to be easy, there is no silver bullet, but it must begin. We can start by rebuilding our industrial base to provide good paying jobs for those in poverty. There are millions of people who will be left behind as our economy “evolves” into a service driven, education dependent economy. Many have fallen though the cracks already. We must do more to protect our industries from unfair competition and overseas monopolies, both drive our wages down and lower our standard of living for the working poor.

Also, we must make education more available for the poorest among us. This will improve their social standing and job marketability. We must change our perception about health care, health care must be a universal right, not a privilege for those who can afford it.
The cost for these initiatives will not be cheap, or easy to implement. But the side effects of economic disparity will not disappear without intervention. I believe that our government can find compromise on these issues and thereby legislature a solution the problem of inadequate health care and disparity of wealth. As poverty continues to expand, as healthcare continues become out of reach and as more and more people are disenfranchised by globalization; our troubles will grow.

How can we afford not to intervene?

Monday, April 24, 2006

April 20, 1818 Congress ushers in protectionism

On this day in 1818, Congress heeded President James Monroe's call to uphold the fiscal integrity of domestic industry and gave the green light to sharply protectionist tariff legislation. Not only did the tariff hike duties on iron imports, but it also put the breaks on an anticipated decrease in the levy charged on textiles. Moreover, the tariff legislation marked another chapter in America's long romance with protectionist policies. Indeed, from the time of its birth as a nation, the United States routinely adopted legislation designed to steel its producers' power in the international marketplace.

In the years following the tariff of 1818, America's fondness for tariffs grew especially pronounced; by the 1820s, duties climbed to unprecedented levels. America's proclivity for protectionism faded by the early to mid-twentieth century, when the Depression and World War II prompted U.S. leaders, including President Franklin Roosevelt, to shift to a more liberal fiscal course and open the doors to international trade. ( Source )

Commentary - It's not a coincedence that the United States led the world in textiles and steel production as a result of thses initiatives until the Reagan era. We were able to produce the best, and though expensive, the world wanted our products because of our high quality.We can be competitive under tariffs.The article suggest that the door to "free trade" was opened durring the Depression and the Post World War Two period, but this is not entirly true. The door was cracked open durring the New Deal era. The door to so-called free trade was opened more durring the Reagan / Bush administation, then kicked in by President Clinton when he signed NAFTA, GATT and WTO. Until President Clinton sold us out, an American could earn a decent living at a textile mill ( average $14.35 per hour) , now the mills are in China were a living wage is $.80 per hour.

We cannot possibly compete with this wage differential.
Abstract Economic Growth

A recent Zogby poll about the economy suggest that the American citizen is not quite as optimistic about our economic growth as the Bush Administration or the Republican Party. I've noted in previous posts and comment sessions that the guages which we use to determine the economic growth in our country are misleading. For instance, according to the Economic Policy Institute, the unemployment rate does not accurately measure tightness in the labor market. The unprecedented 26-month decline in new jobs from March 2001 to May 2003 in addition to the sluggish job growth since has caused many people simply to withdraw from the labor force. These people are no longer counted as unemployed.

The employment rate, that is the ratio of employed workers to the country's working-age population, is more indicative of a better measuring tool to the sustainability of the labor market for the 227 million people now of legal age to work. The employment rate in this category fell from 64.3% in early 2001 to 62.8% in late 2005. If the employment rate had recovered to its March 2001 level, an additional 3.4 million people would be employed today.There is also sluggish job growth compared to historical standards. Last year's 2 million new jobs represented a gain of 1.5%; this is far below historical norms.

In fact, it is less than half of the average growth rate of 3.5% for the same stage of previous business cycles that lasted as long. At that pace, the average growth rate, we would have created 4.6 million jobs last year. Despite the fact that 2005 marked the fourth year of an economic expansion characterized by strong productivity growth, the inflation-adjusted wages of most workers' fell last year. The median worker's wage fell by 1.3%. The decline was even greater for those at the very bottom end of the wage scale, who saw their real wages fall by 1.9%. Only those at the very top of the wage scale had wage growth that outpaced inflation. Also the cost of health care has consistently outpaced the rate of wage growth for the past several years. (Source)

And then there are the tax cuts, over 700 billion in tax readjustment since 2000 yet we see little evidence that the tax giveaways provided any significant economic growth or stimulation. In fact, tax cuts, dividend returns and corporate profits do little to create jobs in our economy. What creates jobs is demand, innovation and risk. Demand for a product, innovation to provide the product and the risk to get the product to market. The majority of small business which largely stimulate our economy and provide jobs for the masses were not started with large amounts of capital. Most small businesses are started at a deficit, on credit cards, with mortgage equity loans, personal savings or government loans. In 2005, small businesses received nearly 100,000 U.S. Government small-business loans, according to Small Business Center. Many of our successful large businesses (Microsoft, Macintosh, and Cisco) stared this way – small ventures with high risk. The key motivation is demand, not profit. Profits generate capital, demand creates new jobs. Washington doesn’t seem to understand this dynamic. Our representatives continue to deliver a model (Trickle Down Economics Theory) which has failed to deliver a significant amount of new jobs, innovation or new industry.

What is the cause of the disconnect between the government’s and citizen view of the economy? The lives of millions of working Americans have been affected by the negative side effects of Globalization, corporate downsizing and lack luster economic growth on a personal level - our citizens have negative savings accounts and high consumer debt.
Additionally there are other disconnects which are causing Washington to seem “out of touch” with the average American’s perception of real world- kitchen table economics. Slow job growth, lack of good paying jobs, tax cuts which produce little stimulation and a high cost of living for the majority of working Americans, ie. fuel, health care, energy, etc. The American people are growing tired of supply-side Trickle Down Economics. If our politicians are truly interested in knowing how our economy is performing, perhaps they should ask the average citizen consumer, not the wealthy investor how things are going.

Joke: An "acceptable" level of unemployment means that the government economist to whom it is acceptable still has a job.

Friday, April 21, 2006

This report was produced by the Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine. It was release in May 2004. Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is a non-profit association of almost 300 pro-consumer groups, with a combined membership of 50 million, which was founded in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through advocacy and education.

An increase in world demand on crude oil aside, the facts of this report are difficult to deny. The Consumer's Union has no reason to withhold the truth of this report nor do they have any interest in manipulating the facts.

Consumers Gouged, Oil Industry Enriched, As Gasoline And Natural Gas Prices Increase By $250 Billion Since January 2000 (Source)

(Washington, D.C.) – Domestic petroleum companies have stuck U.S. gasoline and natural gas consumers with about $250 billion in price hikes since January 2000, resulting in an increase in after-tax windfall profits of $50 to $80 billion to the industry, a report released today by the Consumer Federation of America and Consumers Union concluded. The groups are calling on federal and state authorities to investigate oil company price manipulation as one way to bring prices down to more reasonable levels in the near terms and a strong commitment to increased fuel efficiency in the automobile fleet for the long term.

The report, entitled Fueling Profits: Industry Consolidation, Excess Profits & Federal Neglect, Domestic Causes of Recent Gasoline and Natural Gas Price Shocks, shows While OPEC has taken a bite out of consumer’ pocketbooks, domestic companies have taken about three quarters of the price increases since January 2000. The report attributes about half of the price increases to changes in domestic pricing behavior that was created by a wave of mergers that swept through the industry in the past decade.

“The industry became concentrated in the hands of a few vertically integrated companies and allowed domestic oil companies shut down refineries, reduce stocks, and exploit markets when they become tight,” said Mark Cooper, CFA’s Director of Research. “Since these price increases were about padding the corporate bottom line, not about responding to increased costs, petroleum industry profits have risen to record highs over the period.

“Based on results from the first quarter of this year, domestic petroleum industry profits are headed for another record with refining and marketing profits up about 50 percent compared to the first quarter of 2003, Cooper added.”

The report shows a dramatic increase in household energy bills for petroleum products:

Taken together and averaged across all households, expenditures for gasoline, heating oil and natural gas in 1999 accounted for about $1,400 per year of total household expenditures. Price increases over the past four years for these residential items added about $350 per household per year, meaning that domestic energy price shocks have increased household energy bills by 25 percent.

A comparison between 1999 and 2003 is even more dramatic – a $500 increase in average annual household expenditures for these petroleum products, which represents a jump of over 35 percent.

“Consumers have paid the price for increasing the profitability of the domestic oil industry,” said Adam Goldberg, a policy analyst in Consumers Union’s Washington office. “It’s time for the Bush Administration to step up and take some action to help out consumers at the pump and at home.”
In response, the groups called for :

Federal and state law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute domestic oil companies that violate the law. Such investigations will likely modify the companies’ behavior when it comes to pricing.

Congress to consider instituting a windfall profits tax, thus taking the incentive out of manipulating supplies to increase profits. In addition, policymakers should increase market flexibility by expanding fuel stocks through tax incentives to hold and draw down supplies in the face of price increases, mandatory stock requirements as a percentage of sales, and/or government owned/privately operated supplies.

Congress to increase automobile fuel efficiency standards at the rate achieved in the 1980s, and increase refinery capacity through expansion at existing refineries or redevelopment of the refineries closed in the past decade.

Promote a more competitive industry by preventing further consolidation through vigorous enforcement of the Department of Justice Merger Guidelines. Also, expose those companies that withhold supplies up to intense public and governmental scrutiny through a joint federal state task force of attorney’s general, and prevent manipulation of commodity markets.

“These policies would build a much more competitive and consumer-friendly energy market in this country for a lot less than the $250 billion consumers already have handed over to the oil companies,” Cooper concluded. “The $20 billion that the energy bill would give to the oil industry would be better spent as a down payment on a long- term commitment to reduce demand and increase domestic market flexibility.”

Click here to view a copy of the report.

Not a lot of time for blogging today. Instead, some well deserved humor.

Kerry Makes Whistle-Stop Tour From Deck Of Yacht
February 18, 2004 The Onion Issue 40•07

LANCASTER, PA—Democratic frontrunner Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) began a seven-day, eight-state whistle-stop tour Monday, addressing a group of Frigidaire factory workers from the all-teak deck of his 60-foot luxury motor cruiser.
Kerry waves down to a crowd of supporters.

"George W. Bush put tax cuts for the wealthy and special favors for the special interests before our economic future," Kerry told the crowd gathered below the starboard side of The Real Deal II. "I will fight to restore the three million jobs that have been lost on the president's watch. It's time America got back to work."
Campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said Kerry's whistle-stop tour is scheduled to take him through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and on to six Midwestern states at an average speed of 26 knots.
Apart from a brief detour into Lake Michigan between Milwaukee and Chicago, the yacht will travel exclusively on land, attached to a drydock-mounting slip atop a highway-legal flatbed trailer.
Kerry's stump speech, which he delivered through the yacht's PA system, ignored his Democratic rivals and focused instead on the current administration's economic record.
"Bush has the worst jobs record of the last 11 presidents," said Kerry, his hand draped over the flagpole halyard. "Landing on an aircraft carrier doesn't make up for failed economic policy. The American people need jobs to buy food for their families, to secure health insurance for their children, and to pay the mortgages on their houses."
"Unlike the Republicans, I know it's you, the American worker, that keeps this country running," said Kerry, who then tipped his captain's hat to the crowd.
Federal Election Commission records show that Kerry purchased The Real Deal II in December 2003 for $2.5 million. The Kerry campaign's 2003 fourth-quarter filings show that the yacht required $200,000 of work to prepare it for the Midwest campaign voyage. Repairs included a tune-up of the vessel's twin diesel engine, the installation of a Navman color GPS-plotting navigation system, and the addition of red, white, and blue detailing to the yacht's leather interior.
"John Kerry wanted to get out there, connect with the people, and hear their stories," Cahill said in a press conference held in the main cabin. "Taking his yacht across the Midwest is the best way for Kerry to reach out to all the people who lost their jobs under George W. Bush."
"There's no better place to have a good conversation than on the deck of a fine sailing vessel, out there in the sunshine, with the gentle breeze playing in your hair," Cahill said. "It's beautiful up there."
Cahill said she hopes the yacht will appeal to independent voters, who may decide the election in November.
An additional benefit of campaigning in the craft is that it affords Kerry the opportunity to make unexpected stops along the campaign trail, simply by alerting the convoy with his International Maritime Signal Flags.
"What's John Kerry all about?" said Kerry, addressing a small group of supporters that he spotted at a rest stop on Interstate 76. "John Kerry believes in affordable health care, renewable energy, decisive foreign policy, and economic recovery. I'm putting that message on my yacht and taking it all the way across America."
Kerry continued: "We're going to sail The Real Deal II right up onto the White House lawn and tell them, 'The American people have arrived to take back their government.'"
U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), a Kerry supporter who has been traveling on-and-off with the candidate since January, said that the whistle-stop tour demonstrates Kerry's commitment to the country.
"People tried to write this campaign off last year, but he kept going full steam ahead, because he cares about the proud men and women of this nation," Kennedy said. "He's going to go all the way in November, like the little yacht that could."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Rising Fuel Costs - Profits for the Wealthy

This morning I sent this letter to my Federal Congressman (Bill Young) and my two Federal Senators (Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez).
The tone is slightly acrimonious, but I was still angry about paying so much for an essential element - fuel for my car.

I'll post the results as I receive them.

Dear Represenative,

This morning while driving to work I had to make a displeasing pit stop to purchase fuel for my car. My car is relatively fuel efficient so fortunately I only need to purchase fuel about twice a month – lucky for me.

The cost of fuel this morning was over $50.00. Yes, I have a fuel efficient car, with a 17 gallon tank and the cost of fuel is over $50.00. Three weeks ago the cost for filling my tank was around $30.00. The difference may not seem like much to you, given your salary and other benefits. But for us, the working people of America, $20.00 is the difference that keeps our economy moving.

The additional amount that I am spending on fuel this month is coming from my discretionary income. This is money that I would spend in a restaurant, in a department store, for admission to a theatre, zoo or museum. This is money that supports jobs in my local community, money that supports the tax base which keeps our roads safe and our schools functioning efficiently. This fairly small amount of money, when added exponentially by each person purchasing fuel, becomes economically significant at the macro level.

So my questions are:
What are you doing to control the rising fuel prices? Why isn’t Congress doing more as an oversight body to control the rising fuel costs? Why isn’t Congress protecting the American middle and working classes from price gauging?
With the profits in the oil industry breaking records, the CEO of Mobil earning over $69,000,000 last year, and the price of fuel rising with little or no justification; Congress should be as outraged as I am!
Please consider this issue in-depth and consider helping the average American with this additional economic burden. Since it is us who keep this economy moving, not the CEO or wealthy investors, it’s time to act.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Lesson One:
Do Not Make War Against Abstract Nouns

I find, in my personal experience, that when conservatives and liberals are in agreement on a topic, the truth of that topic is difficult to deny. As America finds itself quagmired by the so-called War on Terror, Liberals and Conservatives are agreeing more, each day that our troops are in Iraq, with the notion that this War on Terror is an ineffective way to destroy and neutralize our enemies. There is a new book on the shelves which supports the position that the War on Terror is an insufficinet, phony attempt at peace and that the Bush Administration is wasting our precious resources by declaring war on an abstract noun - Terrorism.

The author, Angelo M. Codevilla, is not a left wing pundant nor a liberal elitist academic. He's the chief editor of the American Spectator, Professor of International Relation at Boston University, and a true conservative by his own admission.

In his new book No Victory No Peace, Angelo M. Codevilla makes a compelling argument that George Bush does not embody conservatism in any traditional sense. He also illustrates that if George Bush's Foreign Policy and Defense Policy is correct than all of the lessons that every professor of International Relations have been teaching for the last several hundred years is nonsense; which is possible, but is it likely?
For example the notion of war -- war is a violence aimed at killing or destroying a specific person or institution that stands in the way of something you want, whether it is peace, oil, land, etc. In war, the enemy must be known. You cannot win or wage a war against an abstract noun or concept. In order to win, you must have a defined enemy.
Angelo M. Codevilla also maintains that a nation should not make wars while neglecting the fact that the people who insight violence against you are receiving billions of your dollars - yet do nothing to cut them off.
Most important though, he makes a clear argument that you do not make war to attempt to change another people’s society. These criteria cannot be a means of a successful war.

You don't have to take my word for it, below is an essay by Angelo M. Codevilla on the topic of Iraq and the Bush Administration. You can read more of this works here.

His book, No Victory No Pease in available on Amazon.

Postmortem on a Phony War
by Angelo M. Codevilla

"For them, war would consist of fighting as little as possible."—Charles de Gaulle, on Franco-British policy between September 1939 and June 1940.[1]

By spring 2002, the Bush administration's pretense that it was making war had worn thin. The Bush team had declared that September 11 had "changed everything," that "those who are not with us are against us," and that its "war on terrorism" would dispense with latter-day American reticence about foreign engagements and warfare. Nevertheless, the Bush team fought a classic phony war, because its chief priority was to change as little as possible the visions, objectives, assumptions, and modus operandi of late-twentieth-century American elites. This calls for something of a postmortem on the "war" that never was.

The Bush team's chief objective, "stability," was the least possible of things. The vision of an orderly, multicultural, "international community" was as powerful in Bush's Washington as it had been in Woodrow Wilson's—and as far removed from reality. The right of Third World regimes to sovereign existence under housebroken tyrants, America's right and capacity to make peace in places it does not rule, America's unworthiness to stigmatize foreign cultures (much less to kill foreign regimes), the U.S. government's need to heed "the allies," especially "the Europeans," and to restrain the "unsophisticated," "unilateralist" American public—these and a host of other unserious assumptions continued to reign. Moreover, the Bush team employed the same kind of people and modus operandi as its predecessors. They spoke loudly and wasted America's stick on the least significant enemies.

After Arabs had terrorized America on behalf of Arab causes, the Bush team refused to fight or even to indict any Arab entity at all. It did this to shore up "friendly" Arab governments that (it chose not to notice) were in thrall to the terror states of Iraq, Syria, and the Palestinian Authority (PA). By mid 2002, the Bush team's war on terrorism consisted chiefly of impotent, counterproductive, and silly security measures at home and, in the Middle East, of restraining Israel.
Rather than forcing others to accept America's version of peace, the Bush policy conveyed readiness to accept others' ever-pricier promises of peace. That is what "peace processes" are about: one side vainly seeks to avoid the reality of war. Bloody, phony peace is the natural fruit of phony war. That is because once the killing starts, one side's reticence is the greatest encouragement for the other to fight. And the longer wars go on, the more possibilities they offer to the bold. Thus any government that stints pursuit of victory to preserve its favorite current arrangements inevitably finds others imposing their own agendas.

(Bad) Ideas Have (Worse) Consequences

The Bush team decided to make war on "terrorism" (an abstract noun), rather than on real people. Rather than destroy regimes whose demise might make the American people safe from terrorist attacks, the Bush team pursued only the "shadowy" al-Qa‘ida, as if a private organization could organize worldwide mayhem from Arab police states without being one of their tools. Why this James Bond-ish fiction? Because the Bush team did not deem the events of September 11 sufficient warrant for going against the predominant views of American elites (which it shares) about real people.

Through most of the twentieth century, American elites have willed to believe that all peoples are created equal and that, if all were ruled by their own kind, a stable, decent, peaceful world would result. Hence in the 1950s in the Middle East as elsewhere, the U.S. State Department and especially Central Intelligence (CIA) fostered nationalism, socialist parties, and the replacement of European colonial rule by native regimes. When speaking to CIA director Allen Dulles, his brother John Foster Dulles, the secretary of state, would refer to Egypt's Gamal Nasser as "your colonel."[2] As early as 1958, however, the political ancestors of Saddam Husayn had taken over Iraq and Syria as well as Egypt. Yemen became a Soviet ally. Much of the region (like the rest of the Third World) would be neither peaceful nor decent—much less, pro-American.

America's "best and brightest" tried to maintain their conviction that somehow local rulers would safeguard America's interests in the region: oil, a modicum of peace, as well as safety for Israel. American elites would not use force, would not take responsibility, would continue to believe in their vision of a world of equal, sovereign peoples, and would get their way. They wanted much for little and failed to proportion the ends they sought to the means they were willing to use. Hence U.S. policy has been based on patently false pretenses: that allies in the region would play their assigned roles and that indirect U.S. force would be enough.
So, between 1958 and 1978, U.S. policymakers made Iran's shah the Westernizing paladin of Western interests. But they did not protect the shah from the anti-Western forces to which they had exposed him. After the shah's fall, they imagined that Iraq's Saddam Husayn might be got to play his role—and in addition to contain Iran. They could not believe that Saddam would pursue his own vision of empire. When, in 1990, Saddam surprised them by invading Kuwait and holding hostage the entire region, the U.S. government killed thousands of Iraqis who were irrelevant to the regime. But the reigning ideas in Washington did not allow for destroying Saddam's regime any more than they had allowed the destruction of America's real enemies in Korea and Vietnam. Thus the United States committed the only unpardonable sin in the region: weakness.

Unwilling either to abandon the region to America's enemies or simply to destroy such enemies when they arose, above all unwilling to impose their own order, the State Department officials, policy analysts, successive administrations, and polite opinion formed a consensus that designated the Saudi monarchy as the new representative of Western interests.
They then mistakenly deferred to the Saudis' judgment of their own and Western interests. Knowing all too well the Saudis' internal fragility and external weakness, they built up U.S. military forces in the region. But—and this is the key point—they had no idea of how those forces might save the Saudi regime from internal challenges. When Saudi Arabia became less hospitable, the weight of U.S. policy shifted to the Gulf sheikhdoms. But U.S. forces could no more protect any Gulf potentate than they protected the shah or Egypt's Anwar Sadat (whom his murderers called Shah-dat.) Nor would those forces kill any of the region's regimes. That is one reason why the presence of U.S. military forces since 1990 (despite or perhaps because of their kindness to the local population) has engendered contempt for America.
Another policy is of the same kind. Since the 1970s, through any number of shuttle missions and plans named for officials or conference sites (Rogers, Kissinger, Camp David, Schultz, Baker, Oslo, Ross, Wye, Mitchell, Tenet, etc.), the U.S. government has chosen to promote various forms of a deal to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict: Israel would give more power to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in exchange for the latter's promises of peaceful coexistence.

Note, however, that the United States has limited itself to outlining the deal and to pressures to enter it. President Clinton in 1993, and President Bush in 2002, declared support for a Palestinian state but left the details to be settled later. More important, none ever promised that the United States would enforce any deal. U.S. statesmen have eschewed matching military means to political ends. This insolvent, irresolute U.S. foreign policy has invited those Arabs inclined to do so to exert murderous pressure on the United States as well as on Israel. It does not take the proverbial rocket scientist to notice that increased Arab diplomatic pressure and an increased level of terrorist activity against the United States by Arabs have gone hand-in-hand with increased U.S. pressure on Israel.

The list of terrorist acts by Arabs against Americans aimed at influencing U.S. policy toward Israel is too long and well known to rehash. The list of U.S. military retaliations against an Arab government, however, contains only one small item: President Reagan's 1986 strike on some Libyan army barracks. That Arab governments allied with the United States, never mind the Arab terror regimes of Iraq, Syria, and the PA, support anti-American causes politically and psychologically is obvious to anyone who goes on-line. Equally obvious is that the American foreign policy class nevertheless continues to pretend that Arab regimes in general and even "progressive" organizations such as the PLO and the Ba‘th party are viable partners for peace. Thus U.S. foreign policy supports regimes that support anti-Americanism, even to the point of acting to retain the Iraqi regime while impotently wishing that Saddam himself would go. Yet according to the reigning mentality, the notion that terrorism is the Arab world's principal means of action is racism. Indeed, the U.S. government's official pre-September-11 attitude toward these regimes was, "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." Cultural relativism shielded from reality what the U.S. government wanted to believe about Arab regimes.

After the surprise of September 11, President Bush's public speeches sounded a different tone: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them,"[3] and "There is no such thing as a good terrorist."[4] But Bush could have uprooted visions, assumptions, and practices so deeply entrenched only if he had dismissed officials who embody both cultural relativism and a disregard for the relationship between ends and means. He did not commission a team more suited to winning a war, rather using the war to entrench the very persons, mindset, and decisions that brought on the nasty surprise. That is the hallmark of phony war.
Here, patriotic rhetoric aside, is how the Bush team really sees the "war."

Although we might prefer that some regimes—Iraq, Syria, and the PA—were other than they are, the problem is the existence of a network of private extremists. Nearly all the world's governments see terrorism as a threat to civilized life and are more or less willing to help root it out. The problem is that the Kuwait war and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict misidentified the United States as anti-Muslim and anti-Arab and inhibited modernization and secularization in the Muslim world. The cooperation of governments in the Muslim world is key to defeating terrorism. To get that cooperation, we must first ensure the survival of friendly governments. To do that, we must cool popular ire against them and America. That means that any U.S. attack on Iraq or any Israeli dismantling of the PA would call forth more terrorism than it would prevent and would endanger friendly governments. Hence, the United States must cool the Arab-Israeli conflict, even at the cost of setting up a risky Palestinian state. Once Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan, and maybe Syria and the PA, too, can afford to be friendly to the United States, then liaison between their intelligence services and ours can leave the terrorists nowhere to hide. Once we have turned the war on terrorism from a political (let alone religious one) into a criminal matter, we can win it by intelligence and police measures. The paramount problem is that the American people may run short on patience.

Phony from the Start

Who to kill is the decision that defines any war. In response to the attacks of September 11 by Arabs from "friendly" Arab countries—on behalf of causes embodied by Iraq, Syria, and the PA—the Bush team decided to do nothing against any Arab entity but rather to kill people in Afghanistan. No one argued that this would make America safe from the rising enmity of the Arab world or avenge the attacks. When pressed, the Bush team did not deny that Arab governments were abetting this enmity. But it deferred the whole matter to an undefined next phase because securing the support of friendly Arab governments was the sine qua non of everything else.

Saudi Arabia conditioned its support of the war, however, on Americans not killing any Arabs at all. Later, it conditioned its support even further. Competent people know that to ask dubious allies to support action that one has shown a willingness to defer and redefine amounts to asking for further pressure to defer, redefine, and derail. Thus, from the outset, this was a war defined in terms of what must not be done and aimed at validating a view of the world according to which the war should never have started —that is, a phony war.
Permanent factors made the temporary permanent. Deference to the Saudi and Egyptian governments had also been the reason why the first Bush administration put off action on Iraq in 1991. For the same reason, the completion of the U.S. war in Afghanistan did not usher in the next phase in which the United States would fight enemy regimes in the Arab world. Instead, U.S. troops would scour the earth for individuals connected to al-Qa‘ida. In January 2002, subsequent to intelligence reports of sophisticated terrorist nerve centers in northeast Afghan caves, U.S. troops stormed them—and found nothing of the sort. But when, in March, Jeffrey Goldberg's article in The New Yorker detailed Saddam's use of al-Qa‘ida to fight the Kurds in northern Iraq, the Bush team showed no interest and deferred consideration of invading Iraq to 2003, if then.[5]

The most impotent, counterproductive, and silly part of the war however, was "Homeland Security."
Since September 11, "security" is everywhere. Police and federal agencies have unprecedented powers. Whether mailing a package, entering a large building, or especially flying commercially, Americans are subject to strictures more reminiscent of a banana republic than of America. Yet note: had all of the new security measures been in effect on September 11, they would not have interfered with the attacks. Moreover, studies have shown that even against the most heavily defended targets, terrorist attacks succeed about 85 percent of the time. Insofar as police measures work at all, they do so by targeting specific ethnic groups while sparing the general population. However, Israel's experience confirms Machiavelli's observation that the world's most stringent security measures can do little against those who are willing to give up their lives to kill. Protecting America's vast society with police measures is nonsense.

The acme of nonsense is President Bush's proposal for reorganizing existing agencies and bureaus into a department of Homeland Security. No one would change their thinking or modus operandi. They would change only their lines of bureaucratic reporting. When companies try to avoid confronting their own inadequacies, they often reorganize.
The Bush team's approach to police measures—officially assuming that anyone is as likely to be a terrorist as anyone else—is counterproductive and silly. It trains Americans to mistrust and to check each other. This approach caused security officers at one airport to detain an elderly holder of the Congressional Medal of Honor for trying to take the medal onto an airplane, and at another airport, as part of a random check, to search former Vice President Al Gore—who got more votes for president than did George W. Bush. Grandmothers from Peoria are searched, while young Arabic-looking men are not. This randomness is less in the service of security, much less of war, than it is a ritual reaffirmation of the ideology of contemporary American elites, most recently expressed by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Robert Mueller: "We are not looking for individuals of any particular religion or from any particular country."[6]

No surprise then, that after an Egyptian with an anti-American and anti-Israeli record gunned down a crowd of Americans and Israelis at the El Al counter of Los Angeles airport, the U.S. government's official reaction was: "There is nothing to indicate terrorism."
In practice, the FBI prefers to seek out terrorists among anti-government people at home than among anti-Americans from the Middle East. Since letters containing anthrax were mailed to Capitol Hill in October 2001, the field offices of the FBI have been busy trying to prove that they were the work of a domestic anti-government scientist (an early FBI source gratuitously added right-wing) rather than of any foreign government. But after 5,000 interviews and 1,700 subpoenas; after officially suspecting 130 individual Americans and 100 companies; after being convinced of the guilt of one American who turned out to be innocent, the U.S. government has zero evidence of domestic involvement. Yet despite evidence that a September 11 hijacker was treated for an anthrax infection, that the hijackers were trying to rent crop dusters, that the anthrax spores were fresh and coated with materials typical of professional laboratories—such as the ones in Iraq—U.S. intelligence looks for domestic dissidents rather than for foreign enemies. What war? For what purpose?

On the Enemy Track

When Arab friends persuaded the Bush team not to fight America's enemies in the Arab world but rather to restrain Israel from striking at its enemies (their friends), the Bush team turned from America's war to the Arabs' war.
By the turn of the century, America's Arab friends, notably the Saudi royal family, were following their fears more than their friendships. Through the 1990s, Saddam Husayn's Iraqi regime had become the leading force in the Arab world. By surviving the Kuwait war to thumb his nose at Washington and denouncing all manifestations of Arab collaboration with the United States, Saddam won the allegiance of the region's most virulent elements. By adroit propaganda, money, and murder, he and the leaders of the other terror states identified Islam with anti-Westernism and with themselves. Moderate Arabs followed or died.
To derail the Bush team from America's war to their own, the Arab terror regimes had to manufacture a war. The spring of 2002 saw a dramatic increase in the attacks by various Palestinian forces against Israel. This made Palestinians immeasurably worse off materially and subjected them to constant danger of execution as collaborators. Saddam's regime and the Saudi royal family as well supplied the money for the family endowments that effectively purchased the war's principal weapon, suicide bombers. Having helped organize the carnage, the Saudis demanded that Bush stop it by making concessions to them.
Bush, the Saudis insisted, must support the creation of a Palestinian state and interpose at least some American bodies between Israel and the Palestinians. In exchange, the Saudis would try to cool the Palestinians and continue their support of the "war" (as amended). Nevertheless, they would continue to please the terror states insofar as might be necessary to ensure their own stability. And wasn't that stability the Bush team's priority? By April 2002, Bush had agreed.
Did the Bush team know or care that all this amounted not to avenging September 11, but to pretending to fight terrorists while giving in to the demands of those who harbor and pay them? Certainly they know—just not enough to change longstanding foreign policy priorities, intellectual habits, as well as the personnel of U.S. intelligence and diplomacy.

Three Monkeys Intelligence

"See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil," describes U.S. intelligence in the war on terrorism. As in so many other matters, U.S. intelligence searches only in the lighted corners of dark rooms and reflects the priorities of Washington more than it reflects reality.
Nearly a year after September 11, U.S. intelligence still has no idea who most of the hijackers were, where the operation was organized, by whom, or who paid for it. Our professionals concluded that, except for one Usama bin Ladin, the identity of America's enemies is a mystery. Still, they are sure that our enemies are amateurs, unconnected with professional intelligence services. Nonsense.
Start with the Saudi hijackers. The photos and names released by the U.S. government match flight manifests with visa files from U.S. consulates. But the only pictures of the hijackers from security cameras are of persons other than the ones pictured and named. Indisputably, the hijackers used stolen identities. That is a mark of a major league intelligence service. (The Saudi government prevented independent investigation of who the hijackers really were.)
The hijacking itself bore marks of professionalism: the hijackers used sophisticated chemical sprays and methods of rapid entry into the cockpits, they had mastered navigation beyond what had been taught them in their U.S. flight schools, and they had turned off the planes' transponders—which also had not been taught them in the flight schools.
Then there is the $100,000 that financed the U.S. part of the mission. Muhammad Atta, an Egyptian, got it immediately after a meeting in June 2000 in Prague with Ahmad al-Ani, an Iraqi intelligence officer who specialized in handling terrorists. The account from which the money came had been professionally scrubbed of the owner's identity. On April 9, 2001, Atta made a 72-hour trip to see Ani again. Two weeks later, the trained soldiers in the hijacking left Saudi Arabia for America.
From all this, a reasonable person—also knowing that Iraq has a facility where terrorists train to take over Boeing aircraft—might conclude that September 11 had been organized by Iraq, with connections in Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
But, the CIA only paid attention to trails that the hijack operation had chosen not to cover. On September 9, Atta wired $15,000 back to a different account. This one had a name on it—an associate of Usama bin Ladin. Usama had done it! And Atta had left his flight manual in a car he had rented in his own name. He only knew what he learned in flight school! See? An amateur operation planned in one of those fabulous Afghan caves.
Note that the CIA gets almost none of its information on terrorism from its own human sources. Much of its terrorist "humint" comes directly or indirectly from the liaison services of friendly Arab governments. The CIA accepts them because of the poverty of its own sources and because what they say pleases U.S. officials. Not surprisingly, the agency's concept of a vast network of Muslim terrorists unconnected with Arab governments comes substantially from Arab governments. Its other major source of "humint," the interrogation of prisoners, is even more flawed. U.S. intelligence officials told The New York Times they were training interrogators for prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to lie a lot, that they were happy getting lots of facts that "checked out," although many prisoners' stories turned out to be misleading.[7] Competent people know that true facts can be even more misleading than false assertions and that the sine qua non of successful interrogation hinges on truly knowing more than the person being interviewed. This is not the case with the CIA.
This is not the place to restate the CIA's record of failure and bad faith with regard to the Iraqi opposition, or its longstanding commitment to the fortunes of the PLO-PA. Rather, all this leads one to ask what service it can render in the war on terrorism.
In May 2002, the CIA ran a covert action—in Washington. One of its official sources convinced Newsweek and The Washington Post that there was no solid evidence that Muhammad Atta had ever met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague.[8] But the interior minister of the Czech Republic immediately reconfirmed the fact of the meeting, and the Czech envoy to the United Nations did so again a month later.[9] The CIA had briefly supported the Bush policy of taking no military action against Iraq.[10]
In short, the CIA helps enable the Bush team's strategy.

If Wishes Were Strategy

The Bush team, at least some parts thereof, knows much and wishes well. Vice President Dick Cheney declared, "wars are not won on the defensive. We must battle the enemy wherever necessary to prevent greater stress to our country."[11] The statements by President Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to the effect that Iraq's development of weapons of mass destruction poses an unacceptable threat to America and that somehow Saddam must go are too numerous to list. President Bush finally said that the Palestinian people deserve new leadership. But there is no evidence that the Bush team knows how to translate such wishes into strategy, much less into facts.
The facts of the war on terrorism are as outlined above: in practice, the Bush team is fighting a war to salvage the visions, assumptions, and ways of current elites, not to mention their reputations. Abroad, the "war on terrorism" is of a piece with the Gulf war, the Vietnam war, and the Korean war: America kills lots of people whose deaths do not bring victory. This makes us hated. And America leaves enemy regimes standing. This makes us contemptible. At home, the "war" consists of a fateful combination of bellicose rhetoric and impotent, silly security measures. Thus even more than previous wars, the "war on terrorism" wastes the good will of the American people—the most precious thing of all. The ends of war cannot be achieved by the means of phony war.
Success fuels hope of victory, which fuels effort. By mid-2002, the Saudi government's diplomatic overtures to Tehran and above all to Baghdad, as well as its assumption of the role as their advocate to the West, meant its recognition that it was living at its enemies' sufferance. Any number of people in the region, including members of the royal family, surely saw in this the chance of their lives. When someone seizes that chance, the House of Saud will first split and then fall. That in turn will convince more people in the region to try for power and glory. That is what real wars are made of. As stability—the Bush team's premise and objective—disappears, the Bush team will have to confront the choice that it worked so hard to shun: between paying the price of victory and that of defeat. And it will have to do it from a well-earned position of disadvantage.
Governments bend to those they fear and bite those they hold in contempt. The Bush team's conduct of the war made the Arab world less afraid of America. How could that be, given all the bombs the United States dropped on Afghanistan? Simple. The Arab world knew that Washington could drop those bombs. It wondered, would the United States drop them to alter the balance of power among us? By dropping them on Afghanistan, Washington answered, no. Their estimate of the United States's capacity to protect them from threats foreign and domestic also dropped.
America became fully contemptible when the Bush team recoiled from the Arab world's brandishing of the ultimate terror weapon, suicide bombing. Count on it: the next stage of the war will feature suicide bombings on American streets.
Angelo M. Codevilla is professor of international relations at Boston University, a former naval officer, foreign service officer, and staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Among his books is Informing Statecraft: Intelligence for A New Century (1992). This commentary expands upon an essay in the Claremont Review of Books (Summer 2002).
[1] Charles de Gaulle, Memoires de guerre, Vol. I (Paris: Plon, 1954).
[2] Miles Copeland, The Game of Nations: The Amorality of Power Politics (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970).
[3] Bush's address to the nation, Sept. 11, 2001, at
[4] Bush's address to the nation, Nov. 10, 2001, at
[5] Jeffrey Goldberg, "The Great Terror," The New Yorker, Mar. 25, 2002.
[6] FBI director Robert Mueller, answer to questions by the Senate Judiciary Committee, June 6, 2002, view at
[7] The New York Times, May 15, 2002.
[8] Michael Isikoff, "The Phantom Link to Iraq," Newsweek, May 6, 2002; Walter Pincus, "No Link between Hijacker, Iraq Found, U.S. Says," The Washington Post, May 1, 2002.
[9] Stanislav Gross, Czech minister of the interior, quoted by James Pitkin, "Czechs: Hijacker Met with Iraqi Spy," Prague Post, May 8, 2002; Hynek Kmonicek quoted by Edith M. Lederer, "Czech Official Insists Meeting with Terrorists Occurred," Associated Press, June 4, 2002.
[10] William Safire, "Mr. Atta Goes to Prague," The New York Times, May 9, 2002.
[11] Cheney speech to Federalist Society, Nov. 15, 2001, at

Monday, April 17, 2006

Study linking preschool personality to political orientation

This study may explain why conservatives, still a minority in the United States, have grown to such a powerful political movement.

According to the study, liberals are independent to a fault, incapable of single mindedness, while conservatives can be unified and single minded on a variety of topics.

I'm not sure that I agree that conservatives are in general "easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited and relatively over-controlled and vulnerable" The study is not really suggesting that assumption either, but it does maintain that in this control group, the subjects do fit that paticular criteria.

Two of my brothers and many of my friends are conservatives; not neo-cons but conservative. If you called any of them "indecisive, fearful, rigid or inhibited", you would likely get more than you bargained for.

What I get from the study is that liberals need to come togehter on more issues. We're too independent in our thinking.

Here's a synposis of the study:

By Yasmin Anwar, Media Relations 23 March 2006

BERKELEY – A study linking early childhood personality to political orientation 20 years later has been generating considerable news media attention. The longitudinal study, conducted by Jack Block, a professor emeritus of psychology at UC Berkeley, and his wife, Jeanne, now deceased, was published online last October in the Journal of Research in Personality. The Toronto Star ran a story on the study on March 19.

Starting in the 1960s, the Blocks tracked more than 100 young children in two Berkeley area nursery schools as part of a general study of cognitive and ego development. The personalities of the 3-and 4-year-olds were evaluated by the nursery school teachers who knew them.
Twenty years later, the Blocks followed up with more surveys. Data collected for 95 of the original participants found that those "relatively conservative at age 23 were described as feeling easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited and relatively over-controlled and vulnerable." Meanwhile, preschool children who turned out to be liberals were characterized as "developing close relationships, self-reliant, energetic, somewhat dominating, relatively under-controlled and resilient."

In the study, Block says it should be taken into account that the "sample" is limited to those born in the late 1960s and reared in Berkeley and Oakland, presenting "an enveloping cultural context appreciably different from much of America." However, he says, "any sample bias carries no implication whatsoever regarding analyses of individual differences conducted within the sample."

As for whether these characteristics mean liberals are superior, Block points out in the study, "Ironically, the sheer variety of changes and improvements suggested by the liberal-minded under-controller may explain the diffuseness, and subsequent ineffectiveness, of liberals in politics where a collective single-mindedness of purpose so often is required."
Read the full study (PDF file).
Finally, some good news about the economy!
Survey: Grads finding hot jobs market Employers set to hire nearly 15% more college grads this spring, survey says; starting salaries up for many business, engineering majors.

April 7, 2006: 8:29 AM EDT NEW YORK ( -
College graduates this spring are seeing the best jobs market since 2000, with many getting larger starting salaries than were being offered a year ago, according to some experts in the field. A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows employers hiring nearly 15 percent more recent college grads than a year ago, and a particularly strong market for most business and engineering students. It found accounting degree graduates are receiving an average starting salary of $46,188, up 5.4 percent from a year ago. Right behind are economics/finance graduates, who are getting average offers of $45,058, up 5.3 percent, and business administration/management majors, who are seeing average offers 3.9 percent higher than a year ago at $40,976. (Read More)

Had to repost this one - sorry for any confusion, problem with Blogger.
I reposted all of the comments as best as I could. They're all there, but under a single entry.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fruitful Years For The People of This Democracy
A speech by a great President

This is a speech that one can read and apply to our period with certainty. The words of President Roosevelt's Third Inaugural Address transcend time with a strength and dignity as strong as gravity. The speech is as relevent now as it was then.

Democracy is not inherited, it is an earned privilege. President Roosevelt knew this truth as he fought tyranny within our borders and abroad. The gains that the Democratic Party made during the New Deal period were, and still are, in constant jeopardy. The language that President Roosevelt selected for this speech indicates this fact as he used words like "tyranny and slavery" to describe the period before his Presidency. On many levels, he was correct.

Slavery like labor was common in the United States before 1932, people worked for sustenance wages; despair was ubiquitous. The Iron Law of Wages was achieved. But by 1942 our Democratic government had changed the trend of poverty and had begun the golden age of the American middle-class.

Many believe that we are moving in the direction of abstract poverty for the majority once again. This conclusion is reached as we watch our industries become decimated by imbalanced foreign competition and trade, importation of cheap labor for both white and blue collar industries, as our healthcare rises to exorbitant levels of expense, and as our government attempts to open our borders to unlimited amounts of cheap bargan workers while not allowing them, the exploited workers, the privilege of organizing for their rights or becoming citizens. Our middle-class is deteriorating, while the wealthier classes are growing. As President Roosevelt points out, Democracy is fragile; it can be broken, and democracy will not survive with out a strong middle-class.

President Roosevelt died April 12, 1945, while at Warm Springs, Georgia, he died of a cerebral hemorrhage. He left us the legacy of Social Security, strong labor unions, the strongest and wealthiest economy in our history, healthcare for the elderly and poor and the most educated, politically active middle-class of our time. As then, these gains are in constant danger. We must be careful as - “tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future—and that freedom is an ebbing tide"

Franklin D. RooseveltThird Inaugural Address
Washington, DC

Monday, January 20, 1941

ON each national day of inauguration since 1789, the people have renewed their sense of dedication to the United States. In Washington's day the task of the people was to create and weld together a nation.

In Lincoln's day the task of the people was to preserve that Nation from disruption from within.

In this day the task of the people is to save that Nation and its institutions from disruption from without. To us there has come a time, in the midst of swift happenings, to pause for a moment and take stock—to recall what our place in history has been, and to rediscover what we are and what we may be. If we do not, we risk the real peril of inaction.

Lives of nations are determined not by the count of years, but by the lifetime of the human spirit. The life of a man is three-score years and ten: a little more, a little less. The life of a nation is the fullness of the measure of its will to live.

There are men who doubt this. There are men who believe that democracy, as a form of Government and a frame of life, is limited or measured by a kind of mystical and artificial fate that, for some unexplained reason, tyranny and slavery have become the surging wave of the future—and that freedom is an ebbing tide.

But we Americans know that this is not true.

Eight years ago, when the life of this Republic seemed frozen by a fatalistic terror, we proved that this is not true. We were in the midst of shock—but we acted. We acted quickly, boldly, decisively.

These later years have been living years—fruitful years for the people of this democracy. For they have brought to us greater security and, I hope, a better understanding that life's ideals are to be measured in other than material things.

Most vital to our present and our future is this experience of a democracy which successfully survived crisis at home; put away many evil things; built new structures on enduring lines; and, through it all, maintained the fact of its democracy.

For action has been taken within the three-way framework of the Constitution of the United States. The coordinate branches of the Government continue freely to function. The Bill of Rights remains inviolate. The freedom of elections is wholly maintained. Prophets of the downfall of American democracy have seen their dire predictions come to naught.

Democracy is not dying. We know it because we have seen it revive—and grow.

We know it cannot die—because it is built on the unhampered initiative of individual men and women joined together in a common enterprise—an enterprise undertaken and carried through by the free expression of a free majority. We know it because democracy alone, of all forms of government, enlists the full force of men's enlightened will.

We know it because democracy alone has constructed an unlimited civilization capable of infinite progress in the improvement of human life.

We know it because, if we look below the surface, we sense it still spreading on every continent—for it is the most humane, the most advanced, and in the end the most unconquerable of all forms of human society. A nation, like a person, has a body—a body that must be fed and clothed and housed, invigorated and rested, in a manner that measures up to the objectives of our time.

A nation, like a person, has a mind—a mind that must be kept informed and alert, that must know itself, that understands the hopes and the needs of its neighbors—all the other nations that live within the narrowing circle of the world.

And a nation, like a person, has something deeper, something more permanent, something larger than the sum of all its parts. It is that something which matters most to its future—which calls forth the most sacred guarding of its present. It is a thing for which we find it difficult—even impossible—to hit upon a single, simple word.

And yet we all understand what it is—the spirit—the faith of America. It is the product of centuries. It was born in the multitudes of those who came from many lands—some of high degree, but mostly plain people, who sought here, early and late, to find freedom more freely.

The democratic aspiration is no mere recent phase in human history. It is human history. It permeated the ancient life of early peoples. It blazed anew in the middle ages. It was written in Magna Charta. In the Americas its impact has been irresistible.

America has been the New World in all tongues, to all peoples, not because this continent was a new-found land, but because all those who came here believed they could create upon this continent a new life—a life that should be new in freedom.

Its vitality was written into our own Mayflower Compact, into the Declaration of Independence, into the Constitution of the United States, into the Gettysburg Address. Those who first came here to carry out the longings of their spirit, and the millions who followed, and the stock that sprang from them—all have moved forward constantly and consistently toward an ideal which in itself has gained stature and clarity with each generation.

The hopes of the Republic cannot forever tolerate either undeserved poverty or self-serving wealth. We know that we still have far to go; that we must more greatly build the security and the opportunity and the knowledge of every citizen, in the measure justified by the resources and the capacity of the land. But it is not enough to achieve these purposes alone.

It is not enough to clothe and feed the body of this Nation, and instruct and inform its mind. For there is also the spirit. And of the three, the greatest is the spirit.

Without the body and the mind, as all men know, the Nation could not live. But if the spirit of America were killed, even though the Nation's body and mind, constricted in an alien world, lived on, the America we know would have perished.

That spirit—that faith—speaks to us in our daily lives in ways often unnoticed, because they seem so obvious. It speaks to us here in the Capital of the Nation. It speaks to us through the processes of governing in the sovereignties of 48 States.

It speaks to us in our counties, in our cities, in our towns, and in our villages. It speaks to us from the other nations of the hemisphere, and from those across the seas—the enslaved, as well as the free. Sometimes we fail to hear or heed these voices of freedom because to us the privilege of our freedom is such an old, old story.

The destiny of America was proclaimed in words of prophecy spoken by our first President in his first inaugural in 1789—words almost directed, it would seem, to this year of 1941: "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered ... deeply,... finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."

If we lose that sacred fire—if we let it be smothered with doubt and fear—then we shall reject the destiny which Washington strove so valiantly and so triumphantly to establish. The preservation of the spirit and faith of the Nation does, and will, furnish the highest justification for every sacrifice that we may make in the cause of national defense.

In the face of great perils never before encountered, our strong purpose is to protect and to perpetuate the integrity of democracy. For this we muster the spirit of America, and the faith of America. We do not retreat. We are not content to stand still. As Americans, we go forward, in the service of our country, by the will of God.

On November 5, 1940 President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to his THIRD term in office. When Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes administered the Oath of Office to him on the East Portico of the Capitol Building the following January 20th, it became the first and only time that a U.S. President gave THREE Inaugural Addresses. Following the traditional Inaugural Parade, the President and his wife hosted a reception at the White House that was attended by several thousand visitors and guests.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Truth About Protectism and Trade – Part 2

(Read Part 1 Here)

WTO – Protectionism for the Wealthy

The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a Multinational Trade Organization which has the responsibility of setting the rules for the world’s trading system. Also known as a Free Trade Regulator Body, the WTO attempts to resolve disputes between its member states, all of whom are beholden to its trade agreements. Located in Geneva, Switzerland, the WTO has 150 members; the members represent various nation states. Members are required to grant one another most favored nation status, such as with the U.S. and China. Granting favored status hollows out protective tariffs to a meaningless level and attempts to facilitate a free flow of goods. The purpose of tariff free trade is to promote a free trade zone with the most favored nation. In our case, the United States and China, we import more with China than we export. This scheme, tariff free trade, is the root of our trade imbalance with China as China is largely uninterested in our goods.

The WTO was established to “protect” the multinationals and the multinational corporate investor class from the down side of tariff’s and so-called trade barriers – trade barriers have historically protected our industries from direct competition with Third World wages and have guaranteed a middle-class lifestyle in the United States for over two centuries. The beneficiaries from the WTO, although many claim that we all benefit, are the business and investors who facilitate the trade. The cost to the average citizen has been high.

Job losses associated with the trade deficit increased six times more rapidly between 1994 and 2000 than they did between 1989 and 1994. Every state and the District of Columbia suffered significant job losses due to growing trade deficits between 1994 and 2000. Ten states, led by California, lost over 100,000 net jobs. The manufacturing sector, where the trade deficit rose 158.5% between 1994 and 2000, shouldered 65% of the surge in job losses during that period. (Source)

Is the WTO working?

The WTO has been an effective mechanism of capital gains for investors, CEO’s and government officials. The investor protectionist policies imposed by the WTO have benefited these catagories by implementing trade de-regulation, privatization and weakening of collective bargaining (labor unions). Not surprisingly though, they, and their cronies in the media and the academic world, also measure the advancement and success of a globalize world economy according to the pursuits of the investment class. The benchmarks of progress are elements such as rising stock markets, increased volume of trade, lower taxes for the wealthy, and the elimination of investment restrictions, and of course the so-called free flow of trade.
What is the justification behind such a perspective? It is the faith that these policies will automatically create faster growth, greater equality and expand democracy. As I've written before, it is a policy which requires faith.

But in the past 20 years, specifically the last 12, inequality has grown. As Christian Weller, Robert Scott, and Adam Hersh of the Economic Policy Institute have shown , the median income of the richest ten countries was 77 times that of the poorest ten countries in 1980, and 149 times in 1999. The incomes of the richest 10% of the world's people were 70 times that of the poorest 10% in 1980, and 122 times in 1999. Within nations, inequality also seems to have worsened. Accurate global data is not available, but in the countries where the data are most reliable, as the trend is clearly toward more inequality. Even World Bank president James Wolfensohn in 1999 was moved to admit, "At the level of people, the system isn't working."3(Dalpino, Catherine. Fall 2001."Globalization & Democracy." In Brookings Review, Vol. 19. No. 4 Pages 45-48, Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution.)

Who is benefiting?

It’s easy to find considerable amounts of data on the financial interests of the investor class. Simply read the Wall Street Journal. However, the mainstream media carries little systematic information on what is happening to the huge class of the world's workers. A glimpse into the trends within WTO participating countries shows a general deterioration of the position of labor relative to capital. This can be found in both developing and developed economies.
"Uncontrolled globalization, in one stroke, puts government's domestic policies decisively on the side of capital, not the people" -- writes Jeff Faux in his latest book "The Global Class War". In an economy that is growing based on its domestic market; rising wages help everyone because they increase purchasing power and consumer demand -- which is the major driver of economic growth in a modern society.

But in an economy whose growth depends on foreign markets, rising domestic wages are a problem. Rising domestic wages make it more difficult to compete internationally. In short, the more that the workers earn, the less the investor class gains in profit. This has always been the case, but now with the free flow of goods and services accross national borders, including the resource of labor, the investor class gains a cardinal advantage of worker fear and insecurity. It is in the interest of the investor class to push the wages down for the workers, and the mere threat of moving an operation or importing cheap labor is enought to stifle any worker dissent.

The solution, in principle, is simple. We must organize. We must isolate ourselves from corporate protectionism and gradually move back to a system of protective tariffs as a matter of national policy. We must control the language of the issues and the move the debate to discuss who the beneficiaries of the WTO and so-called free trade really are. This means an alliance of working people -- North and South, East and West -- through a common goal. The goal is a means of negotiating the interests of American workers and the interests of those in developing and developed country whose workers needs are slowly becoming one and the same as ours. This task is difficult, but the world's working majority has two great advantages. One is that we out number the investor class-- in every country. The second is that the world's workers are indispensable. One can imagine a world without multinational investors. It is impossible to imagine a world without workers.

Our strength is our solidarity. There strength is our silence.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Assassins' Gate

George Packer, a reporter for the New Yorker Magazine, takes a sobering look at the Iraq War in his book "The Assassins' Gate" and gives us a synopsis’s of why he, and the New Yorker magazine, initially supported the War and now do not. He also examines how the Iraqi people are conflicted over our presence, our mission, our possible early withdrawal -- both positive and negative.
He takes an honest look at the grey areas, not just the black and white of both the stay or leave crowd, while appealing to cerebral and emotional concerns. Packer also examines the shortfalls and successes of our presence in the region.
Finally, he explains the Shi’a / Sunnis struggle from the perspective of the Iraqi citizen; a perspective often ignored by mainstream sources.

Packer is interviewed here by Matt Rothchild of the Progressive Magazine.
The interview and the book speak to the moderate in all of us, and makes clear that the solution to the War in Iraq is not as simple as black and white, stay or go.

The book is worth your time, but if you’re too busy to read, listen to the interview.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Associated Press
Updated: 6:11 p.m. ET April 4, 2006

WASHINGTON - Sen. John McCain threatened Tuesday to cut short a speech to union leaders who booed his immigration views and later challenged his statements on organized labor and the Iraq war.
“If you like, I will leave,” McCain told the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department, pivoting briefly from the lectern. He returned to the microphone after the crowd quieted. (Read More)

---- I used to like Senator Mccain, but now I see that he’s just like any other proponent of the Iron Law of Wages.
He’s not a candidate that I can endourse in good conscience.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Iron law of wages

The Iron Law of Wages was an Industrial Revolution law of economics that asserted that wages can never rise above the minimum level that will enable the laborer to survive. Inspired by the French Ideologue period, the alleged law was popularized by the German socialist Ferdinand Lassalle around 1813. According to Lassalle, wages cannot fall below subsistence level because without subsistence laborers will be unable to work for long.
However, competition between laborers for employment will drive wages down to this minimal level.
Amid this period of history, wages for both manufacturing laborers and agricultural workers were in large part close to subsistence level.

What drives laborers to subsistance levels is an abundance of labor resources - too many workers. The Iron Law of Wages is acheived by flooding a labor market with resources. Consequently union busting practices are executed with impunity. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the struggle for labor has been to reverse the Iron Law of Wages.

The Iron Law of Wages is what's driving the compulsion for a guest worker program, not compasion for the laborers.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A reply to a letter that I wrote to Senator Mel Martinez.

The topic is immigration.

Thank you for contacting me with your support for homeland security enhancement and comprehensive immigration reform. I appreciate hearing from you and would like to respond to your concerns.Like you, I strongly believe that one way to safeguard our homeland and halt the flow of illegal immigrants is to work tirelessly to secure our borders. On October 28, 2005, President George W. Bush signed into law the Homeland Security Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2006 (P.L. 109-90), which includes more than $30 billion to protect our homeland. It specifically sets aside $2.3 billion for the Border Patrol to improve and expand its stations, to install and improve fencing, lighting, and vehicle barriers along the border, and to acquire technologies, such as portable imaging machines, sensors and automated targeting systems that focus on high-risk travelers and goods.

However, this is just a start, as Congress begins to review the President's recently submitted fiscal year 2007 budget request. Please know, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure substantial additional resources are made available to the Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol.There were approximately four million illegal immigrants living in the United States, when Congress last addressed the issue of comprehensive immigration reform in 1986. Today, it is estimated there are more than 11 million. Those immigrants who enter our country illegally, and those who employ them, disrespect the rule of law. We live in a time where terrorists are challenging our borders, and we simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, and unchecked. Americans are right to demand better border security and better enforcement of immigration law. Further, American employers need to take responsibility when determining the immigration status of individuals they hire. Too often illegal immigrants attempt to enter the United States chasing the promise of a job, only to risk survival and face even death crossing the desert or never find a job at all. In the interest of cheap labor, unscrupulous employers look the other way when employees provide fraudulent citizenship documents. This hurts both American workers and immigrants whose sole aim is to work hard and get ahead. It is imperative that we implement a simple, fool-proof and mandatory mechanism for all employers to check the legal status of new hires.

However, I believe to further protect our nation, we must contend with scores of illegal immigrants living and working within our borders without our knowing their identity or background. That is why we need to develop a guest-worker program that will replace the flow of illegals with a regulated stream of legal immigrants who enter the United States after a series of checks. This would enhance our nation's security by protecting our citizens from terrorists that may exploit the openness of our society.If we hope to bring the 11 million undocumented immigrants out into the open, we must give them a reason. This means granting those with jobs interim legal status to work with the opportunity, after paying penalties and without amnesty to eventually earn citizenship. We can do this by imposing a hefty fine for having illegally entered out country, and by forcing the undocumented to go to the back of the line in their pursuit of citizenship. The interim status should only apply to those already here, so as to not open the door for others.We cannot claim to have dealt with the problems of illegal immigration if we ignore the illegal resident population or pretend that they will leave voluntarily.

Some of the proposed ideas in Congress provide a temporary legal status and call for deportation, but fail to answer how the government would successfully deport this large amount of people. If temporary legal status is granted, but the policy says these immigrants are never good enough to become Americans, then the policy makes little sense. However, without solving the porous border or incentive problem the population of illegals will only grow.Successful, comprehensive immigration reform can be achieved by combining strong border control legislation with a realistic workplace and an earned citizenship program. These three pillars of immigration reform are found in three separate pieces of legislation I have cosponsored -- the Strengthening America’s Security Act (S. 1916), the Employment Verification Act (S. 1917), and the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (S. 1033).

Please know that, I will work with my Senate colleagues to ensure that the ideas included in these important pieces of legislation are incorporated into the immigration reform process.Again, thank you for sharing your views. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.

In addition, for more information about issues and activities important to Florida, please sign up for my weekly newsletter at


Mel Martinez
United States Senator

Senator Martinez seems to support a comprehensive approach to our open border issue. I especially like the provisions for cracking down on irresponsible employers who hire undocumented workers. However we must be careful about the language on the matter of a guest worker program.

The importance of safeguarding our industries from inexpensive labor cannot be understated.

Please contact congress to express your opinion on this matter. You’ll find a sample letter here.