Wednesday, January 25, 2006

lots of stuff today 


Why Some Stay Silent


The military-industrial complex is elephantine, yet it is rarely taken into account by political commentators. Connected to almost everything, it is one reason why the home front sustains our aggressive, illegal, military interventions and occupations throughout the world. Many good people are in thrall to the military-industrial complex, and consequently are silenced, unwilling to become active opponents. These include liberals, social justice advocates, and even professional soldiers who question our illegal interventions. There are, of course, some protesters in our nation, but not enough to make militarism the main issue in Congressional and Presidential elections, or to give the subject much visibility on a daily basis.

Militarism is promoted through the relentless manipulation of public opinion in all media: Hollywood films (aided by DOD armament loans), TV, video games, the public relations army of the DOD, newspapers, magazines, parades, etc. For the intellectuals, there are articles in "liberal" magazines alleging that violence is genetically implanted in humans, and a generally positive force. This barrage normalizes violence and war. Most people want to regard themselves as normal, and not fuzzy idealists or crackpots, so they increasingly view aggression as inevitable, and perhaps a good thing. Bombing people into democracy (as in Yugoslavia) becomes a reasonable proposition; overthrowing governments (as in Haiti) just a routine world improvement activity. Both these actions were widely accepted or ignored by liberals, among others.

Fear motivates human behavior; many people eschew protesting wars as they are afraid of being considered unpatriotic, and subjected to government harassment, discrimination in employment, social penalties, or beatings by local thugs. Even those who suspect that war is not normal may be convinced that nothing they can do will change anything.

The Defense Industry as a monster

McClellan: Good afternoon, everyone.

I know there's a lot of interest in the purported bin Laden tape. But let me just say we continue to act on all fronts to win the war on terrorism. We are taking the fight to the enemy. We are working to advance freedom and democracy to defeat their evil ideology. We are winning.

Q: How can you say we're winning when the leader of the organization that attacked us is still threatening us?

McClellan: The fact we haven't been attacked again in four years shows we are putting al-Qaeda out of business. Clearly, our strategy is working.

Q: But they waited eight years to finish off the World Trade Center.

McClellan: Look, bin Laden is clearly on the run and under a lot of pressure.

Q: How do you know he's on the run? I mean, you don't know where he is, so how can you be certain he's in flight? Couldn't he be making all these tapes from the comfort of a safehouse?

McClellan: The last time we heard from him was a year ago – in another audiotape. Clearly, he's unable to communicate like he'd like to.

Q: But why isn't it just as possible he's trying to avoid giving U.S. intelligence clues to his whereabouts?

McClellan: I think it's clear from all indications he's hiding in a cave somewhere thanks to the pressure we've put on him.

Q: But what do you make of all the references he makes in his tape to "opinion polls," "documents," "Pentagon figures," "humanitarian reports," and obscure books like Rogue State? Sounds more like he's been hanging out in a municipal library than a cave.

McClellan The Idiot


The jury apparently agreed with defense arguments that Welshofer had believed he was following orders to use creative interrogation techniques when he put Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush face-first in a sleeping bag, wrapped him in electrical wire and sat on his chest in November 2003. The 57-year-old general died after 20 minutes in the bag.

No Torture Here


“In 2000 Bush promised to bring dignity to the White House. He brought Jack Abramoff instead.”

--Harry Reid


Bush the Incompetent

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, January 25, 2006; A19

Incompetence is not one of the seven deadly sins, and it's hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president's defining attribute. Historians, looking back at the hash that his administration has made of his war in Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and his Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things -- particularly when most of them were the president's own initiatives.

In numbing profusion, the newspapers are filled with litanies of screw-ups. Yesterday's New York Times brought news of the first official assessment of our reconstruction efforts in Iraq, in which the government's special inspector general depicted a policy beset, as Times reporter James Glanz put it, "by gross understaffing, a lack of technical expertise, bureaucratic infighting [and] secrecy." At one point, rebuilding efforts were divided, bewilderingly and counterproductively, between the Army Corps of Engineers and, for projects involving water, the Navy. That's when you'd think a president would make clear in no uncertain terms that bureaucratic turf battles would not be allowed to impede Iraq's reconstruction. But then, the president had no guiding vision for how to rebuild Iraq -- indeed, he went to war believing that such an undertaking really wouldn't require much in the way of American treasure and American lives.

It's the president's prescription drug plan (Medicare Part D), though, that is his most mind-boggling failure. As was not the case in Iraq or with Katrina, it hasn't had to overcome the opposition of man or nature. Pharmacists are not resisting the program; seniors are not planting car bombs to impede it (not yet, anyway). But in what must be an unforeseen development, people are trying to get their medications covered under the program. Apparently, this is a contingency for which the administration was not prepared, as it has been singularly unable to get its own program up and running.

Initially, Part D's biggest glitch seemed to be the difficulty that seniors encountered in selecting a plan. But since Part D took effect on Jan. 1, the most acute problem has been the plan's failure to cover the 6.2 million low-income seniors whose medications had been covered by Medicaid. On New Year's Day, the new law shifted these people's coverage to private insurers. And all hell broke loose.

Pharmacists found that the insurers didn't have the seniors' names in their systems, or charged them far in excess of what the new law stipulated -- and what the seniors could afford. In California fully 20 percent of the state's 1.1 million elderly Medicaid recipients had their coverage denied. The state had to step in to pick up the tab for their medications. California has appropriated $150 million for the medications, and estimates that it will be out of pocket more than $900 million by 2008-09. Before Jan. 1 the Bush administration had told California that it would save roughly $120 million a year once Part D was in effect.

California's experience is hardly unique. To date at least 25 states and the District have had to defray the costs to seniors that Part D was supposed to cover. What's truly stunning about this tale is that, while officials may not have known how many non-indigent seniors would sign up of their own accord, they always knew that these 6.2 million seniors would be shifted into the plan on the first day of the year. There were absolutely no surprises, and yet administration officials weren't even remotely prepared.

No such problems attended the creation of Medicare itself in the mid-1960s. Then, a governmental agency simply assumed responsibility for seniors' doctor and hospital visits. But, financially beholden to both the drug and insurance industries, the Bush administration and the Repsublican Congress mandated that millions of Americans have their coverage shifted to these most byzantine of bureaucracies.

This is, remember, the president's signature domestic initiative, just as the Iraq war is his signature foreign initiative.

How could a president get these things so wrong? Incompetence may describe this presidency, but it doesn't explain it. For that, historians may need to turn to the seven deadly sins: to greed, in understanding why Bush entrusted his new drug entitlement to a financial mainstay of modern Republicanism. To sloth, in understanding why Incurious George has repeatedly ignored the work of experts whose advice runs counter to his desires.

More and more, the key question for this administration is that of the great American sage, Casey Stengel: Can't anybody here play this game?

Bush the Incompetent


Tensions flared yesterday between World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz and bank employees, as the bank's staff association criticized some of Wolfowitz's recent appointments and Wolfowitz fired back that he was trying to correct lax enforcement of the bank's internal corruption rules.

The controversy is the starkest sign of discontent among the staff nine months after President Bush chose Wolfowitz to head the bank. Wolfowitz is a former deputy defense secretary best known for his role in planning the invasion of Iraq.

In a letter circulated yesterday evening to bank staffers, the staff association chair, Alison Cave, raised pointed questions about last week's appointment of Suzanne Rich Folsom, a bank official with Republican party ties, to head the Department of Institutional Integrity, a unit that investigates misconduct and corruption at the bank. The letter also cited the recent naming of Kevin S. Kellems, a former aide to Vice President Cheney, as the bank's top communications strategist.

Well more cronyism?
Hi - I was searching for blogs about associations and found yours. Reason I was searching for associations is I have one and I'm looking for ways people run theirs.
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